Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Passing Show: Sons of Peace (1965)

The Passing Show Column from the September 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sons of Peace
We have only to mention such names as Berlin, Korea, Suez, Lebanon and 'Cuba, to recognise something they all have in common. All of them have at some time or other been trigger spots over which an extra large squabble has threatened something even bigger and more horrifying. At the time of writing, Vietnam is the current trigger spot and even the most ignorant must be aware of the slaughter which is going on there.

President Johnson has announced that the U.S. forces will be increased by fifty thousand men—“We are not going to be pushed out of Vietnam”, he says with cold-blooded frankness. His move, we can be sure, will be matched by the Vietcong and their supporters, and the situation moves one step further up the escalator.

But you may or may not have noticed the hypocrisy that gushes to the surface at a time like this. Nobody likes going out to war, but once it starts it’s difficult to stop, so there’s plenty of political prestige for the capitalist politician of perhaps a smaller “uncommitted” power if he can convince people that he has been responsible for putting a stop to the fighting. It’s a bandwagon which rolls merrily along, pausing only briefly between blood baths, and the assortment of individuals clambering aboard is bizarre indeed.

You may recall Korea, for example, and the appeals of the Indian government for a cessation of the hostilities—the very power which had gone to war only a few years before with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. Since then Goa and the Rann of Kutch have been added to the nasty little list of “incidents” over which the Indian rulers have used force to push their interests, but these have not prevented the late Mr. Nehru, and his successor Mr. Shastri, from posing as peaceful mediators when some of the bigger powers have squabbled.

Perhaps you can think of any number of other examples, but to bring you up to date, the bandwagon has a new passenger. The Guardian of August 22nd reports that the gentle warrior Marshal Tito is trying to get a peace conference going over Vietnam. He will also ask that other war hater President Nasser of Egypt, to urge the peace loving Chou en-lai of China to “take a more constructive role in the Vietnam Crisis”. Apparently these moves are a result of talks in Belgrade between Tito and the Indian Prime Minister—obviously, whoever slips off the bandwagon, Mr. Shastri is determined to stay on it.

Just what the word “constructive” means in this context is anyone’s guess. As far as the contestants are concerned it will be only when the other side backs down, and until that happens, the slaughter and destruction will continue. So will the crocodile tears and the hypocrisy.

The government announced at the beginning of August that the immigrant quota is to be severely curtailed. About 300,000 Commonwealth applicants won’t stand a chance of entry, and only some 8,500 work vouchers a year will be issued. A far cry from the days of unqualified Labour opposition to restriction when Gaitskell was their leader? Maybe, but a politically popular decision nevertheless, and that’s what matters to the parties of capitalism.

Ironic is it not, then, to look further afield and find that the Australian Labour Party has now taken the opposite stand to that of its British counterpart, although it has always been a staunch supporter of a “white Australia” policy. Its statement of August 2nd says:
Convinced that an increased population is vital to Australia’s future, the Australian Labour Party will support and uphold a vigorous and expanding immigration programme administered with sympathy, understanding and tolerance. (Guardian, 3/8/65).
Now there may be a number of reasons for this change of front. Although the policy up to now has been to encourage British and Europeans and discourage Asians and other coloureds, Australian capitalism has been short of labour power for a long time, and the present policy has not succeeded in overcoming it. Then again, the Australian Labour Party may have its eye on the new independent Asian states not very far away, and its new policy could be an attempt to placate them (President Sukarno of Indonesia has for his part been saying some nice things about Australia just lately). Or maybe it’s a combination of factors, all contributing to what the ALP thinks are modern capitalism’s requirements. One thing is certain from the statement above, and that is that it’s not brotherly love for the coloured worker that has motivated it. )

But don't forget that the ALP is not in power at present, and if it ever does become the government again, we could well see a volte face if the situation demanded it. Hie labour Party may do the proposing, hut capitalism always does the disposing.

  NATO has been a success and the measure of thai success has been the shift of the threat from the West to the East (Mr. R. Maudling in a Commons debate. 20/7/65)
  Nobody has put any pressure on me to resign and nobody has suggested that I should go, but there are those who feel that a change of leadership would be right. (Sir A. Douglas Home, on his resignation. 22/7/65).
 Since 1945 it has become plain that the alternative government system is a defective means of securing national recognition of economic facts which exist whichever party is in power. (Guardian political correspondent, 29/7/65).
 The new leader sounded decidedly thin when it came to the Conservative remedies, many of which sounded nearly indistinguishable from Labour remedies. (Guardian comment on Commons censure debate, 3/8/65)
Eddie Critchfield

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