The Passing Show: Continued .. . (1)
Last month, we published an article on British capital in India, and mentioned the nice fat rake off which U.K. capitalists are getting from the exploitation of the Indian workers. We exposed the myth of foreign ‘aid’, and pointed out that money spent in India by foreign or native capitalists was for the good old-fashioned purpose of realising a profit.
This is not the impression which governments try to foster, of course. To listen to the bleats of our statesmen, you could be forgiven for thinking that investments abroad are an act of gigantic generosity, aimed only at uplifting the native workers in a land starved of home-grown capital. But this does not explain why the Indian ruling class have done so nicely out of the transactions, and their workers have remained so desperately poor.
In fact, the Indian capitalist class, who have been talking for some time about massively increasing their share of the world export market (see this column October last), now look like taking a leaf out of their foreign competitor’s books. They have begun to invest abroad —in Great Britain of all places. A report in The Sunday Times of January 22nd, informs us of an asbestos-cement products factory to be set up near Edinburgh by Birla Bros of Calcutta.
The plant and machinery, costing about £300,000, is being shipped from India. The factory will employ about sixty people, all of whom will be recruited locally.
It is described as the first major Indian investment project in Britain, and no doubt it will be followed by others, part of the development pattern of any capitalist class sooner or later, in its search for suitable fields of re-investment abroad. Possibly some of the profits from British investment in India could be used in the same way. Having been obtained in the first place from the exploitation of British workers, they then play their part in the same process in India and elsewhere, and the profits which subsequently accrue could find their way (at least in part) back to Britain, to continue the sordid business.
It’s an ironic and sobering thought, and supports a contention we have always held; that capital exists to exploit the working class, not uplift them. The capitalist class of any country will not be particularly fussy about patriotism when it comes to grabbing a profit. They spend their money in any country so long as a profit is forthcoming.
Continued . . . (2)
It seems that hardly have we uttered some words when they are out of date, or at least need supplementing. In ‘Thoughts on Youth and Age’ (last month) we drew attention to the importance of the teenage market to the capitalist class, but we never gave a thought to that of the ‘pre-teens’. And now, The Observer colour supplement (5.2.67) has beaten us to it. “Big business . . . has discovered that the little mites are big spenders”, says a report by Ruth Inglis.
In America, for example, the market is estimated at £360,000,000 a year. No comparable figure has been worked out for Britain, but all are agreed there’s quite a bit of pocket money to be mopped up there too. So our rulers are not over-squeamish about the ‘innocence’ of childhood, and all that rot. From books to Batman shirts, they will compete for the schoolkid’s half-crown, and where possible will try to bolster demand, perhaps by sophisticating tastes; one cosmetics firm is going to bring out a range of lipsticks for the girls.
Ruth Inglis expresses surprise that “business men in this country too, are starting to discover and exploit the pre-teen market.” But we do not share her astonishment, because you cannot expect capitalist society to work any differently. Everything gets defiled sooner or later. It’s just a matter of trying to guess where the next blow will fall. And just in case you got the impression from our February article that old people have been written off as a market, take a look at some of the adverts in The Pensioners’ Voice sometime. They’re even after the few bob you get when you’re on the scrap-heap.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s image—no doubt cultivated assiduously by the publicity boys—is one of an ever-youthful, ever-witty man, ever-pertinent in what he says. It is an ever-irritating picture.
But in his role of glorified travelling salesman for the British capitalist class (‘merchant prince’ he recently called himself), he generally says what is required of him. He must be careful to push Britain’s interests while beaming good humour and making harmless ‘funnies’ on the side. Just occasionally, he might overstep the mark, such as he did two or three years ago when he told us all to ‘get our fingers out’ and work harder. But it passed off without any great fuss, and H.R.H. is still making speeches, probably as many as the Queen herself—or not far short of it anyway.
The Duke is a very useful speech- maker. the image of a modem ‘with it’ Royalty, and as we have said, faithfully echoing current British government thinking in his words. Like his effort on December 20th last at a dinner in Paris, held to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Association of France-Grande Bretagne. (Strange how these dignitaries like to lecture us from the banquet table; earlier he had been de Gaulle’s guest at a luncheon in the Grand Trianon at Versailles). He pleaded that “we should have a strong faith in Europe, and confidence in each other, based on knowledge and understanding.” (Times 21.12.66.)
“Neither Britain nor any European country can stand alone in the world any more.”