128 Days: The Decline and Fall of Bevanite Britain (I)

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128 DAYS
The Decline and Fall of Bevanite Britain

Gwyn Alf Williams, 1980


(I)


On 19 September 1966, Aneurin Bevan marked his fifth year as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth. The anniversary allowed a small pause for reflection as Britain lurched from a dissipating crisis abroad to a brewing crisis at home. Oswald Mosley’s sudden exit from power in 1961 had come after a turbulent final few years as premier, characterised by widespread dissent and marred by equally violent political repression, all unfolding in the aftermath of the terrible industrial disaster at Windscale. Britain at the turn of the 1960s was a society whose patience with established authorities had worn exceedingly thin; the youth were virtually united against the regime, and public displays of force to counter the dissident threat soon did for the appetites of all but the most ardent of Mosley’s apologists. Within this climate, Aneurin Bevan emerged as a unifying figure, whose appeal extended uniquely to both government insiders and the opposition. In the legislature, he had cultivated a following of reformist ministers and Assembly members, and in the country he was recognised as a principled defender of socialism against Mosleyite excess. More still, he was a genuine hero of the revolution.

When Bevan’s long march to power finally brought him to the premiership at the close of the long 1950s, the task which faced the reformists was considerable. But Bevan was a known fighter, and even though he was only months away from his 64th birthday, he had the confidence of a vocal majority, and his mandate for change was undeniable. First in the firing line were the illiberal institutions that had grown up under Mosley, which the old regime had relied upon in its disastrous attempts to guard itself against its critics. Bevan’s thaw promised ‘syndicalism with a human touch’, and after 1961 a grand campaign against the callous Mosley-era bureaucracy began in earnest. The managerial class, that great bugbear of the post-revolutionary left, was cut down to size in light industrial sectors in the 1962 budget, giving back more controls over production to the shop floors. Meanwhile, stringent curbs on union powers were lifted, with the two-thirds majority on strike ballots being abolished in June 1963, in favour of a return to the simple majority. This set the tone for the Bevanite industrial consensus, which valued above all things cooperation between the state, the unions and the workers, believing that each had a role to play in the overall management of the economy. By the middle of the decade, this ‘softly softly’ strategy began to show appreciable results. Days lost to strike action halved between 1959–63, plateauing thereafter until 1966, and an end to strict Mosleyite planning gave rise to a moderate increase in labour productivity year on year during the period 1962–67.



1960s FACTORY INTERIOR.jpg


This is not to say that the ‘Bevanite’ economy was a clear case of ‘bread and roses’. After 1961, the new government remained committed to the idea of Britain as a heavy industrial power, influenced in no small part by Bevan’s own history as a miner. Sceptical of the half-hearted push towards consumer goods attempted by the Mosley regime in its last years, Bevan was wedded to the supremacy of the traditional ‘commanding heights’ of the British economy: utilities, transport and infrastructure, other heavy industry and, most importantly, the mines. Government investment in these sectors increased at the expense of Mosley-era modern manufacturing (with the exception of the computing industry in and around Manchester, a lodestone in Bevan’s embrace of the ‘white heat of technology’). Broadly, money flowing into these areas ended up in two areas: improved plant, and developments in education and training. In this sense, although undoubtedly reformist Bevan’s project was ultimately a conservative one. His overriding concern, nobly, was for job preservation, and he shared the trauma over unemployment inherited by all in his generation who were veterans of the labour crises that had precipitated the 1929 Revolution. This trauma expressed itself in a near total refusal to touch the system that underpinned the British economy, instead tinkering about the edges and ‘modernising’ where modernisation could be achieved without too much fuss.

Robert Skidelsky once summed up Bevan’s attitude to his Mosleyite economic inheritance as ‘seven parts good, three parts bad’. The two rivals agreed on a number of things (after all, Bevan has signed Mosley’s ‘Birmingham Manifesto’ of 1928 that had led the pair out of the old Labour Party). Paramount among the shared tenets was a commitment to ‘productivity’, managed technocratically by, firstly, the massaging of labour relations and, secondly, a proactive involvement with research and development. Where the two men differed was in their opinions of the specifics of the management. Although a reformist, Bevan remained a centralist. His objection to the managerial class was ideological, not logistical, and while he viewed centralised managers as a barrier to the proper exercise of democracy in the workplace, his alternative system was not the total devolution advocated by anarchist-influenced groups in opposition. As is suggested by the overall pattern of ‘Bevanite’ economics, the eventual outcome was a half-measure. Liberalising measures implemented in light industrial sectors saw shop stewards given many of the former responsibilities of the managers in dealing with central planners (note that they did not receive final autonomy), but these reforms were not reflected in the ‘commanding heights of the economy’, where workers remained tied to directives from Whitehall. Thus it can be said that Bevan was happier than Mosley to take authority away from the technocrats and give it to the workers in order to ensure smooth industrial relations, but on the whole neither man deviated from the ‘joint consultation’ approach to labour solidified after 1950. At the same time, as we have already seen, Bevan’s preferences differed from Mosley’s on matters of industrial investment without representing a fundamental break with the system of central management.



MOSLEY 1970S.jpg

Oswald Mosley, during his retirement.
Later, the former chairman would claim that ‘Nye Bevan was my proudest achievement.’


Before continuing to the meat of the story of the end of Bevanism, it serves well to note two things. First, considering the extent to which it has become the fashionable topic du jour of our own economic debates, it is important to recall that neither Mosley nor Bevan held growth to be the aim of their economic policy. Rather, the desired outcome of centralist management and a deep concern for productivity was competitiveness – particularly insofar as this meant keeping pace with the advancing economies of Central Europe. Since the formation of the Eastern European Economic Co-operation Zone (ECZ) in 1953, the importation of American-style industrial methods and the injection of American capital had fostered buoyant economic conditions in the German bloc, coinciding with a shift away from agriculture in Mitteleuropa. An initial period of stop-start progress during the MacArthur presidency gave way in the aftermath of the January War to a profound American interest in cultivating its European alliances. President Kefauver and his secretary of state J. William Fulbright recognised the benefit to be had in building up the Reich as a ‘prosperous and stable ally’, and soon the conditions were manufactured for a German-led economic boom. In August 1957, the six-month Conference on German External Debts ended with the writing down of German debts by 46 per-cent, from DM13.5bn to DM7.6bn. At the same time, the Reich acceded to the Amsterdam Conference dollar area on a highly favourable exchange rate, sparking an export boom in Central Europe. $20bn of US private investments followed and, thusly remade in the American image, the Reich and its satellites became the very model of capitalist productivity. So successful were the Democrats in their project that by the 1960s even the US market was being flooded by cheap cars and other consumer goods from Central Europe (above all Germany), sparking the terminal shift of the American economy away from manufacturing.

Many of the conditions that had sparked the ECZ boom were absent from the British situation. Leaving aside the injection of American capital, the Commonwealth no longer had a mass agricultural labour force which might be conscripted into service to fuel an industrial boom[1]. Britain’s manufacturing base was well established – although in truth it had been in decline since well before the Revolution, arguably beginning to lose its edge as early as the 1870s. By capitalist parameters (from which, after all, he hardly deviated), Mosley’s economic system had proved robust, and Britain had enjoyed thirty years of solidity. To those who accepted uncritically Mosley’s own crisis-era bromides that cast his system as a great panacea, its ultimate demise might have seemed unheralded. Anyone who remained familiar with the Marxist critique would have seen things alternately for what they were, and Mosleyism’s final exposure as a bandage for capital would have come as no surprise. Like all capitalist systems of production – and I include under this umbrella the statist systems that retained a hegemony in Britain until very recently – Mosley’s system was never sustainable. Neither, therefore, was the revised Bevanite application – and neither, for that matter, were the German or American systems, whose own crises followed after the crisis of ‘British syndicalism’ with only a brief delay. All of these systems shared many similarities, and it is not unreasonable to insist that the crisis period that buffeted the industrialised world in the third quarter of the century was as much as anything a crisis of capital. Bevan’s great misfortune was that Britain, who had industrialised early, would be made to run the gauntlet first.



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German financiers signing the Amsterdam Agreement, 1957.


Secondly, it remains important to note those areas in which Bevan can be said in the end to have found success. While a thorough critique of the insufficiencies of the Bevanite project is always worthwhile in evaluating the historical course of the Revolution, we must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. It is easy in hindsight to say that Bevan did this or this incorrectly, or that he was too hesitant in pursuing that policy or another, but we must recall the trauma of the immediate years after Mosley’s own fall. In 1961, the organs of the British state verged on sclerotic, and the economy was in a perilously overheated state after five years of desperate fiddling by Mosley and Harold Macmillan. Although not a success on their own terms, Bevan’s economic reforms deserve some share of the credit for averting the total collapse of the British system as it had calcified under Mosley. Additionally, without the significant investment in infrastructure, research and training undertaken during the Bevan era, the subsequent road to reform and recovery would have been undoubtedly a great deal more arduous. We still benefit from Bevan’s schools and hospitals, and signs of his touch remain visible across our railways and roads. This is to say nothing of the liberalising campaign embarked upon by his government, which demonstrably improved the lives of millions of previously persecuted men and women across the Commonwealth. All things considered, while there is a great deal which remains rightly discredited, there is much to admire about Bevan’s ‘human touch’ syndicalism.

Bevan’s greatest shortcoming as a reformer was, perhaps, a failure to carry on his great redefining project for syndicalism into the economic sphere: to refashion it as something beyond Keynesian corporatism. Bevan’s opponents, on both the right and the left, were those who could envisage changes to the British economy that took it beyond this faltering orthodoxy.



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1: Even among the fraternal syndicates, Britain was somewhat unique in this. France’s economic troubles did not become fully apparent until the mid-1970s, and the advancement of both the Spanish and the Italian economies are only now showing signs of slowing down.


Changing of the Guard

Over the 1966 summer recess, the Bevan government received bad news. Wal Hannington, the 69-year-old President of the Commonwealth and the only self-described communist in the cabinet, was gravely ill. By the end of August, he was dead.

It would be inaccurate to say that Hannington had been one of the great survivors of Commonwealth politics – men like Bob Boothby and, to be sure, Nye Bevan himself, whose combination of politics talent and a willingness to compromise allowed them to remain in positions of prominence, if not always great power, while all around others came and went. Boothby was undoubtedly the most successful practitioner of this dark art; even when he was sidelined during the years 1957–62, such was his standing that Mosley had to grant him chairmanship of the new Executive Council of the European Syndicate in order to be rid of him. It was a sign of his equal importance to Bevan, having gradually – and fatefully – come over to the side of the reformists as the 1950s progressed, that his departure from office in Lyon necessitated his accommodation in the new Commonwealth government, and as Fenner Brockway’s successor at the International Bureau after 1963 he was a key figure in charting Britain’s course between the many and diverse crises of the next three years. This, having once been Mosley’s most trusted lieutenant, and without doubt Mosley’s most favoured successor had paranoia not got the better of him in the final years of his reign.



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Nye Bevan, from a 1963 election poster.


Bevan’s survivalism was altogether a different proposition, founded as it was on a base of his own considerable sense of conviction. Had he never achieved the highest office, Aneurin Bevan would no doubt have gone down in the political history of Britain as one of the most formidable practitioners of the art of opposition ever to have graced the halls of Westminster. Perhaps the greatest orator of the revolutionary generation, certainly after the murder of Arthur Cook, Bevan’s charisma was rivalled only by Mosley’s, which of course was what made him so dangerous in the eyes of the chairman. That he could never fully be brought to heel by the Mosleyites only aggravated matters, and Bevan’s power base in the Assembly – and later in the cabinet itself – presented Mosley with the most serious threat to his position. (Unlike the tens of thousands who took up their opposition on the streets, Bevan could not be dealt with by brute force.) It was perhaps only ever a matter of time before the Bevanite coalition pulled the rug from under Mosley’s feet, abetted and given validity by the undeniable power of the public opposition movement in the country. Governing was a much different challenge, and perhaps one that Bevan came to too late, already fatigued by years of work challenging Mosley from behind the scenes, but it cannot be denied that he had triumphed over the odds in getting to a governing position at all.

