Notes by the Way

Mr. Bevan being Statesmanlike
When he is not calling other supporters of capitalism vermin the Rt. Hon. Aneurin Bevan sometimes writes sober, statesmanlike articles for the Capitalist Press as in the Sunday Express (5 August, 1956). His subject was “Why I want Ike to Lose.” Although Bevan is not a Socialist he likes to parade himself as one on the strength of his continuing support for State Capitalism (nationalisation), and one would have expected the article to be a trumpet blast for setting up an English-model “Welfare State” in U.SA and a repudiation of Eisenhower because he and his party are not likely to do it. But not at all. The article said nothing about America’s need for Bevan’s State Capitalist schemes (and naturally nothing about Socialism). It said hardly anything about any policy, beyond a tepid preference for Adlai Stevenson on the ground that be would change the American attitude towards Chiang-Kai-Shek, and might finally end McCarthyism. All he could say about Stevenson was that “his views are not particularly advanced, judged by Europe’s standards, and there are even some Conservatives who might not think him sufficiently progressive.”

No, Mr. Bevan’s main and almost his only theme was that Eisenhower is sick and consequently liable to reactionary pressure—as if the course of American capitalism is going to be determined by Eisenhower, well or ill. But Mr. Bevan evidently thinks it is:—

“I find the project depressing in the extreme. The President is obviously a sick man and by all the evidence he is likely to become more and not less sick. We shall therefore have less than half a man failing to do what is by general consent a job more than enough for a man in full possession of robust health. The most important political office in the world will be in feeble, fumbling and wavering hands, and it is little consolation that it may be done by the democratic choice of the American people themselves.”

So Mr. Bevan can pass by without comment the fact that the American people by democratic choice are about to rivet themselves to capitalism again; this be does not think worth notice; but he is very depressed because American capitalism may be in the hands of a semi-invalid. As if by comparison with the real issue it had any importance at all, except for Mr. Eisenhower.

• • •

Bevan Looking in the Mirror
This attitude towards politics does explain why Mr. Bevan got so angry with Attlee and now dislikes Attlee’s successor, Gaitskell. When Bevan looks in the mirror be sees a whole man, in robust health; obviously better fitted to lead the Labour Party and become Prime Minister than these fumbling half men.

But how does Bevan work out, in wider spheres, his policy of supporting the robust and opposing the weak? In the same issue of the Sunday Express “Cross Bencher” reported that Mr. R. A. Butler is a robust man, too: “His cheeks glow. His step is light. And he is only 53.“

And what about Colonel Nasser, who is described as “a tall, strongly built man, with great physical stamina? ”

• • •

Nationalisation and the Arab Workers
The Arab workers’ trade unions in Egypt and other Middle-Eastern countries, have given delighted support to the act of nationalising the Suez Canal and the threatened nationalisation of oil plants and oil pipe-lines. They think their troubles will be over when “their country owns their oil and their canal.” They have a rude awakening in store when they find that the beneficiaries will be their exploiters, the local Capitalist class. But what a pity they could not learn from the experience of workers in Britain, Russia and other countries about the illusory benefits of State Capitalism. The people who ought to have told them are the British and other trade union leaders who have international contacts, but they, of course, still cherish the same illusions themselves.

Colonel Nasser has used against the Western Powers the argument that as Egyptian workers built the Canal “Egypt” should own it. But the same can be said of all the accumulated wealth of Egypt and all other countries; the workers produced it but somebody else owns it. The Colonel very well knows that nationalisation is not going to take the wealth of Egypt out of the hands of the rich who own it. If he had any such dangerous thoughts and suggested applying them he would soon be got rid of.

• • •

U.N.–The Dream Fades
Except as a face-saver and rubber stamp organisation for the big Powers, nobody seriously considered United Nations as a body to provide a solution for the Suez Canal dispute. A correspondent of the Manchester Guardian at Geneva comments on the parallel disillusioning with one of U.N..’s subsidiaries the United Nations Economic and Social Council. He comments on the failure of this council in the fields of world trade and economic development and goes on:—

“What is considered even more serious, however, is the growing impression among the delegates that, just as in the field of effective world security, the United Nations is becoming almost impotent in the economic and social fields as well. It seems as if there were an unspoken agreement among the industrial as well as the less developed countries that the United Nations has been reduced to a forum where lip-service has to be paid to ideals which no longer apply to the level of sophistication which has now been universally reached. Articles of the United Nations Charter seem to serve as no more than good debating points.”—( 9th August, 1956.)

• • •

The Results of Keir Hardie
On the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Keir Hardie he has been acclaimed by both wings of the Labour Party and by the Communist Daily Worker. He is not acclaimed by the S.P.G.B. any more than he was when he was alive; though we must in fairness admit that when we contemplate the low level of the present Labour Party notabilities it does add a certain relative lustre to Keir Hardie. And this, of course, pin-points our “attitude towards his reformist activities and his masterpiece the formation of the Labour Party. His admirers tell us what fine and enduring work he did but they are vague about what it was and why it should be admired. Surely the test to be applied to a man who believed that the way to get Socialism was to build up a trade union-political, refformist Labour Party, is to examine his success in achieving what, he said, it would achieve.

