The News in Review: South Africa out; Kennedy; Benn; Nyerere

South Africa out

The usual products of Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conferences have been toothy photographs and solemn, empty communiques. Astonishing, then, was the campaign to expel South Africa.

Astonishing, too, was the fact that the campaign succeeded. Why should the Prime Ministers get so upset about the apartheid policy?

Racial discrimination is quite detestable, but it is only one of many types of suppression. If the Prime Ministers wanted to scotch such things, they were right to get rid of South Africa—but why did they not then also expel Australia, India, Ghana, Ceylon—the United Kingdom itself?

It was not just a matter of the Premiers making a pact with their consciences. The Commonwealth, despite the unctuous propaganda about it, is nothing more than a world-wide trading tie-up, as was appreciated by the City Editors who, in the first few days after South Africa’s withdrawal, anxiously looked into the commercial effects of it all.

The ganging-up against South Africa may have been partly inspired by political motives, but was also a reflection of the South African industrialists’ opposition to Verwoerd’s policies.

Let nobody think that it was the result of charitable concern for the African underdog. To mix our metaphors. capitalist nations have other fish to fry.

Washington Whirlwind

Everybody in Washington has been fascinated by the ruthless energy of President Kennedy. No one is safe from the new chiefs eye. “This guy,” said one official, “eats up reports.”

White House correspondents are fond of telling us that Kennedy is busy because he is building a new America There are hopeful murmurings about young aspirations, new frontiers, and so on.

There is nothing new in this. Franklin Roosevelt was hailed in much the same way. Eisenhower was described as the man to bring probity and courage to American government Yet it was under Roosevelt that America suffered the Second World War. And the Eisenhower era left behind a sticky unemployment problem; during the first quarter of this year there were 5½ million people out of work in the United States.

Unemployment is only one of the new President’s headaches; others are the situation in Laos and the continuing disarmament wrangle. If the Kennedy administration sorts these out, it will find that American capitalism has turned up a few other problems.

Whatever the personal characteristics of a leader, his actions and his reputation are largely governed by the conditions of capitalism which he tries to control. Perhaps it is as well for U.S. capitalism that the President is so lively.

Kicked Upstairs

Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn has fought a furious fight against his transfer to the House of Lords. Despite his struggles, the government showed that they were determined to have him kicked upstairs.

Some lobby correspondents whispered that Mr. Macmillan personally gave the thumbs-down to Mr. Benn’s efforts to renounce his peerage. The P.M., said the rumour, is at odds with Lord Hailsham, and doesn’t want to set a precedent which might bring him back to the Commons.

Mr. Benn’s predicament is not free of irony. The Labour Party, of course, once stood for the abolition of the House of Lords. And Mr. Benn’s constituency used to elect Sir Stafford Cripps, who was at one time an ardent opponent of royalty, titles and the rest.

By the time Labour achieved power in 1945, they had dropped their old pledge about the Lords. Now, in fact, they do their bit towards helping the Upper House alive by supplying their share of life peerages.

It is Mr. Benn’s bad luck to have been born the son of a peer. His membership of the Labour Party is a different matter. He may not be able to resign his title: but he can always leave the party which has supported the system of pomp and privilege.

Salisbury Too

Some of the five M.P.’s who were disgorged in the Parliamentary Labour Party’s latest spasm wasted no time in getting their feet blistered on this year’s Aldermaston do. Mr. Alan Brown, the member for Tottenham who gave up the Labour whip because he thinks that the party is too soft on the unilateralists, was not bothered by such discomforts.

This was another stage in the long Labour wrangle over defence. The Labour leaders, who know that British capitalism must have the most efficient weapons and armed forces possible, object to the “eat-our-cake-and-have-it” attitude of the unilateralists in the party.

While all this was happening, an announcement from the cool dignity of Hatfield House told of Lord Salisbury’s virtual resignation from the Conservative Party. For a long time, Salisbury has been opposed to the government’s colonial policies, the last straw was the easy way in which they have gone along with the African nationalists.

Sadly for him, Salisbury’s resignation caused scarcely a ripple; Mr. Macmillan has ridden much heavier punches in his time. But it is as well to be reminded that the Tories also have their splits, on colonial policy and other issues.

Need we say that there is one cause on which all Tories unite, with all Labourites solidly beside them? Whatever incidental quarrels they may have, they all agree about wanting capitalism to stay.

New Boy Learns

Politicians in different countries make speeches in different languages and different idioms, but there is one theme beloved of them all, one speech that every Prime Minister and Finance Minister carries in his brief case: the speech about the need for the workers to shun idleness and work harder.

Tanganyika has just achieved its independence, and as the politicians there have been telling the workers that this is the most glorious event in their lives, they had visions of celebrating the great occasion with a nice long bout of fun and feasting under the African sun. But their new Prime Minister, Mr. Julius Nyerere, lost no time in warning them that, for the workers, life under capitalism is real and earnest:—

“A day’s rejoicing is enough. We will make nothing of Tanganyika and we will set no example in the world unless it be by renewed efforts of hard work.”

A few days later in a broadcast “he exhorted the unemployed not to loaf on the roadsides but to open up the Rufiji basin, a fertile but unpopulated area as large as England.” (Guardian 7/4/61).

People on another planet noticing the universality of this speech may wonder if there is some agency from which all the politicians get their speeches, but the explanation is much simpler; how will the rich be assured of their riches and their abundant leisure unless the workers work hard and long and cultivate habits of diligence and frugality?

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