26 April 2012

No sympathy for the victims of socialism

This is something I drafted a long time ago but did not send because of lack of staff, money, and everything else that makes life tolerable.

copy of a letter to a senior academic

As the oppressive state closes in, there are protesters against capitalism camped outside St Paul’s, and a good deal of sympathy with them is expressed in many quarters.

I hope I shall be able to fit in writing something in praise of capitalism, since it has actually been the only positive factor in my life, and those who wish to abolish capitalism are wishing to destroy the chances of people who are in any way like me.

When I was thrown out at the end of the ruined education I bought the Financial Times and thought all day about how many sixpences I was adding to my capital (by not spending from my daily spending allowance) and how much capital I would need for the very smallest residential college with dining hall facility and ancillary staff.

But, slow and painful though it was, the accumulating coins did me far more good in the long run than the efforts I made to get a postgraduate degree with the grant from Trinity College, Cambridge. At the end of it the way into any university career channel was still blocked, and no financial support was available from any quarter until the King money, which enabled me to do introductory surveys in various areas which I had identified as having potentialities for research while I was doing the BLitt.

But again, this left me empty-handed. When the King money ended, our books still had to be published at our own expense, being blocked by those regarded as experts, to whom prestigious publishers referred them. So I still had no academic salary and no income from books.

Once you have been exiled from society, you should not suppose that it will be possible to return to a normal position in life by doing the same sort of research, and publishing the same sort of books, that you might have done as a socially accepted academic. Throwing money at the problem will not help, as I found. If you use your own money to publish a book, and even if you get it published under a respectable imprint, it will not change your position. You are still known to be a statusless outcast.

Publishing with your own money is ‘vanity publishing’, with which several people have taunted me, and no one has shown the slightest willingness to consider that a book might be a demonstration of one’s grievous misplacement, since if you can produce a book at all in such circumstances, surely it might be regarded as an indication that you could be producing far more if reinstated in a normal career providing salary, status and a hotel environment. This appeared not even to be considered when I was told that my book was still the ‘most referenced’ book in the field of ‘research’ in universities which had arisen since its publication.

The research which we had done with the King money withered on the vine, so far as we were concerned, while providing opportunities for overseas salaried academics, who made no progress that I would myself have regarded as significant.

I would, of course, have been quite willing to do research as pointless as theirs, so long as I was provided with equivalent salary, status and ancillary conditions. I could have undertaken to do only what other people might have thought of doing, but I would certainly have done it more efficiently.

The house in the Banbury Road continued to increase in value over the decades, and we continued to acquire experience of investment so far as our very small capital permitted.

So you can see that it is only capitalism that has ever done me any good, and my attempts to ‘prove my worth’ to senior academics by doing work to a high standard in bad conditions have done me no good at all.