Sunday, June 16, 2024

So They Say: Imaginary Differences (1976)

The So They Say Column from the June 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard

Imaginary Differences

Cartoons have been appearing in the press suggesting that the policies of the Conservative Party have become a mystery—that they offer no alternative to the Labour Party. In an attempt to dispel this view, cartoon characters in the shape of Conservative MPs and their attendants have been hurriedly pounding tables proclaiming that there is a clear distinction between “Conservative philosophy with Socialist [Labour Party] dogma” (letter to the Daily Telegraph, 12th May 1976).
What the Conservatives had to do was point out to the country that the Labour Party was under the control of the left wing and the Michael Foots of the world and then point out that the Tories were a party who took a different view and line for the future.
Daily Telegraph, 28th April 76
If that was not a tall enough order to begin with, the Labour Party is not making things any easier for them. Maurice MacMillan (Conservative MP), attempting to “make clear our own constructive alternatives”, pointed to the basic problem as he saw it:
Conservatives must be bold enough to say that businesses and investors must be given a real incentive by allowing them additional profits from their investments.
Times, 10th May 76
While MacMillan and his fellow drones have been plucking up their courage to say such a thing, they appear to have missed Callaghan who found his nerve some days earlier:
The first thing to concentrate on is to ensure that there is sufficient incentive to provide a proper level of investment in these firms so that productive jobs can be created. That is what I would like to focus on. But I don’t believe you can force a large private sector to invest. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, and you have to apply the incentives necessary which compel it to drink.
Guardian, 5th May 76
Conservative philosophy or Labour Party dogma— after the froth, they bow to the profit motive.

An Acceptable Face

We have heard of the blind leading the blind. Now we have William Whitelaw, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, lecturing his cohorts on public relations. At a meeting held in a pub on 27th April he informed members of the Reform Group that at the next election Conservatives would “break from the party political tradition of making manifesto promises.” Other things were to change too—“we have to be scrupulously honest.” Good grief! What are they going to put in it? Whitelaw had an answer for that as well; they would announce “decreased public spending.” But before his audience could choke on their beer and sandwiches, he quickly pointed out that appearances could be deceptive: The Tories must not
turn into a hard-faced party. We must not be seen as the party looking all the time on the money side and not being interested in the various social problems that are certain to come up, and certain to be increased as our country is short of money. We must act with an economic head but also be seen to have a heart at the same time.
Daily Telegraph, 28th April 76
There goes the “scrupulously honest” facade. If this body politic of fair face, economic head, bulging pockets and kindly heart requires soft brain-matter, Whitelaw will no doubt become a donor.

You'll Never Walk Alone

It was hard to imagine that the announcements had not been made to the accompaniment of tambourines, the Joystrings and the Hallelujah Chorus: “We’re next for the economic miracle, says Healey” read the headline in the Daily Telegraph of 11th May.
Providing we can make this incomes policy stick to the end of the next wage round, I believe we have got the inflation problem under control. Now we must concentrate on the problem of unemployment. We want to get back to full employment within three years from now.
But "full employment” has become a loosely interpreted phrase, and before the “believers” acclaim the “miracle worker” too hastily, we draw attention to the specific statements made by Healey in the previous week.
The best we can hope for is to reduce unemployment to 3 per cent. or about 700,000 in 1979 . . . The TUC have expressed the hope that unemployment can be reduced to 600,000 in 1978. But I have already explained to them that this is too ambitious.
Guardian, 5th May 76
So the “miracle” becomes a mirage, and not a particularly distinguished one at that. The working class can take cold comfort from what Healey described as:
The tributes [which] are pouring in to the patriotism, the far-sightedness, common sense and maturity of our trade union movement as the full magnitude of this achievement sinks in.
The “achievement” of course, being the incomes policy agreement, not the aforementioned “miracle" which is only “hoped for.” Surely the TUC, who could by no stretch of the imagination be described either as far-sighted, or of mature judgement, must have noted the incongruity when Healey gushed forth:
Even the central bankers of the United States and Germany have added their tribute to the British trade union movement in the last few days — and believe me that is something.
Praise indeed, when the capitalists give tribute to the workers. Such praise is normally reserved for those occasions when members of the working class are encouraged to kill and maim one another on the battlefields.

What a Lovely Miracle

The chancellor expanded elsewhere on what he described as “the full magnitude of this achievement” —there were to be many sides to the miracle. Not only would there be the (hoped-for) 700,000 unemployed, but “The deal guaranteed that from August, wage rises in Britain would be the lowest in the world.” But how low an increase does he mean? Again we find some rather loose interpretation. An increase can usually be taken to mean an addition, but not apparently to Healey:
In fact wages will be coming down while our competitors will be going up . . . That is the best possible news for exports and employment.
Times, 11th May 76
In the light of the foregoing, and as the Chancellor is calling for “an 8.5 per cent annual increase in manufacturing output” and claims that “If we could get as much output out of our existing equipment as most of our competitors, we could increase our national income even without new investment by anything up to 50 per cent”, members of the working class would do well to consider their rĂ´le in the “miracle.” It will be what it has always been—that of the wealth-producing class which owns nothing but the chance to work (literally) for the benefit of the owners. When workers see this division, they will have recognized exactly those whom the Labour Party represents.

Buy Me and Stop One

The ruthless examination of all aspects of social requirement from the point of view Can money be made from meeting such requirements? is one of the hallmarks of capitalist society. Marx put the view that when Socialism is established man will look back on his previous forms of society, including present-day society, and will describe them as pre-historic. We take a clipping from the London Evening Standard of 13th May which serves to underline the extent of our “civilisation.”
A price war is raging among private abortion clinics, it was claimed today. Mrs. Helene Grahame, of the Pregnancy Advisory Service, a London based charity, said the days of the get-rich quick abortionist look to be fading fast . . . Advertised prices of £50 and £60 are now quite common, against £70 to £80 a year or so ago . . . Clinics are advertising much more widely and extravagantly, and a free pregnancy-testing is being used as a come-on. All the indications are that they arc getting pretty desperate for patients — which is why they are getting into this kind of price war.
The Daily Express of 14th May reported the phenomenon in an even more matter-of-fact manner. The first line of their piece told us: “Women can now shop around for an abortion at the right price.” Hats off to capitalism: If the thing runs true to form we can next expect the equivalent of supermarkets giving special offers and Green Shield stamps.
Alan D'Arcy

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