1990s >> 1997 >> no-1119-november-1997

Pamphlet Review: Socialist visionary

In The Vision by Ian Tisdale. (Health Books for the Radical Association, 9 Seacliff, Vincent Road, Sheringham, Norfolk NR26 8BS. £1

This short pamphlet comes under the heading of dream-like depictions of alternative social systems the best-known of which is William Morris’s News From Nowhere. It consists of a vision of a socialist society, as seen by a space traveller from the near future, so it combines criticism of capitalism with a discussion of some aspects of socialism and ideas on how the change (The Transformation) came about.

The future society in the vision has no money and is based on common ownership, democratic control and ecological principles. A proper sense of community has been established, and cities have been made much smaller and the countryside revitalised, with people living in self-managing communities. The capture of political power was carried out through the Radical Party, the political outgrowth of informal discussion groups and support networks that disseminated the idea of a long-term solution to humanity’s problems. In a nice touch, the members of these groups are known as The Possibilists, as they had devised a possible way of bringing a better society into existence. This is a deliberate play on the label “impossibilists”. which has in the past sometimes been applied to Socialists on the grounds that advocating only socialism and not reforms is an impossible aim.

So there is a lot here that is useful and interesting in terms of capitalism, socialism and how to got from here to there. However, for a couple of reasons, the pamphlet is not as vivid or effective as it might have been. Firstly, the future socialist society is simply described to a group of time-travellers (and the reader), rather than being shown in any way to them and us. So the result is a rather abstract picture, with no concrete details. Secondly, the dreamer who has the vision (Dr Earner) is brought back to reality at the end in a flight over the earth, where he sees its degradation and poverty, but this depiction is so compressed as to be virtually unreadable, and is not a satisfactory way of getting ideas across.

Nevertheless, this is an unusual and thought-provoking little pamphlet which may help to spread socialist ideas.

Paul Bennett