1960s >> 1962 >> no-692-april-1962

News in Review: Arms Race

In the arms race, it’s still flat out.

Colonel Glenn got the full ticker tape treatment for bravely proving that the United States is well up in space.

Nobody thought of giving a similar celebration for President Kennedy’s announcement that the Americans were to resume nuclear tests to keep themselves well up in bombs.

The Russians claimed that they had solved the problem of the anti-missile missile. It did not take one newspaper long to latch onto the fact that the next step was the ant-anti-missile-missile.

Perhaps the Russians were exaggerating a little. But it is certain that they are working on those lines, and so are the Americans. One day the problems will be solved, the anti-missile missile will appear and will start the race to find a weapon to overcome it.

All of this knocks a big hole in the argument for the deterrent. No great power is ever deterred by the threat of its opponent having superior weapons. It simply sets to work to find an answer to them, or to make a better weapon for itself.

The old, forgotten, puny A-bomb was supposed to be a deterrent. Yet it has led directly to the massive weapons of today. Last month The Guardian was speculating on the chances of Russia making a 500 Megaton Bomb, only one of which could devastate the whole of this country.

Rockets, too, are supposed to be part of the great deterrent. But the Russians and the Americans do not seem to put each other off in their grim struggle to produce a more powerful, more accurate missile.

It would be a grand world if courageous adventure and scientific knowledge were wholly applied to man’s benefit. At the moment, they seem to be more concerned with knocking him about.

Labour and the Common Market

There’s nothing like knowing your own mind, is there?

The Labour Party are one of the two great political parties of British capitalism.

And one of the great problems which the British capitalist class have to face is the European Common Market— whether to join and, if they do go in, whether they can do so on terms which are favourable to them.

So it is reasonable to expect that Labour would have some sort of policy on the Common Market. After all, by this time next year they might be in power and it would be a pretty kettle of fish for British capitalism to have a government which had no policy on so important an issue.

But a policy, in fact, is what the Labour Party have not. Some of their individual members are in favour of E.E.C.; others are just as strongly opposed. These two groups threatened an open clash last month, when thirty-one pro-Common Marketeers put down a motion on the House of Commons order paper.

This put the Labour leadership in a sticky spot. When they are unable to hide their differences—as in the case of nuclear weapons—they put the best face they can on it by posing as a virile party which encourages the expression of strong opinions.

But they prefer to hide their splits, even if this means them all agreeing on a watery and pointless compromise.

This is what happened over the Common Market. Mr. Brown and Mr Gaitskell persuaded both sides to settle for a motion which would somehow bridge the gap between them.

Thus the Labour Party avoided an open battle. Thus they also avoided giving the impression that they officially know their own minds on an important bone of capitalist contention.

And these are the practical planners of capitalism! No wonder they find the path to Westminster a hard and stony way.

British Guiana

Drearily familiar now is the news that another leader of an ex-colony, who himself suffered in gaol for his nationalist activities, is getting rough with his opponents.

The latest example of this is in Dr. Cheddi Jagan, prime minister of British Guiana. Dr. Jagan was imprisoned, and saw his young government overthrown, nearly ten years ago when the Colonial Office did not approve of the preference expressed by the Guianese electors.

This should have made Dr. Jagan an enemy of the British ruling class. Only last December he complained to the United Nations that his country was groaning under British oppression and added “. . . only the armed might of Britain acts as a deterrent to my country proclaiming its freedom.”

So what did the doctor do when a couple of months later his subjects exercised their freedom to protest against, among other things, the austerity measures in his latest Budget?

There are no prizes for the correct answer. He called in the armed might of Britain, to deter the demonstrators and to help keep his government in power.

Did this shock the colonial freedom supporters, who in their muddled way like to think of the Jagans of the world as downtrodden democrats? They have no right to be surprised; it has happened often enough to condition them to any shocks.

It is one thing for a politician to express high principles when he is out of power. But principles must be forgotten when he is the man trying to control capitalism’s waywardness.

Even if it means a Jagan, who came to power on the poverty-stricken backs of the Guianese workers, imposing more austere conditions upon those workers. Even it if means a Jagan appealing for troops from the hated colonial oppressor to put his workers down.

