A non-member’s personal report on the Summer School on Mental and Social Power at Fircroft College, 9-11 July 1993.
“This was a place and a time to talk, and talk we did. In meetings, in the dining room, in the bar, strolling on the lawn or through the orchard, or sitting beneath the huge copper beeches. It was a place and time for thought, and I find myself even now going back there in my mind and continuing our discussions.
We discussed personal therapies as a money-spinning racket, as enabling only adjustment to the inhuman demands of capitalism, or as a means of enforcing that adjustment if you include the electrodes and drugs of psychiatry.
On the other hand we considered more person-centred analysis or counselling as politically neutral but effective tools for unravelling the knots of personal distress.
There again, it was argued, can personal anxiety not be a spur to Socialist awareness? Equally, might it not be an obstacle? Why should personal awareness and growth be considered antithetical to the same process on the social level?
We debated alienation-from our work, the products of our work, from our fellows and from our own lives. Television was subjected to a close examination in this context. I think we were fairly unanimous that it is a powerful agent in capitalism’s need to split us from social and personal reality. There was creative use of video material exposing television and the whole money culture.
Personally. I found this Summer School hugely rewarding and inspiring. There was talk of holding future ones at a less expensive and more spartan venue, but for myself I fell the surroundings of the old. slightly unkempt grounds quiet, civilised and very amenable to the atmosphere of serious, rational and respectful inquiry. At the same time there was humour and warmth. I identified with people talking about how difficult it is to go home after spending time with people who know what you mean. I for one am back in a world of lonely alienation. I think money should be abolished, but even more insanely, I WALK places. Here I am, walking by the wheat field, this is my food. I wish I could have a hand in growing it, harvesting it, milling it and baking the bread. But at least I can touch the rough heads of the grass that gives me life. Meanwhile perfectly healthy young men whizz by, sitting down in sort of slick, multi-aerialled spacecraft on wheels. These fields might just as well be on television as far as they were concerned.
Finally, it was the subject matter of this Summer School which obliged me to get there. Income Support or no, the whole question of the relationship between the personal and public dimensions of our understanding is one which I feel to be crucial. Many Socialists are uncomfortable with any focus on this area, and even thoughtful psychotherapists are reluctant to look at social issues. I would welcome a closer understanding between these disciplines, and I am heartened to see evidence of this happening, not least at the Summer School, which exceeded my best expectations.
After all, in this society, we live, eat, work and consume, all for some purpose outside ourselves. So are we not brought up to serve goals outside ourselves, and do we not bring up our children in the same way? That there are hard questions goes a long way to explaining their absence from Socialist literature, but they are questions nonetheless which we are all called upon to address.”