Thoughts on the Present Crisis
Britain dithered under incompetent government until war preparations, and then the war itself, brought full employment, while Germany, under Hitler, with Schacht in control of finances, went into war preparations from 1934, thereby creating a state-controlled economy that was fundamentally socialist, with capitalist enterprises also under state control, and willingly cooperating.
No doubt the stories about the abuses complained about were much exaggerated, but they were widely believed. And the trade unions, on whose support Labour government was totally dependent, had such power that they became overly arrogant, inspiring ever more middle-class rage. The young, affluent for the first time in history, had adopted a lifestyle that their elders could only decry, and this too contributed to the right-wing backlash, which came to a head with the arrival of Margaret Thatcher. She started by abolishing free milk in school, and ended by attacking the trade unions, and, with help from the judiciary, fatally weakening them. One result of this was the collapse of heavy industry and manufacturing, the principal employer of trade union labour, which meant that much more had to be imported from abroad, thus turning the country into dependence on the service industries.
There was no way that directors at the top of a pyramid could possibly know what was going on in the many subsidiaries that they controlled. Time had to be spent on the golf course, on holiday or in socialising, while local managers could safely build their own little empires somewhere in the middle of a globalised complex, safe for years from supervision providing they knew the many accounting tricks that could hide losses, cover up fraud, mis- appropriation of funds and theft, often going into millions. Occasionally something would come to light, such as the collapse of Barings Bank, but the lesson was never learned. Many large companies are inevitably hollow in the middle and now that the bubble has burst can expect ever more disclosures of massive losses created by mismanagement, incompetence and criminality.
There are only three long-term solutions, one of them another international war that might well become a world one. Only by looking at that possibility as a real possibility and avoiding facile and dishonest reassurances can we avoid it. The other two both involve a strictly regulated and controlled economy and the more it is a nanny-state the better: one is a move to the right, towards a socialised fascism, and it would involve more than hardship for vulnerable minorities, which could expect expulsion and the destitution we see now in countries like Zimbabwe. Inevitably it would be enforced by the military and a more repressive police force. The other, and it would be the most difficult to achieve because of rival pressure groups, official obscurantism, and misinformation promulgated by the popular media, would be a new humane socialism, trying to bring all classes, cultures and wealth groups together into a narrower band of life-style, so that both great wealth and abject poverty would disappear and a new community spirit, based on cooperation not competition, honesty, competence and decency, not greed and selfishness, would begin to appear.
That this sounds utopian and unlikely, I am well aware. But so is the survival of our species on this planet, already several times overpopulated and rapidly running out of the most basic resources of food, energy, water and amenity. It is time for authority, or at least those who have access to the channels of public information, to ring the alarm bells so that we all reconsider our future without reference to our past, aware of how dangerous is the present for our very existence. We must face up to sacrifice and deprivation, and only a new community spirit can make that possible.