Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Notes by the Way: The Progress of Mr. Middleton Murry (1948)

The Notes by the Way Column from the April 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Progress of Mr. Middleton Murry

Mr. Middleton Murry, who at one time claimed to be a Marxist, though his understanding of it was obviously limited, and who was in the I.L.P. before throwing himself whole-heartedly into Pacifism, has moved forward (or backward). The following is an extract from a review by Mr. Charles Davy of Murry’s “The Free Society” (Observer, March 7th, 1948):—
Many people dislike Mr. Murry’s way of displaying his inner struggles by hastening into print whenever he loses or finds a faith, and certainly this has happened rather often. But it is fair to add that his struggles are about live issues, and one reason why he embarrasses readers is that he stirs up their own doubts and conflicts.

In his new book the issue concerns democracy, Communism and war. He declares himself no longer a Pacifist, for he now believes that the “free society” will not survive unless, an international Atomic Authority is set up, and Russia must be somehow compelled, if necessary by war—the "one just war”—to accept this and come in. Otherwise an ordinary war between Russia and the free societies is sooner or later inevitable.

The Russian Workers' Standard of Living

Comparisons of the workers’ standards of living in different countries are difficult to make, particularly when, as now, the prices of some articles are controlled while other prices (in the black market or the Russian "free market”) are very high indeed. It is therefore interesting to observe that Mr. K. Zilliacus, M.P., who is certainly not prejudiced against the Russian regime, shares the view of a Times correspondent that the Russian standard is lower than that in the West. In a letter to "Forward” (March 13th, 1948) he refers to the Times article and says:—
The article goes on to point out that the Soviet leaders are fully aware that they have not yet succeeded in raising standards of living of the Soviet population to a level comparable with that of the West; that the achievements of the Soviet Union cannot be made the basis for any really European-wide "revolutionary offensive” ; and that neither a war nor an economic depression would be of advantage to the Soviet Union—on the contrary.

Having spent most of my life in studying Soviet conditions, first as Intelligence Officer with the British Military Mission in Siberia for the two years, of intervention in Russia and then as a member of the Information Section of the League of Nations Secretariat for nineteen years, charged with keeping in touch with Soviet conditions and developments, I say the Times is right.

Lord Wavell on Political Education
"The ideal is that the people shall have reached such a standard of education that it will he useless and unprofitable to lie to them at elections. We have still a long way to go to reach this ideal.”
("The Triangle of Forces in Civil Leadership.” By Field-Marshal Earl Wavell.)


Mr. Herbert Morrison on the New War for Democracy

In a speech at Birmingham on March 13th Mr. Herbert Morrison announced the opening of a further struggle for democracy, this time against the Russian Government and its followers: —
"Jan Masaryk’s name will live in history as the inspiration of a new resistance movement against the enslavers. Do not doubt that this movement will in time sweep across Europe.”

"I hope that as resistance develops, with the same resources and initiative and sacrifice as in the war against Hitler, a new resistance will rise against tyranny, whatever the colour of its shirt may be.”

"On top of all our economic troubles we find ourselves back in the same sort of nightmare of aggression we thought we had banished by disposing of Hitler.” (Observer, March 14th, 1948.)
It is all very well for Mr. Morrison just to make a passing reference to what he mistakenly thought would be the result of the second world war, but as he was so utterly wrong he surely ought to re-examine the notions that led him to his error. After World War I (which he opposed) he declared he would never in any circumstances support war and rejected the idea that democracy could be safeguarded by war. Has the thought never crossed his mind that perhaps he was nearer the truth then than he has been since?

He was certainly on sounder lines in his speech when he went on to say that "if we can, here in Britain, demonstrate a working model of a healthy democracy based on a healthy economic, social, and political system, the overwhelming majority of mankind will do their utmost to imitate us,” but what hope has he of achieving that result while retaining capitalism? The Labour Government will never succeed in making capitalism healthy for the workers.

Knock, Knock

In the same speech Mr. Morrison gave some advice to the workers. "The modern worker is, or should be, a responsible partner in industry and he should be knocking at the manager’s door with ideas and suggestions It is management’s job to manage and to manage better every day. But every worker as his own responsibility for pushing up production.”

