Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

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DensleyBlair

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Less than 24 hours to vote in the ACAs, if you are planning on getting a last-minute ballot in. Only about 10 votes in the Vicky category, so still all to play for. Do go and support your favourite authAARs with a vote if you are able to do so.

In the meantime, in anticipation of a fresh lockdown here in the UK, I've been getting in some solid planning for the infamous Echoes, vol. 2. If you have anything you'd like to see touched upon during the 70s and 80s, speak now and I can try and work it into my thinking.

@99KingHigh has been waylaid by work with the joys of the US election concluding (we hope?) next week, so the Vietnam update will be a little later than advertised. Next up from me is a little detour into France, then we get into European nuclear politics. All good fun.
 

El Pip

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Not as bad as I suspected, but then I had been primed for the worst. Fun and Games looks an interesting variation on the film we know, it might even be better with Christopher Lee. The idea of Kubrik fleeing to Britian to avoid censors is hilarious, but I suppose if you have the same politics as the censor then you would struggle to see the problems.

The alt Doctor Who perhaps worse, certainly it sounds a lot less subtle and lot more preachy. Certainly I can imagine a lot of discussion in side CBC trying to work out what the current regime view on technology is and making sure the shows fits within the allowed limits, Clarke's comments about the space programme and Bevan's lack of interest are relevant here. I can absolutely see Bevan as rejecting the 'wrong sort' of technology and being spitefully, vindictively petty about anyone with the wrong views so a difficult line for CBC to walk.
 

DensleyBlair

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Not as bad as I suspected, but then I had been primed for the worst. Fun and Games looks an interesting variation on the film we know, it might even be better with Christopher Lee. The idea of Kubrik fleeing to Britian to avoid censors is hilarious, but I suppose if you have the same politics as the censor then you would struggle to see the problems.

I suppose everyone is just censoring different things, so you have to figure out who is going to let you say what you want to say at that moment. In the US, Kubrick (and this is true btw) was scared stiff of being called a Communist for making an anti-war film – which is ridiculous, because he wasn't pink at all, and possibly something of the opposite. But yeah, so long as you're not making anything pro-fash, anti-socialist or, say, overtly pornographic, you have a lot of latitude in Britain now. What's gone are the controls about artistic merit, so the Commonwealth won't have a Tarkovsky situation where otherwise sympathetic people get caught up battling the Domestic Bureau on creative grounds.

The alt Doctor Who perhaps worse, certainly it sounds a lot less subtle and lot more preachy.

I tried to balance it, but on reflection I think I was a bit unsubtle in describing it just to hammer home how and where the politicisation differs. On a scale of preachiness it's probably somewhere around Quartermass (which is maybe a good reference generally). I don't picture it quite as obvious in its intentions as latter-day Chibnall-era Doctor Who. One thing it does back off on, I would say, is the history education aspect. It's more of a thriller here.

Certainly I can imagine a lot of discussion in side CBC trying to work out what the current regime view on technology is and making sure the shows fits within the allowed limits, Clarke's comments about the space programme and Bevan's lack of interest are relevant here. I can absolutely see Bevan as rejecting the 'wrong sort' of technology and being spitefully, vindictively petty about anyone with the wrong views so a difficult line for CBC to walk.

I'm sort of trying to work this out myself, truth be told. The CBC of my imagination does have some latitude to needle the government now, but like much of the Bevan era this is superficial rather than fundamental. So it's probably free to question the lack of a space programme, but not, say, to call for a renewed mass build up of nuclear weapons – the latter being a central pillar of Britain's high-stage Cold War diplomacy (which we'll see in a couple of weeks), and the former being a slightly passé fascination from the Mosley days.

In a slightly ironic way, given how much effort I've gone to to portray Mosley as a technophilic Futurist, Bevan I think has more of a 'practical' attitude towards STEM than Mosley did. For all of the former Chairman's enthusiasm, much of what British engineering did between 1945–61 was more or less directed according to whatever Mosley was interested in at the time. So planes, trains and automobiles, and also computing technology. Bevan meanwhile I imagine as being much more concerned with being 'the right pair of hands', so to speak; he'll be trying to direct R&D in stuff like mining, heavy industry, medical science etc. All very useful stuff, of course, but there's definitely room for a sort of 'techno-puritanism' to emerge.

There's also the related question of Britain's industrial base, which given your various areas of expertise Pip I would be quite interested to talk to you about properly at some point. But in typical style, the Bevanite reaction likely extends towards putting the dampers on Mosley's desperate last-minute attempts to go all in on sparking a consumer boom to keep exports up. In which case (a bit of foreshadowing here) his economic team are currently grappling with the vexed question of how to maintain British manufacturing by the second half of the Twentieth century.
 

