1980s >> 1985 >> no-965-january-1985

On Moscow’s Hit-List

The village of Tatsfield is set high on the North Downs on the Kent/Surrey border; elevation 800 feet. The area is on of gentle landscapes and is always a delight as these change with the seasons.

The community has a long history and during its earliest times had to deal with a problem of water supply. With the high elevation, rain sweeps away and disappears rapidly through the chalk on which the village sits. With the water table hundreds of feet down, wells were impossible. Yet for the early neolithic community, whose implements can still be found, the area had its advantages. The higher ground was more clear that the densely forested lower surrounds and this gave space and freedom of movement. The ability to move and communicate made for the area’s long history.

The Romans were based here and the site of their road passes through local farms. At nearby Titsey lies the ruin of a Roman villa. The Normans also based themselves here and it was they who first built the local church, six years after the conquest. Again, communications were important in feudal times as evidenced by the Pilgrims’ Way which still passes through the village. This was the link between Canterbury, London and places west.

A local anachronism is that Tatsfield still has a squire with rights including that of appointing the local vicar. Now, this remnant of feudalism exists side by side with the ubiquitous commuter who has taken over the village in recent times. Tatsfield is now a dormitory village and every morning commuters stream out to Croydon and the City. In the recent past most of the villagers were local farmworkers. Now, hardly anyone works locally and very few do a socially useful job of work. Seeing the morning exodus one might think that a good proportion of the millions in commerce, insurance, finance and banking sleep in Tatsfield.

The congenial landscapes belie the fact that the military have often had a presence here. Walking through local woods one becomes aware of platforms of concrete, each now under a layer of leaf mould. These are not archaeological mysteries but emplacements which were sited on the high ground during World War II as part of the South East defences of London. These also ringed the Battle of Britain airfield at Biggin Hill, three miles away.

The advantages of elevation now provide for a more sinister and lethal form of communications. With the development of wireless in the 1930s the BBC constructed a radio communications centre in Tatsfield. This became a world-wide listening station and it was from Tatsfield that the first Sputnik was detected in space in 1957. This installation now forms part of an American run electronic guidance system for targeting missiles on Russia and Eastern Europe.

A recent Socialist Standard made the point that the preoccupation of CND with the siting of cruise missiles is irrelevant. A more important reason why Britain would be a target us the siting of these guidance systems. This American base in Tatsfield means that the villagers go to their beds at night in the knowledge that they are very high on the Moscow hit-list. Somewhere in Eastern Europe is a missile aimed at Tatsfield.

Provided we win over a majority workers to socialism and avert the pressing of those lethal buttons, east or west, what would be the part played by the village in socialism? The old facility for communications would come into its own directly for needs. The existing base, now used for the military, could be adapted with satellite links as part of a world communication system, bringing the world’s people together, especially as part of co-operation in dealing with problems.

The only important productive resource in Tatsfield is land and with the enactment of common ownership the squire’s estate and local farms would become the common possession of the whole community. As the Tatsfield community would then become part of urgent worldwide action to increase food production, how could this best be achieved?

Ironically, when walking over the fields and noting the existing use of land one realises what can be learned from what happened during World War II. The land in Tatsfield is second grade agricultural land and what it grows best is grass and cereals. At the present time it is mainly down to pasture for beef and dairy products. Nevertheless, with effort, much higher calorie values can be extracted from the soil with cereal and vegetable production. In the second world war, as elsewhere, the policy was applied in Tatsfield of converting a lot of grassland into arable food production with such crops as wheat, barley, potatoes and a wide range of other vegetables.

This required more workers and one local farm was worked by over fifty people; it is now run by only two, the farmer and his son, with some seasonal work put out to sub-contract. As a result of the war policy of converting grassland to arable with more workers, food production in Britain was increased by 70 per cent. The fifty people working one farm in Tatsfield contributed to that increase.

Initially, in socialism, the community in Tatsfield might fight a very different kind of war — on world hunger. The means for increasing food production could be similar. Where would the people come from? There are plenty in the village already. There would be no insurance, banking and finance so some of the people now doing this could provide for real needs by looking after crops. In this way, the present commuters could enjoy the fresh experience of seeing what their own village is like during daylight hours on a weekday. Transport and energy could be used, not to send people out of the village making futile daily journeys to the city, but to send food to people who need it.

Any visitor to Tatsfield could see the possibilities for increased food production, especially with horticulture. With the people running glass production sending glass, the Tatsfield community could provide a range of fruit, vegetable and salad crops almost all the year round. There is also a fish farm in the village so the expertise required for expanding this form of food production is already here.

How could this increase in food production be co-ordinated with that of other communities? Again we learn from the war years. In 1939, the Ministry of Agriculture set up co-ordinating committees in each of the 61 counties of England and Wales. These in turn divided the work between district council committees. The same arrangement could provide for decentralised democratic control of productive resources in socialism. Tatsfield is part of Tandridge District Council which is one of eleven district councils in Surrey. We could therefore have local representatives on co-ordinating committees at these various levels so as to ensure that the overall pattern of food production was kept in reasonable balance, making appropriate use of various soils and growing conditions.

In socialism the term “our village” would for the first time take on some meaning. We would create a genuine community, not in any insular or parochial way but simply as the immediate means of working with each other as part of our wider responsibilities within the world community. We would even repair and maintain the church. It has a lot of history but capitalism can’t even look after that properly.

Pieter Lawrence

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