Take-overs and Big Money
In big business, in many spheres, the mergers go on, involving sums of money large enough to be quite remote from any working class reality.
Beer. Whitbreads is bringing off a £47 million merger with Flowers, one of the first firms to go into the keg beer market. Whitbreads already hold some shares in Flowers and have a trading agreement with them. In the past, they seemed content to leave it at that. But last December, in similar circumstances, they took over Tennants: that, and the latest merger, seem to indicate a change of policy at Whitbreads. Month by month the brewing firms get fewer and bigger. The Flowers take-over might be followed by a hot battle for the remaining independent companies.
Food. Nestlé, the big beverage and chocolate firm, have set up a £16 million company by taking over the Swedish frozen food group Marabou-Findus-Freia. Nestlé already own the Crosse and Blackwell tinned food concern and the Maggi soup business. The latest merger puts them into the British frozen food market, to challenge the sixty-four per cent. hold which Unilever have on it at the moment. The sales of frozen food in this country have leaped from £13 million in 1956 to £57 million a year today. Nestlé will be hoping that they will live up to expectations and reach £100 million by 1964. If this does not happen, Nestlé will not go broke: The Guardian reports them as one of the ten largest companies in the world.
Building. Twenty million pounds was involved in the merger between the Rugby Portland Cement Company and Eastwoods, the brick firm. Rugby, who have subsidiaries in Australia and the West Indies, have not taken over any firm for the last sixteen years. Their latest profit of over £2 million was a record for them, although like so many other companies their margins are under pressure
As Capitalism gets older it gets bigger and more concentrated. As it does so. the worker grows more remote and personally insignificant. This is what Karl Marx, said would happen, over a century ago. Nobody listened much to him then and nobody listens much now.
The official peace in Algeria hangs upon a slender thread.
The FLN control the countryside except for the oilfields, where the Europeans strongly support the Secret Army Organisation. In the cities the OAS continue to run riot, killing and provoking.
The popular theory, that if the French government could capture Salan they would finish the OAS. has been disproved. Events have shown that the nationalism of the colons has deeper roots. The colonels, said to be more ruthless than Salan, have taken over with reported sighs of relief that the ex-general no longer impedes them in the business of really serious terrorism.
The Moslems are suffering fearful provocation and strain coupled with chronic unemployment and. for some of them, near starvation. So far their obedience to the FLN policy of restraint has been remarkable, but it is anybody's guess how long it will hold out. The FLN leaders are themselves divided on the issue, with some of them sticking out for moving the Algerian army into the cities to clean up the OAS.
Algeria, in short, is a horrible mess. The original reasons for the conflict seem to have been somewhat blurred. Basically, they are: the Algerians want to run the country themselves, under their own ruling class, who will own the country's resources and exploit its workers. The French, who used to do this themselves, want to hang on to their possessions and rights.
For the workers on both sides no interests nor benefits are involved in this struggle. It should not concern an Algerian worker, nor a French one, that there is about to be a change in the nationality of the class which owns and exploits Algeria.
But nationalism, patriotism and simple ignorance can persuade workers all over the world to join in Capitalism's bloodbaths.
They can persuade them to perform disgusting acts of terrorism. They persuaded the FLN to do this and they persuaded the OAS as well.
It is a long time since the late Aneurin Bevan promised that the housing situation would not be an issue at a future general election.
As usual with a politician’s snappy phrase, it is difficult to get at Bevan's exact meaning. He may have been saying that, whatever hardships the workers met in their housing, they would forget them when the election came along. This is not an unsound assumption; working class voters forget many worse problems. That is one of the reasons they keep Capitalism in existence.
But perhaps Bevan meant that during the few years after 1945 the housing problem would be solved. If he did his promise, like so many others, has been discredited by the social system he tried to administer.
The London Council Council now has seven hundred and eighty-two homeless families, made up of 3,726 people, in its care. This is the most ever. The figure has been climbing steadily since the turn of the year; at the end of January the homeless families numbered six hundred and forty-seven.
This situation has forced the LCC to go back on its decision to close the emergency accommodation provided in places like Newington Lodge and Luxborough Lodge. These buildings came in for some heavy criticism a few months ago: they are old and exceedingly depressing places. The emergency centres will take only women and children, which means that, on top of their other worries, the homeless families are split up.
Here is a very bitter problem, which is not untypical in the sense that it is at the very heart of the degradation which poverty brings to the entire working class.
This is the class with a housing problem, because their living, and their
standards of living, depend upon their wages. Capitalists, who get their living from their ownership of society's means of production, are simply too rich to suffer bad housing.
Working class poverty is an inescapable part of Capitalism, which means that housing will always be a sore spot for the workers
Lots of well-meaning reformers have tried to solve this problem and have been beaten by it. So have quite a few, perhaps less well-meaning, politicians.