Lord and Lady Brownlow were telling me the other day of their family financial arrangements. Their four-year-old son, Peregrine, has just inherited £3 million. As they said, he will remain “a very normal little boy”.
Someone must have eavesdropped, because now the Daily Express columnist Jean Rook (29.11.78) has seized the chance to make a cheap sneer. How can any four-year-old with £3 million be “normal”, she says. She has missed the point entirely. He is a very normal little boy by capitalist standards. What’s so special about three millionnn? Nobody said anything about him being normal from a working-class point of view.
Journalists pretend to forget that the two classes in our society are completely different. What is normal for us in the capitalist class is not, of course, normal for the rest of the population. For example, you wouldn’t find a capitalist making a cheap sneer. An expensive one, possibly.
At the club this morning we all agreed what a splendid letter dear old John Wakeham, the Conservative MP, wrote to the Daily Telegraph the other day (15.11.78). He said, in a fine peroration. “Conservatives put their country first, their party second and themselves last.” Absolutely true, we told each other, if by Conservatives you mean the upper-class people who really run the party. Some of us at the club were Labour supporters, and we all accepted it was true of Labourites and Tories alike among the ruling class How different from the workers! Someone made an impromptu speech attacking these greedy union- members, always selfishly trying to grab more devalued money—the “Gadarene rush” as one industrialist called it recently. We all enjoyed the implication that these people perpetually worried about their wages and salaries are simply swine. We had a few rounds of drinks to toast our own self-sacrifice, and the noble unselfishness of all the moneyed people like us. heroically putting their country first and themselves last. We all tried not laugh.
Had a few people to dinner myself this evening. Among the trimmings were half a dozen edible dormice at £39 each (from a farmer near Stockport, Sunday People, 24.12.78). a few jars of caviar at £104 a pound (Observer, 24.12.78) and a small bottle of Hungarian Tokay wine probably dating from the 1680s. which I got recently at Sotheby's for £1300 (Daily Telegraph, 14.12.78). There isn’t much eating or drinking in any of them, but it’s these little things that show your guests you have made an effort.
The poor old Shah of Persia! So the Iranian capitalist class has decided to ditch him. 1 warned him last winter what might happen. I was staying on Kish Island, in the Persian Gulf, where (as the Daily Telegraph put it, 11.11.78) "a complex of villas, casinos, and a luxury hotel has been built and where bevies of imported French girls act as 'maids’. Further lavish development is planned.” It is only for the upper class —"the very rich of the Gulf area, influential Persians, and the aristocracy.” Others need not apply. "Strict security screening makes certain that only the favoured are allowed into the exclusive holiday club with its £800 membership fee. a compulsory £8000 credit card and villas at rentals running into thousands." The idea is an obvious money-spinner, given the number of people around with pots of money to spend on enjoying themselves, and the Pahlavi Foundation, the Shah’s family trust, apparently provided most of the finance for setting up this paradise of extravagant pleasure for the well-heeled (Observer, 7.1.79). "The Shah and his family have spent several winter holidays at a Royal residence on the island but not at the club where the French 'maids’ sunbathe topless" (Daily Telegraph, 11.11.78).
When I stayed there I had several talks with the King of Kings, as he is (or was) known to his friends. I told him that despotism, with its censorship, its vast armed forces, and its secret police (such as the Shah’s Savak), and all the expense of jails for political prisoners, was very expensive. In Britain, I said, the ruling class was firmly in power. and our system was much cheaper. I tried to persuade him to allow freedom of speech, political association, and so on. I pointed out that under our system only the very rich could run mass newspapers and magazines, or own TV and radio companies; and with the state radio and TV also pouring out pro-capitalist propaganda continuously, the people of Britain have so far been persuaded into almost total support of capitalism. The political parties that come to the top in our system (I said) all advocate various models of capitalism, whether mainly private enterprise, mainly State-controlled, or something between the two. So capitalism is safe whichever party is in power; no expenditure is usually necessary on secret police, military tribunals, expensive political jails, or a censorship apparatus; and you can boast of your democratic freedoms, which is very useful in drumming up support for the State, both in peacetime and (even more) in wartime.
