HISTORY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY –
THE EARLY 1950s TO THE EARLY 1960s
POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS – 1953-APRIL 1956
After its defeat in the early 1950s, a process of its leading politicians beginning to simply follow the same broad ideological thrust as the Tories had seemingly delivered the electoral party of the working class virtually wholesale to Tory politics.
A left opposition of sorts did exist in the Parliamentary Labour Party but it was very much focused on leading individuals. Nye Bevan had been clearly on the left in the House of Commons during the war. After the landslide Labour victory in the 1945 general election, he was appointed Minister of Health, responsible for establishing the National Health Service. In 1951, Bevan was moved to become Minister of Labour and National Service. Shortly afterwards he resigned from the government in protest at the introduction of prescription charges for dental care and spectacles. His resignation, along with others was in protest at Chancellor, Hugh Gaitskell’s, introduction of charges imposed in order to meet the financial demands imposed by the Korean War. Bevan effectively led the left wing of the Labour Party for the next five years.
In the meantime, and contrary to much retrospective suggestion, Tory politics began to shift away from the war-time consensus. In 1953, the end to the BBC’s monopoly on broadcasting was signalled with the passing of legislation that would result in the appearance of ITV. The same year, sweet rationing but not sugar rationing ended, followed the next year by the complete abolition after fourteen years of food rationing in Britain when restrictions on the sale and purchase of meat and bacon were finally lifted. Communists argued that all that the Tories had done was to “abolish rationing by the book – only to replace it by rationing by the purse”. [Communist Party, `A policy for Britain: general election manifesto’, (1955)]