I am writing to ask for your further explanation of a matter which has puzzled me, arising from the item “A Merry Christmas” on page 23 of the January issue. Commenting on the annual appeal of Crisis UK, the writer describes the organisation’s workers and volunteers as “well-meaning” and “obviously sincere”, but continues with the words “charity doesn’t work”. Well, no, inasmuch as while capitalism exists, there will almost certainly be homeless people needing help all through this and every year; but, nevertheless, it does work in that, for those few days at Christmas, some homeless people had some relief and comfort which they would not have had without that “charity”. Wasn’t that partial and temporary help better than nothing? Isn’t it possible that some of the people who worked to provide short-term help to some of capitalism’s victims, might also be working for the transformation of society to world socialism? Isn’t it possible for socialists to have both short-term and long-term aims? Can the achievement of world socialism really come about through ignoring immediate specific sufferings of individual human beings?
Yes, charity can make a difference to some individual’s life; it is ‘better than nothing’. But it’s not much and certainly not enough, like trying to empty a lake with a teaspoon.
You partly answer your own query when you say that “while capitalism exists, there will almost certainly be homeless people.” It’s for this reason we stated that “charity doesn’t work” – i.e. that it can’t cure the problems it seeks to address. Whether it be homelessness or some other charitable concerns, such problems are an inevitable product of a society where profits matter above all else. So while some individuals can and do benefit from charity, it doesn’t stop the problem continually arising.
The sufferings of our fellow humans (and ourselves) is surely part of the motivation for socialists to organise to put an end to capitalism. As individuals – if inclined – we can choose to give what we can afford and spare time to help where needed, but for the Socialist Party our sole aim is nothing but socialism, however long it takes – Editors.
Demonstrations in support of denied democratic rights in some countries lacking free elections and free speech are one thing; they have no other way of expressing their politics, so take to the streets. Here we do have people power and it is called an election.
Governments in the UK know they have a mandate and they also know that the ‘opposition’ usually has the same politics as they have. This is true about the issues of privatisation and public sector job cuts. Labour councils under a Labour government were closing down council-run residential homes for the elderly before the 2010 general election. Demonstrations aimed at changing government policy have failed in their objectives in the UK. CND rallied thousands to ban the bomb in the fifties and early sixties. When the Harold Wilson Labour government was elected in 1964 CND’s high hopes were dashed. Britain stayed nuclear and vast sums went to the manufacture and maintenance of nuclear horror weapons.
In 2003 a million marched against the Tony Blair Iraq attack. Blair lied, people died. There were no weapons of mass destruction, but the USA and UK had them and still do. Despite being exposed a liar Blair got back in when Labour won the 2005 general election. Marching around London streets, shouting at empty government buildings and tourists is futile. Violence at such demonstrations angers and disgusts the majority of workers. As for cuts, sackings in and privatisation of the NHS, these are going ahead and the majority of voters fully endorsed these ConDem policies. At least the SPGB don’t lead mobs of confused workers into riots. There is a minority amongst demonstrators who are trying to do just that.
You are right. We don’t. – Editors