The death of Golda Meir released the predictable flood of crocodile tears from her fellow leaders in various capitalist states throughout the world. From some of the tributes which were paid to her, it would seem that her death was a shattering blow to all who care for the human race.
The truth, as might be supposed, was rather different. Golda Meir was a very tough lady indeed and was always ready to do anything, no matter how dirty, which her job as Israeli Prime Minister required of her.
She was Premier during one of the crucial periods of the build up, and the assertion, of Israeli military power in the Middle East. In that she was as ruthless as she needed to be; and that also describes her attitude over the Palestinian refugees, whose suffering has been one of the side-effects of the war there.
So there is no reason for any member of the working class to mourn Golda Meir. In any case, she has already been replaced by others equally eager to carry on her work.
One other thing needs to be said. Women political leaders, even Prime Ministers, are becoming more common but it was not so long ago, before the first one—Mrs. Bandaranaike in Ceylon — came to power, that a baseless theory circulated about them. It ran like this: the world is in a mess: the world is ruled by men; therefore men cause the mess; therefore women rulers would bring a better world.
Well our experience since then has exposed that for the myth it is; not just in Ceylon but in Israel with Golda Meir and in India with Mrs. Gandhi. The capitalist social system is responsible for the problems of the modern world and it matters not which sex the people holding the seats of power happen to belong to. If the time of Golda Meir helps to drive home that fact, it will not be entirely wasted.
With the killing by a policeman of an armed robber in South London, and the massive display of armed force to capture the two young men besieged in a derelict fire station in Highbury, the police of London have given notice that they are in open warfare against the capital’s heavier criminals.
Or perhaps there are other motives. The siege at Highbury looked, on television, suspiciously, like a rehearsal for some other, more threatening, occasion —against the IRA or some other band of urban guerillas.
The escalation of violence on both sides of the law is a chilling matter. People who rob banks have brought the techniques involved—requiring swift, carefully planned violence—to a fine pitch of efficiency. In response the banks have strengthened their security and the police have readier access to firearms, with a number of specialist units—Special Patrol Group, and snipers—to move in where they are required.
This does not present a happy prospect. If the escalation goes on, London may begin to rival some of the other champions in the violent cities stakes. In Los Angeles, for example, more policemen are killed or assaulted in attending to domestic problems than in facing armed criminals. The widespread possession of firearms in America is probably responsible for this particularly nasty trend, which is fair comment on the argument of those—now seemingly to include the London police— who want to meet violence with greater violence.
Crime will continue as long as capitalism lasts. The entire system rests upon a legalised theft and it is entirely natural that some people, among the disadvantaged strata of capitalist society, should try to grab a little more wealth for themselves and to initiate the life style of their masters, even if they have to try to circumvent the legalities of capitalism in order to do so. Add to these ambitions a background of violence which is an unvarying factor in any larger city and we have the ruthless criminal, displaying in his profession many of the qualities which capitalism lauds in the board- room.
In recent times the Post Office has done a lot to destroy the old, cosy image of the happy smiling postman bringing welcome letters and exciting, mysteriously wrapped parcels to the door. Now it has a reputation for charging a lot more, for delivering a lot later, than ever before. Victorian England, with its slower means of transport, did it faster; and up until the last war it was common to send a postcard to let someone know that you were not, after all, coming to see them tomorrow.
But one thing the Post Office cannot be accused of and that is operating at a loss. Its latest accounts, in fact, announce a profit of £170,200,000 —a figure which excludes £206 million which has been set aside to cover the costs of inflation.
Anyone who is able to digest those figures, with all the naughts in them, may wonder why a state industry should make any profit at all. State industries, after all, are supposed to be owned by the people and it is the people who pay the Post Office to deliver their mail. So the massive profits are being made by the people out of themselves.
In the same way, the people have been forcing themselves to pay higher prices to themselves and have been cutting back the service they give themselves.
If this sounds like nonsense, it is only so because the entire theory of nationalisation being common ownership, or something to do with socialism, is nonsense.
The Post Office was one of the first concerns to be taken into state control; a few years ago there was a change in its structure which made it rather different from nationalised concerns like the coal mines but it remains, in essence, an example of a state industry.
And like all the others, it operates on the same priorities of capitalism. Its workers are exploited, and resisted when they try to improve their wages. The driving force of the entire operation is the making of a profit, for profit means success while loss means failure.
By these standards, the Post Office is a howling success but it also shows up the confidence trick of nationalisation which was foisted upon the workers so long ago, and to which they are still vulnerable.