Notes by the Way

What goes on in Abyssinia
Outwardly the visit to Britain of Haile Selassie, King of Kings and Emperor of Ethiopia, may have the appearance of a courtesy call between two of the few remaining monarchies of the world. But it is an open secret that there are matters of more serious interest than renewing old acquaintance and revisiting Bath, where the Emperor lived during his exile after the Italian conquest of his homeland. The Sunday Express (17/10/54) reports that behind the scenes “a new treaty of friendship and alliance” is being negotiated. More information is given by the Manchester Guardian (12/10/54). According to this report the economic and political situation in Abyssinia is critical and the visits to Washington and now London are designed to obtain financial aid for development of resources in return for which strategic advantages can be offered to the Western Powers.

“The future of Eritrea and the Somalilands is the most important question affecting Great Britain and Ethiopia. Eritrea, uneasily federated to Ethiopia for a temporary period, has Red Sea ports of strategic significance for the Western Powers, faced with a revolutionary Middle East and an unpredictable East Africa. French Somaliland remains the only rail outlet to the sea. Italian Somaliland is under United Nations trusteeship until 1959. For the Emperor these lands with their large Somali, Dankali and Tigrean populations are a source of danger, and their future is of great importance. In 1953 an American military mission arrived to replace the Swedish mission training the Ethiopian army.”

“There is oil in the northern provinces and the American Sinclair Oil Company is prospecting in the Somali desert in the east. The existence of uranium was confirmed in 1947. Ethiopia urgently needs loans, aid and capital investment. In return she can offer oil and mineral concessions.”

In the meantime the Emperor, who is “at once king, dictator and government,” has such problems to face in maintaining his rule that it was at first thought that he could not safely leave the country.

Where the other capitalist Powers are busy furthering their interests Russia is not missing and would have its opportunity if the present regime collapsed.

“Soviet Russia, with an Embassy, a very fine information service, the best-equipped hospital in Addis Ababa and the ear of some of the best-educated men in the country would not be slow to build a bridge to Africa. Poverty and ignorance are widespread and the Coptic Church, the official Church with great temporal power, has old ties with the orthodox Church in Russia.”

Those who have wondered why the allegedly anti-Christian Russian rulers have propped up the Church in Russia will see here one of the reasons. The religious link has already been useful to them as a means of approach and influence in the Balkans and may now prove to be useful for getting a foothold in Africa. For Russian capitalism as for the others trade and the gun may follow the Bible.

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Are Strikes due to Communists ?
Scoffing at the idea that the bus and dock strikes are caused by Communist agitation, the Sunday Express, always pleased to turn the attack against the Transport and General Workers Union, lays responsibility on the latter.

“The fact is that Mr. Deakin’s huge union, nearly a million and a quarter strong, is totally unmanageable. Contact between its leadership and the rank and file seems almost non-existent even at local level.” (Sunday Express, 17/10/54.)

Be that as it may the Express have an unanswerable point when they ask: “does Mr. Deakin really believe that ordinary working-folk with family responsibilities will risk their whole livelihood simply because hot words are spilt by a handful of agitators?”

Another point is overlooked when this charge is levelled at the Communists. They do not always support and encourage strikes. When the Russian Government’s policy requires no strikes the Communist parties all over the world fall into line. After 1941, when the Russian Government was forced into the second world war, the British Communists were at the forefront of the drive to get the workers to work harder, and to refrain from striking. Strikes were denounced by the Communists as sabotage “against the nation”—just the same sort of language that is now directed against the Communists. The interesting point to notice is, however, that the number of strikes and strikers in the years when the Communists were the loudest mouthed patriots and were telling the workers not to strike were just as high as when the Communists changed to the new line of encouraging strikes.

In 1951, 1952 and 1953, there were just over 1,700 strikes each year and the number of days work lost by strikers rose from 1,710,000 days in 1951 to 1,797,000 in 1952 and to 2,142,000 in 1953.

This was a period when Communists were supporting strikes. But in the years 1943-1946, when the Communists were denouncing strikers, the number of strikes each year was greater than in any of the years 1951-1953, as also was the number of days work lost each year through strikes.

From which it may be concluded, as we might expect, that the workers strike against the effects of capitalism and it does not make much difference to their actions whether the Communists are for or against.

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Troops and Dock Strikes
The following is from an article in the Daily Mail (19/10/54) in which Mr. Roland Hurman explains why the Tory Government has been able to avoid the hasty use of troops in dock strikes.

“Three times during the reign of the Socialist Government, under Mr. Attlee, the Cabinet sent troops into the London docks. Now, for the first time in three years of Sir Winston Churchill’s Administration, the Government are pondering the problem of how long they can wait before ordering the men of the Armed Forces into action in defence of our peace-time front line.
“That Sir Winston has been able to wait for more than a fortnight before deciding on this drastic step is itself silent testimony to the growth of the country’s prosperity since he took office.
“In the immediate post-war period of shortages, controls, and rationing, most cargoes had to be moved quickly to keep the nation fed and occupied. To-day we are much belter off, but a trading country like Britain cannot continue indefinitely in the vacuum created by the dock strike.”

