Labour loves siege economies, really adores them. It allows full throated socialism to operate, enabling properly-selected and correctly-motivated state officials to mediate on every commercial transaction between individuals and entities, all in the name of necessity. This is Pitt’s ‘creed of slaves’, using controls to dictate how much can be sold to whom and if it can be sold at all.
Socialists swoon at the thought of regulating demand by rationing supplies to all but a favoured few; it means there is no need for an economic strategy. No need for an interest rate policy if no amount of borrowed money can buy anything. Official inflation is perpetually low when prices are under statutory regulation, despite the inevitable shortages and consequent rise of the black market and the crime of hoarding newly-scarce everyday goods, which requires more Peoples’ Commissars to detect and punish.
Ordinary people who are forced to commit economic crimes just for everyday survival are easier to dominate as their guilt promotes a constant fear of the State and denunciation by their neighbours and friends. Control a person’s economics and you control the person, and socialism is all about the control. And Labour loves to run people’s lives by occupying the commanding heights of the economy to maximise dependency and promote clientelism in the electorate.
This explains why Labour were in their element when Churchill left Atlee, Morrison and Bevin to run the civilian economy while Britain’s greatest warlord used all his energies to create and focus a a domestic military machine and a global coalition to destroy fascism. It is ironic, given modern socialist rhetoric, that the greatest anti-fascist in human history was a Conservative. Perhaps leftists still feel guilt over their fellow travellers’ 1930s pacifism.
Labour also managed to convince the British people at the end of the war that an economic dictatorship created by wartime exigency, but which they had refined, was the best way to run the country. This was the true ‘Spirit of ’45’ as trumpeted by Ken Loach, a period where our economic freedom was trampled in the name of a misplaced and expensive idealism. Of course, the public eventually became heartily sick of living in a permanent state of siege in peacetime, which Labour told them it was a utopia in progress and kicked the hapless party out of office barely six years after the party had won a landslide and kept it out for a further 13 years. The rock’n’roll years in Britain were Conservative.
Some nostalgists in the mid-1970s, headed by Tony Benn, tried to re-institute a siege economy as an alternative to the Labour government taking an IMF loan after its socialist policies had managed, as usual, to run out of other people’s money barely a year after taking office. The idea, a state-imposed version of the then-popular TV show ‘The Good Life’, was rubbished by the PM, Jim Callaghan and the Chancellor, Denis Healey. Benn’s ‘Alternative Economic Strategy’ does not even warrant a mention in Healey’s memoirs. It would have been a last resort had the IMF loan and consequent monetarist policies failed to arrest the rate of rapid economic decline triggered by state socialism.
In 1983, the by-now Benn-dominated Labour Party used entryist politics and a historically weak, but very earnest, leader to make a siege economy the central part of its 1983 election manifesto. Dubbed ‘The Longest Suicide Note in History’ by Gerald Kaufman, this document proposed an emergency economic plan of tax and welfare hikes plus widespread state control of industry by a union-dominated Labour government. This was decisively voted down by the electorate. Labour blamed Margaret Thatcher’s enhanced status as a successful war-leader following the Falklands conflict as well as the false consciousness of the voting public. However the truth of the matter was that Labour was unelectable, lacking a credible leader, having an activist membership that that was out of tune with the national mood and an economic policy that belonged on the other side of the Iron Curtain at a time when the USSR’s global popularity was nosediving.
Sound familiar? The 1983 election that saw the humiliation of Labour’s Left also marked the parliamentary début of Jeremy Corbyn, which seems ironic. His ascendancy to parliamentary office started at the point when the Labour Left began to decline.
So there are very clear indicators that Labour tends towards economic totalitarianism. The only leader who repudiated this approach managed to win three elections on the trot and is now himself repudiated by his own party and his erstwhile followers face being purged from positions of influence.
But what would a modern siege economy be like? The Daily Mail tried a stab at this, but it failed. All it showed was the rocky transition to the siege economy as capital flight and international sanctions punished Britain for moving its economy in a way that even the People’s Republic of China now rejects. In fact, the BBC knows exactly what life under Labour’s economic dictatorship would be like. In the late 1970s it created a 16-part TV drama series about it.