The Shah, however, said it wouldn’t work at present in Iran. Practically everyone in Britain can read, and so is subject to written propaganda: not so, yet, in Iran. Nor are TV sets as common there as here. When universal education and hire purchase have put this right, said the Shah, he would think about it.
And now it’s too late! Perhaps I'll drop a line to the Ayatollah Khomeini, the new "strong man", giving him due warning. Despotism seems more stable than democracy; really, the opposite is true.
Have made an agreement for the first day of the shooting next season. I’ve got some nice pheasant and partridge moors for £3500 for an eight-gun syndicate, including myself. Last year the first-day bag of these moors was 700 birds. It’s getting a bit on the expensive side—in lots of places a couple of good days after the pheasants will cost you well over £500 per gun (Daily Telegraph, 11.12.78). Last season I got up a little party and we took a 10,000-acre estate pheasants and partridges for £20,000.
I like imagining I'm knocking over some of these damned strikers or picketers when I’m after the game. Each pheasant I kill, I say to myself—that’s another of these idle trouble-makers accounted for! Shooting’s too good for some of them.
A lot of unnecessary fuss in Denmark. The Danish Minister of Education. Mrs. Ritt Bjerregard. went to Paris for a Unesco conference, and her expenses for a thirteen-day stay were £5,700 (Daily Telegraph, 23.12.78). The Danish PM told her to pay part herself, and when she refused, sacked her.
A storm in a teacup. £5700 is nothing out of the ordinary—I've spent much more than that in two weeks in Paris! If this Mrs. Bjerregard is a member of the capitalist class, she could easily pay it herself; if not. she shouldn't have enjoyed herself on that scale.
The truth is. the Minister seems to have been enjoying herself as if she were rich, when she wasn’t.
Though democracy has many advantages for the ruling class in advanced Western societies, it is not without its drawbacks. Sometimes I wonder if the rival political parties don’t go too far in their battles to secure the fruits of office. There’s no denying that some awkward facts do leak out occasionally.
Mr. Callaghan and most of his ministers have committed themselves to the thesis that the working class causes inflation through pay-increases, which is their defence when they are criticized over the continuing rise in prices. Of course we in the ruling class know that this claim is nonsensical, but it is good propaganda and makes for exciting newspaper stories against the greedy proles. But in their haste to discredit Callaghan's lot and grab place and power for themselves, some Tories have been prepared to show up Callaghan's naive errors, even at the expense of abandoning a first class anti-worker argument. The Daily Telegraph published a middle-page article recently (15.11.78) in which the author pointed out that rising wages cannot push up the price of goods unless the Government validates increased prices by printing more money . . . That this is clearly true is suggested by the fact that many firms have been unable to recoup rising labour costs by increased prices: for if prices could always be raised by as much as costs rose, no firm need ever lose money.” A week later (22.11.78) another middle-page article recalled the real reason why Governments of all kinds have continuously and deliberately inflated the currency for the last forty years: "Keynes persuaded a whole generation that by expanding the money supply and generating mild inflation, thereby reducing real wages, it would be possible to circumvent union opposition to necessary wage-reductions.”
Now we all know that these are the facts of the case. The Telegraph writers have exposed Callaghan—either he has been deliberately doing one thing and saying another (whatever you call that kind of behaviour), or he is painfully ignorant of elementary economics. But supposing the workers get to know of this? Most trade union leaders who appear on the TV hasten to register their agreement with Callaghan’s claptrap. self-evidently fallacious though it is, and grovellingly apologize for their members who have gone on strike hoping to regain the standard of living they thought they had agreed to work for a year ago, is it wise to abandon such a splendid weapon, which the newspapers continually use to pillory the workers?
When Mrs. Thatcher gets to Number Ten she may probably want to use the same argument, blaming the unions for the inevitable results of the state’s Keynesian economics: I hope she won’t find the ground has been cut from under her feet.