Book Review from the June 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard
Reasons To Be Cheerful. By Mark Steel, Scribner, 2000.
"Shame he's a trot", was the recurring thought permeating through my mind as I read Mark Steel's otherwise pleasurable Reasons To Be Cheerful. Packed full of anecdotes and witticisms about his twenty years as a political activist, it's something any long standing Socialist Party member can relate to.
Throughout the book, Steel clearly comes across as someone who is genuinely moved by the horrors of global capitalism but unfortunately this potential socialist joined the anti-working class Socialist Workers Party which is an integral part of capitalism's left-wing.
After rejecting the Communist Party for being "too right wing", the main attraction of the SWP was that one did not have to suffer the indignation of defending the USSR as it was "state capitalist" - a theory pioneered in this country by the Socialist Party. Of course, it would be asking too much for any recognition but it is a shame that Steel's political development ended so prematurely.
From here we are taken on an amusing tour of some of the most significant political events of the last two decades of which Steel played "an extremely minor role". Highlights include getting caught up in the Brixton riot - returning to his boring office job to tell his politically uninitiated colleagues that he had got up to "nothing much" at the weekend and his recent Socialist Alliance candidature for the Greater London Assembly where he feared he would hear the words "Mark Steel - 103".
Such jollities notwithstanding, Steel continually spouts leftist poison such as equating socialism with full employment and referring to "old" labour's "socialist clause four". Not surprisingly, he does not even mention the SWP's non-existent internal democracy nor the fact that they intend to preside over a one party state. Even so, if you fancy some light political reading which gives the occasional belly laugh. you will not be disappointed.