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Daniel Speight

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  1. It now looks like the opposite of “big government” was “lazy government”. When even the most reliant on “market forces” politicians in the US and UK are nationalizing banks right, left and center we have to suspect policies based on this idea have failed. Those who can still stand up and support laissez faire capitalism can only offer a return to a standard of living from a hundred years ago, acceptance of mass unemployment and starvation. Mind you if you can believe in this you can probably believe in creationism too. There is no science in either. BTW for UK history buffs I seem to remember that a major influence on Maggie’s economic ideas before she became prime minister was fellow cabinet member Enoch Powell, an exponent of laissez faire, before Heath dumped him over the “rivers of blood” speech. Why do people follow these nuts?
  2. There is an argument for doing that. Would it have been better to remove Hitler before he caused the death of so many? The problem is that it would be hard to trust individual states to do it as they might have other reasons for doing it. The UN has to represent both the good and bad states, democracies and dictatorships so they would never be able to agree to do it. Maybe we need an organization of democratic states to decide. I would love to hear that we are going to throw out the generals in Burma. I could add to that list and probably Saddan would have been on it, but I suspect that wasn't Bush or Blair's ideas when they went in. If they really wanted to remove unpleasant leaders they would have started somewhere easier with even more evil leaders;-) Rather than rushing troops in though maybe it would be better to give support to democratic organizations in those un-democratic countries. The West seems to be able to do it when there is something for them such as easing out old communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe, but where they already have strong commercial interests, such as Saudi, they don't.
  3. Probably not. What is important is that the maximum amount of people are allowed to vote and what ever government is elected can also be removed at least by the end of it's term. No matter how imperfect the democracy it's usually a better place to be than a state without it.
  4. Yes it is, but now Bush and Blair are stuck with the problem on how to get out. It won't be long before they talking about leaving with honour but it's hard to see how this will pan out. The mistake they made was in their reasons for going there in the first place. They thought they could set up a pliant government that would help keep oil supplies flowing and remove a costly thorn in their sides. If it could have been a Saddan removal, the troops leaving in a few months and leaving it to luck whether the next government was friendly or not then they might have got out with honour. Now not only is America fighting the Sunnis in the north but the UK is fighting with the Shiites in the south. Like Vietnam the longer they wait the worse it will be. A temporary answer would be to set up some buffer zones between the communities and try and keep the troops in barracks as much as possible ... and not to expect the oil to flow in great quantities for quite some while. (I heard that the British troops no longer send patrols into Basra now.)
  5. It's nothing to do with morals. If the people in a state want the government to supply top rate services then you have to tax. The Scandinavian countries seem to do it quite well. Of course some smart guys will leave and go and live in the US so they aren't taxed;-)
  6. Andy what is the definition of political ideology you are giving to your students? My thoughts are that it is gazing into the crystal ball to see what human society can become. One thing we know for sure is that it has changed quite drastically in the past. Our ancestors left the trees to become scavengers on the ground with most eventually settling into farming. At one time we had a feudal society and now we have a capitalist industrial society. We apply the word evolution to Darwin’s theory on animal and plant life, but we can just as easily apply it to society and just like the biologists who look into the past by using the historical records, such as fossils and DNA, we can do the same with society. A conservative political ideology would basically be saying that there will be no change from society’s present state. This ideology would have been wrong in hindsight if it was expounded back in feudal days and I suspect it would be wrong now. It’s the equivalent of having to argue the creationist theories against evolution. We need to be careful with the ideologies of left as too often they were strategies rather than ideologies. A strategy to change the path society is taking makes sense but I suspect many of the writings by Lenin, Trotsky and Mao were an attempt to fit what they were doing at the time into the ideology. (I think that Stalin