At any rate, Dr. Jagan has obviously learnt a lesson in capitalist politics. Can we say the same for the colonial freedom supporters?

Northern Rhodesia

The British Government appears to have inclined ever so slightly before the wind of change over Northern Rhodesia.

The latest proposals on the electoral constitution for the territory stirred up u lot of fuss. Welensky was not the only one to get hot under the collar about them; there was plenty of newspaper talk of big splits in the Cabinet and possible resignations at the Top.

All this because one set of complicated electoral arithmetic which meant that the Africans could almost certainly not have won an election were replaced by another, equally complicated, set which meant that they might win.

So far nobody who matters in such things has suggested that the best way, for people who profess to be democrats, is to allow one vote to each elector and to run free elections.

Welensky has probably tried his hardest to browbeat the British government over Northern Rhodesia. He does not seem to have the coolest head amongst capitalism’s politicians, so perhaps he meant his threat to use force to keep the Rhodesian Federation in being.

This could mean another Algeria. Welensky must know that the war against the F.L.N. has so far a death roll which is larger than all the white people in Rhodesia.

If the Rhodesian whites do start a war. there will be a grim coincidence in it. For the blood will begin to flow in Rhodesia just as the Algerian war is coming to an end.

So it is that property rights and interests continually provoke war and misery.

There is a point there for the whites who are trying to hang onto their power and their copper in Rhodesia, for the Africans who want power to develop their own capitalist set-up there and for those who support capitalism all over the world.

Powers’ Return

The release of Captain Powers, the U-2 pilot, threw up some absorbing stories about the panic which hit Washington when they realised that something had gone wrong with their spy-plane.

But panic cannot itself explain the many contradictory statements which the American government put out before they were finally forced to admit the truth of the matter.

They lied as far as they were able and only gave out the facts when the Russians blew the lid off by producing Powers alive and very much in one piece.

In the case of Colonel Abel, who was exchanged for Powers, the Russians showed a much tougher front. They officially ignored his case and have never been trapped into admitting that he— or anybody else, for that matter—was one of their spies.

This is at least consistent with the whole dirty set up of international espionage. Capitalism must have its spies, of one sort or another, because it is divided into opposing blocs who must have and try to hold their economic and military secrets. It is, therefore, worse than humbug to wax indignant about the other side’s spies while making heroes of your own.

Capitalism cannot be a free, democratic social system. Neither (for those who are interested in such concepts) can it be a truthful system.

We should remember this, if ever the cold war hots up and both sides claim to be fighting for any number of high ideals. Ideals like Democracy and Truth. Spelt with capitals, please.

Nonsense about Race

The latest piece of nonsense to come from race-obsessed South Africa is the news that there has been an official ruling that the Japanese are to be classified as white.

Looking for the base economic motive that is usually to be found lurking behind the high-sounding racial twaddle, we find that the South African government is very anxious just now to encourage trade with Japan. Naturally, it would not do to make the Japanese suffer all the indignities which are the common lot of the black part of the population. A Japanese businessman thrown out of a hotel reserved for whites or pushed into the dingy part of a post-office to wait his turn with the downtrodden blacks might cancel his order for South African wool!

As so often happens with this racial nonsense, the perpetrators find themselves getting more and more involved in their own idiocies. On this occasion it appears that the locals find it hard in practice to distinguish between the Japanese and the Chinese. Since the Chinese are officially labelled as non-white, the Japanese are still being insulted since they are continually being mistaken for Chinese.

The whole affair has become all the more absurd because South Africa is now very keen on developing trade with China and is having to consider classifying the Chinese also as white.

All this absurdity brings back to mind the similar racial foolishness perpetrated by the Nazis before the war, in which again the Japanese were concerned. Readers may remember it.

On that occasion the Nazis were in close alliance with the Japanese and were hard put to fit this awkward fact into their half-baked theories on race. Finally. some bright theoretician came round with the suggestion that the Japanese were actually possessed of “Teutonic souls in non-Teutonic bodies” and the circle was squared.

The South Africans have evidently not forgotten this infamous piece of Nazi trickery. It speaks volumes on the depths to which they have descended in their efforts to maintain the myth of white supremacy.