1960s >> 1964 >> no-724-december-1964

News in Review: Youth

AT HOME

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.

Consider now the cases of Mr. Ian Macleod and Mr. Enoch Powell. Both of these men have recently returned to the Conservative Front Bench, and both have an interesting history.

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.

ABROAD

Kruschchev goes

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.

But none of these speculations, or changes, are worth bothering about. Whatever the political complexion of a government, and whatever promises it may have had to make to get power, it is largely helpless when gripped by the events of capitalism. The lives of the working class—the ordinary people—in Russia and the United States will be essentially unaffected by changes at the top.

 

Which means that the skilfully organised vote in the Kremlin, and all those hands which Johnson shook, did not mean a thing.

 

POLITICS 

 

Committee of 100
Stand by for another amazing performance by those ever-ready masters of double-think, double-speak, double-act—the Committee of 100.

 

For those of you who have just come in, the Committee of 100 were, not so long ago, the reckless dare-devils whose tactics of direct action were going to force the government to renounce nuclear weapons. They packed Trafalgar Square. They sat down in Whitehall. They were arrested by the score, the aged Earl Russell among them.

 

They had all manner of offshoots, like the Spies for Peace, who thought that they were helping to get rid of the Bomb by revealing the whereabouts of the emergency government centres.

 

They got up to all sorts of gimmicks, like planting Trees of Peace inside the wire of the bomber bases and holding an auction outside to sell off the aircraft.

 

They were a lively bunch.

 

But while this was going on the British government were turning out their Bomb and so were the Americans and the Russians and the French and the Chinese and goodness knows who else.

 

Then a funny thing happened. Or rather, several funny things.

 

First of all the Committee of 100 started to organise a lot of demonstrations about things which have nothing to do with the Bomb. Things like housing. Like industrial relations. The Greek government. (Some of them were framed by Detective Sergeant Challenor.) Racial disputes.

 

Then Earl Russell made it quite clear that the days of his demanding total, unilateral renunciation of the Bomb were over. He was, he said, now prepared to welcome “partial measures . . . as, for example, the lessening of military budgets . . .”

 

Did this cause second thoughts in the Committee? At any rate, some of its prominent members decided that its activities were becoming too remote from its original object, and they threatened to resign unless the Committee got back to the simpler proposition of Ban the Bomb.

 

But the Committee of 100 are still at it. Their latest idea, according to The Guardian, of 29th October, is a “ . . . series of study groups in an attempt to bring together Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Arabs and Israelis and to discover the facts behind the tensions in South Africa.”

 

The only sensible reaction to this is to wonder what sort of a dreamworld the Committee of 100 are living in.

 

Greeks and Turks are not fighting each other in Cyprus because nobody has thought of running a study group to bring them together. The same is true of the Arabs and Israelis. And, after the millions of words which have been written on the racial problem in South Africa, it is amazing that the Committee should think that their puny study group can add anything of any value.

 

These problems, just like the others which the Committee of 100 dabbled in in the past, are bound up with the tensions and disputes of property society. The Bomb itself springs from those very disputes. There is only one way to abolish them, altogether and at once.

 

That is to end capitalism and replace it with Socialism.

 

And what does the Committee of 100 do towards that? Exactly nothing. In fact, with their contradictory propaganda and their inconsistent activities they only add their weight to the many other organisations which confuse the working class. In that is their indictment.

 

The Committee of 100 obstruct society’s progress towards the world of freedom and brotherhood. When they finally go out of their confused and hapless existence there should be not a glimmer of regret.

 

BUSINESS

 

Fifteen per cent
Ask the Man In The Street to tell you how the price of a commodity is fixed and he will probably reply that the manufacturer finds out its cost of production, adds on a bit for his profit and that’s that.

 

There is no need to be an economics don to suspect that there is something wrong with that theory. What fixes the cost of production itself? Are there no limits to the amount added on for profit? What happens to the price if another manufacturer undercuts ?

 

These questions were all given an airing when the government imposed the fifteen per cent import levy. The popular notion is that an increase in duty inevitably means an increase in price—and, presumably, that a decrease in duty means a decrease in price.

 

Even before the latest surcharge, there was abundant evidence to refute that notion. For example, some years ago certain types of steel were allowed into this country duty free, because there was a severe shortage of the stuff. But as the British steel industry’s productive capacity caught up with its orders the government came under pressure to abolish the duty concession.

 

This they eventually did. Now what happened to the price of imported steel? Such was the competition between the steel companies that the Dutch state steel works at Ijmuiden actually reduced their price to take account of the duty, so that British car makers could continue to buy Dutch steel at the same price as from the Steel Company of Wales.

 

This does not always happen. If their market allows them to, some manufacturers may pass on an increase in duty or tax. Others may actually be able to put up their prices by more than the extra duty. Others may have to absorb the extra, wholly or partly, themselves.

 

Here are a few of the different reactions to the new fifteen per cent surcharge.
Harvey’s put their port and sherry up by 6d. a bottle. Canon (Geneva) absorbed the entire surcharge on their best-selling Canonet camera. In motor cars, the reactions were various: Saab (Sweden) raised their prices by anything up to £66. Renault (France) put up their prices, but on average over all their models by only 1.55 per cent, much less than the extra duty. Mercedes (Germany) increased the prices of all their models except their smaller 220, which is unchanged. Volvo (Sweden) bore most of the levy themselves, raising their prices by less than one third of the fifteen per cent.

 

We do not have to look far for the reason for these varied reactions. Renault’s increases were about the same as those recently imposed by the British car makers. Mercedes held the price of the 220 because it is a comparatively new model, in a range which they do not want to price themselves out of.

 

In other words, the foreign car firms considered the surcharge with both eyes on their competitive prospects in the British market. The board rooms of Ford and B.M.C. must be under no delusion that they can now luxuriate behind a comfortable tariff wall. They know they have to take account of the market forces of capitalism at large and its pressures on the fluctuations in prices.