The So They Say Column from the January 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Boys on the Bandwagon
If every expression of moral indignation were worth a pound, many politicians would be wealthy people. This is merely a notion, most of the politicians manage well enough for other reasons. But a showing of respectable dissociation from the latest social skeleton to emerge forms a part of the repertoire. The stimulus need not be a new one. Frequently it is not. The current “scandalous” discovery has political hypocrites of all colours expressing dismay by the bucketful.
More than 3,000 patients in the terminal stages of kidney failure die every year because the treatment which could save them is not available, it was stated yesterday.
Daily Telegraph, 30th November 1977
An all-party deputation of MPs and Peers is now calling upon Mr. Ennals, the Social Services Secretary, to remedy this state of affairs. But what do they expect him to do?
In early November a government offer to supply kidney machines to six regional health authorities was rejected by five of them “on cost grounds”—the running costs of the machines would have worked out at £64,000 a year for each authority. The chairman of the British Kidney Patient Association described the rejections as “immoral” as do the self-righteous MPs. The fact that Mr. Ennals’ department is putting pressure on regional health authorities to curb spending, has nothing to do with them.
Poland has been much in the news following the signing of a ship-building order with Britain in November. This caused a spate of newspaper reports on the country; in turn these remind us that the Poles refer to themselves as “communists”. In fact their society exhibits the characteristics which, in other countries, are accurately referred to as capitalistic. It is amazing what effect a national boundary can have on the labelling processes employed by newspapers— a process they occasionally refer to as analysis.
On the domestic scene, the drive towards a consumer society has slowed down. Continuing inflation, shoddy goods, shortages of certain products and, in particular, a chronic lack of meat characterize the consumer’s lot.
The Times, 24th November 1977
It was the latter aspect which caught our eye; reading further we found “People do not understand why, in a meat-exporting country, meat is scarce”. Readers wishing to learn the answer to this remarkable riddle arc invited to enquire at any of our meetings.
The Italian Connection
The visit of the Polish leader, Mr. Gierek, to the Vatican in early December illustrates how the so-called marxists seem to have forgotten what Marx said about religion. Or have they? He called it the opium of the people and the Polish leaders, like any other capitalist leaders, have learned that a pipe dream can have its uses. When it is considered that of thirty-five million Poles, thirty-three million are Catholics, the church clearly presents a formidable propaganda outlet.
At the time of the food price riots in Poland last year, the Catholic church issued a call for "solid work” and “sacrifices for the common good” from the Polish people. They also called for the government “to cease its oppression of workers who took part in anti-government protests”. The government, as The Times of 29th November puts it, “did not play fair” however and only gave publicity to the first part of the message. The “common good” representing the pipe dream. With indications that there are further price increases to come, bringing with them the likelihood of protests and disorder, Mr. Gierek has been obliged to ensure that there will be an adequate supply of opium of government approved quality.
Mr. Gierek’s visit was the first by a leader of the Polish party to the Vatican. This in itself would have given it high importance. It has certainly shown the extent of the need felt by the Polish government for some degree of collaboration in Poland from the Catholic hierarchy.
The Times, 2nd December 1977
Up until recently we were under the impression that all the parties of capitalism claimed at least, that they would introduce justice and fair play. The phrases are sufficiently ambiguous and pleasant sounding to be considered as key-stones in any respectable manifesto. In the forefront stood the Labour Party. It was extremely common knowledge that the working man and woman could expect justice and fair play from them in incalculable quantities.
We say the working man because these worthy aims were offered exclusively to him. The non-working man, the capitalist, manages well enough on material posession to require much ethereal property. But the Labour Party has now unearthed a difficulty: Mr. Callaghan has lost the way.
I ceased to worship free collective bargaining more than 10 years ago. There is nothing new about that. I went to the TUC Congress and said that. Collective bargaining is not a means of obtaining justice or fair play, but at the moment I do not know of a better system.
The Times, 2nd December 1977
This is quite a problem. Mr. Callaghan will have to work on it. More likely though that he and the rest of them will do what they have always done, and sleep on it instead.