1960s >> 1966 >> no-742-june-1966

The Passing Show: Political Litter

Whether it was the warm, sleepy atmosphere of that sizzling first Sunday in May or just plain lack of real interest, it is difficult to say, but the circuses we normally expect in Hyde Park were notably straggling and lacking in verve. The Labour and Co-op procession doddered on to the green in bits and pieces throughout the afternoon, as did those of the Young Socialists, Socialist Labour League, etc., trying hard to look enthusiastic after the nervous strain of inching through London’s West End traffic. Even the Young Tories seemed to do better. Their platform sported a rather flabby, overfed young man, whose worldly knowledge seemed to be in indirect proportion to the size of his girth. But at least he was amusing.


Wandering across the Park from one meeting to another, you scuff your feet on the abundance of litter on the grass, and occasionally bend down to look at some of the more interesting pieces. In this way, I acquired copies of The Newsletter (Socialist Labour League), Challenge (Young Communists) and The Rebel Worker (Industrial Workers of the World)—a sad and scrappy piece of duplicated literature this last one.


Judging by the comments in their papers both the Socialist Labour League and the Young Communists are obsessed with the war in Vietnam. Both want the Vietcong to win—“Victory to the heroic Vietcong Fighters” screams The Newsletter, ignoring the obvious point that if heroism is the criterion, then both sides have that in plenty. Despite fierce opposition to the Labour Government, both Y.C.L. and S.L.L. urge workers to use it to get “revolutionary demands.” These include: ending the eleven-plus, votes at 18, more council houses at low rents, making the bosses pay for the crisis—not the workers (whatever that may mean), smashing the Smith regime and arming the African workers. And after that lot and plenty more besides, Y.C.L. National Organiser Peter Carter has the cool nerve to claim “We fight to end capitalism.”


But oh, The Rebel Worker. What thrills will it have in store for us in the future? This is apparently the first English edition, describing itself also as “a revolutionary journal” and having this sort of gem in its editorial: —


  We have joined the I.W.W. because of its beautiful traditions of direct action, rank-and-file control, sabotage, humour, spontaneity and unmitigated class struggle.


Well you can take your choice from that range of so-called qualities, but how anyone can think of the class struggle as beautiful is beyond me. It is necessary, yes. Something none of us can escape, certainly. But beautiful, absolutely not. Nobody who has any real appreciation of capitalism can surely think that its relationships are other than downright ugly in every sense of the word.


And Other Litter
Do you remember the productivity and exports drive of the 1945 Labour Government? And its slogans and bulletins? “More from each means more for all” was one of the lies they told us while slapping on a wage freeze. They talked glowingly of “redistributing the nation’s wealth,” “cutting the national cake” and so on, (but when they went out of office in 1951 that 10 per cent of the population still seemed to have a pretty strong hold on their 90 per cent of the accumulated wealth.


And today? Yes, the 10 per cent are still there and the present Labour Government are, of course, telling the same sort of whoppers that their predecessors did. Have you had a copy of Upswing yet? It’s their latest effort to get you working harder, and is a broadsheet prepared by the Department of Economic Affairs. Issue number one talks, of course, about the National Plan and asks the question: “Will I be better off?” Before you can get the chance to contradict it back comes the answers: “Yes. Year by year . . . There will be more to spend all round. If the Prices and Incomes Policy is maintained you will not only be earning more—the increases will go further because prices will not jump as well.” All on three per cent wage increase a year?


Upswing is noteworthy also for the impertinence of its advice to working people: “Don’t accept high prices,” it bleats. “Shop around. Give your custom to the shop where prices are lowest.” No doubt you are very grateful for that entirely novel hint. Shows just how useful Upswing is going to be. Bet you can hardly wait for the next issue.


Let’s Be Friends
About 12 years ago there was a quite prominent and active organisation known as “World Friends.” I haven’t heard of it for some time, but it may still be in existence. Its officers were pleasant, well- meaning and hard-working men and women. Its object was to foster peace and friendship by means of exchanged holidays between people of various countries. Probably a great many personal friendships were made as a result, but as for peace—there have been Berlin, Lebanon, Suez, Indonesia, Vietnam, lndo-Pakistan and, of course, the terrifying Cuban Crisis, all since then.


This is not to sneer at “World Friends”; at least you could say that what they were doing was better than dropping bombs. But what they never grasped was that “peace” is not just an absence of actual hostilities and the backslapping cordialities of a fortnight’s holiday abroad. It implies an absence of competition and the establishment of co-operation at all times between people everywhere. That is why peace can never be a reality while capitalism is with us.


But people are slow to learn, as you might have thought if you saw a report in The Guardian of April 18th. This tells us that there is now an organisation called “Art for World Friendship” which arranges an exchange of paintings by children from all parts of the globe. There are between 15,000 and 20,000 contributors to the scheme, and the parent body—Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom—stipulate that no pictures shall have violence or war for their theme. Laudable, you may say, as far as it goes. And there’s the rub. After all, children just like everyone else are not characteristically warlike, but modern society certainly is, and it is this which will impinge on their minds increasingly as they grow up.


The Women’s League is really trying a form of escapism in getting the children to ignore the fact that war and violence do exist in great measure, and there is not one scrap of evidence that such efforts will have any lasting effect in securing peace for these kids. On the contrary, there could well be a dangerous disillusionment later on when their failure becomes evident. Let us suggest to the Women’s League and others that they could do a far greater service to children and everyone else if they put their own house in order first and learned just what peace is, and the Socialist way to get it.


Part of the pressure for more expenditure on education has a basically commercial mainspring.” (Lena Jeger. M.P. Guardian, 15.4.66)


Next to banishing two-wheelers, universal wearing of safety belts would make a bigger dent in road casualties than anything else. It would probably bring a 15 per cent reduction, with a cash value to the community of some £25 millions a year.” (John Davy, Observer, 17.4.66.)


“Our movement is symbolised by the bomb-thrower, the deserter, the delinquent, the hitch-hiker, the mad lover, the school drop-out, the wildcat striker, the rioter and thee saboteur . . .” (The Rebel Worker, May Day, 1966)

“Sleep less, eat less, work more—is the formula of Premier Forbes Burnham for Guyana independent from May 26th.” (Financial Times, 10.5.66)

Eddie Critchfield