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Vidal Sassoon's Socialist Dream
Last uploaded : Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 02:04
Contributed by : Carol Gould



One of the most remarkable interviews I have watched in years was broadcast on CNN in mid- May; I was about to report on its significant points when its subject, Vidal Sassoon, sadly left this mortal world.

In the interview Sassoon said capitalism had not worked and that much of the world and most particularly the United States needed ‘six years of socialism.’ Like so many philanthropists he was worried about the widening gap between rich and poor but also echoed the sentiments of so many of us that austerity is a form of cruelty that leads to increased poverty, not prosperity and growth. He asserted that capitalism had not worked because it had become a mechanism for the accumulation of vast fortunes by the greedy.

Not all wealthy people wish to give their money to the needy but Sassoon was one of those individuals of immense personal wealth who felt, as he said on the programme, that the rich must distribute their fortunes amongst deserving causes. Born into an impoverished home in London’s East End -- so poor that his mother, deserted by her husband, had to turn him over to an orphanage -- his success had enabled him to establish a glamorous life in the United States. The proclivity of American millionaires and billionaires for giving their money away registered with him; his generosity was legendary. One of the most enduring of his projects is the International Institute for the Study of anti-Semitism but he also went hammer-in-hand at age 77 to New Orleans to help build new houses for those rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina.

In the thirty-six years in which I have lived in Great Britain I have noticed the rise of the God of Mammon. Vulgar discussions of the multi-million Pound homes being exchanged between Peter Crouch and Freddie Flintoff are de rigeur. When I first arrived in Great Britain this would not have occupied any column space even in the tabloids. (I like to tell people that in 1976, my first year in the UK, David Lewin in the Daily Mail would have written about the comings and goings of Margot Fonteyn and Laurence Olivier, not shallow reality stars or football WAGs. ) Sassoon mentioned this in the CNN interview in the context of modern ‘celebrity success stories.’ He stressed the need for modern celebrities to spread their wealth amongst the needy rather than accumulating possessions and becoming perpetually acquisitive. In one of my favourite quotes from Flaunt Magazine he said, ‘When the war ended in ’45, even though we had the greatest war hero in Europe, Churchill, people in England were not fools. Churchill was more interested in keeping India, keeping the empire. The people voted in the Socialists and in six years the Socialists built hospitals, a national health service for everyone, raised the school leaving age, created scholarships for the bright paid for by the government, and developed housing.’

In the Financial Times of April 22, 2011, he said, ‘I think [Cameron’s] policies are dangerous to say the least. All those students screaming about tuition [costs] going up and student movements are what start the next revolutions’ adding ‘..there’s nothing natural about 25m unemployed people [the approximate current US figure].

The impression with which I was left after the CNN interview was of a man who felt the world was sinking into a dark place that could rebound in revolution and an inevitable turmoil if the change did not lead to improved circumstances for the working man and woman.

He is gone but his words resonate with me as I hear about unemployed Britons being made to work for free at the Jubilee pageant and sleep in rainy, cold misery under London Bridge. Sassoon was born during the era of the sweatshop and the idea that we are descending into that purgatory once more is appalling and unacceptable. Perhaps his vision of ‘six years of socialism’ is the answer. What is happening to Europe is fast approaching human catastrophe. The successes of Labour in the May elections in Britain -- even in Cameron’s constituencies of Chipping Norton and Witney -- and the rise of the left in France and Italy is a manifestation of the Sassoon dream. FDR rebuilt America with the New Deal; many of the programmes exist to this day. Europe needs a New Deal. Sassoon was right. RIP.

Carol Gould is an American broadcaster based in London who has appeared on ‘Any Questions’ on BBC Radio 4, on ‘Woman’s Hour,’ on the World Service and on ‘Jeremy Vine.’ She is the author of 'Spitfire Girls' and 'Don't Tread on Me -- anti-Americanism Abroad.'


http://flauntmagazine.com/flaunt/wisdom-afternoon-vidal-sassoon .

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/ab688926-6b9e-11e0-93f8-00144feab49a.html#axzz1u7E6Lcyd .


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