Passing Comments

Even on their own false definition of Socialism the Labour Party’s claim to be a Socialist party grows more hollow with every month that passes. The Liberals claim that the credit for envisaging and planning the Welfare State is really theirs, and all the big parties join in promising to preserve it. The Americans have started buying their tin and rubber supplies in bulk (so bulk-buying can scarcely now be called “Socialist” either). Nationalisation, which used to be put forward as the very core of the Labour Party’s “Socialism,” has now been accepted by the Persian ruling class as the best means of getting the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.’s plant into their own hands, and the embarrassed Labour Government is faced with all the arguments the Labour leaders once used themselves. Even that old standby of Labour politicians, the vague and windy attacks on high profits and high prices, they must now share with the Tory Sunday Express, which gives front-page headlining (17-6-51) to its question “Are prices too high because profits are too high?”—and answers that many financial experts believe they are. Before long there will be hardly an item on the Labour Party programme that some other capitalist group or party is not also promising or putting into practice.

* * *

The Persian “People”
The Persian oil dispute has given the Stalinists another opportunity of displaying their patriotic fervour for the interests of Russia. It seems possible that if the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. is dispossessed, some Persian oil may be diverted to markets inside the Soviet bloc away from its present markets in the Western bloc countries. This possibility is enough to line the Stalinists up behind the Persian ruling class, and their daily paper now defends the Persian capitalists with almost as much enthusiasm as it does the Russian rulers. One might have expected even a Stalinist to understand that there is not much likelihood of a Persian worker being better off simply because the job of exploiting him is taken over by capitalists speaking Persian from capitalists speaking English. Indeed, there may be truth in the allegations of the British Press that the Persian workers will probably be worse off under capitalists of their own nationality. But the World Federation of Trade Unions, a body under Stalinist leadership, has published a pamphlet written by a former Persian minister entitled “The Iranian People Fight the British Oil Trust.” And the Daily Worker (editorial, 30-6-51) also glibly repeats the arguments of the Persian governing class, talking of the “Persians resuming possession of their natural resources,” and saying that the British government is trying to intimidate “the Persian government and people.” “Now that the Persian people are awake,” it decides, “these tactics will not succeed.” But it doesn’t explain why the fact that the Persian workers are supporting” the Persian capitalists, if they are doing so, shows that they are awake; Socialists would conclude rather that it proves they are still in a nationalist stupor.

* * *

So near and yet . . .
The day before, however, the Daily Worker unintentionally got near to the truth. In Mr. Walter Holmes’ column the following appeared:

“Persia was described by Lenin in 1908 as ‘inflammable material in world politics.’ His description of the scene then, when the Persians were struggling to end the absolutism of the Shahs and to win a constitution, while Russian and British imperialism rivalled each other in grabbing tactics, has sharp point now.”
Sharper than you think, Mr. Holmes, sharper than you think.

* * *

Truth in wartime
The estimates given by each side in the Korean war of the losses suffered by the opposing forces differ considerably. To guard against too easy acceptance of the figures issued by “our” side, it may be worth while recalling that on May 14th, 1947, Mr. Noel-Baker, then Air Minister, announced in the House of Commons that although during the Battle of Britain the R.A.F. claimed to have shot down 2,692 enemy aircraft, the German records showed that only 1,733 had been destroyed; and that the. British government had now accepted the German figures. When the British figures were originally issued during the war, they were given not as estimates but as hard facts; and doubtless any citizen publicly stating his disbelief in them would have laid himself open to a charge of spreading alarm and despondency. And now here was the confession that the official figures exceeded the truth by more than 55 percent. !

* * *

Where dictatorship is good for business
It has always been the Socialist contention that the opposition sometimes expressed in the British Press to dictatorship and totalitarianism has not been founded on any dislike of those systems as such, but has merely been a means of stirring up a feeling of hatred towards those countries which are competing with Britain for overseas markets and raw materials. In the case of countries from which our rulers expect help in war, or with which they do profitable business, dictatorship is overlooked; more, it is often praised. What, in an “enemy country,” is called rule by secret police and concentration camp, becomes in a “friendly country” orderly and stable government. For example, here is an extract from a recent statement by the Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh O’Neill, Bt., P.C., M.P.:

“It is with the deepest regret that I have to refer to the recent death of His Excellency Marshal Carmona, the President of the Portuguese Republic. He had been President for nearly 25 years and was held in the greatest affection by all his people. During this period Portugal enjoyed orderly government and achieved stability. He did much to extend and foster the good relations which have always existed between his country and its oldest ally, Great Britain.”

