Political notebook: Jeremy Thorpe, Refugees and Ken Livingstone

The Thorpe Trial is over. The newspapers desperately search for a new scandal with which to divert workers from what really concerns them. Readers of the Socialist Standard and readers of Private Eye No. 458 will be relieved to discover that contrary to its letters page, no analysis of the Thorpe et al. case appears in this issue, nor have we played any part in the journalistic voyeurism which organs of the capitalist press have indulged in. Whether Thorpe was found ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ in accordance with the sickening laws of capitalism makes not the slightest difference to the working class. Secondly, Thorpe, like all upholders of the system which condemns a person for not conforming to conventional sexuality but glories in the murder of innocent workers for the sake of winning markets in time of war, is guilty of a crime against the working class which is far greater than any for which he was tried at the House of Hypocrisy, the old Bailey. We should be concerned to remove the disease, not pick off the unsightly scabs. When that job is done, Thorpe and his fellow political scabs will be found guilty of the conspiracy to defraud which is the keystone of capitalist legality.


On a warm Saturday afternoon last month a few thousand boneheaded bootboys marched through the streets of London waving Union Jacks. Members of the army earning their pay, perhaps? No, these were members of the National Front protesting that their culture (sic) is being swamped by a mass influx of Vietnamese refugees to Britain. And what did these promoters of international brotherhood, the Communist Party, have to say about such nonsense? Unsurprisingly, not much. Their silence is not unrelated to the fact that they support the Russian control of Vietnam and that the refugees are fleeing from the tyranny which the Communist Party exists to defend. Both the Communist Party and the National Front are nationalists of one kind or another; they both serve to divide the working class.


Anyone who went along to a recent meeting at the North London Polytechnic could listen to some ‘Marxist’ wisdom being dispensed  by speakers Ken Livingstone (ex-Labour candidate for Hampstead) and John Ross of the International Marxist Group. The subject of the meeting was ‘Why Labour Lost’. Needless to say, the answer to the question was never given, but the audience was told that the workers need more class struggle — the one thing that all workers are involved in whether they want to be or not. When one of the super-radicals urged us to unite for a minimum wage of £60 a week, one of the audience pointed out that Marxists don’t want any wages at all, but the abolition of the wages system. The super-radical pseudo-Marxist replied: “You might not need wages, but we need them in order to live.” Audience response: loud laughter and universal agreement. Political conclusion: these clowns know as much about Marxism as they know about why Labour lost.


If you listen to the left wing for long enough they’ll have you believe that capitalism never existed until Maggie Thatcher moved in to Number Ten. Indeed, Socialist Worker’s first issue after the election had the headline: ‘Capitalism Is Back In Office’. Presumably the SWP would describe the previous government as something other than capitalism. The Callaghan fan club from the SWP might actually swallow their own shallow propaganda but those with capital at stake seem to be less certain about the major differences between the two main parties. For example, a report published before the election by the British United Provident Association, the largest of the private health insurance schemes, was markedly sceptical about the differences in the Labour and Tory health policies. Of Labour it says:


During the era of the present Labour government, private practice, especially in the independent sector, has flourished and it is likely that if the Labour government is returned with a large majority in 1979, or even if it remains a ‘hung’ government, its attitude towards private practice in the coming three to four years will be a moderate one.


And the Conservative Party:

. . . In spite of offering considerable incentives to the insurance side of private health care, [a Conservative government] could seriously undermine the independent sector if its policies on the provision of facilities were implemented. There were strong indications to suggest that health care was high on the list of Conservative priorities and that action would be taken shortly after the formed a government.


Which means, in short, that neither Labour nor Tory will make a scrap of difference to the system in which the rich have the privilege of superior health care and the poor wait in the long queues of the NHS.


The Guardian (29.6.79) reports that “The Biggest Soviet-American trade deal ever is brewing”, which involves a joint American-Japanese-Russian 50 million dollar investment to extract natural gas from the vast field beneath the Yakutia republic. For those who still believe that Russia is socialist, that it opposes American capitalism and that profits are things of the past in the land of Tsar Brezhnev, we are sorry to have to announce that the deal will not be finalised until each of the partners can be sure of obtaining a profit from the deal.


Steve Coleman