1960s >> 1961 >> no-686-october-1961
News in Review: Bomb Tests
Have we grown accustomed to humbug? There was enough of it to be had, when Moscow announced the resumption of nuclear tests. The Russians said that it was all America’s fault they had to let off their bombs to show that they were ready to defend themselves against Western imperialism.
Washington and London professed shocked dismay, and anxiety for the future of the human race. To hear them, a simple soul could have been excused for assuming that neither Britain nor America had ever tested a bomb, and that the Americans were not all ready to go on their own tests as soon as they got the excuse.
In fact, there was a lot of military pressure in both Russia and the United States to resume the tests. It was certain that the first power to break the ban would come in for a propaganda lambasting. We could, therefore, expect the Americans to derive maximum political value from Khrushchev’s bangs, and the Russians to do their best to play the thing down. For that is typical of the cynicism with which capitalisms propagandists regard such matters of life and death.
At the end of it all, when the bombs have exploded and the propaganda points made, we are back where we started. Only perhaps a little more radioactive than before.
It is not yet ten years ago that Dr. Cheddi Jagan came out on top in the elections in British Guiana, to set the old ladies in the Colonial Office looking under their desks for Red bogymen.
Now restored to respectability and back in power with an absolute majority. Dr. Jagan is doing his best to show that they had nothing to fear. One of his big worries is to attract capital to British Guiana. His government will accept this from anywhere—Britain, the United States, Russia; even Cuba is lined up as a potential source of investment.
But Dr. Jagan knows that some capital would be scared off if he went ahead with what he once professed as his principles of wholesale nationalisation. So he is soft-pedalling on the issue although, like most newly independent states, British Guiana has its eyes upon the foreign interests in her mineral wealth.
This sets the Doctor a pretty dilemma. A false step one way and he could become a second Castro. A false step the other and he will be dubbed a lackey of Western imperialism. When the moment of decision comes for British Guiana, we may depend that there will be no lack of wordy journalists to spill their particular brand of beans.
But there will be a shortage of people to point out that all the time the Guianese workers are cutting the sugar and mining the bauxite and the rest and still, as ever, getting precious little out of it.
This month, barring landslide, earthquake and the end of the world, Mr. Gaitskell will climb into the ring at Blackpool to disprove the already disproven theory that they never come back.
Last year, it was the pre-conference decisions from the unions which foretold that the Labour Party would go unilateralist. Now, enough unions have changed their minds to make it seem certain that Mr. Cousins will be left alone to uphold the cause of C.N.D. and that Mr. Gaitskell will be champion once more.
Underlying the Labour Party debate on unilateralism is one of the facts of capitalist life, which will persist however much the bomb-banners try to ignore it. In past debates on the issue the platform has made it quite plain that, whatever decision the delegates might take, a future Labour government would be guided in its actions by the necessities of British capitalism.
This means that the Conference might decide against the bomb—but a Labour government would keep it, perhaps use it. This was the theme of one of Bevan’s last important speeches, to the Conference in 1958. And quite logical too. There has never been a government which acted otherwise, and never will be as long as the working class support capitalism.
So the unilateralists are wasting their time on the Labour Party. Come to think of it they are wasting their time anyway, trying to settle one of capitalism’s grisly problems without trying to get rid of the system itself.
Fair Play for Teachers
How many schoolteachers have spent how much time telling how many classes that an Englishman’s word is his bond, and that the road to happiness is paved with honesty and truthfulness?
Anybody who took this seriously must have been shocked by the recent government decisions to ignore the recommendations of the Civil Service Arbitration Tribunal, to restrict the statutory Wages Councils and virtually to destroy the Burnham Committee. And all this from an upstanding Englishman like Mr. Selwyn Lloyd!
In fact, the teachers are wasting their time if they are pining for fair play, for there is no such thing in the class war. The Ministry of Education, for example, took over the Burnham Committee’s functions because the government decided that the committee was being too generous to the teachers.
This makes no sense if we are looking for fair play. But in terms of the conflict of interest between any employer and his employees, it makes very good sense indeed. Teachers as a whole, like many civil servants and other white collar workers have always denied the existence of the class struggle. But it exists for them just as much as for the miner and the docker.
That is one of the things Mr. Selwyn Lloyd seems to be doing his best to teach them. Let us hope they turn out to be bright, receptive pupils.