ROGER LEWIS is 18 and was born in Bradford, moving to Bath when he was 14. He spent two years in hospital with polio and became interested in anarchism when studying the history of the Spanish Civil War, He hopes to be admitted to the university in October.
THE AFFLUENT SOCIETY HAS DEVELOPED IN BRITAIN over the last eleven years of the post-war era. It became truly noticeable after 1955, when the television set became a necessity and no longer a status symbol. The car, like the television set, has also become an integral part of our society and some economists claim, that four out of every five families own a car. Ever since 1945, when the expected development of the Socialist Utopia did not materialise, due to our struggling recovery from the war and the falterings of the Government itself, the nations' wealth has mysteriously risen.
The social conditions of the majority are better than they have ever been before. Yet still slums remain like virulent stores in our larger industrial cities and the number of houses due for demolition increases each year.
Keynes can be held largely responsible for our post-war affluence, for it was he who discovered the one way to stabilise our capitalist economy, taking the most extreme rises and falls out of the trade cycle. It may be that if Keynes' theories had not been adopted, the capitalist economy would have been replaced by democratic Socialism, libertarian socialism, or at the worst, communism. In any of these cases, there would have been at least a sane planning of the economy.
As it is, the Conservative party came to power in 1951 and has manipulated this new-found affluence to their own advantage, The much regretted "You have never had it so good" speech reveals their true attitude and strategy, although the manner in which they have exploited the increased wealth of the people has grown a good deal subtler since the 1959 election.
With the growth in spending power of the nation, the larger cartels, combines, and monopolies, moved in with frightening swiftness on the unsuspecting consumer. High pressure, percussive advertising, drumming into the minds of the masses, through all media, television, press, film, and pirate radio, has dulled their appreciation and drugged their minds. Frozen food and sudsy beer advertisements bombard the consumer from all sides, And what is more disturbing, is the short-term lasting power of manufactured goods, reduction in size and ephemeral attraction of the outer wrappings. Such methods of production and retailing are direct importations from the capitalist paradise, the United States of America. The argument is, that if goods are made to last, in the long run, less will be purchased and thus production will decrease. As a result men will be laid off, the accelerator will gather momentum, and a slump become imminent. It must be remembered, however, that the concern of the large manufacturers over a slump, is that their profits will fall and not that their workers and even their salaried staff will be thrown out of work. It would be disastrous if our economy took such a turn that the nation would be compelled to consume goods faster and faster, and at such a rate that the natural resources of the nation, and in the extreme the world, would be swiftly used up.
Perhaps the most worrying thing about the nation's present affluence, and that of the last decade, is the bovine apathy which seems to march hand in hand with it. As soon as an average family obtains a television set, a car, a washing machine and a reasonably snug residence, its members seem to lose all interest in culture, politics, religion, and those things that matter more than mere material gain. They carry blandly on living the same drab sort of life from day to day, hardly caring about international matters, voting for the looks and not the ideals of their parliamentary candidate, and mocking those individuals, who, however ineffectually, try to register their protest and concern for the world, national, or their own personal situation. It can only be hoped that such stimuli as the Cuban situation, will have a disturbing effect on the nation's placid attitude to the world in general. Indeed, so far, the entire effect of our recent affluence seems to have done nothing culturally, spiritually, philosophically and visibly positive, except to 'bourgeoisize' the people.
"Coronation Street" and the canned American importation "Gunsmoke", are typical examples of television today. The nouvelle vague in the theatre has been so far poorly supported, and even the noble efforts of men like Kops, Pinter, and Wesker's mobilisation of the stultified arts of the people in Centre 42, have not had the success that is their due.
Unless Britain shakes off her sluggish apathy and sensibly considers all the aspects and problems of the modern world, she will end up as a satellite of the American capitalist bloc, or the Russian totalitarian bloc, with all that both entail. An unpleasant prospect in either case. Culturally and spiritually, she will descend into a slough of despond, never to emerge again. Such a fate all true anarchists must try and prevent.