El Pip

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I tried to balance it, but on reflection I think I was a bit unsubtle in describing it just to hammer home how and where the politicisation differs. On a scale of preachiness it's probably somewhere around Quartermass (which is maybe a good reference generally). I don't picture it quite as obvious in its intentions as latter-day Chibnall-era Doctor Who. One thing it does back off on, I would say, is the history education aspect. It's more of a thriller here.
Ahh interesting, a Quatermass level of preach would be fine (let us not speak of Chibnall). A bit less historical education and a bit more thriller is a very different tone, one I think I would prefer to much of the recent output.

In a slightly ironic way, given how much effort I've gone to to portray Mosley as a technophilic Futurist, Bevan I think has more of a 'practical' attitude towards STEM than Mosley did. For all of the former Chairman's enthusiasm, much of what British engineering did between 1945–61 was more or less directed according to whatever Mosley was interested in at the time. So planes, trains and automobiles, and also computing technology. Bevan meanwhile I imagine as being much more concerned with being 'the right pair of hands', so to speak; he'll be trying to direct R&D in stuff like mining, heavy industry, medical science etc. All very useful stuff, of course, but there's definitely room for a sort of 'techno-puritanism' to emerge.
I'm getting a Kruschev / Brezhnev vibe here. The old leader trying to develop modern and useful industry, being deposed by the new leader who's industrial policy looks to the past. If Britain did find North Sea Oil early I can absolutely see Bevan using that money to invest in mining and heavy industry, trying to build the finest 1930s economy in the world while everyone else races past into the future.

There's also the related question of Britain's industrial base, which given your various areas of expertise Pip I would be quite interested to talk to you about properly at some point. But in typical style, the Bevanite reaction likely extends towards putting the dampers on Mosley's desperate last-minute attempts to go all in on sparking a consumer boom to keep exports up. In which case (a bit of foreshadowing here) his economic team are currently grappling with the vexed question of how to maintain British manufacturing by the second half of the Twentieth century.
Looking at those who have kept manufacturing going you need to seriously wound/kill the financial sector (done), have tamed trade unions who will go along with orders (done) and a strong focus on the outcome, along with the commitment to do what is required even if it has costs you don't like (Hmmm).

Taking the post-war German example. The 'easy' bits of workers councils and seats on the board can probably get done, though even then Germany has utterly embraced 'Managerialism' and allows managers to manage. The difference is the objectives the managers are trying to achieve are different and the workers have a meaningful say in setting them. The challenges will be things like vicious wage restraint (from 1992 to 2020 wage growth in Germany averaged 0.41% a year after inflation. And that includes the 'catch up' wage growth in East Germany after the wall fell) or the relentless hidden industrial subsidies (Germany has the most expensive consumer electricity costs but the cheapest industrial electricity, consumers subsidies the factories. Similar on water, rates, etc). Broadly similar story in Japan, 'tame' company unions who nevertheless had a stake, management that had control but worked to broader aims, no cult of over-paid board members or millionaire executives.

If you do the bits you like, but not the rest, then it won't work and my sense is that Bevan will struggle with parts of the above plan. That said broader worker involvement at board level is probably a good thing (depending on details) and without the City to worry about he has more options and less constraints (and less money to fund any radical changes). Interesting to see what Bevan does end up doing but I'm not getting my hopes up.
 

stnylan

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The snippets of culture that speak of troubled times. I think this reflects a culture largely uncertain of the future, ill at ease with itself and its wider place in the cosmos.
 

DensleyBlair

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Ahh interesting, a Quatermass level of preach would be fine (let us not speak of Chibnall). A bit less historical education and a bit more thriller is a very different tone, one I think I would prefer to much of the recent output.

The long game is to avert Chibnall by not putting the modern world in a position where Doctor Who feels the need to be quite so "look how bad this is". RTD-era New Labour satire is the aim as far as the outer limits of unsubtly go.

I'm getting a Kruschev / Brezhnev vibe here. The old leader trying to develop modern and useful industry, being deposed by the new leader who's industrial policy looks to the past. If Britain did find North Sea Oil early I can absolutely see Bevan using that money to invest in mining and heavy industry, trying to build the finest 1930s economy in the world while everyone else races past into the future.

