David Breen

Mr Big and Mr Small

(January 1956)

From Socialist Review, Vol. 5 No. 5, January 1956, p. 5.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

THE Observer reports “intense controversy and argument within the Cabinet about the proposed anti-monopoly Bill.” What this means is that the Tory government is under pressure from its two supporting pillars: Big Business who supply the money and the policy, and Small Business who supply a lot of the votes.

Small Business doesn’t like Big Business: Big on the other hand thinks Small a nuisance. Big wants a Monopolies Bill that is tight enough to smash Small’s only defence against Big, i.e. restrictive practices and selling arrangements. Small wants a Bill that will allow it to continue to stave off the day when Big will gobble it up. But both members of the Business family, Small and Big, know that no Monopolies Bill can do anything to break the really big capitalist giants.

Attempt at Suppression

One recent example will show how immune the big monopolists really are, or rather how they tell their Tory friends what to do. On November 10, Arthur Holt, Labour MP for Bolton West, asked Thorneycroft, Tory President of the Board of Trade, about alleged suppressions in the Monopolies Commission’s report on the supply of pneumatic tyres. Thorneycroft admitted that “I have had representations made to me by the tyre manufacturers asking me to exercise certain parts of the report ... on grounds of national interest” (Hansard, 10th November, 1955).

Ignoring the fact that the big tyre and rubber firms – Dunlop, Firestone, Goodyear and Michelin – are all either Anglo-American or Anglo-French concerns and thus strange guardians of the “national interest,” it is very interesting that pressure was put on the Government man to attempt to cut out parts of the Monopolies Commission’s report at exactly the same time as the companies mentioned combined to form a single – and only – company for the manufacture of synthetic rubber, aptly called the International Synthetic Rubber Company, Ltd.

But if Big Business and Small Business have competing interests in some aspects of the Monopolies Bill, they are united on one thing. They are both firmly opposed to having any “outsiders” on the Tribunal which will judge cases of monopoly. Whatever the private quarrels within the Business family, the family must present a united front to the workers. And who best defend property in our “property owning democracy” if not the lawyers?

The Observer special correspondent writes, “organised capital – notably the National Union of Manufacturers and the Associated British Chambers of Commerce – strongly favour a tribunal composed either exclusively or at least predominantly of lawyers. Their reasons are transparent, for the whole British legal tradition for more than 50 years has been to give a free hand to all restrictive agreements, even when harmful to consumers and competitors ...” (November 27, 1955).

How It Works

Big (monopoly) Business certainly has a large business: it tells Ministers what to publish and what to suppress; it tells Parliament what laws to pass and how; it tells the law courts how to judge it if the first two slip up now and again. At school we were taught that democracy meant the independence of the three branches of government, legislature, executive and judiciary. Under capitalism, it seems they can be independent only if they are dependent on one boss – Big (Monoply) Business.

Last updated on 16 February 2017