1980s >> 1981 >> no-927-november-1981

Running Commentary: Honest John

Honest John
The Sunday Express is one of those newspapers which is deeply proud of the organisation of mass murder by the British government between 1939 and 1945 to “keep the fascist huns from the door”. So it is rather curious to find the following rather “illiberal” sentiments in the edition of that newspaper for 27 September, in John Junor’s “Current Events” column:


  They are part of the same band of fist-clenching comrades who are active in every riot, every demonstration, every picket line. They are the rats attacking our society from within. And in the end they will destroy us if we do not destroy them. The IRA-loving, poof-loving Marxist leader of the GLC Mr Ken Livingstone was prophesying the other day that the time was coming when a right-wing government would send militants to the gas chamber. I wouldn’t go as far as that. But might we not all be a lot safer if at least half of them were in clink?

Junor is right that there is a fierce struggle going on which will lead to the end of what he calls “our” society, that is “their” society of capital and profit. But the real challenge to him and his anti-social prejudices does not come from Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn or any of the parties of the left. The threat to the misery and insecurity of the present social order lies in the working class developing the idea of dispossessing the parasitic minority we work for.


War for what?
The conventional explanation of the causes of the Second World War was further discredited by the recent publication of Auschwitz and the Allies, by Martin Gilbert (Michael Joseph, £12.00). It explains how Churchill’s plan to bomb the railway lines to the German death camps was frustrated by the Foreign Office and the RAF. A. R. Dew, a senior official of the Foreign Office, noted at the time: “A disproportionate amount of the time of the Office is wasted on dealing with these wailing Jews.” J.S. Bennett, the senior civil servant for Jewish immigration at the Colonial Office, read eye-witness reports from concentration camps and remarked: “Familiar stuff. The Jews have spoilt their case by laying it on too thick for years past.” Britain declared war on Germany for principally economic reasons: Hitler’s policy of German expansion and imperialism directly threatened the previous European power structure and the trade interests of the British and French capitalists. In the final analysis, it was to defend propertied interests, and not democracy, that the Second World War was fought.

It’s their country
Patriotism is not natural. You may have been born in Britain but it is unlikely that you, or anyone else, came crying into the world with an innate, instinctual admiration for the Pennines, Prince Philip, fish and chips or the English language. However, if by the time you are adult the schools, churches and mass media have done a good job, you will have been persuaded to show great loyalty to “your” country, sometimes to the point of dying for it.

Perhaps it can be said that if a child is weaned on a particular style of food, acquires a single language and grows up in a particular national environment with particular customs, it would be natural to expect it to wish to continue living in that culture. Obviously in a democracy people would be able to opt for this sort of a life; the point is that now most people have this lifestyle—cramped with poverty foisted upon them.

What do they mean when they say we should have a loyalty to our country in preference to others? Workers have no country; we own none of Britain. We have nothing here worth fighting for. The only significant division between people does not relate to where they are born but to whether they are part of the small minority who together own and control almost all of the wealth of society, or whether they are part of the vast majority who produce and service all social wealth but own and control next to nothing of it.

Patriotism is inculcated into members of the wealth producing class to create an illusion that all inhabitants of a certain, arbitrarily delineated area of the earth, owners and non-owners alike, have a common “national” interest. This way, whenever the owners based in one country wish to have their economic interests protected against the expansion of their rivals, or perhaps when they want some enforced expansion themselves, the majority class (whose lot, apart from running society from top to bottom, includes the dirty work of war) will be prepared to fight “for the national interest”.

According to a Defence White Paper recently released by the Japanese government, “the Japanese people should cultivate a greater patriotic awareness and willingness to support the armed forces”. It says that it should be the duty of the government to instil in the Japanese a sense of patriotism which is defined as “a willingness to cooperate in defending the country in a national emergency”. That is, to butcher other workers if there is to be a show down between Japanese industrialists and their foreign rivals. While the Defence Ministry is repeating these exhortations the government is revising the school textbooks so that they contain greater emphasis on patriotism.

Shopping with Woolies
Woolworths is normally thought of as the leading supplier of cheap, shoddy goods to those who produce all the wealth of society, and therefore, according to capitalist logic, must remain relatively poor. But the pennies in the cash registers soon add up, and when Woolworths goes shopping, it doesn’t do it on the cheap. They have just spent £20 million buying the Dodge City chain of DIY stores. Of this, £17 million will go into the pocket of Richard Northcott. In 1974, Northcott inherited a chain of wallpaper and paint shops from his father. A few years later, by employing wage- and salary- earners who gave more than they got (like all workers do), he doubled his money and is now a multi-millionaire. We have just one complaint: the whole world is run expressly for the benefit of a minority. If something is not profitable to them (such as feeding hungry people who have no money to pay) then it will not take place; if something is profitable (such as pollution, thalidomide, neutron bombs and wage cuts) then such things will be produced. That is our only complaint.

Clifford Slapper