This is broadly true I'd say, yeah. Perhaps with the caveat that Bevan is the far more likely candidate to be a 'true believer' – this is no wide-eyed idealist getting booted for a faceless conservative. The mines are of course going to be the issue of the day for the next fifteen years, so whatever Bevan does get around to doing will probably end up a drop in the ocean. Though a fine 1930s economy would certainly fit with the whole 'undoing Mosley' thing…

Looking at those who have kept manufacturing going you need to seriously wound/kill the financial sector (done), have tamed trade unions who will go along with orders (done) and a strong focus on the outcome, along with the commitment to do what is required even if it has costs you don't like (Hmmm).

Taking the post-war German example. The 'easy' bits of workers councils and seats on the board can probably get done, though even then Germany has utterly embraced 'Managerialism' and allows managers to manage. The difference is the objectives the managers are trying to achieve are different and the workers have a meaningful say in setting them. The challenges will be things like vicious wage restraint (from 1992 to 2020 wage growth in Germany averaged 0.41% a year after inflation. And that includes the 'catch up' wage growth in East Germany after the wall fell) or the relentless hidden industrial subsidies (Germany has the most expensive consumer electricity costs but the cheapest industrial electricity, consumers subsidies the factories. Similar on water, rates, etc). Broadly similar story in Japan, 'tame' company unions who nevertheless had a stake, management that had control but worked to broader aims, no cult of over-paid board members or millionaire executives.

If you do the bits you like, but not the rest, then it won't work and my sense is that Bevan will struggle with parts of the above plan. That said broader worker involvement at board level is probably a good thing (depending on details) and without the City to worry about he has more options and less constraints (and less money to fund any radical changes). Interesting to see what Bevan does end up doing but I'm not getting my hopes up.

All broadly in line with my suspicions, which is reassuring. You touch upon what will be the key battle of the next decade, which is the extent of managerialism, and until everyone can decide on where to fix it this is going to be the main snag in keeping British manufacturing going. The other sticking points I anticipate are finding export markets beyond internal Eurosyn trading, which will probably entail working out exactly how the postcolonial world is going to orient itself vis a vis European trade, and then the question of actually producing stuff people want. (In an ideal world these things sort of work themselves out in tandem.)

The right-wing of the (mainstream) Commonwealth political landscape going into the Seventies will be flying the ever more limp flag of Keynesian thought, so no doubt we have some fun discussions of trading deficit and balance of payments and so on yet in store. What a treat!

The snippets of culture that speak of troubled times. I think this reflects a culture largely uncertain of the future, ill at ease with itself and its wider place in the cosmos.

Yes, I think this is spot on. British culture is emerging from a generation under the covers, and the world it has been greeted with is hardly auspicious. Plenty of cause for anxiety.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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The long game is to avert Chibnall by not putting the modern world in a position where Doctor Who feels the need to be quite so "look how bad this is". RTD-era New Labour satire is the aim as far as the outer limits of unsubtly go.

"They were leaving!"

Oh fuck off.

Though, yes, he wasn't as on the nose as Chibnall, nor mildly lip-servicy like Moffat. He and his writing staff seemed to be a bit more action based (I.e. a very diverse cast but don't nudge wink at the audience that that's the case the entire time etc).
 

DensleyBlair

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Though, yes, he wasn't as on the nose as Chibnall, nor mildly lip-servicy like Moffat. He and his writing staff seemed to be a bit more action based (I.e. a very diverse cast but don't nudge wink at the audience that that's the case the entire time etc).

It helped of course that RTD was actually able to write eg queer characters from a place of personal experience. I did like Bill and as a character she was a welcome spark of action-based diversity in the later years, but I'm not convinced Moffat was necessarily the best person to write for her.

Anyway the Eccleston series in particular I rewatch pretty often. The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances is a strong candidate my favourite story of the lot, not least because it includes the line "I can't tell whether it's Marxism in action or a West End musical." Sad it'll have to get butterflied away here owing to no WWII.
 

El Pip

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The right-wing of the (mainstream) Commonwealth political landscape going into the Seventies will be flying the ever more limp flag of Keynesian thought
I am reminded of Simon Evans' line about a Radio 4 panel he was once on;

"It had a wide range of voices and opinions, all the way from disgruntled socialist teacher through to full blown Marxist professor."
 
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DensleyBlair

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I am reminded of Simon Evans' line about a Radio 4 panel he was once on;

"It had a wide range of voices and opinions, all the way from disgruntled socialist teacher through to full blown Marxist professor."

I for one would love to know what frequency Mr Evans is finding this Marxist Radio 4. Sounds a right laugh.

