Friday, 5 June 2009

I have been a lifelong Socialist - England (5)

(See the previous entry today for some photo’s of Weymouth and Dorset)

T and W have been friends of mine since 1960. I worked with T for less than a year at the Government Bookshop in Bristol, and soon got to know W his wife, and their daughter L.

(One of the major themes of my life is to stay connected with old friends).

When I saw T and W in 2004 we got teary eyed at the thought that we’d never see each other again.

Here we are in 2009, and we visited again in Bristol. Both T and W have poor eyesight, and T suffers from re-occurring and debilitating bronchial infections. We rejoiced in our visit over a cupt of tea and some biscuits.

T and I talked about the demise of the British Labour Party. This was the party which once stood for the rights of the working classes. Now it seems to stand for no more than hanging on to power.

T said something which rejoiced my heart, mostly because I would never here this in the U.S.A. He said: “I have been a lifelong socialist”.

Amen to that! British socialism arose from the Congregational and Methodist Church working people. It was inspired far more from the Gospel than from Marx or Lenin.

It was a socialism which fought for workers rights, for free public education [from pre-school through university], for old age pensions, and for decent and universal health care. It was a socialism which was dedicated to the welfare of all.

(Even as late as 1972-1976 I received a University education with no cost to myself - the Government believed in free education for all).

True British socialism did not do well with the public ownership of the steel industries.

But the public ownership of water distribution, of gas and electricity production and distribution; and of the British railway system ensured affordable gas, electricity, water and transportation to the poorest of people.

It was that dreadful ideologue, Margaret Thatcher, who began the sorry process of dismantling all that the reforming Labour Government of 1945-1951 had accomplished. She, for instance, “killed” the British Coal industry for no discernable reason than that she hated public ownership of public resources.

I am so indebted to British socialism that, whilst in Dorset, I visited Tolpuddle, an historic place for all those who believe in the rights of workers.

I’ve written previously about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and you may read all about them here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolpuddle_Martyrs

I was happy to make this simple pilgrimage to the village of British proto-socialism.

With my friend T I am proud to say that “I have been a life-long Socialist”.

My American friends who rail against socialism are simply dumb. They do not know of what they speak.

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