From the March 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard
The following letter was sent by a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain to the “Borehamwood Post”, stating the Socialist attitude to a question which appears from time to time.
Your correspondent, Mr. A. J. Carnall, in a letter to your paper of January 23rd 1975 makes a plea for the take-over, by the Government, of the Film Industry. His main argument in support of this seems to be his opinion that (contrary to the belief held by some people) the Government in this event would not dictate what kind of films would be produced and that creative and artistic freedom would not be restricted. He then goes on to give what he claims are examples of this in those areas where the Government are at the present time in control.
Under the conditions of the present-day capitalist society the principal object for the production of films or, for that matter, the production of almost everything else in other fields of human endeavour, is to make a profit for that group in society who own the means of production, the capitalist class. Mr. Carnall says that the entertainment industry is a necessary social service. With the same kind of logic so is every other industry including, for example, the arms manufacturing industry, which, although it performs a social service, does not produce anything useful to society, on the contrary it produces harmful weapons of destruction. It is, of course, a matter of personal opinion as to whether the Film Industry falls into this category.
The reason for government nationalization of certain industries in those countries like Britain where capitalism is operated under what is referred to as a mixed economy, is not for the purpose of providing a better social service, as such, but to ensure that the surplus-value-producing machinery of the whole national capitalist class continues to exploit the working class with the maximum possible efficiency.
The Labour Government of 1945 had this in mind when they nationalized the railways and mines etc. Whether or not they were successful depends upon the individual opinion and attitude of those who attempt to make an assessment. Most certainly it did nothing to fundamentally change the social position of the workers employed in those industries, or for the working class generally.
Mr. Carnall says that the Arts Council administers millions of pounds in subsidizing opera and ballet. Quite true; this is an area of human endeavour which the Government considers to be useful in creating a good international image, like the monarchial institution which is maintained for the same reason. However it does not alter the fact that the people who are engaged as dancers and singers who have to attain, over a period of intense training of about ten years, a very high degree of performance, receive wages which, apart from a few star performers, and in spite of the efforts of Equity, and the pretensions of the government-sponsored administrations, are abysmally low by any standards.
Mr. Carnall implies that the BBC exercises little or no discrimination in relation to programme content, strange implication to make when even the mighty leader of the Labour Party claimed that they did — in spite of the fact that the Labour, Tory and Liberal spokesmen were hardly ever off the BBC during the last election. The fact is that minority political parties get little, or no time, on the BBC even during election times.
In relation to the restriction, by governments, of artistic and creative freedom, the classic examples of this are to be found in those countries, like Russia, where state capitalism predominates. Some of us have read other literature besides Soviet Weekly, and most people are aware of the incidents of defection, and what led up to them, by the Nureyevs, Panovs, etc., from the state-controlled Kirov and Bolshoi ballet companies.
Mr. Carnall makes no mention of this, which is understandable, since he is a member of the Communist Party, an organisation which ever since they formed in 1920 has slavishly applauded and apologized for everything the Russian government did.
Of course sections of the capitalist class in Britain, and elsewhere, teetering on the edge of a possible world-wide stagnation, with some of them facing bankruptcy are only too pleased for the Government or the workers to “pull the chestnuts out of the fire” for them. Even the Tories, who over the years
have falsely claimed to have had some objection in principle to nationalization, would not be opposed to that.
Nationalization of the entertainments industry, or of any other industry, will do nothing to solve the problems engendered by capitalist society. If Mr. Carnall was really concerned about the problems created by capitalism, of which the crisis in the film industry is only a small part, then instead of making a plea for state capitalism he should be advocating the introduction of world-wide Socialism, a classless, moneyless system based upon common ownership and production for use, democratically controlled by the whole of the world’s population. But then this solution would be inimical to his Party line with its blind support of the Russian ruling class, and would necessitate him doing some real thinking on this matter for a change. This, however, would probably be too much to expect from a man of his generation.
H. D. Walters
(Employed at E.M.I. Elstree Studios)
Note: The third and fourth paragraphs from the end were omitted when this appeared in the “Borehamwood Post”.