Biteback Publishing have published a new biography of Clement Atlee. Authored by Michael Jago, it explores what motivated Atlee and drove him to become one of the most influential of Labour Party leaders.
Atlee had a remarkable record in putting through his programme. In 6 years he achieved major structural reform of Britain’s economy and society. He is thus to be admired dispassionately as an effective Prime Minister. What he also did was to teach us all an important lesson: Socialism doesn’t work. While other European nations were renewing themselves after the destruction and exhaustion of a world war, Britain wallowed in nationalization and allowed its industries to stagnate and decay under state ownership and control. He left a country impoverished, heading down a slope that left it diminished, impoverished and ineffective. Only in 1979 did Britain begin to shake off his influence, change direction, and once again climb back to prosperity and significance. Atlee left a legacy that lasted, it is true, but it was a legacy that left his country ruined for decades.
It was an important lesson, though, and one we learned again just 25 years ago when the Communist empire collapsed and left exposed not just the terror that had sustained it, but the squalor it had concealed for so long. Socialism doesn’t work and never has done because it goes against the grain of human nature and the desire of peoples to make free decisions that can improve their lives and better the lives of others in the process.
We can only hope that people will not only read the new book about Atlee, but that they will also remember the lesson and the years of suffering that it took to learn it.