By Bill Baillie, Nation Revisited
When I first got interested in politics, sixty years ago, the main threat was Communism. The Soviet Union was backing guerilla armies in Asia and Africa and financing left wing movements throughout the world. Our fears were fed by American propaganda that warned of an atomic war. Eventually the threat subsided and the superpowers started talking to each other, but thirty years after the fall of the Soviet Union the Russians are still seen as the enemy. What President Eisenhower called the Military-Industrial Complex still needs Cold War hostility to stay in business. Arms sales depend on tension.
China claims to be a Communist country but it’s really an authoritarian capitalist state. The Chinese have invested massively in the United States and America depends on Chinese exports. The world’s two biggest economies are in fact interdependent.
The next issue was immigration. The UK simply ran out of Irishmen and was forced to look elsewhere for labour. The government found an abundant source of manpower in the West Indies, so they rushed through the British Nationality Act in 1948 to allow Commonwealth subjects to come to the UK. In those days it would have been possible to send them home with fares paid, but now there are too many here to dream of mass deportation. We haven’t got the manpower, the ships, the planes, or the determination, and there’s no guarantee that their homelands would take them back.
At the same time we realised that the Empire was disintegrating; India became independent in 1947 and decolonisation was in progress when prime minister Harold Macmillan made his famous “Winds of Change” speech in Capetown in 1960. His speech was recieved with outrage, but he was only speaking the truth. Within a decade the empire on which the Sun never set was no more.
So, if Communism is a dead duck, immigration is a done deal, and the Empire has passed into history, what exactly are we fighting for? The answer is a complete reform of the capitalist system. Companies that make an honest profit and treat their workers with respect should be encouraged, but the exploiters must be closed down.