1950s >> 1951 >> no-565-september-1951

Passing Comments

Mutual Admiration Society

There was a warming scene in the House of Commons the other day when two capitalists, one on each side of the house, gave their views on one of the chief problems confronting both parties nowadays —how to get the arms drive going satisfactorily. Mr. Strauss, Minister of Supply, whose family fortunes are derived from metal-trading, said that “his department is working vigorously. It has recruited a number of industrialists, it has placed 51,000 contracts with industry, and he is confident that this year’s programme will be achieved.” (Daily Express, 24.7.1951.) And he graciously gave what William Barkley calls “an unusual tribute across the table for his services” to Col. Sir Ralph Glyn, the Tory member for Abingdon, who was the chairman of a select committee which has made a number of recommendations to the Government on the question of the switch of industries to rearmament. Sir Ralph holds down four jobs altogether—he is an M.P., he is a director of J. Samuel White & Co., Ltd., and of the British Match Corporation, and he is chairman of the Skefko Ball Bearing Co., Ltd. And he gallantly replied by praising “trade union leaders for their efforts at harmony in industry.” He also said that “this heavy rearmament programme must inevitably depress British standards of living for some years. This gave opportunities to mischief-makers who were what used to be called traitors.” So they are all comrades together, Tory capitalists, “labour” capitalists, trade union leaders; the only cads are the mischief- makers who object to having their standards of living depressed.

* * *

Enterprise and Vitality

Mr. Strauss had found time to sing the praises of some more of his fellow-capitalists four days before. Opening a new Austin plant, he said (Daily Herald, 20.7.1951): “This plant will make a great contribution to Britain’s industrial resources. It is typical of the enterprise, imagination and vitality of the Austin company. Those responsible deserve our gratitude.” In return, Mr. Lord, Chairman of the Austin Company, drew attention to the difficulties the Government had to face, and said: “Some people seem to think that a change of government will put everything right, but it won’t make bad workmen work any more, or get us more coal and steel, or deal with Communism as we know it in this country.” And it is certainly true that whether the Labour Party or the Conservative Party is administering Capitalism the problems they have to face will be much the same; one of the chief flies in the ointment will always be those workers who are too idle to bring a really sizeable profit in to their employers.

* * *

More and More

Mr. Lord is reported as having gone on to say: “We must all work together and realise that the days of more and more for less and less are over.” Come, come, Mr. Lord. Haven’t you seen the latest figures for dividend increases? We admit that it would not be strictly true to say that now a shareholder is doing less and less to earn his dividends since one cannot do less than nothing, and the shareholder was already doing that. But the other part—”more and more”— certainly applies, since higher dividends have been reported all the year, culminating in an 18 per cent. increase in June. Now, of course, a schema of partial restriction—on dividends, not on profits—has been introduced to keep the trade unions quiet, and some of the extra dividends the shareholders hoped for will have to be salted away in companies’ reserves for the three years during which the scheme will be in operation. But whereas the workers, persuaded of the benevolent intentions of the Government by this latest plan, will be expected to forego wage increases altogether, the dividend increases will not be foregone, merely postponed till the end of the scheme.

A confidence trick, in fact, of the highest order.

* * *

Vicious Circle

One of the main excuses brought forward by the heads of each state for rearming is that some other country has rearmed, and “we nave to do it as well to defend ourselves.” Thus Russia keeps large armies in being in order to defend herself against the threat presented by the fact that America has stocks of atomic bombs and numerous overseas bases. And America and Britain have to rearm to defend themselves against the large Russian armies (a Daly Herald headline on July 28th was “Why we must arm—Stalin has. five and a half million armed men”). The Daily Graphic, however, goes one better. Not only do we have to rearm because our future enemies are arming; we also have to rearm because our allies are arming. Commenting on President Truman’s report to Congress that in twelve months twenty per cent. of America’s total industrial production will be devoted to “defence,” the Graphic says (24.7.1951): “America is bearing—and bearing willingly—the main burden. It is shameful for anyone in Britain to suggest that we should not do our share.”

Stripped of verbiage, the argument runs like this: The Russian workers have let themselves be deluded into accepting a lower standard of living so that the Russian state can have bigger armed forces; the American workers have let themselves be deluded into accepting a lower standard of living in order that the American state can have bigger armed forces; therefore we in Britain must also “do our share”!

* * *

Pax Vobiscum

At the opening of General Eisenhower’s new headquarters near Versailles, the General is reported to have said that “it was the first time in history an allied headquarters had been set up in peacetime to preserve peace and not to encourage war” (Continental Daily Mail, 24.7.1951). “We strive to lift from the hearts of men the fear of the cell block of the slave-camp. We strive to establish Pax Atlantica under which all men may push forward to new heights to new levels of achievement”

If the General really wants to preserve peace, he chose an unfortunate comparison. For “Pax Romana,” although its literal translation is “the Roman peace,” had nothing to do with the preservation of peace. Pax Romana is the name given to a time when there were still wars. Why then was it called “pax”? Because whatever wars there were—against foreigners outside the Empire, against rebels within it—were won by the Roman rulers. It was the same with that other period of history to which the name “pax” is sometimes applied—the period 1815—1914, which some historians have called “Pax Britannica.” This didn’t mean that there were no wars in this period—it simply meant that whatever wars there were, within or without the British Empire, were won by the British rulers.

