1970s >> 1976 >> no-860-april-1976

So They Say: A Simple Solution

The homely proposition that Britain is one big (happy) family, and like other families, should the expenditure exceed the income, we will all fall into bankruptcy, has been put by most politicians. In a letter to the Financial Times on 9th March, a correspondent gave an equally tidy solution to the problem:

  When will someone, Labour, Conservative, or Liberal, tell people that the answer to our present problem is for each one of us to earn more . ..  To the workers — from the working man to the professional man — this means ‘doing a full week’s work for your week’s pay’ . . . Had everyone been doing this over the last few years, we would not be in the dire financial straits in which we find ourselves today.

Stunned by the sheer simplicity of the idea, it was with some regret that we read in the following day’s newspaper:

  A depressing forecast that unemployment will go on rising to 1.4m. by the end of this year and 1.5m. in late 1977, is made this morning by the independent National Institute of Economic and Social Research in its latest review. These are seasonally adjusted figures and would mean a peak next winter of 1.5m. to 1.6m. even excluding students.

Financial Times, 10th March 1976

So much for “Labour, Conservative, or Liberal” telling these particular members of the working class that the answer is “for each one of us to earn more.”

Gently Does It

However a somewhat closer analysis of the depression seems to have led the Financial Times on to dangerous ground. Socialists maintain that depressions, together with unemployment, result directly from the capitalist mode of production. Although politicians tinker with reforms and economists gaze at crystal balls, capitalism periodically enters times when production has to be cut back, and workers are made unemployed. The irony being that these times result not — as the aforementioned correspondent would have it — because workers have not been “doing a full week’s work” etc., but because they have. Should the correspondent be unwilling to accept such an explanation from us, we refer him to his peers:

  However, a close examination of the evolution of the world’s economic affairs during the past five to ten years provides clear indications that the capitalist system has been heading for one of its periodic crises for some time past. It is a crisis stemming — as all the previous ones have — from its seemingly built-in inability to keep the growth of the demand for goods moving in close harmony with the expansion in productive capacity for any prolonged period of time . . . Does it make sense in these circumstances, for example, for all the industrial countries to continue attaching the highest priority to improving the productivity of their work-forces and getting them to labour harder so that their manufacturers will be able to compete more effectively for available markets with one another? . . . will not the rigorous application of this principle be to prolong and accentuate unemployment ?

Financial Times, 10th March 1976

Of course this is a reductio ad absurdum. Even if all capitalists agreed unanimously on the cause of crises, they would be obliged to go on re-enacting it They have to pursue their interests, not “make sense”.

Friendly Cooperation

The view has been expressed recently that the American and Russian policy of “mutual trust and cooperation” is falling apart at the seams. The fact that these are two mighty capitalist nations with conflicting interests may have something to do with the rumour — but they are still making friendly pacts with one another apparently:

  The United States Government is reported to have made a secret pact with Russia to remove some of the electronic intelligence-gathering equipment from the roof of the American Embassy in Moscow, in return for a reduction in the Russians’ micro-wave radiation bombardment of the building. The Russians began directing microwaves at the Embassy in the early 1960s as a counter measure against American electronic spying.

Daily Telegraph, 9th March 1976

With friends like these . . .

Liberal Shares

At the time of writing the Liberal Party seems to be running around like a chicken without a head — they are suffering a “leadership crisis.” In normal times of course, they run around like a chicken with a head. However their economy spokesman, Mr. John Pardoe, gave the lie to the belief that they are all political bantam-weights when remarking in Parliament on 9th March:

  We have to make high profitability acceptable to the mass of people. I do not object to high profits — I just object to the people who get them. I think profits should be shared around more.

Financial Times, 10th March 1976

Now here is a marvellous proposition; if only workers would agree to a greater degree of exploitation profits could increase, and then they would be “shared around more.” Shared around — to whom? Mr. Pardoe neglected to say.

Three Wishes

Pardoe did go on to make a further observation:

  The British people must get used to the idea that their living standards would fall for a long time to come, whether the government was Conservative or Labour.

Times, 10th March 1976

A straightforward admission that the present social system cannot be run in such a way as to benefit members of the working class. We were only surprised at his modesty in omitting the possibility of a Liberal government having to tell us the same thing. Perhaps he does not seriously entertain the notion.

Past Masters

The impoverishment of the aristocracy has led modern-day landed gentry to clutter up their estates with a dazzling assortment of diversions in order to make ends meet. Their lands are filled with lions, monkeys, old motor cars, pop-groups and of course, paying visitors. As they appear as a group more prepared than most to adopt any gimmickry which may lead to an increased income, they will be interested to learn that The Friends of the Earth unintentionally struck a blow against capitalism on the 9th March. But not for Socialism — they seem to be moving in the opposite direction. They launched a Rent-a- Garden scheme, whereby those people who are “too old or lazy” to cultivate their own gardens, would grant permission to others who are keen to raise crops beneath the washing lines:

  In return the gardeners will pay the owners rent or a percentage of the crops.

Daily Telegraph, 10th March 1976

Should Friends of the Earth require advice on such a project, we understand that the landed gentry may assist, having developed some expertise in past years.

Alan D’Arcy