Letters to the Editors from the October 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
As a member of CND since it began, an ex-Aldermaston marcher, and one of the “100” who supported Russell, I must protest at the facile “hindsight” of S. Coleman. In the sixties it looked as though the world might indeed be destroyed and we felt we had to do something. It wasn’t, we know now. But it’s so easy for the S. Colemans of this world to pour scorn on the effort of great men like Russell, who had more brains in his little toe than apparently Mr. Coleman has in his head.
It is not only with hindsight that socialists can demonstrate the futility of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; in September 1960 the Socialist Standard was able to predict that CND would not succeed:
Some “Campaigners”, while agreeing that capitalism is the cause of war in the modern world, maintain that although a new social organisation may be necessary, a nuclear war would prevent the establishment of this, perhaps for all time, and therefore the anti-nuclear movement should be given priority over socialism. This argument is logically unsound; it assumes that which has yet to be demonstrated. It presupposes that the Campaign will be able to prevent a nuclear war occurring. For the Campaign to “succeed" it must have a majority of people who are opposed unconditionally to nuclear weapons, in the major countries of the world. These majorities must be prepared to oppose their own governments, to put aside all nationalistic feeling or racial prejudice and be immune to all attempts of their rulers to influence them during periods of international crisis and tension. Is it possible that such internationalist solidarity could be achieved by a movement which is composed of so many fundamentally diverse elements and which lacks any clear conception of an alternative to our inhuman social system? Only a revolutionary Socialist consciousness could ensure such a united unshakeable attitude and in that event the question of opposition to nuclear weapons alone would be redundant. (The Weakness of CND, Sept. 1960)
The article, “Has CND Learnt Nothing?” in the August 1980 Socialist Standard was intended to deter workers from wasting their energies on another dose of CND when our criticism of it in 1960 has been seen to be clearly correct. Today in 1980 the number of nuclear weapons in existence is many times the number that existed when the first Aldermaston march took place. We are not against workers “doing something”, but we are against them doing the wrong thing.
As for Bertrand Russell’s brain, we must say that we arc less concerned with its size and location than its use. While Russell may have been a great mathematician and was certainly an eloquent atheist orator, as a political activist he was nothing but a pious moraliser with about as much understanding of social reality as his latter-day echo, E. P. Thompson.
The article “Battered Wives” in the July Socialist Standard follows Engels’ view in “The Origins of the Family” that mother-right was the general position before male-dominated, property, class institutions became established. Agreed: the position of women relative to men drastically deteriorated with the advent of private property, but it is open to question whether primitive societies were essentially matrilinear. Some were, others were definitely not. Why? is the subject of much controversy in anthropology. While the 19th century founding fathers of anthropology had precise, straightforward answers on how primitive humanity’s life was structured and functioned, present day anthropologists seem less certain of the meaning of the mass of data that has accumulated. I will quote just one of them—Leslie A. White a cultural evolutionist in the grand, system-building tradition of L. H. Morgan. His is by no means the last word, but at least he puts order into the question, and writes clearly.
As a general proposition we may say that prominence or predominance of men in the mode of life of the (primitive) society will tend to produce patrilinear lineages; prominence or predominance of women will tend to form matrilinear lineages. Thus a culture in which warfare, hunting or herding is an activity of paramount importance will tend toward patrilineal lineages because these occupations tend to be masculine pursuits. In systems where woman’s role in subsistence, house building and ownership, or in some handicraft, puts her in a position of considerable importance as compared with men in the mode of life, there will be a tendency toward matrilineal lineages. (The Evolution of Culture)
White adds that although this statement is sound enough, it could easily mislead because of the complexity of numerous, diverse factors at work in specific situations making for small to great variations.