On reading the February edition of the Socialist Standard I was shocked and deeply upset to learn that your party excludes religious people from its membership. I am not religious but am extremely interested and moved by the wisdom that exists within Buddhist philosophy and have the deepest respect for everybody belonging to any faith. Buddhism and socialism, don’t forget, share many parallels. Also, though I certainly agree that religious dogma is a strong agent in the perpetuation of the status quo and hence exploitation, the actual basis of a person’s religion transcends such dogma and gives an individual a greater opportunity of integrating love, compassion and empathy into their everyday actions.
Moreover to be prejudiced against a would-be member who fully understands the nature of class conflict and the necessity of bringing about an end to capitalism is not only counter-productive (given that the majority of the world hold one religious belief or another) but also hypocritical and paradoxical. If socialism is to be democratic and tolerant how can it claim veto over an issue that is based entirely on individual speculation? It is my firm and humble belief that a person can be both religious and socialist.
Perhaps overseas (i.e. with the caste system in India) the problem is more complex but here in England the working classes are not shackled to capitalism by religious dictates. Most people view politics as an entirely secular matter, as it should be. It is the education system, the media, the socialisation of youth and the consumer obsession that drives the ego and the capitalist machine not religious belief.
If you truly wish your party to grow then surely you must drop this hard-line approach. People will always choose their God over their politics (and though this is probably your point) you are powerless to change it. No amount of campaigning will ever persuade somebody to throw away their God. To be hostile to religion is to forever remain a marginal party.
DUNCAN MILLS, Chard, Somerset
The Socialist Party takes a non-theistic, materialist approach to things, in particular to society and social change. Religious people believe in the existence of at least one supernatural entity that intervenes in nature and human affairs. Socialists hold that we only live once. Religious people believe in some afterlife. Clearly, the two approaches are simply incompatible—Editors.
Socialism is common sense
I am writing to express my thanks to you and my views as to the two letters that appeared in the March edition.
About five years ago a friend introduced me to socialism after a few drinks by saying it stood for, most succintly, “no money; no law; no government”. He expounded upon this slightly and argued the case against my well conditioned questioning. Since then I have considered myself a socialist in principle upon further investigation if not in practice. It wasn’t only until the last few years that I have decided to look into this further and conclude it is the only way forward, logically.
Since then I have discovered the world that is not so openly available to people as it should be—indeed, my many debates with friends have resulted in some thinking I may have a point that is nice in theory but will never work and some discounting my views (which, I freely admit, are in need of fine tuning and further ammunition by way of self education) out of hand. Of the, say, five friends I can discuss this with, one has accepted these views and is willing, with me, to devote more energy to them.
The letter on morality struck me, as socialism does, as common sense: I have never been one for rigid morals—I have done questionable things—but the essence of socialism goes hand in hand with morals, or at least the general perception of such things as a right and a wrong. Why would we advocate socialism if it didn’t agree, at least in part, with a sense of morality,in a basic form at least?
Secondly, the letter on work. I have argued over many a pint the fact that even now, in such a money driven society, people will do the kind of volunteer work that those who have comfortable homes and jobs find distasteful. And despite me sometimes believing there is no hope for humans, it is when I read the Socialist Standard this particular belief loses some strength.
I have felt compelled to write to even The Sun to argue against what they have written but then decided it would fall on deaf and controlled ears.
Recently my friend (mentioned earlier) and I attended a debate on the unions’ political fund organised by the Socialist Alliance and saw a lot of people trying to make a difference. However I have realised the difference they are trying to make is not enough and they may go the way of others and succumb to reformism, and nothing but. I see a lot of internal bickering and would love to sit them all round a table and remind them exactly what the principle of socialism is. Then perhaps wen would make real and perceptible headway. Not just estranged groups and seperated parties, but all socialists.
ADE MANNING (by e-mail)
In the review of Jack London’s The People of the Abyss (Socialist Standard, March), JB does not develop the most crucial point about London as a political commentator: his technocratic and statist solution to the ills of capitalism. From a socialist point of view, London’s failure to present a credible analysis of how can get out of the abyss of capitalism overshadows his haunting chronicle of poverty.