Mr. Bevan, in an article “The man who still points the Way” (Reynolds News, 12 August, 1956), has this to say:—

“We are not yet even within sight of the ‘just society’ that Keir Hardie dreamed about The society we belong to is not only still unjust it is also unstable. We lurch unsteadily from one crisis to another with the sole satisfaction that our feet are better shod than they were in Hardie’s day.”

Mr. Bevan puts it very well, but what becomes of the claim of Hardie and the other reformists about the superior wisdom of reformism? And incidentally what were Mr. Bevan and the other members of the Labour Governments doing to leave society in such a mess?

One of Keir Hardie’s mistaken beliefs was that the problem of war could be dealt with under capitalism. Now, half a century later, Mr. Bevan tells us in effect, that if we disappear in an H.-Bomb war it will be nice to know that our feet are dry.

• • •

Zilliacus Egypt and Israel
Mr. Zilliacus, Labour M.P., for Gorton, is one of the Labour Party M.P.’s who do not approve of Eden’s policy towards Egypt, or of his own leader’s policy. He wrote to the Manchester Guardian (6 August, 1956), to put his point of view. He attacked Mr. Gaitskell’s statement that the Suez episode “Must be recognised as part of the struggle for the mastery of the Middle East” and declared that “to contemplate going to war is madness,” this because Nasser has behind him the whole of the Arab world as well as support from outside.

But point four of his four point explanation of his position included “as an immediate emergency measure, the arming of Israel . . .”

One wonders therefore just what Mr. Zilliacus does think. Against whom is Israel to be armed if not against Egypt and the Arab countries? And since this involves the possibility of war what happens to the view that contemplating going to war is madness, especially as he also wants “the guaranteeing of peace between Israel and the Arab States?” “Guaranteeing” frontiers means being prepared to go to war.

• • •

They’re Fascists !
Trying to interpret events in the international dogfight in terms of how much you like the politicians and how friendly you think they are becomes confusing because the actors keep on changing places and changing colours.

Sir Anthony Eden likens Nasser to Hitler (to which the Colonel with more politeness seems to have made no retort in kind), but similarity to the late Nazi leader and his crimes is just what the Greeks have been seeing in Eden because of Cyprus.

The Communists have had the same trouble. Some readers of the Daily Worker have objected to the Communist Party’s support for dictator Nasser’s policy on the ground that Nasser is anti-Israel, while Communists in Stepney “are pro-Israel.” To which another Daily Worker reader retorts that the manner in which the rulers of Israel treat the Arab minority is “fascist-like.” (Daily Worker, 8 August).

But a well-known “expert” on world affairs, Mr. Stephen King-Hall thinks that the British Government should use their trump card, the existence of Israel which he describes as “the only, democratic State in the Middle East.” (Manchester Guardian, 8 August).

The odd thing is that they all now use “Fascist” and “Nazi” as terms expressing abhorrence, forgetting how all of them have been willing to do a deal with Mussolini, Hitler or anyone else when in need of allies.

Which prompts a further note on the use of language. Why has not “you’re like Stalin,” come into common use as term of abuse? What did Adolf have that Josef hadn’t got?

• • •

Profits from “Welfare” work
“Industrial Relations News” of New York announce publication of a book called “The Dollars and Sense of Human Relations in Industry.” It sets out to answer the question “Do Human relations programmes pay their own way?”

The publicity leaflet notes that “companies to-day are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on human relations courses for supervisors, house organs for employees, recreation facilities, attitude surveys, and many other types of human relations programmes”

It’s their money and they want to know what they get for it in addition to a nice warm feeling.

So the editors “investigate the many areas in which good human relations can result in definite dollars-and-cents contributions to company success.”

This sort of thing must be a bit of a problem to honest christians who have been brought up to believe that they have to choose between wealth and goodness and can’t have both. Under this enlightened, modern capitalism christian Capitalists have to have both whether they like it or not. They seek goodness by providing welfare for their wage-slaves and the only result is to give them more dollars and cents than ever.

Another line on “human relations” concerns protective clothing worn in factories and warehouses, dealt with in an article “How Clothing Can Help Production” (“Furniture Record,” 13 July, 1956). The writer, Mr. F. S. Winfield, Managing Director of Raynor, Webber and Stiles Ltd., claims that much study is given to the advantages of such clothing apart from its function as protective against accidents and against damage to ordinary dress.

Putting women workers into smart uniform, working garments prevents envy from interfering with concentration oft work:—

“The modish new spring skirt of a young unmarried operative cannot, for instance, be the object of rueful contrast during working hours with, say, the sad-looking frock that middle-aged widow has had to make do for with a couple of years.”
It has been found, the writer says, that “identification of rank by colour differentiation has a marked effect on discipline and bearing . . . ”

And when one firm decided to put all its men into clean overalls, washed each week by the firm, the result, within a week, was “an appreciable improvement in the tidiness and appearance of the machine shop.”

The article ends:—

“As more and more firms undertake to issue their workers with protective clothing, it becomes increasingly clear that the American conception of the provision of these facilities as an investment certain to show profitable returns in extra smartness and extra enthusiasm is a correct one.”

The personnel experts call their study of how to get profitable reactions from the workers “human relations.” It is about as human as the preparation of thousands of pay sheets by an electronic computer.


Leave a Reply