1980s >> 1983 >> no-947-july-1983

Passive resistors

Deviance is a subject which has generated considerable interest among social investigators concerned with maintaining the status quo, as evidenced by the stream of books on minority groups like punks and Rastas. Yet there is one group of people — identified by their unvarying attitude to the problems that confront society — which has escaped investigation by our sociologists. Their integration into society has been so complete that any analysis would mean a critical self-examination of roles, class and status which would place many an investigator in a corner.

The group can be identified by the similarity of their statements on factory closures, the bomb and the nasty things Thatcher has done to disrupt their once-peaceful complacency. Invariably, they react to such disturbances by placing the blame for social problems on individuals rather than on the way society is organised. In the meantime they constantly dream of an “if only land”, the place where everything is rosy and the threat of the dole queue only puts in an appearance when the individual can join it from choice — for an extended “holiday” from the monotony of repetitive work.

Sometimes their social conscience goes a bit deeper and they surprise themselves with statement like “if only we did not have the starving millions to contend with”. Other times they over-extend themselves by popping the question “if only we did not have politicians”.

Every inhabitant of “if only land” constantly searches for the permutation that will enable him or her continually to win the Sun bingo. Then they can take up permanent residence in never-never land surrounded by status symbols. The status symbols of wage slaves, however, can become unwelcome embarrassments when the capitalists are no longer willing to buy our labour power. Once this happens the “if only” brigade plead to their bank manager “if only I was not on the dole I would continue paying off my overdraft”. However, of the entire group of if onlys, the most obnoxious are those who agree with the need for social change, but nevertheless see no possibility of the socialist revolution ever taking place “if only because the rest of the working class are incapable of gaining the necessary understanding”. They are capable of obtaining a class consciousness, but the possibility of any other worker doing so is ruled out. Their refusal to understand the collective capabilities of the working class is to deny the individual’s own capabilities of participating in the socialist revolution.

Like all grumblers the if onlys are passive resistors not active revolutionaries. What differentiates a socialist from the if onlys, buts and maybes is that we reject such pathetic indecisive-ness and the dismal assumption that the working class can never change the system that exploits them.

Brian Johnson