Passing Comments: The City

The City
The government’s efforts are appreciated in some quarters. V. J. Burtt, the City Editor of the Daily Herald, wrote on June 22nd: “Fresh signs of Britain’s healthy economic progress are to be seen almost every day. They are scattering the prophets of gloom. On the home front, the strong rise in British government stocks, which made further headway yesterday, reflects confidence in government policy.” And two days later the City Editor remarked: “During the past month there has been renewed buying of British government securities by foreigners who believe Britain is making great headway.” So shareholders, both British and foreign, are confident that the government will look after them.

Railway Nationalisation
Mr. V. M. Barrington-Ward, C.B.E., is the son of Canon Barrington-Ward, D.D., and the brother of Sir Lancelot Barrington-Ward, K.C.V.O. He was educated at Westminster School and Edinburgh University. He has held posts on the managerial side of the railways since 1919, beginning at the “bottom” (as Assistant Engineer to the Engineer-in-Chief of the Midland Railway) and working his way up; by 1947 he had become Divisional General Manager on the L.N.E.R. With the “revolution” of 1948, when the railways were nationalised, he passed naturally to a comfortable job on the new Railway Executive. So when he gives his views of nationalisation, they should be worth examining; especially when he gives them in the “Trifler” (of June, 1950), a Westminster School magazine which is intended mainly for the consumption of past and present Westminster boys.

  “To my mind, socialisation” [he means nationalisation] “of our railways is a natural event in transport history. The shareholders of the four old Companies have had a blessing in disguise if the true financial position of the Companies after the war is critically examined. It is perfectly true to say that if these Companies had been given back their property after the war (during which time they operated under a Control Agreement) they would have quickly been in financial difficulties, and it needs no words of mine to elaborate what this would have meant. As it is, under the Transport Act of 1947, they have been given a Guaranteed Stock which has, at least, a capital value at a reasonable rate of interest.”

When we recall that during the first year of nationalisation the shareholders received each week more than five hundred thousand pounds interest on their stock, we can agree with Mr. Barrington-Ward that they have had a blessing; though perhaps the disguise he mentions was not very heavy.

The Duke of Windsor
Compton Mackenzie’sWindsor Tapestry” tells the story of the life, reign and abdication of the Duke of Windsor. In it the author complains of the mean spirit shown by Parliament in refusing to give the Duke a pension “in gratitude for a quarter of a century’s devoted service to the State.” Further evidence is now available of the poverty to which the Duke was reduced.

The Daily Mirror had an article on the Duke’s sartorial habits (9-6-50): “The Duke orders about 12 suits a year, paying roughly £50 for each—which is comparatively little for America. Even with evening dress, he never wears a waistcoat. So this helps keep prices down.”

Luxury Cruise
Here is part of the account of the great African cruise on the Cunard White Star liner Caronia which appeared in the American magazine “Life” (3-4-50). It needs no comment.

  “The Caronia’s 550 American passengers had paid nearly $3 million for basic accommodation on the luxury liner. The cheapest fare for the 80-day trip, half-occupancy of an inside stateroom, was $2,400. The highest was $20,000 for a suite. These prices included food and lodging, but not very much else. To participate in all of the optional shore excursions at the vessel’s 28 ports of call in the West Indies, South America, Africa and the Middle East, a passenger would have to fork out an additional $6,646.
“This probably was no great hardship for the Caronia’s cruisers. The passenger list glittered with names like Urschel and Vanderbilt, and the Reuters news agency estimated the combined wealth of those aboard at ten times the cost of the ship. The Caronia cost $20 million.”

Stalinists Begin Here
It is time we heard something more of Soviet chess. Readers will remember that Suzanne Labin’s book “Stalin’s Russia” (reviewed in the Socialist Standard last January) reported the Soviet Public Prosecutor, Krylenko, as saying “We must make an end to neutrality in chess. We must once and for all condemn the formula ‘chess for the sake of chess’ just as we have condemned the formula ‘art for art’s sake.’ We must organise shock-brigades of chess-players and set ourselves to carry out a 5-year plan for chess immediately.” Surely Harry Pollitt should take the lead in the founding of a true people’s game, with miniature Stakhanovites in place of pawns (which are revealed by their very name as monarcho-fascist dupes, tools of imperio-capitalism), Red Army tanks in place of castles. Heroes of Soviet Motherhood instead of knights, and anti-God commissars in place of bishops. (Sorry—we forgot that Stalin is now the protector of the Russian Church; purge that anti-God commissar and we’ll have a Metropolitan Patriarch instead.) Since both the king and queen—viewed from different angles—can lay claim to being the most important piece on the board, obviously a model of our great leader Stalin must be both. This will be a little confusing at first, but fortified with the limitless resources of Leninism-Stalinism, and confident of the eventual inevitable victory of the forces of Peace, War and what have you, we will march on to world-wide democratic success. And anyone who is unable to re-orientate himself to the correct line will do five extra shifts a week in honour of Uncle Joe’s next birthday.

Alwyn Edgar