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The Motive behind Capitalism
Economists and City editors have a double line of propaganda against Socialism. One is that you can’t do without the profit-motive because that is what makes the wheels go round. The other is that it is unfair to charge the capitalists with being money-grabbers for their real incentive is disinterested service in the community.

But last month the Chancellor of the Exchequer told business men that they should pay out less profit in dividends and devote more of it to developing their factories to meet foreign competition. This stung the City Editor of the Daily Express to the following:—

“Nonsense, Mr. Butler. Dividends are the life-blood of a free-enterprise economy.
“It was the promise of dividends that led the Adventurers of England to Trade Into Hudson’s Bay. To-day it is a national asset worth £29,000,000.
“It was the promise of dividends that brought Mr. Rolls and Mr. Royce together. And it is the hope of dividends that encourages the investors of Britain to risk their money in industry.
“There is nothing wrong with high dividends provided they come from justifiable profits. Any more than higher wages are wrong if the workers deserve them.
“Both are high-degree marks on the barometer of a nation’s prosperity.” (Daily Express, 16/10/54.)

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Mr. Morgan Phillips on Russia
Mr. Morgan Phillips, Secretary of the Labour Party, wrote for the Daily Telegraph about his impressions during the recent Labour Party delegation’s visit to Moscow on its way to China. From the article in the Daily Telegraph of August 21, 1954, we discover that Mr. Phillips still holds the view he has expressed in the past, that British Labourism and the Russian Government have a common objective but differ about methods. He writes:—

“It may provide food for thought that the apparently sterner Stalin said to us in 1946 that both Britain and the Soviet Union were moving in the direction of Socialism— the Russian road shorter and more difficult, the British longer and involving no bloodshed. It can hardly be said that under a Conservative Government Britain is still on the road to Socialism; yet Malenkov was at least no less friendly.”

Writing further of the difference between his talks with Malenkov and the talks in 1946 with Stalin, Mr. Phillips says of the earlier talks:—

“As I have said, we talked then of the two roads to Socialism—the Communist way and the Democratic way to which we in the British Labour Party are committed and irrevocably dedicated. Wc gained the impression that notwithstanding ideological and other differences, it might be possible for the Communist and non-Communist world to live peacefully and prosperously side by side.”

Mr. Phillips gives us a fascinating example of the way one confusion of thought is bound to lead to others and make understanding impossible. He early imbibed two ideas, one true the other false; the first that the Socialist idea involves international co-operation and harmony, the second that Socialism means State control of industry or State capitalism.

Having taken this initial leap in the dark Mr. Phillips’ further progress in error and confusion was as certain as the sunrise. As both the Russian and the British Labour Governments had leanings to State capitalism they must, thought Mr. Phillips, have a common goal; they must be fellow-travellers on the way to Socialism. They ought also to be able to live in mutual peace and harmony. Since, however, they were not in harmony but in a state of cold war the cause might be, perhaps, a difference about method, the long and the short, the bloody and the peaceful roads to Socialism. Happy in his explanation of the problem Mr. Phillips is now convinced “that there are grounds for a renewal of optimism” in the matter of Anglo-Russian relations.

The cold truth is that Russia and Britain are parts of the capitalist world, trying to survive and expand in the cut-throat scramble. They do indeed differ about method, Russia relying more, and Britain less, on State capitalist methods of organising industry.

The reasons for their rivalries and hostilities now have no more to do with controversies about Socialism than the Crimean War of 100 years ago had to do with Russian and British controversies about who were the proper guardians of Christians of the Greek Church under Turkish rule.

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Mr. Morrison dissents
Mr. Herbert Morrison evidently does not share Mr. Phillips’ illusions about mutual harmony between Britain and Russia and he wrote caustically in the June “Socialist Commentary” about those who think they can see Socialism in Russia :—

“We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that revolutions in other countries are deserving of our sympathy and support just because they are revolutions. . . . The idea still prevails that Russia has a Socialist economic system simply because so much is nationalised and planned; the existence of a dictatorship and the loss of individual freedom are regarded as unfortunate but irrelevant. As a result her every action—and the same now applies to China—is viewed with special indulgence.”

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New Naval War
Nearly 50 years ago the growth of the German navy led to the campaign in Britain to build more battleships to counter the threat. It is different today. Germany is only just about to begin re-armament and this time, so the British Government hopes, Germany will be an ally. But the British Government is still building warships, and three new cruisers are to be completed. But against Russia not Germany!

Mr. Noel Monks writes in the Daily Mail (16/10/54):—

“They will be the navy’s answer to Russia’s Sverdlov-class cruiser. This was revealed last night by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. J. P. L. Thomas, in a speech at the R.N.V.R. club in London.”


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