The So They Say column from the December 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard
Crystal Ball not Needed
Before the war we claimed “If you read it in the Socialist Standard you know it’s true”. That is still the case, and we can give two recent examples. In August this year we gave details of the unemployment and inflation situation in Australia, where so many Britons go in hopes of things being different. On 2nd October The Times reported:
The Australian Government has temporarily suspended its immigration programme to ease the country’s unemployment problem, Mr. Clyde Cameron, the Minister for Labour and Immigration, said today.
Sources say that the monthly figures due to be released on Sunday will show unemployment at a postwar record level.
And in May we commented on the Labour Government’s show of virtue in cancelling the plans for Maplin Airport. Our observation was that Labour had begun all that themselves by projecting a Third London Airport at Stansted. On 11th November the Guardian Air Correspondent wrote, under Labour ‘Lumbers’ Stansted:
The Town and Country Planning Association has described the Government’s decision to abandon the Maplin Airport project as, in effect, a “monstrous” decision to build London’s third airport at Stansted in Essex.
However, you don’t require a crystal ball to see such things. All that is needed is to know how capitalism and its politics work, and then watch them at it.
Ganging Agley Again
The politicians, of course, exist by saying it will all be different this time: they are going to plan.
In the first week of October the United States Administration announced its economic plan. It lasted exactly two weeks. On 25th October The Guardian published the following from its Washington correspondent:
The Administration’s economic plan, unveiled with much fanfare two weeks ago, may have to be radically revised as President Ford is slowly being forced to admit that the country is in recession, and that he must act more decisively against growing unemployment.
It reminds one of the local Angling Society setting out with rod and line to catch the Loch Ness Monster, and then explaining to the world’s press after a fortnight that its bait was wrong. Except that capitalism is a real monster which eats planners.
To Heel, Rover
The same report also tells us:
Economists are now freely predicting that unemployment will rise soon to 7½ per cent . . . there are indications that the unions are getting more concerned about job security than wage increases.
A week earlier, on 17th October, the London Evening Standard’s front page headline was Rises or Jobs! Jones Warns the Unions. This was “a powerful call” by Jack Jones, the well-known militant leader of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. The report said :
Mr. Jones argued that unions must play their part in fighting the main danger in the economic crisis — the growth of unemployment.
“It is simply no use pressing actions which lead to the closure of firms we work for,” he said. “A wonderful wage agreement is of no value if the firm with whom we have negotiated the agreement doesn’t employ people any more.”
Concentric Straight Lines
Another aspect of capitalist planning is how the apparent solving of one problem inexorably leads to another in its place. At the end of October newspapers were reporting that cattle were being slaughtered because of an acute shortage of fodder and the prohibitive price of what is available.
Until not many years ago all farmers grew their own fodder crops. Few have dreamed of doing so in recent times, with seductive subsidies to be received for every square foot given to barley, wheat etc. The last Conservative government did all it could to encourage beef production, without correspondingly encouraging the more mundane production of hay. Mr. Philip Brown of the RSPCA was quoted in The Guardian (28th October) as saying “they [the government] did their sums wrong”.
Of course, because capitalism’s sums all require several contradictory answers at once. Socialism is simple one-answer arithmetic.
Squeak Up, Please
Something Labour governments keep promising the working class is hearing the rich squeal. The idea is that if workers can be persuaded to listen intently for this delectable sound they will not notice that while they are lying down listening Labour politicians are standing on their necks.
However, the sound has not yet been detected. What we have instead is, for instance:
A wealthy Kent businessman picked up a pools prize of £44,806 today and said: “I’m delighted, of course, but it doesn’t mean that much to me.”
Leslie Mustill, 58, said: “The money would mean more to other people. I’ll just take life easy . . . playing golf.” (Evening Standard 23rd October)
Or a full-page advertisement for Fred Olsen cruises in The Guardian on 24th October. “Upwards of £170” is the cost for one person. There is a special inset on shopping for cruisers (“On Madeira you can pay up to £28 for a hand-embroidered lace tablecloth, but the workmanship is superb”) and advice about tipping (“If any steward has been particularly helpful, £5 is customary”).
A Peep under the Sink
When an Enquiry Agent named Quartermain was jailed for “dirty tricks” over evidence for divorce cases, the judge told him he was “a thoroughgoing disgrace” to his profession. Don’t laugh, please.
Quartermain became known in 1969 when he was employed by Redbridge Council as a strong-arm man to evict squatters. Local authorities employ creatures like him to collect arrears and debts, asking no questions about how they do it; so do “respectable” firms. Their function is to do the dirty work behind the genteel facade which property society likes to display.
We are often asked who will do the “nasty” jobs under Socialism. This is one which won’t exist.