WATCH FOR PRE-ELECTION 'MISCHIEF'
By Douglas Hyde By Douglas Hyde
THE new budget may please large numbers of people who benefit by it but it would be a mistake to think that it will necessarily ensure a period of peace and sweet contentment.
The months leading up to the General Election will be ones in which Communists and Trotskyists compete with each other to create such mischief as they can. They will not necessarily succeed, but it is as well to be forewarned.
Both believe that there is nothing like a wave of " militancy " in industry and the trade unions for creating an atmosphere in which workers vote " as far left as they can."
The inflammable material upon which they hope to be able to work includes, in particular, a pending new wave of wage demands, unemployment in the mining industry and the threat of redundancy on the railways, in engineering •and shipbuilding.
Already, last weekend, before the Chancellor had made known his proposals, the Communists were denouncing the "scandal" of a budget surplus of hundreds of millions, on the one hand, and unemployment on the other. Undeterred by the fact that the number • of unemployed has currently fallen, they took the line in their propaganda that Mr. Heathcoat Amory's surplus had been bought at the price of those who have suffered unemployment during the past year.
But even though this line is valuable only in retrospect, there are always new wage demands just around the corner to provide them with the hope of trouble ahead. The trade union conference "season" opens each year at Easter. This year's conferences to date suggests that we may be going to see a new wave of demands for increased pay.
The budget surplus and Government pre-election propaganda about the ending of the recession and the general bettering of the situation can be two-edged weapons. They certainly play their part in creating an atmosphere in which wage demands flourish.
The Easter conferences of both the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and the National Union of Teachers decided to put in for substantial pay increases. Busmen throughout the country are currently discussing an application for a shorter working week. The National Union of Railwaymen is going ahead with its own wage demand and printworkers are threatening strike action.
None of these movements owes its origins to the Communists, nor does their determination to exploit them necessarily mean that they are unjustified. But a Communist Party which has gained a lot of self-confidence from its own Easter Conference (where it was reported that 3,600 new members have been made in the past six months), must be expected to make the most of this situation.
The organised Trotskyists (most of whom are ex-Communists who retain their belief in Marxism and Marxist methods) are anxious to test their strength. Numerically, they have still, probably, little more than one twentieth of the Communist Party's membership.
On the other hand, most of their strength is among shop stewards and others in leading positions in industry. As now constituted, they are a new movement, with all the pushfulness and vitality of something new. Recently proscribed by Labour Party headquarters, they can with accuracy claim to be militant in their industrial policies, revolutionary in their politics and still committed to neither the "reactionaries" of Transport House nor the Stalinist "traitors" of the Communist Party.
This helps to explain the lengths to which the Communists who dominate the Electrical Trades Union are going in their attempts to deal with ex-Communist rebels. These represent the greatest threat to their leadership that they have had to face in the post-war years.
One speaker after another, both from the platform and the floor, at the recent Communist Party Congress stressed in almost panicky terms the danger to the Party of a "united front of the militant Left" which excludes the Communists.
Papal gendarmes were called out to control a crowd of stamp collectors who flocked to the two small Vatican post offices last week as the first series of stamps of Pope John XXIII were placed on sale.
The new stamps, the 68th series issued since the creation of the new State in 1929, are for 25, 35, 60 and 100 lire.
The first two show the Pope standing, sniffing, and wearing the triple tiara against a red background. The second two bear the coat-of-arms of the Pope, consisting of a shield with a tower and the Lion of St. Mark. symbol of the city of Venice, where Pope John was Patriarch for many years. The background of the stamps is blue.
It would probably be wrong to say that the recent election of Mr. Will Paynter to the General Secretaryship of the powerful National Union of Mineworkers represents any significant growth of Communist influence in this vital industry. There can be no doubt, however, that the appearance of unemployment among miners helped to create an atmosphere cohducive to the election of a Communist,
In this case it is a question of one Communist succeeding anotheio But Mr. Paynter may prove th he more sensitive to the demands of Communist Party headquarters than did Mr. Arthur Homer. Any lesser man than Mr. Horner would have been expelled from the Party years ago for persistently soft-pedaling his Communism in the wider interests of the union of which he was a paid official. Handling Mr. Horner proved to be much more difficult for the Party than manipulating its members in the E.T.U.
Mr Paynter's record to date suggests that he does not have Mr. Homer's independence — which sometimes amounted to defiance— of the Party chiefs.
Fortunately, the Communists are weaker by far today in most of the unions which are likely to feature in the news than they were a few years ago. And the workers generally show little appetite for strike action. If strikes occur they will be due to a break-down in employer-worker relations. They need not happen.
IT'S HONEST BUT IT 'LIMPS'
ALTHOUGH Mr. Heathcoat Amory, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has tried to introduce an honest budget one has the impression that it is somewhat limping.
One had hoped that housebuilding would receive some rather special help or friendly encouragement. The housing shortage has by no means been overcome. There were, in effect, 75.000 fewer houses built last year than in 1954, due to the decline in building by local authorities. Although private builders put up some 30,000 more houses in 1958 than in 1954, public building fell by 90,000.
A housing boom invariably triggers off a general expansion in the whole economy, so the Chancellor would thereby help to attain what he describes as the " paramount aim."
In addition, the purchase tax reductions affect mainly goods in the higher price ranges where demand, since the removal of controls from hire-purchase, has tended to rise anyway. Clothing and furniture in which trades there is unemployment, have not received the benefit of tax reductions.
It is good to see that income tax will be less steep, even if only by a little. The average Catholic family with, say, three children, will receive very little extra income but perhaps it could be argued that they had been in receipt of it for some time past. The cost of living still weighs more heavily on them than on the rest of the population.
J. Quinn, B.Sc. (Econ.).