Now it is general knowledge that Portugal is as much a dictatorship as, say, Russia, and that Carmona stood in much the same relationship to the dictator Salazar as Kalinin used to do to the dictator Stalin. What then led Sir Hugh to sing this paean of praise to the figurehead of a dictatorship?

* * *

Profit covers a multitude of sins
Sir Hugh is chairman of Lisbon Electric Tramways, Ltd., and the extract above is taken from his annual statement for the year 1950 (Economist, 9-6-51). The net profit for that year, £70,390, shows an increase of £5,000 over the previous year’s. And £61,595 of it is distributed to shareholders in preference dividends and in an ordinary dividend of 5 per cent.

No wonder Sir Hugh can turn a blind eye to the totalitarian political set-up in Portugal; indeed, since it produces “orderly government and stability,” so much the better for business.

* * *

Precept . . .
Dr. Garbett, archbishop of York, warned us the other day of some of the dangers of the Welfare State. In the Observer (22-4-51) he is reported to have said:

“I think we should be proud that our country has been a pioneer in establishing the Welfare State. But it carries with it the danger that its citizens may expect everything to be done for them without their doing anything in return, beyond, of course, paying their insurance. The citizen may become a passive recipient, always demanding more, but gradually losing initiative and responsibility. The ‘they’ mentality is developed instead of the ‘we’ — ‘They must do it ’ instead of ‘We must do it.’”

Dr. Garbett was talking of a very real danger. But why has he waited until the introduction of the so- called Welfare State to utter his warning? For the citizens who “expect everything to be done for them without their doing anything for it in return” are to be found among the higher income-groups, among the owning-class; and these citizens have had their own privately-operated Welfare State working for a long time in the form of unearned income from the ownership of land, factories, and shares. Dr. Garbett’s phrase about “passive recipients, always demanding more” is one of the best descriptions we have seen for some time of shareholders attending the annual general meeting of their company. Dr. Garbett said that the survival of the Welfare State “depends upon the duty of hard work by all able-bodied citizens. Unless we produce more for export by skill and hard work we shall be unable to purchase sufficient food for our people or raw materials for our industries.” If the archbishop had attempted to follow this up by attending Ascot the other week and advising some of the gentlemen there to take jobs in the factories and mines we feel that he would soon have seen exactly where the “they” mentality he refers to is strongest.

* * *

. . . and Practice
Talking about members of the owning class, the Evening Standard (20-4-51) tells us of the case of Mr. Ronald Tree, former Tory M.P. for Market Harborough, who has been receiving an income of £85,000 year from a trust fund of £2,678,000 left by his grandfather. Mr. Tree said that taxation had cut this down to £7,140 a year. Apparently an income of £140 a week did not allow Mr. Tree to live “according to his station.” So, instead of finding some other station to live according to, Mr. Tree applied to the Superior Court in Chicago for a further tax-free payment of £214,000 from the trust fund, and obtained it. Assuming that Mr. Tree devotes all this sum to immediate income, instead of putting it out to “earn” further interest, it will last for twenty years at the rate of £200 a week. There is, then, reasonable hope that for this period of time Mr. Tree will be able to keep up with the Joneses.

* * *

War Vocabulary

The trouble in Korea has enabled us to brush up our war vocabulary. One of the first things to be learnt is that the same event or object always has two terms to describe it, according to whether it occurs on one’s own side of the Iron Curtain or on the other. A few examples are given below:

Allies — Satellites
Armies — Hordes
Gallant lads — Screaming fanatics
Reserves of manpower — Cannon-fodder
Retreat to prepared positions — Headlong rout
Defence plans — Aggressive designs
Attacks on military targets — Indiscriminate bombing

A. W. E.

Leave a Reply