1980s >> 1982 >> no-930-february-1982

Running Commentary: Back to the Front

Back to the Front
Racialist propaganda does not come exclusively from forthright racialist outfits like the National Front. A far more menacing and insidious variety often comes from “respectable” sources and for that reason is not always recognised for what it is. During the trial, last month, of the editor of Bulldog, the Young National Front magazine, for publishing articles which were likely to incite racial hatred, some interesting information was revealed.The articles in question included phrases urging the “white” population in Britain to “drive the immigrant invaders out of the country” and put an end to the British way of life being “swamped”. The editor was being prosecuted under the Public Order Act, 1936 for making “threatening, abusive and insulting” comments. A surprise was in store for some when David Martin-Sperry, defending the Bulldog editor, rose to inform the court that the comments should be regarded as acceptable as they had been lifted, hardly altered, from the national press.

Martin-Sperry read out original versions of some of the articles which had appeared in the Daily Express, and then went on to say to the jury, “And don’t be put off by words like ‘swamp’. They’ve been used by the Prime Minister”. He later attempted to claim further credibility for the general policies advocated in Bulldog by pointing out that other political parties shared its belief in the need for import controls and immigration control. We wonder whether members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which has promoted both of these policies, will rally to the support of the fascists and give evidence to the English courts on the worthiness of such political measures?

Vive le Socialisme
If you believe the news bulletins and the papers then you will consider socialism to exist in France. How you would square your belief with various items of news from that country, we cannot be sure.

One person who probably isn’t all that bothered what political labels you attach to the French society is Marcel Dassault. He is usually known as France’s “most active capitalist”, and looking at some of his more recent exploits you can see why. Dassault, reputed to be the richest man in France, has just gone into partnership with a state company, after buying a 20 per cent share in Europe One, the continent’s largest commercial radio station, which is effectively controlled by a French state company.

Described on the French bourse as “the biggest share deal of the century”, Dassault will be hoping that his new investment, which carries with it interests in Tele-Monte-Carlo, several publications and a record company, will greatly boost his already gigantic unearned income.

If Marcel laughs himself into a fit when he hears people talking about socialism in France, then so must Yvon Gattaz, the new leader of the French Bosses Council. He has just concluded a deal with President Mitterand and the French unions and announced that he was pleased to find “that employers’ aims were the same as those of the government”. The most important feature of the trilateral agreement was that the unions had agreed to moderation in all their wage claims. Although the shared aims of the bosses and government were not explicitly stated a critical observer might describe the situation as ‘screwing the workers for the maximum profit’.

Before we leave France, just a couple of comments worth noting from Bernard Brune, the Minister for Social Affairs. Speaking about his new plans to fight climbing unemployment Brune said: “If all works well we shall have fulfilled our promise to keep unemployment stable at 2,000,000 this year” (Guardian, 8/1/82). Then on the subject of carrying the support of the bosses for his job training centre strategies, he proudly stated: “The employers are beginning to realise we are not a lot of bolshevists or a bunch of crackpots. We mean serious business”. And “serious business” is, of course, exactly what he does mean.

God Help Us!
“Trust in the Lord and Sleep in the Street” is an old saying that his Holiness the Pope would not thank you for repeating. As a devout Christian he presumably believes that material matters in life are of less importance than ‘spiritual wellbeing’ and that your destiny is ultimately in the hands of that mysterious thing called god.

If we are humble and docile and meek, so the story goes, everything will be all right and we shall “inherit the earth”. F’or someone with such entrenched faith in the powers of beneficent extraterrestrial forces, Pope John Paul places an unusual reliance on down-to-earth man-made modern medical treatment. The Vatican has just had to pay £22,482 for the 77 days the Pope spent in hospital following the attempt on his life last May. We wonder whether it was this medical treatment which was responsible for saving the Pope’s life or divine intervention brought about by the prayers uttered to the skies by Catholics throughout the world?

Now that the Pope has recovered, we learn (Sunday Times, 3/1 /82) that he is to make his debut as a West End playwright next spring. The dramatic piece written by the Supreme Pontiff as a younger man is entitled The Jeweller’s Shop and examines attitudes about love and marriage. There were internal difficulties in persuading the Vatican to release the right, as catholic director Mike Murray explained: “The problem was that the Pope cannot be seen to be entering the commercial arena”.

The author’s royalty will now be paid to the Vatican. Murray went on to elucidate: “There is nothing wrong with profit in the context of faith. Mediaeval tradesmen used to pin up a sign on their stalls which read: ‘For God and for profit’. That’s the trouble, capitalism without God is hopeless”. So the unemployed and the homeless and the thirty million people who are likely to die of starvation this year and those who are simply sick of being exploited can all take comfort in knowing that the only thing missing from their lives to make capitalism pleasant, is God.

 

Any More Fares?
The Greater London Council’s experiment with cheap public transport, soon to fade away in a puff of diesel fumes, has been depicted in the media as a personal feud between Ken Livingstone and Lord Denning. All the clichés, however, obscure the real issues as effectively as an old-fashioned London smog.

 

High density urban living and modern commercial and industrial practice require that vast numbers of workers travel from their homes to their places of work at set times, and then travel back again approximately eight hours later. The means of transporting this army must be effective and reliable so as not to disrupt the profit-making process. The argument is really about how the total cost of transporting workers about is to be divided between different sections of the owning class, each of course wanting to reap the greatest benefit at the least possible expense.

 

The history of the bickerings over whether public transport should be made to pay for itself or be subsidised shows up party politics for the sham they really are. Ken Livingstone, the “red extremist”, turns decidedly pink (or is it grey) when compared to John Szemery, a Tory councillor on the Tory controlled GLC of 1970. Szemery wrote:

 

   It is six years since I first proposed to Conservative Central Office that public transport in London should be provided free as a public service financed jointly from the Exchequer and from the rates. With all the resultant savings in manpower and machinery, increased mobility of labour and utilisation of public transport and reduction in travel by private car, I still think there is a good case for this. (North London Press, 6 February, 1970.)

 

Szemery’s Labour opponents in Islington challenged him to say that he stood for a rate increase to make travel free on all London Transport buses and underground trains. Obviously pandering to what they thought were popular prejudices against the idea. All change please!

 

Our Winston

In a speech at Guildhall in November 1914, Winston Churchill said: “The maxim of the British people is ‘Business as usual’.” Even from his earliest days young Winston must have had a clear understanding of exactly what ‘business as usual’ means in a class-divided society, and why for a minority there is every reason to try to convince the majority that the present order of society is worth preserving even at the cost of “blood, toil, tears and sweat”.

 

On 4 January this year the Public Records Office made available the census returns for 1881 and from them we find that our Winston, aged 6 and described as a scholar, was living with his parents at St. James Place in Pall Mall. His next door neighbour was Earl Spencer (occupation: Peer and Lord President of the Council).

 

The Spencers had 31 servants in residence, while Lord Egremont ‘next door’ on the other side only had thirteen. The Churchills had to scrape by with a mere eight servants, including the butler, the nursery maid and the cook. Hard times indeed, but he and his friends seemed to get a fair whack out of capitalism. What was it he once said, “Never in the history of class struggle has so much been taken from so many by so few”?

 

Gary Jay