Socialist Worker

Labour in cartoons 4: 1957 - Aneurin Bevan goes nuclear

Issue No. 2023

Cartoon by Vicky, the Evening Standard, 1957 (Pic: from the book Did Cowards Flinch?)

Cartoon by Vicky, the Evening Standard, 1957 (Pic: from the book Did Cowards Flinch?)

Left wing Labour MP Aneurin Bevan led the biggest rebellion in the history of the Labour Party in the early 1950s. Many Labour Party members were angry about the growing consensus between the Tory government and the leadership headed by Hugh Gaitskell.

In March 1955 Bevan challenged Clement Atlee on whether Labour would support Tory statements that Britain would use nuclear weapons. Bevan then led 61 MPs in abstaining from voting on a Labour amendment.

The party leadership tried to remove the whip from Bevan and expel him. Bevan moved to make peace with Gaitskell so that he could remain a leading figure within the party.

At the 1957 Labour conference there was a debate on the nuclear H-bomb, which many Bevanites wanted to ban in the period of tension between the West and Russia.

Bevan spoke against the banning. He said that if the resolution was passed it would send the next foreign secretary “naked into the conference chamber to preach sermons. You call that statesmanship? I call it an emotional spasm.”

His followers were shocked. Many heckled him shouting, “shame”, “nonsense” and “rubbish”.

Bevan won his place back in the Labour leadership, but it was the end of Bevanism. He toured the US after the conference to put right the “bogeyman image” the media portrayed of him.

This cartoon is by the Labour supporting Vicky - Victor Weisz of the Daily Mirror - who had attempted to persuade Bevan not to adopt his new stance.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.