1960s >> 1960 >> no-669-may-1960

News in Review: Sharpeville

Recent events in South Africa, which began with the shootings at Sharpeville, have brought condemnation of Dr. Verwoerd and the Nationalist Government’s policy of apartheid from the press all over the world. The absenteeism of Africans from their work for many days afterwards caused great inconvenience to the Europeans, but, more important, it has cost South African capitalists millions of pounds in lost output. Even the Chairman of the Wool Board, representing an industry dominated by Afrikaans-speaking pro-Nationalist farmers, said the Government must change its policies “. . . or else.”

 

The opposition (United Party) want to see a complete review of the Governments’ policy towards the Afrikans as soon as the situation simmers down, and 12 “Elders” of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa have spoken out against apartheid, saying there is no justification for it in the Scriptures, as Dr. Verwoerd claims. It seems that even sections of this Church are awakening to the fact that changes are taking place, and that apartheid is an anachronism in a developing capitalist country. But the Nationalists’ desire to keep their cheap supply of labour mainly in the country districts is, at the moment, still dominant.

 

Budget Bunkum
Budget days have become couched in an atmosphere of somewhat phoney excitement. Television interviews, together with the speculations of City Editors and other commentators, regularly assist in bringing matters to a climax. Workers participate in the Budget as an issue, making their own proposals as to what should be done, and, in general, becoming keyed to expectations of the Chancellor’s “miracles.” Mostly, they hope for startling reductions in prices. The details of the Budget itself are usually sobering, if not downright depressing; twopence on the price of cigarettes is an example.
The Budget is not a working class issue. Its proposals are irrelevant to workers’ interests. This is an employers’ world, and the Budget regulates their state finances. Those workers who do view the Budget with excited enthusiasm are allowing themselves to be diverted from the real issue.

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H-Bomb Manoeuvres

Russia’s acceptance, with some small reservations, of a new American proposal to ban H-bomb tests, seems to have come as a surprise to the U.S. Government. Previously, each side had been making outlandish proposals to the other, confidently expecting disagreement. This new development leaves us wondering how the U.S. Government is going to wriggle out of it. Already the papers are referring to the Soviet agreement to the U.S. proposal as “the latest Soviet proposal.”

With Russia still ahead in technical development of nuclear weapons, one can understand the dilemma of the U.S. Government They are very reluctant to halt the production and testing of their own nuclear weapons, but they must put up a show of willingness to do so, to maintain their prestige in the eyes of the workers whom they pretend to represent and whose support they need. Krushchev, on the other hand, is in a favourable position for accepting American proposals at this stage. He knows that it is a technical possibility for him to blow us all to Kingdom-come at the drop of a hat. When we find out what Eisenhower and Macmillan decided to oppose at Geneva, Krushchev will earn himself another pat on the back from the working class of Russia by telling them how hard he tried. The working class, whose fate hangs in the balance between the decisions made by their leaders, will probably be taken in once again by these political manoeuvres.

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More Disarmament Talks
The opening of the ten-nation disarmament conference in Geneva on March 15th signifies that this has now been accepted as an issue with little sign or hope of solution. This conference, which has been set up by the United Nations Organisation, is concerned only with how disarmament could be effected, if the nations did decide to disarm. But as this is, to say the least, unlikely, the conference appears as a sop to the more naive among us who believe that in a competitive world you can have hostile nations without armaments.

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Other organisations, more moderate in their aims, seek disarmament of nuclear weapons only. C.N.D. is organised for this purpose and claims considerable support for it. We are glad that amid so much indifference a body of opinion emerges that is so moved by the horror of the possible use of these weapons that it is prepared to take a stand against their manufacture. But we are sorry that their repugnance does not extend to other forms of destruction. How, we ask, can their concern for humanity begin and end with nuclear weapons?

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What a pity that they do not ask themselves why such weapons are necessary for capitalist countries, and, indeed, ask themselves whether they do not in fact support the vile system that makes them necessary?

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You may be sure that the representatives of the conferring nations at Geneva are under no illusion why their countries cannot do the thing that they are ostensibly conferring to bring about. Which country is prepared to surrender its sovereignty to another, or prepared to be unprepared for an attack from another?

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Since Mr. Krushchev made his disarmament speech at UNO last November, the West has been at pains to convince the world that they desire this as much and more than Russia. Each side at the conference has its own plan and sees the others as giving its sponsors certain military and tactical advantages. It seems that they arc prepared to manoeuvre indefinitely. It has been reported that the U.S. delegation is prepared to stay at least a year!

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And after all this, who would be brave enough to forecast any better fate for the Conference than for all its predecessors?

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Oil Heaters

Oil heaters have been under attack, and it is estimated that of the ten million in use at least three million fall short of die minimum safety requirements. The conclusion seems to be that the heaters are safe providing the doors and windows are closed, but could cause serious fires in strong draughts. To overcome this danger M.P.s and newspapers have pressed for a recall of all these heaters with a view to their being modified up to the necessary safety standard.

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John Horner, the leader of the Fire Brigades’ Union, has demanded that new safety standards be made binding. He went on to say, “ All my members know the difference between what is safe and what is dangerous, it is not only their job, it’s simple common sense.” But would it not be more sensible to ask why houses have draughts in the first place? Is there any lack of the ability to build “draught-proof” homes? A visit to the Ideal Home Exhibition would give the answer. There is a wide choice of architect-designed houses—for those who can afford them. If the criterion for building homes today was the maximum comfort of their future inhabitants, surely the progress made in heating and ventilation would render obsolete most of the makeshift heating appliances—or should we now say “death-traps”— cluttering up so many homes today.

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Let’s stop making excuses for the many cheap and ill-designed articles which find their way into equally ill-designed homes.

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A Victim of the Nightmare

Verwoerd has been for years a leading exponent of Apartheid. He is (or was) an anti-semite, and was instrumental in preventing the entry of Jewish refugees from Germany before the war. He was a staunch supporter of Nazism, was minister for Native Affairs for eight years before succeeding Strijdom as Prime Minister. He has played, a leading part in creating the nightmare that is South African politics today. He has now become a victim of this nightmare, a savage irony indeed.

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The Saracens

Military observers in South Africa were puzzled at the purchase of the “Saracens” at a reported cost of £15,000 each. They could not at that time see the usefulness of such a heavy weapon. They have now found out.

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