1960s >> 1964 >> no-714-february-1964

News in Review: Too Simple

AT HOME: Too simple

Peter Simple, the Daily Telegraph engaging columnist, is one of the few unrepentent reactionaries still in business. The bluest of Tories now profess to be progressives, but not Simple. He hates science, looks with suspicion upon anything labelled as progress.

His mythical community of Stretchford is a typical new town where masses of workers have been dumped and where their standards of culture and ignorance have taken control. His satirising of the popular press, through the medium of Jack Moron, is positively savage.

It is almost inevitable that, because he flinches at ugliness, because he probes constantly for left wing humbug, because he hates mob ignorance, Peter Simple should sometimes hit a nail on the head. This is what he wrote on December 18th last:

   Teenagery is an industry. It brings immense profits to those engaged in it. It is as much a typical feature of our civilisation as the indiscriminate use of agricultural poisons, the destruction of the seemliness and beauty of our surroundings, the plague of motor-cars. None of these things would be a problem if there were no money to be made out of them. It is useless to appeal to the better nature of those who profit from the teenage industry.

Simple has no answer to the problem but then he is not the sort of man from whom we expect answers. Indictment is his field: “There is no money,” he says, “in decency.”

It is too much to expect the Daily Telegraph to benefit from their columnist’s flash of insight and realise that the ugliness and the futility of the world is caused precisely by the fact that all production is carried on because someone hopes to make a profit from it. But that is the truth of the matter.

As long as capitalism lives there will be the soulless wastes of Stretchford and there will be the sort of people who gobble up the spew of Jack Moron. And, presumably, there will be Peter Simple to look on it with a weary, irascible eye, hating it all but nevertheless supporting it.

ABROAD: Kenya, too

Everyone should now be accustomed to the nauseating acts which are played out whenever another country gets its independence. The celebrations among the people of the country, who appear to be happy in the delusion that they have gained something from the substitution of one set of rulers by another. The extreme nationalism of the new government — often imposed with a heavy hand. The back slapping and banqueting, between men who were only recently denounced as insatiable terrorists and the representatives of the government which so denounced them. All very familiar and all very sickening.

So it was when Kenya became independent, last December. An estimated £400,000 was spent on the celebrations, including a Miss Uhuru beauty contest which Mr. Jomo Kenyatta left in a huff because the band did not play the Kenya National Anthem when he arrived. Persuaded to return, the new Prime Minister warned that non-Africans must respect the African personality (wasn’t there a man, before the war, who used to say the same sort of thing about the Aryan personality, at big rallies in Nuremburg and other German cities?) and said that if the band had not been Africans they would have been deported.

The Duke of Edinburgh attended a garden party where four former Mau Mau generals also turned up, but the Duke did not leave because his job was to stay and be chummy. Mr. Kenyatta had his photograph taken dancing with the rather bewildered looking daughter of Commonwealth Secretary Duncan Sandys, who had presumably been briefed by daddy to do the honours to the ex Mau Mau leader. Mr. Kenyatta received a telegram from Sir Alex Douglas-Home which looked forward to welcoming him at the next Commonwealth Prime Minister’s Conference in London.

Now with all this mateyness flying about nobody would think that not so long ago Kenyatta and the other Mau Mau leaders were reviled by the British government as primitive savages, heads of a secret society with disgusting initiation rites, terrorists who delighted in orgies of violence. This is the sort of propaganda which was put out in the past about other nationalist movements —about EOKA in Cyprus and the IRA in Ireland, for example.

In each case it eventually suited the British ruling class to come to terms with the nationalists. The propaganda changed and the nationalist leaders were welcomed to the circle of international rulers; their past, no matter how bloody, was forgotten and they soon became respected men. Kenyatta is only the latest of yesterday’s enemies to receive this treatment.

The state of Kenya is beset with all the usual problems of a newly independent African country and the future of its people is not bright. Whatever hardships they may suffer, we may be sure that there will always be plenty of official hypocrisy for them to consume.

BUSINESS: Buses for Cuba

It was not surprising that Washington expressed its regrets at the contract under which the Leyland Motor Corporation will supply four hundred buses to Cuba. Castro is perhaps America’s biggest and blackest bogy man at the present.

But equally it is not surprising that Leyland are eager to do business with Castro. They are no exception to the rule that production under capitalism is carried on for profit and they are ready to send their goods anywhere, if they think that the return is good enough.

Leyland are not, of course, the only vehicle manufacturers with this idea—the Cuban deal was settled in the face of competition from German, French, Japanese, Spanish and Czech salesmen. The struggle for export sales, in this case, is obviously at least as fierce as for the home market.

Governments, as a rule, encourage their industries to export and often offer all manner of financial incentives to them to do so. there are exceptions to this, though—when the overall interests of a country’s ruling class make it inadvisable for them to trade with another country, a government will often restrict or forbid exports to that country.

So it is at the moment with the U.S.A., which has a long list of countries on its black list, including Cuba.

But some industries chafe under these restrictions. In this country, for example, there is more than one pressure group which advocates the development of trade with the Eastern bloc, even at the risk of upsetting the Americans. These groups arc not interested in the politics of the thing: they are concerned only with the fact that the Iron Curtain countries and China might well be a very profitable market for them to exploit.

There are at present no British restrictions upon non-strategic trade with Cuba and, for Leylands, selling buses there has for a long time been an attractive proposition. Over eight hundred have been sold since the war and Leylands are hoping for another order for a thousand. The firm also say that the Cubans pay their bills promptly and reliably, which just about seems to clinch it as far as the bus makers’ interests go.

And if these interests clash with the wishes of the State Department, that only goes to show what a confused system we live under. Capitalism’s alliances are supposed to make the world a safer and more settled place. But even within those alliances there are all manner of divided interests, of stresses and strains and—often—open rifts.