Thursday, March 2, 2017

Reflections (1951)

From the January 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the declaration of Peace in 1945 the “ brave new world ” has been conspicuous by its absence. A brief survey of these post-war years to the present day daunts even the most optimistic nature. Many trusting thousands who built hopes of world peace on U.N.O. have been sadly disillusioned. This truly august body with world-wide ramifications was inaugurated five years ago to ensure Peace, even if it meant fighting for it! (Reminiscent of the Irishman who was determined to pull out the cork even if he had to push it in.) Moving ponderously like a Heath Robinson cartoon in slow motion it cut a ridiculous figure during its early years, as wars of varying degree and intensity broke out over the globe like the pimples on the face of an adolescent youth. Creaking and groaning in every joint it lumbered majestically through mandates, amendments,, vetos, adjournments and so on ad infinitum, also giving birth to a few offspring. Its predecessor the League of Nations, that puling infant of the 1914 war which failed so lamentably to justify its existence, was “small fry” in comparison for in the latest outbreak in Korea U.N.O. shapes up as a powerful instrument for war, revealing the mustering and reshuffling of the various Powers for the third large scale "War-to-end-all-Wars,” now openly discussed in Press and on radio. Under the much publicised banner of U.N.O. thousands of soldiers in Korea kill and are killed, with the ever increasing horrors of modern warfare. Once again we hear on the radio the familiar reports of "saturation” raids, and know that thousands of civilians are being pounded to injury and death in the dust and ashes of their homes. The latest weapon against tanks, annihilates at a “near miss of 200 yards” in a ball of fire. What further horrors will war bring forth? The Korean war is the straw which points the direction of the deadly blasts yet to come, prelude to an act to be “played” no-one knows when, with America and Soviet Russia in the leading roles, each dragging satellite nations in their wake into the maelstrom of Atomic Warfare. The Nazi bogey has been long since hauled down and now the Red Menace hoisted. The vacillations of the Japanese character can be likened to an oscillating electric fan. In 1914 they were our "staunch little Far East Allies.” In 1940 sub-human and bestial brutes, and now they aren't such bad fellows after all, depending of course on which side they line up when the next holocaust arrives.

In the industrial world strikes and labour unrest are the order of the day. Colour-bar troubles splutter intermittently but ominously in America and S. Africa. In India the workers are discovering that “self government” makes not one iota of difference to their miserable conditions and it is immaterial whether British or native capitalists exploit them. At home the post-war years have been punctuated by exhortations to “work harder, produce more, close the gap and save more.” Expanding prices shrink the value of wage packets. Some relaxations in the rationing system bring no relief as many cannot afford the extra cash involved. The housewife plods her weary way, her mind rarely able to rise above the level of the next meal or the weekly budget The monotony of her daily round finds its counterpart in the treadmill of the wage earner himself. Housing shortages result in overcrowding and “in-law” troubles breaking up hundreds of young marriages. Some live under almost unbelievable conditions in slums and cellars herded together like cattle.

The bebop fans and bobby soxers are a product of the age, craving excitement, living for today, subconsciously dreading the hardships and insecurity of a future they fear to face. The origin of crimes is rooted in the system. A miserable environment engenders hatred for a social system that hands out a raw deal. During war thousands are educated to violence and sudden death, trained in the arts of killing and to “get the better of the other fellow.” But in "peace” those lessons must be forgotten or it means the "8 o’clock walk,” not a medal.

In spite of crusades and special efforts to retain its place in the public eye religion is fighting a losing battle. It can prescribe no cure-all for this ailing world or indeed for itself. Even as they chant like the savages in the jungle whom they would self-righteously wish to convert, the staunchest of its followers must find difficulty in reconciling the idea of a merciful and loving God with the world as it is to-day. Its advocates distract attention from the substance of everyday life and. must surely deny themselves the luxury of thinking when they offer the shadow of a mythical future existence.

The pacifist sees the evils of war but not the cause and so is unable to propound the solution.

After over five years of Labour Government even its most enthusiastic supporters must realise that it is not by any means “jam today,” or to-morrow for that matter. Their programme differs only in the main from the Tory’s in regard to Nationalisation, which does not concern the interests of the workers. The National Health Scheme and Family Allowances were Beveridge’s babies, the Labour Government merely adopted them. Unfortunately the idea is quite prevalent that “Socialism” is in the making and this mishandling of the word does incalculable harm to the socialist movement. The Labour Government cannot function in the interests of the workers. It can only try to cope with the ever increasing problems of a capitalist society as they arise, blaming post war conditions, and appealing to the workers for cooperation. There are, however, signs that the workers patience is beginning to fray round the edges.

Leaping back over the past five years and reflecting on the present day we say "a brave new world indeed.” Over the whole of it broods the threat of Atomic warfare, inevitable while this vicious and effete system of Society stands, automatically breeding wars, poverty and untold misery. Only the apathy and political ignorance of the workers steady this palsied and tottering edifice. It is up to them to rouse their comrades and beat the Atom bomb with the establishment of a sane system of Society.
F. M. Robins

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

F. M. Robins was the daughter of longstanding Socialist Standard contributor, F. Foan.