1970s >> 1974 >> no-836-april-1974

So They Say: A Decent Idea

A Decent Idea

“They fly forgotten, as a dream”: things said in General Election campaigns, of course. Here is one which should not be allowed to do so.

Before the election Mrs. Mary Whitehouse, as secretary of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, sent a five-point questionnaire to each of the party leaders purporting to seek their views “on the issues of indecency, obscenity and sex education”. In fact three of the questions were on that theme. The fourth asked for the leaders’ assurance that Christian religious teaching would retain a strong footing in schools. And the fifth? It ran:

Would you establish a broadcasting commission to inquire into every aspect of broadcasting, particularly that of the facilities granted to the viewer and listener, and the effectiveness of existing safeguards against corruption and the exploitation of broadcasting by small and unrepresentative groups, whose activities enshrine anti-social and political aims. (Guardian, 18th Feb.; our emphasis.)

Nothing about obscenity there. It means Mrs. White- house and her supporters want minorities to be refused expression of their views in the broadcasting media. Whose activities “enshrine political aims”?

Down With Profit — not Exactly —

During and after the Election the “big four” London Clearing Banks declared profits totalling over £600 millions, embodying increases over the past four years ranging from 67½ per cent. (Lloyd’s) to 99 per cent. (National Westminster). Whereupon Roger Opie, in The Guardian’s Economic Notebook (4th March), carried on dreadfully — “effrontery”, “fantastic”, “oligopolistic”, etc.:

The Bankers have always had some excuse or other for their anomalous prosperity . . . Now a new one has been invented. The Chairman of the National Westminster Bank now has the impudence to argue that his and other banks’ vast profits are “in the national interest”.

Opie argues that the banks’ ordinary customers are made to subsidize their lending to pay for “the grasping excesses of the fringe bankers” and demands for advances from industry, and of the latter he says:

Nor is this the only or the proper way to provide finance for industrial borrowers in liquidity trouble this year. Again, it is the responsibility of the Bank of England.

But this means Opie himself acquiescing in the myth of “the national interest”. He agrees that firms must be lent money at interest so that they can make profits. What is the difference? Is it nicer to see Carrington Viyella Ltd. on 11th March declaring a profit of £12,017,000 — or ICI’s £311 millions announced on 24th February? Presumably he would say these are features of the acceptable face of capitalism, as against the “unpleasant and unacceptable” one of the banks’ raking-in.

— in fact, Not at All

The source of all profit is the exploitation of the working class; where it goes is irrelevant. Part of the propaganda for nationalization (which Roger Opie ends up advocating, vis-à-vis the Clearing Banks) is that under State auspices workers are not exploited as they are under private ones.

The East German propaganda organ Democratic German Report (13th February) had a naive story on these lines. It told of Hermann Helbig, who had built up a small tailoring business after the war. It was one of 3,000 small enterprises nationalized in 1972, and he became manager. The article says:

Property relations have changed fundamentally. Although the work is done on the same machines as two years ago, the workers are now the owners of the means of production.

That’s nice, Hermann. So the profit motive, wage- slavery and all that are abolished and . . . but what’s this?

Hermann Helbig’s firm holds first place in the innovators’ movement of his district. Last year they achieved a per capita profit of 2,646 marks from innovations in the factory . . . New production techniques are to be introduced in the next few years and will provide for a further increase in productivity and reduction of costs.

So only the words are different. The actuality is the same.

Look, Mum — Twins !

We may have been wrong in insisting there is no difference between the “New” Left and the Old. There is a difference. The present lot are incontestably funnier, and International Socialists the most mirth-provoking of all.

Their paper Socialist Worker on 9th March had a front-page article headed keep your guard up! It began:

The Tories are out. Good.
The government that hammered workmg-class pay, living conditions and trade union rights for 3½ years has been kicked out of office.
Labour is back. That’s good, too.
We wanted a Labour victory because a vote for the Tories was a vote to carry on union-bashing, rent-raising, wage-freezing and profiteering.

Well, hurrah. And, having campaigned for a Labour government, what do IS anticipate from it?

For Labour supports the capitalist system . . .  it will surrender to the demands of the employers at home and the moneylenders abroad.
Don’t forget, the last Labour government — with a majority in parliament — froze your wages, hoisted your rents, boosted prices and profits and attempted to bring in anti-union laws.
This time the economic crisis is worse. Labour will attempt to shore up the tottering system by again turning on the organised labour movement.

Part of the System

IS, like the rest of the Left, want “organized labour” to take the form of extra-legal militancy. Something we have pointed out consistently is that workers’ organizations need trade-union law just as much as the employers and the government. One reason is simply to protect their funds which otherwise would be vulnerable.

As an example, in 1960 (chosen as a characteristic year, not an exceptional one) the Transport and General Workers’ Union lost £3,805. 4s. Id. through defalcations by Branch collectors. The standard resolution in each case includes that “proceedings be instituted under the Trades Union or other Acts” for the recovery of the moneys.

The sum is small in relation to the huge funds of the TGWU but the need for legal protection of funds is obvious. However, it can be added that in the same year the Union donated £75,000 to the Labour Party.

From Rags to More Rags

One of the myths of capitalism is that any man can become his own master and climb above the rest. The November issue of the New Zealand transport-union paper, Wheels, which has just reached us, has something on this subject. It cites a submission made by the Wellington Union to a Labour Bills Committee hearing:

The attraction to a worker to become an owner-driver is that:—
(a) His income will be greater than if he was an employed driver.
(b) He will, by physical effort and the application of his own initiatives, be able to increase even still further his income, and
(c) He will enjoy greater freedom of living, working, etc., due to being “his own boss”.

On examination it is found that in a great many cases this attraction is more illusory than real . . . The realities of this situation are that these workers are generally more heavily exploited than “employed drivers”.

Down to the See Again

On 3rd March The Sunday People, searching diligently as ever for scandals, found them among the priesthood in Rome:

I can inform His Holiness that when it comes to La Dolce Vita, the “sweet life” of Rome, there are no sweeter-living exponents than some of these young priests — and their more experienced seniors.

Lots about wine, night clubs, and permissive nuns. It would hold no interest — except that the Catholic Church lays great store by the text “By their fruits ye shall know them”, The common condemnation of Protestantism is that Martin Luther was a debauchee.

Will Catholicism therefore consent to being known by these fruits picked up by the Sunday People? Of course not. There are none like the religious for having their fruit and eating it. But how absurd they all are — reporter, Pope and priesthood alike!

Robert Barltrop