@TheButterflyComposer might also be interested to know that I’ve just happened upon CS Lewis’s Surprised by Joy on one of the family bookshelves, so if I can find time next week I’ll go and learn all about his Christian reawakening.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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What about the actual Quatermass Experiment? The BBC series important for a variety of things, not least of which Hammer Studios in the throes of bankruptcy risking everything on remaking it with an X rating, kickstarting Hammer Horror.

Actually, we should probably look at television and cinema. Television can't be as widespread as otl, the adoption rate only shot up in the early 50s, ostensibly because of the coronation but mostly because of some import trickery and manufacturing booms. CBC radio is going to be the powerhouse for a lot longer, and the CBC tv channel for longer than that. And then, with british film industry being actually quite large and servicing the whole of eurosyn and the Commonwealth, as well as every amercian director worth a damn, there'll be pressure from many sides to ensure the goverment supports movie studios, cinemas etc, alongside the growing TV market.
 

DensleyBlair

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Actually, we should probably look at television and cinema.

Yes, let's do this. I don't have anything concrete planned for tv for the rest of the Sixties, so we can shoot the breeze for a bit and I'll do a round-up come the Seventies.

What about the actual Quatermass Experiment? The BBC series important for a variety of things, not least of which Hammer Studios in the throes of bankruptcy risking everything on remaking it with an X rating, kickstarting Hammer Horror.

The first thing to note is that whatever form Hammer is under, it will obviously be some sort of nationalised entity. So one imagines less immediate need to stave off bankruptcy with the possibility of state money for sci-fi.

But would Mosley want to fund a load of films about science going bad? Probably not. My hunch is that, as with the '64 stuff, nuclear anxieties both civilian and military probably drive a notional wild rush towards sci-fi/horror from about 1957. But it's probably going to have to be heavily reliant either on innuendo (particularly post-windscale) or else just outright optimistic – like Brave New World but completely missing the point.

After Mosley goes this stuff can start to filter through, so winter 1961 is probably the earliest date for a Quartermass serial.

Television can't be as widespread as otl, the adoption rate only shot up in the early 50s, ostensibly because of the coronation but mostly because of some import trickery and manufacturing booms.

Late-period Mosley did indulge in a bit of consumer boom economics, so I think adoption rates are probably about 5-10 years behind. In my mind the Eurosyn satellite launch in September 1960 probably catalysed things a fair amount.

CBC radio is going to be the powerhouse for a lot longer, and the CBC tv channel for longer than that.

The CBC is in a very strong position, particularly after the 1964 reforms (updated stations/channels; more cosmopolitan range of output, plus agreements with Eurosyn; music people actually want to hear…)

And then, with british film industry being actually quite large and servicing the whole of eurosyn and the Commonwealth, as well as every amercian director worth a damn, there'll be pressure from many sides to ensure the goverment supports movie studios, cinemas etc, alongside the growing TV market.

The Anglosphere cultural rivalry is probably going to carry on even as Cold War tensions start to decline a little going into the next decade. I'm quite interested by what it throws up, and I plan to dwell on it a bit in the Seventies/Eighties. Particularly with music, which is more my natural area of knowledge.
 

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Quote coincidentally, I’ve just come across this excellent Owen Hatherley piece about 1970s Marxist television, specifically Fassbinder’s soap operas produced for the public broadcaster in North Rhein-Westphalia. Absolutely worth 10 mins for anyone interested in what the CBC could look like by the next decade, particularly beyond what Hatherley delightfully calls “eat-your-greens Social Realism” of the Ken Loach school.
 
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El Pip

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Quote coincidentally, I’ve just come across this excellent Owen Hatherley piece about 1970s Marxist television, specifically Fassbinder’s soap operas produced for the public broadcaster in North Rhein-Westphalia. Absolutely worth 10 mins for anyone interested in what the CBC could look like by the next decade, particularly beyond what Hatherley delightfully calls “eat-your-greens Social Realism” of the Ken Loach school.
"where a woman calmly explains the Marxist theory of value in simple terms in the course of two minutes" If that is in anyway typical then CBC does sound like it will be horrifically grim. Better than Ken Loach to be sure, but a blank screen is better than Loach. I'm being unfair I know but that line was a bit fish in a barrel. Trying to be socially worthy and entertaining is a novelty, even if even Fassbinder does devolve into preaching occasionally, and certainly his earlier works where he was apparently attempting subtlety do sound tolerable, which is about as higher praise as I can give to that sort of work.

