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

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

LordTempest

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DensleyBlair

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aaa i'm so excited

Oh, and I didn't pick up on this on my first read, but it was a nice touch to have Benn continue in his career at the alt-BBC instead of entering politics outright - it's the attention to detail that really sets this story apart.

That’s nice of you to say, thank you. I like the idea of Benn on the radio. Feels right somehow.


AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Nice of you to join us.

I don't think DLG will be featuring heavily in this timeline, no.

Eh, he gets a little bit of airtime before being shunted out unceremoniously. More than nothing.
 

99KingHigh

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i took one glance at the title and prayed DB had picked up a cromwell fetish

i was terribly wrong
 

Taniwha

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Have you considered posting this on alternatehistory.com or on the Sealion Press forum? It's hardly dependent on being an AAR, and I think the straight alternate history sites would love it.
 

loup99

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Have you considered posting this on alternatehistory.com or on the Sealion Press forum? It's hardly dependent on being an AAR, and I think the straight alternate history sites would love it.
Remember that this forum is not closed, any other person, registered or otherwise, can access the AARs via a quick internet research, since everything is referenced. Those on any third party site can thus access it here, and by searching for "Commonwealth of Britain" this will appear in the list (depending on how you refine keywords).
 

Taniwha

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Yes, but if they don't know about the timeline they won't search for it, will they? And only a minority of people will follow a link off site. Why not just cross post it and get the other audience?
 

loup99

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Yes, but if they don't know about the timeline they won't search for it, will they? And only a minority of people will follow a link off site. Why not just cross post it and get the other audience?
Oh, I misunderstood what you meant, I thought you were implying that the AARland would be closed to this other potential audience.
 

DensleyBlair

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i took one glance at the title and prayed DB had picked up a cromwell fetish

i was terribly wrong

If it helps, you can think of this as Cromwell for the 20th century. :p

Have you considered posting this on alternatehistory.com or on the Sealion Press forum? It's hardly dependent on being an AAR, and I think the straight alternate history sites would love it.

Yeah, it's definitely something I'm open to doing. I'm sure I'll find time to put it up over on Sea Lion at some point in the not too distant future.

Thanks for stopping by, by the way. :)

________________________________


Update incoming!

(aka cue Roy Jenkins in 5, 4, 3 ... @LordTempest :p)
 
The Ugly Death of Labour Britain, Part Two

DensleyBlair

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



THE UGLY DEATH OF LABOUR BRITAIN
PART TWO

1979



Tony Benn: “And we’ll hear more from Vanessa later when she takes us through the events of Operation Night Flight. If you’re just joining us, we are talking this evening about the ugly death of Labour Britain. On my right is Professor Roy Jenkins, who argues that Ramsay MacDonald holds an unfair reputation as an enemy of the working class movement, and on my left is Lieutenant Colonel Denis Healey, who argues that condemnation of the MacDonald government is justified. My name is Tony Benn, and we are with you until midnight. Roy Jenkins, I promised before the break that I would come to you next, and I will. We have talked a lot already tonight about the Labour government’s record in office, in particular examining its economic policies towards the problem of the coal industry, and lately touching on what might be described as its attitude towards ‘law and order’. Perhaps it is worth turning now to look at the election of February 1929, and giving some consideration to how the Labour government itself defended its record?”


Roy Jenkins: “Yes, thank you, Tony. As we saw in that film, Labour went into the general election in 1929 rather on the back foot. Whatever the political realities may have been, and as I have argued, they were prohibitive in letting the ministry act, MacDonald’s fear of a loss of public support had been founded and he was forced to defend his record against vigorous, if competing, attacks from both Mosley on the Left and Churchill on the Right. Mosley was pressing ahead with his campaign of unprecedented, top-down economic restructuring, while Churchill had doubled down on his militant rhetoric and was making all sorts of promises about sending in the troops to break up the strike. Caught in the middle of this, MacDonald chose to conduct a dignified, defiant campaign that highlighted Labour’s fundamental competence in government. This was notable faced with the PLUA as a major opposition force on the Left; Mosley of course had only ever held one rather minor ministerial position, and for all of the talent he boasted of within its ranks his party could hardly describe itself as being experienced in government. Therefore in an admittedly ironic move, MacDonald attempted to shift onto Mosley and the PLUA the criticism that had only the year before been applied to his own party: that of inexperience leading to incompetence in government.”


Benn: “Did it perhaps expose the paucity of Labour’s own proposed response to the crisis that it was forced into waging an essentially negative campaign?”


Jenkins: “I think I would characterise the campaign as pragmatic rather than negative. While MacDonald did of course make a point of repeating his concerns about Mosley to anyone who would listen, he was equally insistent on reminding voters about his own record in office.”


Denis Healey: “—Which naturally did him very little good indeed.”


Jenkins: “I think MacDonald was always going to experience some degree of prejudice regardless of the message he brought to the public.”


Healey: “I think it’s all well and good making excuses for historical events, but ultimately the results of the election speak for themselves. The extent of MacDonald’s failure to defend his conduct in office does suggest a large amount of bad feeling towards both him and his government, but no public figure has any divine right of good reputation: the voters evidently felt justified in sending him a strong message. And this in itself must be taken as evidence of some degree of failure in office. Malicious rumours alone do not make for such comprehensive election defeats.”


