E. 21. [Sketch of Political Manifesto, Popular Front]


Sorry, this transcription cannot be displayed as the copyright holder did not grant permission to proceed with the electronic edition. (but see Robertson's reply below)

This document, however, can be read in The Collected Interwar Papers and Correspondence of Roy Harrod, edited by D. Besomi, Cheltenham: Elgar, 2003.


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Popular Front Manifesto

I am afraid that I was not the right person to entrust with programme making, having rather definite views of my own. We had a meeting consisting of one liberal, one socialist and two independent progressives and found ourselves able to reach agreement on most points without great difficulty. [2]

I have, however, drafted the following entirely on my own responsibility. [3] It is not intended to be a manifesto, but rather a summary of points which the drafter of a manifesto should have in mind. I have taken a general background of ideas for granted and concentrated on immediate practical problems from a realistic point of view. One or two points may be deemed controversial; they are probably those about which I feel most deeply myself! [4]

Foreign Policy.

Ultimate aim--to re-establish collective security and the rule of international law.

Immediate aim--to establish the closest possible relations with all democratic powers and all peace-loving powers (including Russia) with a view to maintaining their continued freedom and integrity. This to include understanding diplomatic, strategic and economic, definitely designed to meet emergencies that may arise.

Spain--all possible help to the Republican government, including the right to buy arms.

Italy--complete willingness to co-operate, but subject to the over-riding aims of foreign policy already mentioned.

Germany--no further concessions to the Nazis. Propaganda to make it plain to the German people that there is a strong desire for friendship by the British people and a desire to co-operate with Germany in a peaceful policy, but that the Nazi creed is a bar to such co-operation.

Home policy.

1. Arms. Frank recognition of the peril of the country and the possibility, even probability, of defeat in war, should that eventuate, as it may whether we wish it or not. Strategic parity in the air with Germany. (This implies higher numbers on our side owing to our greater vulnerability to air attack.)

N.B. At present Germany has a very great superiority. Also Germany is spending annually more than three times as much on armaments as we yet are.

Stress on defence armament, viz. fighting planes, balloon barrages, shelters and storage of foodstuffs and other essential commodities.

Whatever compulsory powers are necessary to give effect to the programme, but subject to democratic control.

Statuary recognition of the right of Trade Unions to be consulted whenever labour conditions are involved.

Such controls as is necessary to eliminate surplus profit on re-armament.

The question of formal nationalization of armament production must be entirely subordinate to administrative convenience, during the immediate period pending war or genuine appeasement. All resources of government are bound to be greatly over-taxed in any case.

2. Unemployment.

As soon as practicable legislative authority should be given to the principle that it is the duty of the state to provide work for all who lack it.

In the meantime a determined attempt should be made by the state to combat trade depression, (i) by currency and banking policy on modern lines and, [5] (ii) by Public Works, financed by loan.

Re-armament, if efficiently undertaken, would for the time being over-shadow public works of a more useful kind. [6]

Plans should be got out for de-urbanizing the greater part of the population by providing accommodation in garden cities. This work should be got in hand at once. (Germany, despite extensive re-armament, see above, has public works on a great scale. Why should not we, a richer country?)

The special areas. Industries should be established here to take the place of the declining industries. Unemployment in the great industries has entailed unemployment in industries catering directly for local consumers. This second sort of unemployment would be cured automatically if the first sort could be cured. Primary industries must be established either under state control or by subsidies. If the second method is adopted there must be a clause limiting profits.

The family means test must be abolished.

3. Industry.

The project of nationalizing all industry must be deferred in any case.

Agreed that there is no objection to nationalizing particular industries, if the special circumstances justify.

Agreed that, when a particular industry is nationalized, that is, in what socialists sometimes call the transitional period, full compensation must be paid. But care must be taken not to pay swollen compensation when taking over assets which in the ordinary course of private enterprise would not be expected to yield a normal profit. Nationalization should not be regarded as an opportunity to give presents to capitalists who have got into a bad condition in consequence of the ordinary chances and risk of business.

In considering nationalization the time-table of the legislature and the power of the civil service, already, we suppose, overburdened with defence and public works, to absorb new duties must be taken into account. Defence must be done in a hurry. Long-distance projects should not be done in such a hurry as to weaken democratic control over state activity or to undermine efficiency.

