Sunday, December 8, 2019

News in Review: Rhodesian colour bar (1960)

The News in Review column from the December 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Rhodesian colour bar
The business interests of the Rhodesian Federation are making slow but steady progress in their attempt to build up a system free from colour bars, and from the inconveniences these cause in trade and industry. In the Northern Rhodesian copper mines, for example, the owners have long wanted to be able to call on the great reserve of local African labour for all the jobs in the mines, instead of having many of them reserved for Europeans. The resistance of the white miners to these proposals led to a long strike by the Europeans in 1958. But after a year's negotiation between the European miners’ union and six of the mining companies, the latter have at last persuaded the whites to allow at least all the unskilled jobs to be done by Africans. It is significant that the African mineworkers' union, although it gave a modified welcome to the agreement, took no part in the discussions: it was the owners who argued the case against the colour bar.

Monckton and Tredgold
In the political field, the. industrial interests are also forging ahead in their struggle with the planters' government under Sir Roy Welensky and Sir Edgar Whitehead. The recent Monckton commission recommended that secession from the Federation should be permitted, even though Welensky only allowed the commission into Rhodesia on Macmillan's promise that they would not be allowed to judge on the question of secession. But clearly the capitalists of Rhodesia feel that they could count on more co-operation from African governments in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia than from the present settlers' government which controls the whole Federation. As they feel their position crumbling, the planters try to bolster their control of the government. Sir Edgar Whitehead has brought in a Law and Order Bill to give himself sweeping powers “to maintain order” (i.e., to silence any opposition which gets out of hand). This has led to the resignation of Sir Robert Tredgold, the Chief Justice of the Federation, in protest. He is to lead a new movement to get rid of Sir Edgar Whitehead. All of which emphasizes the fact that those who support capitalism in Rhodesia are more and more turning on the pressure to over throw the former ruling class, the planters.

Labour controversy
When one considers the issues involved in the recent Labour Party controversy one can only wonder just what all the fuss was about. We were told that if Mr. Gaitskell continues as leader of the Labour Party it may mean the disintegration of that party. Mr. Wilson on the other hand was said to have been of a more conciliatory nature and because of this was more likely to have kept the party united. We are not concerned here with the personalities of the individuals involved except to point out that on the question of what started the controversy, namely, conference decisions on Defence, they differed only in their respective views on how best to maintain some appearance of solidarity in the labour movement. It had been said that should the issue have been settled either way it could possibly have meant the end of the Labour Party “as an effective opposition.” Socialists would have had no such illusions. Since the Labour Party’s inception the S.P.G.B. have been pointing out that the Party in question is not so much a party of opposition as an alternative government, having an occasional term of office in an endeavour to solve the same inevitable capitalist problems which the outgoing party have failed to solve. Socialists would be the last to shed any tears should the present controversy bring about the disintegration of the Labour Party.

Breakdown ?
Unhappy days seem to be here again in the car industry, as heavy redundancies develop in France, Germany and Great Britain. The Canadians have a similar problem and have responded by persuading their government to impose stricter conditions of dumping duty on car imports.

Unemployment is an old working class problem; it is especially ironical that it should reappear in an industry whose product has been the sacred symbol of post-war “prosperity.”

Capitalism, with or without full employment, is a system in which cars, like other commodities, are made only if they can be sold. This—not the policies of parsimonious governments or perfidious car companies—is the root of the troubles in the car industry.

Many workers, with a hire-purchase heap shrouded in balloon fabric at the kerbside, thought that what they called prosperity would last for ever. For these, the redundancies must come as a shock.

Sadly, there is no reason to suppose that unemployed workers are more receptive to the lessons of capitalist society than those who are working. Boom or slump, capitalism is an insecure system and must remain so.

“News Chronicle”
The News Chronicle stuck to what it chose to call its liberal principles like a prim old Auntie watching her hemline. Whatever sordid facts capitalism produced for it to comment upon, the Chronicle’s attitude was always impeccably virtuous.

An innocent could have been forgiven for believing that the newspaper existed only to expound lofty morality.

But the end of the News Chronicle and The Star had nothing to do with principles. Simply, they sold out because they could not balance their accounts: their revenue from sales, advertising and so on did not cover their costs of wages, materials and the like.

