A guerrilla calls
What with the Falklands, the Pope’s visit and all, it was hardly noticed, but recently Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was in London.
At another time—say three years ago—, the visit of this ex-guerrilla leader would certainly have been noticed. Such was his reputation as a bloodthirsty terrorist that his presence on these shores would have roused the most somnolent armchairs of Clubland.
And Mugabe, who still calls himself a “socialist”, would probably have occupied himself in discussions with other left wing leaders. At the end there might well have been a statement on the international fraternity of freedom fighters. And so on.
What actually happened was that Mugabe spent his time with bankers and industrialists, at one time at a banquet arranged by the overweight, overthrown Tory Lord Soames who did so much to help Mugabe to power.
Mugabe’s problem is not to do with international brotherhood: it is a lack of investment in Zimbabwe. His Cabinet planned for 45 per cent to come from private funds and the rest to include pledges of credit from other states, given in 1981. But British capitalists are wary; they are pressing for a “code” which will safeguard invested capital and guarantee that profits will be allowed out of Zimbabwe. If this crisis sounds familiar, that is because it is typical of many a state attempting its first footholds on the greasy slopes of international capitalism. Mugabe, like many other nationalist leaders, vowed to build socialism in one country. His is the latest experience to prove this is impossible and that nationalist struggles merely overthrow one ruling class to substitute another.
Leading politicians from 157 governments recently convened in New York for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament (UNGASSD). There, many solemn words were spoken on the urgent, nay imperative, need to disarm the world.
While cant was echoing around the conference chamber many politicians like Reagan, Brehznev and Thatcher were authorising bloodshed and destruction by armies, navies and air forces from their respective nations. The Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jan Martenson, announced that the annual global arms bill for all types of weapons and military equipment totals £353 BILLION—the highest it has ever been. Resolutions were carried with zeal at the UNGASSD, calling for all sorts of utopian disarmament measures, while the resolutions of the first Special Session on Disarmament, four years ago, are grotesquely mocked by the terrifying escalation in war apparatus since they were passed.
Ronald Reagan, fresh from arranging military finance for El Salvador and Guatemala, shaking hands with generals from military juntas like the one in Turkey and angling for the strategic positioning of American nuclear weapons half-way across the earth, strolled across Europe talking glibly about his “global campaign for peace and democracy”.
The totalitarian regimes of the Russian Empire prefer to remain more secretive about the magnitude of their military expenses, while in Britain on June 10 the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published a report which indicated that between 1980 and 1981 the Ministry of Defence exceeded its defence expenditure limit by £64,000,000 and had Spent a total of £10,556,000,000 on military forces. That works out at about one and a half million pounds a minute.
At the enormous CND march in London on June 6 Major Koss van de Wetering of the Dutch army announced that 50 per cent of Dutch soldiers are opposed to nuclear weapons. Perhaps because they would have no one to kill if such weapons were used in a war. The indefatigably moderate Young Liberals called for “Action against US Missiles”, although you wouldn’t get good odds on the chances of the Young Liberals in the event of such a conflict.
Ken Livingstone declared London a Nuclear Free Zone and car stickers to this effect were distributed. If London is attacked with nuclear weapons, let’s hope that the bombs (i) are able to read and understand the stickers (ii) are prepared to abide by the decision of Ken Livingstone and his supporters in County Hall. Shocked astonishment greeted the discovery that the Argentine army was preparing to use the horrific non-nuclear weapon, napalm (a burning agent) and then it is reported that the reason for so many “light casualties” (gruesome maimings) after one British ship is attacked in the South Atlantic is that it may have been carrying . . . napalm ((Guardian, 12 June).
On the first day of the Disarmament Conference Cardinal Terence Cooke cast his eyes up to the conference chamber neon lights and prayed to God for “peace in the islands of the South Atlantic, in the land of Lebanon and other nations of the Middle East, in Northern Ireland, in Poland and in Afghanistan”. While he was hoping, there were probably padres attached to soldiers in all of these places telling the soldiers that their violence had been divinely condoned as god was on their side. It is idealistic to believe that capitalism could be operated without armies to protect the interests of the ruling class organised in nations.
The Common Sergeant is not necessarily an NCO who spits and wipes his nose on his sleeve. A Recorder is not always a musical instrument. Both are titles given to senior judges, who may find pleasure in such obscure anachronisms. One such who is about to retire is Lord Denning, who has been Master of the Rolls (not a man in charge of the bakery) for some twenty years and who, at 83, is in danger of becoming himself an obscure anachronism.
According to some legal journalists we shall be sorry to lose Denning because he is a judge who believes in justice rather than in what he calls “certainty”. This belief has persuaded him at times to interpret the law as he thought it ought to be rather than it is, to the embarrassment of his fellow judges and to the ire of the politicians.
Nobody has yet explained why this should make Denning a friend of the working class. Indeed, in his time he has been associated with some notably repressive judgements. He once launched a campaign to curb trade union power and was recently forced to withdraw a book in which he clearly indicated that he mistrusted black jurors to convict defendants of the same skin colour.
But Denning is not the first eccentric judge, nor will he be the last. The judiciary exists to administer “justice”, which means the private property morality of capitalist society. They deal out harsh punishments to anyone who offends against that morality by helping themselves to wealth outside the law: they order the eviction of homeless people from empty houses which they can’t afford to live in. Such power is positively an encouragement to eccentricity. Denning’s successor may show some superficial differences, but he will be doing the same dirty job and his hands will not be clean.