One of the major attractions of the Left – especially to the young – has always been their identification with romantic rebellion and revolt against the stuffy, conventional established order. In England, this goes right back to the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men – cocking repeated snooks at authority in the shape of the Sheriff of Nottingham; living free under forest skies; and above all subverting the social order by robbing the rich and giving the proceeds of their muggings to the poor. Even though Robin himself may be a Myth, his outlaw image expresses a timeless ideal of the discontented and the restless.
It was no accident that the left-wing Hollywood screenwriters Ring Lardner Jr. and Ian McLellan Hunter, blacklisted in the US by anti-Communist McCarthyism, found a refuge in Britain where they anonymously wrote the teatime children's TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood which slithered a seductively attractive message of social equality and anti-establishment revolt into millions of homes and impressionable young minds in the grey 1950s.
The arrival of rock 'n' roll in the same decade fed into the same stirring zeitgeist of revolt. The prevailing heroes of the hour – James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause; Marlon Brando in The Wild Bunch and Elvis Presley, whose curled lip and gyrating hips seemed a permanant sneer and thrust against the old and the conventional. The music spawned a succession of youth movements – the Beats, the Teds, the Mods, Rockers and finally the Hippies, all dedicated in their different ways to beating a path away from the routes taken by their parents' generation.
Inevitably, the global youthquake of revolt found political causes to hitch their waggons to. Nuclear disarmamant in a world threatened by atomic obliteration was an obvious one; and soon TV pictures beamed out from the atrocious war in Vietnam offered another. The political establishment on both sides of the Iron Curtain in the 1960s was dominated by old men (emphasis on the 'old' and the 'men') – from the geriatric tyrants of Communism – Brezhnev, Mao and Ho Chi Minh – to the World War One generation: Adenauer, de Gaulle and Macmillan – who still held sway in the West. When a young charismatic leader – President JF Kennedy – appeared to break the mould, it seemed only inevitable that 'they' – unidentified dark forces – should kill him and resume business as usual.
To the post-war baby boomers who marched to Aldermarston nuclear weapons research establishment every Easter; or gathered outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square to protest about Vietnam, their elderly rulers represented reaction, repression and finally death. While they – at least in their own eyes – with their music, their mind-expanding drugs, their flower power and free love, were on the side of life and the future.
Somehow – it may have been the strength of the dope they were imbibing – it quite escaped the Love Generation that the heroes whose posters plastered their bedsit walls: the bearded Fidel Castro, and above all his murderous failure of an acolyte, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara – were brutal dictators far more repressive and grim than the tolerant old democrats against whom they were marching and chanting.The Trade Unionists who made pilgrimages to Cuba and East Germany did not pause to reflect that strikes were unknown in these socialist paradises – not because they were not needed, but because they were banned.
In the end it was not the Sixties and seventies 'fun' toy revolutionaries – the Tariq Alis, the Danny Cohn-Bendits, the Weathermen, the Baaders and the Meinhofs – who triumphed, but those who – in the main peacefully – overthrew Communism in Russia and across Eastern Europe twenty years later. After half a century of unfettered power, the original revolutionary impulse of Communism had ossified into a grey bureaucratic dictatorship, no longer capable of inspiring loyalty even among its own salaried apparatchiks.
Two decades after those great upheavals, the 'long march through the institutions' advocated by the more thoughtful and dedicated of the 60s revolutionaries – though grown grey and pot-bellied now, is nearing their desired destination. An entrenched new class, holding to the neo-Marxism of 'political correctness' as if to a new religion, has its sweaty hands clammily clasped round the levers of power. A new Establishment – in politics; the civil service; the judiciary; the media; local government; academia – even the police – the hated 'pigs' of yesteryear – sits in air-conditioned offices in London and Brussels spinning a fine mesh of rules, laws and codes to bind, control and slowly enslave us all.
Faced with this reborn Establishment, is it not time for Tories to take on the unaccustomed role of the rebel? For, in a curious reversal of history, any resistance to the stifling blanket of conformity that has been flung over our liberties must come from the Right. Even if Labour are ousted from office tomorrow, their nanny statist mindset will continue to dominate our culture until it is challenged by a Conservative revolution. It is their placemen and women who sit on the quangos and the judges' bench, teach in the classrooms, pontificate in the studios, and write the editorials in the Guardian and Independent (the Pravda and Izvestya of our time).
How long will the young, the traditional foot soldiers of revolution, continue to tolerate the lazy-minded, dispiriting, disempowering and frankly tedious nostrums of the Left? How long before they yearn to snip through Nanny's apron strings and run free? In 1979, at the fag end of the Sixties and Seventies revolutionary wave, a brave woman modestly proposed that startling paradox: a conservative revoluton.
No wonder that a popular poster shows Che Guevara's iconic beret and curling locks framing the face of Margaret Thatcher. With the Left once more occupying the commanding heights of our culture, it is time for Tories to storm those heights once again.