The people who sink money into newspapers like to receive a return on their investment, which means that the Chronicle, like any other commodity, was produced for profitable sale. They stopped producing the paper when it became obvious that it had little hope of ever making a profit.

This is the sort of event about which the high-minded Chronicle often had sad and stern words to say. It is ironical that it should have fallen foul of the same commercial necessities of capitalist society.

Head Office (1960)

Party News from the December 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain need a Head Office in Central London comprising a large room, suitable for Executive Committee and other meetings; plus a number of other rooms, for literature distribution. sub-committee meetings, etc. The location must be within reasonable walking distance of an Underground station, in the Kings Cross, Euston, or Camden Town areas; or could be a little further North, or further West. The market for business properties is very lively nowadays. and our approaches to agents have not led to any success. Therefore we ask readers who may be able to help, to send their suggestions to: The New Premises Committee. 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4.

The King of Nepal (1960)

From the December 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Several weeks ago the King and Queen of Nepal paid a state visit to London. You may recall the event, particularly if you were a Londoner caught up in the traffic chaos that day and were not mollified by the background of pageantry.

The City of London, however, showed pleasure unalloyed. The Crown Prince Birinda of Nepal watched the Guildhall luncheon in honour of his father, King Mahendra. Four hundred guests tackled lobster soup; sole and pheasant.

The king wore the same gorgeous uniform. as he did for his reception by the Royal Family on his arrival, with the addition of the baton of a British field-marshal, newly presented to him by the Queen. In his speech he said:—
  London is especially attractive to us because here was begun the battle of liberty and freedom, centuries ago, and here it was won during the latest—and let us hope, the last—challenge in war.
  The task is now to press on with the Battle of Peace—and we in Nepal unshakeably believe that London is going to be our greatest friend in this struggle, too.
Why do the Nepalese King and Queen hob-nob with “our” Queen, and what is the significance of Nepal to the British ruling class? What meaning lay behind the King's speech at the Guildhall? Such suspicious questions seem to come naturally to Socialists, for we have learned by experience in capitalism not to take too much notice of the description on the label.

May we now proceed to attempt to unravel the little mystery of the royal visit even though it may rather take some of the glitter off the tinsel.

Nepal is a border state between India and Tibet. It is 525 miles long and up to 140 miles wide, with a population of 5½ million. The family of the present ruler has been in power for decades and the history of Nepal is a long story of royal ruthlessness, trickery and bloody outrages.

Nepal invaded Tibet in 1855 and received annual tribute until 1952, when Tibet was colonised by “Socialist” China. Since then China has reversed the process and has become in turn the aggressor. The Chinese last June invaded Nepal's border, killed a Nepalese army officer and took prisoners back. It naturally gave a severe jolt to relations between them and makes it understandable that the Nepalese ruling-class should now wish to lean on the U.K. And with India on its other border Nepal is between two dangerous giants.

But the so-called Socialist Government of Nepal is good at playing one off against the other and in the process doing well for the ruling-class. To date the economic and technical aid from India amounts to about 100 million rupees (£8 million). Besides, India has been helping Nepal build up her vital lines of transportation and supply. A 972 mile highway linking Katmandu, the capital, with the Indian border was constructed by Indian engineers. In 1958 an agreement with India was signed for the laying of nearly 900 miles of roads. India has also agreed to contribute R's 500,000 for irrigation and waterworks.

From China, too, Nepal has received R'S 10 million in economic aid as part of a R's 60 million aid programme. Russia, too, has agreed to set up a hydro-electric power plant, a sugar factory with a diesel power plant, and to prepare a road survey costing three million roubles.

Whilst Nepalese capitalism is expanding, the Nepalese working-class is suffering heavy unemployment and is embarrassing the so-called Socialist government of the country. They, however, hold out hope in the start of the second five-year Plan now beginning, which has made provision to absorb about half a million working people during the Plan period. Social services cannot do much to tackle this thorny problem and the population is growing at the rate of 1.5 per cent. per year.

Amongst the Nepalese underprivileged, so great is the struggle for existence that normally children over 10 work and some even below that age. But unemployment means cheap labour, and cheap labour can give rise to good profits. No wonder the City of London are interested. The dinner at the Guildhall was bread cast upon the water, to be returned with interest.

The recently elected “Socialist” government of Nepal serves to mark that country's entry into the world of capitalism. The Sino-Indian dispute and its repercussions loom large on the Nepalese political horizon, but as a way out the Nepalese ruling class is developing a world consciousness.

