Sunday, October 1, 2023

So They Say: Nearest and Dearest (1973)

The So They Say Column from the October 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nearest and Dearest

The case last month in which an Englishman married a Malawi-born woman to prevent her deportation, the couple intending to divorce immediately, was treated by the press as unique. It is not. Five years ago the celebrated small-ads pages of International Times were regularly carrying advertisements from seekers and offerers of nationality-by-marriage. They are currently to be found in the Personal column of Private Eye:
Englishman (26) offers citizenship by marriage. Best offer.
Englishman offers British citizenship £800.
Englishman offers British citizenship. Best offer over £1,000.
Socialist Standard readers are invited to think of a new answer to the question: Would you let your daughter marry a black man? As Byron wrote, “ready money is Aladdin's lamp”. In its light can be seen the fatuousness of legal marriage vows as well as the stupidity of national boundaries and immigration laws.

Growing Stunts Your Growth

The classic definition of inflation is “too much money chasing too few goods”. The aim of western governments wrestling with it has been to try to hold back wages and prices on one hand, and promote productive growth on the other. More goods, less currency: it seems logical. “Growth” is not only the answer to the inflation problem, but the source of the ecological one. With growth, pollution comes; without it, we are in the economic mire.

That is what they say, at any rate. But a report from Japan (Guardian, 1st September) turns the economic picture another way up. There, to try to stop inflation the Cabinet has framed measures “aimed at moderating the growth rate of Japan’s economy”. The programme has familiar features like cuts in bank lending, hire-purchase restrictions, etc., but goes on to a series of limitations on development. They include the postponement of public works and the reduction of outlays on new plant and equipment in the motor industry. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry will also
ask six industries to reduce capital spending plans in fiscal 1973 by 102 billion yen, centring on long-lead-time projects. These include the steel, petrochemical, electronic and electrical machinery, aluminium smelting and rolling, electric power and retail sectors.

Pay Attention, There !

In fact, capitalists in Japan, like their counterparts everywhere else, recognize that they must follow not the theories of government but the market. On 10th September the “City Comment” columnist of the Guardian asked an industrialist if his company was affected “by the thought that the Government was committed to the expansion of the economy and running immense economic and social risks apparently on industry’s behalf”.
The blunt answer was no. The company was paying no attention whatsoever to Mr. Heath’s obstinate growth policy in forming its new investment plans. It was working on the assumption that by 1975 demand for its products would be slowing down markedly, for other industries the deceleration would come earlier. As for Mr. Heath’s expansionist propaganda, it was dismissed as ‘politicians’ talk’, for public consumption.

Making A Crow Grow

One company whose “profit growth record” has been checked is Acrow Engineering group. Due to the losses of a newly-acquired subsidiary, Steel Group of Sunderland, Acrow's pre-tax profits for 1972-73 rose by only 3 per cent., from £2,617,000 to £2,697,000, instead of the 10-13 per cent, shown in the last five years. According to the annual report (1st September) the difficulties at Sunderland are now being resolved; and “the original Acrow companies had performed well”.

“Performed” is an appropriate word. Students approaching an Acrow works in south-east England for vacation work this summer were offered employment as labourers for 20p. an hour. A 44-hour week in factory conditions at that rate brings a wage of £8.80p. before deductions. Perhaps it is a scheme for teaching economics students the meaning of “surplus-value”, first hand.

Rising Tally

Another interesting report is that of the Provident Clothing company. Its profits have been rising for some time, and in the six months to 30th June this year they jumped 35 per cent. Provident Clothing’s figures have to be given in an unusual way. The leap in the current year is from £71.2 millions to £127.6 millions in amounts due from customers and from £12.5 millions to £25.6 millions in deferred revenue.

Financial-page comment has put this surge down to “buoyant consumer sales”. However, Provident is the best-known name in the check and voucher business — hence the statement of incomes “due” and “deferred”: like the weekly payments for clothes and household goods. Nothing “buoyant” about that. Provident Clothing prospers through poverty and working people trying to make ends meet. No doubt employees of Acrow Enginering are among its regular customers.

Liberal Sentiments

The recent Liberal Party gains have produced euphoric visions of capitalism humanized by Liberals’ “concern for the individual”. It is more to the point to know what economic policy the Liberal Party would try if in power. On 11th September it published a document which proposes “a prices and incomes policy enforced by fiscal penalties”.

The penalties envisaged are for exceeding laid-down rates of increase in prices and wages. For companies they would be additions to Corporation Tax; for workers, surcharges on graduated National Insurance contributions. John Pardoe, MP, defending this policy in a letter to the Guardian, called it “foolproof” and asserted:
It needs no policemen and no prisons, and it removes the Government from day to day interference in wage and price settlements.
Oh, marvellous: away with all this cumbersome machinery, and let us return to straightforward pay cuts.
It would be interesting to learn how the obviously large addition to Inland Revenue work is to be accomplished. Tax officials have complained continually of understaffing and overwork. Is the solution to raise wages to recruit more clerks, and then cut the wages to defeat inflation ?

A Freudian Misprint

“No doubt it is possible for a well led, well educated, well housed individual ... to come to the conclusions reached by your correspondent.” (Letter from a clergyman to The Guardian, 7th September; our emphasis. If he did not mean it, he should have.)
Robert Barltrop

No comments: