Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Passing Show: Post-Haste (1966)

The Passing Show Column from the December 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard


Have you ever been infuriated by postal delays, had letters lost or turning up days after you expect them? Only a few months ago a small letter took over a fortnight to reach us from another London postal district, and although perhaps this might have been an isolated case, it’s certainly not uncommon for parcels to take over a week to reach London from the provinces. Postcards were originally supposed to travel more quickly through the post than sealed letters, but this no longer seems to be the case, and in London anyway there has been a reduction in the collections and deliveries of mail.

All very annoying, you might think, and complaints to the GPO would no doubt bring the familiar reply of staff shortage, among other excuses. And unlike Tory MP Sir Gerald Nabarro, you wouldn’t be very likely to get a question asked in the House about it.

But then, Sir Gerald was really concerned about quite a different matter. He was very worried because some thousands of people did not receive their subscription forms for the ICI eight per cent unsecured loan stock 1988-93, but he had to be content with the Postmaster General’s explanation that the forms were posted late, and some were wrongly addressed anyway. According to The Guardian of October 20, the PMG made personal enquiries in response to the complaint; which shows how important he thought it was.

Well, there was about sixty million pounds involved, and the loan was quickly over-subscribed by about 37 times, so you can guess how annoyed Some of the shareholders must have been when they missed the chance of some really juicy pickings from ICI’s future exploitation of its workers. And if it hadn’t been Sir Gerald, some other “champion of minority rights” would have been on his feet to make a fuss. Which reminds us. Christmas is coming so you’d better post early. We don’t somehow think they’ll be quite so concerned if a few of your Christmas cards don’t make it until New Year’s Eve.

How Not To Face Facts

The pacifist movement’s conception of the modern world is about as shallow as a kid’s paddling pool after a three-month drought. It is astoundingly adept at acquiring facts and then ignoring their implication. At a recent meeting of The Peace Pledge Union, I was given a leaflet. It was a neat effort, carrying some useful information on the vast waste of the world’s resources on armed forces, weapons of war, etc. “Don’t you think this is madness?” one of the captions ran; and who but a fool would say no?

So far so good. But when the PPU starts talking about “what could be done instead,” their fact-finding ends and question-begging begins. Of course it’s true that the £50,000 millions spent yearly on arms could be used to build umpteen hospitals, houses and schools, or provide sorely needed tractors and harvesters. Then why isn’t this done? Why indeed do armaments exist in the first place? After all, no government likes to see such wealth tied up in this way, but if, as the leaflet implies, it’s more a question of lack of sense, all we have to do is kick out the stupid statesmen and replace them with sensible ones.

But then, there's more to it than that. First of all, although war can be called madness when looked at from a human point of view, it does make sense of a sort in a class divided society. Given a world of commercial rivalries, no capitalist class is going to sit idly by and watch foreign competitors steal its economic thunder. It will use armed force when it deems it necessary, even to the point of a major shooting match. Under such circumstances, your politicians can be as clever or as stupid as you like. It makes no difference to the underlying forces pushing towards war.

Is there any guarantee, anyway, that a reduction in arms spending would give us more of the things we so desperately want? Far from it. Capitalism is primarily concerned with production for the market, not with satisfying our needs, and the money saved by arms cuts would merely be earmarked for other investment. A look at the policies of the present Labour Government will show us the truth of this. Indeed, we can even point to instances where money has been spent in taking plant out of production because of unfavourable market conditions—textiles in Britain, wheat in USA —yet there are plenty of ragged, ill-fed people in the world.

What is needed is the abolition of capitalism, and its replacement with a system of common ownership and production for use, not the signing of pledges against war, which past experience tells us will not be worth the paper they’re written on when the crunch comes.

The examples of Our Betters

A period of severe restraint, did we say? Rank Organisation Chairman John Davis has been ordered to pay £25,000 to his ex-wife, actress Dinah Sheridan in addition to her £8,500 a year maintenance, following her divorce. The lump sum was originally “only” £15,000 but, commented the appeal court judge, “£15,000 does not go very far towards purchasing a house in the sort of neighbourhood where a woman of this background can reasonably be expected to live. The £15,000 is so low that the court is bound to interfere.”

Wonder if anyone will think of invoking Part IV against that little lot? And it’s not even tied to a productivity agreement.


“Wilson and his colleagues have found it impossible to reconcile the Socialist theories they held in Opposition with the Tory facts of life they have found in office.” (Tory MP Quintin Hogg, at Ealing, 7.10.66.)

"The Minister of Power's views that steel nationalisation will go through by next summer brought an immediate rally in steel shares, and other sectors came up smartly on the prospect of reinvestment of the compensation money." (Guardian Market Report, 22.10.66.)

“In case of atomic attack, the Federal ruling against prayer in this building will be temporarily suspended”. (High School notice in California, U.S.A., reported Daily Mirror, 26,10.66.)

“I’m sorry I can give you nothing at present except sympathy.” (The Queen to the parents of Aberfan, 29.10.66.)

“The pensioner and the housewife suffer most when prices rise.” (The New Britain, Labour Party manifesto at the 1964 election.) .

“Increases in the cost of living have reduced the purchasing power of the £6 10s. old age pension for married couples by 8s. 6d. since it was introduced on March 29, 1965, Mr. Pentland, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social Security, disclosed in a Commons reply last night.” (Daily Telegraph, 8.11.66.)

“The concrete analysis of concrete conditions and the concrete resolution of concrete contradictions are the living soul of Marxism-Leninism.” (Lin Piao, Chinese Minister of Defence.)
Eddie Critchfield

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