Wal Hannington’s story was by no means as public as either Bevan’s or Boothby’s, but this is not to deny its importance. Forced out of power in the aftermath of the Troubles in 1934, Hannington – who by the age of 37 had already served as Chairman (1931–32) and President (1933–34) – returned to his original trade as an engineer. A card-carrying member of the CPGB, he was subjected to the same sorts of harassment as much of the left opposition during the 1940s, although he still managed to complete a term as national organiser of the Amalgamated Engineering Union from 1939–47. When the government curtailed the powers of the independent unions and forced much of the left underground after the industrial disputes of 1946–50, Hannington left public life, continuing on in his engineering job and staying active within the Communist Party as a writer on current affairs. In the early 1950s he published a number of short biographies of revolutionary period leaders via Victor Gollancz’s underground press, and in 1957 he authored a monograph on the ECZ that warned against the expansion of capitalism in Eastern Europe, although stopped short of outright Soviet apologism. Hannington, it must be said, was never a member of the New Left tendency which emerged from the lean years of the late ‘50s, arguing for the necessity of independence from Moscow in the formulation of British communism. It is possible that Hannington was simply not predisposed towards these sorts of debates. Always a committed trade unionist rather than a CPGB doctrinaire, having led a movement of millions of unemployed men and women as a young man during the Revolution, it is perhaps understandable that Hannington never felt overly impressed by the dogmatic disputes endemic to the Marxist–Leninist left. Certainly, he did not seem to have been too badly affected when CPGB General Secretary Rose Cohen expelled him from the party following his decision to accept Bevan’s offer of the presidency in 1961.



WAL HANNINGTON HYDE PARK.jpg

Wal Hannington, 1929.


During the Bevanite period, as during the Mosley era before it, the presidency was an ill-defined and somewhat awkward role. Officially the Commonwealth’s head of state, the only widely agreed upon function of the presidency was to represent Britain abroad at official state functions. Per the 1929 constitution, the president, like the chairman, was elected by the People’s Assembly to act as a sort of ‘guardian of the revolution’. In theory, under its 1929 powers the presidency was to act as a brake on the chairmanship, invested via the Assembly with the ‘will of the people’ and able to take action – ie to remove the government – should the government begin to act maliciously. In practice, the 1929 constitution had produced only a hesitant ministerial gavotte in the years before its first failure in 1934, with the CPGB leadership exchanging roles annually amongst itself while governing according to a shared party line. The result was as intended, with one infamous exception, preventing power from accumulating in any one place during the post-revolutionary reconstruction period. When the exception proved fatal, leveraging his staying power to assume control of government in the aftermath of the failed counter-revolution of 1933–34, he was quick to refashion the constitution after his own ideal. Doing away with annual reappointment, Mosley’s government had a more authoritarian character from the start – although it was only after 1939, at the height of his powers following the successful conclusion of the Spanish War, that he was able to begin excluding rivals in earnest. The presidency, previously reserved as a sop to national unity, was now fused with the regime. Cynthia Mosley was always more of a convincing socialist than her husband, but few could help but question the appropriateness of a conjugal relationship between president and premier. After he death, Mosley’s assumption of the office pro tempore all but confirmed the inevitable: that this supposed check on the executive was indeed toothless, and that the regime no longer had any reason to disguise its totalising ambitions.

Some hint of a return to the old national unity character had been apparent since 1957, when Mosley had hoped to rid himself of his Bevanite problem by promoting Bevan out of harm’s way into the presidency. This strategy failed, and the office once again proved capable of holding power away from the executive, even if it was yet to reacquire any sort of significant, constitutionally useful role. This was the office as Hannington found it. Bevan’s choice of an old revolutionary hero as ‘guardian of the popular will’ was of course loaded with significance, presaging the depth of his reformist ambitions even if not their eventual profundity. But after this, Bevan’s reformism barely touched the presidency, preferring to address the more egregious problem presented by the ossified People’s Assembly. While the Assembly, formerly the crucible of the Bevanite resistance, was finally granted political power in fact as well as in theory, President Hannington remained a figurehead. Any state-minded democrat would agree that this was no bad thing – the most power should go to those who are easiest for the people to get rid of – but it did not solve the question of what the presidency was for. Crowded out by other, more pressing tasks, the Bevan government was never able to come up with an answer, and the head of state issue was left untroubled.



MOSLEY SMETHWICK 1926.jpg

Cynthia and Oswald Mosley, photographed during the 1928 UK general election.


It seems cruel, therefore, to suggest that the greatest impact Hannington had on the course of the Bevan ministry was in his death, but the suggestion is perhaps not so wide of the mark. The former president died shortly before the Assembly returned from the long summer recess, reconvening for what would be its penultimate session before the next election in May 1967. In accordance with the constitution, Assembly chairman Ian Mikardo was sworn in as Commonwealth president pro tempore, and neither the ministry nor parliament had any complaint with his temporary occupancy of the role lasting until the election. This set in motion a ministerial reshuffle. Mikardo, a Bevan ally and a member of the LUPA, was succeeded in the Assembly chair by Michael Foot, an adroit promotion that rewarded the Popular Front with a key role while keeping it in the hands of a Bevan loyalist. The relative under-representation of the Popular Front in the government had been an issue of quiet contention within the coalition since its re-election in 1963; the party held 46 per-cent of the government’s seats in the Assembly, but occupied only three out of fourteen cabinet positions. Government remained dominated by the old reformist core of the LUPA, and having been forced into a reshuffle Bevan was under pressure from his coalition partners to redress the balance of power. Resultantly, Popular Front leader David Lewis, a Bevan ally since 1954, was promoted to the directorship of the Office for Economic Co-ordination at the expense of Bevan’s wife Jennie Lee[2]. Lewis was also given the new title of deputy chairman. This brought with it no additional responsibilities, but seemed to suggest a formalisation of the Popular Front’s considerable influence in government. With many of Bevan’s key party allies now in their sixties, it also opened up the possibility of the relatively youthful Lewis (he was 57) taking power for himself in the near future.

Beyond this sort of political speculation, Lewis’s enhanced prominence brought with it more immediate implications. The Bevan cabinet was notable for the fact that it included two married couples, and just as Bevan himself was matched by Jennie Lee, David Lewis was joined in power by his wife Barbara. Barbara also benefited in the reshuffle, taking over Michael Foot’s old brief of employment. This was significant in that it placed management of the Commonwealth’s economic policy almost entirely under the control of the Popular Front, leaving the LUPA with control over domestic and social services. A PF-led economic department represented an unmistakable shift away from the Bevanite orthodoxy; albeit tentatively, the Lewisite position within the Popular Front was not afraid of speaking openly about seeing through economic reforms to match the government’s liberalising social agenda. From Lewis, this was no idle suggestion; he had overseen a vast majority of the liberalisation programme as Director of the Domestic Bureau after 1961, and even if it seemed unlikely that the government would change course too greatly before the election – the Bevanites had after all retained their strong cabinet majority – once again the possibility was left very open.



1961 LEWIS CLOSE UP.jpg

David Lewis, the new Director of the Office for Economic Co-ordination and Nye Bevan's deputy chairman.


What was the economic situation that greeted the new ‘Lewisite’ ascendancy? The question of productivity we have already given some thought to, but this was not the whole picture. The ‘scientific’ account of the productivity debate, that which is concerned by management efficiencies and technological improvement, was prevalent among the Bevanite planners, but David Lewis did not share in the enthusiasm for this sort of thinking. Lewis stuck to an alternative view, which held that productivity was fundamentally a matter of labour relations. British competitiveness was held back not by any technological gap between the syndicalist and the capitalists worlds, nor any fundamental differences in respective methods of production, but, he believed, for the simple reason that both the planners and the union bosses were too greatly concerned about preservation, and not enough concerned about innovation. As things stood, the Commonwealth could never compete with the ECZ because the Mitteleuropeans operated in a climate that prized innovation (or, more properly, growth) over consensus, which was a drag on productivity. Lewis’s guiding belief was, frankly put, an insistence that enterprise was not a dirty word.

Although his commitment to planning was not in doubt – and it should be said that he had no quarrel with Bevan’s ‘commanding heights’ policy – planning for Lewis was corrective and not directive. He believed that the role of the state was to correct inequalities opened up by free enterprise, but he did not take the fact that this was the case to be indicative of the wrongness of free enterprise in the first instance. At the end of 1966, this was an idea that spoke more to the emergent social-democratic opposition tendency than it did to the government view, and a hard-headed sense for politics kept Lewis from giving too much away about his predilections for economic liberalisation. But action required no words – least of all from a man who pointedly reminded his party at conference in late September that ‘power [is] not a Sunday-school class, where purity of godliness and the infallibility of the Bible must be held up without fear of consequences.’ Before long, he would have the chance to put this ethos into practice.



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2: Lee became Secretary for Education, succeeding Dick Crossman who took over David Lewis’s position as Director of the Domestic Bureau. While strictly this represented a demotion, Lee was active in championing the Open University programme launched by Crossman in 1964, and her great plans to expand it pointed towards an enthusiasm for her new role that was never entirely present with the economic brief.



‘Like A Scene From Hell’

On Monday 31 October, 1966, CBC 1 was scheduled to begin transmission, as it did every weekday, with three hours of programming from the Open University. That morning, the schedule included a lecture on computing, a documentary film about the history of enclosure, and a performance of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was, by all measures, an unremarkable beginning to the day.

At noon, the rest of the day’s programming began with the news. The bulletin was presented that day by Brian Redhead, whose talent as a news broadcaster was founded on an ability to deliver serious journalism in a relaxed, almost amiable manner. That Friday, any hint of this amiability was nowhere to be seen. This was the first indication that something was gravely wrong.



1966 BRIAN REDHEAD.jpg

Brian Redhead.


Redhead proceeded to announce, sombrely, that a fatal mining accident had taken place near a village in South Wales. Earlier that morning, shortly after 9 o’clock, a spoil heap at the Ynysowen colliery near Merthyr Tydfil had collapsed, after being saturated by water during a period of heavy rainfall. The heap turned into a slurry, which slid down the banks of the Merthyr Vale towards the village of Aberfan. Within minutes, a whole section of the village had been covered in over 40 thousand cubic metres of debris. Two farm cottages, 18 houses and the Pantglas Junior School – where children had only that morning returned after the half-term holiday – had all been destroyed. The number of casualties remained unknown, but it was feared that the toll would be catastrophic. 36 people – including 27 children from the junior school – had already been rescued from the debris and were rushed to hospital, but as the morning wore on fewer and fewer survivors were found. By 11 am, rescue efforts had turned into a mission to recover the bodies of the dead.


1964 ABERFAN SPOIL TRAMWAY.jpg

1964 image showing the spoil-heap tramway at the Ynysowen colliery.
Pantglas Junior School is visible on the left of the image.


The first CBC reporter on the scene of the disaster was John Humphrys, at that time a young journalist with the corporation’s Welsh arm. He appeared on television visibly upset, describing what he saw as being like ‘a scene from hell’. Millions watched as CBC cameras showed the miners of Ynysowen, raised from the coal seams, digging through the spoil in search of the missing, working meticulously to ensure that their excavations did not lead to further collapse. They were helped by local residents, who had rushed to the junior school with garden tools and, in many cases, their bare hands, to help move the rubble. Around the diggers, ambulance workers, fire fighters and Workers’ Brigade volunteers all worked to help bring the situation under some sense of control. Engineers from British Coal worked to dig a drainage channel to help stabilise the tip, which had been further saturated by the destruction of two water mains during the descent of the spoil into the valley. While they worked, residents of all surviving houses in the west of the village – the side closest to the spoil tips – were prepared for evacuation in case of another collapse, although by 2 pm the tips were stabilised without further incident. Persistent rainfall meant that the threat of another catastrophe was not fully alleviated, but immediate danger had passed. It now fell to the rescue teams, the politicians and – most poignantly – the surviving residents to process the scale of the tragedy.


1967 ABERFAN DISASTER MAP.jpg

Map showing the extent of the slippage as it covered a section of the village of Aberfan. The debris is marked with the dotted hatch.
Ysgol Gynradd Pantglas is visible in the left-middle of the map, the east wing entirely submerged.


Over the course of the afternoon, various government ministers and other dignitaries began to arrive in the village. The first to make it over from Whitehall was Peggy Herbison, Director of the Bureau of Coal and Steel, who visited the scene of the disaster at 4 pm. Of all members of the cabinet, Herbison was perhaps uniquely well-placed to be sympathetic to the plight of the Aberfan residents. Growing up in Lanarkshire with a father who had been a miner and militant unionist, Herbison was no stranger to the perils of the coal industry. As a former teacher, she was also acutely sensitive to the pain of the Pantglas school community as they came to terms with their loss. Herbison heard reports from British Coal engineers engaged in the clean-up operation, then met with members of the local council from Merthyr Tydfil, who were already involved in the work of setting up a disaster relief fund, for which she pledged government support.

Herbison remained in Aberfan until shortly before 9 pm, when Chairman Bevan arrived at the scene for himself. Over the coming months, Bevan’s own role in the events leading up to the disaster would become the subject of great controversy. As more details of the catastrophe became known, the fact that such a thing could have happened under the watch of a Welsh premier – and a former miner, no less – would assume much significance, particularly in the eyes of the burgeoning Welsh autonomist tendency, but this was all to come. On the day of the disaster itself, Bevan remained a popular figure, and his very sincere displays of devastation at the sight of the damage did go some way to reassure the survivors that, in spirit at least, they were not alone in their grieving.