For a first experiment electricity supply offers a good opportunity, both because of the public utility nature of the service and because a beginning has been made by the central electricity board.

Mines. Three reasons for early nationalization. 1. Employer-employee relations have in fact for long been bad, 2. Scope for private initiative in catering for consumers' tastes is limited, 3. coal-mining is now, owing to the legislation of 1930, a state enforced monopoly. [7]

Iron and steel. The combined effect of the encouragement given to associations by the Import Duties Advisory Committee, membership of the International cartel and the consequent allocation of import quotas for materials required by the industry have put large sections of the industry into the condition of a state-privileged monopoly. The question of nationalization is too complex to be considered in the near future. State control of prices fixed by "associations" should be advocated as immediately practicable.

Railways. Railway shareholders have for decades enjoyed a premium above gilt-edged rates to cover the risk they ran. It is contrary to public policy that when the risk turns against them they should be treated as though they were holders of government stock. It would be a disaster if the railways were allowed to inflict further burdens on the industry and trade by raising their rates on goods for which the roads cannot compete.

4. Trade.

Liberals and socialists may agree that the greatest possible amount of international trade is desirable. Trade agreements designed to enlarge its scope are to be welcomed and all movements directed to freeing trade.

Open access to all to our colonial empire.

Question whether import and export boards designed to meet totalitarian methods are now desirable. There is much to be said for bulk purchase of imports. This is related to the economic co-operation referred to under Foreign Policy. It is also related to storage for defence purposes. [8]

Stress should not be laid on the bulk sale of exports since the acquisition of free exchange is what particularly makes our market appeal to sellers, and it would be short sighted to discard this cardinal source of strength for the sake of some temporary benefit.

5. Agriculture.

It is not to be contemplated that agriculture should be further assisted at the expense of the ordinary consumers' standard of life and of the goodwill of the dominions and important foreign powers (cf. the question of foreign policy and foreign trade and the diplomatic importance of our buying power).

In the long run the hope for agriculture should come from scientific research (compare 7 below), into agricultural methods.

This research should also include the study of nutrition. Certain goods (including, e.g. milk and fresh vegetables) while outside the rank of necessities are important protectives. These are also the products to which British agriculture is naturally adapted. If their consumption were subsidised in the interest of national health and fitness, our agriculture would benefit without the consumer being penalised.

Also stability of prices is often a more important consideration than high prices. The state might protect the farmer from wide fluctuation in certain types of product by a stabilization scheme, buying surpluses when the world price was low (always provided this did not get transformed into a scheme for keeping prices permanently above their world level). The buying of surpluses should be worked into a scheme for building up national storage (compare section on defence).

6. Finance.

This is a matter of paramount importance, since without efficient control of the monetary system, all other projects will come to grief. It is related to unemployment policy.

The programme should be a currency and credit policy designed to secure a stable purchasing power for the pound sterling and to promote full employment. This will be difficult to execute owing to high bound conservatism even in quarters otherwise radical or socialist. The qualities necessary are a power of selecting the right advice and adamantine resolution.

It is doubtful if it is expedient to include nationalization of the Bank of England or other banks in the programme. [9] Nationalization would deprive those institutions of so much power; and all available power will be needed to secure victory for the policy [c] .

It is probable that the Bank of England would be willing to co-operate. It has long conducted its affairs in the interest of national policy and not of private profit. If it were not willing to co-operate, it would have to be nationalized.

The programme then should be--a modern currency and credit policy; and the adoption of compulsory powers in respect to the Bank of England (or any other financial institution) only if it were not willing to co-operate in such a policy.

7. Science.

The extreme backwardness of applied scientific research in the service of government and industry in this country is a gross scandal. Here the main obstacle is the obstructionism of the elderly scientific pundits themselves. It is a case of cleansing the Augean stables. The assistance of the Association of Scientific Workers should be sought for a programme of reconstruction. [10]

8. Population and social services.

The probability that the population of this country will dwindle to three or four millions within a century is now well-established. [11] But though the spectacular decline will not come in the first half of it, the situation can only be saved in the next few decades, since thereafter the greater part of the population which remains will be too old to have children.