1929%20ELECTION%20MAP.jpg

The results of the 1929 election, with parties shown as follows: Blue and Dark Blue, Conservative and Unionist; Bright Red, PLUA; Yellow, Liberal; Pink, Continuity Labour; Dark Red, CPGB. CPGB seats map largely to areas of strongest worker control, with the PLUA dominant in the areas where trade unionism had a firm base.


Benn: “Just for the benefit of viewers at home, it might be worth noting that Labour lost 317 seats at the 1929 election compared to the year before, corresponding to a Butler swing of about 37.5 per-cent against the government. Denis Healey, what do you consider the greater contributor to Labour’s collapse at the polls: MacDonald’s lacklustre record or Mosley’s energetic campaign?”


Healey: “Naturally I think it is a balance between the two, but I would say that without Mosley’s dynamic character I don’t think the PLUA would have been so comprehensive in picking up the old Labour vote. I am not convinced that it was a given thing that the voters were going to abandon Labour in 1929, and clearly they needed somewhere viable to go to once they had left. Some of the more bourgeois constituencies of course returned to the Tories or the Liberals, but the vast majority of PLUA seats were won on the back of a straight swing from Labour. Therefore I think it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Left – as it was within Westminster politics – decided that Mosley was the more likely man to actually achieve what he set out to achieve. Which of course was a very bold programme – far easier to sell than MacDonald’s more wishy-washy reformism. And this was part of the problem in getting the Minority Movement on board, of course: the Communists did not trust Mosley, with the exception of Arthur Cook. They thought of him as a useful organiser but were highly sceptical of his programme insofar as it was not Marxist nor Leninist nor Stalinist. People have suggested that Mosley at that time was a hardcore Keynesian, though of course his ideas were contemporary to Keynes’s and always shaded by a certain idiosyncrasy. It was perhaps because the CPGB wouldn’t entirely accept him that Mosley was able to present himself as a man of action without stoking fears of a Communist takeover, which of course aided him in the job winning over the bourgeoisie.”


Jenkins: “If I might home in on one thing, Denis, I think it is worth talking a bit about the repercussions of the TUC’s position towards the election, which was essentially one of disdain. In 1928 Labour was aided massively by the structural and material support of the trade unionist movement, but in 1929 this had been withdrawn. Most of this money went instead to the various strike funds, but a little bit went through the Minority Movement to the Communist Party, who at this point were enjoying a period of then-unprecedented success – something not commented upon as often as the Labour failures, it must be said. An incredibly effective, concentrated strategy of campaigning and organisation saw the CPGB take seven seats in 1928 with only two per-cent of the national vote. They grew this to nine seats a year later. And actually this is arguably the main, visible consequence of the TUC’s material intervention in the election. Mosley’s relative success was facilitated by the TUC’s organisational network – or more particularly the workers’ movement’s organisational network, but there was relatively little union capital behind the PLUA. Mosley was almost entirely self-funded, or else relied on contributions from his friends and allies – who, let us not forget, were mostly men and women of some means. Much has been written over the years about the relative class make-ups of the workers’ movement and the PLUA, so maybe it’s not worth going over again here— what do we think, Tony?”


Benn: “No, carry on by all means.”


Jenkins: “I just wonder whether there is something in the fact that, in comparison to the Labour leadership, the core of the PLUA was probably even more representative of the bourgeoisie. And yet Mosley’s great success was transforming himself into a conduit for the frustrations of the workers’ movement, so that his class didn’t really matter. The Tories of course had been accusing him of being a class traitor since 1925, and maybe this helped him as he could be justified in claiming that he and the workers had a common enemy. Whereas Labour were considered class traitors by their own side, which certainly did not help. But in spite of this difference in presentation it is important to keep hold of the fact that the class composition of Britain’s governing class was fairly consistent between the wars, probably with the exception of the five years of Communist dominance before 1934. The differences were really only economic, which isn’t entirely the same as class though certainly a big part.”


Healey: “I think you raise an interesting point, Roy, but I think this idea of the governing class not really changing in its composition takes too wide a view of things. On the ground, the workers I think didn’t much care who the governing class were because, ultimately, they had very little effective power. Nominally, little changed I agree. But materially the workers had taken control of pretty much all that counted in Britain from about 1928 onwards. Westminster only mattered insofar as it posed a threat to the continued existence of worker control. Now, this is reflected I think in the attitudes of the workers to the various parties – and also somewhat in the campaign strategies of the three main parties. Labour were very much a force of continuity and so they behaved as if nothing has changed, which led to embarrassing situations like MacDonald being refused entry to worker-controlled Leeds, and even being booed and jeered in his own constituency of Seaham, which ultimately went to Manny Shinwell of the PLUA. Thus they got nowhere not because of some grand conspiracy of public opinion, but because of the simple fact that they refused to acknowledge the new terms of engagement. What’s more, they were very open about this; the threadbare existence of the Continuity Labour Party until 1934 has to represent one of the most blatant displays of a lack of self-awareness in the collective political memory.


“Now Mosley was keenly receptive to the present situation, and thus understood its terms perfectly. One could even say he was so fluent so as to be able to manipulate them to his own advantage. The rapid expansion of the PLUA between November 1928 and January 1929 is thanks in great part to this understanding, and of course a generous amount of grease applied to the wheels by the fundamental amenability of the TUC and the workers themselves. Mosley had no trouble getting around the country – or at least not from the workers. The Fascisti of course proved a nuisance wherever he went. But he was at least able to get his message out there, which MacDonald was not. So in a way it doesn’t matter how MacDonald planned to defend his record because he never got to do it.