Cliff Michelmore at Aberfan
“Never in my life have I seen anything like this. I hope that I shall never ever see anything like it again.”


The power of that sense of shared grief which came out of Aberfan and spread across the Commonwealth should not be denied. As news continued to disseminate from Merthyr Vale, it soon became clear to all onlookers that this was no ‘ordinary’ tragedy. Memories of the fire at Windscale nine years prior, which had sparked mass public anger directed against the Mosley regime without so much as one fatality, soon resurfaced, and it would not be overly exaggerating the matter to state that, in a sense, the disaster had struck a fatal blow at the very heart of the idea of the Commonwealth. Here was a state whose entire organisation, so we had been led to believe, was geared to serve and support the welfare of the workers of Britain: that they would be secure and safe in their jobs; that they would not want for food nor shelter nor comfort, and that, in time, their children would inherit a world where all these things and more were true. Expressed in these terms, the unforgettable image of Ysgol Gynradd Pantglas engulfed in thousands of tonnes of colliery spoil became a terrible metaphor, insulting in its directness, for the collapse of a system which had failed the very people it was conceived to protect. When CBC TV journalist Cliff Michelmore, giving an eyewitness account on the night of the disaster, expressed a hope that never again in his life would he see anything like what he saw in Aberfan, it came across as the message of a people crying out for change. A fundamental bond of trust had been broken between the state and the people, and now there could be no going back.

. . .
 
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I’m excited for the late 1970s midlands tsunami to bring down the incumbent government ;)
 
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KH will be positing the next Buckley chapter shortly, which as mentioned covers the topic of far-right extremism in the US as it pertains to the 1968 election. Being a key part of the American decline narrative, I think it is worth going into detail to focus on the extent to which the far-right has become emboldened in the US – particularly considering the woeful progress on civil rights under the Dems in this timeline.

This being said, I am not in favour of using racial plot lines as a means to shock an audience for the sake of being shocking. Historically, Buckley was not above the use of offensive racist language, even in his attempts to criticise the racist right. For obvious reasons, such language is not reproduced here. Nor is it reproduced in any of the quoted sources, which is not an attempt to sanitise what is an undeniably dark part of this timeline’s history (as in OTL), but rather an editorial decision reflecting of the fact that sometimes AARland history books and academic history books require different levels of sensitivity.

With all of this in mind, at heart this chapter does still describe racist incidents, as well as treating the subjects of antisemitism and white supremacy. Reader discretion is advised, but I hope that nothing that has been included comes across as gratuitous.

That out of the way, all that is left to say is: thank you all for your continued readership, and please enjoy the update when it comes! :)
 
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Chapter 3: Which Way Rightward?


"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”

- Abraham Lincoln, 1859

"Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever."

- Charles Lindbergh, 1968

“Which way rightward?” asked the magazine, The American Mercury, in March 1967. “In 1968, the question will be put before the American people. Is it consigned to the faux-conservatism of Rockefeller and his lily-livered liberal [Ivy] Leaguers, or will a home-spun hero emerge to shake the public out of their complacency...to remind them of their constitutional liberties, to free them from the dictatorship of the federal government, and to instruct them on their obligations to white civilization?" On it went, full of fire and fury: “...for four years, the Republican Party has been occupied by the instruments of a perverse liberalism...it is now the bane of the South and the province of Manhattan financiers…there is no concession that can be yielded to it...” We can have no doubts as to whom these “financiers'' were imagined to be.


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H.L. Mencken, one of America's most popular and controversial commentators, founded and then owned the magazine American Mercury until his death in 1956. In 1957, the owner of the Thompson submachine gun company, Russell Maguire, purchased the periodical and turned Mencken's mild anti-semitism into a core component of the paper. It enthusiastically supported Wallace and Lindbergh in 1968 as it courted a freakish neo-Nazism.

I hold, in the tradition of Burke, that conservatism is, in part, the expression of preserved traditions, held in commonality by the dead, the living, and the unborn. Yet some customs are so corrupted by the standards of moral principle that it is preferable to wipe off the shame of their persistence and relegate them, in perpetuity, to memory. The Old Hatred is one of these ignominious artifacts. My father and his generation lived in an age in which anti-Semitism was very widespread. I suppose there is no harm in revealing that it was McGeorge Bundy, who told me one day at launch, that if he were to hear spoken today the kind of thing that was “routinely spoken at [his father’s] lunch table,” he would leave the room in protest. I knew exactly what he meant, because at my father’s lunch table one heard (I must suppose) the same kind of thing. Interestingly enough, the bias never engaged the enthusiastic attention of any of my father’s ten children, except in the attenuated sense that we felt instinctive loyalty to any of Father’s opinions, whether about Jews or about tariffs or about Pancho Villa. Seven of eight children in Sharon, Connecticut, among them four of my brothers and sisters, thought it would be a great lark one night in 1937 to burn a cross outside a Jewish resort nearby. I wept tears of frustration at being forbidden by senior siblings to go out on that adventure, on the grounds that (aged 11) I was considered too young. Suffice it to say that children as old as 15 or 16 who wouldn’t intentionally threaten anyone could, in 1936, do that kind of thing lightheartedly. Thoughtless, yes, but motivated only by the desire to have the fun of scaring adults. It was the kind of thing that we didn’t distinguish from a Halloween prank. None of us gave any thought to Kristallnacht, even when it happened (I was in an English boarding school in Canada), and certainly not to its implications. But then this is a legitimate grievance of the Jew; Kristallnacht was not held up in the critical media as an international event of the first magnitude.

When a few years before the cross-burning near Sharon, Connecticut, a Jewish student was elected to a fraternity at Yale University, a pig was burned outside its doors that night. Those were the years when Daniel Bell’s cousin, Theodore Cohen, freshly graduated from CCNY decided to go to Japan to become a Sinologist. Why? Because, he told me, there was no way in which he could achieve a tenured chair at Columbia (his burning ambition) as a mere social scientist: “They just didn’t give professorships to Jews,” he explained. So his stratagem was to become a Sinologist, who were in such short supply as to permit him the leverage of the seller’s market. The Pacific War spared him the effort, and of course he has just retired from a tenured chair at Harvard. But the professor who taught me philosophy was the first Jew to be given tenure at Yale. Suffice to say that anti-Semitism of the kind experienced by such as the above was pervasive in America and that what happened in Germany and Austria during the Forties is, in the judgement of many Jews, the hideous result, if not exactly the aminus expressed casually at the dining tables of New England and Paris, then of international indifference to such animus.


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A. Lawrence Lowell, the President of Harvard (1909-1933), was concerned that rising enrollments of Negro and particularly Jewish students would frighten off the social elite from Harvard, as had begun to occur at Colombia University and the private clubs of America. He vigorously pursued the enforcement of the de facto quotas of racial groups and succeeded in reducing the number of students from both groups.

Segregation was another inheritance of which we were better off disposing. In the Fifties, I held the view, common enough, that the white race in the South was the more advanced, and therefore obligated to permit the evolution of the Negro into a status of cultural and legal equality at its proper pace without allowing this superiority to justify preserving the Negroes as a servile class. That was a real folly; the levers of change can easily be tilted to favor the reactionary preference, which predominates in the South. Only federal intervention could overawe Jim Crow, and that was, in the Sixties, opposed with great success by the exponents of that treacherous dogma, who have shown, time and time again, that dominance breeds intransigence (and theirs is the dogma of the damned). Neglectful we would be though, to refuse to acknowledge their accomplishments in easing the troubled consciousness of the Southern states.

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"glory, glory, segregation...glory, glory, segregation...glory, glory, segregation, the South will rise again!" (1960)

The advocates of American extremism in 1968, of anti-semitism and segregationism, emanated from a convoluted tradition of right radicalism. In the Thirties, the radicals were rightly appalled by Roosevelt’s attempt to conscript America into the Mediterranean Wars against the revisionist regimes in Germany and Italy. This was not an isolating view. The public, business, and the media concurred, but the radicals prospered the most from it. What interest we might have gained by the advance of syndicalism was beyond even the most piercing intellects. Nevertheless, the anti-war exhortations of these ultras were dripping with sinister notions. The popular of the far-right were made so by encouraging the Nazi regime, perhaps not so much in the hope of emulating their dictatorial notions (it being too un-American, though some perhaps held pretensions), but to affect the overthrow of European Bolshevism. It is difficult for young Americans to conceive, especially today, that most of their parents once held that direct confrontation with communism was an inevitability, a force of nature unto itself, just as Marx had prophesied. Until the attack on Pearl Harbor and the impressions of total war—though Roosevelt had, by that time, favorably altered America’s official policy towards the communists of Western Europe—most Americans viewed the syndicalist states with a sort of self-conscious apprehension, often wrapped in a zealous, Protestant enmity. We were fixed on the notion that the foreordained arrival of a Marxist state was becoming a reality before our very eyes. And it was not just conservatives, but liberals too, who watched with trepidation as the Old World crumbled to communism. Given the ubiquity of this attitude, those who dared to flatter Berlin and Rome were awarded with a certain kind of popularity. Mr. Lindbergh profited the most.

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Charles Lindbergh salutes the American flag with the Nazi salute at Madison Square Garden (above) and receiving a medal from Mr. Göring (below), both in 1936.

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The origins of his corruption were inscrutable. In my teens, I thought much as Mr. Lindbergh did, and still will not reject many of those precepts, such as the inadvisability of supporting the syndicalists in Europe (how much more powerful they were, the Communist bloc!). But I know my views never originated in a perverse admiration for totalitarianism. In this regard,I am not so sure about Charles Lindbergh’s. To this day, I believe he is a great advocate for American peace, and this shines from his inner, Midwestern side. I also believe he subscribed to a viewpoint, quietly but only so quietly in the late Thirties and early Forties, that stank of radical racialism, an imitation of the sort of racial philosophies that Nazis would print onto classroom charts and that Southern mobs would employ to justify their rampages. He wrote in Reader’s Digest in November 1939, warning against “a war within our own family of nations, a war which will reduce the strength and destroy the treasures of the White race,” and which would produce “racial suicide.” He was aggressive in his ill-conceived dispute with President Roosevelt when he unjustly declared in 1941 that the British, the Jews, and the Roosevelt administration were conspiring to frighten the American people into war with the last anti-communists of Europe (the last part might not have been far off). Even as he drew mass crowds to hear his convincing expressions of peace for the American First Committee, he refused the entreaties of his friends who implored him to denounce Nazism. His anti-semitism, wavering between disgust at the Nazi regime’s persecution of the Jewish people to his own tendency to attach a nefarious influence upon them, sapped much of his popular and business support, which deservingly found it un-American. Robert E. Wood, a hero of the anti-war movement, broke off his friendship with Lindbergh shortly after. One Alabama congressman waved a copy of Mein Kampf on the floor of the House and pronounced, “it sounds like Charles Lindbergh,” before hurling it away onto the ground in disgust. Others were rather allured. Father Charles E. Coughlin, for example, who enjoyed flirting with the Old Hatred, showered Mr Lindbergh with commendations for his “bravery.” Governor Eugene Talmadge of Georgia, famous for his own brand of white supremacism, could not have been more complimentary.

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Father Coughlin, though an innovator in modern political communications, was also a vulgar anti-semite, a viewpoint which he disseminated through his widely-listened radio program. He bucked criticism to remain on air until a Papal intervention in 1954 forced him to close up shop. But his popularity among Southern populists and reactionary Catholics sustained his relevance through the 1960s.

After Pearl Harbor, the broader anti-war movement lost its momentum. The American First Committee, which maintained that had its prescriptions been observed, that war would have been avoided, cordially resigned itself to the fight. Lindbergh too, exited the public stage, dismayed at the course of events but insistent that his principles would be vindicated. He served as a civilian consultant with distinction in the Pacific War (Roosevelt would not permit him to serve as a colonel), but in 1945 he ventured again into the public forum, prompted by Roosevelt’s conduct towards world affairs, principally the administration’s pro-syndicalist policy of the four policemen. Aided by the endogenous disintegration of the Nazi regime, the disappearance of which eased the memory of his previous flirtation, Lindbergh raged against Roosevelt’s appeasement of France, Britain, and Soviet Russia. Once more he rightly condemned the inconsistencies of our stratagem, and once more allowed his perspicacity to be perverted by excess. Speaking in New York, he urged the nation to “strive in defense of the white race, imperiled by communism beyond our borders and within it...there are traitors among our midst, no less menacing than those whom the President purports to be our friends...they ought to be rooted out with the diligence of wartime exigency.” When Roosevelt perished, and Mr Byrnes acceded to the Presidency, Lindbergh expressed his dismay at the result, for Brynes, though a Southerner and therefore a segregationist, was exceedingly moderate for the Dixiecrats in his racialism, and worse yet for Mr. Lindbergh, a loyal adherent of Roosevelt’s foreign policy. He thought of rallying his supporters to a third party, especially after the loss of China, but in 1948 he could find little institutional support from within the ranks of either party, for the Southern Democrats were holding fast to Brynes and the conservative Republicans were holding out hope for Taft and MacArthur. These personal failures were compensated by the great shift in the global alignment that arrived in the latter part of the decade. His disenchantment with American policy faded as the Cold War intensified, as with many of us who had opposed entering the Mediterranean Wars, for to do so would have been to abandon the dignity of anti-communism. If he had shut up then and there, and kept mum on his less savory beliefs, we all would have been better off.

