1960s >> 1962 >> no-693-may-1962

The Passing Show: Bill Sikes

A new storm is blowing up over the amount of violence on television. As the night’s ration of gunfire roars from the lantern in the corner, or bursts through the thin partition wall from the next house, many parents are sincerely worried about its effect on their children. There was much criticism of a recent BBC programme aimed at children which showed the scene from Oliver Twist in which Bill Sikes bludgeoned Nancy to death; and the accidental hanging of Bill Sikes was cut from the following week’s instalment.


It would, of course, be difficult to maintain that the regular diet of shootings, stabbings, stranglings, and knockout blows which is fed to children (and adults) by the television programmes does them any good. But it would be a waste of time to try to trace current “juvenile delinquency” and “violent crime” merely to the television. The whole of our society presents a picture of violence to the impressionable mind. No ruling class could exist without frequent recourse to violence of the crudest kind. While the main prop of the power of the ruling class is constant and insidious propaganda through every medium of communication—press, radio, pulpit, and so on—violence must be used to punish and deter the small minority who refuse to accept the prevailing notions of private property or otherwise break the law. The television high-ups may censor the hanging of Bill Sikes; but they cannot censor the official and judicial hanging of James Hanratty. And there is no point in banning Westerns when every ruling class in the world, including our own, is prepared in order to achieve its aims to kill more people than all the black-shirted badmen who ever trod the studio boards.


Education in any society prepares people to be members of that society. Education in capitalist society prepares people to be members of capitalist society. And in return for a steady supply of workers both at the factory bench and in the white-collar ranks, capitalists are prepared to pay (and have to pay) handsomely. Education to a capitalist is merely a commodity to be bought for a price like any other commodity. If you will not accept this from a Socialist, you may be more ready to accept it from a capitalist. This item appeared in The Times of March 2nd:


The University of Witwatersrand became 40 years old today and received a birthday present of £730,000 from the Chamber of Mines. The money would be spread over five years. Mr. H. C. Koch, president of the Chamber, said he hoped other industries would come to realise that money given to university was not a donation but was a payment fur an essential commodity.


Even a Socialist could not put it more clearly.
Anyone who thinks that only white people can sink to the level of racialism would be well advised to consider recent speeches made in Rhodesia. The publicity secretary of the United National Independence Party said that when UNIP achieved power in Northern Rhodesia it would declare Sir Roy Welensky a prohibited immigrant in the territory: this, he said, would be “the first step in UNIP’s programme of demoralization of the white man” (The Times, 10/4/62). The European, he said, was afraid of the African today, because he knew the African was no longer joking. At the same meeting the publicity secretary of the Southern Rhodesian Zimbabwe African People’s Union said that “anyone who lived in Africa must identify himself with the African people. ZAPU would not accept European standards. In Africa no standards would be accepted that were not completely pan-African.”


The aspiring Rhodesian African ruling class, having seen how valuable racialism has been to the European rulers of the country, are now trying to drum up support for themselves the same way. The more they can emphasise the irrelevant distinctions between members of the human race, such as colour of skin, the less inclined the African people will be to think about—and get rid of—the really important division in the human race, that between class and class.


Alwyn Edgar