Friday, 1 October 2010
When We Were Social Democrats
Whilst I don't like to idealise any type of society or overstate the influence of an economic system on the psychology of the people, it does strike me as interesting that before we were diverted from the road to serfdom, Britain showed resilience against terrorism that seems astounding to someone who has lived through the hysterical 'war on terror' in neo-liberal privatisation-mad Britain. From Simon Jenkins in The Guardian:
'In the mid-1970s, the Provisional IRA staged some 50 explosions in London, subjecting the city to far greater mayhem than today. Somehow we survived without the gargantuan counter-terror apparatus in place today. The bombing campaign came nowhere near toppling the British government or infringing the liberty of the state.'
Well, some Irish Catholic immigrants might not have felt that the British state was a model of liberty at the time and it would be ridiculous to ignore the very real human rights abuses that the state carried out against many innocent Irish people. However, it does seem to me that the British government overall did handle the IRA terror threat with a certain level-headedness. As a historian, I'm often interested in how Heath and Wilson will be remembered. Those who lived during their time seem to have remarkably low opinions of them (it is notable that Jenkins treats the attitudes of the time as common-sense without praising Heath or Wilson). Perhaps this is bi-fold: firstly social democracy may be more appealing as a dream than as a reality. Secondly, I think that the boomer generation spent so much time hating authority with values, that they would be hard pushed to recognise that we've gone backwards.
Be that as it may, I do think that history will be more generous to the people they fought against and criticised than it will be to those they supported and who are now destroying what their parents struggled for.