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Lindbergh delivering a speech for the American First Committee in Fort Worth, Michigan (1941).

In fact for a time it seemed as though we had heard the last of Mr. Lindbergh’s eccentricities. He spoke occasionally to loyal supporters, urging a robust effort in Korea, and soon afterwards endorsed General MacArthur for the White House. Perhaps he thought by the likeness of their anti-Bolshevism that MacArthur’s victory would restore him to a place of national confidence. To his dismay, it was not to be. He had written a controversial book entitled Of Flight and Life, in which he expounded his belief in aggressive weaponry, which was reasonable enough, but also insisted that immigration would spell the end of America, a belief that rang the bells and memories of the thirties. The General, who was happy enough for his support, found his racialism anachronistic and unbecoming of any pretender to American public service. In the 1952 GOP plank, the endorsement of a moderate program for the advancement of civil rights and desegregation irritated Lindbergh, but he was prepared to overlook it despite his close association with the Southern Democrats. What he was not prepared to forgive was MacArthur’s disinclination to restore him to official favor. President MacArthur instead quietly recommissioned him as a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and hesitated from awarding him this distinction with any celebrity. Such a maneuver ensured that he would be isolated from the political sphere, and confined to technical matters. Deeply embittered by this slight, for he had held out hope for political influence, Lindbergh withdrew again from public life and left for Germany. In Berlin, he received the popular receptions, from the crowds as well as from the Kaiser, that he felt he had been denied back at home. He remained in the Fourth Reich until the January War, whereupon he decided the American people could no longer be spared from his prognoses. He returned to the United States much enlivened, and quite a bit popular too, for Soviet aggression again seemed to have exonerated his warnings. It is not a bit improbable that Richard Nixon’s famous 1956 intervention was in part inspired by Lindbergh’s premonitions. Then, shortly after the conclusion of the January War, Lindbergh gave a brilliant anti-communist speech to rapturous applause in Chicago which even earned the plaudits of the liberal establishment. There was cause for optimism that he might have discarded the rather nefarious precepts nurtured in the bosom of Nazism.

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"That bastard tried to tell me he deserved credit for saving Germany in 56...and I told him, well, in that case, at least I'll get the credit for knocking out the son-of-a-bitch who saved the Krauts." - Richard Nixon to Bob Halderman (1970).

It was dubious whether the fullness of his political concept could be restrained when confronted with the New Frontier. Vice President Kennedy, had in fact, been another admirer of Mr. Lindbergh in his youth. The strident anti-communism of the new generation encouraged Mr Lindbergh, despite private misgivings about certain aspects of their program, to lend his support to the new administration. In the Saturday Evening Post, he wrote favorably towards the administration’s plan for military appropriations, insisting that "our objective is the survival of Western Civilization...our policy must be dynamic. There is no longer such a thing as adequate defense. As long as a dangerous enemy exists, our security will lie in our indestructible power to destroy it." When Kennedy took office, he invited his old hero to visit the White House. Still, Lindbergh was uneasy with the forces of modernism and progress that he had once personified. In his 1964 Autobiography of Values, while endorsing environmental conservationism, he regretted the "rampant pressures of improved technology and increasing population which are rapidly destroying what I considered freedom." There was a whiff of the old reactionary within him, that much was clear. The twin perils of pro-Communism and racial tension, as it turned out, were enough to bring it back out into the open air. Whether he was a Democrat or a Republican was quite irrelevant—his syncretism in this decade had its own principles and they were clear enough. In 1966 he thought the anti-war movement, rather than just being an annoyance, a delusion of sorts, certainly destructive to all intelligent people and the policy of this country, had acquired the additional quality of being an expression of racial treachery. A year later, he thought the Negro riots were not only tearing at the social fabric of America (they were!), but demanded a sort of retrenchment, a racial reckoning, a reassertion of the fact of white supremacy, not so much a traditional conservatism but that principle which he had once admired, a fascism of force and radical preservation. Mr. Lindbergh, we should not forget, was not a Southerner. That his clarion calls were heeded with admiration in the special refuge of segregation should come as no surprise. Yet he was a peripheral figure in national politics, popular, sure enough, but dancing in and out of the limelight and never able to detain with permanence the attention of those who might have assisted his pretensions for power. The radical right, by contrast, had made itself known with the very self-conscious insistence that Lindbergh lacked.

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Kennedy and the Lindberghs reviewing the White House Lawn (1964).

--

In March 1966, standing in the January sun of an unseasonably warm Alabama day, Governor-elect Lurleen Wallace read a twenty-four minute address, elegantly dressed in black cashmere, storming against the “egg-heads” in Washington who “proclaim to the world that ‘God is dead’” and promising to defend the people of Alabama against the tyranny of the United States government (which she compared to the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union, China, and North Vietnam). As she excoriated federal judges and Washington bureaucrats, the audience, filling the street before the Capitol building, interrupted her time and time again with a deafening applause. She declined to host an inaugural ball, explaining that it seemed inappropriate in the context of the escalation in Southeast Asia: “with Alabama boys fighting, I consider money spent for an inaugural ball to be money wasted.” One of her husband’s friends dismissed that explanation. Wallace had “told everybody it was a racial thing...that he didn’t want any [nasty word] showing up and dancing with Lurleen.” While the couple greeted guests at a series of evening receptions, two dozen Wallace supporters from across the nation gathered in a private dining room on Montgomery’s Woodley Country Club for a strategy session called by Asa Carter and Jim Clark. Their agenda: how to coordinate support for Wallace’s unannounced but inevitable run for the White House in 1968 on the Democratic ticket, a run whose sole purpose was to force the ultimate Democratic plank to submit to Southern preferences on segregation. These were curious folk to run a campaign. A drunken Carter had only recently confronted a city detective and loudly threatened to “beat the shit” out of him if he did not stop investigating Klansmen suspected in the bombing of a local black church. “Super-patriot leaders” were welcomed, including William Simmons of the White Citizens Council, former Mississippi governor Ross Barnett, Louisiana machine boss Leander Perez, and the anti-semitic publisher of The American Mercury and head of the Liberty Lobby, Willis Carto. Courtney, a former John Bircher, publisher of the Citizen, and head of the newly created Conservative Society of America, had embraced Wallace after Goldwater’s defeat in the 1964 GOP primaries to Governor Rockefeller with the fervor of a man who believed he had found the nation’s redeemer.

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George Wallace served as Governor of Alabama from 1963 to 1967. After the end of his term and his failure to extend the term limits, he pressed his wife, Lurleen Wallace, into office as the power-behind-the-throne.

This gathering of quacks and quackettes at Woodly represented the fringe of right-wing organization: Welch’s John Birch Society, the Reverend Carl McIntire’s Twentieth Century Reformation, Dr. Fred Schwarz’s Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, the Reverend Billy James Hagis’s Christian Crusade, Edgar Bundy’s League of America, Dean Clarence Manion’s Forum, and Texas oilman H.L. Hunt’s Life Line Foundation. They promoted the theme that respectable conservatism was liberalism, liberalism equaled socialism, socialism equaled communism, and therefore liberalism was only two precarious steps away from a treasonous dalliance with Bolshevism. This syllogism formed the basis for their understanding of democratic politics, and their conspiratorial sorties, holding subterfuge at the heart of American government, were never far behind. We at the National Review scorned these men; I had called for Welch’s resignation from society and warned civilized conservatives to steer clear from the group. But they seemed to feed off our contempt, and the six largest radical groups—Twentieth Century Reformation, the Christian Crusade, the Church League of America, Human Events, Americans for Constitutional Action, and the John Birch Society—octupled their revenue between 1959 and 1967. All the participants in the conference were classic racists, and the majority were vicious anti-semites. Asa Carter’s attacks on the Jews went back to the 1940s, and as early as the mid-1950s, Leander Perez was thrusting his contempt at the “Zionist Jews” for the racial problems of the South. At one of Edward Field’s National States’ Right Party rallies, Perez repeated the neo-Nazi claim that “Communism and Zionism are synonymous...they’re un-American co-conspirators in the drive for integration as a means of destroying both our white Christian civilization and our power to resist communism.” If it was even possible, Carto indulged in far more repugnant attacks, denying the persecution of Jews under the Nazi regime and then deciding that “The Negro” was the principal menace to Western civilization. Racial amalgamation, he thought, was the conspiratorial creation of the unholy alliance of Communists, Jews, blacks, and their allies and dupes in Washington, in entertainment, and in the mass media. George Wallace never went this far. He was willing, anxious even, to exploit racial fears, and he repeatedly toyed with conspiracy theories in his constant references to the role of Communists in high places of American society and public service. But he kept his red-baiting to civil rights leaders (sometimes with good cause after 1966) and there was never anything to indicate even a hint of personal anti-semitism. Some of his best friends in Montgomery were Jewish business and community leaders, and quite apart from his personal opinions, Wallace knew that anti-semitic statements, as they had done to Lindbergh, were rarely a boon to a campaign. The “nut-cases,” as Wallace and his staff dubbed his ultra-racist supporters, had developed a systematic racist ideology, but he had no interest in it whatsoever. He never treated ethnic Americans of eastern and southern European ancestry with contempt and embraced them as eager allies who shared his fear of Negroes.

Yours truly and Leander Perez on Firing Line, April 1968..."well, according to Webster, you're a racist."

The shifting tide of American politics created a far more congenial climate for the Wallace campaign than anyone could have anticipated in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s 1964 election. For civil rights leaders, the underlying causes of the racial riots of the mid-to-late-1960s seemed as clear as they would be to liberal commissions: poor housing, underemployment, and racism. But George Wallace disagreed. Even before the 1967 riots, Wallace realized that civil disturbances were linked to a whole series of issues that appealed to a constituency outside the South: violence, crime, and race war. He shared the convictions of one of his most effective publicists and supporters, Joe Azbell, a racial moderate who had become obsessed with the idea that a vast conspiracy flowed through the civil rights movement, fixed on igniting a revolution through a race war. For a decade, the civil rights leaders had manipulated the left-wing news media to create a morality play against the semi-literate, tobacco-chewing white lawmen on one side and the “praying, forgiving black” on the other. But these same cameras showed “burning, sniping, looting Negro mobs,” shattering this construction. Other groups, he justifiably argued, had suffered far worse deprivation, and they themselves had responded by buckling down and going to work. The escalating racial riots, the takeover of America’s city streets by thugs and hoodlums, and the lawless trampling of the U.S. Constitution by power-hungry federal courts, sharpened the radicalism of Azbell and Wallace. In June 1963, Wallace had stood in the schoolhouse door to try and wake up the American people, he argued, to the reality that “if men in high places can break the law of our Constitution, then every revolutionary, every thug who can assemble a mob, will feel that they too can break the law.” What had been the response of “liberal newspaper editors...they ridiculed that warning and ridiculed your governor...as guerilla bands burn and loot and riot in Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Jacksonville, and Detroit and other cities across the country.” Not that he was wrong—in large part, he was pretty much on the mark, the arrogance of the liberal establishment sapped by their encounter with the fatal civil disobedience of 1967—only his remedies reeked of mania.

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George Wallace, later on, skipping down the campaign trail of 68.

Following the riots of 1967, President Kennedy decided that patience on civil rights was no longer palatable. His wartime intransigence, he surmised, had allowed too much tension to build, and he argued with his advisers that the preservation of his political career now depended upon his ability to assure northern and western liberals that civil rights action was forthcoming. Whether or not the South would come along with him in 1968 had ceased to be the winning concern; the Democrats could carry past the post without Dixie. In early August 1967, he announced on national television that he would introduce civil rights legislation during the next session, and that if it failed to pass (as it almost certainly would, it could not conquer the filibuster), he would run his campaign on an admirable double platform of civil rights and vigilant anti-communism in Southeast Asia. To the South, this volte-face was a shot across the stern. Prior to Kennedy’s statement, Wallace and the Woodbury delegates had hoped, by campaigning in 1968, to force the President and the Democratic convention in Chicago to declare themselves against further efforts at legislative and judicial desegregation, and to set up Governor Wallace for national contention by 1972. All that meticulous planning quite suddenly went up into smoke. With Kennedy and his liberal Democrats declaring an invidious discord with the Southern Democrats, the Woodley delegates convened again on August 28, 1967. This time they were accompanied by a truculent new colleague, Charles Lindbergh.