had no real ideology but was just a throwback to Russian nationalism.) What do I see in the crystal ball? The perfection of democracy. It has been and is a very imperfect thing. It’s not that long ago that women in most countries couldn’t vote and certainly slaves in the US weren’t included in the original constitution. I suspect that America is good place to look for possible future trends in society just as it’s a good place to see trends in most other fields. As Europeans, many of us consider there is a political naivety there, but it might be that not carrying some of the old baggage helps them move quicker. The rate of change or evolution seems to be speeding up. Capitalism and conservative politicians who represent it today have little resemblance to those a hundred years ago. The “One Nation” Tories of the post war years in the UK and George Bush the younger running a presidential campaign as a “Caring Conservative” and trying to attract the Hispanic vote by speaking Spanish just would not have happened at the turn of the last century. Capitalism itself has changed. Fewer large companies are run by their major shareholder/founder. It seems that this type of control can hardly last one generation. Instead we see a manager class running them. The major shareholders are mostly insurance and investment companies which are again run by professional managers. These large companies finance the politicians for obvious reasons but themselves come under more and more government control. The governments need to get re-elected so they can’t afford to upset the voters by allowing the large companies to ride roughshod over the general population. The more educated the population the less they will allow their rights to be decreased. Where will this government/corporate/voter combination end up? Back in the sixties one of the Trotskyite factions was talking about “state capitalism” is relation to the Soviet Union. Maybe it could be applied more correctly to the West today. I find a help in looking into that crystal ball is to hear what the US far right is scared of. Here I’m talking about those militias in camps in the mountains, armed the teeth, ready to repel the UN led invasion of America;-) Big government can’t be all bad if it is a government of the people. Capitalist politicians will still get the majority vote as long as the voters living standards continue to improve. State control limiting the large companies will get tighter until you end up with something even Marx might have been able to identify as socialist. Regional and international organizations of the nation states, such as the UN, EU and NATO will become more powerful. Our journey is going in that direction and although there may be setbacks along the way, only self destruction of the human race can stop it reaching the next step society will take. So should we just sit back and say that evolution will take care of everything? Well that’s where our political ideology/strategy comes in. We can either help speed it on its way or we can try and slow it down. For the conservatives, will there be another Reagan/Thatcher combination to try and turn back the clock? Certainly Bush/Blair isn’t that combination. For the left, should the attempt to speed the change be reformist or revolutionary? Although history can be used to show that sudden changes can take place such as the in biological evolution, the death of the dinosaurs, I have become somewhat suspicious of Marxist historians trying to find revolutionary changes in our past. (England was changing whether Cromwell lopped of Charles Stuart’s head or not;-) As a young man I belonged to the UK’s most dogmatic and disciplined Trotskyite party. Then I would have called myself a Marxist-Leninist. From the age of 22 I spent most of the following 32 years in third world countries and maybe I’ve lost touch. I’m not sure if I really have a political ideology today. Maybe ideologies are for the young, philosophers and teachers.
  7. I have some more information from a number of books that arrived here this weekend. I still have no confirmation that the meeting on the Massey Shaw did take place in 1947. In early 1947 Morrison was in hospital and quite sick. It was while he was in hospital that Ellen Wilkinson killed herself. It seems that after his illness the Parliamentary Labour Party no longer considered him fit enough for the leadership even if still felt he was. By September of 1947 most of the cabinet thought that Atlee was no longer the right man to be leader. This included Ernie Bevin. Stafford Cripps and Hugh Dalton were trying to organize a putsch and replace Atlee by Ernie Bevin. They asked Morrison for his support which was strange as there was such a strong dislike between the two men. Morrison argued that there should be a meeting of the parliamentary party to elect a new leader, where he could throw his hat in the ring. In the end Bevin refused to support any move to remove Atlee. George Brown mentions a plot in 1947 in which he took part but that Ernie Bevin jumped all over him for it. Brown