Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Passing Show: No excuse for less work (1960)

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

No excuse for less work

Religion is one of the chief allies of the ruling class, but as capitalism develops some of the old religious observances become impediments. When that happens, of course, religion has to give way. Even the great usefulness of religion to the ruling class does not compensate for the loss of profits. One example is the Moslem ceremony of Ramadan, in which for thirty days Moslems may not eat or drink during daylight. This means that as soon as dusk falls there is a rush to eat and drink, which often develops into all-night parties. The result is that the workers output, and the employers’ surplus value, declines. As the News Chronicle (5/3/60) puts it:
Up to now, as in the rest of the Moslem world, Tunisia's life came almost to a standstill during Ramadan because of the dawn to dusk fast. In some cases production dropped 70 per cent.
President Bourguiba, who runs the state machine on behalf of the emerging Tunisian capitalist class, could not be expected to tolerate that. Capitalism demands hard, regular toil from its workers, whatever religion may say. So the President acted
Bourguiba has not banned the fast outright. But he has stated firmly that fasting will not be accepted as an excuse for less work.
And, apparently, this warning is having an effect. The article says, “Tunisians are now obeying his order to work as usual during Ramadan.” So Bourguiba justifies his position as Tunisian capitalism's chief executive.

His country

From Tunisian capitalism to the British variety. The status quo here can have few stauncher defenders than some of our trade union leaders. Ore of them is Sir Frederick Burrows, ex-president of the National Union of Railwaymen. Sir Frederick felt moved recently to let the public know his views on the planned railway strike. The paper he chose to write to was The Times (10/2/60). which can be read by only a minority of railwaymen (it costs fourpence a day for a start); its readership is mostly either ruling class or those who like to think that they arc ” top people.” Sir Frederick finished his letter as follows:
If the N.U.R. desire to perpetuate Tory rule for another decade, if they wish to make the very name of railwaymen a scoff and a by-word, then they will strike, but I, personally, have more faith in their judgment. I trust that they will reject the advice of the malcontents in their ranks and act once again the splendid role they played in the war, when one and all stood for England—My Country, right or wrong.
Surely even a member of the ruling class would hesitate these days before trotting out again such hackneyed cliches. Even G. K. Chesterton, who was very far from being a Socialist, said that to say, “My country, right or wrong,” was like saying “My mother, drunk or sober.” But Sir Frederick rushes in with his jingoistic farrago where others might fear to tread. No wonder he chose the ‘‘top people’s” paper to write to.

It’s those foreigners again

From the Guardian of 10/2/60, under a Pretoria date-line:
Police armed with Sten guns, rifles and revolvers stood by today at Mooiplats squatter camp about five miles south-west of here while a bulldozer flattened houses, shanties and hovels from which 300 African families with no other homes are being evicted. The camp has existed since 1926. As walls crashed in clouds of dust lorries piled high with African men. women and children and their possessions left the camp. Mooiplats has been declared an area for Indians. Pretoria City Council's policy is to clear squatter camps. It is stated that most of the evicted Africans arc foreign Africans and will not be given municipal accommodation.
‘‘Foreign Africans”! These people are Africans; they were born in Africa and have spent their lives there; they are earning their livings, such as they are, in Africa; but they are ‘‘foreigners,” because they come from the other side of one of the boundary lines drawn on the map by the European powers who carved Africa up among them. When we have a rational society we will be able to forget the crazy artificiality of the divisions imposed on us by the necessities of private property. Wc will discard the bogies of nationality and race, and remember what we really are—one race, the human.
Alwyn Edgar

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