Gwydion Madawc Williams, youngest child of Raymond Williams, who was author of “The Long Revolution” and other notable books.
I maintain this site for Labour Affairs magazine.
In my own life, I’m continuing along the broad lines of what my father argued for. Also reminding people how much things have changed since the 1960s. So that no one noticed when John Major as Tory Prime Minister called for a Classless society in the 1992 election. People don’t seem to realise how different the mainstream of the 1960s and 1970s was different from anything that would be acceptable today.
I am not inclined to trust electronic contacts from people I do not know. Or to view it as secure. I’ve written in more detail about this, that the web is always insecure. But you can talk to me using email@example.com, easier than comments.
Up until the 1990s, I was in favour of globalisation on a civilised basis. Concern for all humans and universal peace.
It rapidly became clear that the USA and Europe did not believe in this, and were reverting to bad old Imperialist habits. That the Soviet Union, for all its faults, had been a useful force keeping them in check.
I was one of the minority who said from the start that the whole campaign against Saddam Hussein was foolish as well as wicked. That Saddam, brutal and bad though he was, was the best surviving agent of Westernisation in Iraq.
Globalisation as implemented from the 1980s has also increased inequality in the West, with absurd amounts of money going to a rich Overclass. For details see Degraded Globalisation.
The prospect of a civilised and humane globalisation has been set back by decades by New Right bungling. And by the weak imitation of this folly by Tony Blair and the Clintons, who learned foolishness and repeated it with slavish accuracy. On the positive side, a globalisation in the late 20th century would have involved a heavy element of Westernisation, with the oddities of European culture become standard when they do not merit it. (The sort of thing you see in Star Trek, in which ‘Federation’ values seems excessively rooted in the modern USA even from a British viewpoint.) What we can now expect, all going well, is going to be much more multicultural and balance.
I’ve written a left-wing criticism of Adam Smith, entitled ”Adam Smith: Wealth Without Nations”; published in April 2000 and still available from Athol Books. It shows:
- That he introduced the idea of the ‘miracle of the market’ in a miraculous manner, without explanation.
- That he grossly misrepresented the history of pin-making, his famous example of Division of Labour. Pin-making was socially regulated, which he must have known but failed to mention
- That he was linked to several of the British ministers who provoked the American War of Independence. Evidence is scant – some papers have been destroyed for unexplained reasons – but he seems to have been against the American cause.
- That he was distinctly hostile to Christianity (and not just a disbeliever, which most sources do admit).
Karl Marx was wrong on some points, but mostly on matters where he took the same view as Adam Smith.
People have also asked about my interest in China. I was a teenage Maoist, but stopped believing after we learned of the bizarre flight and death of Lin Biao (Lin Piao). There were also interesting possibilities for a substantial left-wing reform in Britain at the time, with Workers Control a real possibility. I also discarded some of a collection of books I wished I had now kept. But the left had a real chance of winning, sadly spoiled by the tail-end of Leninism in the Trotskyist swarm and the still-influential British Communist Party.
I did visit China, the Mongolian Republic and Hong Kong in 1997, as part of a guided tour that was centred around seeing the Total Solar Eclipse in Mongolia. I was impressed by how modern parts of China had begun, and suspected that Mongolia had made a much worse adjustment. But at that time I mostly had other interests.
I got provoked into resuming a deeper interest in 2005 by the nonsense of Chiang and Halliday in Mao, the Unknown Story. It was being treated reverentially by the British press, though I noticed that almost all of them used similar words, as if they had been told what they should think by senior management and simply reworked the publisher’s press release. It also so happened that I had briefly been associated with Jon Halliday’s more famous brother Fred. I found exactly the same intellectual errors that had made the association brief; an unwillingness to take account of inconvenient truths. Also got hold of some more of his work: an enthusiast for North Korea in Korea, the Unknown Story. And before the Soviet collapse they had done an equally adulatory biography of Madam Sun yat-Sen. Their surprising shift in beliefs is in no way explained in Mao, the Unknown Story, or anywhere else that I have seen.
Since I saw no one else dealing with it seriously, I decided to do so, briefly. But the more I looked at modern Western works about China, the more I concluded that not one of them was talking any sort of sense. They might have spent a long time in China, might even be fluent in Standard Chinese (Mandarin) or some Chinese dialect, but somehow they managed to believe bizarre stories. Had a habit of wriggling around off-message facts in a manner that made it doubtful that this was honest ignorance. Most notably there was a failure to give an overall picture of the Mao era. From a Western scholar who tried to give a total picture of economic growth for human history I learned that Mao’s China had matched the global average in a period of overall global success. From the UN I confirmed that Chinese life expectancy had increased way ahead of other poor countries like India and Indonesia. That the supposed Great Leap Famine was merely a period with a death-rate of 25 per thousand, which was better than the average for much of the developing world.
If no other Westerner was talking sense about China, it was obviously worthwhile for me to spend some time doing so. I recalled books from the Mao era that had given a much better picture, and got some others. So I started writing more, and felt that a lot of things were fitting the world-view I had built up without regard to China.
I did also visit China three more times – for the eclipses of 2007 and 2008 and again in 2016 to see some of the famous cities I had previously missed. I’m not the sort of person who easily chats to strangers, but I do observe and felt I was filling in my knowledge. China would remain fascinating even without Mao and Chinese Communism, representing a totally different answer to some of the problems that European civilisation addressed. Interesting also to contrast it to Japan, which managed the traditionalist modernisation that failed in China. But there are some good books about Chinese history up to 1949: only thereafter does the standard Western view become nonsensical. And it is notable how almost all of the prominent voices speak almost the same nonsense. Cultural and financial pressures can be quite as effective as formal censorship, with the useful loophole than an alternative voice can still exist and be legally heard.