1960s >> 1960 >> no-665-january-1960

Editorial: Hopes For 1960

Whether it is reasonable to hope for small blessings in 1960, or wiser to fear the worst, depends in some measure on the view taken of 1959. Well, what did happen in 1959? First, the too-obvious happening, which no newspaper or radio commentator ever mentions, that nine workers out of ten just went on working. They were glad to have had the chance, glad that they didn’t lose their jobs and glad if nothing happened that forced them to strike. They did it for a living and they are glad to go on doing so: they hope their luck will hold out for another 12 months.

 

Among their troubles in 1959 was being preached at and moralised about by the rich, the learned and the famous; who told them they ought to work harder, stay away from work less, be more thrifty, spend less on drink, tobacco and gambling, and generally to behave themselves in a way that will do credit to their British masters when the latter are showing them off to V.l.P.’s from Russia and other foreign countries. There is not a chance that this will end in the year now beginning and anyway most workers do not even think of the possibility that it could end; their hopes are more modest. They are told they have never had it so good and that it is going to get better in the next twenty years or so. but in the next twelve months most of them would settle for a lot less. Mr. Peter Townsend, research fellow at London University, got together a few facts in the Sunday Dispatch (29/11/59). He pointed out that there are 4,000,000 retired people and old age pensioners who cannot count on an income of much over £4 a week; and that pensioners living alone have been shown in an official survey to be spending less than 22s. a week on food; and that there are 2½ million homes without piped water and

 

6½ million without a bath. Perhaps by January 1, 1961, the position will be a little better—unless, as may happen, it is a little worse.

 

Let us say that most of the workers would deem themselves fortunate if in a year’s time they are earning a little more, or working a slightly shorter week, and that prices and fares and rents have not gone up.

 

Of course the pleasant picture may be marred by workers having to spend still longer time waiting at bus queues or in traffic jams, but you can’t have everything.

 

In politics the British workers decided to give the Tories another term of office because, among other things, there looked like being early high level talks between Russia, America, British and French heads of government. There is no reason at all why the workers should not hope that those high level talks will take place in I960. They can’t very well make things worse and it will mean that the countries are not at war: Though why not low level talks between the workers?

 

It is one of the good things about 1959 that apart from the Tibetans having been “saved” by Chinese invaders and Cuba having been “saved” by revolution, and Nehru having been caught by surprise and therefore too late to save some almost uninhabitable territory from being occupied by other Chinese soldiers, most parts of the world have been lucky enough not to have been specially saved by anyone.

 

We can all hope that no “national saviour” has an opportunity of shedding other people’s blood in 1960. Our hopes in that direction should be shared by the 20 million refugees, homeless and unwanted, who linger on after past wars.

 

According to United Nations agencies nearly half the world’s people were undernourished in 1959 and may hope to do no worse in 1960. Meanwhile, the American government, having been unable to sell enormous stocks of unwanted wheat, butter, etc., may hope to be able to give it away to the needy, provided other would-be sellers of surplus foods can be persuaded to give up their objections.

 

Turning from the likely hopes and fears of non-Socialist workers, to the hopes of Socialists, we can say that we start this year with something gained. The year 1959 saw a real improvement of the prospect for Socialist principles to make headway against those two hindrances to progress, the Labour Party, and the myth of Socialism in Russia. Both suffered crippling blows in the year just past. Here’s to more of the same in 1960. And here’s to the workers learning to be a lot less humble, and deciding to have Socialism.