“Lloyd George privately backed Mosley, but a great number of his Liberals were less enthusiastic and thus the campaign was about as coherent as any Liberal campaign had been since the Great War. As a result they continued to find themselves marginalised, or else doing various dealing with the Conservatives, who under Churchill campaigned with a particular zeal – one might call it nastiness – in much of England outside of London and south of the Trent. Nevertheless the Liberals did of course pick up a number of seats from Churchill in areas where voters were turned off by his militarism. After almost two years of strike action, Britain had settled as it were into a sort of interim status quo, and many people were fearful that Churchill’s desire to send troops to take back worker controlled areas would just as soon spark violent conflict as the election of a Marxist-Leninist government.”


BENN%20TALKING%20POINT%20PIPE%20COLOUR.jpg

Tony Benn, seen smoking his iconic pipe towards the end of the evening's programme.


Benn: “Churchill is often portrayed as the pantomime villain of the revolution – and not entirely without reason. Is there anything to be gained from perhaps questioning his role in the downfall of the United Kingdom?”


Jenkins: “I think certainly Churchill quite rightly must be held accountable for his conduct during the strike – but it’s a similar situation to that which has developed with MacDonald: people have taken to attacking an idea rather than a set of facts. Churchill was of course in the early days of the strike responsible for the formation of the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies, and ultimately he was accountable for its conduct, particularly at Wapping Docks. But after this point we must not forget he has little direct involvement with policy, and a lot of his contribution to the anti-strike effort was just talk. He made a great show of being the strikebreaker-in-chief, and certainly he associated with a group of unsavoury characters—”


Benn: “—you mean to say Fascisti paramilitaries?”


Jenkins: “Yes, principally. But at the same time, Churchill held ministerial office for less than three weeks during the revolution – I will discount the fact that he was notionally prime minister for about 36 hours before the surrender of the Cliveden Parliament – and association alone cannot do the sort of material harm of which public opinion accuses him of having carried out.”


Healey: “Once again I think, Roy, you have fallen into the trap of being far too academic in your considerations—”


Jenkins (in the background): “—Imagine that!”


Healey: “—because it’s all well and good to examine the historical record as if it were a balance sheet, with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ neatly counted up and tabulated, but it doesn’t work like that. No, Churchill wasn’t in office – but he did bring down two governments in the space of a year. Besides which his constant agitation for military intervention, not to mention his unashamed association with the British Fascisti, went a significant way towards normalising extreme right-wing violence in Britain. Churchill knew full well the power of words, and he was canny in his use of them. More often than not, he was putting them to use in the service of violent rhetoric against the conscious working class, even if he was not himself committing the violence. But considering this was a climate where Communist and unionist leaders were being routinely convicted of charges relating to incitement – let us not forget Adelaide Knight – it seems distasteful, to put it mildly, to reserve one standard for Churchill and another for the workers.


“This of course also ignores the fact that even in opposition Churchill was making very concrete steps towards counter-revolution. Prince Edward had numerous private talks with the opposition leader after King George had left the country, and during the election campaign the two even went so far as to draw up plans for a putsch against the workers’ movement led by MI5.”


Benn: “This, presumably, is the infamous ‘Sandringham Plan’, apparently drawn up on January 24, 1929 – coincidentally, the same day as Nancy Astor hosted Rotha Lintorn-Orman at Cliveden.”


Healey: “Yes, thank you Tony.—”


Jenkins: “It should be pointed out that the authenticity of the Sandringham Plan is disputed by certain sources.”


Healey: “Granted, there has never been any official confirmation of the content of Churchill’s later meetings with Edward.”


Benn: “But the gist of the alleged plot is a coup against the unionist leadership.”


Jenkins: “Exactly. What is alleged to have taken place in late-January 1929 is a discussion between Edward, Churchill and a number of frustrated MI5 officers who had taken it upon themselves to act in the absence of any direction from the Labour government. The plan supposedly involved taking back Parliament Square by force, including assassinating a number of Communist leaders so as to break up the workers’ organisational capacity, then retaking Parliament and declaring a government of national emergency headed by Churchill. Lloyd George was to have been responsible for solving the crisis of the mining industry, and MacDonald was to have been farmed out to the Foreign Office – though it is doubtful that they would have known anything about the plan, were it genuine.


“But this again paints Churchill as a sort of scheming fantasy villain, which is far too reductive an assessment. Yes, as Denis says it is necessary to consider the effect of Churchill’s public statements against the revolution. But it is important also that we judge his record on the basis of the facts as we know them, and quite simply a lot of the worst excesses Churchill is accused of having perpetrated just are not substantiated by the historical record.”


Benn: “I think perhaps this is a good place to pause for a moment as we are now halfway through tonight’s programme. We will return for the final half-hour after this short film about Operation Night Flight, the storming of the Cliveden Parliament by Workers’ Brigade volunteers, narrated again by Vanessa Redgrave.”
 
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avalanches

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Holy hell, the madman actually put a seat map in it.

