Wednesday, June 22, 2022

News in Review: Mandela Speaks (1964)

The News in Review column from the June 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mandela Speaks

In Pretoria Nelson Mandela has stood trial, with eight others, on charges of attempting revolution by violence. If he is found guilty—and he does not deny that he helped to organise acts of sabotage— Mandela could be sentenced to death.

It is inevitable, in the prevailing conditions and atmosphere in South Africa, that Mandela's case should arouse considerable sympathy. To many of those who resent the repressions and indignities which the coloured people of South Africa are subjected to, Mandela's admitted activities are anything but crimes. They are his people’s cries for help.

It is a truism that violent repressions are bound to provoke violent resistance. Because of this, a man in Mandela’s predicament can often come to be thought of as almost a saint. But history has shown how a saint under duress at one time, can be a devil in command at another. The past is crowded with men who have been imprisoned—and even sentenced to death—for their opposition to a repressive power and who, when they eventually themselves took over their country, proved to be no better than the power they had deposed. DeValera, Nkrumah, Ben Bella are only three like this who spring to mind. 
What of Mandela?

During his trial he set out his views in a four and a half hour speech. It is instructive to examine this speech, especially some of the more revealing passages in it.
We all (Ghandi, Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser) accept the need for some form of Socialism to enable our people to catch up with the advanced countries of the world . . .
It is common for the leaders of rising nationalist movements to tag the name of Socialism onto the measures of state control they would like to impose to try to advance their country's economy. The correct description for these measures is state capitalism, which in large .doses has often led to the imposition of a dictatorship, and which in any case never offers a country’s workers a future any better than private enterprise capitalism.

But even more significant is another passage.
I approached this question (guerilla warfare) as every African Nationalist should do . . . I attempted to examine all types of authority on the subject. . . . covering such a variety as Mao Tse-Tung and Che Guevara on the one hand, and the writings on the Anglo-Boer War on the other.
The point in this, which Mandela’s sympathisers arc bound to miss, is that both Mao Tse-Tung and the Boers were once lighters against oppression. They used the same sort of arguments about human dignity and freedom which Mandela now uses. Yet in the end they have themselves imposed hard dictatorships, under the thrall of which Mandela and his friends have suffered.

What reason is there to believe that the African Nationalists, if they ever got power, would be any improvement on the Boers? The history of capitalism says that there is no reason whatever.

Spy exchange

Of all the dirty jobs which capitalism needs to have done, spying is one of the worst.

And not the least unpleasant aspect of spying is its calculated indifference. A spy knows the score. He knows that he is out on his own and that if he gets caught he must take what is coming to him. The government which sent him out will not—indeed cannot—help him. Except in the very rare occasions when their hand is forced—the U2 is an example—they will not ever admit that the man is a spy.

This was why the Russians never officially recognised Gordon Lonsdale as one of their agents. For the same reasons, the British government’s protestations, that Mr. Greville Wynne was just a harmless business man, should not be automatically believed.

What seems most likely is that Wynne was a small cog in the British espionage machine, perhaps convinced that he was only doing his patriotic duly by being a messenger boy. The freedom which the press were given, to interview him and to follow him around, when he returned to England suggest that he was anything but an important spy.

The striking thing about the affair was the grisly cynicism with which Wynne was used. The British government held off agreeing to the exchange until they were given a “humanitarian” reason for doing so. The Russians duly obliged by ill-treating Wynne, so that he came back an unrecognisable shadow of the man who went out.

Thus the newspapers were given sonic interesting photographs to take and some interesting stories to print and presumably someone, somewhere, was satisfied that all the niceties of international double-dealing had been complied with.

It never seemed to strike anybody—except the Wynne family—that they were playing with a man's life.

Ah, well, Capitalism has shown again and again that it has an order of priorities and that human welfare is nowhere near the top of it.

Ready for the Unions

More than ever convinced that they are a sure bet to win the next election, the Labour Party are turning anxious eyes upon the problems they are likely to meet when they take office.

One of these problems will be the size of our wage packets. Despite the airy assurances which the capitalist parties give at election times, all of them know that one of their knottiest problems is to hold wages in check while doing nothing which they think might affect the conditions which give rise to a heavy demand for labour.

The Tories have played this one pretty cool, but the Labour Party are convinced that they have a special advantage in meeting this problem. Their leaders never tire of telling us that only a Labour government, with its close ties with the unions, can effectively control wage claims. And now, as the autumn draws near, they are busily rallying the unions to accept the restrictions which lie ahead. 

Listen to these.
A Labour Government and trade unionists have shown how to work wholeheartedly for the same thing. Sometimes they will have to share uncomfortable responsibilities and consequences. [Who said that? Deputy Labour Lender George Brown.]

. . . unless the unions face the facts of life as they are in the late 1960’s, then in seven to ten years’ time the State will have to intervene. [Who said that? Labour's Shadow Minister of Labour Ray Gunter.]

The miners never had a better friend than Alf Robens. They would be in a mess if he had not come to the Coal Board in I960. [Who said that? Alf Robens, of course.]
These statements—and there are many others to choose from—have a nervously sanguine tone to them. Do the present Labour leaders remember the fights which the Attlee government had over wages? Do they remember the wage-freeze? The strikes, and how the Labour government did their best to break them? Do they fear that they will have to face the same battles, when they are the government?

And is that why they are so determinedly whistling in the dark?

Big time divorce

One of the fashionable tendencies in big business over the past few years has been to merge and to concentrate into gigantic industrial and commercial combines. We need hardly say that the drive behind this fashion has been the need to hold their own in the jungle war that is capitalism.

This tendency has accounted for firms which once seemed to be implacable rivals. An example of this was the merger between the Austin and Morris motor companies, which produced the British Motor Corporation.

These mergers have happened because the companies involved in them have been convinced that they stood to gain a lot by the marriage. And it is that same conviction that has persuaded ICI and Courtaulds apparently to go against the trend and to break up their partnership in the jointly owned British Nylon Spinners.

This divorce will entail Courtaulds surrendering their half share in BNS and ICI giving up their holding of 30 million Courtaulds shares which they were left with after their unsuccessful takeover bid in 1962.

Despite this big shareholding, ICl had no director on the Courtaulds boards, which meant that although they had a substantial amount of capital at stake in the company they did not have a commensurate amount of control over its day to day affairs.

This was one of the results of the strained relations between the two firms which came out of the great takeover battle.

At the same time, Courtaulds have become interested in Nylon 6, a new fibre which they are already producing in a few countries abroad. Dutch and American firms are starting production of Nylon 6 in this country (on the very day the ICI/Courtaulds divorce was announced Chemstrand, a subsidiary of the US Monsanto Corporation, gave out that they intended to build a £6 million Nylon 6 plant in Scotland), and Courtaulds, restricted by their interest in the BNS fibre Nylon 66, saw that they might be losing a trick.

By all the profit-conscious, competitive, standards of capitalism, then, the divorce was a logical move. But it does not mean that there is any reversal in the trend to concentrate.

Rather, in the manner of living cells, ICI and Courtaulds have divided only to become larger and to multiply. It is very much on the cards that one day in the not too distant future we shall see them in a head-on battle over the nylon market. That will be a contest with a horrible fascination all of its own.

1 comment:

Imposs1904 said...

That's the June 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard done and dusted.