Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Passing Show: Dull and repetitive (1959)

The Passing Show Column from the December 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Well-being Promoters, Ltd.
In an article in The Times (Oct. 30th) a discovery was announced which should receive widespread publicity. This is it: “ The purpose of industry is to promote the well-being of the nation." Those of you who thought the purpose of industry was to make a profit out of the labour of the workers in it were, of course, quite wrong. Shareholders do not invest money in a company in order to receive interest on it, but merely to promote the well-being of the nation. Those accounts one reads in the newspapers, of company meetings at which shareholders shout and jeer, baying for the blood of the chairman merely because the company is paying less interest than was expected, are merely flagrant cases of misreporting. What actually happens, it is now clear, is that the chairman comes in and says: "Dear fellow-shareholders, this year we decided that the well-being of the nation would best be promoted by paying our workers the full value of what they produce. This, unfortunately, means that we didn't get any surplus value out of them, so there is no profit, and there will be no interest paid out on the shares." The shareholders then give three hearty cheers for the chairman, sing “Land of Hope and Glory." and go out to queue for jobs at the nearest Labour Exchange.

At any rate, that’s what must happen if we believe the Times article.

Dull and repetitive
The author of the article is said to write ” from experience as foreman and assistant works manager." But even this apologist for capitalism feels compelled to write: "Ninety-nine jobs out of a hundred in factories even today arc dull, repetitive, often physically very tiring, and frequently dirty." Socialists have said this over and over again: but when a man who goes so far in defence of capitalism as to deny even that it is run for profit, when he says this about the conditions of factory labour, then it must carry all the more weight.

Second thoughts
"Yesterday's Enemy" is a recently- produced British film about the British army lighting the Japanese in Burma during the last year. A review in the Daily Herald (14.9.59) describes a sequence in it: —
A British captain  . . .  has captured an informer who, he believes, has vital knowledge of a forthcoming Japanese attack. He threatens the informer with death, but the informer thinks the captain is bluffing and refuses to talk. The captain picks two villagers at random and orders them to be shot. The informer still refuses to talk. The villagers are shot and then the informer breaks down. The captain has his information.
The captain follows up his murder of two innocent villagers by having the informer shot, as well.

Remembering the propaganda with which we were spoon-fed in the last war, about how we were lighting for decency and humanity against the brutality of the other side, you might think that nothing like this could ever have been done by anyone in the British army. But not a bit of it. Major-General A. J. H. Snelling, who was with the 14th Army in Burma said: “I believe incidents like this did happen during the grim retreat.” General Sir Douglas Gracey said: “I heard of similar incidents . . . These awkward situations did arise.” Major-General H. L. Davies said: “This film is absolutely real and authentic.” A fourth high-ranking officer. General Sir Robert Mansergh, was due to speak the film’s praises at its New York premiere.

Very honest of them, now, fourteen years after the war has ended. And no one alleges that war can he fought with clean hands. Bill why did the politicians and generals tell us throughout the war that all the brutality was on the other side?

Morality first stop
To alleviate the distresses of the Indian people alter the recent disastrous floods in India, the Minister for Labour sent out a special train on a “character-building tour.” The Guardian (19.9.59). It carried fifty Himalayan holy men, complete with live hundred disciples. The leader of the party announced: We are going to our countryrmen with a begging bowl, but not to ask alms but a pledge to give up vice.” The cause of the floods, then, is revealed: the gods arc punishing India for its “vice.” But whose vice? The floods could hardly have been expected to catch any Indian princes or industrialists, who would have their private planes available, and some of whom in any case would be sunning themselves at that time on the Riviera. It must be the vice of the Indian masses which caused all the trouble. The gods appear to have taken the ruling class view that all misfortunes arc caused by the troublesomeness of the rank-and-file. This won’t surprise Socialists, who have realised for a long lime that the gods arc hand-in-glove with the ruling class.

Well, there it is. The Indian Minister for Labour has seen where the trouble lies. If only the Indian peasants can lay off the palm-wine on Saturday nights, next year the Brahmaputra may stay within its banks!
Alwyn Edgar

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