was just a parliamentary secretary to Hugh Dalton then so although he gives himself a leading part he was probably only a follower. Nye Bevan does seem to have been closer to Morrison and his constituency party background rather than Ernie Bevin's trade union background. Both Morrison and Nye Bevan had reason to worry of losing there posts if Ernie Bevin did become leader. I read in one Morrison biography the famous quote by Ernie Bevin of being Morrison's worst enemy was actually aimed at Bevan not Morrison. The meeting does seem a possibility and having it on a Morrison controlled LCC fireboat makes sense. Regarding Ellen Willkinson's suicide I have seem one reference that it was Morrison who wouldn't allow her education reforms to get through the cabinet. The school leaving age was the most important of these. This must have hurt her very much as for about 10 years she had been campainging for Morrison to be leader and was likely to have been an affair with him. Although books on Morrison skirt around his relationship with women in todays world there would be a strong suspicion that he had multiple affairs. His first wife cut off any sexual realtionship after the first two years of marriage although they lived together for another thirty years. He tended to stay overnight at the homes of women supporters. He seemed to be most friendly with older women, maybe something to do with his beloved mother dieing early. Danny
  8. I drew a blank on my father's friend who had been at Fords. He spent most of his time at a Ford unit in the Woolwich Arsenal, not at the Dagenham plant. I just found the following on Amazon but I can't access the page the have for some reason. It's from On the Lookout: A Partial Autobiography by C.H. Sisson. If anyone has access to this book could they see if there was anything else. Fred Copeman's autobiography was published in 1948 I think so that wouldn't probably help. Did he become a Catholic in the end? Thanks Danny
  9. Thanks Ed I have some used books on Bevan and Morrison coming out here next week so hopefully I will find one of them mentions it. If the meeting did take place it would be great to know the date. I do suspect there was talk on the leadership. The left was in no position to win and the choice would have been Ernie Bevin or Herbert Morrison if Atlee had gone. Who would the left have been less scared of? I suspect they had more fear of Bevin even though Morrison was the witch-hunter. Danny
  10. I guess left and right can be very subjective for those involved at the time. Certainly Copeman's disillusionment with the Russian communists was fairly early. After 1956 the flood gates opened, but still in the late 60s I met British Communist Party members who would have felt far to the left of the Labour Party. Not having any real knowledge of Marxism I have to simplify it for myself so I would say that those that believed in revolutionary socialism would have considered themselves left of those who saw a democratic way to their socialist ideal. In 1939 and through to much later communist party members would have still believed they were revolutionary socialist and all the changes in policy by Stalin were needed. Looking back it's easy to see that Stalin was a dictator in a very nationalistic Russian empire, but at the time most party members would have thought they were defending the revolution. Copeman had the chance to see for himself what was going on which obviously changed him. A move to left from the communist was possible. Small groups, some followers of Trotsky, were already in the UK. A move to the Labour Party, even to left wing groupings inside the party would have an acceptance of the idea of a non-revolutionary path to socialism. (This is probably too general as there would have been some left groups that saw entry into Labour Party as a way of furthering their revolutionary aims.) I do wonder about Fred Copeman because he was working for Morrison during the war and the fact that he became a foreman at Fords, a company not noted for its fondness of the labour movement. None of this should affect his status in the history of labour movement as he had already done so much. Spain and the fleet strike just being two instants in his extraordinary life. Danny
  11. John could you help me in one more inquiry. It's regarding Fred Copeman after he left the Communist Party. From the Spartacus web site it seems he moved to the right, joined the Labour Party, worked for Morrison in the war and was a Labour councillor in Lewisham. The strange bit was him becoming a foreman at Fords in Dagenham. I doubt I will ever get to read his Reason in Revolt, but did he just give up in the end? I have asked my father to talk with his best friend who would have been at Fords at the same time, but I'm asking two eighty year old men here and the answer might come quite slowly. He should have been a Labour hero with London buildings or Woolwich ferries named after him. Anything you have on his later life would be welcome. Thanks again Danny