G6FQHMR.jpg

Kennedy declares to the American public "a New Frontier on civil rights, a break from the tired, the outmoded, the immoral..." (1967).

Where exactly Lindbergh figured among the right-revolutionaries is difficult to pin down. What was clear, however, was that the delegates idealized the man, much in the same way that he had captured America’s imagination some thirty years before. More than that, they thought him peculiarly non-Southern, and thus well adapted to assume leadership in a movement that would necessarily have to compete beyond the Mason-Dixon. And this prestigious figure, so recently a guest in the White House, imagined himself in excellent company, surrounded by those who thought in terms of restoration and redemption, and not of continuity or progress. His views were not in perfect accordance with theirs, particularly the ultra-racialists, but he found their principles near enough for his toleration, and furthermore, foresaw the conclusion of his political evanescence by collaborating with these extremists. At the meeting, it was Mississippi’s arch-segregationist, Senator James Eastland, who applauded Lindbergh’s courage for his participation. “The sentiment of the entire country now stands with the Southern people...the sentiment of the entire country stands with George Wallace...the sentiment of the entire country stands with Charles Lindbergh...with vigilance and determination we will succeed in realizing the hopes of the entire country...freedom from communism, freedom from tyranny, freedom for white civilization.” Leander Perez, smug cigar in mouth, trumpeted that “nothing, hell included, will enable them to subdue us to racial mixing and other obscenities…” Lindbergh himself remarked, to rapturous ovations, “I am honored...moved by the confidence you have shown in the principle...the principle that has guided me, that I believe motivates us all...that is the principle which should be presented to the American people at the next election...the principle that always, and forever, America First!” It was from this very exclamation that the third party was prepared—not to capture the Democratic Party, but to disarm it and pursue the conquest of the American nation before Kennedy and his allies threw the South overboard.

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Above, Lindbergh's speech to 15,000 Wallace supporters at Madison Square Garden (1968).

Below, Lindbergh's speech to 15,000 AFC supporters at Madison Square Garden, thirty years before (1938).


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The biggest task that faced the Wallace campaign was simply getting on the ballot in all fifty states. Barriers to the new American First party varied; Colorado needed only three hundred signatures, while Ohio demanded half a million. In several states outside the South, election officials refused to help and attorneys were called in to scan through statues to skirt hostile civil servants. Eventually, in Ohio and other states, where blatant anti-third party legislation prevailed, the Wallace campaign succeeded via employing teams of lawyers and collecting over 3.1 million signatures, an extraordinary exercise in grassroots democracy. For top aides of the Wallace campaign, the struggle to get onto the ballots apparently imitated the heroism of Mao’s Long March in an epic struggle against staggering odds. California, in particular, was a daunting challenge, for California banned third parties unless they could register one percent of the state’s voters as party members. In a state where even the conservative press (and not unjustly so!) treated the Alabamian as a modern-day Genghis Khan, the Wallace vanguard had to succeed in registering 66,000 voters as members of the American First Party by January 1968, a formidable challenge. With almost no contacts on the West Coast except for a few John Birchers, Lindbergh turned to his old friend, Bill Simmons, head of the Citizens’ Council of Jackson, Mississippi. Simmons recommended Robert Shearer, a Republican consultant and San Francisco publisher, as the man to lead the California ballot campaign. Shearer was a Republican consultant and publisher who had directed the successful Proposition 14 campaign against the state’s fair-housing laws. Shearer and a large number of other radicals risked closer ties with marginal groups and called for an anti-liberal coalition uniting southern and national conservatives. In his weekly, the California Statesmen, Shearer insisted that California’s politics, and the nation’s by extension, had become dominated by a “liberal-leftist power bloc” (not far off) held together by “racial minority voting blocs” (not so much).

Though Shearer assured Simmons that rounding up the signatures would be no problem, so encouraged he was by the success of Proposition 14, his progress became sluggish just as Wallace was distracted by his wife’s worsening cancer. It took Bill Jones, Wallace’s press secretary, to ring the alarm bells in Montgomery, before he flew out to California and discovered Shearer had accomplished almost nothing. The campaign was forced to draft Alabamans to organize the campaign, and Seymore Trammell, Wallace’s chief aid, even took out a loan using his own house as collateral to raise the seed money. Finally, Lurleen Wallace, nearing the end, gave George her blessing to go out to California to campaign for ballot access. She stood by his side on November 27 as he received the most boisterous welcome of his tour from 800 listeners who jammed into the American Legion Hall in Los Angeles. This community, a little distillation of expatriate southern cultures (newsmen called it Little Dixie), enabled Wallace to play the racial theme, while Lindbergh alternated between sarcastic attacks on Washington bureaucrats and somber warnings of the breakdown of public order. None of their speeches were complete without a reference to “pro-Communist, long-haired hippies;” they could not have played it better. What Californian by this point could support the state university system in general and Berkeley in particular after the tsunami of irresponsible radicalism, violence, and sexual license? The campaign reached its climax in mid-December as predictions from state officials that the ballot drive would fail started to proliferate. Richard Bergholz, the chief political writer of the Los Angeles Times, described the chaos of the Wallace operation, declaring that “a southerner, a segregationist...though a skilled demagogue...will never make it in California.” On January 2, 1968, however, a jubilant George Wallace called a press conference in Santa Monica, and a red-faced Bergholz tersely acknowledged that “it appears the Wallace campaign had succeeded in obtaining sufficient signatures to make the ballot.” In fact, thanks, apparently to Charles Lindbergh, the campaign workers had signed up more than 100,000 workers. Not only was the American First Party on the ballot, a Gallup poll showed that support for the ticket in California had increased from two percent to fourteen percent. After the defeat in Vietnam, that rose to twenty percent.


ClmnoDe.jpg

George Wallace arrives in California to support his grassroots campaign for ballot registration.

Early in February 1968, Human Events released a poll on Wallace-Lindbergh ticket. The poll reported not on the views of the general reader but on those of 220 conservative writers, politicians, and organization heads—”most of the leading names in American conservatism.” Do you believe Mr. Wallace and Mr. Lindbergh are fiscal conservatives?” No, 51 percent (yes, 30 percent). Will Mr. Wallace’s candidacy help or hurt the election of conservatives running for the House and Senate?” Hurt, 69 percent (help, 14 percent). “Will the effect of Mr. Wallace’s candidacy strengthen or to hurt the conservative movement in America? Hurt, 74 percent (strengthen, 16 percent). How would you vote in the 1968 general election given the following possibilities? (Nixon, 79 percent, Kennedy 5 percent, Wallace, 8 percent (Rockefeller, 43 percent, McCarthy 12 percent, Wallace, 23 percent). “Do you believe Mr. Wallace and Mr. Lindbergh are knowingly conducting a campaign that is calculated to appeal to racial prejudice?” Yes, 68 percent (no, 25 percent). The figures greatly surprised those who believed that Wallace was the answer to conservative prayers; who wondered, therefore, at the apparent ingratitude of conservative leaders. Or was it that their opposition was purely tactical? Is it because conservatives, though they did not really object to George Wallace, far from it, did object to the effect his candidacy was likely to have on the candidacy of the Republican nominee, who would be the closest thing to a conservative running for President who had a chance to win? The question was worth asking and answering, not merely in order to understand Wallace and Lindbergh, but to understand the political metabolism of the country. Researchers so inclined could carefully study their backgrounds for clues to the question: “Do we have here a sure-enough conservative?” The findings were at least confusing. Twenty years before, George Wallace was a self-avowed Folsomite, that is, a backer of the enormous pretensions of “Kissing” Jim Folsom, the Alabama governor who thought himself Presidential material and served as a Henry Wallace delegate at the 1944 Democratic Convention and had taken the governorship of Alabama—in the words of the formerly British, and then Australian, The Economist—”on the most liberal platform ever offered in Alabama.” Wallace broke with Folsom, for pretty irrelevant reasons, but he was still down as a strong believer in federal welfare programs. He backed Kefauver in 1956 and 1960, and Kennedy in 1964, and as governor, he tripled Alabama’s bonded indebtedness.

On the other hand, other public officials publicly resented the use of force as an integration before Wallace and after him; and yet we are concerned with Wallace. What happened, after the federal marshals forced Governor Wallace to step aside to make way for a Negro boy and a Negro girl who were thereupon registered as students of the University of Alabama, was that history and George Wallace embarked upon an elaborate courtship, to which each contributed about equally, so that they had quite a thing going. For his part, Wallace began diligently to cultivate a race-free rhetoric. “I have never said anything unkind about the Negro anywhere,” Wallace had said, like Mark Anthony addressing the Romans on his devotion to Brutus. He later went on to perfect analytical and rhetorical techniques which (a) stimulate disconcents where discontents are scarce; (b) aggravate them when they are already there; and (c) galvanize his listeners into a hot desire to hurl their bodies in the path of the federal government. For its part, history gave us John F. Kennedy and his enormous appetite to dominate the affairs of America at every level. And gave us, too, the paralysis of action that grew out of Kennedy’s failure to reckon on the relative weakness of his own resources (the conservatives would put it that way) or on the relative strength of other people’s inertia (as the liberals would prefer). Thus, the war in Vietnam went down the pipes, and at home, the failed war against poverty and the urban ghetto. Now if we were to listen to George Wallace: “I respect the right of dissent all right—-we note the formality, what one might call the liberal amenities, has been complied with (I don’t have anything against [nasty word])—”but anybody who undertakes to give aid to the Vietcong is engaged in treason”—note that treason is (as indeed it ought to be) a devil word; and note how useful it is rhetorically, handled thus gravely—”That’s the way I see it”—a touch of modesty; but shrewdly programmed, to suggest the, er, triumph of innocence in a slick-slick world. “I’d order the Justice Department to proceed against”—now watch how the tones changes, so as to introduce true American Resolution—”those bastards, indict ‘em, try ‘em. And if any judges tried to say it isn’t legally treason because we aren’t formally at war, I’d get some new judges. They wouldn’t be judges like Earl Warren, either, who sits there and applauds the President—applauds him while he talks about bills the court will have to pass on!” A wee bit complicated. But the point is not unsound. Warren had shown visible pleasure at the description of legislation the constitutionally of which was due to be challenged by members of the legislature…


Yours truly and Mr. Wallace on Firing Line, January 1968. [Compiler's note: Around 10:00-12:00 is especially curious as anyone who is ill-suited to libertarianism finds themselves nearly applauding Mr. Wallace].

There it was. American conservatives were the most distressed of all, not so much because they despised everything that Wallace said as because they know he was venturing into political profiteering on their grave mutual concerns; even as the responsible Left, in the thirties, wept tears over the exploitation of their genuine concerns by such as Huey Long. What’s more, even the veneer broke down at the organizational level. Wallace admitted, among his official electors, such illustrious persons as Gerald Smith, the consecrated anti-Semite, and again, Leander Perez, the devoted anti-Negro. It was clear that he would the hurt the Republicans most in the South, where they lost electoral votes to him; but in the North, the Democrats would also lose, for who might otherwise have counted on votes that went to a man whose mode reflected frustrations readily intellectualizable by other Americans, who knew that something was wrong, and would arrive, by careful and morally responsible reasoning, at conclusions similar to Wallace’s. His mode was crude, but hardly unique. He once called a federal judge, an old classmate at college but later an adversary in one of those endless legal brawls in which he was always entangled, an “integrating, carpetbagging, scallywagging, race-mixing, bald-faced liar.” That was the kind of assault, if you change the political coordinates and wipe it up a little, that some thoroughbred liberals (e.g. Emmual Celler and George Meany) were making on Goldwater in 1964, when they saw him as somehow in the tradition of Benito Mussolini.

What were we left with? The coarsening of distinctions, certainly; polarization, just as certainly. But also the disintegrating penetration of Big Daddy Government, accelerated by the thumping dissent of the backwoods heckler. Those conservatives who took sly pleasure from Wallace’s techniques should have reflected that the kind of thing is do-able against anybody at all; do-able for instance by the Folsomite Wallace of yesteryear, who roared his approval of his candidate’s attack on the “Wall Street Gotrucks,” “the damned decency crowd,” and “them Hoover Republicans.” Those who saw in Wallace the end of the world should have reflected on the great political movements of the past twenty years. Strom Thurmond, in 1948, led the movement against civil rights. Today, firmly incorporated into a Republican Party that is pledged to defend civil rights, he leads, in effect, the fight against Wallace, who took Thurmond’s old position in the South. And yet, in California, he was taking twenty percent.

