Harold Mcmillan, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom speaking in 1957, famously said the following:
You will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.
Indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.
Go around the country, go to the industrial towns, go to the farms and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.
What is wrong with that? What is it that gets people’s backs up when they hear You’ve never had it so good repeated today?
What is it that gets my back up? It is this:
In the early days of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, the conditions under which the workers worked were terrible. Adults and children worked in conditions that literally killed them.
Today, their descendants work in much better conditions. But to say that people have never had it so good is to miss the question that should be asked.
The question should be, how good could things be?
If those who profited from those terrible conditions had not done so, then the capitalists of today would not be where they are.
They live off and are the heirs of those terrible conditions. If they wanted to redress the wrong, they would share. They would give back what their predecessors took from the ancestors of those working people who in 1957 ‘never had it so good’.
There is a counter-argument that the Great Leap Forward of the Industrial Revolution could only have happened with the imposition of those terrible conditions.
That is the argument put by the interrogator in Darkness At Noon.
Perhaps. But while we will never know what would have been lost, we know the human cost that reverberates today.
The State promised and the State failed. The State promised to take over from the family and the community. It promised to support whenever someone needed support, and it failed.
The plunderers took control of the State, and if history teaches us anything, it is that once in power, plunderers cannot help themselves.