The Passing Show

Radio Rot

I have to make an admission that I do like listening to the radio—and watching the TV, too, when I get the chance, which, as I don’t have a TV set, is not very often. Of course, you have to use discrimination in choice of programmes and learn to resist the mesmeric effect of the box. There is, after all, a little switch on one side and this must be firmly turned off if you are not to sit through programmes such as “Take Your Pick” with Michael Miles or “Juke Box Jury” with David Jacobs. This was a cruel lesson I learned when I did have a set, but maybe there was some value in watching them once or twice—a sort of immunisation process.

Of course, not all the radio and telly programmes are “light,” at least not intentionally so. There are some pretty good documentary features which are useful as far as they go, and the B.B.C. does encourage some controversial discussions in programmes like “Any Questions.” And they can be quite enjoyable providing you don’t get too het up at the puerile questions which they deal with in all solemnity. If you are a Socialist, you will naturally feel it just that much more acutely.

For a Socialist is so very aware of the really big problems of the world and how to solve them, that it must be like twisting the knife in a wound to hear the questions panel heatedly discussing whether Bernard Levin should be more polite or whether gambling winnings should be taxed. The piffling, inconsequential drivel that some of the “personalities” talk at a time when millions are starving and the world is dangerously close to a third big war, has to be heard to be believed. Even the “serious” commentators rarely get anywhere near a fundamental consideration of the way we live today.

But after all is said and done, it should be no more than we expect. The BBC, ITV, Pirate Pops as well, can only in the main reflect public interest and as we are all too painfully aware, this does not include a serious consideration of the Socialist case. Which is the real reason behind the consistent refusal of the powers-that-be to grant time on the air to our Party. When Socialist ideas are much more widely accepted and discussed we will not have to pester the authorities for a measly five minutes. They will be asking us instead.

Goodbye to the Afternoon Nap

It is just another of the many nasty tendencies of capitalism that it is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to abolish or whittle down those of our leisurely customs which interfere with production and profits. In our December issue, we recalled how the 12 days of Christmas was very quickly reduced to one when the industrial revolution got under way, and although we get more than one day nowadays, it is nowhere near the original number. But even then, we were wrong to take it. according to some newspapers who seem to place the national productivity drive before all else.

Then again, some of our older readers may recall the circumstances under which pub licensing hours in this country were restricted. When my father was a boy, the public houses were usually open all day. some from 6am till midnight, but the First World War stopped all that. It was found that there was a tendency for munitions workers to spend their overtime earnings over the bar and to miss some of their shifts, so the licensing hours were severely curtailed and remained essentially so until fairly recently when there were minor revisions. Nothing really to do with any concern for our health—this time it was munitions production which caused the axe to be wielded.

No doubt you can think of other examples such as the shifting of May Day to the first Sunday in the month, and thus you might be inclined to think that it’s a good job workers have struggled over the years to increase the paid holidays allowed by their individual employers.

Britain is not, of course, the only country where the cry is for more work and less leisure. You would never have thought that the afternoon siesta, such a part of life for those in hotter countries, would go: yet this is what looks like happening in Chile. The government there has decreed that the four hour lunch period be reduced to 30 minutes, and that all bars close between mid-day and 7pm each day.

Perhaps, as the Evening Standard editorial of January 8th pointed out, somewhat slyly, the indigestion pill manufacturers will do a roaring trade and the ruling class will get some increased production and profits. But for the Chilean workers it is the same sad story of the reduction of their leisure time and per- haps an increase in stomach ulcers. For as the Evening Standard also points out: “A half-hour hastily snatched lunch breeds ulcers faster than almost anything else in the world.”

More New Year Hypocrisy

It was perhaps in the nature of capitalist polities that the late premier of India, Mr. Shastri, should receive praises and tributes following his death on January 11th. With China breathing hotly down their necks, there had been strenuous efforts by USSR to patch up the India-Pakistani quarrel and Mr. Shastri’s death occurred only a few hours after he had signed a peace agreement with the Pakistan president Ayub Khan.

Doubtless it came as a shock to various statesmen, not least the Soviet Prime Minister, Mr. Kosygin, but Shastri’s demise is not likely to have any great or lasting effect on the world situation, despite the sloppy tributes of Harold Wilson and Lyndon Johnson. The U.S. President was true to his usual hypocritical form when he spoke of the news as “a tragic blow to the hopes of mankind for peace and progress.”

Indeed, the history of Shastri’s short term as Premier (a mere 18 months or so) has been anything but peaceful. In that time he had been involved in clashes with China and Pakistan and had openly stated that his government were considering the production of a nuclear bomb. Previously he served under Nehru, whose government went to war originally with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, and not so long ago annexed Portuguese Goa. In dealing with striking workers, Shastri’s government was just as brutal and repressive as its predecessors.

But all this you are not supposed to remember as canting politicians heap praise on the dead man’s shoulders. And the tragedy of it is that many workers will indeed not remember, even though the events were all so very recent. It is the Socialist who will bear it all in mind and point out that despite his apparent gentleness as a person, Shastri was one of Capitalism’s politicians, and in that role, he was as much an enemy of the working class as Winston Churchill or Adolf Hitler.


“In 1960 nearly seven and a half million people in the United Kingdom were living in poverty, defined as below the National Assistance standard.” (Report by Professors Smith and Townsend 23-12.65.)

“Mr. Jack Stone, who has resigned as managing director of Lloyds Packaging Warehouses, is reported to be in line for a Golden handshake ‘well in excess of £50,000’.” (Guardian 10.1.66.)

“Protecting this (copper) trade is not merely a matter of charily towards Zambia since about 45 per cent. of Britain’s copper comes from the Zambian mines.” (Guardian report 7.1.66.)

“. . . Only by accepting a less ambitious full employment target will employment be brought under control.” (Daily Telegraph editorial 10.1.66.)

“Aspro-Nicholas Ltd. said last night that it was prepared to send Oxfam and War on Want £250,000 worth of tablets which were being withdrawn from the market . . .” (Guardian 11.1.66.)

“The Duchess of Norfolk is planning a banquet for 300 dogs in the grounds of Arundel Castle, to raise funds for a stray dog Sanctuary.” (Guardian 10.1.66.)

“. . . Labour won the last election, and is proving a visibly non-Socialist party.” (The Economist 8.1.66.)

“Christmas, for me, is out of this world” (The Bishop of Guildford in his Christmas Day broadcast.)


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