Review: July 1972
Connoisseurs of political scandal, with all its romantic implications, had their appetite whetted by the blowing open of the Poulson affair, which was in fact first ventilated in the scandal-hunting Private Eye. This was no Profumo affair, there was apparently nothing in it to suggest that the press was about to have such a merry time as in those high summer days of 1963. But Maudling, conforming to the proprieties of capitalist government (which exist, even if in a strange, half-lit world of their own) knew he had to resign from the post of Home Secretary. There will now be an enquiry, which presumably will be intended to prove something or other. One conclusion it will not reach is that the whole thing is really irrelevant. Capitalism is a system which might be called basically corrupt, since it works on the basis of a mass robbery which is perfectly legal because the ruling class make it so. But within those bounds it is of no account, whether politicians or businessmen spend all their time handing out and taking bribes, fiddling the books or any of the other activities which sometimes come to the surface of the system’s very murky waters. If capitalism were administered in such a way that there was never the faintest breath of a scandal, it would still be one vast swindle on the mass of its people. It would still deprive the majority of us of the fruits of our labours. It would still produce poverty, still condemn its people to lives of suppression, still produce conflicts right up to the scale of a nuclear war. Whether it is run corruptly or not, capitalism will never be able to operate in the interests of most of its people.
As Maudling left the Home Office, is was remembered by his enemies that one of his failures was in Northern Ireland. So much has happened there, since Maudling was the minister responsible, that it comes as something of a surprise to remember his part in the dispute. Yet it is in fact not so long ago, that he was dabbling in some of the “solutions” put forward. This is a measure perhaps of the speed with which events have moved in Northern Ireland. It is certainly an indication of the futility of all the efforts to end the fighting there. This is a conflict between sections of the ruling class over the right, and the method, to exploit the workers of the country. It has been worsened by the bigotries which both sides have stirred up in an effort to get their way. In the present social set up there is virtually no hope of solving the problem; the best that is possible is a suppression of its symptoms for a time, until they break out again.
In the end the McGovern bandwagon rolled home, its wheels running over a few famous Democratic toes in the process. Now McGovern says he is planning to win the presidency in the same way as he won the nomination. He has made a start, by coining a new slogan “Come Home America”. Of course all politicians have to have some catch phrase to identify them to the voters, no matter how dishonest or inane it may be. Kennedy promised the New Frontiers, Johnson the Great Society. McGovern’s slogan is equally loaded, since he also made a clear promise that he would immediately stop bombing North Vietnam and, within a specified time, withdraw all American troops from Vietnam. Some of his critics claimed that in this, and in his slogan, he was pushing for a return to the isolationist politics of old but as isolationism is now a dirty word McGovern could be relied on to deny that charge. The important issue now is what the American working class will make of the election, and of this man who is said to be a dangerous radical (whatever that might mean) but who would probably fit comfortably into the Liberal Party were he a British politician. If the workers in America take a mature and conscious attitude to the election they will not be deceived by any promises or programmes for their “prosperity”, or by any slogans. They will realise that leaders are not to be trusted to solve working class problems, simply because they cannot. The issue in the election will be capitalism or Socialism, and in that the workers themselves must act for themselves.
Parliament goes off for its long summer holiday, leaving Westminster silent except for the tourists who come in ever increasing numbers to gaze at the seat of parliamentary power of British capitalism. The politicians go to their various holiday haunts—Wilson to his cottage in the Scillies, Heath to win a few yacht races around the coast. At the same time, they assure us that we are not unguarded; they keep in touch with events and the red despatch boxes are still delivered, in a crisis the ministers would come flocking back to take over again. Meanwhile, the working class are also taking their holidays — usually a couple of weeks which they might spend abroad if they can afford a package tour. It is a good time for them to reflect, as they take it easy on the beach, on the function of politics in capitalism; on the way they are deceived into trusting their leaders to run society when they are in fact doing it themselves. On the fact that they do all the useful work but allow a minority to appropriate the results of their work. Then they might think about what they can do about it and come back, bronzed and refreshed, determined to start doing it.