When the King of Nepal referred to liberty and freedom, he was no doubt referring to the liberty and freedom for the ruling class to make money with as little in the way of restrictions and hindrances as possible. Those who remember the journeys and activities of the Duke of Windsor when he was Prince of Wales will realise that the King of Nepal is not the first royal commercial traveller.
Frank Offord

Peace a Profession? (1960)

From the December 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Peace Is Our Profession. Headquarters Strategic. Air Command," states the giant notice board outside the U.S. Strategic Air Command H.Q. at Omaha, Nebraska. From this base, under the command of General Power, are directed the activities of 250,000 personnel in seventy bases throughout the world, over 2,000 bombers and jet-tankers, and 90 per cent. of the Western Alliance's nuclear striking power.

In the event of war over 1,000 bombers, each one capable of more destruction than all the bombers involved in the whole of the last war, would be sent aloft. The crews of these bombers have pre-arranged targets and are constantly on the alert; at least once every twenty-four hours the alarm is sounded. The entire fleet of aircraft can be airborne within a quarter of an hour—the first within three and a half minutes.

Under a system of warnings and controls the crews are able to fly to predetermined points on their target routes; if they have a final go-ahead, on the express orders of the American President, they would continue on their routes and press home their attack. (If this final order is not given the bombers are instructed to return to their bases). Simultaneously intercontinental ballistic missiles—the long range rockets with H- bomb war-heads—would be released.

And so it goes on, this melancholy tale of potential destruction on a scale hitherto undreamt of.

These facts and figures apply more or less equally to the Soviet bloc and, of course, to Britain's R.A.F. and the air forces of other powers, all of which are on a permanent war footing. It’s all for peace and for the defence of righteous principles—they all say.

The American ruling class and their allies allege that it's a case of safeguarding freedom, democracy, “a way of life," a heritage; and, to help things along, they are never shy of enlisting the Almighty. Krushchev and company's tale is a little different. Apparently they have to offer defence against imperialism (particularly the American variety) to keep safe the “People's State" and “Socialism." So in order that people should remain “free" (both sides having their own peculiar definitions of this term), opposing capitalist powers are prepared if necessary to take part in the possible wholesale destruction of mankind.

What can be done to end this terrible state of affairs? Capitalist politicians can only talk on terms of a third world war and local conflicts (which may or may not remain localised) as long as they have the unquestioning support of the world's workers. Without this they would be impotent.

Modern wars are caused by property conflicts between rival teams of big business, arrayed on a national level, the private bosses of America and the state bosses of Russia being at present the major contestants. The stakes are high: vast resources, natural and man made, markets for an ever increasing volume of goods, to protect or capture these, capitalist states need strategic bases and political spheres of influence.

With these real, material, profitable bones of contention the alleged principles are clearly demonstrated to be something less than principles. Former enemies who were never, never to be re-armed, become military allies, and personal association with the previous regime is no impediment in this unsavoury process. Franco Spain and Salazar Portugal help to protect “democracy," as does Chiang Kai Shek and as did Syngmann Rhee. Dubious Latin American regimes are supported, so as to ensure stability; that is, the status quo on investments. The Soviet hierarchy with their commercial, and therefore, military commitments, are not at a loss in the game; in fact, they are racing neck and neck, if not leading by a short head.

Fidel Castro seems to be a friend in need at the moment; strategy and oil are more than remarkable coincidences (Batista, his more sadistic predecessor, was a stabiliser of Uncle Sam's). Nasser was the lad sometime ago, and new faces representing new aspiring ruling classes are constantly arising from the colonial struggles.

And so this dirty game of power politics goes on, over issues which are not worth the shedding of one drop of working class blood. It is now 21 years since the beginning of World War II. It began with Allied indignation at German bombing of “open cities," like Warsaw, went on with indiscriminate aerial bombardment by both sides, and concluded with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Are you going to allow an even greater catastrophe, or are you going to wake up NOW!
Frank Simkins

The Passing Show: Freedom of the Press (1960)

The Passing Show Column from the December 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

