1950s >> 1950 >> no-548-april-1950

Circumstances alter attitudes

Before it became the Government the Labour Party built up a reputation on the frail ground that it was in favour of applying the principle of democracy everywhere, with particular reference to the depressed native populations who suffered so much from the profit-hungry greed of the privileged class. Now that the Labour Party has become the Government, administering Capitalism, lofty ideals that gained them support have had to take a back seat and the interests of the British Capitalist class become, and must become, the ruling idea. A recent example is the instance of the native ruler Seretse.

The circumstances are fairly well known owing to the publicity given by opponents of the Labour Party; opponents, it may be added, who would in all probability have acted more or less in the same way had they been the Government. Seretse is chief of a native population in Bechuanaland. He came to England to study and married a white girl. The Regent who had been acting as chief during Seretse’s minority objected to the marriage. After considerable internal discussion the Regent was exiled and the majority of the population accepted Seretse and his wife. In the meantime the Government’s representatives had been taking part in the dispute. Finally Seretse was invited to England for discussions on the express condition, he claims, that he would be allowed to return. When he was here the Government refused to let him return and banned him and his wife from the territory for five years.

Why did the Government take this autocratic action, in face of the wishes of the local population? Obviously not out of consideration for the native people but from motives springing from the needs of national diplomacy; the national diplomacy of a capitalist government. What are these needs? One of them is to placate the South African Government which has passed a number of repressive measures against natives; another is fear of what might happen to the interests of the privileged class in other parts of the “Empire” if they failed to frown upon the union of white with black.

Thus, in spite of the high-flown style of the propaganda against Fascism and Nazism in the past, where capitalist interests are, or seen to be, involved all capitalist governments, including the Labour ones, are prepared to engage in racial discrimination.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, April 1950)

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