The workers have already been knocking at the door, but they get only a negative reply. They want the wage increases the Labour Party led them to expect under Labour Government; but the management and Mr. Morrison say no. They say that wages must be stabilized at their present level unless there is some special reason for an increase in certain industries. Workers receiving wages far too low to enable them to live decently (like the boiler stokers, liftmen and others employed in the Houses of Parliament who had to strike to get increases in their pay which is 97/- or 91/-) are apt to be cynical when they observe the standard of living the rich shareholders, enjoy, not to mention the fat salaries paid to members of the new nationalisation boards. In the House of Commons on February 17th the Prime Minister gave a list of these. Among the receivers of £8,500, £5,000, £3,500, etc., salaries are numbers of ex-trade union officials. The issue of Hansard for that day is well worth studying. Labour Party supporters must find it hard to square with the past propaganda of their Party against inequality, and with the Government’s frenzied statements about the crisis and the need to avoid increasing personal incomes.

Nationalised Industries and Profit Making

In the Daily Mail (February 18th, 1948) Sir Eustace Missenden, the new £7,000 a year chairman of The Railway Executive, had a word to say about the running of the railways under nationalisation: —
“We intend to show that we are not going to take money out of the taxpayers' pockets. We intend to run at a profit."
It should be remembered that in order to pay their way the State railways have to make a surplus of £30 million a year to pay the 3 per cent. on the £1,000 million of Transport Stock paid to the bought-out railway stockholders.

In the same issue of the Daily Mail (February 18th, 1948) was a report that the National Coal Board was closing down the Maindy Colliery because
“it would be failing in its duty if it did not close the colliery. In December there was a loss of £1 4s. 8d. a ton."

Communist Election Tactics

After losing their deposit at Wigan, where they ran against the Labour Party candidate, the Communists hurried down to North Croydon to tell the workers they should vote for the Labour candidate. The News Chronicle (March 9th, 1948) reported the following:— 
The funniest incident so far in the North Croydon by-election was the visit of Mr. Gallacher, one of the two Communist M.P.s, in order to give a back-handed blessing to the Labour cause and instruct the local Communists (if there are any) to vote for Mr. Harold Nicolson, whom he nevertheless described with characteristic politeness as "a sap."

For political ineptitude combined with political hypocrisy this would be hard to beat. No wonder the Labour agent told Mr. Gallacher to get off the bus. Nothing could do Nioolson greater harm than the crude attentions on the spot of a few vocal Communists and “cryptos.”
It recalls their antics during the war when they supported Tory candidates, as at Lancaster in October, 1941.
“War makes strange bedfellows. A Communist deputation visited the Conservative campaign headquarters in Lancaster this afternoon and offered to work for the return of Mr. MacLean, the National Government candidate." (Daily Telegraph, October 14th, 1941.)
On that occassion they opposed the I.L.P. candidate, Mr. Fenner Brockway.

It must give the Communists great satisfaction to know that their Tory candidate, now Brigadier F. H. R. MacLean, still holds the seat!

Nationalisation in Bulgaria

While the Communist Party of Great Britain has on some occasions demanded nationalisation without compensation, Communist controlled Bulgaria, under a recent nationalisation decree, affecting all industry, is providing for some compensation. According to the Times (January 26th, 1948) "compensation is to be paid in interest-bearing State bonds, the rate of compensation diminishing as the value of the assets taken over rises."

The Roast Beef of Old England

For a long time the bulk of meat eaten in Britain has been imported. Now a new development has taken place, for the Argentine Government has entered the business of distribution here.

According to the Evening Standard (February 10th, 1948) the majority of shares of the Smithfield and Argentine Meat Co. were recently bought by the Government-controlled Buenos Aires firm, C.A.P. (Corporation Argentina de Productores de Came).

The Standard adds;—
“Since the Smithfield and Argentine organisation in this country will carry on trading in Argentine meat as before, we shall have the piquant spectacle of the Argentines drawing profits from trading in Britain— from distributing your rations, in fact."
Edgar Hardcastle

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