50 Years Ago: Take Over

Sunday is supposed to be the day of rest and church-going. In fact, it is the day when about ten million British people excite themselves by reading in the News of the World all about sex sins of famous actresses and obscure country vicars.

The paper recently described itself as ‘as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding’ and perhaps, in a way, that is true. Little wonder, then, that when Pergamon Press launched its takeover bid the fight for the shares was a matter of popular concern.

It was one of the hardest fought of all takeovers. The News of the World warned darkly that ‘Mr. Robert Maxwell, a Socialist M.P., is trying to take . . . over’ and was careful enough to remind its readers that Maxwell (who was responsible for the Back Britain campaign) was ‘formerly Jan Ludwig Hoch.’

The NOW, it was clear, thought that the worst thing that could happen to British workers would be to have their favourite Sunday scandal sheet taken over by a naturalised Labour M.P.

Maxwell himself has never been famous for a reluctance to join the in-fighting. His delicate description of the man who defeated him — Australian newspaper owner Rupert Murdoch — was ‘motheaten kangaroo’, and after the shareholders’ votes had gone against him he (of all people) mourned that ‘the law of the jungle has won.’

These dignified exchanges should be remembered, the next time Maxwell, or the News of the World, complain about the alleged childishness of striking workers. In the meantime, let us extricate ourselves from the mire of the battle between rival capitalists so anxious to protect their bank balances and take a look at the real issue.

Modern capitalism is a society of unrelenting insecurity and poverty. Such is the degradation of its people that millions of them greedily swallow the muck dished out by rags like the News of the World.

It pays to produce this muck. The real issue is not who owns the muck-making machine, but what about the nature of a society which makes it worthwhile to produce it, and which stimulates the need for it?

(Socialist Standard, February 1969)