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50 Years Ago: Fighters for the right

But our Labour Party leaders are not concerned with abolishing capitalism and, along with it, war; they want to keep capitalism, and their chief concern about war seems to be that there shall be more up-to-date weapons for the workers to kill each other with. Mr. Churchill recently announced in the Commons that the new rifle with which the British Army is to be equipped is not one of British design, which had been recommended earlier; the new rifle finally adopted was designed in Belgium. The reason for this seems to be mainly that the U.S.A. is likely to adopt the Belgian rifle, whereas had the choice rested on the British rifle it is probable that the U.S.A. would not have adopted it, and therefore an increased measure of standardization would not have been possible. This decision has aroused a storm of protest among Labour M.P.s. Mr. Woodrow Wyatt alleged that it was due to the Prime Minister not standing up to the Americans for something he knew to be “right” (20-1-54). What is “right” about a machine designed for the single purpose of killing human beings? Presumably Mr. Wyatt knows, but if he does he has not told us. Mr. Shinwell took the opportunity to proclaim the superiority of inventions produced by the British capitalist system over those produced by foreign capitalism: he asked the Prime Minister “why this preference for foreign products?” (27-1-54). Mr. Attlee, ex-Major, rose indignantly and complained that the new rifle “has to have all sorts of bits and pieces put on it before you can even use the bayonet.” Really, Mr. Attlee? Is this a disadvantage in your eyes? Many people would have thought that this was to be numbered among the rifle’s good points.

(From “The Passing Show” by Joshua, Socialist Standard, March 1954)