The Passing Show: Ambition
The headmaster of a boys’ secondary school in Wimbledon published an article recently in The Director, sayings that young people in Britain are not ambitious. He said that he had gone through the forms filled in by pupils who were going to be interviewed by a youth employment officer. As answers to the question, “What do you want to be?” the headmaster would have liked to see boys putting down ’’Prime Minister, admiral, field marshal, explorer, ambassador”. Instead, they put down “clerk, manual worker, draughtsman, hairdresser.”
One can imagine what a youth employment officer, with his usual supply of dull jobs as factory-hands or shop-assistants, would say to any secondary modern schoolboy who came to him demanding a job as Prime Minister or admiral. But the question goes deeper than that. The boys were not putting down the jobs they would theoretically have liked doing; they were putting down the jobs which they knew perfectly well they would have to spend the rest of their lives doing. They were showing, in fact, a better grasp of realities than the headmaster. And if the headmaster wants his pupils to spend their lives doing rewarding, satisfying work, then he will have to reconsider his support of the capitalist system.
The cherished old belief that there is something diHerent about white-collar workers, something which marks them out as being separate and distinct from manual workers, is dying, but only slowly. It is still possible to hear the opinion that office-workers or salaried employees have nothing to do with the class struggle. And yet the development of capitalism is making this belief more and more obsolete, In various parts of the world recently there have been strikes of doctors, teachers, civil servants and otter white-collar workers. Now, in Italy, even magistrates, are going on strike. The Times (6/11/62) said:
Italian magistrates have decided to go on strike for three days later this month. They are protesting against what they feel to be a decline in their status, due to rapid changes in Italian society and the reluctance of the Government to do anything about it. The strike is due to start on November 28th, and if carried out it will be unprecedented in Italian judicial history. Their descent from the bench into the social fray brings the magistrates into line with other professions—they are salaried civil servants here. . . . They are now following the path set by doctors, teachers, senior civil servants, and court officials among others, all of whom in the past few months have been protesting for much the same reasons.
In fact there is no section of the working class which is outside the class struggle, and which will not defend its interests by various class-sections such as strikes when the need arises.
The recommendation of the United Nations General Assembly that its member states should break off diplomatic relations with South Africa, and apply economic sanctions against her, plus a request to the Security Council to consider “if necessary” the expulsion of South Africa, is very revealing. If this expulsion is carried out, it will be the first ever of a member of the United Nations. Yet many of the member states are extremely antagonistic to each other— Russia and America are only the most obvious examples. Why, then, has the proposal of expulsion been made only about South Africa?
For a very simple reason. The members of the United Nations are either full-blown capitalist countries, like Britain, America, Russia, and so on, or are straining every nerve to set up a complete capitalist economy, like many of the ex-colonial states. There is only one exception to this rule: in South Africa, for various reasons, the class in power is not the capitalist class but the landowning class. And despite the hatred that the various capitalist countries and blocs feel for each other, they are prepared to gang up with each other in order to attack a country where the capitalist class has not yet been able to seize political power.
Not sure what to buy for Christmas presents? Can’t think of anything really exciting? You should get one of the Christmas catalogues issued by Harrod’s. You’ll find plenty of suggestions there.
You could, for example, solve your Christmas present problem with a jade goddess table lamp—“with shade”—for 963 guineas.
Or you could get a diamond ring, for £3,750.
Or, better still, a “four-seater Skyhawk aircraft with range of 550 miles.” That will set you back £6,348.
You could consider any of these if you are a member of the class that these suggestions are aimed at—the capitalist class. Yet even if you are a member of the working class the catalogue is not without significance.
It is always interesting to see what the capitalist class is doing with the money it makes out of the labour of the rest of us.