Review January 1972
It was fitting that, in the season of good-will and hand-outs, everyone should get so alarmed by the terrible news about the straitened circumstances in which the queen has been forced to live recently. It was rumoured last year, when she did not make the usual Christmas appearance on the box, that she had virtually gone on a genteel strike for more pay. Many workers must have taken time off from their efforts to balance their own budgets to give a sigh of relief that the figurehead of British capitalism will now be able to scrape by on the more comfortable wage of a million a year and that it will not, after all, be necessary to put up any of the castles and palaces or any of the other symbols of royal penury for sale.
Similar relief must have been felt at the news that our Members of Parliament and our Ministers are also to get a hefty rise. Apparently the inflation of the currency has meant that all these people in Parliament find the buying power of their wage getting less as time goes by. But what sympathy can there be for them, since they are constantly getting their jobs as MPs on the solemn promise that they can control inflation? A prime example of someone being hoist with their own petard, or whatever we might call it.
At the other end of the wages spectrum, the 280,000 members of the National Union of Mineworkers were voting for an official strike to start on January 9. The strike —the first national industrial action by the miners since the lock-out of 1926 — was decided on after three years of mounting militancy among the union’s activists, which forced the executive to drop their previous “moderate” policy of concern for the finances of the state capitalist National Coal Board. The miners’ demands may seem to be high but in fact they are asking for no more than enough to maintain or re-establish their standard of living. The press are unable to use one of their usual lies — that strikes are forced upon unwilling workers by their union — since in the secret ballot 59 per cent of miners (75 per cent in the largest coalfield, Yorkshire) voted to strike. In this latest battle in the continuous class struggle, the miners should have the full support of every member of the working class. They’ve got a better case than the queen.
The war between India and Pakistan, as part of the long struggle they have waged against each other, was predictable from the earliest days of independence which was, let us remember, sold to us as a step towards peace and prosperity for the sub-continent. Both these nations are regular rattlers of the begging bowl, pleading their inability to support refugees, victims of natural disasters, famine and so on. Yet both seemed to find little difficulty in financing a war, which says something about the order of capitalism’s priorities. The conflict is of course more than a minor matter, since the three leading powers of world capitalism, as they all quickly showed, are vitally interested in what happens there. Russia in particular is determined that this shall be her exclusive area of influence. Altogether an ominous situation, showing again that this is no time of peace and security.
As the statesmen patted themselves on the back when they drew the borders of India and Pakistan in 1947, so they were busily congratulating themselves over their latest “settlement”, this time in Rhodesia. Of course this was a sellout but it was almost impossible, given the facts of life under capitalism, to see any other way out for the British ruling class. Those who were angry at the terms of the settlement should remind themselves that betrayals, of varying degrees of cynicism, are a constant feature of capitalist diplomacy.
The newspapers were almost damp with the tears of the leader writers, as the news came through that the Parliamentary Labour Party had turned down Barbara Castle as a member of their Shadow Cabinet. (In the event, as must have been expected, Wilson appointed her to his team anyway.) The theme of the comment was to regret this scurvy treatment of so fine and clever a woman. Yet Castle was one of the most prominent tricksters of the late unlamented Labour government; in her role as boss of employment she planned to restrict the bargaining power of the unions. This was her most famous achievement; apart from that she was always ready to defend all the Wilson government’s anti-working class measures on the grounds that she, a “left-wing socialist”, could be trusted to stand against anything which harmed working class interests. What this means is that she. was among the most cynical of this bunch of quacks and liars. Except for the fact that she would simply be replaced by another, equally cynical, politician, no member of the working class need mourn her departure.
(Socialist Standard, January 1972)