The New Year came in to the ominous sound of politicians and economic experts assuring us that 1972 is going to be a boom time to remember. Ominous for those who recall, or who know about, all those other Januaries when the same forecasts from the same quarters turned sour. Most spectacularly, and most memorably, the year of the Great Crash—1929—was welcomed as a bumper year. There is plenty of evidence that the people who claim to control the economy of capitalism have no idea of what is happening but at times they make it too obvious.
Thus boom year 1972 opened with about one million out of work; what did they think, of the gay assurances on the city pages? of the reports of the bumper time many big investors had in 1971, and expect to better in 1972? It opened with the miners striking in a desperate attempt to hold the slide in their standard of living, with a strike. What sort of a boom is it, in the mining villages with only a ghost of a pit to remind them of the reality of capitalism’s economics—and its anarchy? When the experts tell us we are in for a good time, wise men take cover.
Some had to take cover literally, as the drums of poisonous chemicals from the sunken steamer came bobbing in on the tides along the beaches of southern England. This will not help the seaside landladies to get their share of boom time 1972. The incident sparked off, again, a great uproar about the environment and the way in which capitalism fouls the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat.
In some ways this is all to the good; after all, who chooses to take their holiday swim in a sea full of sodium cyanide? But it is fair to ask, where the environmentalists have been all this time, while socialists have been spelling out the facts on the pollution which capitalism has to cause. A clean world fit for humans to live in is an impossibility while society is organised on the basis of production for sale and profit. Capitalism pollutes and corrupts everything it touches, not simply our directly physical environment. We have been hammering home this lesson for over sixty years; and it still isn’t too late to do something about it.
The freeing of Sheik Mujib Rahman gave the people of East Pakistan a new god to worship; presumably they now feel secure and certain in their future. Nobody should be misled into thinking that the scenes of massive, hysterical rapture which followed Mujib’s release could happen only in a country like Pakistan. The memory of Nazi Germany, and of the mass adulation given to Churchill, is too close for that. The mob emotion in Pakistan is a symptom of the political backwardness of its people; just like their counterparts in more “advanced” countries, they are sure to be disappointed when they find how frail, how humanly impotent against the demands of class society, their new god is.
Meanwhile, a few thousand miles across the world the first preparations for the election of a new god are under way. In America the Democratic Party are beginning to sort out the contenders for their nomination for the next presidential election. From now until August there will be a series of primary elections, which will be contested with an intensity of purpose so strong that it may disguise the true nature of the whole affair. The same old promises, dressed up in up-to-date terms, will be dragged out and offered. There will be the same old talk about qualities of leadership, as each candidate modestly puts himself forward as the new superman who can solve all the problems of the American workers simply by being in the White House. A great deal of money will be spent in the campaigns. And the end result will be another leader of capitalism.
For some time it has been muttered, that Heath was about to reshuffle his government (“reshuffle” is a good word — after it all we’ve still got the same old cards) and present us with a new set of political bosses. There was some surprise, that this had not happened immediately in the New Year — and probably some anguish from the hopefuls who were looking to take the first steps up the ladder of political ambition. To the workers of Britain it need not matter, who rules over the part of capitalism they happen to live in. Their resolution for 1972 should be to do something about getting rid of the system, with all its suppression, its poisons, its cynicism and despair.