It's really entertaining to hear Healey and Jenkins really get into it over the cultural memory of Churchill and MacDonald - you don't normally get a look at the pop history of an alternate universe, so it was a nice surprise to read this update. :)
 

loup99

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The magnitude of the Labour defeat is impressive, Mosley is certainly a skilled campaigner. While MacDonald seems to largely have left the scene after being ousted from Parliament by losing his seat, Churchill still apparently has a prominent role to play in the final weeks before revolution, and Mosley can naturally only continue to increase his influence, although he will have to both deal with the Communists and the CPBG.

The map does remind me of Northern Ireland, will be interesting to see what happens there, since the constituency result map indicates nothing revolutionnary so far.
 

stnylan

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It seems that the legitimacy of the future times is rather heavily based on a tissue of lies, from this episode. Witness the immense pushback Jenkins has gotten. I wonder what a "Gang of Four" type split would look like in this timeline?

Also, one has to appreciate the pipe :D
 

DensleyBlair

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Holy hell, the madman actually put a seat map in it.

What can I say, I like maps. :D

It's really entertaining to hear Healey and Jenkins really get into it over the cultural memory of Churchill and MacDonald - you don't normally get a look at the pop history of an alternate universe, so it was a nice surprise to read this update. :)

I like writing the pop history a lot because I think in many ways it presents a more interesting challenge than the more “academic” or “official” histories, which sort of have their story and stick to it. But having two or more people thrash out a version of events allows for more of the soul searching that collective memory sort of entails. Glad you get something from it also. :)

The magnitude of the Labour defeat is impressive, Mosley is certainly a skilled campaigner. While MacDonald seems to largely have left the scene after being ousted from Parliament by losing his seat, Churchill still apparently has a prominent role to play in the final weeks before revolution, and Mosley can naturally only continue to increase his influence, although he will have to both deal with the Communists and the CPBG.

Churchill at this point is pretty much the UK’s last hope. Or so he would like to appear. It’s true he still has one last role to play. Mosley on the other hand, as you mention, has the problem of what to do after the revolution, seeing as his own supporters and the supporters of the workers’ movement are far from the same group.

The map does remind me of Northern Ireland, will be interesting to see what happens there, since the constituency result map indicates nothing revolutionnary so far.

Northern Ireland has its own thing going on, but it won’t be ignored by the revolutionaries. ;)

It seems that the legitimacy of the future times is rather heavily based on a tissue of lies, from this episode. Witness the immense pushback Jenkins has gotten. I wonder what a "Gang of Four" type split would look like in this timeline?

I’m interested to hear you say that, principally because I hadn’t entirely set out to paint Jenkins as a warrior for the truth and Healey/Benn as state propagandists. In my mind it’s more a case of two men being fairly set in their views, with something approaching to the truth lingering in the middle. (Obviously Benn’s interventions tip the scales in favour of one side more than the other here.) I’d say an equivalent discussion IOTL in terms of relevance and objectivity would probably see Alastair Campbell and Owen Jones going on Newsnight in 2017 to analyse the legacy of Labour’s win in 1997.

As for a Gang of Four, I think it is made harder to imagine by the fact that it would I guess be a right-opposition split, which would almost certainly mean advocacy of free market capitalism. No doubt the tendency would exist, I’d say particularly once Mosley is out of the picture, but I don’t think it would have much establishment backing. Interesting to think about though, for sure. :)

Also, one has to appreciate the pipe :D

Had to be done. :D

________________

Thanks for all the feedback, as ever. I’m always interested to see which bits of the updates people pick up on, or which bits inspire questions. Aside from anything, usually they make me think about that particular aspect of the timeline a little harder, which is never a bad thing.

I’m out of Britain at the moment and will be for the next two weeks, but I have the next couple of updates ready to post. I’ll put probably put each of them up over the next two Fridays. Incidentally, we’re now really at the business end of the revolution and the Commonwealth is not far off at all. I’m excited to get to the stage where things get a little further of course from OTL.

In the meantime, any more comments are of course greatly appreciated. :)

Cheers!
 

loup99

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It seems that the legitimacy of the future times is rather heavily based on a tissue of lies, from this episode. Witness the immense pushback Jenkins has gotten.
I’m interested to hear you say that, principally because I hadn’t entirely set out to paint Jenkins as a warrior for the truth and Healey/Benn as state propagandists. In my mind it’s more a case of two men being fairly set in their views, with something approaching to the truth lingering in the middle. (Obviously Benn’s interventions tip the scales in favour of one side more than the other here.) I’d say an equivalent discussion IOTL in terms of relevance and objectivity would probably see Alastair Campbell and Owen Jones going on Newsnight in 2017 to analyse the legacy of Labour’s win in 1997.
Interesting discussion, I didn't view it as Jenkins telling the truth either, more him viewing Churchill from a more favourable perspective, but at the same time from the other updates we have solid evidence of Churchill actually ignoring or being friendly towards the Fascisti, being ready to strike down on workers and completely ignoring their revendications. Also the whole red scarce thing does not make me feel that he is strongly committed to democracy, and the MI5 isn't exactly known for its revolutionnary sympathies. Maybe that is just ideological bias however that leads me to this interpretation, everyone projects their own views into what they read, but from the rest of the AAR I felt that this "Sandringham Plan" seemed plausible. That being said we have no Churchill or Baldwin writing any update, I guess an excerpt from writings by such figures would give us a whole other light on the events.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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I am not so sure I would call Jenkins a warrior for the truth - not precisely anyway. I think I see it this way