The problem should be attacked along three lines.

(i) Family endowment. Support might come from less conservative-minded women--a mother's right to be paid for her work of national importance.

(ii) Housing. This is related to the planning of garden cities for the urban population (see 2 above). A statutory proportion of the houses should be of sufficient size to accommodate a family of four. The provision of other amenities for family life, including creches etc. must be included in the garden city plan. Land to be bought or rented from landlords in areas affected at not more than agricultural rates.

(iii) Security. The prospect of secure employment or failing that the right to maintenance at the normal standard of life when out of work should be the regular condition of our people.

The appropriate development of the social services flows from this idea.

9. Taxation.

Much of the money required for the new purpose should be found by loan. This is indispensable to a credit policy on modern lines designed to maintain the flow of purchasing power (cf. 2 and 6 above).

But some of the expenditure may have to be met from taxes. Care must be taken not to injure the standard of living of the working classes. But at the same time any big drive aimed against the wealthy as such might at this stage jeopardize the successful working of other parts of the programme. The best plan is an even distribution of taxation on those above the income tax exemption limit, supported by an appeal for the necessity of sacrifice on a national scale owing to the emergency. But much greater regard should be paid to family needs (cf. 8 above).

  1. 1. The document is untitled and undated. However, its contents correspond to the "notes on policy" drafted by Harrod in January 1939 for a "movement for unity in the neighbouring constituencies" as described in his letter 891 to Macmillan of 29 January 1939, [jump to page] . This movement, which aimed at running as many non-party candidates as possible, chosen for their progressive point of view (Crosfield to Harrod, 19 December 1938, in HP VI-165-175/2), seems to have been an offspring of the compromise reached in occasion of the Oxford by-election of October 1938 (see notes 1 and 6 to press item 28 ).

After the polls, in fact, the popular front campaign was not discontinued: "a series of private meetings [took place in Oxford], to which were invited persons known to be in favour of the `Popular Front'. In this activity, Mr. Lindsay has taken a leading part" ("New Popular Front Disclosure", Daily Herald, 18 January 1939, p. 1)--Harrod, however, sat in the chair at one (probably the first) of these meetings, on 10 December (Harrod to Churchill, letter 874 of 9 December 1939). After a meeting held on 14 January, Lindsay disclosed to the Daily Herald that "at a private meeting at Oxford on Saturday under the leadership of Mr. A. D. Lindsay, Master of Balliol, an organisation was formed for the purpose of putting up Popular Front candidates in nine Parliamentary constituencies in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. The final decision was taken at this meeting after extracts of Sir Stafford Cripps' memorandum, rejected at the private meeting of the National Executive [of the Labour Party] only the day before, had been read by Mr. Lindsay and the memorandum circulated to those present, which included a number of Liberal candidates and other non-Labour people. [...] A sub committee was actually appointed at the meeting to draft a constitution for the new organisation and a further meeting was arranged for next month" (ibid.; on the Cripps affair see note 1 to press item 31 . In a statement to the Manchester Guardian, however, Lindsay denied that the Cripps memorandum was discussed at the meeting: see "The Common Front Meeting at Oxford. Statement by the Master of Balliol: Cripps Memorandum not Discussed", Manchester Guardian, 19 January 1939, p. 11). Harrod was among the about 40 people present; his report of the meeting, however, seems to have differed from the one given by Lindsay to the Herald (George Dallas to Harrod, 19 January 1939, in HP VI-513). The meetings culminated in an "informal conference" held on 6 May 1939 in Lindsay's lodgings at Balliol. Here a memorandum was adopted which advocated "a united and effective Opposition, capable of forming an alternative Government, to ensure that a firm stand should be made against aggression abroad". The memorandum concluded with the belief that in the constituencies of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire "arrangements for a undivided Opposition Front can be afforded", and a commitment to organize further conferences and to give publicity to this view (untitled printed memorandum, in HP VI/176/18; see also Lindsay to Harrod, 21 April 1939, letter 904 R).

