How I Became a Socialist
Looking back, I can see that I was nearly a middle-of-the-road floating voter, swayed by whichever tricky-slick talker promised me the most in the shortest possible time—be he Conservative, Liberal, Labour, Communist or whatever. How your head swims at election times when all the MPs and prospective MPs are in top gear! All they need, they say, is to get into Power and everyone’s worries will be over. What bloody optimists!
I was born and live in Stoke-on-Trent, the grimy industrial city somewhere in the middle of England. And take it from me, the air isn’t much less murky now that can be seen in those old photographs taken during the bottle-kiln days. It’s just that when you live in a certain kind of atmosphere for most of your life you tend to take it for granted. It’s only on a return to the Potteries after a day in the country or seaside that you notice what a depressing place it is.
Like most people, I grew up with ambitions of becoming someone famous—great footballer, pop star, TV personality, anything that would make me plenty of money, enable me to live a life of luxury. Then BUMP! I left school. Oh yes, marvellous at first, money in my pocket, high hopes of climbing from the lowly dogsbody of junior employee to the dizzy pinnacle of Chairman. “It can be done,” they drill into you. But of course, the time comes when reality seeps in—no matter how hard you try to thwart its progress. At that point you take a stone-cold look around. And what do you see? Thousands and thousands of ordinary people just like you, dreaming exactly the same impossible dreams, people who you come to fear and regard as competitors—or putting it in its sober perspective, deadly enemies. You grow to hate them, despise every penny they make more than you, completely unaware that you are giving life-blood to the system that thrives on such emotions.
Then came the time when I gave up such hopes of becoming somebody and settled down to accept my lot. But when I’d reached this stage I became frightened: no overstatement, I can assure you. I saw myself in five years, ten, twenty, thirty, maybe even longer, working at the same place, doing the same job week in week out. It’s enough to make anybody contemplate suicide if dwelt upon. So what was the answer? Change jobs. I trued that: clerk, factory worker, labourer, cleaner. Still I had that nagging sensation that something wasn’t right. So what was the answer? I couldn’t see one. I tried to tell myself that there are people a lot worse off than me, people dying of starvation, homeless, living in poverty. But that type of negative thinking gave no lasting satisfaction but led to questioning more deeply the whole set-up, adding even more questions to my tired mind. Questions like: Why are people starving? Why are people homeless? That’s when I turned my hopes for a solution towards the field of politics.
Being a city of mines, pot-banks and other factories, it’s not surprising that the Labour Party has held a monopoly in Stoke. The false, though understandable, theory is that as most people in the area “labour” for a living, it follows that the “Labour” Party have their interests at heart. I was no exception in arriving at this conclusion, helped by the older generation’s barrage of remarks to the effect that Labour was on the side of the underdog. (When I think of the breath I’ve wasted in the past defending such notions myself, I honestly struggle not to blush, even in an empty room.)
Anyhow, I was then a Labour man, and with my vote helped the LP into Power. The slow realization crept over me that the Labour Party dealt in nothing more tangible than promises.
Sad and shattered I looked around, increasingly aware of the injustices in the world. I’m too sensitive, I tried to console myself, so started to listen to the Conservatives and Liberals, but for all their expressions of sincerity I could see through the facade. There’s no difference between the lot of ’em, just various methods of giving nothing, So what’s left? The Communists: I inquired of a couple of self-confessed reds but there seemed to be no clear aim. “Overthrow the Government! Put our Leaders in power like in Russia!” In fact they were merely another version of all other parties, wanted to dictate to the masses—namely me—what they wanted us to do. That wasn’t freedom.
Dejected I concluded that the world was as it was, that there was nowt anybody could do. There’d always be poverty and starvation. All we could so was to send a few bob when we could afford it to one of the hundreds of charities in the vain hope that we’d relieve the suffering of some poor soul whose belly was forever rumbling. But what satisfaction was there in that when you could see and hear of people spending hundreds of thousands on paintings, jewellery, driving round in chauffeured Rolls, going on cruises of the world three times a year, never having to lift a finger, yet never going short of a thing?
That’s how I was feeling when I came across the Socialist Party of Great Britain in an advert in the Socialist Worker, the organ of the then International Socialists, a so-called left-wing group, whatever that might mean. It was the first time I’d heard of such organizations as IS, testifying to my ignorance of how the world revolved. I bought the paper in the hope that it would shed some light on how to get a better deal from life. It offered little hope at all, concerned itself mainly with slagging off the other political parties, not even sparing the Labour Party who it urged people to vote for. Very confusing! The little hope turned out to be the small advert asking the reader whether he would like to see One World, a classless, moneyless system of society based on the common ownership of land, buildings, means of production, etc., and democratically controlled by free individuals. Sounded like a set of cranks to me. Still, what had I got to lose? I’d tried everything else so I sent off for literature.
Naturally, the proposition of a world without money and of co-operative human beings put to a person in a state of mind whereby he thinks things can never alter and is suspicious of all politics seems ludicrous. What about human nature? Who’d do the work? Surely there’d be leaders to influence and coerce people? All these questions and many more come to mind to batter these mad views. How else can you react when right from childhood you’ve been conditioned into thinking purely in terms of money, buying, selling, competition, winning, etc.
Gradually, after reading the straightforward articles which explained how nearly every problem on earth is caused primarily because of the system known as capitalism that we live under, it dawned on me that not only was such a new system desirable—indeed essential—it was so easily possible with majority understanding.
At last here was hope for the future, something positive to aim for, I’d broken free from the muddled thinking of my past, un-brainwashed myself from the conditioning we are all subject to. What a sense of enlightenment! And what’s more gratifying is that I am now in the knowledgeable position of being able to urge you to do the same, to find out about the REAL Socialism of the SPGB and its companion parties abroad.
It’s a fact that the world we live in is sickening but it need not be so. Don’t just accept things as they are. Do a little enquiring, question all you see and hear, and you’ll discover that Socialism is the ONLY way of making life a pleasure instead of a burden!