Healey - the Party man, toeing the party line
Benn - the ideologue
Jenkins - the honest (and somewhat naïve) intellectual. He largely believes the intellectual framework he grew up with, but his mind is curious enough to examine it for inconsistences. Only he does realise the consequences of this examination. Healey does, and is probably a bit annoyed with Jenkins for bringing them up. I mean he might well like Jenkins, even admire him, but wouldn't life be so much easier if he just shuts up. Benn, on the other hand, is an ideologue - he knows exactly the danger of Jenkins' views and knows what he holds dear - the Revolution - must never be allowed to be tarnished by such doubts, for that way lies only ruin. Benn is not being insincere here, he probably internally believes exactly what he says - because he rejects any evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile back at home, smoking his pipe, he makes a note as to why must Jenkins be allowed. Benn is, in his vehemence, as much a threat to the Revolution as Jenkins, only he doesn't realise it.

Leaving Healey, as ever, to carry the Party on his shoulders when everyone else just wants to fight.

Poor old Healey, the John Prescott of yesteryear. :D
 

DensleyBlair

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Interesting discussion, I didn't view it as Jenkins telling the truth either, more him viewing Churchill from a more favourable perspective, but at the same time from the other updates we have solid evidence of Churchill actually ignoring or being friendly towards the Fascisti, being ready to strike down on workers and completely ignoring their revendications. Also the whole red scarce thing does not make me feel that he is strongly committed to democracy, and the MI5 isn't exactly known for its revolutionnary sympathies. Maybe that is just ideological bias however that leads me to this interpretation, everyone projects their own views into what they read, but from the rest of the AAR I felt that this "Sandringham Plan" seemed plausible. That being said we have no Churchill or Baldwin writing any update, I guess an excerpt from writings by such figures would give us a whole other light on the events.

The other day I went back and reread some of @LordTempest ’s Loyal We Began, Loyal We Remain, and I was struck by some of the discussion he and I had in the thread – which of course I had no memory of, but which aren’t entirely alien to what is going on here. On the one hand, there’s the thing of “Churchillisation”, whereby opinion is so polarised between sainthood and villainy that it’s hard to locate any sort of objective measure. On the other hand, there’s the idea that if you cut Churchill’s career at any point before about 1936 then it leaves a pretty poor legacy. So in this case there’s a combination of the two: Churchill is, to quote my own writing of Benn, the “pantomime villain of the revolution”, but he’s also just a pretty questionable politician with a fairly erratic record. And whether you spin it as “fascist collaborator” or “blundering incompetent” is sort of a question of personal sympathy, but either way – and I say this as the author – it’s hard for me to see how he gets out of it with his reputation intact.

I am not so sure I would call Jenkins a warrior for the truth - not precisely anyway. I think I see it this way

Healey - the Party man, toeing the party line
Benn - the ideologue
Jenkins - the honest (and somewhat naïve) intellectual. He largely believes the intellectual framework he grew up with, but his mind is curious enough to examine it for inconsistences. Only he does realise the consequences of this examination. Healey does, and is probably a bit annoyed with Jenkins for bringing them up. I mean he might well like Jenkins, even admire him, but wouldn't life be so much easier if he just shuts up. Benn, on the other hand, is an ideologue - he knows exactly the danger of Jenkins' views and knows what he holds dear - the Revolution - must never be allowed to be tarnished by such doubts, for that way lies only ruin. Benn is not being insincere here, he probably internally believes exactly what he says - because he rejects any evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile back at home, smoking his pipe, he makes a note as to why must Jenkins be allowed. Benn is, in his vehemence, as much a threat to the Revolution as Jenkins, only he doesn't realise it.

That characterisation is not dissimilar to what I was going for, so amending my previous response I am glad to hear that something of it came across. In my mind, Healey as the dutiful civil servant is sort of reliably loyal to the Mosleyite tendency even if he’s not a strong ideologue and likely does see the inconsistency in the position he has to adopt. Jenkins is the sort of gadfly who realises the holes in Mosley’s legacy —and, unlike Healey, has no scruples about voicing them. (More likely, he has scruples about not voicing them.) And Benn is the avuncular champion of the Commonwealth who dedicates himself to keeping the mythos from unravelling. (Let ya not forget that William Benn is in this timeline a founding member of the PLUA.)

The joys of translating politics into television, eh? :D

Leaving Healey, as ever, to carry the Party on his shoulders when everyone else just wants to fight.

Poor old Healey, the John Prescott of yesteryear. :D

What goes unsaid in all of this is, of course, what exactly the job of carrying the party entails by 1979. But then maybe that’s getting a bit too far ahead of myself. :p
 

99KingHigh

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Ok I'm up to date now.

i eagerly await discovering which fabians go full apparatchik for the revolutionary tribunals; too much papering-over these few years of real commienism by our commentators for some terrible things not to have happened.
 

avalanches

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How the historians and politicians of the future deal with the after-effects of the Revolution and the Mosley years will be something to keep an eye on in future updates - while we don't know how long the Mosleyites remained in power after his death, I think the cracks in the regime's image will only grow over time. It's clear that the press is freer in this timeline's UK than it is in, say, the Soviet Union in the same time period, so how opinions on Mosley develops over time I think will be hugely important.
 

DensleyBlair

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Ok I'm up to date now.

i eagerly await discovering which fabians go full apparatchik for the revolutionary tribunals; too much papering-over these few years of real commienism by our commentators for some terrible things not to have happened.