  • Meanwhile, Harrod also gathered information on past attempts at uniting Liberal and Labour associations for local elections (letters of 13 and 19 December 1938 from R. F. Crosfield, of the Mid Bucks Liberal Association, in HP VI-165-175/1-2), supported the movement within the Labour Party for the reinstatement of Cripps (letter 904 R from Lindsay, 21 April 1939), participated in the coordination of local popular fronts (Crosfield to Harrod, 8 March 1939, in HP VI-165-175/3), and seems to have campaigned for Churchill's leadership as the only viable method for winning the dissatisfied Tories who could not openly back the opposition (Cresswell Webb to Harrod, 21 and 25 April 1939, in HP VI-165-175, items 7 and 8, and 4 May, in HP VI-176 item 14). Several documents relating to these activities are filed in HP VI-176, including: the "Programme Drafted in the Chertsey Division with a View to Meeting the Views of all voters of Progressive Outlook"; the results of the 1929, 1931, and 1935 elections in ten divisions in the area around Oxford, and some correspondence relating to these; Labour Party, "Labour's Immediate Programme" (1937); a press release issued by the Labour Party on 27 October 1938 on "A Supreme National Effort for Peace"; some materials relating to the campaign within the Labour Party for reinstating Stafford Cripps, including correspondence with, and documents elaborated by, the Petition Committee; documents relating to the 6 May meeting of the local popular front; and a reprint of Stafford Cripps's memorandum.

    2. No evidence was found concerning this meeting.

    3. An untitled document written by Harrod--probably a draft of a leaflet--summarizes the same points raised in this proposal for a manifesto: [b]

    • Why a joint effort? Because without a joint effort the National Government is likely to be returned. No single party is likely to win a majority.

      Peace. In the long run a just and lasting Peace can only be achieved by building a real League of Nations. In the meanwhile our danger is only increased by repeated surrenders to unjust Fascist demands, backed by threat of force. In particular the farce of non-intervention in Spain should be abandoned at once; the government must be prepared to co-operate with Russia. [Harrod wrote in the margin: "Fair play to Spain should be adopted at once"]

      Liberty. We regard it as vital that freedom of speech (including that of press, films and radio) be fully preserved.

      Unemployment. It is monstrous that nearly two million of our countrymen should be without work at a time when so much useful work needs urgently to be done. Large-scale planning of garden cities is desirable from the point of view of increasing employment, meeting the coming slump in the housing industry, A.R.P. [air raid precautions], and social welfare. There is much also to be done on road safety problems and village drainage and water supply. A determined attempt must be made to deal with the problems of the distressed areas.

      Defence. The problem of making the nation safe must be taken seriously. Immediate measures should include deep air-raid shelters, storage of food, balloon barrages, and the intensified production of interceptor planes. Profit should be controlled, and the state be prepared to undertake ownership as and when expedient. [Harrod noted in the margin: "Defence of armaments", and drew an arrow indicating to move this paragraph before the paragraph on Unemployment]

      Industry. Extension of state control must be governed and limited by the urgent problems outlined above. There is also a need for extending control of industries where natural or artificial monopolies already exist.

      Agriculture. The state should protect the farmer against wide fluctuations in the world prices of certain products by a scheme for buying and storing surpluses. A prosperous agriculture depends on an increase of consumption. Increased consumption of dairy products and fresh vegetables, which are especially suited to British agriculture, should be brought about as part of a national health and fitness campaign. [Harrod wrote between the lines: "An improved standard of living (wages & <hours>) first charge on benefits accruing", and indicated that the first sentence should be moved at the end of the paragraph]

      International Trade. A determined attack on tariff barriers would bring down the cost of living, stimulate employment and reduce international frictions. [Harrod stroke out the word "tariff" and substituted it with "trade", and suggested to insert two illegible words after "barriers"]

      Finance. The primary objective should be an up-to-date currency and credit policy, designed to maintain the flow of consumers' purchasing power. The degree of control over existing financial institutions should be governed by what is necessary to give effect to this policy.

      Social Security. The economic resources of this country are now sufficient for everybody to be protected against sudden and undeserved poverty. We advocate an increment in Old Age Pensions. We want to see the Family Means Test abolished. The scope of Trade Boards should be extended. National Health Insurance should cover the family. [Harrod suggested to begin the fourth sentence with the words "The sale of benefits to be increased and ...", and commented: "Lee's point" and "National Medical Service" in the margin.]

