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The Christian Faith and the Financial Crisis
Part One: The Christian Faith (3)

STORY OF AN UNSUCCESSFUL REVOLUTIONARY (ME)

Some aspects of this story have a personal interest for me. I have friends in Northern Ireland who are great admirers of both Martyn Lloyd Jones and John Stott, Griffiths' mentors in the Protestant world. I accompanied one of my friends on a sort of pilgrimage to Lloyd Jones's grave in Newcastle Emlyn (and he accompanied me as I went to venerate what might or might not be the relics of Saint David). I wrote a Ph.D. thesis and later a book on the history of Calvinism in Ulster and made great use of the Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast, a wonderful store of Calvinist writings from the sixteenth century to the present day, run by John Grier, the son of Lloyd Jones' friend and colleague W.J.Grier who founded the fundamentalist Evangelical Presbyterian Church in protest against the introduction of 'liberal' interpretations of biblical history in mainstream Presbyterianism. Though never tempted to join this particular school of religious thought I have a certain intellectual respect for it.

I wrote my thesis in the mid seventies in Peterhouse, the Cambridge college which by that time had become a major centre for the development of the body of thought that would later be called, or at least associated with, 'Thatcherism'. At the time I was a member of an eccentric, free thinking little Marxist group, the British and Irish Communist Organisation, but for reasons to do with Northern Ireland politics I had become friendly with T.E. (Peter) Utley, a leader writer for the Daily Telegraph who, I am told, wrote the speech Margaret Thatcher gave on assuming office, the one that quoted Saint Francis. I remember Utley taking me along to hear Milton Friedman speak - very wittily as I recall - in the Institute of Economic Affairs which existed to promote the free market ideology of Friedman and Hayek.

From my own point of view I tended to regard these people - quite wrongly as it turned out - as harmless utopians. They had an idea and they had thought it through to its logical conclusions and that struck me as being interesting but also pointless because the British working class was never again going to accept the status of being a mere passive factor in the production process. The distortions in the market the IEA complained about were a consequence of the balance of social forces. The working class through the trade union movement had become the dominant force in the society. What was now required was that that force, used negatively to prevent the proper functioning of a capitalist economy, had to be used positively so that the economy would be reorganised in the interest of the working class which by now meant the interest of society as a whole. The dominant class had to develop the skills that were necessary to become a ruling class. (4)

(4) Some of the documents in which the B&ICO worked its way round to this conclusion can be found on my website - www.peterbrooke.org.uk - in the 'Politics and Theology' section under the heading 'Homage to Nina Stead'.

For this reason I, with the very right wing Peterhouse as my base, became secretary of the 'Cambridge Workers Control Group' which existed mainly to support the proposals of the Bullock Report on Industrial Democracy. These were centred on the proposition that - where there was a desire for it - the structure of major industries in Britain would be reorganised so that management, in addition to a continued responsibility to shareholders, would also be responsible to the workforce, the people who had the most obvious personal interest in the wellbeing of the place where they worked. This seemed to us in the BICO to be the logical next stage in the history of Britain understood as a continual advance in the power of the working class. In the event, however, the trade union movement, and the Socialist movement in general, even including the Institute for Workers Control, refused the opportunity offered to them. As Hugh Scanlon of the AUEW said: 'It is management's right to manage' and by implication it was the job of the trades unions to oppose them. Neil Kinnock declared, ludicrously, that Bullock was not radical enough for him. The Marxist left seemed dissatisfied with anything short of revolution in the streets.

The end result of the working class refusal to take control was that management and government - almost inevitably if some sort of order was to be restored to British industry - took the unions on and defeated them. A process was set in motion by which management, responsible only to the shareholder interest, with no responsibility to the workforce, became the self serving élite we all know today. The working class became what I thought they would never be again - a mere factor in the cost of production. And British history ceased to make any sense.

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