Never mind which Fabians go full apparatchik, the question is which Fabians are still around. Suspicious number of reformists and cranks among their numbers.

A lot of the papering over is simply because I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun when we’re still only just hitting the revolution itself. But granted the commentators tend to take, let’s say, a particular view of things.

How the historians and politicians of the future deal with the after-effects of the Revolution and the Mosley years will be something to keep an eye on in future updates - while we don't know how long the Mosleyites remained in power after his death, I think the cracks in the regime's image will only grow over time. It's clear that the press is freer in this timeline's UK than it is in, say, the Soviet Union in the same time period, so how opinions on Mosley develops over time I think will be hugely important.

This is all very true. There’s a sort of meta-narrative (forgive the term) involving author identities, publication dates and the platforms people are writing in when. And what happens post-Mosley is of course a pressing question. Will be fun to write about when the time comes.

____________

Update incoming! Time for some proper direct action.
 
“Operation Night Flight”, from Talking Point

DensleyBlair

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg


OPERATION NIGHT FLIGHT

NARRATED BY
VANESSA REDGRAVE

1979


INT. VILLAGE HALL – MORNING, 1929
It is a cold, late-February morning and people arrive to cast their votes. There are men and women with rifles stood outside the hall keeping watch over proceedings. It is unclear whether they are Fascisti, worker volunteers or some other force entirely.

Redgrave: On Thursday 21st February, 1929, the voters of Britain went to the polls for the second time in under a year. The attempts of Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government to solve the crises that faced the country had broken down, and it was hoped that the election of a fresh ministry could break the deadlock. The choice open to voters was, in essence, threefold: continuity with MacDonald, a restoration of “order and security” with Winston Churchill’s Conservatives, or a radical restructuring of the economy under Oswald Mosley’s new Provisional Labour–Unionist Alliance, or PLUA. Liberal leader David Lloyd George had taken a back seat.

EXT. NORTHERN TOWN – DAY, 1929
Young women seen queuing outside a school hall to cast their votes for the first time.

Redgrave: For millions, this was their first time at the polls. MacDonald’s government had passed the Fifth Reform Act with little fanfare in March 1928, finally granting full suffrage to all men and women over the age of 21. It was a significant time to receive the vote: the 1929 election can be described with little fear of hyperbole as a vote on the very future of the United Kingdom.

VARIOUS – 1929
Stock footage of Mosley, Churchill and MacDonald campaigning. Churchill arrives at Cliveden under armed guard. Mosley addresses a crowd in Parliament Square.

Redgrave: When the results came in two days after polling, it soon became evident that the ballot had not cleared the hoped-for path out of the deadlock; the voters of Britain had elected a hung parliament. Churchill’s Conservatives were the largest party – just; the Tories secured 266 seats, only marginally ahead of Mosley’s new PLUA, who defeated the Labour Party at the first attempt by winning 259 seats. MacDonald was left with only 23 seats, pushed into fourth place by Lloyd George’s Liberals, who experienced an unexpected resurgence to take 55 seats. The Communist Party, building on a solid campaign of concentrated activity in key areas, increased their 1928 showing by two seats, achieving victory in nine constituencies.


Graphics showing the composition of Parliament and the geographical spread of party support. Compared with map showing spread of worker control.

WORKER%20CONTROL%20MAP%201929.jpg

Map showing approximate extent of worker control by February 1929.


Redgrave: The electoral map from 1929 can be made to double as a map of the boundaries of the revolutionary conflict. Regions under worker control largely backed the PLUA, with the most militant areas electing Communist candidates. Labour MPs were returned in more rural areas, generally supportive of the workers’ movement but not necessarily under syndicalist control. Liberal gains show areas where people were broadly in favour of measures against the strike, but who found Churchill’s militancy hard to swallow. The Tories meanwhile won in the most rural areas, securing their biggest majorities in the Home Counties where Fascisti groups had taken their strongest hold over social life.

Given these numbers, it was hard to see how a stable government could be formed. Matters were at once complicated and made simpler by the policy of abstention espoused by both the PLUA and the CPGB. Backed by the workers’ movement, these parties did not recognise the Cliveden Parliament as a legitimate body and sat instead – at the pleasure of the trade unionists outside – in Westminster. Thus while Britain’s elected MPs were divided geographically as well as politically, Prince Edward was faced with a situation where the Cliveden Parliament, still recognised as legitimate by the ailing British state, was entirely dominated by the Conservatives. While the abstentionist parties sitting in Westminster outnumbered the Tories by 268 seats to 266, in Cliveden Churchill had a majority of 185. Thus on February 24th, Winston Churchill was appointed prime minister.

EXT. CLIVEDEN, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE – DAY, 1929
Military vehicles move around the estate. Fascisti guards in British Army uniforms stand around beside entrances. Churchill speaks to his cabinet in Lady Astor’s boudoir.

Redgrave: Cliveden was the home of Lord and Lady Astor, 30 miles west of Westminster just outside the village of Taplow in Buckinghamshire. Lady Astor was an American socialite who had in 1919 become the first woman elected to Parliament to take her seat[1]. As a leading figure in Conservative society, she was at the heart of an aristocratic group who entertained numerous anti-catholic and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The group lived in almost constant fear of a Communist takeover of the British Empire.

