News in Review: Wages Battles
The big thing about Selwyn Lloyd’s small Budget was that it threw out a sort of challenge to the trade unions.
And one of the big things about this winter may be that the unions will accept the invitation to do battle.
The engineers have put in their annual pay claim and the railwaymen are certain to follow suit. If these unions get the same sort of treatment as the government has handed out to the teachers and the civil servants, there will surely be some big strikes.
This is what governments have tried to avoid since the war, preferring to inflate the currency rather than meet the unions head on. The Labour government, with its wage freeze, had perhaps the nearest to a strong anti-union policy.
Since then, the Tories have played it cool. But we were promised some changes when Mr. Lloyd went to the Treasury and the wage pause is one of them.
One fact, though, the wage pause will not change. Workers always have a struggle to get by and always have to fight to keep up their living standards.
That will be worth remembering if the wage pause gets a grip, and the usual bunch of muddle-heads mourn the days before Selwyn Lloyd as a time of free prosperity for the working class.
There just isn’t any such thing.
Dr. Adenauer’s chances of keeping his grip of the West German Chancellorship were not, at one time, rated very highly.
Most observers expected a close result to the recent elections, with the Free Democrats holding the balance of power in a stalemate between Adenauer’s C.D.U. and Brandt’s Social Democrats.
And the Free Democrat leader, Dr. Erich Mende, was quite firm that, if his party was invited to form a coalition government with the C.D.U., he would assent only if Adenauer gave up being Chancellor.
Now that Dr. Mende has reversed his attitude and is agreeable to serving under Adenauer, there are one or two questions which many Germans must be asking, themselves.
How many of the four million-odd voters who put their cross against a Free Democratic candidate did so precisely because they approved of Mende’s apparent determination to get rid of the aged Adenauer? And are those voters feeling baffled, or annoyed, about this betrayal?
Whether Adenauer, or Erhard, or Brandt, is Chancellor will make no difference to the German working class.
But it should be instructive for them to observe the cynical manoeuvres of their politicians and to reflect that this sort of thing goes on all the time, all over the world.
Dr. Nkrumah has made a habit of disappointing some of the well-meaning asses who supported him because they thought that he wanted to set up a democratic state in Ghana.
These people fall so readily and so persistently for any small-time nationalist who breezes along that it is fair to assume they are able to ignore any evidence which points out the error of their ways.
But surely even they were unsettled by Nkrumah’s recent arrest of his political opponents, and by the propaganda which accompanied it?
When the Ghana government roped in the fifty politicians, the official statement justified the arrests by referring to “. . . acts of violence, secret meetings . . . strikes, sabotage, lockouts . . . conduct destructive and subversive, against the Constitution and other legal institutions of the State.”
Now this rings a bell. It is just the sort of vague accusations which colonial powers use to excuse the suppression of a rising nationalist movement.
To read it takes us back to the early nineteen-fifties, when Nkrumah was in gaol. The asses were braying, then, for his release, because he was supposed to be leading Ghana to freedom. Are they surprised that he has turned out to be no better than the rulers he replaced?
We know our asses too well. Even if they drop the dictator in Accra, they will soon be taking up the cause of some other Nkrumah of the future.
What the theme of this year’s Labour Party Conference?
Revolution ? Radicalism ? Reform, even?
Many responsible newspapers have been worried for a long time at Labour’s inability to dent the Tories’ confidence. None of them want to see the British capitalist class having to rely upon only one party to form their governments for them.
So they were full of concern that Labour should have a dignified conference. They all hoped for the sort of inoffensive, meaningless resolutions which would make the Labour Party appear as a party which any man of good will could vote for.
This is what is needed to make Mr. Gaitskell anything like a reasonable bet for Prime Minister.
The platform at Brighton played exactly as the press had advised and, except for one or two resolutions, the conference as a whole also fell into line.
This is the logical end to the Labour Party road of power conscious, capitalist reform policies. It is the end which Socialists foretold over fifty years ago, when the Labour Party were busily dubbing us Impossibilists.
Perhaps some of the Labour pioneers never thought it would come to this.
Blackpool, 1961, has done its share to show how wrong they were.