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50 Years Ago: Rhodesia

In the Commons debate on Rhodesia on December 8 last, Harold Wilson said:

'The present situation in Rhodesia faces Britain with the greatest moral issue she has had to face in the post war world.'

On the same day in the House of Lords, Tory Lord Ferrier was assuring the government:

'I and millions like me could never be persuaded to open fire on our kith and kin in Rhodesia.'

In Salisbury, Ian Smith has said all along that he stands for a settled, civilised way of life against barbarism.

In other words, however much both sides may disagree on other matters, they are at one in presenting their struggle with each other as a moral issue.

There is of course nothing new in this, although it is something of a mystery, why politicians think it is always necessary. There is no evidence that working class support for capitalism would decline, if they were told the truth about its power struggles.

Capitalism has many conflicts, all of them basically economic in origin. There is no morality involved in them, no human interests, no distinct division between right and wrong.

Wilson's professed moral indignation against Rhodesia, for example, does not at present extend to South Africa, which has never made any secret of its support for the Smith regime.

The reason for this is plain. South Africa is too valuable a trading partner for Britain's Labour government to want to upset.

The African states in the Commonwealth may protest at this, and they also use moral arguments to support their case.

Behind all this fog of confusion and official lies, the processes of capitalism grind inexorably on. They recognise no morality and the only issue they are interested in is a healthy balance sheet.

(Socialist Standard, January 1967)