Friday, March 26, 2021

Letters: Religion again (1993)

Letters to the Editors from the March 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Religion again

Dear Editors,

The reply to Ken Cole’s letter in January’s Socialist Standard seemed to overlook certain points which should have been picked up.

In his second paragraph he wrote “some of us are not only Christians but socialists as well, opposing war as an immoral pointless means of defending markets and supplies".

It is not part of the socialist case to make appeals to morality. It is the recognition that markets are part of the way capitalism functions. When nation states go to war in order to defend or get a larger share of them it is not a question of morality, but of understanding that it is how capitalism works and that markets and war are part of its fabric.

The other point is Ken Coles last paragraph: "Tarring all Christians with the same brush is akin to equating all socialists with supporters of Stalinism". This could imply that some socialists are supporters of Stalinism, which of course is not possible. State capitalism cannot be equated with what socialists want, i.e. the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.
P. B. Young 
Wingham, Kent

Dear Friends,

The January issue of the Socialist Standard contained a letter from Ken Cole of Preston in which he stated that he is a socialist who also holds religious beliefs. The editors reply was of course predictable. I have been a socialist most of my life and remain a keen supporter of the economic and political views expressed by the Socialist Party, despite the fact that I have been refused membership of the Party solely on the grounds that I hold religious beliefs. My purpose in writing is not to enter into another sterile debate with the Party on this subject, but rather to make contact with Ken Cole and any others reading this who hold both socialist and religious (of whatever nature) views.
Tony Burns 
N. Ireland

We can agree to disagree, but keep on putting over the same economic and political ideas— Editors.

Dear Editors,

I was interested to read the letter from Ken Cole of Preston in the January issue. Like him I am a committed Christian and a Socialist and obviously have an awareness of the corruptness of the capitalist system and have had since the age of 12 (I am now 62). This awareness and belief in Socialism was passed on to me by my father who would often take me to meetings where I heard the likes of Turner and Young. My reason for writing to you is my concern at the invariably contemptuous and derogatory way you refer to anything to do with Christianity.

While I am quite aware of the position that established religions have held over the centuries, in many cases keeping the workers “in their place” and often supporting the ruling classes, particularly for example in time of war; also the hypocrisy of so many alleged Christians, and also understanding, because of the past record of “religion”, why many socialists are totally opposed to it per se, nevertheless I do feel that you should at least try and accept that there are many of us with true, deep and sincere belief in God and Jesus Christ and who know that there is no incompatibility between that belief and Socialism because we know that would be His desire.

We are not all of the blind, praying unceasingly, passive, meek and mild human doormat-type. I spend a lot of my time talking to people about Socialism and quite often become involved in heated arguments and I certainly do not "turn the other cheek".

Speaking for myself there are aspects of the Bible where I have strong reservations, and I know that I am not alone in this within Christian circles.

I thought the article "The divorce of the decayed” was excellent in January's issue.
John D. Rowe 
London SW11

You are right; we are opposed to religion per se, but it's comforting to know that if God existed he’d be on our side— Editors.

Between the Lines: Know what I mean, John? (1993)

The Between the Lines column from the March 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Know what I mean, John?

Given a choice between being stranded in the Sahara Desert or spending a night drinking in The Queen Vic I would without hesitation start to pack my flask. The Queen Vic, focal point for the gathering of all those lovable East Enders, is Hell on earth. Its resident drinkers are amongst the most unlovable lowlives ever to have stained a television screen.

There are the vicious Mitchell brothers (Grant the ex-army psychopath and Phil the cheating lout); there is their moronically empty sister, Sam, whose big aim in life is to make it on to Page Three; and her pathetic wimp of a wage-slave husband, Ricky; not forgetting her spite-filled wastrel of a best mate, Mandy. Then there are the older East Enders: "Arfur" Fowler who has graduated from nicking the Christmas fund to cheating on his boring wife; Pete Beale, the bar-stool philosopher worthy of the National Front; the anti-social, self-pitying Pat Butcher who drove while over the limit and then expects sympathy because she killed a girl; the Bible-bashing Dot Cotton and her thieving, murderous family; and Tricky Dicky, the conniving northerner who isn't fit to clean the pavements down Coronation Street. The characters in East Enders are all detestable specimens of the worst in humanity. "So don’t watch it", I hear you cry. But that is not the point. Millions do. And they are shown the images which they are shown for a reason. Of course, part of the reason is to entertain: keep the proleys amused with simple dramatic episodes twice a week. But why these characters, why this image of humanity?