Freedom of the Press
In recent years many newspapers have been forced to cease publication or to sell out and merge with their competitors. No longer are only small papers involved: in the past few months papers as well known as the Sunday Empire News, the News Chronicle and the Star, have gone the way of the rest. It is a cliche that the Freedom of the Press is in practice the freedom of rich men to spread their views through the newspapers they own. Those of us in the Socialist Party know only too well that without vast amounts of capital the Socialist Standard has been able to reach only a small minority of the working class. But the conditions of entry in the newspaper stakes are becoming even more stringent than ever before. The News Chronicle lost money (and therefore, in a capitalist society, had in due course to close down) even though it had a daily readership of over one million. People other than millionaires have not been able to produce a healthy daily paper for many years: now, even the lesser millionaires must be getting worried. Once any millionaire with a taste for it could partake of the Freedom of the Press: now, apparently, only multi-millionaires are allowed to join the club.

The news that the Archbishop of Canterbury is going to visit the Pope makes one wonder what they will talk about. At any rate, we can be sure it won't do the working class any good. For the Pope agrees with the Archbishop that capitalism is a fine system. This is from the Sunday Press (18/10/59):
  The Holy Father yesterday contrasted the appalling exploitation of workers at the beginning of the century with their present-day pleasant working conditions. Management and labour, working together in harmony, had created a new situation where the workers had never had it so well.
The reader may think that at least it is something that the Pope realises that things were bad sixty years ago. But, of course, everyone will agree that things were bad sixty years ago. The ruling class and its allies are prepared to admit anything except that the present system is bad. In the early years of the century, when the Socialist Party was already working, speaking and writing about "the appalling exploitation of workers," the then Popes were supporting the capitalist system, just as the present Pope supports the capitalist system now. In fifty years' time, no doubt, the Pope (if there still is one) will be talking about “the appalling exploitation of the workers in I960." But it does no good to attack the evils of half a century ago: they can't be altered now. What must be done is to attack the evils of today—i.e., the evils which are inseparable from the capitalist system.

Pray and work
And what has the Pope to say about the present? He gave, apparently, a “rousing warning against those who trampled the sacrosanct rights of the human person’’—but had no word to say of the Catholic-supported Fascist government of Spain, which denies the workers the most elementary democratic rights. And he rounded off with some advice which must have had every capitalist in the audience standing and cheering:
  The Pope recommended the workers to practise Christian virtues and follow the motto of St. Benedict, “Ora et Labora” (pray and work). In so doing, you will earn the treasures of heaven, he said. 
Believe that if you like. One thing is certain: you won't earn treasures anywhere else.

Monkey business
At a furniture factory in Houston, Texas, three chimpanzees have begun work sealing cushions and doing other simple jobs. The factory-owner plans to replace one employee each week with a chimp. To the factory's workers, this means the threat of the sack, the threat of unemployment. But there is more to it than that. Surely this news item underlines our present predicament. These human beings—members of the human race, which produced Michaelangelo, Beethoven, Shakespeare—are now reduced to spending their working lives doing monotonous, repetitive jobs which could be done as well by chimpanzees. This is not a question of spending a couple of hours a day, or ten hours a week, tending machines, which people may well decide to do under Socialism, in order to produce enough of the necessaries of life and at the same time free themselves for the rest of the time to develop their personalities as they think best. This is a question of workers spending their entire working lives on stultifying tasks.

The Daily Herald (12/11/60) printed an article which said this should be stopped because of the harm it would do to the human ego. “. . . There are things that the human ego rejects, out of hand, without another thought. And one of those things is the realisation that one's occupation, one’s life work, could be done equally well by a chimpanzee.”

This must typify the difference in political thought between reformers and Socialists. The writer of the Herald article would stop the chimpanzees doing "these jobs, because it makes obvious the degradation of human beings involved— this, of course, would do nothing to stop the degradation. Socialists, on the other hand, want to abolish the system which leads to men spending their lives in this way.

No trivialities
From an advert, in The Times (19/10/60):
  The owner of a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II has his sights firmly on fundamentals and is never decoyed by passing trivialities. A philosophy reflected in his choice of motor car. . . .
So that’s how you get a Rolls. Next time you see anyone driving a broken-down old jalopy tied together with string, don’t assume rashly that it’s because he can’t afford anything better: no, it was his philosophy which led him to choose that model. If you feel that you have your “sights firmly on fundamentals” and the rest of it—well, your philosophy clearly entitles you to a Rolls. Better apply direct.
Alwyn Edgar