  12. Thanks for confirming that affair. I was worried I had the wrong person. The depression over failure to get the school leaving age changed does seem suspect. She sounded like one tough lady. I would have thought that if Morrison did take money it would have been from the city where he did seem to cultivate friends rather than the Americans. Having said that there seems to have been an almost puritanical dislike of financial corruption amongst those old Labour leaders. Morrison would have had many chances to become rich running the LCC and I don't think he was known as being particularly wealthy. Was Morrison married at the time do you know? Certainly in today's world it would be hard to keep both the affair and the reason for a suicide quiet. Is it Peter Mendelson who is related to Morrison? The secret meeting could be interesting when you think that this Labour government was probably the most radical government, right wingers and all, since Cromwell's rump parliament. It certainly puts the more recent Labour ones to shame from Wilson onwards. In 1946-7 Morrison and Bevan were two of the four leading players with Atlee and Bevin the others. Gaitskell seems to be a rather gray figure both then and afterwards. Now if we were looking for a CIA man in the party Gaitskell would be a good choice as he certainly helped in the election loss to follow. Almost midnight Bangkok time so I had better call it a day. Thanks again
  13. Thanks John and sorry about the link. I will try again below. http://www.thames.org.uk/pages/massey.html There are few mentions of this meeting, so I guess it wasn't that secret after all, unless all the references are from a single source that is wrong. A better link is at http://www.adls.org.uk/shipinfo.cfm?id=55&RestTrust=0 which has the following: A side note on the boat itself. It has a claim to fame for being at Dunkirk, not to put out fires, (it was a London Fire Brigade boat and so under Morrison's control), but to ferry troops off the beaches. Also in the above quote Bevin should read Bevan. 1947 would have been the year before the National Health Service act. Maybe the oposition of the BMA was scaring some of the cabinet ministers, but still Nye Bevan and Herbert Morrison seem strange bedfellows. I was hoping that one of them would have mentioned it in biographys or such like. Much later, after Atlee retired, Morrison does say that he and Bevan had made a deal for him to become leader in the leadership election which Gaitskell won. I'm guessing Gaitskell was further to the right than Morrison. Today it's hard to decide what is the right of Labour Party as I heard Tony Benn saying that even Ted Heath was to the left of Tony Blair. If we think of Morrison and Ernie Bevin being on the right of the post war party, by today's Labour Party standards they would be extreme left. I suspect the CIA didn't need to do much with the leading Labour figures as they were strongly anti-Russian anyway, certainly Bevin wasn't wanting to give an inch in the post-war carve-up. I think if the meeting did take place you are pointing me in the correct direction. Maybe Morrison was trading his support for the National Health Service for future support from the left in any leadership battle. If for any reason Atlee hadn't completed his full term then the fight might have been between Morrison and Ernie Bevin, both of the right, with Nye Bevan and the left being the swing vote. If, and I might have this totally wrong, Morrison was having an affair with Ellen Wilkinson, would this have made him more acceptable to the left? She died in February 1947 so the date of the meeting could be interesting. Last note and going back to the quote above, in more than one reference the meeting was said to be in the Thames estuary, that is the boat actually put out in the river and it wasn't just a fleeting visit to a tied up fire boat. Thanks again for anyone who can dig up something on this meeting. Danny
  14. I hope someone can help as I am living in Thailand and do not have easy access to many books covering this period. I have come accross references on the web to a secret meeting between Herbert Morrison and Aneurin Bevan on a LCC fire boat called the Massey Shaw sometime soon after the war. All the references talk of a meeting about the setting up of the National Health Service. An example is given below. http://www.thames.org.uk/pages/massey.html I am not sure why there would be such secrecy. I think these men wouldn't have been that fond of each other. Would it have been some sort horse trading, maybe with Ernie Bevin as a common enemy? Thanks Danny
  15. I was born in 1951 in Plumstead, London, England. In 1973 I left England to work in the oil industry. For the last 20+ years I have lived in Bangkok, Thailand. Since 1995 I have owned and managed an ecommerce company in Thailand. My interest is in Labour Party politics in the 30-40's and the post-war Labour government. I am also interested in London politics during the above period, the Spanish Civil War and the formation and history of the UN.
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