The Passing Show

I hire ’em, I fire’em
Under the 1948 treaty of “alliance” between Britain and Jordan, Britain is allowed to maintain air bases and troops in Jordan, and subsidises and trains the Arab Legion, which is the Jordan army and police force combined. The subsidy to the Arab Legion is paid not to the Jordan Government but direct to the Legion itself. Up to a short time ago the Arab Legion was commanded and controlled by Brigadier-General Glubb, who had the assistance of more than 70 British officers, some seconded from the British Army, but most on private contract with the Jordan Government. Under this set-up General Glubb “controlled a sum which amounted last year to two-thirds of Jordan’s total national budget” (The Observer, 4/ 3/56). When it was pointed out that this meant that Jordan, with her coercive forces controlled—through Glubb and the British subsidy—by Britain, was little more than a British colony, the answer always came pat that Glubb had nothing to do with Britain; he was simply a “soldier of fortune,” who was employed as a matter of private arrangement by King Hussein and the Jordan Government But when, on 1st March, King Hussein acted on this assumption, and gave Glubb the sack, what a roar of anger went up from the British ruling class! In fact, under the old arrangement, Jordan was a quasi-colony of Britain; and the dismissal of Glubb was part of an attempt by the Jordanian ruling class to free itself from the tutelage of the British ruling class.

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For better, for worse
But while the British ruling class was roaring with anger, our “progressives,” our left-wing Labourites and Communists, were roaring with approval. The sacking of Glubb was seen as a successful episode in an anti-colonial struggle for liberation by the Jordan people instead of indicating merely a change of masters. But how progressive is it to be a “progressive?” For while the Arab Legion was controlled by Britain, Glubb saw to it that it was kept ready to defend the interests, strategic and commercial, of the British ruling class in the Middle East, in any possible struggle with anti-British powers. It was therefore the policy of Britain to keep the Legion out of any war with Israel. But now that the restraining influence of General Glubb has been removed, the chances of a war between Israel and Jordan, with all the attendant devastation and misery, have been much increased. As usual, the “progressives” in their pursuit of “immediate” policies and “day-to-day” objectives, have found themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea.

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The things that are sacred
The House of Commons has now voted twice within a month to end hanging. An interesting sidelight on the first debate in ‘February was the attitude of The Times. It was against the complete abolition which Mr. Silverman and his associates called for; and although it prides itself that its news columns are impartial, it saw fit (taking the report of the debate and the summary on the main news page together) to give 90 inches of space to the speeches of the hangman’s supporters against only 30 inches to those of the abolitionists.

As for the second debate, in March, one cannot resist quoting part of the contribution made by Mr. Logan, the Labourite, who sits for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (The Times, 17/2/56).

“The Bill was the most fallacious and damnable thing affecting the liberty of the people that had been brought before the House of Commons. It gave a licence to kill without a penalty. It should not be allowed…. If members of the House valued their own lives, if they valued law and order, and if they wanted to protect the things that were sacred, in the name of God it was their duty to vote against the second reading.”

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Camel-swallowers, Inc.
But in spite of the impassioned arguments of Mr. Logan, the Bill was given a second reading. What is the Socialist attitude to it? It means that some 12 or 13 persons each year will, instead of bring hanged, be put into prison for a greater or lesser number of years. But in the meantime the system of Capitalism, with its big wars, “small” wars, colonial wars, and “emergencies,” continues to send thousands to their deaths every year. Mr. Silverman, the Labour M.P. for Nelson and Colne, said in the first debate (The Times, 17/2/56):

“Beyond all the arguments about deterrents and the state of the law, there must remain in their minds the fear that from time to time at eight or nine o’clock in the morning an innocent man would be taken out of his cell to have his neck broken.”

But Mr. Silverman, and the other Parliamentary supporters of the Bill. were also supporters of the last war, when not one or two innocent men, but hundreds of thousands of innocent men—and women and children too —were shot or bombed to pieces. If Mr. Silverman is really concerned with preventing innocent people losing their lives, he would be wise to devote himself to the inauguration of Socialism, instead of the patching-up of Capitalism.

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Fiddling the accounts
Figures are frequently published to demonstrate to the workers that the rate of surplus value is really very low. For this purpose various shady devices are employed —for example, allowing for directors’ fees, which are often a disguised form of surplus value, as part of the total expenditure along with wages and raw materials, before calculating the amount of profit which the workers have produced for their bosses. Another, and more important, dodge is to allow for payment of the various company taxes before reckoning up the surplus value. And it is true that if this is done, the amount of surplus value is brought down considerably. But this is simply a trick. To the worker, labouring part of the week to produce the equivalent of his wages’ and for the rest of the week to produce surplus value for his boss, it is immaterial whether that part of the value of his work which is stolen from him goes to the individual Capitalist who happens to employ him or to the executive committee of the Capitalist class, which is the State. The Capitalist grumbles about his taxes, but he goes on paying them, because the burden of taxation can only be borne by a propertied class. The State must foot heavy bills for things like armaments. And for these the Capitalists must pay. But they pay for what they want themselves armaments are not bought in the interest of the working class; they are bought to enable the ruling class—that is the Capitalist class—to defend its property and its profits against the ruling class of other states. But though the Capitalists have to sacrifice part of their gains to preserve the rest, all of it—what they buy armaments with and what they keep—is surplus value, which the worker produces and is then deprived of.

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Boloney, Mr. Masefield
On February 17th the Queen returned from a tour of Nigeria. To mark the event Mr. John Masefield, the Poet Laureate, composed the following verse:

Lines for the Home-Coming of our Most

Gracious Sovereign Lady

Chain upon chain, and prison within prison,
Man shuts his spirit into deeper night.
This Lady, home-returning, has brought light.
Upon a way long dark a star has risen.

Do you really think it has, Mr. Masefield?

It is sad to see a man of Mr. Masefield’s talents reduced to writing rubbish because the upper class expects it of him.


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