Letters to the Editors from the January 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
Why Socialism Must Be World Wide
I have read the articles in the November Socialist Standard setting out the basic socialist philosophy with much interest and benefit.
In its articles on Russia the Socialist Standard pointed out, in 1934, that socialism “is impossible in one country alone, owing to international economic interdependence”.
This fact still applies, so how would a socialist Britain, having abolished money, exchange goods with a predominantly capitalist world?
A “socialist Britain” is an impossibility for the same reason that a “socialist Russia” was in 1934: capitalism is a world system into which all countries are locked and from which none can escape on its own.
Various countries, beginning with Russia but also others like Cuba and Nicaragua, have tried to escape from the laws of the world market economy but only at the price of establishing a state capitalism which in the end has had to take into account world market pressures anyway.
In fact it could be said that an isolated “capitalist Britain” is just as impossible as an isolated “socialist Britain”. Ever since capitalism first began to develop about 500 years ago it has involved multi-lateral trade between different countries so making them mutually interdependent; in fact one definition of capitalism is that it is the world market, the world trading system.
As capitalism has developed countries have become more and more interdependent. International trade on which all parts of the world now depend for the daily lives of their inhabitants (just think what you had for breakfast) reflects the underlying fact that production itself involves working on materials that have in part come from different parts of the world.
At one time the typical pattern was that raw materials would come from one part, be worked up into a finished product in another, and then sold there or in some other part. Nowadays, not just raw materials but also parts and semi-finished products are exported and imported. The best known example is perhaps the “world car”, as most cars now are, whose various components are produced in a number of different countries and which is only assembled in one particular country.
So “interdependence” is the key fact of economic life today. Because capitalism is a world system so must be socialism, the system which will replace it. In fact, socialism recognises that all parts of the world are interdependent today and seeks to bring social and institutional arrangements into line with this underlying productive fact by establishing a worldwide democratic community with, besides local and regional (“national” in today’s parlance) administrations, a world administration. Frontiers become obsolete, as does adherence to a particular nation-state. We all become citizens of a united world, Earth-people not “British” or “American” or “Russian” or “South African” or whatever.
Trade, as the buying and selling of goods, ceases to exist but not of course the transfer of goods from one part of the world to another. This will still take place, even if the people of socialist society might decide to produce everyday items of individual consumption more locally than at present. This won’t be trade because it won’t be an exchange of equivalents measured in monetary terms. It will just be the transfer of materials and products from one part of the world to other parts where they are needed, without anything needing to be transferred “in exchange”
A Stalinist Writes
I saw your review of the book Children of the Revolution; Communist Childhood in Cold War Britain and read it with interest. I must now buy the book, although I anticipate being enraged.
Being born in 1940 I well recall my childhood and teenage years as the son of Communist parents. Wonderful, loving Stalinist parents. Stalinists they must have been because they refused to go along with the demonisation of Joe.
I was brought up on the Daily Worker and books were always plentiful. I could go my own way, I was just one of the fortunate few with access to both sides. After a brief mid-teen crisis when I wanted to be the “gum-chewing good guy” and not a “gook” or an automaton under the control of “State Capitalism” I became a Communist.
Like your reviewer I too joined first the YCL and later the CP. However, I never quit. I went instead from believing that Stalin was of his time to now knowing that Stalin was right. He remains right to this day.
I remember telling my Dad that I wanted to go to Sunday School with some of the kids. This Stalinist said “go ahead”. I went once, never again. I remember too, being on a train with him in 1956 when a man came in the carriage asking for cash and help as he was a poor Hungarian on the run from the Russian hordes. My Dad put his glasses in his top pocket and told him “there are two ways to leave this carriage, by the window or the door, take your pick”. Predictably, this fighter against Red tyranny scurried through the door.
Because, comrades, sometimes the tanks have to be sent in and if the Hungarian counter-revolution had succeeded or the Czech one in 1967 [sic], the chaos that is now Eastern Europe would have occurred sooner with other generations suffering what is being suffered now thanks to revisionists, counter-revolutionists, traitors, the weak, corrupt and the liberal.
And who is counting the dead now, as they pile up all over Eastern Europe. But it’s OK, Wall Street and the CIA, the controlled media play it down, because after all, no-one’s nationalising anything without compensation. Nothing to worry about. Business as usual.
And when the cattle cars are filled again it will be that much harder to defeat the enemy next time without Joe and his Red Army.
Penarth, Mid Glam
We have no reason to believe this letter is a spoof. It confirms the view about the “New Communist Party” expressed in the pamphlet by Mike Mosbacher reviewed on our books page and explains why they are known as the “Tankies”. Such people have done the cause of genuine socialism no end of harm by associating it with the vicious one-party state-capitalist dictatorship that existed in Russia under Stalin and where people were also transported in cattle cars to slave-labour camps where they died in their millions.