C Sqdn, 9th Battn R.T.R.
My Darling – You will perhaps have noticed that I don’t pass much comment upon world news these days. This is not because I have lost interest… but – well… world events are hardly inspiring lately, are they. A radio news bulletin the other evening, for instance, referred to civil war in Venezuela, a declaration of war against the Dutch in Java, incipient civil war in Argentina, war in Indo-China, a British-American protest to Russia over Hungary, ditto over Rumania; trouble in Greece, in Palestine. And, as a depressing background to all this, there is the obstructionist behaviour of Russia: I do wish we could get more frank statements from Moscow… it would clear the air of much suspicion anbd uneasiness. I have no doubt that Russian policy is based on mistrust of ourselves and America… and I know that our record in the recent past may have something to do with this… but there lies the war between our record, and present intentions, to say nothing of a major change in government… and one would think that these factors alone ought to allay suspicion… And then there is the old problem of suspicion breeding suspicion… the thing becomes cumulative… and goodness knows where it will land us if we don’t get more wholesome cooperation between the ‘United Nations’.
In some ways, all this unrest in the world may be regarded as a good sign… the inevitable travail of a world being re-born, but much of it seems to have a flavouring of ‘ideological’ conflict between the so-called great powers, rather than a spontaneous up-surgence of formerly oppressed peoples… and this is a very bad thing. It seems fairly obvious that Russia is determined to dominate the Balkan areas… and Poland – presumably as a ‘bulwark’ against future imperialist aggression from the west. Perhaps the Russians don’t realise that they themselves are being guilty of the very thing they are guarding against. They certainly seem determined to dominate the economic and political life of some of their neighbours… ‘economic’ imperialism at its worst. But maybe we are misjudging Russia. I hope we are… and I will feel a darned sight happier when proof of this is forthcoming.
In the mess here we have some lively arguments about all these affairs… this is a most refreshing sign to my mind. I notice though that pro-Russian sentiment is gradually on the decline… and I feel that similar conditions must prevail on a much larger scale. For this, I think the Russians have only themselves to blame… don’t you, Jess?
The dock strike at home has produced some heated discussions here… the general opinion being that the dockers ought to be shot, or words to that effect. I simply can’t agree with this attitude, and have in consequence been doing my best to argue their case. What surprises me, Jess, is the readiness of ordinary working folk to condemn their own kind without even attempting to learn the cause of these disputes. In the case of the dockers, I believe they are demanding an end to ‘casual’ labour, and a wage of £6.5.0 (six pounds, five shillings, no pence) for a 40 hour week. The general argument here is that they are ‘only labourers’ and their demands are preposterous. But, to my mind, if they are ‘only labourers’ how can their refusal to work so seriously disorganise, and even endanger, our economic life? The truth of the matter is that dock labouring is a highly important job in its own way – and the dockers are proving this by their strike. If their labour was as unimportant as some people imagine, the dock strike wouldn’t matter a damn. And if dock labouring is important, then those so employed should be treated as legitimate workers with a reasonable and guaranteed weekly wage, instead of being regarded as semi-idle louts hanging around the docks in the hopes of picking up jobs on a half-day basis, as at present. And what of their demands? Is £6.5.0 a week a preposterous wage at present? I imagine this figure to be somewhere about £4 per week on a pre-war basis. It seems little enough to me.
It is so easy to make comparisons “downwards” and to illustrate an argument with cases of more skilled workers being paid less. It may be true that there are worse paid jobs, but this is surely no argument in favour of all workers being content with a bare minimum. To me, there is something admirable in a body of semi-illiterate, but hard working, men having the courage to defy authority and risk public censure, in an attempt to obtain some measure of fair reward for their labours, and a little economic security.
We have here a few fellows who will persist in bringing up the argument of rising wages causing rising costs… and so causing rising prices to the public… resulting eventually in some sort of financial chaos loosely referred to as inflation. This argument may be true in the case of uncontrolled industry, but I’m certain that higher wages need not cause ‘inflation’. With proper planning, the reverse would be the effect because better wages would mean increased spending power and larger demand for almost everything. The trouble in the past has been the cupidity of the employers who have always made increased wages the excuse for increased prices, thus neutralising the benefit to the community, of larger wages.
To me, the most sensible answer to the problem is to prohibit the producers from shouldering the wage-increase burden on to the public, and to compel them to deduct it from their profits. I know this can be done quite easily without really embarrassing the producer… from the comparisons between cost and selling prices in my own trade. I find it difficult to convince my colleagues of this seemingly easy solution to a difficult problem: it sounds too easy. But today, I was amazed to find confirmation of it from – of all places – America! In today’s Daily Express (issued yesterday) there appears the following “To bring about full employment, the Truman Government is planning to slash 1946 business profits as much as 35 per cent. by pay increases plus continued price controls. The unions seeking pay increases will thus have Government backing to get as much as 15 to 20 per cent more and the cost of living will not rise proportionately.”
If this article tells the truth, I think America must be credited with initiating a tremendously important revision in the age old conflict of labour and capital.
Gosh! What is this? A political lecture… and to my sweetheart of all people! I’m sorry Jess – you must excuse me: once I start on this topic I never know when to finish – and that may be one of the reasons for my apparent lack of interest in talking to you about politics. I haven’t time to tell you anything of interest now – it is far too late. But tomorrow, I will not say a single word about politics – and that’s a promise.
Goodnight, my love
P.S. Am enclosing a ‘spot’ of ‘Giles’… Also an enclosure from a parcel of toothpaste: some job for a linguist-!