ANEURIN Bevan had not long resigned from Clement Attlee’s cabinet in April 1951 when he came to Glasgow to address the May Day parade and rally.

Bevan, the presiding spirit behind the establishment of the NHS, had quit as Minister of Labour in protest over plans to impose charges for dentures and spectacles, believing that they breached the principle of a free Health Service. He had also been critical of the government’s re-armament spending programme.

On Sunday, April 29, addressing a large audience in his Ebbw Vale constituency, he declared: “It seemed to me in all conscience that I could not go on in the furtherance of policies that seemed to me to be going in the wrong direction.”

The following Sunday, he was in Glasgow, marching at the head of a procession from George Square to Queen’s Park, where he spoke for almost an hour in front of 15,000 people. Among the marchers were Glasgow Corporation transport workers wearing uniform, in defiance of a ban imposed by their manager the previous day.

Bevan again referred to his resignation, saying that he and two other ministers who had also departed had parted from their colleagues with mutual respect. It was not a good thing for representative democracy, for people to remain in office pretending to believe what they did not believe.

He spoke in favour of the nationalisation of the steel industry, and called for party solidarity at the next General Election.

Bevan also referred to the vast military preparations being made in the West for the purpose of preventing a third world war.

“I do not believe that a third world war can be prevented by arms alone,” he said. “In fact, I believe that piling up a war machine, in the absence of a sound social policy, of itself makes war inevitable.”

Socialists believed that the causes of war were to be found in poverty and in the lack of development of natural resources. The one thing that had to be done, he continued, was to see that the undeveloped parts of the world were given the assistance they needed.

And insofar as there was a threat of war from the Soviet Union, it came from social and political policies and not primarily from military.

Read more: Herald Diary