George Wallace could not savor his victory for long. For the next several months, Governor Wallace’s condition deteriorated, and she became deathly-ill. By late April 1968, the cancer had spread to her liver and lungs and she weighed less than eighty pounds. Her condition became unstable in early May, and on May 6, as Wallace was scheduled to make a television address to mark his success in wrestling control of the Alabama Democratic Party from the national loyalists, her doctor advised him to cancel the speech. She died later that evening in the presence of her family, precipitating an outpouring of public support across the South that made a princely committal seem anemic. Grief-stricken, red-eyed Wallace abdicated to his running-mate, for nearly two months, the national spotlight—he would not let it go.
 
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Good god, the US is disintegrating!
 
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Good god, the US is disintegrating!
Somewhere across the water, Jim Bowen is waving his hands in the direction of the United States and shouting “look what you could have won!”

[Compiler's note: Around 10:00-12:00 is especially curious as anyone who is ill-suited to libertarianism finds themselves nearly applauding Mr. Wallace].
As usual, Michael Rosen said it best

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I just love that the real people in that photograph couldn't even spell segregation correctly. Truly the superior race (sarcasm, of course). And hopefully Lindbergh gets what was coming to Wallace in real life. Maybe a little worse, even. But I foresee Bad Things at this point.
 

DensleyBlair

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I just love that the real people in that photograph couldn't even spell segregation correctly. Truly the superior race (sarcasm, of course).
Something something literacy tests…

And hopefully Lindbergh gets what was coming to Wallace in real life. Maybe a little worse, even. But I foresee Bad Things at this point.
I too am in the dark about what is in Lindbergh’s future, but i think you’re right about the Bad Things. America is fucked, whether it wants to admit it or not.
 

DensleyBlair

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I finished the next part of my latest chapter this afternoon, so I am in a position to publish over the weekend, but I’m also conscious there are a few people still catching up and I don’t want to race ahead of the crowd. Do people want the next update ASAP, or shall I hold off for a little bit?
 
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@Wraith11B has very kindly spoken for the group by liking that last post, so I’ll go ahead and post the next part of the chapter tonight. Keep your eyes peeled!
 
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128 Days: The Decline and Fall of Bevanite Britain (II)

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6Venre3.jpg



128 DAYS
The Decline and Fall of Bevanite Britain

Gwyn Alf Williams, 1980


(II)


Chairman Bevan spent the night of the disaster in Cardiff. On the morning of November 1, he returned to Aberfan in order to see the village in daylight. He was met there by President Mikardo, who travelled from London and arrived at midday. Separately, Bevan and Mikardo gave brief interviews to the CBC reporters at the site of the disaster on the Tuesday afternoon. The President said some words about the pain of loss, declaring simply that “the Commonwealth grieves”. Chairman Bevan’s distress was more palpable, both in his words and in his appearance. Looking pale, his usual blistering style of public speech was jettisoned in favour of a frank emotional register. For once, the veteran politician seemed almost lost for words. He described the disaster as “the darkest day of my life”, before committing to take whatever action necessary to put things right, telling cameras that he would sanction the appointment of a tribunal to investigate the slippage as a matter of urgency. Cameras then followed the Chairman as he observed the ongoing rescue efforts at Pantglas Junior School, before showing him consoling a pair of grieving mothers.

To those watching on television at home, particularly those old enough to remember the hushed official response to the catastrophe at Windscale, the footage of Bevan meeting with the bereaved of Aberfan gave a sense of the scale of the change that had swept through the Commonwealth over the past five years. Before, government figures confronting disaster so openly would have been unthinkable. Bevan’s public commitment to an inquiry was a far cry from Harold Macmillan’s terse suggestion that the Windscale fire had been an ‘error of judgement’. No doubt the incumbent chairman keenly recalled the lessons of the 1957 disaster, which proved resistant to cover-ups and sparked an opposition movement that ultimately brought about Mosley’s downfall. By getting out in front of the cameras and dealing in the view of the public, Bevan would have been eager to forestall the development of any similar opposition. Unfortunately for him, it was never going to be so simple. As was beginning to become clear, the same commitment to transparency that the government hoped would save it from harm could also be used to apply pressure like never before. Clearly, the Aberfan disaster had laid the groundwork for a confrontation that would decide the character of the Commonwealth for years to come. Chairman Mosley’s history had demonstrated how fatal these sorts of confrontations could prove for those in power. For Bevan and his ministers, the race was now on to ensure that theirs would be a different fate.



Old King Coal

Albert Roberts, chairman of British Coal, was notable as an establishment figure for his absence from the disaster site in the aftermath of the slip. Like British Coal, Roberts was not someone who often had to face the public, and nor was he accustomed to accounting for his conduct. The organisation he led, being the body responsible for the operation of the Commonwealth’s nationalised coal mining industry, was an inward-facing, bureaucratic one, concerned for the most part with logistics and technicalities. British Coal was run by engineers and state managers, technocratic ‘Mosley Men’ whose business was the smooth running of national industry, and Albert Roberts was emblematic of this group. Having worked as a mining engineer in the 1930s before moving into the rapidly-expanding bureaucracy at the end of the 1940s, Robert was an enthusiastic subscriber to the virtues of Mosleyite dirigisme. He was appointed to the chairmanship of British Coal in 1958, during a programme of energy sector restructuring in the wake of the Windscale disaster. Mosley believed that having an ally in charge of the coal industry would help secure his own position against calls for more radical change, particularly with Nye Bevan shuffled into the directorship of the Coal and Steel Bureau at the same time. Bevan enjoyed warm relations with the mining unions, thus Roberts’ role was to safeguard the Mosleyite system from the possibility of a twin-pronged attack. It was a duty he carried out loyally, and with solemn determination.

By the time Bevan became chairman three years later, Roberts was well secured in his post at the head of British Coal. Bevan considered making a move to unseat him in 1964, safe in his own position after a successful election, but the chairman soon came up against the daunting prospect of destabilising the coal industry at an already uncertain moment in its history. Since 1960, well over 100 thousand jobs in the coal industry had been lost as hundreds of pits were closed and the sector embraced ‘economising’ modern technologies. In spite of this, Roberts had overseen an increase in productivity of almost 50 per-cent, and all without significant industrial unrest[3]. His importance to the government was therefore significant, and when it became apparent that Bevan had no plans of his own to overhaul the coal industry, the British Coal chairman was able to reach something like a truce with the politicians and the union leadership.



1966 ALBERT ROBERTS.jpg

Albert Roberts (right).


Roberts’ approach to his duties as chairman of British Coal was notoriously undemocratic. Untroubled by any imperative to ‘move with the times’ and fall into line with the new liberal agenda, he stuck to a direct and confrontational approach. Even before the disaster at Aberfan, he was not popular with the workers at the coalface, who disdained him for his conspicuous enjoyment of the trappings of power. Roberts moved between official duties in a chauffeured Rover 110, otherwise criss-crossing the county in a six-seater Comaero Dove when visiting particularly far-flung coalfields. Among the workers whose livelihoods he oversaw, his opulent lifestyle earned him the nickname ‘Old King Coal’. Seen from the pits, he appeared no more than an establishment sell-out who had long since forgotten his working-class origins.

For a man usually so mobile, Roberts’ refusal to appear at Aberfan seemed unfathomably callous. On the day of the disaster, British Coal released a statement expressing sympathy with the victims and announcing that the organisation would not attempt to shirk its portion of the responsibility for what had happened. Roberts himself told a journalist that he had no plans to go to Aberfan until the situation had “died down”, opining that his presence would only distract from the work of cleaning up the slip and rescuing survivors. In the meantime, he sent his Chief Safety Engineer to oversee the effort to stabilise the surviving spoil heaps. Taken together, these actions revealed themselves as the behaviour of a man desperate to preserve himself against an onslaught which he knew was inevitable. For those who could foresee what sort of reception lay in wait for him in Aberfan, it was not hard to understand his eagerness to go in prepared.



1966 PANTGLAS DIGGERS.gif

Miners, WB volunteers and local residents continue to remove the rubble from Ysgol Gynradd Pantglas.


Roberts finally arrived in Aberfan on the morning of Wednesday 2 November, two days after the fatal slip. The atmosphere in the village was tense. The British Coal chairman surveyed the tip alongside a group of his own engineers, talking to representatives of the local council rather than meeting directly with survivors or rescue workers. It was hard to shake off the sense that he was attempting to avoid being held in any way accountable for the disaster. While at the spoil heap, Roberts was asked by a CBC TV news team whether he thought that British Coal were ultimately responsible for the slide. He did not give a straight answer, remarking instead that it was “impossible to know” that a spring deep in the heart of the tip had been “turning the centre of the mountain into sludge.” Left unsaid was the tacit implication that Roberts held the slide to have been an act of God. This admission marked the start of what would be a long campaign by British Coal to diminish its share of the blame, parrying away accusations of incompetence and mismanagement by appealing to the idea that the disaster could not have been anticipated. The sentiment appalled a shocked country, most of all the Aberfan residents themselves, who reacted with disgust to Roberts’ attempts to avoid confronting them. As the coal boss left the village later on that afternoon, CBC cameras caught the moment when a group of bereaved women pelted his Rover with eggs. “Coward,” they shouted after him. “That man killed our children.”


1966 ABERFAN MOTHERS.jpg

Mothers of Aberfan accost Albert Roberts (out of shot) in his official car.


The profound anger at the callousness of British Coal, and Albert Roberts in particular, fuelled a wave of unrest which soon spread out from the mining community in Aberfan and across valleys of South Wales. Workers at the Ynysowen colliery had been given the rest of the week off in the aftermath of the disaster, but on the following Monday the miners refused to go back to work. At pits across Merthyr Vale, workers stayed away in sympathy, officially citing grave concerns over safety, and by November 14 the unofficial strike had spread into the neighbouring valleys of the Cynon and the Taff.

Dai Francis, the leader of the South Wales Miners’ Federation, had no intention of attempting to quell the incipient revolt. During an appearance on CBC1 programme 24 Hours on the evening of November 16, he went so far as to openly endorse the walkouts. Anchor Cliff Michelmore pressed Francis on how the coal industry might be able to move forward in the wake of the disaster. In his reply, Francis gave one of the first public articulations to the list of concrete political demands growing out of the anger in South Wales. more stringent industrial safety measures above ground as well as at the coalface; meaningful financial support for the victims of the disaster, and for the residents of Aberfan rebuilding their community; and the removal from office of all staff members at British Coal deemed responsible for the slip. The SWMF general secretary made it clear, furthermore, that these demands represented the bare minimum that should be done to redress the failures that had led to the tragedy. Beyond these immediate demands, Francis also put forward two related, more ambitious conditions for an end to the escalating dispute. The first was that Wales be granted full political and economic autonomy, able to manage its own affairs within the Commonwealth. The second went deeper still; namely, that the coal industry be stripped of its bureaucratic management in favour of worker self-direction. For too long, Francis said, the safety and well-being of the workers of Wales had been overseen by middlemen in London with no input from those on (or under) the ground. The results had been catastrophic, and the South Wales miners vowed never again to leave themselves vulnerable to harm as a result of such grievous indifference.



**********
3: Roberts’ OTL counterpart is Alfred Robens, who was chair of the National Coal Board from 1961–71. During this time, the coal industry lost 300 thousand jobs and over 400 pits were closed, but productivity rose by 70 per-cent. Industrial relations sharply deteriorated towards the end of Robens’ tenure, culminating in the 1969 walk-outs that cost the NCB £15 million in lost production over two weeks.
Roberts, unlike Robens, had actually worked in the mines for himself, but he was notoriously corrupt and, despite being a Labour MP, was on record as an admirer of Francisco Franco. He struck me as a character far too good to pass up on this occasion.


Democracy With Teeth

Under terms of the 1929 constitution, power in the Commonwealth was to be widely decentralised. As the famous phrase rang, the new post-revolutionary freedom was to flow ‘from the bottom up’. Local and regional councils were to be granted significant powers to direct their own affairs, with only the most high-level economic decisions reserved for central government. There was to be no question that the revolutionary state were anything other than unitary, but in common with the general ethos of the time, power was to be decentralised. The provinces were to be free to make their own decisions, and national political institutions would be forums for co-ordination and redistribution rather than all-commanding directorates.

