Notes by the Way

£3 10s. 5½d. a week
Miss Schulz, of the Oxford Institute of Statistics, worked out that it would be possible to feed a family of five on £3 10s. 5½d. a week on a diet corresponding to the pre-war “Rowntree” diet which in 1936 cost 21s. 7d. Readers of newspapers who heard about it were for the most part very indignant and blamed Miss Schulz.

Miss Schulz, like the late Seebohn Rowntree, was dealing with the cost of a “minimum” diet for a “working class” family.

The angry critics should be aiming at a larger target. They should be asking themselves what justification there is for a system of society which accepts the double standard of “working class” as distinct from human beings, and which concerns itself with calculating a minimum diet at a time when half the world is slipping into depression because it cannot sell its excess supplies of foodstuffs. They should ask why there should be people who can afford only £3 10s. 5½d. (or less) while other people can toss this away on a little dinner party for two or three.

Donald’s Good Man Goes Wrong
From time to time the long-suffering workers have to put up with a special brand of confusion spreaders, the “progressive” clergy. One of them is the Reverend Donald Soper, idol of non-conformity, supporter of the Labour Party, regular contributor to the Tribune, self-styled Socialist and professed pacifist. His idea of Socialism is State capitalism. Hence, for example, his declared objective of “the preservation and extension of the Welfare State, so that those who are unavoidably out of work, will still belong to the community and will not be left to rot in the ‘freedom and flexibility’ of idleness” (Tribune, 7th March, 1958).

He spends much of his time criticising the aims and activities of his own party and clearly sees no inconsistency in supporting the war-making, capitalism supporting Labour Party while preaching pacifism and, in words, denouncing capitalism and supporting Socialism.

In line with his professional preoccupation with “sin” one of his contributions to confusion is to see the different capitalist national groups in terms of good and bad men. He evidently sees the “older and fatter” bandits of capitalism as “bad” and the up and coming, but as yet leaner bandits as “good.” It was inevitable therefore that his heart should go out to dictator Nasser and the other representatives of the exploiting class in Egypt. When the British and French governments started war over Suez he addressed a protest meeting at Caxton Hall (14th August 1956). He claimed to speak as a Socialist and pacifist and progressive Christian. But instead of putting the Socialist case against capitalism as the cause of war and as an exploiting system, all he could do was to condemn the aggressor capitalist groups and praise the defending capitalist group. Instead of calling on the workers to oppose capitalism (and its wars) he called for encouragement of the Egyptian capitalist figure-head, Nasser.

“I wanted to say in the name of Christianity that this Nasser ought to be encouraged and not be repressed, because I believe the root of the matter in him is good, and because it is good it is our business to evoke it by corresponding good and not to repress it by threats of violence.”

But those who take sides between “good” and “bad” representatives of capitalism are asking for trouble. Just lately the good Colonel has been putting the imperialist squeeze on Sudan. Here was a chance for Soper to make an indignant protest. But we looked in Tribune in vain. Instead of loud protests there was a deafening silence.

Tribune had been rallying round Bourguiba of Tunisia, another “good” man, under attack from the “bad” French. Now Bourguiba threatens to break off diplomatic relations with Nasser, because, so he alleges, Nasser’s government has been conniving at a plot to assassinate him (Manchester Guardian, 7th March, 1958).

Apart from praying, what is Soper going to do about it?

Blood is not as thick as oil
While we are on the subject of assassination plots we should not overlook the fact that Nasser is said to be on the receiving end as well as being an instigator, for the Syrian partners in the newly united Egypt-Syria claim to have evidence that Saudi Arabia’s ruler paid £2 million to have Nasser bumped off (or was it only £1 million?). This should be a lesson to those who, rejecting the Socialist explanation of international groupings and rivalries, interpreted the evolution of Middle-East capitalism in terms of the blood bond and Moslem faith of Arab peoples. We now have Egypt and Syria facing Iraq and Jordan, with Saudi Arabia maintaining hostile aloofness. Oil and pipe-lines are the key to the situation, not race and religion or a supposed common hostility to imperialism.