But perhaps that is the kind of thing the General had in mind.

* * *

Food and Famine

Here are some quotations from a missionary magazine (“The Kingdom Overseas,” July, 1951) taken from reports on the Mysore and Trichmopoly areas of India.

“We have seen little children crying for food, seen them snatch the food from each other’s hands, watched them eat with relish the husks of oil-cake from the oil mills, and search the fields for herbs and roots to eat.”
“The shadows of death and the pale ghost of hunger have been present in countless homes. But many have had no homes—in which to live or die. These of our people were wandering from the west, eastward or to the hills; but in that search for work and food only some were successful.”
“All of us in this Trichinopoly Diocese, and especially those on the western side, will remember 1950, above all, as a year when famine, the worst in living memory, stalked our countryside.”

1950? The News Chronicle (24.11.1950) had something to tell us about 1950. “A year’s supply of potatoes for twelve million people—26,700,000 bushels— has been destroyed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year, because it could not sell them abroad.” Let us not, however, put down our Western and democratic way of life as a complete failure. Some of us have enough food—enough of it for all purposes. If you are wealthy enough there is a shop in the Champs Elysees, in Paris, which will bathe your dog for you—in milk (Sunday Express, 15.7.1951). And from the same paper (1.7.1951) we learn that the beauty experts in New York have thought up a new facial to take the wrinkles out of rich women’s faces. Its ingredients? Eggs, milk and strawberries.

* * *

Sleight of Tongue

When we see an expert at work in any field it is difficult to withhold our admiration. Let us therefore give his due mead of praise to Mr. Churchill, who surely can have few peers in the work of improving on the facts for purposes of propaganda.

On July 14th, Mr. Horner, the national secretary of the Mineworkers’ Union, said in a speech at Morpeth that “if a Tory government is returned, it is certain that there will be a national strike of the miners, following the measures which such a Tory government propose to take to deal with the mining situation.” If the experience of the inter-war years counts for anything at all, this statement is so self-obvious as to border on being a truism. If a Tory government is returned, it is likely that ultimately the miners will be driven to resist mining measures by going on strike. Up to the present, indeed, one of the most valuable services performed by the Labour Government for the capitalist class has been to keep the strikes and disruption in this most important of industries down to a far lower level than after the first world war.

* * *

Masterstroke

Now Horner’s statement is a clear warning about the certainty of industrial disturbances in the coalmines under a Tory government Mr. Churchill, however, calls this warning “threats” and “shameful menaces.” More: he multiplies the scope of the warning by more than ten. He says (Sunday Express, 22.7.1951): “But now the Communist Horner has stepped outside the sphere of industrial disputes, and threatens the whole british democracy with a national strike to bring the country down if they dare express their opinion and wishes at the polls.” This is a masterstroke. By leaving three words out of the original phrase, “a national strike of the miners,” he extends the “threat” which he alleges has been uttered from one concerning fewer than 700,000 miners to one concerning more than ten times that number of organised workers.

A man of such abilities should be capable of retaining his place indefinitely at the head of the Conservative Party.

* * *

Free from Financial Worries

The Daily Express (20.7.1951) is calling for some wage increases. The subjects of its concern are the High Court judges, who only get £5,000 a year. When their salary was fixed, it says, it was “considered big enough to keep them free from financial worries which might impede their judgment.” Now, it seems, it no longer is.

No doubt it’s a good thing for judges to be free from financial worries. If this is the only criterion, however, what about, say, railway signalmen? An error in a judge’s judgment might mean a man being convicted wrongly; an error in a signalman’s judgment might mean dozens of people killed in a train smash. No doubt a judge can work better when free of financial worries; but isn’t that true of all workers? The trouble is that there is only one way in which we can free all workers from financial worry; the establishment of Socialism. But that wouldn’t interest the Daily Express+.

* * *

Help for the Democrats

From the Continental Daily Mail (24.7.1951): “Mr. Richard Casey, Australian External Affairs Minister, said to-day that ‘solidarity among the democratic nations is necessary to cope with Communism’s onslaught.’” Mr. Casey was speaking in Indonesia, and he said that “Australia had offered any possible neighbourly assistance in technical, educational and other fields.” Some more neighbourly assistance now reaching this particularly democratic nation from Hitler’s old finance minister, Dr. Schacht, who has been specially invited out by the Indonesian Government. It is not so long since our reformists were rejoicing over the replacement in Indonesia of a Dutch ruling class by a native one. But it seems that the Indonesian capitalists are also running up against problems, and they show no mote fastidiousness about the quarters from which they receive help than do their brother-capitalists elsewhere.

* * *

Simply and Informally

“Princess Elizabeth wants to travel ‘as simply and informally as possible’ when she sails for Canada with the Duke of Edinburgh on September 25th in the C.P.R. liner ‘Empress of France.’ Shipping officials have been told that this is her wish.” (Sunday Express, 29.7.1951.) So there is going to be no fuss at all. Well, hardly any.

The royal apartments on board are to be four inter-communicating state-rooms “on the sun-trap port side of ‘A’ deck.” “Upper Pullman berths in the cabins are to be stripped out. New fitted carpets will be laid. Special bulkheads will be erected across a companion way to ensure greater privacy. One of the cabins will be converted into a private lounge-dining room.”

It looks as if the royal couple are going to have almost as ascetic a time on board as they do at home.

A. W. E.

Leave a Reply