5 JULY 1975, Page 25

Must the left have all the liturgies?

Michael Ivens

A potent myth is that defenders of the free and enterprising society are a small and lonely band. of warriors, waging an inevitably losing battle against the cohorts of socialism.

Any real growth of populism (not Mr Ben's plastic variety) would show exactly the opposite. Certainly that is the lesson demonstrated over and over and over again by national polls during the last few years. Overwhelmingly the public reject further nationalisation, believe free enterprise is more efficient, fear that freedom may soon be threatened, and are more suspicious (and realistic) about the Communist Party than are most politicians.

Nobody is likely to do better from an orgy of referenda on the major economic and political issues than those who believe in responsible capitalism. And yet pluralistic ignorance has produced a situation in which the majority feel lonely and isolated.

An important reason for this is that during the twentieth century the left throughout the world has been the movement of propaganda. Liberal states have mastered pro paganda sporadically during wars, but it is the left alone — and by this 1 include also the fascist movements, the 'neo left' — who have pursued Propaganda persistently. That is why the left is so monopolistic about the means of propa ganda. Any intrusion into their field is regarded as a sinister plot. The capitalist is allocated the role of victim, and he arouses intense moral indignation if he ever aspires to move out of a (to him) maso chistic relationship with his persecutors.

One of the most potent forms of propaganda — or 'communication,' to use the more polite word — is that of liturgy. Here the upholders of liberalism have been imaginati vely destitute. The left, in contrast, has an irresistible desire to create its liturgies, its ceremonies, its days in the calendar, its symbols. And so we have had May Days, marches, doves, clenched fists, upright arms, sitdowns and sit-ins, flying banners, martyrs, hammers, sickles, fasces, black shirts, Red Flags, Horst Wessels, and much more besides.

To which Western capitalism has responded with 'Mother's Day,' and not much else. So this year we are to have July I as Free Enterprise Day. And the Whole week as Free Enterprise Week.

When the idea of a market economy rejoinder to May bay struck me early this year, I felt that somebody must have started it somewhere, But no. Letters dispatched to other countries made it clear that this would be a new piece of liturgy. There was one exception. Finland had produced a Free Enterprise Week forty-two years ago. It started as a defence against the co-operatives. And despite the heavy influence of its neighbour, the Soviet Union, and a powerful national communist party, the idea has grown to a Free Enterprise Month with one week for each region of Finland. The occasion is so popular that one fifth of the population joins in, the participants ranging from businessmen to

workers, schoolteachers, housewives and religious institutions.

When the idea of a Free Enterprise Day/Week occurred to me, I immediately thought that it needed a year's planning (I now believe it needed two years'). But time was not on our side as the flood tide of hyper-inflation and the swirling currents of subversion push us towards very unknown scenery. And so Aims of Industry (or Aims for Freedom and Enterprise as we are now called) decided on doing it in three months. And why July 1? Well, we would have preferred a pagan feast day but May Day and December 25 were already pledged, and St Valentine's Day was too soon ahead as well as having associations with a different kind of liberalism, not to mention an American massacre, And so, in the interest of mnemonics, we had to go for a first of the month. June I was a Sunday this year — not a good day to start with. August is the proletarian and school-holiday month, September the bourgeois vacation, October the month of party conferences, November wet and December near Christmas. And so Fate's primitive computer decided on July 1. Thus are traditions born. So far the little gods of liturgy have been astonishingly helpful. Free Enterprise Day and Week have already grown at a rate which has been far beyond our expectations.

Margaret Thatcher's prompt willingness to make a speech on freedom and enterprise on July I at the Europa Hotel and to present the Free Enterprise Award of the year certainly helped. She is also giving a special award to the gallant Finnish organisation for their pioneering efforts. The man receiv

ing it is an ex-Liberal minister, which makes it a nice non-Party event.

Although it is not true that the advertising industry are pressing for the erection of a statue to Aims, they ought to. A number of national papers and over one hundred and thirty provincial papers, not to mention The Spectator, have decided to do special supplements during the week.

The retail associations have been splendid allies, and slogans will appear in their thousands in shops and on lorries. A Free Enterprise greetings card is also proving popular, and a newspaper Stay Free will appear on July 1, written by distinguished journalists and with cartoons by Michael Cummings and Richard Willson.

One rash assertion made in March was that July 1 would see a rival to the Red Flag. By courtesy of Mozart and a contemporary poet, 'Freedom's Flag' will be sung at the Europa by one of our most distinguished baritones. It will be interesting to see if the gathered directors, politicians, academics and journalists, will lose their inhibitions and join in and sing. My bet is that they will.

Margaret Thatcher may not have Ted Heath's conducting experience but I am sure that the event is going to create its own participation.

My sporadic listening to the music of Time certainly tells me that the country is ready for an assertion of political and economic liberalism. As Marxism has it, there comes a time when quantity becomes quality. And the sheer quantity of legislation threatening freedoms, and the boldness of those who are now unabashedly calling for an end to the Open Society, is causing a counter-reaction.

We may not see directors dancing in the streets. But we may yet see them demonstrating. And Free Enterprise Day will do enough to continue. 1976 will be a bigger event, with many of those who hoped for a 1975 success but cautiously kept out in case of failure joining in. And 1977 will be bigger still. For there is no reason why the devil should have the best tunes nor the left the best liturgy.