Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Review Column: Facts on Race (1968)

The Review Column from the April 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard

Facts on Race
With another Immigrants Act; with the searing report on last year’s riots in Newark, New Jersey; with the legal battle over the condemned Africans in Rhodesia; with the preparations in the United States for another long, hot summer; race is once more making the news.

In pubs, bus queues, workshops, offices and homes a variety of theories — if they can be graced with the name — is being propounded. It is time, then, for yet another statement of the facts on race, which all workers should bear in mind.

FACT ONE: Although there is any number of racial theories, and of racialists, nobody has yet been able to fix conclusively the dividing line between races, nor indeed the number of races that exist 

FACT TWO: There is absolutely no evidence, despite exhaustive and persistent attempts to get some, that human beings whose skin is of one colour are superior or inferior to those whose skin is of another colour.

FACT THREE: We live in a capitalist society which is world wide and which divides its people into two classes — capitalists and workers.

FACT FOUR: These two classes are also world wide and cut across any other divisions of race, sex or religion. Thus there are “coloured” capitalists as well as “coloured” workers, “white” workers as well as “white” capitalists.

FACT FIVE: The interests of workers are opposed to those of the capitalists.

FACT SIX: All capitalists have a common interest and so have all workers. The workers’ is in unity — as long as capitalism lasts to improve their conditions and, more important, to organise for the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by Socialism.

FACT SEVEN: Racial theories and prejudices, because they are false and because they operate against working class unity, are a barrier to the understanding of Socialism. They are, therefore, against the interests of the workers and should be rejected by them.

FACT EIGHT: Only when we have Socialism will all human beings be able to cooperate freely for the benefit of society. Only Socialism will end the pernicious scourge of racism.

Wages Still Frozen
One of the more famous examples of Harold Wilson’s cynicism is his saying that in politics a week is a long time.

Clearly, it is this principle that has guided the government’s policy on wages. Each time the stop has been put on rises it has been on the understanding that it was only a temporary restraint. Every turn of the screw has been justified on the argument that it was necessary for a time —six months, a year—to ensure greater prosperity to come.

Every restriction on the unions has been represented as a preliminary to greater freedom in the future. On the principle that a week is a long time—that the promises made last week will be forgotten by this—the government has broken every promise on wages.

If their original assurances were worth anything, we should by now be free of the freeze. In fact, restraint is still on; last month’s meeting of trade union executives spent most of their time discussing the pointless issue of whether they would co-operate voluntarily or compulsorily with holding down wages.

The Prices and Incomes Act still hangs over the unions and if the busmen, for example, carry through their campaign for a rise, we may see some prosecutions under the Act. Under Jenkins, as under Callaghan, the clamp down continues. So, too, does the policy of letting prices rise, and of inflating the currency so that the whole operation can tick over.

What this all means is a depression of working class living standards. It means that our wages, held down, will buy less and that the necessities of life will be that much harder to come by — and the luxuries that much fewer and further between.

This is what the government's economic policies have been aiming at, behind the smokescreen of promises, all on the cynical premise that voters' memories last no longer than'a week. Well, do they? That, of course, is a matter for the workers themselves.

How Big a Villain?
Even before David Frost got at him, Emil Savundra was high on the list of public villains. Savundra was skating on very thin ice. The motor car, with all it implies about the economic status of its owner, is an object of almost neurotic pride among the working class. Anything which threatens to upset this little dream world— inadequate roads, higher road tax, unstable insurance companies—is likely to call forth wrath appropriate to frustrated pride.

How big a villain was Savundra? He is, apparently, a man of compelling personality and some ingenuity; when he was sentenced there was the usual regret that he had not turned his talents to some business within the law. That, of course, would have been perfectly alright; capitalism's legal robbery has founded many fortunes and there are many men with honours thick upon them as a reward for running the system.

Indeed, insurance is a part of capitalism's big swindle — as anyone can find out if they fail to read and understand the small print on a policy, or try to cancel a policy before it is fully paid up and expect to get back something like what they have paid in premiums. Savundra broke capitalisms's rules and his mistake was to do so in a way and on a scale which was almost certain to be discovered.

Of course the collapse of Fire Auto and Marine damaged a lot of workers, many of them, as the judge said, “from a modest income group” who could afford only the sort of cut price premiums offered by FAM.

But capitalism is damaging workers all the time. By taking from them the full product of their labour, and giving back only a portion, the system robs and swindles millions of people. Beside that, and beside capitalism's record of repression, Savundra is very, very small fry.

It needs no legal and financial expert to expose capitalism's crime against humanity. The indictment of the system was prepared a long time ago but so far there has not been enough interest in bringing a prosecution.

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