1960s >> 1966 >> no-745-september-1966

News in Review: In the swim

Quintin Hogg once tried to help his claims to the leadership of the Tory Party by taking a publicity-seeking dip in the autumn sea at Blackpool.

 

Chairman Mao Tse-Tung’s swim in the Yangste River last month was also a publicity-conscious event, designed to prove, after some rumours of his bad health, that he is still in charge of the Chinese government.

 

And in case there were any doubts left after the swim, it coincided with another purge among high-up Chinese military and government circles.

 

The Chinese people were reported to be overjoyed at Mao’s swim, presumably they were also supposed to be glad about what they were allowed to hear of the purge, and to regard it as another protective act by their almighty, all-seeing, all good leader.

 

But, as Quintin Hogg showed in the gentler atmosphere of England, capitalist politics is a ruthless business. The same is true in China; at any level, capitalism is a hard world to survive in and where the stakes are high the struggle for survival is particularly desperate.

 

That is why capitalist politicians are such a cold, pitiless lot; why they can give an effortless display of public affection for a hated rival; or deny that they intend to do something which they are actually about to do; or try to attract attention by indulging in public comedy acts.

 

What is especially irritating about Mao’s swim, and the latest Chinese purge, is that in some quarters they are said to have something to do with Socialism when, in fact, they are part of the same old power struggle which goes on in every capitalist state.

 

The rules, such as they are, of this struggle are simple.

 

Every man for himself.

 

Sink or swim.

 

World cup willies

Somewhere in its distant past, football was known as a sport.

 

Even today the hack journalists, when it suits them, describe it in the same way.

 

They applauded the “sporting” gesture of the Portuguese player who congratulated Bobby Charlton on scoring one of the goals which knocked Portugal out of the World Cup.

 

They screamed blue murder at the “unsporting” play of men like the Argentinian Rattin and the Russian Chislenko.

 

Every now and again, though, these same journalists revealed something of what lay behind it all.

 

The Portuguese team would have received £500 a man if they had beaten England in the semi-final, as well as all sorts of bonuses.

 

The England World Cup squad—22 men—shared £22,000 for winning the Cup and apart from this there were the payments for playing in each round, bonuses for winning, the higher wages each player will now command from his club, the fees they can get by certifying that they wear particular makes of kit, use a certain hair cream, or do something else with some other commodity.

 

When we consider what fortunes, for the players, may have depended on a single foul, the behaviour of some of them appears to be not so much “sporting” as businesslike.

 

Because football is a business. The big wages reflect the fact that famous and skilful players can bring big money to a club. The World Cup contest brought a lot of money to the tourist industry in this country—and to the FA, which had the copyright on the World Cup Willie emblem which appeared on rosettes, plastic hats and bottles of beer.

 

Not, in other words, so much a sport —more a way of making money.

 

New Mr. Stop-Go

Some people were surprised by it. Others were shocked. Others amused.

 

In the latest financial panic of British capitalism, Harold Wilson applied measures which were a more extreme version of what Selwyn Lloyd, who was once Wilson’s favourite chopping-block, tried when he was Chancellor.

 

Thus Mr. Dynamic Expansion became the new Mr. Stop-Go.

 

But the surprising, shocking, amusing thing is that anyone should think it remarkable that a capitalist politician goes back on his word.

 

It is nothing new for a government to come to power pledged to reverse its predecessor’s policies—and to end up following those very policies through.

 

Indeed, any political party which has any chance of forming a government usually says at some time that it reserves the right to break its promises, if it judges the situation demands it.

 

This is what Labour meant when they proudly described themselves as a “pragmatic” government. Faced with a crisis in capitalism, they have reacted just as the Tories did.

 

It is too late now for Labour supporter to be indignant; they asked for this government and they have got itBut even Harold Wilson must come to an end sometime. The next General Election, when the Labour Party are once again claiming to be a Socialist organisation, will be the time for workers to remember that there is no difference in principle—and precious little in anything else—between the Labour and Conservative Parties.

It will also be a good time for them to consider the alternative to all the capitalist parties, to capitalism itself.

 

A Labourite confesses

You know Labour Government fails. You’ve seen their plans and promises smashed to pieces by the workings of capitalism. Now even Labour MP’s are beginning to see this. On July 26th Lena Jeger, MP for Holborn and St. Pancras South, did some heart-searching in her regular Guardian column.

 

George Bernard Shaw was once asked how long he thought it would take to get Socialism in working order. A fortnight, he replied. Writes Jeger:

 

   “Socialists must be either his ‘fortnighters’ or they become grave dullards, sifted and sobered into an army of underpinners, dedicated to making capitalism work, albeit slightly less brutally than is its nature . . .
‘‘Where have the economists got us? Under a Socialist Government one per cent of the people still owns 50 per cent of the wealth . . .
“What sort of socialism is it that can coldly contemplate the deliberate creation of unemployment as a weapon of economic policy? If a Labour Government cannot make capitalism work without an army of unemployed, then perhaps it should start trying to make socialism work . . .
“The Labour Party at the moment seems like a fly on a revolving wheel— it gets an experience of movement without controlling movement, a sensation of power without the motivating power . . .
“Maybe the Labour Party needs a fortnight club, a brigade of ‘do-it-quick’. What have we gained slow respect for entrenched positions? Only, it seems, a prospect of unemployment, a vista of despair. Except for those well-off enough to escape. And what has that to do with socialism?”

 

What indeed! But what a confession of failure! After all Labour’s claim to be able to humanise capitalism was the fig leaf that hid its support for a brutal system. If Labour cannot make capitalism work “slightly less brutally than is its nature”, then it’s nothing.

 

Mind you, the Socialist Party of Great Britain never believed it could. We have said all along that capitalism can’t be made to serve rational, human ends.

 

Now a Labour MP all but admits our point. Remember her words next time her type come cadging for your vote. Labour—and all the other would-be reformers of capitalism—are and can only be flies on the revolving wheel of capitalism.