1960s >> 1962 >> no-697-september-1962

A Tale of Two Simpletons: Good man gone wrong

 Nothing so sharply divides the Socialist from the non-Socialist as the recognition that the world needs a different social structure—not just different men or different political parties to administer capitalism, but deliberate understanding action by the working class to replace the existing social system by a Socialist one. The extent to which this is appreciated is a measure of political maturity. Those who are politically quite immature believe the opposite. They believe that if they have “good” men to lead them these men can purify capitalism, solve its insoluble problems, rid it of unemployment, poverty and war. etc. Experience proves this to be unfounded. Politicians with no mandate to establish Socialism do not, when they become the government, have the power to impose their good intentions on capitalism. Instead, they are in its clutches; of necessity the Labour Government which had preached disarmament, peace and high wages in practice rearmed, supported war and tried to impose a wage-freeze. They end by being hardly distinguishable from the avowed. supporters of capitalism.
 
 A curious by-product of this situation is the emergence of critics of the Labour Party, many of them claiming to be pacifists. who take a dim view of British capitalism and its supporters but fancy that foreign representatives of capitalism are somehow different; the Reverend Donald Soper, for example. He sees the world of politics, at least outside of this country, in terms of good men and bad men. and is blind to the fact that capitalism takes no notice of such distinctions. But time digs its pitfalls for the Sopers of this world: the “good” men turn out to be “bad” after all.
 
Soper in his weekly article in Tribune dealt on July. 27th with “Mosley, Nasser and the Jews.” His argument was that anti-Jewish propaganda in this country is of little significance compared with the menace of Colonel Nasser, Egypt’s dictator:

   What is much more threatening and unmanageable is the anti-Semitism contained in Nasser’s speeches last week-end in Cairo—particularly as this outburst in words coincides with the launching of Egyptian rockets for the first time. I find the following quotations almost appalling. He pledged himself to liberate Palestine from Israel. This is frightening enough in all conscience, but at least he has been saying this all along. He went on to hint that Egypt’s rocket arsenal was being built up for this express purpose.

 Soper fears that Nasser is bent on a war of conquest with his new rockets, and Soper wants him to be stopped. It would be too much to expect Soper to see that only the abolition of capitalism will stop Egypt, Israel, America, Nasser, Britain and the rest of the capitalist powers from waging war; instead, he puts his trust in the farcical notion of “a system of international law which could restrain men like Nasser.”
 
 But to come back to the question of Soper’s childish politics, why on earth should Soper want Nasser to be stopped, for we have it on the authority of Soper that Nasser is a “good” man, one who ought to be encouraged.
 
Speaking at Caxton Hall on August 14th, 1956, Soper had this to say:

   The third and last thing I want to say, because it is my purpose tonight rather to testify from the Christian standpoint, and to say something on behalf, I am sure, of thousands of Christian people who are inarticulate, whatever the other dignitaries of the church may or may not say—I want to say in the name of Christianity that this Nasser ought to be encouraged and not be repressed, because I believe the root of the matter in him is good and, because it is good, it is our business to evoke it by corresponding good and not to repress it by threats of violence.

 This ought to cure Soper, but it probably won’t, and readers who may take comfort in the belief that there cannot be more than one person with Soper’s naive approach to the world have to learn that the same week produced another. While Soper is a pacifist who wanted to encourage the Egyptian warlord but has changed his mind and wants him restrained, another sometime supporter of the Labour Party, Ethel Mannin, who describes herself as an “unrepentant pacifist,” thinks Nasser should still be encouraged. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph (July 26th), she said she was worried about some things, “notably the indoctrination of the children in a school I visited and which seemed to me Hitlerism,” but “for your information, Sir, my attitude to Nasser’s Egypt is one of the utmost goodwill, tempered with anxiety. . . .  But whatever criticisms may be made of President Nasser’s interpretation of Socialism, and his methods of implementing his ideas and ideals, of his sincerity there can be no doubt.”
 
Ethel Mannin describes herself in her letter as “an old campaigner”: she. like Soper, appears to be as simple as when she started.
Edgar Hardcastle