Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Passing Show: African Edition (1960)

The Passing Show column from the March 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Don't do as I do
Sir Roy Welensky has made the point several times recently that African politicians in the Rhodesian Federation must not presume to aspire to the Premiership. For example, in a statement reported in The Times (18/1/60) Sir Roy said: “Ambitious African leaders wanted a break-up of the Federation because it would mean fulfilment of their personal ambitions to be Prime Ministers and Ministers of black States."

Socialists have their own opinions about "ambitious African leaders," or about ambitious leaders of any nationality. But if anyone can lecture others about their "personal ambitions to be Prime Ministers," surely Sir Roy Welensky can't. He used to be Premier of Southern Rhodesia, and is now Prime Minister of the Rhodesian Federation. Another case, it seems, of "Don't do as I do, do as I say.”

Capital is safe
Any capitalist who is still dubious about the new independent capitalist states now being set up throughout Africa can take heart from a letter written by Sir Robert Kirkwood which appeared in The Times of 27/1/60. Sir Robert, writing from Jamaica, points out that: “When I first came here, 20 years ago, the average white Jamaican openly and vociferously argued, and genuinely believed, that the “black man" was quite incapable of running the country. And even conservative coloured and black Jamaicans averred that universal adult suffrage could never work here."

But the British ruling class decided to set up the West Indies as an independent federation. The result has been a great development of capitalism. As the letter says: "More economic progress has been achieved in the short time since Jamaicans elected under universal adult suffrage took over the Government than in the previous century."

Even capital owned by Europeans is quite safe: “Nor have I ever detected that our politicians' felt the slightest inclination to penalize capital of any description going about its legitimate business."

The “legitimate business" of capital being, of course, to wring surplus value out of the workers. Sir Robert warns of the dangers of thwarting the "rightful ambitions" of the native ruling class:
I am certain that most of our present West Indian leaders, who have earned general commendation from Europeans resident in these parts, as well as in their missions abroad, would have been capable. only a few years ago. of leading revolutions, bloody revolutions, if their rightful ambitions to govern in their own homes had been indefinitely and unreasonably deferred.
The letter goes on to assure fainthearts that the African nationalists, too, only wish to develop capitalism in their own countries:
Although I nave not visited Africa myself. experienced and reliable Jamaican friends of mine who know the leaders in Kenya. Nyasaland. the Rhodesias. etc., tell me that most of these men. though dedicated and even fanatical nationalists, are, for the most part, far from holding radical views in economic matters. My friends consider that once elected to power these men would seek advice and assistance, and govern with a sense of responsibility and attention to what is best for the, economic, development of their respective homelands.
It is obvious that Sir Robert Kirkwood, at least, does not see any danger to capitalism when formerly colonial countries become independent.

Diamonds thicker than dogma
The diamond producers of the Western world let the Central Selling Organisation of the De Beers group of companies handle virtually all their diamonds: thus this South African concern is able to maintain high prices and high profits for the shareholders of the diamond companies. The Observer (24/1/60) called it “one of the most efficient organisations for resale price maintenance that capitalism has yet produced." But recently the Russians discovered large new deposits of diamonds in north-cast Siberia and in the northern Urals. It was feared that once the exploitation of these new mines got under way, the Russians would export their surpluses, and undercut De Beers organisation. This would mean a slump in prices and in profits. But now all is well. The Russians have agreed to let the Central Selling Organisation market all the diamonds they export to the Western world.

As The Guardian says (19/1/60): "The agreement to channel these sales entirely through the De Beers organisation shows that the Soviet authorities have no intention of underselling South Africa, but intend to fall in with the price maintenance arrangements of the African producers in order to get the best possible returns.” So the Russian and the South African capitalists join hands to safeguard their surplus value.

Publicity
The recent banning by South Africa of a number of the SPGB's pamphlets has led to a certain amount of publicity for the party there. An article appeared in the Johannesburg Star on November 3rd. 1959. There are the sneers which one might expect when a capitalist paper deals with a Socialist Party, but at least the article contained the following:
The SPGB believes in no war. no leaders, no bosses, no capitalism, and no Soviet Communism. It believes in the common ownership of the means of produring and distributing the world's goods, and does not believe that Russia or China any more than the United States or Britain have achieved this.
Free publicity for the Socialist Party can hardly have been one of the results the South African Nationalists aimed at when they clamped their censorship down on our pamphlets.

Intermingling
You may not be interested in boxing, but it could hardly have escaped your attention last summer that a certain Ingemar Johansson had taken the world's heavyweight title from the previous holder, Floyd Patterson. The South African government believes, however, that such knowledge as this would be seditious for all except the white population of South Africa. As it was reported in the Johannesburg Star (14/7/59):
Non-whites arc not allowed to see any film containing "scenes of intermingling of Europeans and non-Europeans.'' That is why non-whites have been banned from seeing the film now circulating of the recent Johannson-Patterson world heavy-weight title fight. Johannson is white, hut Patterson is a negro. So the film cannot he screened at all in non-white cinemas. And in those where non-whites may sit in the gallery and whites in the stalls, the non-whites have to wait outside until this newsreel ends before taking their seats.
If the South African government really thinks that this will keep the coloured population ignorant of the fact that a black man and a white man fought for the title, they must be well out of touch with reality.
Alwyn Edgar

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