1940s >> 1945 >> no-492-august-1945

By The Way: Atrocities


As atrocities seem to be of great interest, just now, the Socialist Standard has pleasure in giving evidence of other atrocities to which the attention of Parliament and the Press might he called, besides the Horror Camp in Germany.

First a report from the Manchester Guardian, of Famine Enquiry Commission headed by Sir John Woodhead, Acting Governor of Bengal, 1934-1939). <.p>

After considering all the circumstances (it is stated), we cannot avoid the conclusion that it lay in the power of the Government of Bengal by bold, resolute and well-conceived measures at the right time to have largely prevented the tragedy of the famine as it actually took place. The Government of India failed to recognise at a sufficiently early date the need for a system of planned movement of food grains, including rice as well as wheat, from surplus to deficit provinces and states.—(Manchester Guardian, May 8th, 1945).

The Guardian continues: —

But the public in Bengal, or at least certain sections of it, are also held to have their share of blame. Reference is made to the “atmosphere of fear and greed which, in the absence of control, was one of the causes of the rapid rise in the price-level,” and the report adds: “Enormous profits were made out of the calamity, and in the circumstances profits for some meant death for others. A large part of the community lived in plenty while others starved., and there was much indifference in the face of suffering. Corruption was widespread throughout the provinces and in many classes of society.”
“A million and a half of the poor of Bengal fell victims to circumstances for which, they themselves were not responsible. Society, together with its organs, failed to protect its weaker members; indeed, there was a moral and a social breakdown as well as an administrative breakdown.
“By August, 1943, it was clear that the Provincial Administration in Bengal was failing to control the famine. Deaths and mass migration on a large scale were occurring. In such circumstances the Government of India, whatever the constitutional position, must share with the Provincial Government the responsibility of saving lives.”

Second the following report of the worst air raid of the war on Hamburg on July 23th-26th, when the city “ceased to exist.”

Twenty thousand Germans died and 60,000 were taken to hospital after one R.A.F. raid on Hamburg on the night of July 25-26, 1943, when the greatest firebomb inferno raged throughout the centre of the dock area. It lay waste the equivalent of three London boroughs.
Official sources state that German air raid precaution statistics confirm these figures.
That night fire-bombs set light to the dock warehouses and installations in the dock areas covered by the three suburbs Hammerbrook, St. Georg, and Borgfeldt.
The heat of the fires, which lasted several days, was so fierce that several fruit trees produced blossom again and the oxygen became so rarifled by the heat that people died from suffocation.
This was probably the worst air raid of the war. The total of casualties caused by Allied forces in their raids on the port is said to be 250,000, and of these it is estimated that 50,000 were killed. — (Sunday Despatch, May 13th, 1945).

The Old, Old Story

Lord Beaverbrook has delivered himself of his awe-inspiring thoughts for the future prosperity of the nation in a speech at Bradford. According to his own paper, the Sunday Express, May 27, it is the “Way to a better Britain.” “Full work and high wages.” “How are we to have full employment”? he asks and answers “by setting a high standard of life for the people.” It’s as simple as that! A little more detail? “By satisfying the demand of the home market the output is built up and as the output is built up the costs of production are reduced. When the costs of production are reduced sufficiently then it is simple and easy to find foreign markets.”

Just like that! “The first export market I wish to seek is the export of an idea—the export of the standard of living to other countries, too.”

Whether this is to include Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan, etc., the noble lord did not say. Or even India, where a million died of famine last year.

“The Government should take part in such policy on two principles. The first is that the Governments of the world should meet together.” (Shades of the ill-starred World Economic Conference of 1933). Well, they’ve been doing this for several hundred years, now—they might as well go on, “for the purpose of setting the standards of living high enough and strong enough to provide work for every man.” “The second principle should be that when there is a decline in employmen, not only in Britain but in every country that is a party to the agreement providing for higher standards of life, that decline should be met by a rising scale of wages. A rising scale of wages will check the evil of Unemployment by providing increased buying power.”—(Sunday Express, May 27).

Which means: Increase output to cheapen cost of production to find foreign markets—BUT the Governments are to agree to increase wages when unemployment spreads throughout the world to “increase buying power.”

Why it will be necessary to find foreign markets with cheaper products his lordship does not say.

If it were possible to enable the workers to buy back even a large part of their produce, why not do it here?

If the policy will work, HOW does Beaverbrook KNOW that there is going to be a “decline in employment” throughout the world?

And do we have to have a decline in employment first so that the Government can “raise wages”?

Actually, Governments can no more “raise” wages, than they could raise the dead.

In a falling market after the war, the Government which tried to raise wages would “fall” quicker than the wages.

The intelligent workers are becoming more tired than ever of the “raise the standard of living” rubbish, started by Lloyd George and the Liberals in 1910, repeated by the Labour Leaders, 1919, and in “Socialism and the Living Wage” of the I.L.P. (1926), and by the Social Credit chumps of 1932.

Apart from the absurdity of proposing to call Conferences of the Governments of the world, immediately after sacrificing thousands to destroy half of them for five years, “cheapening cost of production” to “capture foreign markets” is reduction of Relative Wages—and however many “friendly” conferences are held, leads inevitably to WAR.

Wages are the price of labour-power. Prices fall in a condition of ample supply and falling demand—”when Johnny comes marching home again.”

The echoes of the last shots are still reverberating around the world. Millions are still in the modern mass concentration camp known as the “Forces.” And all this “great brain” of the Tory Party can offer is “the mixture as before”; bidding the exploited worker, like a blue bottle on the window-pane, after having fought his master’s battle—to restart his painful and arduous attempt to crawl into the sunlight—only to crash once again into the abyss of poverty he longs to escape.