When Astor invited Parliament to relocate to her home in September 1928 after the occupation of Westminster by workers that summer, the local branch of the Territorial Army were seconded to the estate to provide protection to Members of Parliament. In January 1929, Nancy Astor met with British Fascisti leader Rotha Lintorn-Orman to discuss engaging the Q Divisions as supplementary guards. Her husband, Waldorf, Viscount Astor, was reluctant to give the appearance of hiding away at Cliveden guarded by armed thugs. A compromise was reached whereby the Fascisti would be outfitted so as to look like TA volunteers. Thus were appearances of relative normality kept up.

Astor was worried in the immediate term about a threat against her life. Why the workers’ movement would have targeted her in particular, as opposed to the numerous decision-makers also present at Cliveden, is unclear. Nevertheless, her other fear – that workers were plotting to storm Cliveden – was more founded: Tom Wintringham, Commander-in-chief of the Workers’ Brigades, had since the end of 1928 been formulating a plan to take the Cliveden Parliament and force the surrender of the rump British state. He was assisted by Jock Cunningham, a Clydesider who had come to prominence as the commander of a column of anti-fascist volunteers in Glasgow. Together, they masterminded the delivery of the coup de grâce that finally ended the ailing United Kingdom: Operation Night Flight.


INT. PUBLIC HOUSE, STEPNEY – FEBRUARY, 1929
Tom Wintringham and Jock Cunningham are seen enjoying a drink together with some volunteers in their respective battalions. Cut to Wintringham and Cunningham studying maps, plans and typed reports, presumably relating to the comings and goings at Cliveden. Cut to scenes of volunteers drilling. Stock footage of coaches driving battalions out of London.

Redgrave: On the morning of Monday 25th February, 1929, the newly-elected members of the rump parliament at Cliveden arrived at the Buckinghamshire estate. Oswald Mosley and Albert Inkpin, along with their respective parties, the PLUA and the CPGB, were conspicuously absent; as the day’s business started at Cliveden, workers from the Parliament Square occupation stormed the Palace of Westminster and symbolically allowed the abstentionist parties to take their seats in the House of Commons. Winston Churchill had stayed in the house over the weekend, using a guest bedroom as his base while forming his minority ministry. He also oversaw the installation of a TA bivouac on the parterre behind the house. David Lloyd George is supposed to have remarked upon arriving at Cliveden that morning that the estate looked more like a battlefield than a seat of government. It was a prescient thought.

Half a mile east, Wintringham and his battalion watch the stream of cars heading towards the Cliveden estate under the cover of an area of woodland, just west of a golf course where they had camped out overnight. Jock Cunningham was positioned with his battalion in a second area of woodland to the south-east of the estate.

EXT. CLIVEDEN – DAY
A graphic appears showing the layout of the estate with reference to Wintringham and Cunningham’s positions. We are shown a re-enactment of the storming of the driveway.


BATTALION%20INITIAL%20POSITIONS.jpg

Wintringham and Cunningham's movements, from initial positions to the driveway. The main buildings of the estate are shown in black.


At half-past eight, with all of the 344 Cliveden MPs safely inside the main dining room, news reached the house that Mosley and Inkpin had been installed in the House of Commons by workers in Whitehall. The Tories were sent into uproar, with members rising one after the other to denounce Mosley and the Westminster MPs as traitors to the United Kingdom. As the revelation continued to animate those in the house, Wintringham and his volunteers arrived at the estate driveway, shooting the guards dead and advancing towards a small wood to the east of the parterre. Alerted by the sound of gunfire, the TA garrison opens fire on the volunteers, who are held in the woods. A sloping lawn separates them from the parterre.


INT. CLIVEDEN DINING ROOM – DAY
We are back with the re-enactment. MPs notice the activity on the parterre lawn below and hear the first exchanges of gunfire. Churchill realises what is happening and attempts to make a phone call, but the lines have been cut.

Redgrave: Inside the house, panic breaks out as MPs see the soldiers outside open fire on an unseen enemy. Churchill and Lady Astor soon restore calm, with the prime minister giving a speech about the “folly of the revolutionaries” and assuring the room that the odds of defeat were minimal. He does not tell his audience that all lines of communication to the outside world have been sabotaged. By quarter-past nine, just as the new government should have been starting its business, it had become apparent that parliament was under attack – and with little hope of reinforcement.


Meanwhile, Lady Astor sprang into action organising the domestic staff and leasing with the armed guards outside. At nine-twenty, a “century” of fighters from the British Fascisti are deployed to re-secure the driveway and seal off the estate. The are intercepted by the arrival of Jock Cunningham’s second battalion. Caught off guard and sustaining fire from the worker volunteers, the discipline of the fascist ranks shatters; some retreat in an attempt to alert those in the house of the approaching worker reinforcements, others are killed before they can act. Cunningham’s volunteers advance along the driveway and move down the Grand Avenue to the front of the house, engaging the TA garrison camped on the front lawn. Using the arrival of reinforcements as cover, Wintringham’s battalion come out from the woods and open fire on the government forces on the parterre.

EXT. PARTERRE, CLIVEDEN – DAY
The dramatisation footage plays on: Cunningham leading his volunteers up the Grand Avenue; a firefight between the workers and the TA on the parterre; MPs in fraught discussion, trapped inside.


BATTALION%20MOVEMENTS.jpg

Wintringham and Cunningham lead their battalions into position on either side of the house.

