The Passing Show: The Devlin Report

The Devlin Report was in line with the opinions of those who see the future of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland lying in the creation of a multi-racial, capitalist society. This strand of thought sees the Africans as being the wage-workers of this society, and wants them treated as wage-workers are treated here, with (ultimately) votes and “free speech” and the rest of the paraphernalia of capitalist democracy. This, in effect, would delude the Africans into believing that they are the real rulers of the country, just as the capitalist class tries to delude the workers in Britain. The result of this would be to turn the Africans (so this school believes) into respectable wage-workers, labouring as steadily for the profit of their employers as the wage-workers do in this country.


It seems likely that this trend of thought will prevail in the counsels of the ruling class, although for the present the British Government, and British officialdom in Nyasaland, seem to have been won over to the “settler” views of the white Rhodesian landowners, who regard the Africans merely as labourers on the land who must be kept in submission at all costs. But whatever the ruling class thinks and does, the view of the Socialist Party is clear. The only way to bring about a sound society, and to secure the free development of the human personality, in Nyasaland as elsewhere, is to establish Socialism.


Beating and Killing
The Devlin Commission allowed the Government one or two crumbs of comfort. It found that at the famous meeting of Congress leaders on January 25th “there was talk of beating and killing Europeans,” and that when the trouble started “the Government of Nyasaland had to act or abdicate” The Observer (26-7-59). As to that, those of us who have frequently come into contact with white settlers from Kenya and Southern Africa can only say this: that if every settler who talked of beating and killing Africans were put in jail without trial, then the Africans would have to govern themselves, for there would be too few whites left to do it.


Religious Wars
A recent television broadcast of Bertolt Brecht’s play “Mother Courage and Her Children” elicited this information in the Radio Times (30-6-59):


The Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648 was a religious war waged by the King of Sweden and the Protestant Princes of Northern Germany against the Catholics under the Emperor of Austria, aided by Poland and France. It ravaged the whole of Europe and killed half its population on the battlefields or by plague and famine. It brought no advantage to either side.


Socialists, in the light of the materialist conception of history, realise that the Thirty Years’ War was not a religious war, and that men do not murder each other merely because they are of different religions—or we should have civil war in this country between the Anglicans and Catholics, who now dwell peaceably together. The Thirty Years’ War was fought, like other wars, because the ruling classes of the countries taking part believed that they would get something out of it—either an increase of their wealth, or at least the safeguarding of the wealth they already had. But the Christians hold up their hands in horror when they hear the theory that the Thirty Years’ War (and others like it) was not a religious war. Such beliefs, they cry, are atheistic and blasphemous, and people who hold them are merely encouraging the spread of materialism.
How the Christians love to claim the slaughter and the devastation for their own!


Sidney Webb
The spate of speeches about Sidney Webb on his centenary mostly contained some sad, head-shaking references to the praise given by the Webbs to the Stalinist system in their book “Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation?” (This was the title of the first edition: the Webbs even went so far as to remove the question mark in subsequent issues.) For example, Lord Attlee’s speech, reported in the Manchester Guardian (14-7-59):


Webb tended to deal too much with institutions and not enough with people, and that may have accounted, Lord Attlee thought, for the extraordinary aberration towards the end of his life of’ his admiration for the Soviet Union.


But why are these Labour Party men, these Fabians, so surprised? Sidney Webb spent his life working for Fabianism, the slow conversion of private capitalism into state capitalism. Then he and his wife went to Russia, and found their ideal system, state capitalism, in full operation; so, being honest if misguided people, they wrote a book praising it. What is so surprising in that?


Alwyn Edgar