The Passing Show

Cat out of the bag

Upton Sinclair once wrote that “even Von Papen had to tell the truth sometimes, if only to rest his mind.” The saying applies to all politicians. The time comes when even the most diplomatic will blurt out the real motives of the British ruling class.

For example. Sir Anthony Eden. At Norwich recently he said:

The United Kingdom’s vital interest in Cyprus is not confined to its N.A.T.O. aspect. Our country’s industrial life and that of Western Europe depends to-day, and must depend for many years to come, on oil supplies from the Middle East. If ever our oil resources were in peril, we should be compelled to defend them. The facilities we need in Cyprus are part of that defence. We cannot, therefore, accept any doubt about their availability.—(The Times 2.6.56).

The Prime Minister here admits that British capitalism’s need to protea its profits—which it could not do without oil supplies—comes before the promise which Britain has made, as a member of the United Nations, to uphold the principle of self-government. Socialists have been saying for a long time that capitalism always put profit before principle, but it is not often that a politician as eminent as Sir Anthony confirms it so explicitly.

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Hobson’s Choice

Do Socialists support self-determination? As the term is used now, they do not. Self-determination now means freedom for the workers to decide which group of Capitalists will exploit them. Socialists stand for a world in which there will be no exploitation, and in which, as a result, there will be no artificial division of the world into competing and warring states. No group will use war or terrorism as a means to gain independence, for not only will every country be independent, every individual will be independent too. There will be no foreigners under Socialism. The human beings of the world will freely participate in one voluntary society, because in that way will they best satisfy their needs.

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Prophets of Doom

Whatever the condition of the country—whether there is war or peace, boom or slump—one factor, according to what we are told, remains constant and unchanged. It is this: if there are wage increases, disaster will overwhelm us all. Repeated warnings are poured out over the years by representatives of the ruling class: we must win the war, or we must reconstruct the country after the war, or we must defeat foreign competition. The use of “we,” incidentally begs the question; these problems are problems of the ruling class, although, of course, the Capitalists will (and do) solve their problems more easily by fooling the workers into giving their support to the drive for war-supplies, or the drive {or exports, or what-have-you.

Mr. MacMillan joins the chorus:

“At first our main competitors—Germany and Japan—were out of the race. Now they were coming along very fast. We must not relax; on the contrary, we must make even greater efforts. . . . Another round of wage increases such as there had been in the past two years would be disastrous. (The Times, 26.5.56.).

The jest of the situation is this. The workers ask for wage-increases, not in the main to increase their share of the goods they produce (and thus reduce the amount of surplus value which is filched from them), but merely in order to maintain their present standards of living in face of constantly rising prices. And what makes prices rise? One of the main causes is that the amount of currency in circulation is continually being increased. And who has the chief say in deciding whether the amount of currency shall be increased? Mr. MacMillan! So Mr. MacMillan is in the position of berating the workers for actions which he himself has forced them into.

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Honesty takes a back seat

The soap-and-detergent war among the three or four giant concerns which dominate the market for these goods continues. Each firm has three or more runners in the race, and the attention of the consumer is continually being assaulted by advertisements on the printed page, on hoardings, on the television screen and elsewhere, each claiming that product “A” (or “B,” or “C”) washes clothes cleaner than any of the others. All these allegations cannot be true. In a race it is just possible that all the competitors will arrive at the winning post at the same time; but it is impossible for each of the entrants in one race to beat all the others. But what do Capitalist concerns care for truth?

The sales of one product are boosted by means of a particularly shrewd trick. With each packet of this soap-powder is given—free!—a new duster. Buyers naturally assume they are getting more for their money than they did before this device was introduced. But in fact they get less. For the duster is placed inside the packet, thereby reducing the amount of soap-powder inside it. And the manufacturer saves more on the soap-powder than he has to pay for the scrap of cloth which constitutes the “free” duster.

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The right attitude to the job

Mr. James Crawford is a paid trade union official—he is President of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives. Recently he decided he would be serving his members’ interests best by giving some advice to the boss on how to become popular with the workers. In a speech to the Annual Conference of the Advertising Association recently he declared:

“In British advertisements, the top executive—if he is not depicted as a harassed old man on the point of breaking down with an executive neurosis or ulcer—is at any rate seen to be a pretty smooth and leisurely type. This sort of thing builds up a mythical picture of the ‘boss’ in the minds of average employees, and is only a few points better than the Communist cartoonist’s picture of a gross, top-hatted, cigar-smoking Satan, with his tail curling menacingly round his striped trousers. In American advertisements, the executive is much younger, much healthier, and has much more the appearance of a man who actually does some work. At times he is actually seen with his coat off, not sitting at a desk, but talking to the men on the job.” (World’s Press News 18.5.56.).

Mr. Crawford said the advertising profession should “help create among people at work the right attitude to the job.” Mr. Crawtord is chairman of the Productivity Council, which has the task of increasing output. The ruling class has a high opinion of the “responsibility” and “common sense” of the majority of trade union leaders in this country; its confidence is evidently not misplaced in Mr. Crawford.

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Life is grim, and life is earnest

From the Sunday Express, 15-4-56:

“Lady Portsmouth’s daughters, Lady Phillipa, 18. and Lady Jane Wallop, 17, economise at their coming-out cocktail party next week by serving Spanish champagne—about five shillings a bottle cheaper than French non-vintage.”

But don’t send round the hat yet. This isn’t a permanent measure. “For their dance next month, which will probably be attended by Princess Alexandra, the champagne will be best French vintage.”

These upper-class parties are so much trouble that one wonders why anyone bothers to give them. In the Sunday Express of June 10th we find:

“Lady Crosfield is again having difficulty in planning her annual pre-Wimbledon tennis party. . . . This year she finds that she has picked on the same day as the Garter ceremony at Windsor. ‘It is too late to alter my date, so I shall have no royalty here,’ she says.”

Life is full of tribulations, Lady Crosfield. But don’t worry—you’ll probably survive this one.


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