The centre of interest is now moving westwards along the North African coast owing to the first developments of reportedly enormous quantities of oil under the French Sahara; with the Algerian armed rebels standing across the outlets to the Mediterranean. That is what keeps a French army of hundreds of thousands desperately trying to make the oil safe for French capitalism and for the British and other oil interests that have a hand in it.

Attitudes to the H-Bomb
As the gradations of opposition, half-opposition, half support and full support to the H bomb come to expression in the multiplicity of new organisations and declarations, it becomes a major task to know where they all stand. At one end there are the ”rely on the H bomb” lunatics; then the make but don’t use or test, the make but don’t test, the test, but don’t use, the have but not in American planes, the keep but suspend work on, the do this now and the do it after Summit talks, the rely on good old conventional weapons, etc., etc.

The arguments between them are particularly sterile because of the tacit acceptance by all the contestants of the capitalist system of society. They can all knock the other man’s case to pieces, but none of them put up a Socialist alternative. Mr. J. B. Priestley is a case in point. In an article “H-Bomb Hotchpotch ” in the Daily Herald (5th March, 1958) he makes mincemeat of his opponents, but comes down to this in the end:—

“If this country walked out of the nuclear arms race and declared that it would defend itself if necessary with anything a man could lay his hands on, from shot-guns to bombs made out of corned beef tins, it would be a safer place than it is to-day; and certainly safer than Mr. Sandys and friends—who are gambling everything on the belief that nothing can happen—can make it to-morrow.”

Brave words, but it is a safe bet that if it happened, Mr. Priestley would be calling on us to die gloriously with our shot-guns against all the modern armoury of weapons (and probably denouncing the government of the day for not having provided better armaments) with never a thought that war because of capitalism is just as senseless whatever the arms and whichever capitalist group came out victorious.

If Priestley were a Socialist, adding his voice to the international Socialist stand against capitalism everywhere, in opposition to every capitalist government and party, he would be doing something really useful on behalf of humanity.

Labour Government and Strikes
Workers who support the Labour Party and have expectations that the next Labour Government will be different from the last should take note of the speech by Mr. Alfred Robens, who is tipped off to be their Minister of Labour. The following report appeared in the Daily Herald (21st February, 1958):—

“Originally, when private ownership of industry was widespread, a strike was intended to damage the profitability of a company and the private pocket of the owner.
“But times have changed.” Mr. Robens told a London meeting of the Industrial Co-partnership Association.
“We have moved into a managerial society in which shareholders are quite remote from actual management.
“Therefore the strike today does not affect the individuals who are managing in the way which it may have affected those individuals 50 years ago. The managing director’s salary goes on as before.”
“But it did hold up orders and caused people to be chary of investing in an industry with a black record of stoppages.
“The result is that the strike has a long-term boomerang effect of holding up investment in an industry, and so not enabling it to become more modern and reducing its profitability,” added Mr. Robens.
“It disturbs the confidence of the customer, and it can have nothing but a harmful effect not only on the company, but on all those employed by it.”

Capitalist Culture comes to Florida
In the Manchester Guardian (1st March, 1958) Mr. Alistair Cooke told the sad story of American “progress.”

“Until the great prosperity came along many of the smaller keys were ravishing; quiet tropical refuges of hardwood and limes and wild flowers and herons, brief reminders of the natural luxury that limestone and warm winds can breed in the middle of an aquamarine ocean. But the “developers” have been here as everywhere, and here, too—on the once lovely Marathon Key, for example—suburban Los Angeles seems to set the universal pattern : trailer camps, hot-dog stands, Joe’s Miracle Bargains in second-hand cars flaunting their strings of bulbs against the indigo night sky.

The harbour at Key West is much the same, and a town that once looked like the perfect setting for a romance by Tennessee Williams or a small domestic tragedy by William March is now the garish frowzy camp of souvenir pedlars and chrome motels and neon-lit saloons. Sometimes the sky darkens over and God pours out a deluge of punishing rain. The streets swirl and the sewers gurgle for a while in running floods. Then, after lunch, the sky is cloudless again. It is 80 degrees, and either by sea or sky the horizon is the gate of Paradise. But the aeroplane coach service and the real estate men together have converted one of the last and beautiful relics of the Spanish Empire into a Coney Island. There is no hiding place down here.”


Leave a Reply