A letter to the dystopian future

In 1947 the English author Dennis Wheatley wrote a letter to the dystopian future he thought was coming and buried it. Twenty-two years later the letter was uncovered. It had not aged well.

Allan warren [CC BY-SA]
Dennis Wheatley wrote thrillers and supernatural novels, and he was extraordinarily successful at it. He was a kind of mid-20th-century Dan Brown. (He was also rather influential: one of his characters supposedly inspired Ian Fleming to create James Bond.) Wheatley was a conversative, a royalist, and very much taken with the occult.

In 1945 Clement Attlee became the Prime Minister of the first majority-Labour government of the United Kingdom. He began to implement a range of labour reforms – reforms that Wheatley were afraid would lead inevitably to a communist dystopia. So he wrote a letter to the future that urged people to rise up against this imagined oppression, and then he buried it in a time capsule at his country house.

You can read the full text of the letter in one of the links below. First Wheatley describes the present:

The ‘all men are equal’ advocates were far from content and are now in the process of lightening the natural burden of the workers to a point where the wealthy and even the stability of the nation is threatened. Employers are now no longer allowed to run their businesses as they think best but have become the bond slaves of socialist state planning. The school leaving age has been put up to 16, and a 5 day working week has been instituted in the mines, the railways and many other industries.

More schooling! A five day working week! Disaster! Tyranny! Next Wheatley predicts that the slippery slope will inevitably lead to a dystopia of the type he saw in the Soviet Union:

There is not a shadow of liberty left. Everyone is compelled to labour to the limit of their endurance in return for their bare subsistence. They can be arrested and imprisoned or shot without trial. There is no justice and no freedom of either thought or action. Few have any conception of the joys that go to make life worth living. The Russian people now know no other form of life than that of state slaves. Day after day they labour on like harnessed animals. From their dreary lot there is nothing to look forward to, no future and no escape. And this is the ultimate outcome of the false, pernicious doctrine that all men are equal. Socialism is but a halfway house.

Finally, he calls for action!

It will be immensely difficult to break the stranglehold of the machine, but it can be done, little by little; the first step being the formation of secret groups of friends for free discussion. Then numbers of people can begin systematically to break small regulations, and so to larger ones with passive resistance by groups of people pledged to stand together – and eventually the boycotting, or ambushing and killing of unjust tyrannous officials. Your life does not matter, but your freedom does.

Although it doesn’t appear in this letter, Wheatley was apparently convinced that communism was secretly Satanic. This letter was buried at Wheatley’s country house and he anticipated it staying hidden for a long time. But it was only twenty-two years later that the house was demolished and the letter found. 1969 Britain was not the hellscape he imagined, despite the scourge of those awful Satanic socialist policies. The letter itself did not become public until the 2000s, which were also not a socialist disaster zone.

It’s almost like instituting a social safety net doesn’t actually destroy the world. Who could have known?

2 Replies to “A letter to the dystopian future”

  1. Wheatley’s ‘letter to posterity’ was one of the inspirations for the plot of audio comedy-thriller serial FILTHY ’47, which concerns a sinister plot concocted by disgruntled aristos in 1947 England.

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