1930s >> 1936 >> no-380-april-1936

Editorial: No Class-Struggle Here

In the autumn of 1935 many illustrious readers of the Times amused themselves by proving that capitalism is a myth. Either there is no such thing at all, or alternatively, all human societies have always been, and always will be, capitalistic. Professor Hearnshaw took up the story in the Daily Telegraph, telling us that Socialists have “imagined” the capitalist system. The Economic League and the Times, on other occasions, maintain that in England the Socialist conception must be false because they profess not to be able to see a well-defined capitalist class and working class; we are all capitalists, they say, because of the deposits in the Post Office Savings Banks.

That is the story served out as regards this country, but when the same people look at capitalist further afield a remarkable change takes place. The Times, in its Editorial on the Tokyo murders, could not find any explanation of the political movements in Japan, except one based on class interests: –

 There is little labour agitation in Japan; but there is a general disillusionment over the result of industrialisation, a disillusionment which is felt most strongly among the agricultural classes, from whom the officers are mainly recruited. Some of the patriotic societies, while fiercely opposed to Communism, demand that profit-making in finance, industry, and trade should be curbed by methods which are practically indistinguishable from Communism. They all resent the contrast between the great fortunes made in business and the poverty and austerity of life which is traditional among the military classes in Japan. —(February 27th.)

So, in abstract discussion, capitalism and capitalists are myths, figments of the Socialist imagination, but in faraway Japan the army movement is led mostly by “younger men drawn from the small landowning class,” who resent “the exploitation of the peasantry by financiers and industrialists, with the connivance of corrupt politicians.” (Times, March 5th.) They object to Japan’s Government being controlled by “capitalists, politicians and bureaucrats.”

At home in England the Times cannot see the poverty and misery wrought by capitalism, but in Japan the Army movement, in the words of the Times’ own correspondent, is “A protest against the obvious fact that the mass of Japanese remain poor amid the country’s vaunted progress, while a few families have amassed colossal fortunes.  . . .  (Times, March 3rd.)

Similarly, Beaverbrook’s Evening Standard, in its Editorial (February 26th), describes the Japanese Cabinet as being dependent “on the goodwill of the Minseito Party, and this party, in its turn, dependent on industrial capitalist influences, which are not especially concerned about the Japanese farmer, and oppose militarism because it arouses prejudices adverse to Japanese foreign trade.”

An even more frank reference was made by the Observer to the capitalist nature of British control in Shanghai. Their Shanghai correspondent wrote (March 1):

  Shanghai is essentially a capitalistic structure designed to protect vested interests.

Perhaps if these various newspapers were to get their Far-Eastern correspondents to take a telescopic view of Great Britain the Editors might begin to understand that early 19th-century England is mirrored in modern capitalistic Japan, and that movements here are to be explained only by the same kind of class-interests as operate there. But then, of course, the proprietors would hardly allow such articles to be printed.