This stems from his basic antipathy to the poor, his inability to conceive that they might be capable of “clean and wholesome ideals and aspirations”. This is an economic determinist view of human nature – the poor live squalid lives and acquire squalid ideas, therefore the only hope for improvement is for those with comfortable lives and enlightened ideas to take charge of the system. This is the opposite of the socialist case.
We argue that the workers of the world, even the poorest, are potential socialists and capable of carrying through a revolution. London did not believe this. He might have clothed and fed the poor, set up a welfare state and improved factory conditions, but he would not have touched the mechanics of capitalism.
And finally his was a fascist vision, which supported the British Empire provided it ran efficiently, and which had nothing to say to the millions not born with a white skin. The facts of poverty are not enough; they have been with us for centuries. The facts will change nothing unless we draw lessons from them.
HELEN ROBERTS, Hull
When I was a lad in the latter part of the nineteen thirties Mr. Craddock, a well-built, red-faced man could be seen sitting astride a huge black shire horse by the river. His job was to tow the barges from Bow Creek, the mouth of the river Lea, along the canal to Limehouse – Tottenham – Ponders End – Enfield and even further. A rope would be attached to the barge and the other end to the rear harness of the horse. This method of transportation was a environmentally-friendly as you could get. Anything that came out of the rear of the horse was collected by the people living nearby for their gardens and allotments or was left to go back to nature.
The capitalist system of society under which we live now is not concerned about environment well-being, its main aim is profit. So Mr. Craddock and his huge shire horse were replaced with a man and his diesel tractor. No-one could avoid the noise the tractor made or appreciate the black toxic fumes belching from its rear end but it was cheaper. Some years later the tractor and the barges it towed were done away with. It was more profitable to carry the goods by road, the fact that the roads were already congested never came into the equation.
Profit or more profit is the motive of the capitalist system of society under which we live. We are not forced to live under this system, there is an alternative. The socialist system of society is based on the common ownership of the means of production. When the majority of people understand this, socialism will be established. Then one day, we may see Mr. Craddock’s like and the beautiful shire horse plodding along the banks of the canals pulling the barges laden with products for use for people’s needs and not for profit.
FRED ALLEN, Fen, Spalding, Lincs.
The “Communist” Party
In your reply to one of the letters in the April issue you refer to, and I quote, “the now defunct ‘Communist’ Party”.
I was not aware that the so-called Communist Party was defunct. At least, that is not the impression I get from their paper, the Morning Star (I buy it occasionally just to see what they have to say. I usually buy it on Friday to read Tony Benn’s article). I would agree their philosophies are defunct. As you say, they do not believe in communism; they are really just another party, one of the many, that think they can run the wage/employer/employee system better.
I repeat, from what I read in the Morning Star, I do not think the so-called Communist Party is defunct; nor does it consider itself to be.
SP KING, Romford, Essex
What used to be called the “Communist Party” changed its name, shortly after the collapse of state-capitalism in Russia and its empire in Eastern Europe, to “Democratic Left” and ceased to be a party. It is true that, following this, a couple of groups rushed in to claim the name. One was indeed the group that controlled the Morning Star, former members of the old party who disagreed with its change of name and effective dissolution. They called themselves “The Communist Party of Britain” and contest elections under this name. Since they say the same things as the old, defunct “Communist Party” we can agree that they are its political, if not its organisational, successor. There is also another group, which calls itself “The Communist Party of Great Britain”, and which brings out a paper called the Weekly Worker but they have moved towards an accommodation with Trotskyism and are one of the prime movers behind the so-called “Socialist Alliance”—Editors.
The Fetishism of Money
I read your excellent article by P. Lawrence “The Fetishism of Money”. I wondered if you ever submit articles like these to national newspapers like the Guardian or for that matter local papers. If you have, what responses have you had and would it not be a good idea to print them in your magazines and on the internet. It would show the lie of the so-called free press who print articles by G. Monbiot and others who sometimes get near the truth but always only near.
JOE BOUGHEY, Newton-le-Willows, Lancs
Our members do in fact get letters published in the national and local press and we publish a regular digest of them for our branches. If you want a copy just let us know. We agree that Monbiot sometimes provides useful information on the workings of capitalism but that when it comes to the solution he’s pretty hopeless-Editors