Is There Life After Jingoism?
The children who were taken off the requisitioned ship Uganda might have been bitterly disappointed at losing their cruise but instead they lined its rails singing Rule Britannia. The message that South Georgia had been taken was in a style which might have been used by Nelson and ended with “God save the queen”. Jingoism is not dead.
More significant was the absence of any popular protest of a size to disturb the government. Have the working class been duped yet again, after two world wars to end war, after Korea, Cyprus, Suez? What now of the peace movement, of the great marches and demonstrations, and the gentler protest of flowers slipped into the advancing rifles? We were told then that this movement was irresistible. that it was the way to build peace in the world and that peace was a priority above socialism. Yet another reform movement has been exposed as futile.
Workers who support capitalism are easily overborne by the propaganda supporting its class rule, exploitation, poverty, famine, war . . . Only the socialist—who is conscious to the facts of capitalism and the need to replace it with socialism—is immune. Socialists are not alone in hating what capitalism does to its people but they are unique in their understanding of why it does and of how to end it. Only a socialist society will abolish war. Socialists are the only true peace- mongers.
That prime example of gutter journalism, the Sun, published an article boasting that its man with the British Fleet in the South Atlantic had signed a missile sent to blow up an Argentinian ship. The missile, according to the Sun, had written on it, “Up Yours, Galtieri”. Needless to say, the missile was not aimed at Galtieri, but the uniformed wage slaves who serve his regime.
The Archbishop of Canterbury announced that he is opposed to wars unless they are necessary in order to protect life and property. So now we know: “Thou shalt not kill, unless . .."
His Own Petard
Even before the sinking of the Sheffield it was expected that the Argentinians would be pretty tough opponents—especially as they would be using a lot of weaponry made in Britain.
It was not, in fact, ironical that British servicemen should be shot at by ships, guns and missiles made in this country, directed by Argentinians who had been trained to use the weapons effectively over here. Britain is one of the world's great arms manufacturers and the armaments trade is highly competitive. Every arms producing country sends its salespeople out into the world to get orders, trying to persuade other states that their weapons are the most accurate, destructive and murderous on the market.
Armaments are commodities, made to be sold at a profit. Workers in the weapons factories use their abilities to turn out things which may at some stage be turned against them or against their fellow workers abroad. It is all good business, strictly in accordance with the precepts of capitalism. In any case, the country of origin of the missile which kills a worker is of no importance. What matters is that he or she dies in the interests of their masters, when they should be living and struggling for a society free of war.
“Fight the fascists wherever they dare to show themselves”, said the Socialist Workers’ Party. Now that the Tory government is giving them the opportunity to pursue their futile fight against the fascists, SWPers are nowhere to be seen. Can it mean that they favour fighting ignorant fascist bootboys on the streets of this country, but they oppose the same dangerous tactics on an international level?
Money and Life
“Let’s get on with the war and damn the expense’’, demanded excitable Manny Shinwell in a House of Lords debate on the Falklands. It was assumed that the ageing ex-boxer, left-wing rebel, pacifist Labour minister, was talking about money but workers’ lives are also part of the expenditure of war.
As the first British ships sailed out of Portsmouth, one reliable estimate was that it would cost about £50 million just to get them across to the South Atlantic and back again, without staying for any length of time or doing any actual fighting.
Now we all know that these are hard times. There must be cuts. There must be no wasteful spending, so frivolous things like hospitals and old people’s homes must be slashed to the bone or we shall all sink beneath abject penury.
There were in fact a few feeble protests, from the customary feeble quarters, at spending so much on a military expedition instead of on schools, hospitals. social services and the like. The protesters, as usual, missed the fact that we live under a social system in which the priority is profit, not human comfort and safety.
Capitalism is always prepared to spend a huge part of its resources on destruction, regardless of how much deprivation there is in the world. It is no coincidence that it is at its most inventive, efficient and productive in wartime, when its aim is to destroy as much, and murder as many, as it can. It will need no help in this from outworn cynics like Shinwell.