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50 Years Ago: The Pope is Dead

Pope John died when, just before the Profumo scandal burst, news was in short supply. Especially the juicy ‘human interest’ sort of news on which the popular press thrives. On thin rations, the papers made the most of the drawn out death agonies. Some of the headlines were almost ghoulish.

This gave us a peep at one of the nastiest sides of capitalism—the side which works for a profit out of human suffering, even when it is the suffering of one of the great upholders of property society.

Not only reporters rushed to say nice things about John XXIII. Bertrand Russell, a professed non-believer, echoed the popular estimation of the dead Pontiff as a man of peace:

‘The Pope used his office and his energy to bring peace and to oppose policies which lead to war and mass murder. His encyclical is a magnificent statement of the deepest wishes and hopes of all men of decency ... I mourn his death.’

There is, indeed, some rather tenuous evidence that the dead Pope was prepared to act as some sort of a go-between in a new world carve-up by the United States and Russia. This is the soil of diplomatic dabbling which often qualifies all sorts of people for the description of ‘peace loving.’

But this holds good only in peacetime. We know that, just like his predecessors, the Pope would have done nothing to oppose a future war and that in such a war there could well be Catholics in both sides, killing each other.

Thus does capitalism make warriors of them all.

In any case, modern war has nothing to do with a supposed lack of men of peace among the world's leaders. Capitalism itself causes war and the leaders always go along on the tide of destruction.

And let all peace lovers remember that capitalism has always done well out of the servile ignorance of the religious, and especially of the Church of which John XXIII was so briefly the Vicar Supreme.

(From ‘The News in Review’, Socialist Standard, July 1963)