The So They Say column from the January 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard
Marching & Chanting
TUC general secretary, Mr. Len Murray, found himself in a somewhat awkward position on the 26th November when an “anti-unemployment march” of 20,000 marched past Congress House chanting “Murray, out. Murray out.” In earlier times man, still groping for a greater understanding of the world in which he lived, used at least to vent his ignorant outbursts towards ends which could be respected, or which expressed some basic emotion — for rain in times of drought or even, Ee-ai-addio, we won the cup. Now we are reduced to “Murray, out. Murray, out.”
But the false god of employment, much displeased at these unfriendly overtures, felt it necessary to point out immediately that although many of those on the march were “sincere and honest” there were others, “extremist groups which are callously exploiting this concern and the plight of the unemployed for their own political ends.” But what of the many “sincere and honest” workers who were protesting at the level of unemployment: what advice could the bogus champion offer? Something which shows that the ritual chanters are not alone in their ignorance.
The best way of overcoming the problem is by the TUC working together with the Government — not by taking part in anti-Government demonstrations.
Guardian, 27th November 75
He went on to concede charitably that the level of unemployment was “unacceptably high,” a chant which may even be heard from the Conservative congregation. But all evade the central issue: that capitalism will never run in such a way as to remove the recurring problem of unemployment. Its very seeds lie in the nature of a society which produces solely for profit. All the caterwauling cannot remove the need for workers to look for themselves into the nature of capitalist society. Only then will they recognize the implications behind Mr. Murray’s pleas to cooperate with the ruling class, even if he may not.
Shuffling Back and Forth
If asked to name a political party made up from an assortment of men and women who have ill-conceived principles individually, and none whatsoever collectively, the Labour Party must surely qualify for a high rating. It may be argued that its members are generally agreed on one notion, that capitalism is the only way in which society may be organized, but as many of its members see some imaginary difference between private capitalism and state capitalism, we can only conclude that it is a “principle” of which they are only dimly aware.
In recent months the Labour Party has been called “a coalition government” in its own right, both by opponents and by its own members. So many shades of what we are loath to call “opinions” lurk within the membership that it was hardly surprising to find the Prime Minister commenting on the disunity within the ranks. As a result of Reg Prentice’s dismissal by the Newham constituency party, an internal struggle has taken place in which the dreaded extremists have emerged. Mr. Wilson has taken them to task and in doing so he seems to have found so many members whose “views” he rejects that we visualize the rest of the membership desperately shuffling back and forth like a flock of sheep trying to keep on the “safe ground.”
I want to warn the national executive about the situation which is developing. I reject the arrogance of extremists on the non-Party anti-Party Left — people who have always opposed what we are trying to achieve — and equally the arrogance of the anti-Party Right . . .
I have spent 13 years so far, trying to keep this party together and I do not like what is going on.
Guardian, 27th November 75
Mr. Wilson may not like what’s going on, he may “reject” this faction or that, but never so far as to discourage any and everyone from voting Labour. He does not reject the votes, because that is all the Labour Party requires from its supporters.
Back to Earth
Like the man who clutches at straws, Mr. John Stonehouse MP is valiantly trying to show that he, like so many other MPs, once had principles too. That is before he entered the cruel world of “public life.” He was signing copies of his book “Death of an Idealist” on 24th November when he remarked:
People entered public life with ideals but found that the pressures of life warped and changed their personalities so that they were prepared to throw away their ideals.
Guardian, 25th November 1975
And as if to prove that he has now become a “realist” in the day-to-day affairs of capitalism, we note that he has reverted to his former practice of entering the lobby together with his unprincipled colleagues at the first sound of a “division bell.”
In recent weeks the newspapers have carried several Government-sponsored advertisements which read “Inflation — we can beat it together.” The current layout shows two sincere and trustworthy faces each with a small personal commentary assuring the reader that the defeat of inflation is of paramount importance. Trades Union leaders among others have appeared. The version in the London Evening Standard of 1st December gave the views of one Pat Cole, Docker at the Royal Docks of London, whose view as an “ordinary working man” was that “knowing the cause of inflation isn’t important. Stopping inflation is.” On the other half of the page, concurring with Mr. Cole’s view, was Sir John Cohen the life president of Tesco Stores.
Inflation is the greatest danger facing this nation. It saps our energy and lowers our morale. It leads to higher prices. It leads to unemployment, which is a useless, wasteful, and almost immoral thing to do. We at Tesco have always been aggressive traders . . . Over the years we have been committed to fighting rising prices . . . We are doing everything possible to increase our productivity and to keep our costs down so that we can minimise what is passed on to our customers.
But before Mr. Cole, and millions like him, applauds too loudly at Cohen’s drum beating, he would do well to consider their respective positions. Mr. Cole complains that most dockers “don’t even see £50 a week in take-home pay” but if he cared to examine the financial pages of his newspaper on the 27th November, he would have noted that Pre-Tax profit at Tesco improved in the twenty-four weeks up to 9th August 1975 to £9,381,000 from £8,362,000 in the same period of 1974. When Cohen says that Tescos are “aggressive traders” and that they are “committed to fighting rising prices” and increasing “productivity”, all “ordinary working men” should appreciate that wage increases to the Tesco boss, as to any other member of the capitalist class, are rising prices and as such they will fight them. The increase in productivity can only come from the working class, but the benefit accrues to the owners of the means of production and distribution in terms of increased Profit. Tescos for example anticipate “materially higher profitability” in the second half of their financial year.
If workers are given the impression that the “Fight against Inflation” is one in which the owners put aside their class interests to fight a common enemy, they are being deluded. Let the capitalists dress up as dockers themselves if this falsehood is to be projected.
The Society of Business Economists held a conference on the 2nd December in which they discussed the “Economic Outlook for 1976”. The report in the Times of 3rd December told us that this assortment of experts were “pessimistic about inflation and the balance of trade” and that they were “gloomy” on unemployment. The view of those attending the conference was that the unemployed would number between 1,400,000 and 1,800,000 by the end of 1976.
However, elsewhere the British Aircraft Corporation was announcing that it will be able to maintain the jobs of 10,000 of its own skilled workers for at least ten years, as well as many jobs within other factories supplying BAC with components. The Corporation had just received an order from Iran for the supply of the Rapier anti-aircraft missile system, valued at £186m. The Chairman of BAC, Mr. G. R. Jefferson commented
We are delighted by this further expression of Iran’s confidence in us and our product.
Times, 3rd December 1975
The charmingly titled “Missiles Sales Director”, Mr. Eric Sanson, let us have more details of the “product”
Tracked Rapier uniquely provides cross country mobility at 38 mph and is able to operate in soft sand or snow. It has armoured protection for crew and missiles, eight missiles ready to fire, high kill probability with proximity fuses, and a blind firing system.
We maintain that with the establishment of Socialism a tremendous increase in the numbers of those performing useful work will occur. Here for example are 10,000 skilled men and women who will not be engaged in making products with “high kill probabilities.”