    The document concludes indicating the following possible "Captions for a card: A new and better League of Nations. Fair play for Spain. Preservation of Liberty. Public works for unemployed. Real safety from air attack. No arms profiteering. Revived agriculture. Better old age pensions. Abolish family means test. Public control of finance." (HP VI-163)

    4. Harrod described his proposed policy as designed to provide "a sufficient admixture of socialism to satisfy Cripps and to make Labour folk with long memories feel that they are not making a complete break with the socialist traditions of early Labour days" (Harrod to Macmillan, letter 891 of 26 January 1939). Harrod's suggestions remind indeed of the items of policy listed in the Cripps memorandum (see note 1 to press item 31 ) as suitable to be supported by the progressive opposition. Both documents, in fact, advocate the collaboration with other countries, the protection of democratic rights, the tackling of the unemployment problem by increasing public works in housing and social services, the abolition of the Family Means Test, a proper agricultural policy and better standards of nutrition, the extension of state control of industry, the increase of pensions. Harrod, however, did not think that it was necessary to nationalize the Bank of England, unless this was necessary to give effect to the currency and credit policy.

    5. Harrod had recently proposed some measures of banking policy, and argued them out in the press during the preceding summer: see for references note 1 to press item 21 and note 1 to press item 22 .

    6. Harrod argued along these lines in "Finance by Loan" ( 1939:5 ), here as press item 33 .

    7. The Coal Mines Act of 1930 introduced schemes for the control of output and sales. This legislation, intended to enable reduction of length of the miners' working day while maintaining wages, naturally opened the way to cartelization (see for instance B. Supple, The History of the British Coal Industry. Vol. 4, 1913-1946: The Political Economy of Decline, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987, pp. 296-300).

    8. Harrod later raised a similar point in a memorandum, submitted to the Treasury, on using the gold in the Exchange Equalisation Account to buy essential commodities: see letters 913 , 923 , 924 and 925 .

    9. For references on the evolution of Harrod's viewpoint on the nationalization of the Bank of England see note 4 to press item 28 .

    10. The Association of Scientific Workers (later Association of Scientific Technical and Managerial Staffs and from 1988 Manufacturing Science and Finance union) grouped at the end of the 1930s the most radical fringe of the scientific left wing, including J. D. Bernal, J. B. S. Haldane and and H. Levy--all of whom were also actively engaged in the running of the British Association for the Advancement of Science's division on the Social and International Relations of Science, in which Harrod also took part: see note 2 to letter 913 . See P. G. Werskey, The Visible College. A Collective Biography of British Scientists and Socialists of the 1930s, London: Free Association Books, 1988, pp. 234-38.

    11. On Harrod's numerous writings on population see note 1 to press item 10 .

    1. a. TD, ten pages, not signed nor initialled, in HP VI-164/2. Of this "manifesto", a very rough draft in Harrod's hand survives (HP VI-164/1: AD, two pages). The same points were only sketched and presented in a different order, but the line of argument is clearly recognizable in each subject. The Ms indicates at the top as an afterthought a further subject to be discussed, namely "National Health Insurance". This was not taken up in the "manifesto" as typed.

      b. TD not signed nor initialled, with autograph additions in Harrod's hand, one page, in VI/176/1. Of this document several versions survive. The oldest is a very rough draft (HP VI-163/1), clearly being a sketch to be developed thereafter. Two almost contemporary versions follow, one autograph and the other being a typescript of it (two pages AD in VI-163/2, and two pages TD, in HP VI-163/3). The draft reproduced here seems to be the most recent version, which, however, may have been further developed, as Harrod's autograph comments in the margin suggest. The body of text is almost identical to the previous typed draft; the latter, however, did not include the suggested captions for a card, of which an autograph draft and a typed version survive in HP VI-163/4 and 5 respectively. On top of Ms there is the instruction: "It is contemplated that the following would go on two sides of a single sheet". This was typed in in both Ts versions (in brackets in the most elaborate one). The Ms also indicates: "5 copies".

      c. Underlined by hand (the other underlinings are typed).