Thursday, August 05, 2004

Rise Up

Sister Anne demands words. Well, here we go...
...I came across the following while looking for something at work this week. It's a letter taken from a late 1968 edition of the Railway Review, the weekly paper of the National Union of Railwaymen (the predecessor of today's RMT - the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers). The fact that unions at that time had a weekly paper in itself fascinated me. But this letter doubly fascinated me. It's a great rant, but one which shows great working class political intellect. And it has great resonance for class politics of our own times.
It was headed "This rotten society"

"Sir, - Because the white man is not ostensibly responsible for the present decimation of the Ibo people in the so-called state of Nigeria, which was and still is an artificial body-politic forcibly created by British imperialism, our ‘free’ mass media are waxing eloquent over their suffering and the crying need to put a stop to the fratricidal war. They practically ignore the far worse butchery still being perpetrated on innocent women and kids in Vietnam by the highest paid thugs of the English speaking world and the blatant fascist outrages committed by our kith and kin in Rhodesia on the Ziimbabwe people.
At home we, as railwaymen, are still being bossed and upbraided by bourgeois worthies whose outlook on public transport is conditioned by the fact that they do all their overland travelling in chauffeur driven limousines and are the same type who, while cutting the more plebian bus and train services to the bone, applaud in the name of progress the costly Concorde gamble, not, I suspect, because it is going to bring a weekend in New York any nearer for the average worker.
Self-styled town planners, snugly ensconced in detached, open-plan residences, laud the advanatge of tower block flats for rehousing the urban poor; ensuring that the distraught young housewives forced to live in them keep the pep pill manufacturers at full blast and help to put extra strain on the under-staffed mental hospitals already brimful with other victims of this neurotic and cut-throat society.
Meanwhile, educationalists pontificate on the virtues of comprehensive schools while ensuring that their own offspring attend those exclusive institutions which under the patronage of the old boy network makes certain that regardless of ability, these protected sprigs never want for a cushy number or have to tag on to the dole queue.
Not to forget those nutritional know-alls, who having wiped the salmon mayonnaise from their sleek chops, assert that pensioners can be kept comfortably alive on a diet that would emaciate a small pet poodle. At the same time, the ubiquitous food adverts exhort us to believe that British grub is not only best but cheapest – ignoring the fact that it is tasteless and being more stuffed with drugs and preservatives than nourishment, not such a bargain as the nosh tycoons make it out to be.
Admitted we still have the biggest collection of ham actors and comic singers under one roof at the Westminster Palace of Varieties, for all the big drum banging, our health service scarcely measures up to that of ‘under-developed’ Cuba and is streets behind that of the ‘totalitarian’ GDR.
In line with the Nelson tradition of looking the other way, although our antiquated hospitals admit ever increasing numbers of lung cancer cases caused by the much publicised navy cut fags made from ‘pure’ Virginia tobacco, our professional scaremongers concentrate on the relatively harmless cannabis and the perils of the pill; after all, who of any importance holds shares in ‘Consolidated Marijuana’ and what tax system can squeeze state revenue from straight sex.
On the same track, ‘Clean Air’ legislation has spared us the unhealthy habit of burning cheap ordinary coal in favour of the dearer smokeless fuels, so that now instead of taking deep lungfuls of noxious, sulphurous air we inhale the more modern variety well laced with petrol and diesel fumes – unless of course we can afford to live in the highly desirable and expensive garden suburbs advertised in the snob Sunday papers.
Now, to cap it all, we are being lectured on the necessity to work harder for less pay in order to pave the way to future prosperity (whose? is never mentioned). This gratuitous advice is delivered by ‘bland friends of the people’ who have never in their parasitical lives regularly clocked on for jobs that are boring, dirty and/or physically strenous; but because the hired hacks of capitalism have done their dirty work so well, most trade unionists seem to regard them still as paragons of integrity and ability – a con trick that must make the shade of Dr Goebbels green with envy.
Yours etc,
Bill Easter
Covent Garden Branch"

If anyone out there has ever heard of Bill Easter, please let me know.


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