Your article on the euro (January, Socialist Standard) presented, by valid economic assessment, how the euro is monetarily irrelevant for wage and salary earners. Yet the major issue involved requires deeper analysis. It is the determination of the capitalist class, in the main, for the political purposes behind the euro.
Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, boldly states that “the euro is for a purely political process!”. This “process” is for the creation of a single European Nation State. It must lead to a single supreme governing assembly, with the power to pass laws obligatory for Europe as a whole. These laws, passed by majority vote, would be political as well as economic and be binding and incontestable. The assembly would maintain central control of all military and police legions in the European State.
In periods of serious political and economic crisis, mixed European forces would be used to crush any social unrest or revolutionary activity. With the inevitable chaos and turmoil of the capitalist system and the need to maintain “law and order” there is the distinct probability of a totalitarian regime emerging. Recent European history reveals how swiftly, in times of emergency, authoritarian rule develops and with the support of a misguided majority of workers seeking a “strong leadership”. These trends already exist in Europe.
Socialists should actively protest now against a European State. The euro is a reality and a further steeping stone towards these aims to strengthen capitalism. It is not just a question of more “sovereignty” for Britain but the practical ability to avoid the legal impositions by a European parliament. The dangers are neither irrelevant nor neutral.
LIONEL RICH, London NW6
Reply: We are of course opposed to a European state but we are also opposed to a British state. In fact, we are opposed to all states since they exist, all of them, to uphold capitalist class rule and production for profit.
You construct a nightmare scenario to try to get us to support an independent state for the capitalist class of Britain as opposed to them merging into a European state. We don’t think even Prodi envisages as centralised a state as in your nightmare, but, even if he did, you give no reason why we should prefer repressive laws to be voted at Westminster rather than by a European Parliament. Nor why we should prefer British rather than European police to be used against strikes and pickets. Nor why we should want the government that presides over the operation of capitalism in Britain to be situated in London rather than Brussels. In short, we remain unconvinced that we should take sides in the debate about the best political structure for running capitalism today.
The socialist alternative to a European Super-State is not Little England but One World—Editors
Dear, oh dear! This journalistic rhetoric will not do. In the December Socialist Standard you say “Jesus, for whose historical existence there is no evidence”.
In the first place the Jews, who should know better than anyone, have never denied his existence. One of them, the historian Josephus (c.37 – c. 100), refers in his books to Jesus and James his brother as historical persons.
Secondly, we have the evidence of the New Testament, starting with Paul’s letters, written to established churches and dated from 50 onwards and followed by the Gospels beginning with Mark. This was written about 65-70 AD and based on earlier written and oral sources. The details of Jewish daily life given in the Gospels with regard to history, geography and religious practice agree with information supplied by contemporary non-Christian sources.
Thirdly, three Roman writers refer to Christians. They are Tacitus, describing in 64 AD the persecution of Christians by Nero, Suetonius writing in 52 and 64, and Pliny writing in c. 112. Did the first generation of Christians invent Jesus? If so, why?
BRYAN FAIR, Dorchester, Dorset
Reply: Saying that there is no historical evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ is not the same as saying that no person called Jesus existed. For all we know – for all anybody knows – there may well have been at least one itinerant Jewish preacher in Galilee some two thousand years ago who called himself Jesus even though, in our reviewer’s opinion, there is no concrete evidence for this. In the end, of course, it is not a matter of great importance whether or not there was an “historical Jesus” since if there was he would not have been the “Son of God”. And he wouldn’t have walked on water, turned water into wine or raised the dead either.
Those who doubt the historical existence of Jesus – and this view was pioneered not by atheists but by Protestant theologians (who else would be interested in biblical studies and have the requisite knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic?) – would not find your evidence very convincing.
1. It is generally agreed the references in Josephus were inserted by later Christian scribes copying his work. Later Jews regarded the Christians’ Jesus as being the illegimate son of a Roman soldier.
2. Paul certainly existed and his writings are the earliest that mention the Christians’ Jesus. Which is why it is odd to say the least that they give very little detail about his life, presenting him rather as a shadowy spiritual being who sacrificed himself to save his followers.
3. Christians certainly existed but references to them by Roman historians is no more evidence that their “saviour” Jesus existed than similar references to the followers of Mithras or Dionysus is evidence that their respective “saviours” existed either.
4. Some early Christians did not regard their Jesus as having existed as a living human. See the recently published (1999) The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy for more details—Editors.
Is there life before death?
I read “A Socialist reads the Koran” in the December issue and I endorse all you have to say on the matter of religion. I do, however, think that the adamant assertion that there is, and can be, no form of afterlife is open to question. Socialists may of course be absolutely right in saying this, but the fact is we really don’t know!
I am inclined to think that the religious hardline adopted by the Socialist Party regarding membership is not in their best interests, and that membership numbers would increase if this was not so. If an applicant for membership can satisfy on his, or her, understanding of socialism, does not adhere to any particular religious dogma, but, at the same time, has a personal faith in a God and an afterlife, then it seems to me to be short-sighted not to admit the candidate.
GEORGE PEARSON, London SW20
Reply: We don’t recall saying that there can be no afterlife, only that those who make this claim have not produced any credible evidence to back it up. A Nobel Prize for biology awaits the scientist who does, but so far none has; in fact, in the light of repeated past failures very few think that it is a line of research worth continuing to pursue. So, for the time being, we can only conclude that when we die, we die and that’s that; our brains cease to function and so our minds disappear while our bodies decompose and are recycled in nature to push up daisies; apart from that all that remains is a memory of us in the minds of those who knew us. We suspect that most people accept this even if many are not prepared to admit this openly as it is not very comforting, but it is an added reason to concentrate on making the only life that we definitely know we’ve got as good as possible (by providing a socialist framework for it).
An applicant who said “I don’t really know” would not be treated the same as one who asserted that “there is an afterlife”. The former, though perhaps overcautious, has not crossed the line between a scientific materialist approach and an irrational belief, as the latter has—Editors