The Passing Show: ’Ardies’ ’At
At the Labour Party conference the executive only narrowly escaped defeat on a motion which advocated the integration of the public schools in the state system. This would mean the end of public schools as we know them, and the speakers who called for this won the applause of the conference. The executive finally succeeded in getting the motion rejected only because the majority of those old props of the platform, the union block votes, was behind them.
But what difference would it make to our society, which rests on the exploitation of the many by the few, if every public school was closed down tomorrow? Some Labourites seem to come near to believing in this connection that if we all dropped our H’s and spoke with provincial accents we should have taken a stride forward towards Socialism. It reminds one of the people who, when asked why the Labour Party claims to be Socialist, recall that Keir Hardie turned up at the House of Commons in a cloth cap, and seem to think that it clinches the argument. But the important thing is not how you dress, but what you do; not how you speak, but what you say.
Miss Bacon’s Dislikes
Even the speakers from the platform had to join in the general denunciation. Alice Bacon, M.P., who replied to the debate for the executive, said, “we all detest and dislike the public schools.” If by “all” she meant all the people in the Labour Party, the statement is not true. Many leading Labourites not only went to public schools themselves, but send their children there as well. The reason is simple and obvious—they think that children get a better education at public schools than they do at state schools. The equipment and accommodation at the average public school is much better than it is at the average state school, teachers at public schools get more social prestige and higher pay, so teachers with the highest academic qualifications tend to go to them, and most important of all, a teacher at a state secondary or grammar school often has to take a class of thirty-five or forty, while his public school colleague can concentrate on a much smaller number. Naturally those Labour leaders who can afford it send their children to public schools.
Under new management
But the question goes much deeper than this. Even supposing that we had absolute equality of opportunity—which is impossible in a Capitalist society—even supposing that no member of the ruling class could give money or shares or a better education to his children, and that while the Smiths and Browns provided the Capitalists of this generation, the Joneses and the Robinsons provided the Capitalists of the next (again, impossible, but let it pass) even supposing all this, we should have exactly the same society that we have now. So long as we have a Capitalist society—part private and part state, like the Conservatives want, or a little-less-private and a little-more-state like the Labourites want—we will have the exploitation of the mass of people, the working class, by a small minority, the ruling class. To support Capitalism while demanding equality of opportunity is like supporting burglary, provided everyone has an equal chance to become a burglar. Equality of opportunity in our present society simply means that each generation of Capitalists would have different names from the last lot. But who in the world cares what they are called? To alter a familiar line, a sewer by any other name would smell as foul.
The Socialist Answer
Of course, there would be no public schools in a Socialist society. It would be impossible for one child to be huddled with forty others in a badly-vefltilated room opposite a soap factory, with the teacher wondering how he can keep up the instalments, while another is in a class of ten or twelve, in an airy room in pleasant surroundings. In a Socialist society, the members of it would determine what education would best fit children for living, and the children would have equal opportunities to benefit by it. But those Labourites who call for the abolition of public schools in our present society are confusing, as they so often do. the effects with the cause.
The Methods of Colonel Grivas
There are some facts about Cyprus which seem to have been forgotten.
Colonel Grivas, who is the head of Eoka, has a long history of extreme right wing activity, and of willingness to resort to violence to achieve his ends. It would not strain an over-used word to call him a Fascist.
Couldn’t you have said, Mr. Soames, that you would have been even more satisfied if the British troops had injured only two hundred, say, of the local inhabitants, instead of two hundred and fifty? Couldn’t you have said, Mr. Sandys, that you would have been even more proud if the soldiers during these operations had caused the deaths of only three people, say, instead of four?
How satisfied, how proud, can you get?