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Letters

Love on the Dole

Dear Editors,
In his review (Socialist Standard, November) of Love on the Dole, Michael Gill alleges that the British Board of Film Censors would not allow the play to be filmed. The Board existed only to censor films once made but had no powers to prevent a film being made. In fact the film of Love on the Dole was made in 1941.
DENHAM FORD, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

Reply: You are quite right, the British Board of Film Censors has no power to prevent a film being made. However, since in practice all films shown in public places must have a certificate from the Board, it is regularly consulted by film makers before and whilst films are being made. You will find interesting details of how the process is managed, for instance, in the material for Open University Course A420, Cinema and Society: Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. It is very revealing.

And you are quite right that Love on the Dole was filmed in 1941. Ironically, the production company's stated aim was "to show the public the true state of affairs which arose after the last war in the industrial areas and which must not be allowed to flourish when the immediate conflict is over". So whilst, as we said in our review, the BBFC effectively "prevented this 'very sordid story in very sordid surroundings' from being filmed in the 1930s" (NT programme), when the Second World War began the same story was made in support of the war -Editors.

Pure chance?

Dear Editors,
I take it from your letter column (December) that you socialists are all firm believers in Dawkins's blind watchmaker operating in evolution without any purpose at all.

That being so I wonder where you socialists draw the line between Darwin's natural selection and human beings as producers of many civilisations in the past 6,000 years.

If human beings are a product of a blind mindless watchmaker surely you should accept this belief as being a miracle of nature even as much as the divine miracles that appear in the pages of the bible.

One could easily say that evolution from lifeless matter brought about by a blind watchmaker is a supreme miracle which one could also interpret as a miracle of matter.

As the bible is not the only book to look for miracles as evolution has plenty of them.

Nevertheless, Darwin did not explain the mutation in evolution which produced the consciousness of human beings who managed to produce civilisations.

Are we to believe civilisations are also a product of a blind watchmaker?
R. SMITH, Dundee

Reply: No, human civilisations are not produced by the same blind, biological processes that led to the evolution of all the various species of life on Earth, extinct and extant, including homo sapiens. Once humans had been evolved (by the "blind watchmaker" process) then, thanks to their biologically evolved ability to think abstractly and make conscious, purposeful, decisions as well as their ability to extend their anatomy by means of tools, human evolution ceases to be biological and becomes social and cultural, reflecting the development of the tools humans make and use.

Because human action is always purposeful, an element of purpose is indeed involved in this type of evolution (but it is of course, human purpose, or rather the different purposes of different humans, not that of some supernatural, miracle-working being). However, humans do not have a complete free hand here. As one well-known 19th century materialist put it, "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past" (Karl Marx). This means that the evolution of human societies is subject also to the working of objective, non-purposeful processes which can be found by study and research, but these are not at all the same as those that governed biological evolution.

And yes, the biological evolution of life, consciousness and the self-consciousness which humans alone possess can be explained without having recourse to the concept of "miracles", i.e. the intervention of some supernatural being(s). We don't yet know enough to state definitely how life first evolved, but we will get there eventually. For the present state of knowledge and study of this matter see the collection of articles in Skeptical Inquirer (Sep/Oct 1999) "Where Do We Come From? The Biology Of Life's Origin"-Editors.

World solution

Dear Editors,
Whilst I do not have a problem with much of Simon Wigley's "Open Letter to Reclaim The Streets" (Socialist Standard, January), I would be interested to understand how the statement: "we are glad to see the emergence of organisations attacking capitalism as a system rather than merely its particular evils" is compatible with Clause 7 of our party's Declaration of Principles, namely: " . . . the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party"?

Simply being opposed to capitalism does not make a person or an organisation socialist i.e. one seeking working class emancipation.

Being a socialist surely implies agreement with:
    * Our class and economic analysis of capitalism,
    * The need to replace that social system by one based on the common ownership and the democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all society,
    * The need to establish socialism through democratic political action, that is, by winning control of the state apparatus.

I see no evidence from Simon Wigley's letter that the anarchist organisations he wishes us to welcome share the conclusions which make the Socialist Party contribution to political and economic thought so distinctive and clear.

Associating ourselves, albeit fairly critically, by expressing general words of support and identifying alleged common ground with non-socialist organisations can only create confusion amongst those we are trying to win to the socialist case and thus puts back the achievement of socialism itself.
Andrew C. NORTHALL, Kettering, Northants

Reply: We never went that far, nor meant to. We were not seeking common ground with non-socialist organisations nor saying that people should join them but welcoming the fact that some people were moving towards identifying capitalism as the cause of problems they had previously sought to deal with on a single-issue basis, and urging them to take the next step and join us in the struggle for socialism as the only practicable alternative to capitalism.

"Recognition that the global capitalist system, based on the exploitation of people and the planet for the profit of a few, is at the very root of our social and ecological troubles" (as a leaflet for J18 put it) is, as you point out, not the equivalent of socialist understanding but it is a step—indeed, an indispensable step—towards it and the more widespread it is, the easier it must be for us to put our case across. So how can we as Socialists not welcome its emergence? And where else, if not amongst such people, are we to find "those we are trying to win to the socialist case"? -Editors.