May 27, 2008


A bloke who frequents a bulletin board I use has written a book about the Seventies: Francis Wheen seems to like it.

His review struck a chord with me, because those of us who remember the Seventies remember a mental world almost incomprehensible to those born later: nothing to do with flares and Spangles and progressive rock, but a world of capital and labour and of the corporate state that compromised between the two. He writes:
A couple of years ago I wrote a TV drama about Harold Wilson's last government. Although the thirtysomething producer liked the script, she found many of the allusions baffling. What, she wondered, was a "prices and incomes policy"? Or a "balance of payments crisis"? These appeared almost daily in British headlines during the 1970s; a mere generation later, they are as impenetrably archaic as Babylonic cuneiform.
When I emigrated, a couple of years ago, I met a friend beforehand in a pub outside Victoria Station and in the course of the conversation remarked that the world I knew seemed to have largely disappeared: the world of trades unions, a labour movement and a Welfare State, and one in which these were regarded as good things, where the idea of making sure that everybody was properly provided for was considered fundamental to the outlook of millions of people. I asked my great-aunt, once, whether she thought her Labour Party had achieved anything: oh yes, she said, these days you didn't see anybody sleeping in the streets of London any more. I don't think she said "homeless" - in truth, I don't think I remember even hearing the term until a few years later.

Not The Nine O'Clock News began in 1979. In one show there was a spoof of Just A Minute using news footage of trades union leaders: they were challenged to speak for a minute without using the term "aspirations". Naturally they failed the test and used a phrase like "our members' aspirations" within the first few seconds. "Aspirations" - who today, and who, born any later than I, would even connect the word "aspirations" with trades unionists rather than with hostility to them? In truth the world had changed already: the 1979 Election had already come and gone, decided on that very basis. In the course of that campaign I realised that I was a socialist - and so it was, looking back, that I got into the socialism market just as everybody else was getting out.


At June 02, 2008 11:43 pm, Anonymous a very public sociologist said...

No one can do gloom quite like you ;)

Seriously though, even though our movement is in a position of weakness, do you think there are glimmers of hope on the horizon?

PS Finally got round to adding you to my blogroll.

At June 09, 2008 6:29 pm, Blogger Revamp said...

Yes, bad timing there!


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