The Passing Show

The Vanguard
The Communist Party proudly boasts that it is “the party of the working-class,” ”the vanguard of the proletariat.” It bases this claim on the fact that when members of the working-class who live in the countries of the Anglo American bloc go on strike or demand higher pay, the Communist Parties of those countries usually give them support. But this is not the real test. The real test is this—what do the Communist Parties do in those countries where they are in power? The answer is, of course, quite clear to anyone who studies the systems obtaining in those countries with an unbiassed mind—the Communist Party in power builds up a system of State Capitalism, in which the workers are denied even those elementary democratic freedoms which they have won in those countries where capitalism has been established for a longer time.

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The Communist Party’s claim to be a Socialist Party rests chiefly on the sympathy they appear to extend to the workers in countries where they do not form the government. But if this makes the Communists into supporters of Socialism, it also makes all the other ruling classes in the world into Socialists.

For example, when there are any disturbances or strikes in Communist-dominated countries, the Press in the Western countries immediately leaps to defend the strikers. The authorities in the Communist-dominated country (just like the authorities in any other country, when faced with a similar situation) allege that all the trouble is caused by agitators. But the supporters of the ruling class in the Western world claim that the real reason is the oppression of the working class. After the recent riots in Poznan, the Sunday Times—an avowed supporter of capitalism—had this to say (1-7-56):

“For the cause of the riots was primarily economic. They were an outburst of discontent by over-driven, underfed industrial workers. Suggestions that they were the result of long planning by ‘imperialist agents’ are discounted by authoritative observers in the West and Poland itself.”

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Kind Words Cost Nothing
How easy it is for a ruling class, or its supporters, to sympathize with the victims of oppression by a rival ruling class! This kind of sympathy has nothing to do with Socialism, or with the support for the international working-class. It is simply a part of the cold war. The British ruling class weeps crocodile tears for the sufferings of the workers—on the other side of the Iron Curtain; and the Russian ruling class loudly bemoans the fate of the workers—on this side of the barrier. The Communist Parties of the Western World are simply the agents of the Russian ruling class in this propaganda war.

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The British Motor Corporation has decided that 6,000 of its workers are redundant, and has sacked them on the spot, giving them a week’s pay in lieu of notice. This action seems unnecessarily arbitrary, so much so that even the Conservative Chancellor, Mr. MacMillan, and the Minister of Labour, Mr. MacLeod, have indulged in some finger-wagging at the B.M.C. The unions feebly say they ought to have been consulted first; as if a man is any less unemployed because discussions have gone on about him before he got the sack. Several factories went on strike as soon as the news spread; and subsequently the leaders of all the unions concerned met and recommended a withdrawal of all labour from the British Motor Corporation from July 23rd.

But what the union leaders appear to have overlooked is that in this kind of situation a strike may play into the hands of the employers. At the present time too many cars are being produced for the economic demand; production is running at too high a level. A strike will reduce production again; it is equivalent to the B.M.C. sacking all its workers for a week or two, or however long the strike lasts, without pay or compensation of any kind. Indeed, the action of the B.M.C. was so abrupt that it raises the question whether the corporation did not intend to precipitate a strike by its employees.

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But what else can the workers do in this situation. The answer is—Nothing. Under capitalism the workers always get the thick end of the stick. In some circumstances the workers can use the weapon of strike action to defend their standards of living and even to raise them; but when the employers have more labour-power than they can use, it is a bad time for the workers to strike. The only way the workers can bring about a lasting and worthwhile improvement in their conditions is to abolish capitalism and create, in its place, a Socialist society.

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“Towards” Equality
From 1945 to 1951 the Labour Party was in power in this country, and it constantly proclaimed that it was pushing through a social revolution. The constant reply of the Socialist Party—which looks not at what men say, but at what they do—was “what revolution?” And now the Labour Party itself seems to have come round to the same point of view. For it has recently issued a new pamphlet “Towards Equality” and in it is contained the remarkable admission that after six years of Labour Government “half Britain’s wealth is still owned by one per cent. of the population while half the nation own little more than their personal and household effects” (Reynolds News, 8-7-56). This pattern of property-distribution—with the small Capitalist class owning vast amounts of wealth, and the large working class owning hardly anything—is the same as it was in 1945, before the Labour Party came to power, and in 1951, after it had carried through all its reforms. The Labour Party made no change at all in the Capitalist nature of society; it turned various industries over from private to State Capitalism—but Capitalist they remained. Has the Labour Party learned anything from its failure in 1945-51? Judging by the pamphlet, it has not. The old panaceas are trotted out—better pensions, higher family allowances, industrial democracy (whatever that might be in a capitalist society)—they are all there. The Labour Party has nothing better to offer than further doses of the reformist medicine which (as its pamphlet now virtually admits) failed so abysmally last time.

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Touching Tale
From the Evening Standard, 21-6-56:

“The 71-year-old Duchess of Leinster has been telling my reporter why she has settled in Jersey, where income tax is 4s. in the pound and where there are no death duties. It is, she said, ‘a mother’s duty.’
“‘Living here is my only chance of helping my children,’ added the Duchess. ’If you have got any feelings for your family, you will do everything possible to safeguard their future.'”

The older members of the working class who are now surviving (living is too strong a word) on the Old Age Pension, and who would be profoundly thankful to have an income on which it was possible to pay income tax, may be interested to hear about the Duchess. It is clear that this kind of parental affection is confined to members of the upper class. You never hear of aged workers retiring to Jersey on the grounds that red wine is 3s. 6d. a litre, expensive cars cost £700 less than in London, and petrol is a third cheaper—further reasons given by the Duchess for her move. But though driven from her homeland by excessive taxation, the Duchess is still one jump ahead of the workhouse. Her son-in-law and daughter (the Duke and Duchess of Bedford, as readers will know), bought the 24-roomed farmhouse where she is living for £18,000, and are spending £10,000 on renovations.

“In a fortnight’s time the.Duchess is going away on a 10-week caravan holiday on the Continent. The 18-foot caravan has been built to her design. Her chef and his wife will be going, too.”

Which forms a pleasant contrast to the charity Day’s Outing to Southend, which is the corresponding treat enjoyed by aging members of the useful class in society.


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