The East Enders are how they are because that is how the makers of TV (mainly "educated” people who imagine themselves to be creative and middle class) think that the working class is. When they see young working-class men they expect to see the Mitchell crooks, when they see young female wage-slaves they expect the Sams and Mandys and Sharons, when they see middle-aged proles they are surprised if they do not find a Pete Beale or a Frank Butcher — or better still a Big Ron. a huge proletarian lump who never speaks in more than monosyllabic grunts.

It is well known that if teachers expect non-whites or girls to be inferior learners their prejudiced prophecies will often result in reality: the non-whites or the girls fail in line with the prediction. And if the TV producers expect the workers to be mindless low-lives and they transmit that image twice a week it has the same effect.

East Enders is an insult to the working class. There are working-class pubs, some of them in the East End, where people discuss music and films and books and even political ideas. Some of them do it intelligently — more intelligently than in the pretentious late-night "culture" discussions on BBC2. But it does not suit the makers of East Enders to depict that image of our class. Let the workers think they're dumb and they're more likely to act dumb.

Without a doubt, there are pubs like the Queen Vic. There are plenty of nasty, narrow and mean-minded wage-slaves. Just as there are plenty of bent cops. But it is rather more than an accident that The Bill shows us only the occasional bent cop, whereas East Enders shows us nothing but working-class trash. The choice is political.

Know what I mean, Boris?

The cultural journey from Albert Square to Red Square is not all that far these days. Last summer Russian TV showed a 24-part Mexican soap opera made in the 1970s. Seventy percent of the Russian viewing audience watched it: a staggering 200 million daily viewers, making it the most popular TV drama in the history of the world. Set amongst the privileged echelons of Mexican society, it was called The Rich Also Cry. Something handy to think about when you’re queueing for sausages, eh?

Capitalist nonsense for beginners

Germany Means Business (BBC2, Tuesday, 2 February) was a rather dull documentary about how the Dresdner Bank is becoming the largest banking instituted in eastern Germany and is training young east Germans to become good little bank employees. The thrill of these poor wage-slaves at the chance to be trained to work in a bank (which is a lot more rewarding than learning the thrills of mass unemployment) was pathetic to see. The trainers were teaching them all the nonsense of how to see themselves as being part of the prosperity of the bank. In the final scene the trainees were shown at a dinner which was laid on for them. As for the growing number of unemployed workers in eastern Germany, one fast-learning girl explained that their trouble was that they didn't want to work hard. She could go far.

Killers on the box

Last month saw a set-piece moral debate about whether it was ethical to have shown a TV interview with a serial killer. In the same month both BBC and ITV carried interviews with Malcolm Rifkind, the Minister of Defence. After the bombing of Baghdad they interviewed the glorified mass killer. Storming Norman. What is the difference?
Steve Coleman

50 Years Ago: Socialism, Pacifism and Politics (1993)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Capitalism can last only as long as the majority of the workers are prepared to preserve it. and as long as it lasts the so-called abnormal periods of economic blizzards and wars will continue. These crises are normal to capitalism, and it is the duty of pacifists and other workers to grasp this fact and work to end this system. Mere resistance to war is insufficient as it cannot even achieve its purpose—peace—because it cannot rid the world of capitalism. The social problems we are troubled with to-day can be solved only when everyone has free access to the means of life; when goods are produced solely for use and freely distributed amongst the members of society. Socialism offers all that is worthwhile to the workers. It is an historical necessity, and it is in their interests, and we earnestly ask them to give serious thought to it as the solution to their problems. Only from the workers’ class-conscious political activities can Socialism be achieved, and war, want and insecurity be banished from the earth for ever.

[From an article by “L. J.”, Socialist Standard, March 1943.]

Obituary: Laurie Frank (1993)

Obituary from the March 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to announce the death in December of Laurie Frank, who under his Party name of Frank Laurence, was for many years Secretary of our Central Branch.

Laurie Frank came to England from Austria just before the war and joined the Party in 1939. His father had been a Party member before the first world war. during which he was imprisoned in Alexandra Palace as an “enemy alien” and then deported to Germany.

During the 1939-45 war Laurie Frank was a conscientious objector on socialist grounds and. along with other socialists, was sent to work on the land. Besides his contribution as a member of the old Bloomsbury Branch, his main work for the Party was on the administrative side. The work of Central Branch Secretary involves sending EC Minutes, corresponding and collecting dues from members living in all pans of Britain and Laurie Frank was able to use the facilities of the ice cream trade association for which he worked to do this. For a number of years he was also the Literature Secretary dealing with the accounts and despatch of the Socialist Standard each month to branches, groups, bookshops and Companion Parties overseas.

Laurie Frank was not a member of the Party at the time of his death, but this cannot detract from the essential work he did while he was a member.