Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Oh To Have Breathed The Cleansing Air Of This Day 60 Years Ago

Caption Reads: "Now then Clem, let's see what you are made of!

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

Today is the 60th anniversary of the election of Britain's most visionary government and a mark of triumph for a democracy then tested by 5 1/2 years of brutal war. On July 26th, 1945 Winston Churchill and the Conservative Party conceded defeat in the face of an overwhelming landslide victory by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. Because of the privations and call to duty experienced by all classes during the Second World War (still ongoing in Asia at the time of the election) a unique mood of clarity and maturity seemed to come over the British people who instead of voting for a return to the deluded imperial pomp and dusty noblesse obilge culture of pre 1939 that a peacetime Churchill represented, chose to grasp the nettle and set about trying to build a better future.

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Attlee's government has long been regarded as Labour's greatest and most successful period in office. At home it extended the Welfare State, introduced the National Health Service and brought large parts of British industry into public ownership. Abroad it was instrumental in persuading the Americans to implement the Marshall Plan that saw the revival of a war-torn Europe. It was the inspiration behind the creation of NATO, and it gave independence to India. They were not perfect and they faced their fair share of internal squabbles and political disasters. After all, if they had been all that the myth claims they were, Britain would have had a Labour Government uninterupted by those bothersome Tories for the last 60 years. But although they might not have had all the answers the ones they did have were sublime.

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

In our post modern, globalized, free-market, me me me, small thinking world it is argued that the great social reforms of Britain 1945 cannot ever be repeated and that we should be content to get by on the morsels our corporate masters and corporatized governments give us. Even if that is the case (and I don't think it truly is) I'd rather be Don Quixote and keep tilting than cower before the god of market psychosis. After all, it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

Here's the BBC account (my major quibble being the way they phrase the title):1945: Churchill loses general election

And here's the 1945 Labour Party Manifesto (Platform) in full.

Aneurin Bevan, coal miner and Minister for Health in the Attlee Government elected this day in 1945. Thanks to Nye, my family and millions of other people have enjoyed outstanding free health care for over 6 decades. Even Thatcher couldn't destroy the NHS


Mondale said...

Here, Here Weasel. I couldon't agree more. I'm proud of a lot of things about Britain but one of the things that makes me proudest is the NHS. She may be getting on for 60 and tired and weary, but no one , young, old, weak, poor has to ever worry about medical bills.

weasel said...

And bless your mum, NHS angel. I love this bit from the manifesto of '45:
"Great economic blizzards swept the world in those years. The great inter-war slumps were not acts of God or of blind forces. They were the sure and certain result of the concentration of too much economic power in the hands of too few men. These men had only learned how to act in the interest of their own bureaucratically-run private monopolies which may be likened to totalitarian oligarchies within our democratic State. They had and they felt no responsibility to the nation."
Could have been written yesterday. Who dares say socialist thought has had its day?

Mondale said...

God bless you Weasel, you breathed that cleansing air the minute you were born, the minute you had your first hearing test, the minute you visited the dentist.
When your grandparents took hospital treatment and when your neice was born. That's when you took that cleansing air.
With every word uttered from Mr Gaitskill, Mr Foot, Mr Benn, Mrs Castle, Mr Kinnock. You have also breathed that cleansing air.
God bless you Comrade.

RPS said...

Among these dark Satanic mills?

Interesting how you hear a song for years and years and never really get one of the lines — maybe because Emerson, Lake, & Palmer (or William Blake, for that matter) didn't sing all that well.

Never realized that Satan was one of the local mill owners. Does He still have any business holdings in Britain under the current administration?

weasel said...

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer are three words I never want to see on this blog again, except followed by "died tragically".

That was the true era of muddy lyrics though: my dad has long held that Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" was about a jewish lady fainting (he insists the lyric is "The face of Bernice Goldstein turned a whiter shade of pale" and nothing can shake him from this) and of course our mutal friend Diana always thought the chorus of the Allman Bros. "Whipping Post" was "make love to the women folk" rather than "tied to the whipping post."