Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Cloud over the Sun (1967)

From the February 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pundits, governments, capitalists and fools are always telling us that the world has changed — the system has changed — in these abrasive times of shake-out and redeployment, the whole nature of capitalism isn’t what it used to be.

Not even the Marines could fall for that one: calling unemployment something else makes a fat lot of difference to the families of the men who are out of work.

Capitalism has not changed — not since Marx and Engels first produced the Communist Manifesto in 1848. The first struggles between rival capitalists, the harsh conflict of interests between workers and capitalists, the blind and wasteful way in which worker is set against his brother worker — these things are capitalism, today.

And for the truth about “modern” capitalism, take a look at the newspaper industry, which is so fond of telling other people how their businesses should be run.

The International Publishing Corporation, which owns The Sun, issued a statement about that still struggling newspaper in November last year. The IPC declared that it intended to go on publishing The Sun after its guaranteed life was over in January 1968. This was the guarantee that Cecil King, boss of IPC, gave the Daily Herald when he took that over in 1961.

The Sun is in fact selling fewer copies each day than the Daily Herald — 1,206,000 at time of writing as against the Herald's 1,300,000 when it closed down. But by a rather sophisticated analysis IPC reckon that its new (2½ years old) baby is doing better than the dead newspaper; its readers are younger, more of them are women, more of them live in the “right” areas — all factors that appeal to advertisers.

What the IPC statement did not make explicitly clear was that The Sun’s continued' existence depended upon the unions' helping to cut production costs. That was where IPC showed its deceitful capitalist self.

For as Hugh Cudlipp, right hand man to Cecil King, made clear in a television interview, if the losses on The Sun (at present well over £1 million a year) are not cut in this way, then it will almost certainly not live beyond January 3rd, 1968.

Cecil King's antipathy for trade unions has become pretty clear during the last couple of years. His noisy newspaper the Daily Mirror, and The Sun as well, often attack unions for allowing or encouraging their members to slack, to produce too little, to strike.

Of course, the newspaper bosses are the last who should talk about this kind of thing. It is notorious that their workshops are “over-staffed”, their machines “over-manned”.

After the Second World War, when life seemed full of promise, the press lords gave in to the demands of trade unions on practically everything. The result is now that their packing and printing departments have to employ far more men than the actual production of newspapers warrants.

Cecil King is now trying to change that, in order, he says, to keep The Sun alive. Hugh Cudlipp has promised that whatever production changes may take place at The Sun, they will not be applied to IPC.

Apart from anything else, the unions would be right to mistrust that. Not so very long ago IPC closed down a whole new printing plant at Southwark because the unions would not agree to reduced manning. Only the very innocent can believe that if they had their way in this at The Sun, they would not seek to extend the principle.

The effect of IPC’s statement is typical of life under capitalism. Worker is now set against worker. The journalists, whose department will probably not have staff cuts, begin to murmur against the print and electrical workers, many of whom can expect to lose their jobs.

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