Redgrave: By ten a.m., the Cliveden Parliament is in a grave state: faced with worker forces on both sides and cut off from the outside world, inside the dining room MPs frantically try to agree on a strategy. Their discussions are interrupted at around quarter-past ten by news that some sections of the TA battalion have mutinied and defected to the workers’ cause. Colonel Arthur Vincent Wyndley, commanding officer of the TA battalion, calls for a retreat off the parterre and up to the south terrace. From this vantage point, Fascisti volunteers open fire on the mutinous soldiers and inflict about a half a dozen fatalities. But the workers return fire and force the garrison inside the house; worker volunteers outnumber the TA force by a ratio of six to one.


Between half-past ten and eleven o’ clock, Cliveden is afforded a temporary ceasefire as both sides regroup. Wintringham deploys Cunningham’s battalion to secure the estate perimeter, while his own volunteers take up positions around the house and prepare to storm it. The ceasefire is broken when gunfire erupts from the upper-floor windows on both the northern and southern facades. The worker volunteers, exposed to attack from above, sustain some of their highest casualties of the operation during this phase. In retaliation, a handful of TA soldiers are killed – including one Tory MP who had picked up a hunting rifle and joined the defence. It was only through great effort that Churchill himself was dissuaded from taking up arms.

INT. SERVANTS’ QUARTERS, CLIVEDEN – DAY
Actors playing a detachment of worker volunteers force down a service door and enter the house from below, unnoticed by the Fascisti on the upper floors. They soon encounter domestic staff, who sound the alarm. Upstairs, hearing the alarm government loyalists abandon their posts without particular direction and scramble to meet the intruding force. Wintringham uses the respite in fire from above to manoeuvre onto the South Terrace. Volunteers smash windows and begin to enter the house.

Redgrave: By noon, worker volunteers have the ground floor secured. MPs had evacuated to the upper floors earlier on, and the staircase is well defended by Fascisti loyalists. A tense firefight breaks out in the hallway as the workers are held back. Meanwhile, the defence of Cliveden continues unabated as government loyalists maintain fire from the upper floor windows. Wintringham decides to force the situation, and at twelve-forty orders his volunteers to storm the staircase. A bloody battle ensued as the loyalists on the first floor held their discipline, pinning the advancing worker volunteers under a constant stream of fire.

Yet the loyalists could not hold out forever, and the disparity in numbers soon forces gunmen at the windows to leave their posts to shore up the defensive force on the landing as it begins to falter. By one o’ clock Wintringham’s volunteers had forced themselves onto the landing and pushed the loyalists back into Lady Astor’s boudoir. Lady Astor herself entered a state of shock and passed out. She did not witness, at one-fifteen in the afternoon on Monday February 25th, 1929, the unconditional surrender of the Cliveden Parliament, and the recognition of the Westminster Parliament as the only legitimate legislative body in Britain.

EXT. CLIVEDEN – DAY
Churchill is led out of the house under guard and driven off in an attendant car. Assorted members of the Cliveden Parliament are released from the estate, again under armed escort. Worker volunteers watch over loyalist fighters confined to various outbuildings. Jock Cunningham leaves the estate in one of the Astor’s cars and heads into the nearby village of Taplow.

Redgrave: Instead, she regained consciousness later that after noon, Cliveden empty save for her husband and herself. Worker volunteers remained stationed around the estate, watching over prisoners and managing the flow of former MPs out of the grounds. Most were allowed to return to their homes, though Churchill and some other members of the cabinet were taken to Whitehall and held in lavish rooms at Derby Gate. The Astors themselves were under effective house arrest at Cliveden; they could only watch as Jock Cunningham took one of Lord Astor’s cars and drove into Taplow.

In Taplow, Cunningham entered the upmarket Skindle’s Hotel and asked at the reception desk to use the telephone. He phoned George Hardy in Westminster, who listened as Cunningham recited a verse from The Masque of Anarchy by Shelley:

Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words, that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free.

Hearing these four lines, Hardy knew that Night Flight had been a success. He put down the phone and relayed the message to Oswald Mosley, waiting for his cue in the House of Commons. Mosley stood up and went to the dispatch box, setting out the first motion to be considered by the new Westminster Parliament: the abolition of the United Kingdom and the formation of the Workers’ Commonwealth of Britain. The motion was passed by acclamation. Hardy, waiting in the lobby, rushed outside and took to the stage in Parliament Square. He repeated the declaration of the founding of the Commonwealth to the 100 thousand people assembled outside of the Palace of Westminster. Wal Hannington, sat in Parliament as a Communist MP, left the Commons and took the Tube to Hyde Park. At quarter-to-four, the occupying crowd received news of the Commonwealth’s inception.

After nearly two years of bitter struggle and fraught with sordid political crises, the workers of Britain had finally won their prize: the formation of a new state, attendant first and foremost to their needs and desires. The promise of a hopeful tomorrow echoed throughout Britain, but its arrival was not guaranteed. As the battle for the existence of the Commonwealth ended, the battle for its survival had only just begun.


1: The distinction is important: Irish Republican Constance Markievicz was elected in 1918, but did not take her seat in accordance with Sinn Féin’s policy of abstention from Westminster. Instead, Markievicz took her seat in the First Dáil, in Dublin, and from 1922 served as Minister of Labour, becoming the first female cabinet minister in the world outside of Soviet Russia.
 
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