1970s >> 1975 >> no-845-january-1975

So They Say: Social Con-trick ?

The “Economist” of 23rd November 1974 referred to the Social Compact (or Contract) as being:

  so vague that there is no certain way of knowing when it is busted.

 

Although we can appreciate that the agreement between the TUC and the Labour Party has tended to be described by both parties in terms of what it is not, rather than what it is, if only the sceptical Economist writer had waited until Harold Wilson addressed the Labour Party Conference on 28th November, he would have learned exactly what it comprised:

 

  It is not a scramble in which the big battalions, the powerful and wealthy on both sides of industry or in finance, or in any sector of the community, can exercise their power in order to gain an unfair advantage.

 

Mr. Wilson went on to say

 

  The Social Contract means a fair division of our material resources, the fair sharing of sacrifices.

 

Now that’s clear enough surely? Mr. Wilson will no doubt be watching keenly from the wings as Len Murray takes to the stage and explains in terms of wages and unemployment levels exactly what the word “fair” means to the workers.

 

Upper Class extinct ?

It is reported by the astute Sir Frederick Catherwood, chairman of the British Institute of Management (Financial Times 27th November 1974) that there have been no recent sightings of that predatory species, the ruling class. He goes so far to say that

 

There is no longer such a thing as the upper class.

 

Although he does not give a precise date for the demise of this ancient order, his conclusions must spread despondency, not least among the BIM. But before they all go home, Sir Frederick may take some comfort from the “Saleroom” report immediately adjoining his own statements in the same newspaper.

 

 At Sothebys’ sale yesterday of the collection of the English gold coins 1700-1900 formed by Capt. K. J. Douglas-Morris RN, a record £539,390 was realised for a coin sale in London.
Spink bought a Queen Anne five guinea piece of Vigo type dated 1703, for £26,000 a new auction record for any English coin, a George III pattern £5 piece of 1820 for £21,000, a George III pattern five guinea piece of 1773 for £18,000 . . . etc. etc.

 

The conclusion is obvious. Either the upper class is deliberately concealing itself from Sir Frederick’s gaze, or Sotheby’s have been dealing with those many workers who were unwilling to purchase Krugerands.

 

Shakey Promises

In the season of goodwill, we are reminded of the cheering lyric “We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar”.

 

In this context, this writer’s mind turns naturally to the debonair oil minister of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Yamani. He certainly appears to be bearing gifts, and by all accounts at the expense of the oil companies :

 

  I declare categorically that Saudi Arabia does not want a single dollar more than it is getting right now for its oil. Every additional dollar should go to the consumer.

(Evening Standard 20/11/74).

 

Yamani clearly refers to the profits made by Exxon (Esso in UK) who announced profits of £348 million in July, and Royal Dutch Shell who declared £304 million in November. Although the oil companies dismissed the gigantic figures as

 

distorting substantially the underlying realities.
(Evening Standard 7/11/74).

 

Sheik Yamani remained unimpressed by their squeals and further attacked.

 

   What angers us is the fact that oil concerns go out with their enormous profits and make investments that have nothing to do with the oil industry. Why does an American oil company buy a chain of department stores for 800m. dollars ?

(Evening Standard 20/11/74).

 

Although we could suggest a reason or two, we would advise that Yamani refer direct to Saudi Arabian businessman Adnan Khashoggi who is purchasing a third share in the Bank of San Jose to add to his already

 

extensive interests in various other investments and property in the U.S. and middle east; and owns two Banks in Walnut Creek near San Francisco.

(Financial Times 27/11/74)

 

In fact Sheik Yamani’s mask of naivété slipped somewhat when he gave the real reason for his apparent benevolence toward the consumer in an interview with the German weekly, Quick:

 

  We are of the opinion that oil price increases harm West Germany’s economic system in such a manner that we ourselves will be hurt.

(Reported in The Times 21/1174)

 

Ah well, you can’t expect the season of goodwill to last forever.

 

Bricks and the Builder
Although the Foreign Secretary, James Callaghan, by no means meant his analogy to be taken too seriously when generously referring to Harold Wilson as

 

not merely a thinker, he is an architect and a builder.
(Financial Times 29th November 1974)

 

We were just wondering if he caught the article in the previous day’s newspaper where the Earl of Kinnoul warned the assembled gentlefolk of the Lords:

 

Many builders had simply shut up shop, until conditions improved, he added.

 

Nor have the builders’ hands been tied by shortage of bricks:

 

  Mr. Jeremy Rowe, deputy managing director (London Brick Co. Ltd.) said production was being cut by 11m bricks a week because of the building slump, and another 10m. were being put into stock every week.

(Financial Times 29/11/74)

 

We take it that Mr. Wilson has developed a new building technique.

 

Coining it in

Sir Winston Churchill’s former secretary, and present chairman of the Churchill Centenary Trust, chose a rather left-handed way of explaining why the Trust’s appeal for £lm. has met with poor results (only £150,000 raised up to December 1974) since it was launched in April 1974.

 

  I suppose we must blame the slow response on the economic climate. The centenary could not have come at a worse time.

(Sunday Times 1 December 1974)

 

We are unable to suggest a more appropriate date for Sir Winston’s birth, but at least Churchill would have taken some relief from the following paragraph in the report:

 

  The trust has given its certificate of authenticity to some of these objects (souvenirs and medals) and is receiving between 5 and 10 per cent from the sales. But in other cases manufacturers have gone ahead without consultation and the trust has had to rely on these firm’s own generosity. In all cases the manufacturers arc receiving the lion’s share of the profits.

(our emphasis)

 

Well, who else should get the profit? This is capitalism as advocated by Churchill.

 

P.S. I’m a Ph.D.

Socialists have long criticised what passes for education under capitalism on the grounds that it has been designed to produce no more than a working class which has been sufficiently trained to run future generations of capitalism. You can imagine the dismay of “educational experts’’ when the students fail to take the vital step of entering into wage slavery. Mr. Chris Priddle, careers adviser at the South Bank Polytechnic complains:

 

  Politicians say there is an economic crisis, but our order books are full. Hundreds of firms like British Leyland, ICI, Shell, Ford, and Rolls-Royce are still looking for graduates.

(Times 21/11/74).

 

It would be premature however, to assume that graduate students are rejecting the concept of working for wages.

 

  Mr. Priddle is anxious for graduates to be taught how to improve their image when applying for jobs. They are very bad at filling out forms and do not seem to know how to market themselves in interviews.’

(Evening Standard 20/11/74).

 

One of Mr. Priddle’s associates, Mr. Michael Rines an expert on marketing and sales sees the difficulty starting at a somewhat earlier age:

 

  The problem starts at school, where kids are not taught how to sell themselves and how to lay out an examination answer attractively.

(Times 21/11/74).

 

If there was any doubt in student’s minds that they would have to “sell” themselves, this surely lays it on the line.

Alan D’Arcy