Running Commentary

Hypocrisy at Camp David
There is no record of anyone who attended the recent Egypt/Israeli talks at Camp David actually being physically sick, but such was the hypocrisy which spewed out there that it might easily have happened.

With the first approaches between the two countries, last year, Begin and Sadat both made unctuous speeches implying that peace could come to the Middle East provided all the leaders there were sincere in their desire for it. It was, they said, a simple matter of good intentions triumphing over bad — a weary but persistent version of history.

These good intentions soon evaporated when the leaders got down to discussing the real business of the economic and military domination of the area.

It was then that the Americans, much in the style developed by Henry Kissinger, forced both sides once more to the conference table. The agreement which followed — which effectively postponed settlement of the more sensitive problems — was publicised in the same nauseating manner as before, with Sadat embracing Begin as a grinning Carter looked on.

Capitalism’s war and peace are not matters of good intentions, or bad; war springs from the economic rivalries inherent in the system. The Middle East, with its oil rich fields and its strategic importance, is especially sensitive and so has been in continual conflict for a very long time.

America’s rivalry with Russia has given given it an interest in keeping the peace — on American terms — in the Middle East, an interest which was demonstrated in, for example, the intervention over Suez in 1956 and the invasion of the Lebanon in 1958.

So Camp David, behind the publicity handouts, was a typically sordid carve up of capitalist interests, backed by some frightening military power. As an agreement it will be worth no more than those others which, when it suited the signatories, were broken.

The true nature of Camp David was illuminated when it became clear that the American arms industry was going to be able to sell a lot more of its products as a result — and to both sides, too.

So everyone was happy, except those who care for the future of human society and who want a safer world for us to live in — or those who may have been sick over it all.

British cars in trouble
British Leyland has been subjected to the attentions of a succession of whizz kids, if that term can be applied to the ageing likes of Lords Stoke and Ryder. These men were said to be possessed of unnatural powers enabling them to tame the wildest ways of capitalism’s anarchy.

Well so far they have all failed, which has not deterred another candidate being pushed into the cage to see what he could do to put down the uncontrollable.

Michael Edwardes came to British Leyland with the reputation of a man who unfailingly organises profitable balance sheets. So when he found that BL is in such deep trouble he must have had problems, after all those nice things said about him in the newspapers, in admitting that it might be anything to do with him or with what he is trying to control.

Nobody could have been surprised when Edwardes decided that the real problem is with the workers at British Leyland who, as everyone knows, are a peculiarly lazy, unreliable and selfish lot. In fact there has been so much propaganda recently on those lines that the BL worker has become part of British capitalism’s folk mythology, a scapegoat for the system’s defects.

It should be noted, that so far Edwardes has confined his criticism of those who don’t work to exclude the most blatant examples of it — the capitalist class. Perhaps he is too well aware of who is employing him — and of what they expect him to say.

Behind the emotional smoke screen, the facts about the car industry are clear. Competition is fierce — and getting fiercer in this country, as more and more foreign vehicles challenge for a slice of the market. Where before there were a few Renaults and Volkswagens there are now many, as well as Japanese, Italian and even Russian cars.

British Leyland invested a lot of money in its Marina model, which competes in the middle range where the pressure is particularly strong Cutting corners to keep costs down has resulted in a shoddy car, even by the standards of the car industry, and this also contributed to BLs sick joke image.

A typical mess of capitalism. But the answer does not lie in inveighing against the workers, who also compete for employment and for survival, but in an examination of the social system itself.

No vacancies
Not only do the workers (skilled tradesmen, foremen, shop-floor workers, managers) operate capitalist society, and produce and distribute its commodities, but they play a large part in enforcing the capitalist ethic. Many members of the working class never see a capitalist (unless perhaps on the telly, or getting into a taxi outside a London luxury hotel). The average youth is drilled into accepting the capitalist ethic (that is, it is right for the owning class to live in wealth without working, but it is wrong for the rest of us to live even in poverty without working) by other members of the working class: parents and relatives, teachers, journalists, policemen, workmates, civil servants, etc.

Almost certainly Stephen Dayus, the sixteen-year-old son of a Birmingham window cleaner, never met or spoke with a capitalist. Yet he was convinced of his own worthlessness when he left school and could not find a job. “He longed to be an electrician and wrote countless letters to employers. But in job-hungry Birmingham — where thousands of youngsters shared his plight — the reply was always the same: no vacancies” (Daily Express, 29.3.78.) Stephen probably did not realise that there are thousands of young people in this country at this moment who are not only not looking for employment, but would regard it as totally irrelevant. They will never have to “get a job”; they may sit on a few boards of directors in due course, but the nearest they will get to work will be to make sure that others are working in the enterprises they will inherit. All Stephen knew was what other members of the working class told him; that the was failing in his line of duty if he could not find an employer to make a profit out of him. “Finally, depressed by rejection and the jibes of luckier friends sixteen-year-old Stephen hanged himself”

No individual capitalist can be blamed for this tragic suicide. It is the capitalist system, with the loyal support and assistance of many deluded members of the working class, which killed Stephen Dayus.

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