News in Review: A case of courage
If the reports about James Meredith are true, he deserves to go down in history as a very brave man, who did something of which he was deadly afraid because he believed it to be right.
He went into Mississippi University, the first Negro to do so, because he believed that the colour of his skin should not stop him doing so.
He started to march from Memphis to Jackson because he believed that Negroes should overcome the fears which prevented them registering to vote.
The fact that he was shot down on the road shows the extent to which racism still festers in Mississippi, and the violence which it inspires.
Meredith’s courage should not, however, blind us to facts.
If he was demonstrating that the colour of a person’s skin does not affect his abilities, does not make him inferior or superior as a person, all well and good.
But having demonstrated this, there is something else which should be made clear.
Workers of all colours are united by a common economic interest under capitalism, to stand together against the ruling class who are also, of course, of all colours.
Beyond that all workers should cooperate to get rid of capitalism, with its privileges and its denials and with the prejudices which help to divide the working class into so called races, nations and so on.
The nature of the Civil Rights movement prevents it asking for more than that the Negro in America should be the same sort of worker as a white man.
James Meredith, and the other members of the Civil Rights movement who have suffered and been murdered, have made a courageous sacrifice. It is a sacrifice worth a lot more than the result it will almost certainly have.
The big question to be asked about the seamen’s strike is—what will the strikers learn from it?
One thing which a strike should teach the strikers is that capitalist society is divided into two classes, who are continually in dispute over the division of wealth.
Another is that there is no permanent way of dealing with the effects of a class divided society other than getting rid of it.
It was obvious from the beginning that the seamen would be up against the government. Mr. Hogarth, the General Secretary of the National Union of Seamen, said at the union’s conference at Worthing on 2nd May.
We know . . . that the government will do its damnedest to work the prices and incomes policy of 3½ per cent. We have got a fight on our hands, not just against the owners but against the government as well.
This seems to be a flash of enlightenment that a government stands for the interests of the capitalist class, whether ship owners or anything else, and that they will stand up for those interests in a fight.
But Mr. Hogarth destroys this impression by demanding in the same speech, that “. . . certain sections of the shipping industry should come into public ownership” (Daily Telegraph, 3/5/66).
This is not the first time a union’s leader’s sympathy with the Labour Party has clashed with his obligation to his members. The matter is not to be resolved by making a contradictory speech.
Neither is it the first time that striking workers, after the true nature of capitalism has been exposed to them, have kept faith in discredited remedies for their problems.
Man’s best friend
“LEFT BARES ITS TEETH ON VIETNAM” states a recent Daily Telegraph headline. One was tempted to add the word “again”. The “Left”, thus referred to, was of course the left wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and the occasion was a censure amendment on Government policy towards Vietnam.
It was headed by such dear old favourites as Michael Foot, J. Mendelson, and Ian Mikardo, and signed by many of the new Labour M.P.’s—who have obviously not yet learned that this kind of thing is not the way to the Prime Minister’s heart. We doubt if anybody was really worried by all this, least of all the Government. If however they were, their fears were soon put to rest as this turned out to be yet another in a long succession of damp squibs.
The Labour left has proved to be one of the most overrated movements of this century. Its docility during the last Parliament, with its slender Labour majority, was a source of amused comment in the political columns; while during the recent election they wholeheartedly supported a policy quite contrary to their expressed beliefs. Nobody during the election campaign had any doubts as to where Wilson and company stood on such subjects as Vietnam.
Now that Labour is safely returned, with a good majority, the left-wingers can caper about at will. But one thing they have never done is to push the Government to defeat, and one does not have to be a prophet to suggest that they never will. Left-wing M P.’s hold their seats in spite of their views, and not because of them. The Labour Party is pledged to run Capitalism, and has no other purpose; nobody can remain a member and not accept this fact. Our left wing M.P.’s have no desire to exist in the political wilderness in some small organisation.
The canine inference of the headline is rather apt; like all well-trained dogs the Labour Left will always jump to heel when called.
Peace in space?
Every time a space ship goes up to perform some hitherto impossible task it leaves behind on Earth a cloud of hypocrisy.
The latest American achievements in Moon flights and space meetings were no exception.
Among the politicians’ nonsense about human progress which these achievements inspired were the usual assurances that the knowledge gained by the programme would never be used in a war.
But at the same time there were uneasy suggestions that perhaps it would be a good idea if space were made international territory and the Moon declared a neutral zone, just in case . . .
The big, inconvenient fact which all the assurances ignore is that this is capitalism, a system which has never been able to act peaceably about something which is vital to its economic interests.
Capitalism may be able to keep a place like the Antarctic a peaceful, internationalised area, but only because it has no discovered mineral wealth and is of no strategic or commercial value.
Space is already a different matter. It is the highway along which will pass the weapons held in constant state of alert by many nations.
Space is an important laboratory, where missile guidance systems and rockets can be tested as they can be tested nowhere else.
It is a pipeline of communication and an observation point from which one state can spy on the industrial and military activities of another.
Space is important to capitalism. That is why the big powers are constantly probing it, and why they have numerous observation and experimental satellites aloft, after significantly unpublicised launchings.
And what will happen if other powers grow interested in space? There is already a European space syndicate, although its future is uncertain. What if there grew up an Afro-Asian project, a Chinese Moon probe ?
Then the space race will be on in earnest, in addition to the arms race. Not an enticing prospect.