“Technical Progress in Civil Aviation and its Social Consequences for the Workers: The declarations adopted and speeches made by the participants in the International Civil Aviation Seminar held in Moscow, 7-10 September 1971”.
My Dad would have been 99 years old today. I can just make out his familiar bald pate in the lower left hand corner of the cover of this conference proceedings booklet, from the family archive. I remember both Dad and Mum going to Moscow on separate occasions, to attend conferences; Dad was representing his BEA trade union branch at this one, and the transcript of his speech is included. From this distance it makes poignant reading. He talks of “Nationalisation of basic industries which, in Great Britain, was one of the outstanding achievements of the British people in the years which followed the defeat of Fascism and reaction in 1945. The desire for Socialism was widespread and the power of Trade Unionism was increasing in strength from day to day.” He goes on to explain the system of worker representation in Britain and the benefits and improved working conditions these had brought about; “but in the last year the sky has been darkened and we are suddenly faced with new and great problems. A temporary tide of reaction has set in, in Britain. The gains made by all our Nationalised industries have excited the envy of those who live by private profit alone and who are not concerned with the interest of the people as a whole. A Conservative Government has been elected, pledged to undo all the advances of the immediate post-war years”. He talks about the threatened privatisation of those routes which BEA “after decades of pioneering work paid for by the people out of taxation” has made profitable, and the dangers therein for both the workers and the people, who should enjoy the benefit of cheaper air travel as a result of their investment. He mentions Edward Heath’s Industrial Relations Bill and the powerful demonstrations against it (demos which I remember being taken on aged 9 or 10, chanting happily about killing the bill and sinking his yacht and hoping he can’t swim). Dad concludes that “These attacks will undoubtedly create great problems for us, but history is on our side and the answers will be found…But above all we realise that no airline is likely to develop without a general extension and improvement of Civil Aviation as a whole, in the world-wide sense, and that in turn can only take place in a world political situation of Peace and the breaking down of all artificial barriers between peoples.”
Also pictured above is the postcard of the Kremlin that he sent us, in which he says “Just done one hard day’s work at Seminar. Speech well received…Hope all the people I’ve invited to 21 [our house] don’t all come at the same time!” I also have the letters he wrote home to Mum (they always wrote to each other if they were apart, even for one day) in which he describes his disgust on realising that the smart woman who engaged him in conversation in the hotel lobby was actually a prostitute.
Happy Birthday, Dad. We are still looking for those answers.