Success . . . .
State Capitalism marches on from triumph to triumph. British European Airways last year turned 1954’s loss of £400,000 into a profit of £862,000 (The Star, 28-2-56). And hard on the heels of this announcement comes the news that the British Overseas Airways Corporation almost doubled its net profit in the financial year 1955-56. It made a gross profit of about £1,750,000 on the year, and a net profit of about £500,000. This compared with last year’s net profit of £260,000 (The Observer, 1-4-56). These successes will no doubt make those staunch Labourites, who for years devoted themselves to bringing about the nationalization of the country's basis industries, feel very proud. Or will they?
. . . . for the Capitalists
The Socialist Party has consistently pointed out for more than half a century that nationalization is no more than Capitalism run by the State or its nominees. It has nothing to do with Socialism. And the more experience the country has of the actual running of nationalization, the more it becomes obvious that what the Socialist Party has always said about it is true. Now even social anthropologists, quietly pursuing their studies far removed from the hurly-burly of political conflict, arrive at the same conclusion. Norman Dennis, Fernando Henriques and Clifford Slaughter, have written a book embodying the results of their researches into the life of a Yorkshire mining town. “They found that"—to quote a review in The Times (54-56)—“they found that, in the mines, the old fundamental conflict between management and men has continued, and that the system of piece-work payments gives occasions every day for conflict between worker and management.” Of course it does. It is merely one aspect of the class struggle. The review of the book (“Coal is our Life”) goes on:
"The miner remains an employee, and whether or no he works is still dependent on the capacity of owners of capital to cater for him.”
The Socialist case could hardly be put more clearly than that. The worker is propertyless; therefore he is forced to sell his ability to work to the “owners of capital": and if the owners of capital cannot make a profit out of his work, they will not employ him, and so he is not allowed to work at all. Instead he goes on the dole, and his physical energies and mental faculties rot together. And this is the case whether he works in an industry run by private or by State capitalism.
And yet—probably on the very day you buy this paper—the left-wing political parties hold May-Day demonstrations to demand further doses of nationalization! Will they never learn?
The barnstorming tour of Mr. Malenkov through Britain has been providing journalists with a lot of copy during the past week or two. Patting children on the head, switching on a wide grin for the photographers, scattering “peace-medals” like confetti at a wedding, he has been arousing the ire of some political commentators who fear he may make Russia too popular. This situation is not without its humour. For the reports of Mr. Malenkov's doings—not forgetting his occasional gaucheries, such as asking an Ayr workman what he thought of Burns—are highly reminiscent of election-time, when the candidates of the big parties go cap in hand to the electors to solicit their votes. And the aforementioned commentators, none of whom complain about the activities of Parliamentary candidates who support the British ruling class, are now hoarsely indignant that Mr. Malenkov may win backing for the Russian ruling class by using the same dubious tactics. But what is sauce for Sir Anthony Eden and Mr. Gaitskell is also sauce for Mr. Malenkov—as well as for Messrs. Bulganin and Khrushchev, when they follow in Malenkov's footsteps; and only those who have criticised the electioneering tactics of the British political leaders have any right to criticise the same tactics now being employed by the Russians.
I see it all now
Mr. Malenkov has come to Britain at a crisis in the fortunes of the world's Communist Parties. The present leaders of the Soviet Communist Party have severely attacked the Stalin legend, and have boldly said about their late master what nearly everyone else has been saying about him for the last 30 years. And the Communist Party of Great Britain has. naturally, followed suit. The poor old British Bolsheviks have had to perform the about turn so often that, in revolutions per minute, they must now be challenging the internal combustion engine. Mr. Pollitt is reported to have fobbed off questions with the remark that, if Stalin hadn’t made any mistakes, he wouldn’t have been human. The accuracy of this remark is unchallengeable; but what a pity Mr. Pollitt didn’t have the guts to say so ten years ago, instead of spending his time kissing the ground in front of the great Stalin myth.
It may be that, for some time at any rate, Russia will be ruled by a committee of men instead of by one man. Developing Russian Capitalism seems to require—like developing English and French Capitalism required—a totalitarian regime at a certain stage; and it appears that the Russian ruling class has now decided that the “leadership” cult has been overdone. But committee-rule would not make Russia any more democratic. The powers of a police state like Russia may be exercised, just as effectively by ten men as by one. It is easy enough, for Communists inside and outside Russia, to criticise a fallen idol; but Russians will not have freedom of speech until they are at liberty to challenge the false theories of social development to which Communists have committed themselves, and to discuss publicly whether the Russian system is Socialism, or whether— as is in fact the case—it is merely State Capitalism.
Seconds out of the ring
So the British Royal Family has declined invitations to attend the forthcoming Royal Wedding of the Year (on my right, Prince Rainier, title-holder of Monaco; on my left, Grace Kelly, star attraction from Philadelphia and Hollywood). Which is curious. One would have thought the few remaining royalties would try to consolidate the ranks. But there may be an explanation. For when the crowds cheered at the Philip-Elizabeth wedding, and subsequently at the Coronation, the commentators rushed forward to tell us why. It was (we were told) Loyalty, the great throbbing Loyalty of the British people to its monarch. But now the same British people is showing just as much interest in the wedding of Rainier and Kelly—the representatives respectively of the Monte Carlo gaming-tables and the Californian arc-lights. Can it be that life within Capitalism is so drab that the British people would enthuse over anything which offered a little glamour, gaiety and colour, and that this much-vaunted Loyalty doesn't come into it?
While we’re on the subject of loyalty, a word about Ceylon. When the Queen undertook the round-the- Empire tour after the Coronation, nowhere was she more enthusiastically received than in Ceylon. Ah! said the experts—loyal Ceylon! But the results of Ceylon’s general election now show a landslide in favour of Mr. Bandaraniake's Party, which promised to make Ceylon a Republic outside the Commonwealth. In other words, the Ceylon ruling class, having freed itself from the control of the British ruling class after the war, is in no mood to retain the trappings of the British monarchy.
And once again the experts are proved wrong.
Chip that Buddha
When a ten-foot high Buddha was being moved by cane into a new temple in Bangkok recently it fell, and the plaster casing was chipped; beneath the casing the Buddha was seen to be made of gold (Sunday Express, 8-4-56). Now, it seems, the Buddhist temples of Siam are full of hurrying priests and laymen carrying hammer and chisel, purposefully bent on seeing whether their own Buddhas conceal the same treasure-trove. Mingled with the prayers of the worshippers comes the sound of the gold-hungry faithful attacking their hitherto inviolate idols. Meanwhile, the original monks are finding that they struck a gusher; offerings to the golden Buddha are pouring in like a pools-entrant’s dream, and already amount to nearly £20,000.
It is easy to sneer at these remarkable events; but surely there is here a message for us all. Beneath the outward show, and doctrinal differences, we can find here a text on which both Christians and Buddhists obviously agree. What text?
To him that hath shall be given,
How revolutionary can you get ?
It was suggested by a delegate at the Co-operative Party conference that no person should inherit more than £20,000 from any source (Sunday Express, 1-4-56). So instead of comparatively few big Capitalists, we should have a greater number of medium-sized Capitalists. What a suggestion with which to arouse the revolutionary fervour of the working class on the approach of May-Day!