Tuesday, December 31, 2019

News in Review: America Votes (1966)

The News in Review column from the December 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

America Votes

The mid-term elections in America provided the customary festival for the devotees of the Great Man Theory.

Disgruntled Democrats were ready to blame President Johnson for their losses. The Daily Telegraph's Washington correspondent passed on a report that Democratic leaders in Michigan were thinking about opposing Johnson as their Presidential candidate in 1968.

On the other side, jubilant Republicans surveyed their leaders — Reagan, Romney, Percy, Nixon—and began planning the build-up to present one of them as the nation's saviour at the polls the year after next.

Whichever party is defeated at the election, the Great Man Theory remains unbeaten. The Democrats who now blame Johnson for their setbacks are conveniently forgetting that they once adored him as the man who would build the Great Society. The only remedy they have to offer is to peddle the same sort of nonsense about another man.

In the same way, the Republicans who are now come to praise men like Reagan and Percy may yet stay to bury them in unforgiving recrimination.

This is a familiar spectacle. Capitalism’s leaders are always being credited with more power over the system than they actually have. No man, and no government, has ever been able to control capitalism; in the end the system wins.

When we have an election in which the votes reflect a developing knowledge of that fact, we shall be somewhere near getting rid of the problems the great men are always promising, and always failing, to solve.

The “new” NAZIS

A small, black cloud has been observed over the politics of Western Germany. Coinciding with the fall of Ludwig Erhard, there are signs of a growing support for parties which resemble the old Nazis, and some of whose leaders were followers of Hitler.

In particular, the recent electoral successes of the National Democratic Party in Hesse have given cause for concern. And more than one eyebrow has been raised at the fact that Erhard’s successor Kiesinger was himself a member of the Nazi Party.

How far is the surprise and concern justified?

All capitalist parties stimulate the fallacies of patriotism among their working class. This patriotism is only a short step from extreme nationalism, express ing itself in violence and dictatorship.

The last war, of course, was supposed to have finished dictatorship. Yet the so-called peace settlement, part of which divided Germany into two, provided a fertile field for nationalist propaganda there. The NDP is taking full advantage of this, and patriotic German workers are receptive.

Capitalist parties continually promise to solve the workers’ problems and when they fail, as fail they must, the workers all too often decide that political democracy itself has failed.

In this situation, the parties have often fallen into confusion and bitter internal quarrels, heightening the impression that they are crooks and muddlers.

The failure of, and the squabbles in, the Christian Democratic Union, and now the fall of Erhard, have given/the new Nazis every chance of making their point.

As long as capitalism lasts there can be no security for democracy. Capitalism itself provides the tools with which demagogues can undermine democratic rights. The political ignorance by which capitalism lives is always ready to be exploited.

The NDP is at present small and has no influence. But it is hopeful, and perhaps with good reason.

Christian Communists

While Dr. Hewlett Johnson—the Red Dean of Canterbury—was alive it was never clear which had the greater claim to him: the Communist Party as an outstanding capture from the Church or the Church as a prominent convert from the Communist Party.

He himself, like many other members and supporters of the Communist Party, never had any difficulty in reconciling the two. It is now clear that he was in good company.

Dr. Johnson’s funeral service, on October 27 last at Canterbury Cathedral, was well attended and among the congregation were Communist Party secretary John Gollan and Morning Star editor George Matthews.

It would be interesting lo know how fervently Gollan and Matthews joined in the prayers for the Red Dean’s soul, how lustily they sang the hymns which disseminate the opiate of the people.

The funeral service is one which stresses the essence of religion — its mysticism, its false beliefs, its acceptance of the burdens of life under capitalism in the hope of a better time after death.

What were Gollan and Matthews doing at such a service?

Were they trying to prove that the Communist Party is becoming respectable? Were they showing that the organisation which professes, when it is convenient, to stand for Marxist materialism can see nothing wrong in its leaders contributing to religious mumbo-jumbo over a dead man’s body?

The Red Dean was a master of double think. Obviously, he would have approved.

