The Passing Show

As such
The two American RB-47 airmen who were released by Russia recently after being shot down over the Barents Sea gave their own stories to reporters at an American air force base. They said that they had returned the fire of Russian fighter planes. One of the reporters recalled that previous American reports of the incident had claimed that the aircraft was unarmed. The airmen replied:

“The aircraft, as such, was not armed with an offensive weapon of any sort. We carried two 20-millimetre automatic cannon which were mounted aft, pointing to the rear. This was a defensive weapon purely to protect us from attack from the rear.”

How automatic cannon, whether pointing up, down, forwards or sideways, can be anything else than offensive weapons was not made clear. And what exactly does “as such” mean in the first sentence? An aircraft carrying automatic cannon is armed as an aircraft, not as a submarine.

But merely to point out the absurdities of the airmen’s statement would be to over-simplify the matter. For these airmen are only repeating what their masters, the American ruling class— along with every other ruling class—have always said. No country has a “Ministry of Attack”. No country produces “Offence Estimates”. No country, to judge from its own propaganda machine, ever attacks another. In all wars, each country simply defends itself against the others: the enemy is always the aggressor. And if the hydrogen bomb is claimed as a “defensive” weapon, who can blame the two airmen for claiming that their automatic cannon were not offensive?

Jomo Kenyatta
Sir Patrick Renison. the Governor of Kenya, recently refused to release Jomo Kenyatta and gave two reasons for his decision. They were:

“The political campaign for Kenyatta’s release, which has roused many emotions and which has not allowed divisions and personal fears a natural atmosphere in which to diminish.
Kenyatta’s refusal to “make any statement or reveal his thinking about the great issues which Kenya is facing.” in spite of the fact that six Ministers, including three Africans, had visited him in August.”

These reasons (given in the Times. 2-3-61) are remarkable. Leaving out the long words, the first one means simply that the Governor of Kenya isn’t going to release Kenyatta because the Kenya Africans have made it plain that they want him to be released. The Governor can hardly expect anyone to believe that he would have released Kenyatta if there hadn’t been a campaign demanding it.

The second reason is even more extraordinary. Dictators have often put people in jail, or kept them in exile, because they have ”made statements” or “revealed their thinking” about public issues; this must be the first time a political leader has been kept in exile because he refused to take up a political stand

When thieves fall out
The Socialist position is straightforward. We are opposed to any attack on democratic freedoms, whether it is jailing for political reasons, restrictions on the right to vote, or any other weapon in the colonialists’ armoury. But we are not blind to the real nature of the struggle in Kenya, it is the old struggle between land and capital. On the one side are in Kenya, it is the old struggle between capitalists, whether they are those who hope to establish full-scale industrial capitalism in Kenya, or those who have already established it in Great Britain. We welcome any extension of democracy in Kenya which this struggle between two rival propertied classes has produced or will produce. But we know that democracy is never safe in a capitalist society. That has been seen in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, in Czechoslovakia and the rest. Only in a Socialist society will democracy be safe from overthrow.

Out of my way
An irate letter-writer in the Sunday Express recently told how he had parked his car beside a parking meter in accordance with the instructions on the meter, went to the theatre, and returned to find his car vanished.

“Eventually, after very considerable frustration annoyance, and expense, I found it at one of the police yards miles away. 1 was ordered to pay £2 to recover it—which I refused to do. The only explanation I could get from the police was that I had committed the offence of being on the royal route to the cinema— although how I was expected to know this is beyond my power of reasoning.”

The removal of one’s car. however, is only one of the minor inconveniences that may follow if one gets in the way of a royal progress. It could be much worse. In Katmandu, for the visit of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to Nepal, a new road was built from the airport to the royal guest house. It took 14.000 men over a month. It wasn’t a question here of simply removing cars to make room for royalty: whole houses were bulldozed down. Even churches were not sacrosanct. “One temple was shifted 30 yards and worshippers one morning found the principal idol hanging on the end of a crane” (The Observer, 26-2-61). So much for the respect paid to religion when it conflicts with the convenience of the ruling class. Religion, of course, is maintained by ruling classes because it helps to keep the rest of us in our places. Perhaps it is naive for us to expect a ruling class to take its own propaganda too seriously.

A. W. E.

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