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The spirit of ’45 — when Britain beat more than the Nazis

THE Tory Party is riding high in the polls with a 50 per cent approval rating while Labour has slipped to 30 per cent.

But behind this apparent high the Tories are in an increasingly vulnerable position. Evidence of their neglect in the preparation for such an emergency as the Covid-19 pandemic, and its incompetence as the crisis unfolded, is mounting.

Boris Johnson has served his principal purpose in seeing off Labour and the countervailing pressures within the Tory Party reflecting the divergent interests of big business over the terms of its accommodation with the EU are already finding an expression.

The topography of the Tory Party is changing — not least over the extent to which the lockdown could be relaxed in the interests of profit.

National emergencies tend to drive a consensus around basic principles and the government’s presentation of its coronavirus strategy as about protecting the NHS is a notable propaganda coup.

Of that 50 per cent of people who approve of the Tory government, a good proportion will have stood outside their front doors last night clapping NHS workers.

The NHS has been protected, although at great cost to the hard-pressed staff who have borne the brunt of the battle to beat the infection. How much of this has been paid for in the deaths of people in care homes is yet to be fully counted.

The creation of the NHS is the main achievement of the post-war Labour government and the only one that has not completely reverted to private ownership. Rolling back the creeping privatisation that has dissolved much of its internal cohesion is not possible without a public and active exposure – at local level, in Parliament and on the streets — of each manifestation of the profit drive.

As we mark the defeat of the Nazis it is worth recalling that Britain’s ruling class had one advantage over its continental comparators. Because Britain resisted invasion – and our ruling class was not completely compromised by collaboration with an invader as were others — the spirit of 1945 is not remembered as a settling of accounts with a class enemy.

Rather it was a festival of national unity and an Allied victory in which the the 27 million Soviet casualties were mourned as our own and the triumphs of the Red Army celebrated as much as those of our combatants.

There was very little of this today. Our mass media, almost entirely in the hands of billionaire owners, and our government have little interest in reviving memories of a time when the victory over fascism — “the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital” — was seen as the precursor of socialism and when the Conservative premier who led the country in that war was pensioned off by an electorate with little time for Tory policies.

The division of our continent into capitalist and socialist spheres lasted just over four decades and today’s more or less complete domination of capitalist economic relations has seen the most complete rollback of socialist gains in the former socialist countries.

But this change in the balance of forces has also meant that in those countries, like ours, the social gains that flowed from the victory over fascism — mass public housing, full secondary education, a system of social care and unemployment insurance, grant-aided higher education and a measure of equality — are now eroded.

The lesson of seven decades of victory and defeat is that every gain, including a change of system, must be defended.

 

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