No Bankers’ Ramp

Many of the present members of the Labour Party were brought up on the myth that the 1929 Labour government was destroyed by a banker’s ramp.

The story behind the myth is a simple one. In 1929 it was, the MacDonald government were doing so much for the working people of this country, they were so determinedly undermining the privileged position of the British ruling class, that financiers abroad began to fear for the very existence of capitalism.

They determined that MacDonald must be stopped, and conspired together to bring about the economic storm which swept the Labour government out of existence.

The “bankers ramp” story persists to this day; it was at any rate some sort of excuse for the dismal failure of the 1929 Labour government to tame capitalism and fulfil its promises.

At this year’s Labour conference, ASSET secretary, Clive Jenkins, while attacking the incomes policy, gave the government a chance to justify themselves in the same way: “I believe positively” he said, “that the government were told to do it.”

But Callaghan had already rejected the chance: “The measures were not taken because the bankers recommended them—there was no banker’s ramp.” 

The Wilson government is doing its best to prove that it is in control, and will not be pushed around by anyone. They are in no mood, at present, to make excuses.

Let this be remembered, then. Nobody forced the Labour government to do what they are doing. The foreign bankers did not plot to bring them down.

The Prices and Incomes Bill is part of a policy they are carrying out because they want it. It is their responsibility. But would anyone care to bet.

Who’s for Profits

The human sufferings caused by production for profit are so obvious that they lend themselves to cynical exploitation by tear-jerking demagogues of all sorts. In the past this was the speciality of Labour orators with their emotional denunciation of “profiteers” and their “profit motive.” But times change. Who said this?
   Profit is necessary to keep our stock of assets up to date and to enable them to be modernised and to give a return on savings. Companies must earn a proper return on their capital, and profit is not, and should not be, a dirty word where it is properly carried.
The Investors Chronicle, perhaps, or Enoch Powell? In fact, this defence of capitalism was made by Chancellor James Callaghan in a speech in Cardiff on September 9 (quoted in a letter to the Financial Times, September 21)—the same speech, by the way, in which he called for a permanent incomes policy. Callaghan was not just expressing his own prejudice. This has been a consistent Labour theme since they got power in October, 1964. Within a week Douglas Jay was saying:
  Profits, provided they are earned by efficiency and technical progress, and not by restrictive practices or abuse of monopoly, are the signs of a healthy economy, (quoted in the Guardian, 21 October, 1964).
Junior Minister George Darling has put it this way:
  This Government believes in high profits so long as industry uses them properly. (Financial Times, 24 November, 1965)
and George Brown in the House of Commons on August 3 this year: 
 I ought to make it plain that we are not, as a party, opposed to profits. In a mixed economy such as ours, the earning of profits is a necessary incentive over a large part of industry.
Crossman, who is now adding insult to injury by telling us that the repressive anti-working class policy of his party has something to do with Socialism, foresaw this in 1960 when he wrote in a Fabian pamphlet Labour in the Affluent Society:
  If the motive of your economy is the profit-making of large-scale modern private enterprise, a Labour Chancellor must be prepared to allow very large profits indeed and to admit that the number of golden eggs he can remove is extremely limited.
The fact is the Labour Party, like the Tories, is an avowed capitalist party with its leaders openly defending capitalism, both in theory and practice, to the best of their abilities.

Hang it on the wall?

Those people who are unable to resist sending off half-a-dozen packet tops and fifteen and six in cash to get a brand new, up-to-date plastic dwarf for the garden will be interested in the latest offer from the 3M Scotch tape firm.

This offer, obviously intended for technologically minded bargain hunters, is for pictures of space vehicles—and of a Polaris missile.

Now Polaris, as anyone who has seen a CND march, is a fearfully destructive thing. Because it is fixed from a submarine under water, it was once considered to be the ultimate weapon.

The picture which 3M is offering shows a rocket zooming out of the water, on its way to goodness knows where to do goodness knows what. 

Anyone got an odd piece of wall to fill? We forgot to mention that “each picture comes elegantly framed in white painted wood . . ."

1 comment:

Imposs1904 said...

That's December 1966 in the can.