That said if Fassbinder types are the mainstream in CBC then who are the rebels? The daring capitalist leaning writers and producers trying to sneak free-market themes and messages about ambition and hope into the stodgily worthy CBC output. After all, part of the attraction of the left has always been it's self styled attitude of being rebel outsiders defying the mainstream, so if socialism is the mainstream then the cultural rebels must be coming from the right.
 

DensleyBlair

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Trying to be socially worthy and entertaining is a novelty, even if even Fassbinder does devolve into preaching occasionally, and certainly his earlier works where he was apparently attempting subtlety do sound tolerable, which is about as higher praise as I can give to that sort of work

Smuggling his messages through bourgeois forms, I think was the modus operandi. A lot of spy thrillers and the like.

That said if Fassbinder types are the mainstream in CBC then who are the rebels? The daring capitalist leaning writers and producers trying to sneak free-market themes and messages about ambition and hope into the stodgily worthy CBC output. After all, part of the attraction of the left has always been it's self styled attitude of being rebel outsiders defying the mainstream, so if socialism is the mainstream then the cultural rebels must be coming from the right.

I'm amazed, Pip. You forget the Left's inexhaustible ability to disagree with itself.

This discussion is sort of the plot for Vol 2, so it's a little premature, but for foreshadowing's sake we're not headed towards some inevitable left-wing end of history. Which might (?) give you some level of comfort. (??)

On the CBC being grim: I won't challenge the point too strongly because at the end of the day it's obviously a taste thing. But as hinted state programming will remain a battleground for a while yet.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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That said if Fassbinder types are the mainstream in CBC then who are the rebels? The daring capitalist leaning writers and producers trying to sneak free-market themes and messages about ambition and hope into the stodgily worthy CBC output. After all, part of the attraction of the left has always been it's self styled attitude of being rebel outsiders defying the mainstream, so if socialism is the mainstream then the cultural rebels must be coming from the right.
I'm amazed, Pip. You forget the Left's inexhaustible ability to disagree with itself.

I agree. If you think the Cambridge Footlights are ever going to be pro-authority, you don't know Cambridge. Unofficial motto: everyone can always be more Communist.
I suspect the Pythons are going to be merciless at mocking the so-called 'benevolent' regime for being good for the workers whilst simultaneously shooting everyone who says they aren't. If anything, Life of Brian will be meaner than it already was regarding people being sheep and believing anything the man on the podium says.
 

DensleyBlair

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I agree. If you think the Cambridge Footlights are ever going to be pro-authority, you don't know Cambridge. Unofficial motto: everyone can always be more Communist.
I suspect the Pythons are going to be merciless at mocking the so-called 'benevolent' regime for being good for the workers whilst simultaneously shooting everyone who says they aren't. If anything, Life of Brian will be meaner than it already was regarding people being sheep and believing anything the man on the podium says.

I think in general the early Seventies are going to be a good time for a satire boom. We already have Redadder, of course, which canonically speaking lasts from 1970–73.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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I think in general the early Seventies are going to be a good time for a satire boom. We already have Redadder, of course, which canonically speaking lasts from 1970–73.

Sit-coms that might exist are a bit limited though. Dad's Army is out. Yes Minister could happen but would be a bit different/radically altered. Blackadder is already in universe. Porridge and Open All Hours might work. Probably would have a bit more critique of the system since there isn't supposed to be such an authority over others/avarice anymore... To the Manor Born could exist but would be extremely controversial depending on how it was written.
 

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Sit-coms that might exist are a bit limited though. Dad's Army is out. Yes Minister could happen but would be a bit different/radically altered. Blackadder is already in universe. Porridge and Open All Hours might work. Probably would have a bit more critique of the system since there isn't supposed to be such an authority over others/avarice anymore... To the Manor Born could exist but would be extremely controversial depending on how it was written.

I think we probably just look at reimagining stuff. A lot of things that don’t work probably do the old trick and make it a period thing. Dads Army might be about the Workers Brigades, maybe during Spain… Yes Minister I think you’re right; could happen somehow but would need thought. To the Manor Born could be set just pre-Revolution (or possibly more interestingly, immediately post-Revolution). I think of the lot it’s actually probably going to be the most fun to think about, because you’re right: it’s gunna be the most controversial.

Others to mention I guess are Fawlty Towers and the Good Life. Probably stuff to work with in both cases.

But yeah, I think realistically the humour is going to have a different base to OTL. Lots of scope for stuff completely alien to our world.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Well I think possibly not so different. Just more on the nose about mocking authority figures because, in that time line, they're all supposed to be equal. Which happened in otl britsh comedy anyway, it'll just be more present cos of the hypocrisy etc