The fate of this aspiration is well known, and as Mosley consolidated his position political power was snatched back from the regions to the centre. By the end of the 1940s, the regional assemblies had been defanged, kept relevant by their increasingly absurd role in the indirect national legislative elections[4], and most industry had been consolidated under national organisations run out of London. A concerted effort to reverse Mosley’s centralising programme proved beyond the energies of the Bevanite coalition, whose liberalisation programme sought to remedy the most pressing injustices as a matter of priority. More often than not, this meant working on the surface level as opposed to diving into the structural depths of the Commonwealth state. Examples of this tendency were evident across the board. At home, the censorship was rolled back in 1963, although the censor’s office remained intact. Capital punishment was abrogated and the penal code was relaxed, but the Bureau of Domestic Intelligence survived. Abroad Britain finally gave up its pretensions to the old empire, but clung tight to its place as a global power. Utopian policies surrounding the nuclear deterrent faltered when faced by the prospect of global war over first Cuba, then the Baltic, and pacifistic dreams evaporated in the jungles of Borneo and on the streets of Georgetown. In industry, as we have seen, paradigmatic change was put aside in favour of piecemeal concessions to workplace democracy, and laws restricting the strike powers of the trade unions were loosened without being abolished. All of this considered, it becomes evident why the growing opposition looked warily at further calls for liberalisation by the end of 1966. What had the last round of thawing really changed? Not much under the surface.



1966 BEVAN CROP.jpg
1972 DAVID LEWIS.jpg

"Comrade Chairman? Meet your new deputy…"


In Wales, no reform was called for more loudly than political autonomy. This was seen as a vital step in recapturing something of the original liberatory promise of the Revolution. Prior to the disaster at Aberfan, Ynysowen Colliery might have been thought of as a model pit. Electrified in the first years of Bevan’s term in office, it was modern by the standards of the time, and its operation ran smoothly and efficiently while all around less fortunate pits were plagued by cut-backs and closures. Prior to October 31 1966, Aberfan had benefited in many ways from the Bevanite programme, but the tragedy exposed the fragility of the foundations on which this good fortune was based. No amount of modernisation had proved able to prevent catastrophe, and the events of October 31 brought sharply into focus the limits of governmental largesse. In the end, the emergent Welsh opposition argued, Aberfan had benefitted under the Bevan government only so far as the government themselves had benefited too. Pit modernisation meant increased productivity and buoyant output, all of which reflected well on the politicians in Whitehall. What was incidental to all of this progress was the welfare of the common worker. The old methods and the old disputes of 1929 had never gone away, and not just because the 1929 generation were now in charge of government. What was needed, said the autonomists, was a break with the whole idea of working to drive up profits for someone else, whether that be the long-gone pit owner or the chairman of British Coal. It was time for Wales to take charge of its own affairs, for the welfare of its own people.

Alongside the profit argument, Welsh autonomists argued that political self-management was necessary to ensure the welfare of the Welsh people. Here, political self-management meant the creation of a Welsh Assembly, to be granted power over the running of internal affairs. What made the calls for an Assembly so powerful in the context of Aberfan was the extent to which cautionary voices in Wales had been brushed aside in the lead up to the disaster. The October 31 slippage was not the first time that the spoil tips at Ynysowen had showed signs of instability, and numerous queries about safety pursued by the Merthyr Tydfil Regional Council had been dismissed by British Coal. The spoil heap which collapsed in the disaster had been built in 1958 on the site of a known stream, and as early as 1960 council workers had raised concerns over its integrity. Later, much of the attention of the Abse Inquiry would be directed towards understanding why exactly these concerns were not taken seriously by the management, but in the meantime the new Welsh opposition mobilised to campaign for self-government.



1966 CARWYN JAMES.png

Carwyn James.
Renowned rugby coach, avid fan of literature and popular spokesman for the cause of Welsh autonomy.


On Saturday 26 November, Merthyr RFC played Llanelli in a friendly to raise money for the Aberfan Disaster Relief Fund. Llanelli coach Carwyn James, the celebrated former international fly-half, wrote a short note in the match programme in which he claimed that ‘a free Wales would be the greatest conceivable monument to the memory of the dead’. After the game, he delivered a eulogy that laid the fault for the Aberfan deaths squarely at the feet of the British government, repeating his call for Welsh autonomy. The address received an enthusiastic reception from the crowd, five thousand strong.

The following Thursday, on December 1, James gave a second speech in Aberdare, four miles from Aberfan, where he was joined by Gwynfor Evans, a long-serving independent member of the Carmarthen Regional Council, to announcement. Together, Evans and James announced the formation of Cymru Rydd (Free Wales) whose goal would be Welsh self-government. Cymru Rydd would be fielding candidates in the 1967 legislative elections, where it hoped to unseat the LUPA as the undisputed major party in the politics of Wales. Since the Revolution, the dominance of the Bevanite movement in South Wales had been a given thing, and any upset to this state of affairs would represent a grave challenge to the integrity of the traditional political labour movement. James and Evans, whose vision of Welsh autonomy remained wedded to the principles of 1929 at a basic level, hoped that such an insurgency would spook the establishment into action. In and of itself, this was a strategy which had far more to do with the methods of 1957 than the methods of 1927, but as the first forceful expression of a Welsh political identity since the 19th century, Cymru Rydd represented a significant step forward on the road towards self-determination. The impact was immediate; on December 8, a poll by The International put support for Cymru Rydd in the South Welsh valleys at 36 per-cent, four points ahead of the LUPA. Almost overnight, Nye Bevan’s right to rule had been shattered deep in his home turf. It would take a great effort of political skill to shore up his legitimacy in the face of such stark crisis.



**********
4: Per the 1929 constitution, assembly members were elected indirectly by the regional councils. In effect, elections decided the composition of the regional bodies, which then sent a proportional number of delegates to Westminster to make up the national parliament. This system made reasonable sense so long as the Assembly functioned as a forum for inter-regional co-ordination, but as power returned to London it was made to look increasingly Byzantine. The complexity of the system, as well as its indirectness, contributed to consistently low turnout during the high years of the Mosley regime.
Bevan’s 1964 electoral reforms, which would come into effect in time for the 1967 elections, replaced the indirect system with a new method of apportioning seats directly by region using party lists. While this went a significant way towards cementing the enthusiasm for electoral democracy that had recovered during Bevan’s tenure, it did not solve the problem of the regional councils, whose functional role was now more unclear than ever.


How Red Was My Valley?

Not all of the new opposition were so enamoured by the tactics of reform from within, and beyond the parliamentary realm the push for autonomy continued by more direct means. The chief combatants in this campaign were the unions, and above all the South Wales Miners’ Federation, who had held their furious resolve to stay away from the pits even as November gave way to December. Coal production in the Merthyr Vale, Cynon and Taff regions had slowed to a crawl for the month of November, forcing the government to eat away at its coal reserves to keep homes heated towards the end of autumn. Mild weather had helped to mitigate against the worst effects of the slow-down, but surviving the coming winter without shortages was another question altogether, and the government could not afford to consider the prospect of a fuel crisis so close to the May election. By the time of the announcement of the formation of Cymru Rydd, striking coalminers in the Merthyr, Cynon and Taff valleys had been joined by comrades in the neighbouring twin valleys of Rhondda Fawr and Rhondda Fach, and miners in the Aman Valley were working to rule. The main grievance remained pit safety, and the target was British Coal.

Going into the second week of December, the weather remained mild for the season. So long as heating demands were chipping away at coal stockpiles, however, the government was unwilling to test its luck in simply outlasting the striking miners. On December 9, Chairman Bevan wrote to Peggy Herbison instructing her to organise the immediate inspection of spoil heaps at pits across the valleys affected by strike action. This would require the co-operation of British Coal, whose safety engineers would carry out the inspections themselves. Albert Roberts was unwilling to acquiesce to Herbison’s instructions. His line remained that the slippage at Ynysowen had been a freak accident of nature, and that fears over safety at other pits were contrary to published scientific data. When Herbison suggested that existing scientific conclusions might reasonably be thought to have been compromised by the disaster, Roberts accused the government of siding with the miners against the coal board. He took these accusations further, implicating the ongoing Abse Inquiry and raising doubts over its objectivity in light of the government’s attitude towards the SWMF. Leaving aside the fact that the inquiry was an Assembly matter and not a governmental one, Roberts’ hysterics were a step too far for Nye Bevan. On December 12, the premier wrote to the British Coal chairman to inform him that the cabinet had voted to suspend him from active duty until the Abse Inquiry had delivered its verdict.



1969 MINERS.jpg

Striking miners picketing at Ynysowen.



While this was not a permanent dismissal, Bevan hoped that removing Roberts from control over British Coal would help the organisation regain some legitimacy in an effort to resolve the industrial crisis. The plan was hampered somewhat by the fact that Bevan was not in a position to appoint Roberts’ permanent successor, and the fact that his interim replacement came from the existing British Coal executive committee only promised so much of a shift in direction. Nevertheless, with Roberts dealt with the government could press ahead with its own rescue operation. British Coal assented to fresh inspections in South Wales, although won a concession from the government in the form of a relaxed time frame. Bevan met with Dai Francis on December 14, outlining his government’s plans for exhaustive pit inspections beginning in the New Year and asking for a return to work before the Christmas holiday. Francis was sceptical that the miners would return before the results of any inspections, and reiterated that, as the strike action remained unofficial, there was no guarantee that his words would carry any weight. Nevertheless, he was happy to claim a victory and agreed that the SWMF would put out a statement saying as much. Although he refused direct the miners to return to the pits before they felt safe at work, he would emphasise the fact that their demands had been met.

What both the government and the unions underestimated was the degree to which the reputation of British Coal had been tarnished in the eyes of the South Welsh miners. In the week after December 15, only one quarter of the pits closed by strike action reopened. Around 30 thousand miners remained on strike, vowing not to return until their pits had been declared safe – and not a second before. Others went further still. At Ynysowen, where extensive safety work had been ongoing as a matter of urgency since the disaster, pickets arrived on the morning of December 16 and opened the colliery gates. They proceeded to remove all trace of British Coal signage and replaced it with placards declaring the colliery a ‘Free Pit’ that had been ‘liberated from murderers’. Henceforth, all of the coal mined at Ynysowen went directly ‘from the pit to the people’ without once passing into the hands of British Coal. Similar occupations followed in the days after, and by Christmas all four of the working pits in Merthyr Vale had been taken into miner control. For the government, who had been banking on a swift return to work, the wave of occupations was a startling development, hardly encouraging for those who hoped that the unrest would be quelled by inspections and inquiries. The Bevanite consensus, held together by a strong faith in reform and a deep respect for the institutions of the Commonwealth, was coming apart at the seams. In its place, emboldened and explosive, rippling outwards from a valley deep in the heart of Wales, a new workers’ state was waiting to emerge.

. . .
 
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El Pip

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You have been impressively busy so catching up will take a while. Guyana went as well as could be expected for anything involving land 'reform' (i.e. a debacle) but it did need more tractor details - less about power to the people and more about power take-off splines. ;) The effort being piled into the country does seem utterly disproportionate to any possible benefit for the superpowers, which does make it very appropriate for a cold war superpower tustle. I saw Healey muttering on about the evil Americans planning "capital extraction", the obvious flaw being there is no capital in Guyana and if anything the place needs massive capital investment, but then again Healey was such a spectacularly awful Chancellor of the Exchequer the country had to be bailed out by the IMF, so a certain level of economic incompetence is to be expected from him.

A quick skim over the SE Asia update where things are going badly it seems, mostly the same people appear to be making very similar mistakes so I suppose that is to be expected. It remains discombobulating that so many British and European figures have been mixed up, so you see familiar names in new roles, while the US remains so similar to OTL. This is doubtless a cutting social commentary on the stratified and confining limitations of capitalism and it's false claims of meritocracy.
DYAEiOu.gif


Then onto the sham that is the Union's press. "Liberalisation" as long as you remain somewhere between Social Democrat and Marxist, as always I remain impressed at the sterling efforts of the police in utterly suppressing any deviation from the allowed opinions.

As required by ancient law and prophecy Enoch remains much the same, though marginally more deranged I would say. As you mention a few thousand Guyanese are not going to change anything, certainly not compared to the couple of hundred thousand who came from the West Indies in OTL, so the 'trigger' seems weaker. At least in OTL there were communities that were rapidly changing and no obvious sign the immigration wave was going to end, to be clear this is in no way justifies his speech or anything remotely similar, but there was a change happening and anyone could see there would be consequences of that. There is nothing like that in the Echoverse so I would sort of expect less of a reaction, his speech seems detached from reality and it was pretty unhinged to start with. One last thing on that, it does not say good things about this Britain that the authorities aren't going after him. From past chapters I understand it is illegal to express any support for capitalism, free markets, monarchy or any conservative or even centrist views. But massive racism is, apparently, fine.

