2000s >> 2000 >> no-1151-july-2000


What’s utopian?

Dear Editors,
Your Party’s ideals are well meaning but quite unattainable in a world of big bucks, and human instinct of greed. Without money who would control how much material any one person or family needs? It’s as open to corruption as is capitalism. At least money gives spending power on choice, and freedom of such.

The utopian concept we need is redistribution of money via taxes and work availability at living wages. This can be achieved by the tax system being fairer, and an international convention on closure of offshore havens. And if everyone paid going-rate taxes, and “harmony” was practised with a fair progression system, how long do you think the Third World would take to be first (e.g. investment in African pipelines/canals)?

With money, everyone is a capitalist, like it or not e.g. the price of food and material contains an element of recovery of outlay, capital matters like land, property, stock, equipment. What doesn’t use them for production? In your system half the world’s luxuries would never be made.

A fairer world only comes from tax reality, consensus democracy agreement, and racial unity, allied to environmental facts about survival and either main party (or Jesus!) could deliver it. Or “3rd forces” in merger.

TIM COLLIER, Kettering, Northants

Reply: In a world dominated by big bucks, promoting real socialism certainly isn’t a doddle, but nor is it “unattainable”. All that influential money may have the world’s population in its grasp, but that grip is crushing and restrictive for billions of people—a potential revolutionary majority in fact. And greed comes not from “instinct”, but is a necessity for “succeeding” under today’s system. It is behaviour that occurs only because capitalism itself has greed at it roots. Because there is exclusive ownership of productive assets, resulting in excluded access to goods and services unless able to pay, rapacity, selfishness and envy permeate society, and become the norm.

By replacing minority asset ownership with collective possession by us all, artificial shortages of products then end, and “greedy” behaviour is no longer necessary. As for who then gets to “control” the freely available products, it is the individuals and families themselves, according to their own determined needs. Taking more than is required would simply not occur to people to do when all their work and organised living is then conducted in a co-operative moneyless environment, geared purely to fulfilling human needs. The “corruption” you envisage would be pointless. You can’t wheel a trolley-load of food out of a store today without paying since it is capitalist-owned, but when it’s collectively owned in the socialist future, the notion of grasping as many goods as you can carry before others beat you to it, and rushing them home, will be as senseless and laughable as it is criminal and punishable today.

Presently, money may bring limited choice and freedom to choose (for some of the world’s population), but socialism would not prohibit access to alternative products, and “luxuries”, if that’s what the new owners (all of us) want—a choice and a freedom which would then, however, extend to everyone.

As for money, taxes and waged employment, these are merely capitalist features intended to facilitate and maintain that system, not provide a “utopian” world for the many. So it is futile to expect and pursue monetary “redistribution”, “fair” levies and “living wages”. However, if it’s a “fairer world”, serious attention paid to “environmental facts” and global “democratic agreement” that you want, then it is real socialism that will deliver—not capitalism (or Jesus)—Editors.

Miserable old men?

Dear Editors,
I write as a supporter of the Socialist Party and as a friend, but I’m writing to say that I’m increasingly frustrated by the tone of the Socialist Standard. This is the shop window for the party and for your views and yet it comes across as the rantings of a group of elderly, cynical, miserable old men who are against . . . well . . . everything.

Of course, it’s easy to be against capitalism and very few of your readers would disagree with you there but you go much further and criticise the activities of everybody else who might be trying to do something about it. This wouldn’t be so bad except that you don’t really offer any constructive alternative—except the rather glib mantra of “it’ll be different under socialism, everything will be free and you can have as much of it as you want”.

Of course, it’s easy to be against capitalism and very few of your readers would disagree with you there but you go much further and criticise the activities of everybody else who might be trying to do something about it. This wouldn’t be so bad except that you don’t really offer any constructive alternative—except the rather glib mantra of “it’ll be different under socialism, everything will be free and you can have as much of it as you want”.

Also, there’s no discussion—debate about how socialism would work after a critical mass has been developed and the revolution successfully achieved—what are your policies on education? Do you, for example, support the continued mass incarceration of our children, or do you support some variant of the home schooling movement? Health—how do you assign priorities in the development of expensive life-support machinery against other health programmes and the other needs of society? Transport—are you in favour of an integrated transport policy and how might this work? And even the economy—where you would expect a socialist party to be strong—you have nothing really concrete to offer in debate—how, for example, would distribution be achieved, priorities assigned across a range of product needs and local demands, how would exchange be recorded and controlled to prevent abuse.

Let’s hear some positive ideas from you—let’s discuss them—let’s develop them into a programme that we can offer the electorate.

I won’t begin to talk about your marketing which doesn’t really exist—not even any car stickers or leaflets to hand out on a Saturday morning. How are people expected to know you even exist? Come on, wake up, you’ve had 100 years to think about these things. I realise you don’t have any money but even a little can be used to at least improve brand recognition.

P.S. I’d also like to see some photographs/pen pictures of the Socialist Standard journalists. Whilst none of us believes in the cult of personality, it helps if you can identify with the people concerned.

Andrew STEPHENSON, Newhaven, East Sussex

Reply: You seem to have misunderstood what we see the role of a socialist party as being. We don’t think a socialist party should seek passive support from people on the basis of what it would do for them if they voted for it. In fact you would seem to be more committed to the so-called “parliamentary road to socialism”—a majority of socialist MPs voting in socialism for a passive majority outside—than we would be. This is not how we see socialism coming about. Socialism is something people must do for themselves, organising themselves consciously and politically to establish it and actively participating in the movement. They alone can establish socialism using parliament with the socialist party merely an instrument to this end.

This is why we limit ourselves today to carrying out general agitation against capitalism and for socialism. We fully accept, however, that when the “critical mass” of socialists has been reached, people will be discussing all the issues you raise and working out detailed plans about how to tackle them once capitalism has been ended. But even then it won’t be a question of the socialist party presenting them with a programme for them to vote for, but of them democratically deciding for themselves, via the socialist party and other bodies such as trade unions, professional associations and neighbourhood committees, what the practicalities of establishing and running socialism in its first days should be.

Of course the relatively few of us who are socialists today do have our ideas on how education, transport, health services, etc might, and even should be, organised in a socialist society, but this is all they can be at the moment: ideas and suggestions. This is because the exact details will have to be decided by the people around at the time, most of whom are not yet socialists and who might, and probably will, have different ideas from us on the details of some of these issues.

We have, in fact, produced a pamphlet called Socialism As A Practical Alternative which does spell out some of the possibilities of socialism, particularly as regards possible institutions of democratic control and ways of organising the production and distribution (we prefer this word to “exchange” which has connotations of buying selling) of goods is a moneyless context. You should read it. We’ll be pleased to send you a copy for 80p (post paid).

As to leaflets, we’re sending you a selection. Please let us know which, and how many, you’d like. We’re also sending some stickers for your car.

The Socialist Standard is not written by professional journalists but by ordinary people like yourself who have a day job too. If we don’t publish our photos this is because the Socialist Party does indeed not believe in leaders or the cult of personality, but also because they are not just expressing personal views but are writing on behalf of the membership as a whole. But if we did you might be surprised to discover how many of us are not half as old as you have assumed.-Editors.

Leave a Reply