JB Priestley in his own words…

During 1940-41 Priestley was a leading figure on the BBC propaganda services.

In this talk, he describes the events of Dunkirk and helps to create the glorious defeat and iconic status of the ‘little ships’.


Another talk, given in July of the same year had more obvious political leanings:

 J. B. PriestleyPostscripts, radio broadcast (21st July, 1940)

‘We cannot go forward and build up this new world order, and this is our war aim, unless we begin to think differently one must stop thinking in terms of property and power and begin thinking in terms of community and creation. Take the change from property to community. Property is the old-fashioned way of thinking of a country as a thing, and a collection of things in that thing, all owned by certain people and constituting property; instead of thinking of a country as the home of a living society with the community itself as the first test…

And I’ll give you an instance of how this change should be working. Near where I live is a house with a large garden, that’s not being used at all because the owner of it has gone to America. Now, according to the property view, this is all right, and we, who haven’t gone to America, must fight to protect this absentee owner’s property. But on the community view, this is all wrong. There are hundreds of working men not far from here who urgently need ground for allotments so that they can produce a bit more food. Also, we may soon need more houses for billeting. Therefore, I say, that house and garden ought to be used whether the owner, who’s gone to America, likes it or not.’

A BBC discussion of Priestley’s talks can be found here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sf0tg

An article on the British Library website carries a quotation from the 6 October talk – the one which caused Churchill to ask for him to be removed from the broadcasts.

‘His most outspoken Postscript, of 6 October 1940, uses the problem of the ‘idle rich’ occupying scarce hotel rooms from which bombed-out families could benefit to make the point that:

We are floundering between two stools. One of them is our old acquaintance labelled ‘Every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost’, which can’t really represent us, or why should young men, for whom you and I have done little or nothing, tear up and down the sky in their Spitfires to protect us, or why should our whole community pledge itself to fight until Europe is freed? The other stool … has some lettering round it that hints that free men could combine, without losing what’s essential to their free development, to see that each gives according to his ability, and receives according to his need.[7]

The wording of that second stool, which as Priestley reminded his listeners was the stuff of Christian sermons, is almost exactly Karl Marx’s famous ‘from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’ which appeared in the Critique of the Gotha Programme.’

From: https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/an-inspector-calls-and-j-b-priestleys-political-journey