1960s >> 1961 >> no-685-september-1961

News in Review: Bizerta

Patriotic Frenchmen like to regard themselves as a civilised race, who know all about the finer points of living like making love and drinking the right wine with their food.

They have also showed, in the long Algerian conflict, that they know all about making war and using the right weapons in battle. And if there was any doubt about this, it must have been removed by the short, gory struggle over Bizerta.

Basically, the dispute was simple enough. The French ruling class wanted to keep the base, to help them look after the commercial interests which they are hanging onto in North Africa, not forgetting the oil in the Sahara.

The Tunisian ruling class wanted the French to leave because they did not want to get involved in any trouble which might follow the breakdown of the negotiations between the French government and the Algerian rebel leaders.

Perhaps the Tunisians did not play their hand as well as they might. Perhaps the French were overhasty. These are the common excuses for the sort of dreadful slaughter which happened when the paras went in. They always ignore the real reason for capitalism’s horrors. It must be revolting to smash human beings, some of them children, into destruction. But that is what the French soldiers, with their mortars and their guns, did at Bizerta—and all in the interests of their masters.

Which goes to show just how much civilised instincts are worth to the barbaric capitalist social system.

Little Budget
Many big-time financial editors applauded Mr. Selwyn Lloyd’s second attempt at producing a Budget for 1961/2. Here, they said, was the strong medicine which was needed to sort out our troubles once and for all.

This was the sort of comment which greeted Mr. Butler’s autumn Budget in 1957, when Bank Rate last went up to seven per cent It is what is always being said about the so-called remedies for the economic and financial crises of capitalism.

The trouble this time, said Fleet Street, is that we are all living too well. Agricultural workers, who are getting by on an average wage of £10 11s. a week and local government employees who are somehow making do on an average of £10 16s a week, must have been very surprised to hear that nowadays their life is one long spree of opulence.

Whatever measures successive Chancellors may impose, the economy keeps on staggering from boom to recession, from expansion to retrenchment. One budget (often at election time) knocks a couple of pennies off beer, a couple of shillings off income tax. Another puts them back on, or onto something else.

The workers end up where they started, with a personal budget which is very finely balanced, often on a tightrope supplied by the hire purchase companies. Yet they keep their faith with capitalism—if they blame anything, it is the planners, or their plans. But capitalism—unplannable, chaotic, unbudgetable —is always doing its best to teach them better.

Common Market
The British capitalist class are gingerly easing themselves into the European Common Market. As they do so, they are full of doubts and hopes.

On one hand, firms in, for example, the car and electric domestic appliance industries, lick their lips at the prospect of easier access to Europe’s nearly 300 million customers. Many of these firms have spent a lot of time in summing up their chances in Europe, and are convinced that they will be able to cut a fine dash against their foreign rivals in the Common Market.

On the other hand, industries like agriculture quake with fear at the thought of a flood of cheap Continental produce washing them out of their traditional markets and sweeping away the protection of government guaranteed prices.

Similarly, the Commonwealth countries which sell a lot of agricultural produce to this country are anxious about losing the advantages of Imperial Preference.

These doubts are reflected in the splits in British political parties. Not only the Tories have their doubts; on the Opposition benches, Lord Morrison speaks in favour of the Common Market while Mr. Shinwell and Earl Attlee oppose it. Officially, the Labour Party have no policy in the matter—they abstain from votes in the House.

Some industries may thrive, and others may suffer, because Britain joins the EEC. This often happens when capitalist industry is reaching for its markets. But nothing is certain. The Common Market could be a costly flop for Britain —it could turn out, on the whole, to be unprofitable. This is the core of the dispute over Britain’s application to join.

For nobody has yet discovered a certain method of guaranteeing industries’ prosperity under capitalism. That, in the end, is why the Government have dithered for so long and then gone almost unwillingly to Rome.