News in Review: Youth
The latest news is it’s with it to be young!
You can be a Mod or a Rocker and make a nuisance of yourself at the seaside in the summer. Or you can be a Beatles fan and make a nuisance of yourself, off and on, at London Airport all the year round.
You can twiddle your transistor and you can wear the latest snazzy clothes.
You can be a young criminal; about half of all indictable crimes are committed by people under twenty-one. Or you can be one of the rising number of cases of veneral disease; Dr. Leslie Weatherhead recently told the Public Morality Council (wow!) in London that he thought your sexual behaviour was “verging on a national disaster.”
Yes, you’re with it. Nobody’s ever been like you before and nobody’s ever going to be brilliant enough to be like you in the future.
But what else did that old square Weatherhead say about you ?
I am sure that if there was another war they would give their lives for their country just as readily as my own generation has done.
And do you know he’s probably right, except that you haven’t got a country to give your life for.
Let’s have a look at you, youngster. There are plenty of mealy-mouthed sociologists, religicos, politicians, newspapermen, who try to kid us that you’re socially significant. They make long, dull speeches and they write long, dull articles trying to prove that you are in revolt.
They say that you break and enter because you’re dissatisfied with society. You catch a dose because you are bewildered by the pace, the pressures and the priorities of modern capitalism.
Well you’re not the first person to get het up about such things. Your mum and dad were het up, just after the last war. They thought everything would be alright if they voted Labour. Your grandparents were het up after 1918. They went on hunger marches, maybe they even signed the Peace Pledge. They thought they were going places, while the squares of those days held their hands up in horror.
But when the crunch came they were no better than the rest. In capitalism’s hour of need they were not found wanting. They joined up and gave their young, frustrated, bewildered lives—or helped to kill equally confused and hapless people on the other side.
And while this was going on the people who are really het up—the people who have understood the problems of society and have thought their way to an answer —were quietly and steadfastly making their stand.
They have seen many het ups like you come and go, these people, and they arc not impressed by them; they know that they all end up the same way. They even regard some of the het ups—again like you—as one of the problems to get het up about.
Think about that, the next time you go on a rave. It’s with it to be young but if you don’t do something soon none of us may be with anything any more.
The exiles’ return
It is difficult to decide how best to describe it.
Expediency? Resilience? Forgetfulness, perhaps? Whatever it is, no politician who aspires to the heights should be without it. .
We all remember the late Aneurin Bevan, who spent a lot of time upsetting his colleagues on the Labour Front Bench but who could always reconcile himself to eventually uniting with those same colleagues. Before he died, Bevan had managed to forget that Hugh Gaitskell was a “desiccated calculating machine” and was Gaitskell’s most loyal and useful deputy.
Mr. Macleod once seemed to be Macmillan’s favourite son; it was even whispered that he was sure to take over the Tory Party when Supermac finally gave up. But Macleod got the hot seat of Colonial Affairs, which cost him a lot of favour among the Settler lobby (Lord Salisbury called him “too clever by half”). So it came about that when Macmillian resigned, although Macleod fancied his chances, he was never really in the running for the leadership.
Macleod showed his pique—or whatever it was—by refusing to serve under Douglas-Home and by taking himself off to the editorship of The Spectator, from which vantage point he bombarded his party with a sensational article which attacked the “magic circle” who selected Sir Alec as Prime Minister.
Now for Mr. Powell. He is one of the knobbliest of politicians, one who must be getting to know the way back from the self-imposed wilderness. He resigned from the Conservative government at the same time as Thorneycroft threw in the Chancellorship (Mr. Macmillan’s “little local difficulty”), came back at the Ministry of Health in the big reshuffle in July 1962 (although the policies he had resigned over were still operative) and finally refused to continue in the government when Douglas-Home became Premier. For this last refusal, characteristically, Mr. Powell gave no reason.
Since then, Powell has got into the headlines with some dourly reactionary speeches which have been too much even for Mr. Quintin Hogg, who called him “a sort of Mao Tse-tung of Toryism.” (Soon after that Mr. Powell likened Harold Wilson to Louis XIV, which proved that beneath that grim exterior there lurks something like a sense of humour.)
It is evident that both Macleod and Powell have been able to forget, or suppress, or what you will, the memory of those days they spent on the outside looking in. They could not bring themselves to work under Sir Alec when he was Prime Minister but it is apparently a different matter now that he is only Leader of the Opposition.
But there has been no political change to justify this reversal. So what else could have changed? Could it be the men themselves? Or could it be that the Conservative defeat has thrown the leadership struggle wide open once more?
Both Macleod and Powell have posed as men of inflexible principle. We are accustomed now to high flown speeches and dramatic political gestures. Underneath them, a politician is a politician for all that.
What with the fall of Mr. Kruschchev, and the return of President Johnson to the White House, the last few weeks have been a busy time for the political seers.
These gentlemen have all been hard at work, speculating on what the Brezhnev/Kosygin dictatorship will mean for the future of the Soviet Union. They have all been analysing the portents for the United States, now that the votes there have so decisively confirmed the Democratic Party—or at any rate that part of it which sticks to the Johnson line—in power.
This all makes interesting reading on a winter Sunday afternoon but apart from that is worth very little. Government policies, in all countries, are largely mapped out for them by the conditions of capitalism at large. Sometimes these conditions force a new government to go directly against their election programmes, as they forced the Roosevelt administration in 1932. The New Deal, far from being a policy which the American electorate enthusiastically voted for in advance, was hammered out after the election—the Roosevelt platform had been one of balancing the Budget as opposed to the deficit financing which his administration eventually imposed.
But whichever party comes to power runs capitalism in roughly the same way. This is not to say that different governments do not bring any changes at all; only that whatever changes they may bring are quite insignificant. A Goldwater administration would probably have cut back the Democratic plans for limited spending on what are called social services. The new Russian government may launch a cautious peace offensive against China.
None of these changes affects the basis of society, and it is this basis which lays down the policies of governments. Johnson will have to live with, and may find his plans upset by, the international disputes of capitalism. Over these disputes hangs the massive threat of a nuclear clash. Brezhnev and Kosygin have the same problems, and they approach them in the same way as the American ruling class; one of their early appearances was at the parade in the Red Square, taking the salute as the tanks and the missiles and other horror machines trundled past.
What are the limited significances of the new governments? Johnson will probably run the affairs of American capitalism in a strictly down-to-earth manner. No risky adventures for him, no posturing on the Brink, no pandering to outraged patriotic neuroses. But if ever the situation demands that the Button be pushed, Johnson’s finger will not falter.
The manner of Mr. Kruschchev’s going indicates that something has happened in the Soviet Union over the past twelve years. In Stalin’s time, nobody was eased out of power on the excuse that they were ill; to lose favour was to face the execution squad. The fact that the big influence in Russia now seems to be shared by two men may mean that the present is a short interregnum from which another, undisputed dictator may emerge, much as Kruschchev himself did.