The Passing Show column from the April 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard
LESSON IN DEMOCRACY FROM MOSCOW
Radio Moscow may fairly be described as the mouthpiece of the Russian Government. At times in the recent past, I have tuned in and listened to the ‘news’ bulletins in English, being a mixture of talk about Soviet achievements and abuse hurled at the Western Powers, particularly the ‘American Beasts’. Now because of a new threat in the shape of China, there has been a bit of a thaw in the cold war, and if Mao and his boys got really troublesome, we could well see the ‘Soviet Bear’ doing a deal with the ‘American Beasts’ to defeat the ‘Yellow Hordes’. Then, no doubt, the programmes from Radio Moscow would assume a more dulcet tone.
For the time being, however (and until told to do otherwise), the station beams its propaganda westwards, although perhaps there is a little more restraint in the presentation of the programmes. One of our members has been having a bit of an argument with the station over its misuse of words like ‘Socialism’, ‘democracy’ etc., and has sent me a copy script of one of their programmes called ‘Let’s Talk it Over’, which was broadcast towards the end of last year.
This is a discussion between two men, Kuprianov and Martynov, on the vexed question of democracy, and contains the usual platitudes such as: ‘All men are born with the right to have their own thoughts and to express those thoughts’ or . . . ‘Democracy implies power.’ It adds nothing to our knowledge of the subject and in fact contains suggestions fraught with danger to the working class. For instance, there is a sneer about the traditional right of assembly in Hyde Park with the words: ‘Such Freedom of speech can change nothing’. Which leads Kuprianov to say that Hitler rose to power ' . . . not because he succeeded in persuading anyone in his street corner harangues but because he was spotted by such men as the Ruhr magnates.’
Now it is true that Hitler made a bid for the support of powerful German industrialists, but it is equally true that he would have been nowhere without millions of workers’ votes in his pocket. This was the lesson he learned well when his earlier attempts to seize power landed him in gaol. And after he was safely in the saddle, he made sure that he had a powerful propaganda machine working day and night to bolster him; he also took good care to suppress democratic institutions, free speech, and so on. Why bother to do this if they did not represent a threat to his position, if in fact they ‘can change nothing’?
And for the same reason, although it is true there have been some relaxations, why does the Soviet political set-up still forbid the existence of more than one party, and make it pretty hot for those who do not toe the line? The speakers do not attempt to pose or answer either of these questions. They are too busy telling lies about Russia being a democracy and talking of the ‘real freedom’ of the Soviet workers (whatever that may mean). According to Kuprianov and Martynov, Russia is the ‘youngest (democracy) in existence’. What a sickly child it must be. then.
RACIAL PREJUDICE SOCIETY
The Racial Preservation Society (or ’Society for the Preservation of all Races’, to give its revised name), looks like getting itself into legal trouble, according to The Times of 6.3.67. Copies of one of its papers Southern News have been sent to the Attorney General for possible prosecution under the Race Relations Act 1966—that pathetic attempt by the Labour Government to illegalise the very prejudices to which they themselves had pandered only a few months before. Copies of another of the Society’s papers The British Independent have reached us recently. They are more subtle in their arguments than those of some of the other racialists.
Not for them the crudeness of the ‘nigger hater’. They are concerned to preserve the races as God created them ‘in all their infinite variety and beauty’ —whatever that may mean. To back up their argument, they reproduce front page pictures of two beautiful children, one English and the other Nigerian. ‘The need for racial preservation’, they say. ‘can best be illustrated by the fact that one cannot un-mongrelise a mongrel race.’ Now the precise point of that escapes us at the moment but we do know that if they want to preserve the purity of the ‘English Race’, they’ve got just about the most crazy mixed-up mongrel of the lot.
They deny they are racially prejudiced, yet go to some length to blame coloured people for almost every social evil under the sun. Their issue No. 1 of Spring last year for instance, lists such problems as murder, rape, prostitution and vice, robbery, bad housing and venereal diseases. At that time also they were running an opinion poll on their ideas, with a loaded questionnaire.
Racial prejudice still does not seem to have got more than a large toe-hold in Britain, and therefore the RPS is regarded generally as something of a bad joke. However, the danger lies not only in the ideas it propagates, but also in the simulated respectability and humaneness with which it clothes them (‘repatriation on generous terms’ is one of their slogans), so that usually quite tolerant workers could be persuaded at least that there is no harm in supporting them. And so long as that is happening, the growth of Socialist ideas will be severely hampered.