Letters: Is “god” a Socialist?
Is “god” a Socialist?
Re your November editorial: “We only have one life: this one” and Adam Buick’s “we do know that it (the human mind and consciousness) can’t exist in the absence of a body that functions” in his Is-David-Icke-Serious? Same issue article.
First and foremost, if socialism is to be established, it’s unreasonable and self-defeating to make unwelcome all those who believe in, or are open-minded about life after death, as these views alone are irrelevant.
Opinion polls have shown a majority think some sort of post- mortem survival likely, and there’s very strong evidence from Near Death Experiences (NDE) and mediumships.
Many cardiac-arrested patients have had NDEs, which, after resuscitation, have proved to be accurate accounts of events in hospitals etc. observed by detached “spirits” looking down upon their own physical bodies.
It can be argued that NDEs are “just” a psychic phenomenon associated with a dying brain, but they do show a perceptive consciousness can operate externally at the brink of death.
Furthermore, several sceptical and painstaking investigators of different mediums have been impressed and converted by considerable and precise spiritual information (some only knowable by those who “died”).
Just because many people conclude souls may survive briefly, eternally, multi-incarnately etc. doesn’t mean they can’t see a better world for the living will come about through socialism. Such rationalists can readily see that capitalism must go if they’re not shut out.
Religions only grew because an afterlife has been a mystery for aeons, and their leaders are even now suing their claims on this enigma for their own personal. political and capitalistic advantages.
However, no system of faith has exclusive ownership of, or justifiable rule by reason of a hereafter whatsoever, since it would rightfully and equally belong to all (like the means of living while alive): so “god” can logically be seen as a universal coalescent synergy of spiritual entities. Or in other words, if it exists, god’s a socialist!
We have never said that those who believe in an afterlife can’t want socialism. They can, and we know of a number of examples. People can be inconsistent and hold contradictory views: basing one part of their views on what experience has confirmed but basing another part on unverified, and often unverifiable, beliefs, speculations and superstitions.
All we say is that such people are ineligible to join the Socialist Party (but they can be sympathisers), as we feel they would undermine our claim to have a case based on rational, logical argument from scientifically verified facts about history, capitalism, and human nature and behaviour.
It is on this last point in particular that such people fall. If it really was part of human nature to have a spirit that could exist in the absence of a body this would be a very important fact that would have enormous implications for explaining human behaviour. The fact that most people do believe this (or want to believe it) doesn’t make any difference. There is no evidence for it. On the contrary, all the evidence goes the other way, confirming that human behaviour and thought, including thinking, can be explained in purely materialist terms.
So-called “Near-Death Experiences” and “Out-of-Body Experiences” don’t prove that there is a spiritual life separate from the body since, in any event, they are linked to the existence of a functioning body. They are hallucinations, mental distortions, brought on by the brain being deprived for a short period of enough oxygen. It has been suggested that the particular form the hallucination takes—of floating out of the body, among other things—is due to the particular physiology of the human brain and to the way it organises and interprets the experience of the senses. (For one such explanation see the article by Susan Blackmore on “Near-Death Experiences: In or Out of the Body?” in the Fall 1991 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer.)
You can’t be serious about mediums. We thought that it was common knowledge that they were either entertainers (whose tricks can be reproduced by other conjurers and illusionists who make no claims about really being in touch with the spirit of a dead person) or frauds (the list of those who have been exposed as such over the last hundred years is a long one). For the techniques employed to fish for and extract information from vulnerable persons and then re-presenting it to them as if it came from a spirit, see Chapter 4 of James Randi: Psychic Investigator (the book of the 1991 television series).
Finally, would “god” if it existed, be a socialist? Clearly not since, unless it is a useless abstraction incapable of influencing human affairs, it would have used that influence to have got humans to establish socialism long ago. But what do we find? That this “god” allows 14 million or so children under the age of 5 to die each year of starvation and starvation-related diseases. Some socialist!
Pressure valve for the working class
I found Coleman’s comments about the National Lottery (November Socialist Standard) particularly interesting, although I felt that he said far too little about the real objectives behind what is probably one of the most seductive capitalist ploys in history. Apart from the obvious fact that the National Lottery is designed to act as yet another pressure valve for the working class, I feel that its hidden agenda is of a far more sinister nature.
The simpering puppets of the Parliamentary Establishment are finding it increasingly difficult to hide the progressive degradation of British society. The ruling class has had to come to terms with the simple fact that laissez-faire capitalism cannot function without decimating whole sections of our community. The clutter of sleeping bags which fill the shop doorways of our major towns and cities are becoming an embarrassment to an exploitative system keen to conceal the inevitable consequences of its own soul-destroying policies.
In the last century, the capitalist class was able to postpone the full effects of social decay by throwing working class people into workhouses or by relying upon the well-meaning but futile efforts of Victorian philanthropists. The National Lottery is a similar ploy which has been implemented for precisely the same reason. By diverting the squandered revenue of the average gambler into specific charities the Tories can retain an essential facade of comparative normality, thus ensuring a continued acceptance (at least by a sympathetic minority) and managing to stave off the persistent threat of a Socialist alternative at the same time. Sadly, the National Lottery is not simply a “bit of fun”, it is a cynical and manipulative plot to deceive the increasingly credulous masses.
The ability of capitalist authority
Your [November] Socialist Standard review of Charles Derrick’s book A Question of Judgement mentions the vital issue of the ability of capitalist authority, indeed of capitalism, to survive in the face of the withdrawal of the willing co-operation of a majority of class-conscious workers like, presumably, Derrick. My own experience in the army as another unwilling conscript of the 1945 Labour government, whilst not as varied as Derrick’s, forced me to consider the effects on capitalism’s stability of even a small minority.
Having refused an order to accompany my unit to help break the London Dock strike of the winter of ’46, I was given military punishment. At this stage the barrack-room politicians of the Communist Party were solidly behind the Labour government in smashing the workers’ attempts to better their living standards, and as far as I know, mine was a one-man revolt. As such it received no publicity.
I had time to reflect on the effect that even a small number of such refusals could have had if made with the integrity and strength of socialist conviction and argument, and backed by a sound party statement. The publicity given by local and national newshounds anxious to embarrass the government, and possible questions in parliament could have pushed the issue of a socialist alternative, however distorted, and the resultant discussion in office, factory and pub would have been out of all proportion to the numbers of socialists involved.
Like everyone else, socialists behave in conformity with their convictions as far as possible. I believe that the effect on capitalism’s workability of a minority of even 5 percent of socialists behaving like Derrick in their various activities would be so profound, that the question of capitalism’s viability would confront the non-socialist majority as a critical issue demanding their political and ideological decision and commitment, at an earlier stage than the assumptions implied by majority action normally suppose.