Letter: Truths and Facts

If the writer of the article “Get it Straight in 1958” did not imply what I stated in my letter, would the Editorial Committee please explain to me the purpose of the writer using a geometrical proposition in his article at all, as I cannot see any sense of the writer stating a self-evident geometrical truth in his article, which no one would care to challenge, if it were not related to the whole essence of his argument. For he writes quite clearly, this: “Everyone knows the shortest distance between two points is a straight line: a simple, unanswerable, self-evident proposition. Who, then, could fail to think and act on it? Now this statement would be meaningless if it were not related to the cardinal point in the writer’s argument, as I claimed it was. And this point was the analogy between a geometrical truth, and an historical fact. For in relation to the given geometrical proposition he adds this: “Well in the manner of getting Socialism almost everybody acted otherwise.” I take the statement to mean, that the intention of the writer was to make crystal clear the stupidity of people who don’t fail to accept and act upon the stated geometrical proposition, but fail to accept and act upon the stated historical proposition of a straight line to Socialism. However, if the cardinal point of the writer was that of dealing with people who already accepted the essence of the Socialist idea, but thought that the reformist way would lead to Socialism, I would certainly not have challenged the article, nor, I’m sure, would have the writer brought forward, a geometrical proposition into his article just for to let us know about this simple truth. I claim that the geometrical proposition was related to the essence of his argument, from the simple fact that he begins his article by stating this proposition, and also ends his article by stating it. The Editorial Committee claim that it was pointless for me to state that the passions and actions of men in history has nothing in common with the abstract truths of mathematics, and they would have been to some extent correct in saying this, if my statement had not been related to the writer of the article who made this false analogy. Therefore, my point is this: What is true and clear in the realm of thought is only abstract truths, and that these truths have in general nothing to do with history, for the simple reason being that history is not moved by them. If it were, there would be no history. The facts of history are the passions of men in action, had it been otherwise there would have been no problems to solve in history.
R. Smith (Dundee).

Our correspondent, in his first letter (March, SOCIALIST STANDARD) criticised the article on the assumption that it had been directed to the position of non-Socialists. We pointed out that this was not so. Our correspondent returns to this point and we repeat that he is mistaken. The evidence is to be found in the article itself. In the first paragraph was the key reference, which was to “the matter of getting Socialism.” It should be obvious that non-Socialists could not be concerned with the method of achieving Socialism. But that was not all. The article went on to specify the people with which it was concerned, i.e., “men and women who had the Socialist idea”; and again, “They really did aim at Socialism.” Consequently, all of our correspondent’s remarks, based on his wrong assumption, are irrelevant.

As regards history being the outcome of men’s passions and actions we would point out that those who “had the Socialist idea” and who rejected the direct road to Socialism did not do so because of their own “passions.” but because they thought about the matter and decided in favour of the roundabout reformist way because of their view about the political ignorance of the mass of the workers.

The point that is important, and that the article dealt with, was whether they were right or wrong in thinking that progress to Socialism could be made that way. We contend that experience has shown them to be wrong, thus confirming the view of the S.P.G.B. at the time.


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