By Anthony Wells
A single word that increasingly will be bandied about as the 2020 election looms nearer is “Socialism”. It’s associated with the American political far Left and several key individuals, such as Senator Bernie Sanders. Let me say straight up front that what you are about to read is totally non-partisan, with only one intent – to help readers be objective and fair-minded about this much-maligned word.
Simply stated, in the United States true “Socialism” is very much misunderstood. If readers are so inclined, please do some basic research, but to save time and with the full concurrence of the political science majors amongst you, Socialism is when the State, or national government, of a country, controls the key means and factors of production and distribution. Marxists argue that Socialism is a transitory political state or institution `between capitalism and communism.
Let me step back and provide some relevant family history for this discussion. After World War One in 1920 my grandfather, Frederick Wells, a totally self made engineer, left the English West Country (very near to Wells in Somerset) and set up in Coventry in the English Midlands the very first precision gear manufacturing company, Coventry Gear, to provide key components for the burgeoning car and aircraft industries. By the 1930s his largest client was Rolls Royce and he was soon supplying the British war effort with critical gears for the famous Rolls Royce “Merlin” engine that powered the Spitfire and the Lancaster bomber.
In 1945 Winston Churchill lost the general election and the Socialists under Clement Atlee as Prime Minister came to power, having promised the war-weary British people all manner of panaceas for the sacrifices they had made to defeat Nazism. Within no time all the key factors of production were “Nationalized” (bought and controlled by the Labor government), including all the railways, the mines, the airlines, and so on.
By the late 1940s, my grandfather was exasperated and sold Coventry Gear, bought 4 farms for himself and 3 of his children, plus a hotel, and lived the rest of his life farming in the Welsh mountains near to Llandrindod Wells, telling war stories in his bar, totally disillusioned by Socialism.
Churchill was returned in 1950, but too late for my granddad to want to go on. My own father went to work for Rolls Royce.
In the 1960s and 1970s, I witnessed the decline of British entrepreneurship and inventiveness with a succession of disastrous Labor governments led by Harold Wilson and latterly James Callaghan. By the late 1970s, the UK was in deep trouble, with 27% inflation.
When Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister in 1979. I voted for her. As a career naval officer, I had witnessed Denis Healey, Minister of Defense in the 1960s, decimate the Royal Navy, ending the aircraft carrier replacement program and running down the Royal Navy’s global forward deployment. In the late 1930s, Healey had been a member of the communist party while at Balliol College, Oxford.
My distinguished boss while I was on the staff of the Royal Naval College Greenwich, (1972-74), Professor Bryan Ranft, was an exact contemporary of Healy’s at Oxford,(together at Balliol with Edward Heath who became a Conservative Prime Minister), and he wrote countless papers to persuade Healy of his strategic folly, all to no avail. Bryan, one of the brilliant pre-war minds at Oxford, and a man who fought with distinction in World War Two was ignored, dismissively.
So, the relevance of all this is clear: What Bernie Sanders and other like minds espouse is absolutely NOT Socialism.
Winston Churchill was a huge proponent of social reforms, bringing in unemployment benefits and the like in his early political days. During the Second World War, he introduced in 1944 a far-reaching Education Act and laid the detailed foundation for the National Health Service that persists to this very day.
In November 1942 the Beveridge Report was to reform social welfare, all under a great Conservative leader.
Socialism is not about providing basic services, like education, health care, roads and bridges, law enforcement, and social security and related benefits for people’s later years. This is a huge misconception. I lived through, and my family in England endured, the worst of Socialism. But, what Sanders and others say when talking about government paid higher education is absolutely not Socialism.
Under every Conservative government in the UK university education has been virtually free by US standards, with today 9,000 pounds sterling per annum the maximum anyone pays for a college education.
My message is simple: Do keep an open mind and listen to the policy details as we move towards November 2020. Our great American political and economic traditions and Socialism are totally antithetical, thank goodness! That’s just one of the many reasons I’m proud to be a naturalized American.