‘1990’ was the brainchild of Wilfred Greatorex, an eminent screenwriter now sadly passed away, who wrote scripts for many 1960s and 1970s TV shows, as well as the screenplay for the 1969 film ‘Battle of Britain’. Greatorex portrayed a Britain that had followed Benn’s plan, resulting in a series billed as ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four Plus Six’. There had been national bankruptcy and the government had defaulted on its loans as it lost the ability to pay its way in the world as the British economy collapsed. Stringent economic controls and a three-day week were brought in and general elections were cancelled. In the absence of a patriotic unifying event, like a war, there was widespread dissent. Laws against free assembly and expression were passed as the country entered a permanent state of emergency. The House of Lords was abolished and turned into an elite dining club.
What little economic resources that remained – like food, fuel, housing and luxuries – were rationed according to status, which was now officially defined and constantly reviewed by the State and was based on a someone’s social worth in this new society irrespective of the value they actually delivered to the economy. High-status individuals tended to be bureaucrats and union officials, as well as anyone that facilitated exports to any country still willing to accept British goods in return for hard currency or as barter for vital commodities. People with high wealth but low status had their assets officially confiscated and were directed into menial labour. The pound was replaced by the Anglodollar, a currency that was effectively worthless overseas. Emigration by people in vital professions was criminalised. An underclass of non-citizen, non-political transgressors of the state order had zero status and were denied access to anything, a form of living death. Dissidents and breakers of these new laws were sent to Adult Rehabilitation Centres where their ‘rehabilitation’ consisted of electro-convulsive therapy, designed to ‘cure’ their anti-social behaviour and turn them into docile model citizens.
Enforcing this new order was the Public Control Department, an offshoot of the Home Office, whose officers had limitless rights of entry, confiscation, violence and arrest and appeared to be virtually free from any political oversight. The Home Secretary for the first season was a vociferous former leader of the miners’ union, although Greatorex deliberately never made it explicit which party was in government. In fact, there was very little politics in the series, which mainly focused on the consequences of a siege economy on the everyday life and how this had degenerated from the already low point of the 1970s. According to a recent history by Graham Stewart, the size of the UK economy under Denis Healey’s stewardship was smaller in some vital measures than it was in 1940 when it was under siege by the Nazis.
The protagonist in Greatorex’s brave new world was an investigative journalist on the last non-state-owned newspaper, one Jim Kyle, played by Edward Woodward. He had some semi-chaste relationship with the deputy controller of the PCD, Delly Lomas, who was played by Barbara Kellerman. Kyle had a sideline in running an emigration racket for which he charged nothing to the desperate escapees, something that was seen by the State as more criminal than fleecing the desperate.
The show ran for two seasons between 1977 and 1978 on BBC2 in the ‘Drama 2’ strand that also gave us the series ‘Who Pays the Ferryman’, a drama set in Crete. Greatorex novelised some episodes which were published in two paperbacks by Sphere. ‘1990’ was never repeated and the BBC has never released it onto DVD, unlike ‘Ferryman’. Perhaps the management were ashamed of this foray against the usual tide of anti-conservatism that is the staple of British political dramas, as epitomised by Channel 4’s ‘A Very British Coup’. A request by myself to view production documentation for the series held at the BBC archives at Caversham indicated that nothing remained. Greatorex died childless and his effects were in part left to the mother of Fiona Millar, a Guardian columnist and campaigner against Free Schools. The show certainly had an effect on me as it became my favourite TV drama series from the 1970s, with ‘The Sandbaggers’ running a close second. My update of the Wikipedia article caused it to no longer being a stub. I do hope I have successfully transmitted my enthusiasm.
It does remain, despite the BBC embargo, possible for you to watch this high-quality and disturbingly relevant drama online. Some time in the last decade, someone smuggled out time-coded videos of the entire series and they were made for sale as home-made DVDs. Some enlightened soul then posted the videos to YouTube. My act of bringing this brilliant series to your attention may result in the BBC ordering them to be taken down. I do urge you to find a way to download these videos from YouTube before this happens so you may watch this well-written and performed series that the BBC does not want you to watch. Then you will be able to see the kind of future Corbyn and his cronies have for this country.