This is Clause IV of the UK Labour Party’s Constitution.
First drafted in 1918, the Clause was significantly amended in 1995.
Clause IV of the UK Labour Party Constitution.
* * * * * CLAUSE IV PROFILE * * * * *
Here is Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution in full, as originally drafted in 1918 and subsequently amended.
Clause IV. – Party Objects
(1) To organise and maintain in parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.
(2) To co-operate with the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, or other kindred organisations, in joint political or other action in harmony with the party constitution and standing orders.
(3) To give effect as far as may be practicable to the principles from time to time approved by the party conference.
(4) To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.
(5) Generally to promote the political, social and economic emancipation of the people, and more particularly of those who depend directly upon their own exertions by hand or by brain for the means of life.
(6) To co-operate with the labour and socialist organisations in the Commonwealth overseas with a view to promoting the purposes of the party, and to take common action for the promotion of a higher standard of social and economic life for the working population of the respective countries.
(7) To co-operate with the labour and socialist organisation in other countries and to support the United Nations Organisation and its various agencies and other international organisations for the promotion of peace, the adjustment and settlement of international disputes by conciliation of judicial arbitration, the establishment and defence of human rights, and the improvement of the social and economic standards and conditions of work of the people of the world.
Hugh Gaitskell in his leader’s speech in the 1959 Labour Conference
(again in Blackpool) said:
“I do think that we should clear our minds on these fundamental issues and then try to express in the most simple and comprehensible fashion what we stand for in the world today. The only official document which embodies such an attempt is the Party Constitution written over forty years ago. It seems to me that this needs to be brought up to date.
For instance, can we really be satisfied today with a statement of fundamentals which makes no mention at all of colonial freedom, race relations, disarmament, full employment or planning? The only specific reference to our objectives at home is the well-known phrase:
‘To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’
Standing on its own, this cannot possibly be regarded as adequate. It lays us open to continual misrepresentation. It implies that common ownership is an end, whereas in fact it is a means. It implies that the only precise object we have is nationalization, whereas we have in fact many other Socialist objectives.
It implies that we propose to nationalize everything, but do we? Everything? – the whole of light industry, the whole of agriculture, all the shops – every little pub and garage? Of course not. We have long ago come to accept, we know very well, for the forseeable future, at least in some form, a mixed economy; in which case, if this is our view – as I believe it to be of 90 per cent of the Labour Party – had we not better say so instead of going out of our way to court misrepresentation?”
Gaitskell made it quite clear that he felt Labour’s commitment to nationalization had lost the party votes in the 1959 General Election. Until the first results were declared, Gaitskell believed he had won. The Labour Manifesto in 1959 had been equivocal on the subject, praising the role of nationalized industries and committing the party to nationalize Steel and long-distance truck haulage, but declaring “we have no other plans for further nationalisation” except where an industry was shown to be “failing the nation”.
However it soon became clear that the NEC was not prepared to accept the dropping of Clause IV (4). At the March meeting, it agreed to change the constitution by adding an amplification. But in July, the NEC decided not to proceed with any addition.