Finally I got to the US being on fire, which does indeed seem grim. Given we have established there is no happy ending to this tale (there will be no restoration in Britain :( ) and that apparently the US and Britain end up in the 'same place' by the finale, things are only going to get much, much worse for them.
 
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DensleyBlair

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I'm going to reply to your thoughts in two parts if you don't mind, Pip. You raise a lot of points and I want to give them the time they deserve. :)

You have been impressively busy so catching up will take a while.
April and May did, in the end, turn out to be very productive. You'll be reassured to know that this pace won't be sustainable into the future for all sorts of reasons.

Thank you for taking the time to go through and comment so diligently on everything. It is incredibly gratifying to know that people think it worth the effort. :)

Guyana went as well as could be expected for anything involving land 'reform' (i.e. a debacle) but it did need more tractor details - less about power to the people and more about power take-off splines. ;) The effort being piled into the country does seem utterly disproportionate to any possible benefit for the superpowers, which does make it very appropriate for a cold war superpower tustle. I saw Healey muttering on about the evil Americans planning "capital extraction", the obvious flaw being there is no capital in Guyana and if anything the place needs massive capital investment, but then again Healey was such a spectacularly awful Chancellor of the Exchequer the country had to be bailed out by the IMF, so a certain level of economic incompetence is to be expected from him.
You can rest easily knowing that your particular niche is safe: Echoes seems very unlikely ever to draw power take-off splines into its net. ;)

You are quite right the Guyana hardly seems worth the effort, and I'm glad that you agree that this therefore makes it the perfect place for a massive superpower tussle as that was rather the point. If Healey is muttering on about capital extraction when he should have been muttering on about capital investment then that is my error and not his, although the term 'he' was no doubt reaching for would be more closely found somewhere around 'surplus value' extraction. The point being of course that the American intervention is hardly going to be a reciprocal one – but I suspect you would contest this.

A quick skim over the SE Asia update where things are going badly it seems, mostly the same people appear to be making very similar mistakes so I suppose that is to be expected. It remains discombobulating that so many British and European figures have been mixed up, so you see familiar names in new roles, while the US remains so similar to OTL. This is doubtless a cutting social commentary on the stratified and confining limitations of capitalism and it's false claims of meritocracy.
DYAEiOu.gif
It certainly isn't a cutting social commentary – or if it is then it is unintentional. The slightly flippant answer is that the US didn't undergo a massive wave of social revolution, so the butterfly's wings don't beat as strongly over there.

The less flippant answer is that all of the US's postwar presidents bar one have been counterfactual, and the one who isn't has appeared at a (slightly) different time. So people have been mixed up, just differently to Europe.

Then onto the sham that is the Union's press. "Liberalisation" as long as you remain somewhere between Social Democrat and Marxist, as always I remain impressed at the sterling efforts of the police in utterly suppressing any deviation from the allowed opinions.
The first thing to say is that liberalisation does not happen overnight – particularly in a society that has been wholly traumatised by thirty-odd years of authoritarian rule by Mosley. Obviously there will always be arguments over how fast is appropriate (and I'm not endorsing Bevan's strategy) but in any case there are, as I see it, many reasons why a freed press would not immediately 'return' to expressing a full range of opinions without the need to involve the authorities. In addition to this, it is also (surprise surprise) not a matter of great controversy to me that the spectrum of media opinion skews leftward in a world that has undergone profound changes in that direction. No different to how our own media skews rightward.

That said, on the deeper point about the policing of ideas, I'll say a bit more below alongside the stuff about Enoch. I think the points you raise speak towards the same sort of thing, and while they'll be elaborated upon further 'in world' as it were over the coming chapters, I'll give an outline of my thinking going into the 'liberalisation' debate.

As required by ancient law and prophecy Enoch remains much the same, though marginally more deranged I would say. As you mention a few thousand Guyanese are not going to change anything, certainly not compared to the couple of hundred thousand who came from the West Indies in OTL, so the 'trigger' seems weaker. At least in OTL there were communities that were rapidly changing and no obvious sign the immigration wave was going to end, to be clear this is in no way justifies his speech or anything remotely similar, but there was a change happening and anyone could see there would be consequences of that. There is nothing like that in the Echoverse so I would sort of expect less of a reaction, his speech seems detached from reality and it was pretty unhinged to start with.
I think a few things are important to note here. The first is the question of precisely who is coming over to Britain. The second is when they arrive, and in what circumstances. And another is of course Enoch's own agenda.

Thanks to the supreme interest of its media, the Commonwealth has just spent the past few months gripped by coverage of the unrest in Guyana. At the same time, there is a situation in the US that verges on race war – and this too comes hot on the heels of ethnic conflict in South East Asia. In other words, all of the conditions are in place for the creation of a racial 'moral panic' should any unscrupulous character wish to set one in motion. This, of course, is exactly what Powell intends to do, and his speech isn't given here after a couple of decades of immigration but in the specific context of a racial dispute that follows months of international racial tension.

This is all to do with who the immigrant population are. Rather than people coming for work or even just to see Britain, the Guyanese coming into Britain are doing so basically as refugees. They're fleeing racial violence and the likelihood of political persecution. Instead of seeing them as people claiming asylum, Powell therefore sees them as 'dangerous', 'subversive' and so on – effectively validating (in his mind) his belief that non-white populations are inherently 'destabilising' in 'white' communities. When a group of newly-arrived Guyanese workers become engaged in an industrial dispute resulting from the racism of their white colleagues, Powell takes this as a vindication of his prejudices. So he decides to capitalise on the scandal and turn himself into a major figure by giving a racist speech that, yes, might be divorced from reality (show me a racist populist whose speeches are based in fact) but is in its way understandable as a product of a specific episode of British politics.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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I'm going to reply to your thoughts in two parts
One is sweary. The other leary.

I think Enoch being Enoch when the non-whites show up isn't too out of character. But there certainly should have been more of an uproar about it. After all, immigrants are not the enemy. The bosses are.
 
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DensleyBlair

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One last thing on that, it does not say good things about this Britain that the authorities aren't going after him. From past chapters I understand it is illegal to express any support for capitalism, free markets, monarchy or any conservative or even centrist views. But massive racism is, apparently, fine.
This is where I'll say a bit more (quite a bit more, as it turns out —future Densley) about the policing of ideas.

The first thing to say is that, no, it is not illegal to express any support for capitalism, free markets or whatever else. That would be an absurd and unenforceable law, except by (in Churchill's immortal phrase) the operation of some sort of Gestapo. (Mosley of course had exactly this, the Bureau of Domestic Intelligence. I'll touch on it below.) What the law prohibit(s)/(ed) was the formation of political parties advocating for fascism, capitalism or the monarchy.

In the early years, of course, this was a bigger issue, and the law was intended to guard predominately against the resurgence of the Conservative and Liberal parties (big C, big L) after their dismantling in the aftermath of the storming of the Cliveden parliament. After 1933–34, following Mosley's assumption of power, the law then became useful to the new Chairman in allowing him to dismantle the fascist opposition in much the same way. This was significant because it allowed Mosley to foster the self-mythology that he was the true hero of the revolution and the guardian of the people, etc etc etc.

At the same time, the fundamental ideas of capitalism, monarchy, fascism and so on sort of dealt with themselves (maybe not fascism. That always seems to stick around…). And of course there is also sleight of hand involved. The British Revolution sprang out of the crisis in capital that followed the Great War, and months after the overthrow of the United Kingdom the capitalist world went through the 1929 crash. In-universe, with no second world war, the free-market capitalist world economy didn't really stabilise until the 1940s – and it certainly wasn't booming until the second half of the 1950s. In other words, outside of 'the capitalist class', which in Britain had already been destroyed by flight, expropriation, violent class struggle and so on, who would really be agitating for a return to the 'old ways'? The revolutionary period destroyed the traditional economy, and in the process of building the 'new' economy Mosley kept Britain insulated from the worst ravages of the Depression. Cue, if not wild adulation, then at least reasonable contentment.

Of course, here comes the sleight of hand. What Mosley really did was build an autarkic system along Keynesian lines: welfarism on a massive scale, and with considerable collectivised elements, sure – but not, fundamentally, a break with the basic systems of ownership, the 'value-form' and all the rest. When opponents on the left started to point this out, they met with the same sticky ends that their rightist counterparts had endured a decade earlier. Mosley had a showdown with the unions between 1946–50 and came out, if not the unqualified victor, certainly stronger in his position than he had been, and with the idea of 'consensual' unionism firmly established. In the years after, the socialist opposition was infiltrated by the BDI (with thanks, infamously, to a delirious and dying George Orwell) and driven underground by about 1952. Mosley then exercised total control over political life for about a decade before being brought down by what was essentially a dispute within his own party.

Meanwhile, what opposition had re-emerged did so along issue-based lines – the nuclear programme, the censorship, industrial safety and so on. All of these things superseded 'fundamental' economic questions, so no opposition formed around eg the implementation of free-market capitalism. 'Mosleyism' was total, so the dividing line was: for or against? The nuance could come after. The censorship was formally repealed in 1963, so only three years prior to where we are now. The old left opposition were quicker off the mark in articulating new positions because they, broadly, had been Bevan's allies against Mosley. The right opposition, on the other hand, are having to entirely rebuild not only their infrastructure, but also their ideas. What would free-market Britain look like 40 years after the revolution? It's like asking what collectivist Britain would look like 40 years after Thatcher. The number of people discussing the question is going to be small, and the answers might seem absurd – but the key thing is that now the discussions can at least happen in public.

As for Enoch… Bevan is all in favour of going after him, but with the Mosleyite terror still such a recent memory there is a very real trauma over the idea of playing the man not the ball where 'freedom of speech' is concerned (plus ça change). The compromise position is to try and play the ball – ie, protect the minority rather than criminalise the speaker, which doesn't really do anything except give the emergent racist fringe a martyr.

Far more important anyway is the response on the ground, which has been strongly against Enoch and pro-migrant.

Finally I got to the US being on fire, which does indeed seem grim. Given we have established there is no happy ending to this tale (there will be no restoration in Britain :( ) and that apparently the US and Britain end up in the 'same place' by the finale, things are only going to get much, much worse for them.
I'm not going to spoil the ending for those who can't see ahead already, but I suppose YMMV depending on how much you're into the idea that all statist systems share a large number of commonalities.
 
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I think Enoch being Enoch when the non-whites show up isn't too out of character. But there certainly should have been more of an uproar about it.
I mean, there was quite a bit of an uproar. Enoch lost his job, the speech got denounced in parliament, the entire media devoted a week to racial issues and thousands of people are out on strike or on demos in solidarity with the Guyanese workers in Luton. The timing wasn't ideal coming a week before the biggest industrial disaster in Commonwealth history, but the race 'issue' hasn't gone away even while attention has been diverted. We'll come back to it in a little bit.

After all, immigrants are not the enemy. The bosses are.
Absolutely. And it's going to be very awkward when the government realise just what exactly the implications of this are…
 
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99KingHigh

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It certainly isn't a cutting social commentary – or if it is then it is unintentional. The slightly flippant answer is that the US didn't undergo a massive wave of social revolution, so the butterfly's wings don't beat as strongly over there.

The less flippant answer is that all of the US's postwar presidents bar one have been counterfactual, and the one who isn't has appeared at a (slightly) different time. So people have been mixed up, just differently to Europe.
From my end, this is about the thick of it.

But also, one can always take a butterfly approach to alternate histories, but that doesn't exactly interest me in the same way as observing how a slate of known characters and viewpoints endure and adapt to different conditions. Take for example, the Red Scare of the 1920s and America's more potent anti-communist conservatism, which is a magnitude more severe than OTL and fairly self-evident in the aftermath of a revolutionary Europe. This stretches all the way down to a ferocious McCarthyism, the inability to solve civil rights, and a national willingness to fight international communism on a scale that probably would please even Mr. Buckley.

Or take the Vietnam War — in this timeline we have a more Pacific-focused United States, and therefore it would be silly to jettison an OTL conflict that still fits the historical milieu (if not more than OTL), except this world gets the added intensity of the Indonesian conflict as a further indication of America's Asiatic preference (and on that point, much more in Vol 2). And there are engaging alternative paths in the course of our leaders (JFK anyone?), even if they are similarly prominent in OTL, which doesn't bother me at all.

EDIT: Oh and Pip, dw, you're not the only one secretly rooting for the Restoration.
 
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From my end, this is about the thick of it.

But also, one can always take a butterfly approach to alternate histories, but that doesn't exactly interest me in the same way as observing how a slate of known characters and viewpoints endure and adapt to different conditions.
This is it, really. Personally, I like having the familiar references in to help see more clearly how things are divergent.

Of course, the two ‘schools’ aren’t mutually exclusive. And in many ways, the further into the ‘future’ you go, the more they converge.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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