Thursday, June 14, 2018

Party News (1982)

Party News from the January 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

“We sedulously cultivate free speech in this country, even in its most repressive form.” These were the words of that one-time friend of Stalin and revered politician, the late Winston Churchill. The notion behind these pious words is that free speech is worth promoting because it enables people with conflicting ideas to present their arguments so that action can be based on policies which have been thoroughly argued out on a public forum. Indeed we were told that between 1939 and 1945 the deaths of 300,000 members of the British working class, and the destruction in air raids were all suffered in the cause of protecting the Great Freedoms which exist in Britain.

Strangely, the not-so-famous namesake of the man who was in favour of “showering them with mustard gas” during the last world war does not seem to share his late grandpa's piety. The Manchester Group of the Socialist Party of Great Britain recently invited the present Winston Churchill, who is MP for Stretford, to participate in a public debate on the question “Would socialism be a change for the worse?” In a reply we were informed that Churchill had “no wish to share a public platform with a member of the Socialist Party”. What's the point, you might wonder, of advocating democracy if you are against the idea of entering into political debate against your opponents? As Churchill’s idea of democracy includes support for a minority of wealth owners to live comfortably and securely off the backs of the majority of wealth producers, his political beliefs were already not unblemished with contradictions.

Paying ourselves . . . (1982)

From the January 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard

Last December 10 saw a grimacing Margaret Thatcher posturing for photographers in a mechanically reclining wheelchair which was one of the winning entries in a competition run by the Design Council. Thatcher had lots of praise for this device and others like it in the competition, for the alleviation of suffering it would bring to the disabled.

In the insultingly patronising “Year of the Disabled” (hard luck presumably, on their terms now 1981 has gone) Thatcher’s mock concern is doubly hypocritical as she is at the front of a campaign to cut money to the second-rate Health Service leaving more to spend on machines of destruction. For instance, on the very day she was pictured in the national press gallivanting with glee around the equipment for the disabled at the Design Council Awards, it was reported that a NHS hospital for the mentally handicapped in South London had been ordered to cut back its expenditure by so much that some children would be left in their wards all day—because of the number of staff to be made redundant—and all sorts of facilities for the children including a hydrotherapy pool would have to go.

Even with cash donations from parents to help the local Area Health Authority pay for the required staff, no new patients from the community, however needy, will be admitted to the hospital because of the lack of resources. When Thatcher said last year in solemn tones, ‘‘We are paying ourselves too much”, most of us who are living in poverty of one degree or another were angered or confused. It now perhaps becomes clearer exactly what was troubling her conscience. Between June 1980 and June 1981 the largest percentage wage increase received by a sector of the British public was not received by the miners, transport workers nor by the shipbuilders for example who received increases of about 10 per cent, 40 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. It was received by none other than dear old Margaret herself and was over 40 per cent! (CIS Anti-Report, 1981, sources: Dept, of Employment Gazette, Hansard, Labour Research Dept.)