Back in the 1970s, a system that had run very well for a quarter of a century was
in deep trouble. Western Europe had combined economic growth, full employment and considerable personal
liberty. But now the system was in crisis, with the oil shock and trade union militancy and a breakdown
Opinion was polarised between a centre-left that wanted to change nothing and a far left that wanted to
The Ernest Bevin Society took a different line. We felt that the system was unlikely to collapse but
very likely to move off in some radically new direction.
We were among those who wanted a move to workers control, greater social accountability and power for
working people at their place of work. It almost did happen. But it was rejected by characters like
Arthur Scargill who looked to the Warsaw Pact model and turned down an offer to put the mining industry
under the control of the ordinary miners. Rejected by characters like Jim Callaghan who saw no reason
why it should not be "business as usual" for an indefinite future. Between these two, the chance for
leftwards progress was blocked.
The country was ready for a change. When the left failed to deliver it, the way was left open to Thatcher.
Thatcher was and is a small minded and an ignorant woman. Her much-admired determination stems from a
basic lack of imagination. She really did not expect that undermining society would undermine society.
Society did not exist. Human nature was inherently the nature of the Grantham petty-bourgeois and this
"nature" would reassert itself as soon as state distortions were removed.
Tories boast of how much they have destroyed. They are proud of how far they have demolished the
framework that had been built in the 1940s to 1960s. But what have they created?
Tories got the Euroskeptic blues, when they finally noticed that they were creating a wasteland.
They blamed Europe rather than their own policies. But they had at least noticed the lack of anything
positive to replace what they had been so proud of undermining.
New Labour, regrettably, seem intent on continuing Thatcher's work. Laying waste everything
not directly tied to the short-term needs of private profit. It would be nice to be able to find
something better to say of them. So far they do not merit it.
The best hope lies in the European Community. We supported the link at a time when most of the
left saw it as a reactionary threat to Britain' s socialist achievements. We see it now as a holdout
of a system that was both more civilised and more successful economically.