Sunday, April 17, 2022

Letters: Chile and Parliament (1975)

Letters to the Editors from the April 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Chile and Parliament

I have for a year subscribed to the Socialist Standard. I intend to continue to do so because it is the most informative by far of all the left wing papers. I found also that I could agree with more of the Declared Principles than I could with those of any other group. However, in the “Parliament and Private Armies” essay in the November 1974 issue there is a sentence which highlights a basic disagreement over what Socialist principles are:
Socialism can be achieved only by parliamentary means; once the working class understands and wants Socialism it will send its elected representatives to take control of the governmental machinery . . .
In a socialist society there can be no parliament. “Representative” democracy is the form currently dominating the ideology of the British people and most of the world. I would argue that the basic socialist principle is “direct” democracy; the common decision. The existence of parliament and of the parties within it does nothing towards instilling in the people a sense of direct responsibility.

“I give you the authority to act on my behalf so that I need do nothing to affect my own condition.” 

The battle Socialism is fighting is against false-consciousness. Concurrently with an understanding of pure Socialism, a very simple concept, comes firstly; the realisation of what parliament really is, and secondly the working class organisation capable of the necessary transformation of society.

Remember Chile:

The “democratically” elected Communist and Socialist Party coalition entered the institution of parliament and respected the “right” of the bourgeoisie to limit the UP government’s already reformist measures. The very nature of that UP party determined the coup d'état of 1973.

The parties even went as far as to suppress the Chilean people’s attempt to organise themselves and insisted that they alone were to impose and dictate the form of organisations the people would have.

For such an important case-study as Chile there is a serious lack of any reference to it in the whole of this year’s Socialist Standards.

Anyway I ask the SPGB to explain why you are a Parliamentary party?
G. L. Youldon
Woodford Green

In Britain it is Parliament that makes the laws and provides for their enforcement. Parliament controls the armed forces and the police — two instruments of class oppression. It can therefore crush any attempt at the seizure of power by a minority. It will be able to continue doing so as long as the working class votes into power its economic and political enemies. The capture of political power and the machinery of government (Parliament) by a Socialist working class is necessary for the successful carrying through of the Socialist revolution. Before abolishing the need for Parliament it must first be captured.

Using Chile as an example of the “failure” of parliamentary action is mistaken. We think you already half-recognize this. You admit that Allende’s government was “reformist” (i.e. it did not have Socialism as its objective), and that they were undemocratic with dictatorial tendencies. What you do not mention is that the Allende government was also a minority government. It therefore lacked the majority necessary to carry through its reformist programme of nationalization and land reform. One final point — we are not “left-wing”: we are revolutionary.

Communists and Kings

It was of course very wrong of the Morning Star to have published an attack on any aspect of the capitalist State, it should know that only the SPGB is allowed to do that. At any rate that is the opinion of the SPGB. Indeed the outside cover of your March issue should have read “Royalty, Rates, Taxes and the Working Class, Tzar Brezhnev and the Jews, Do They Matter?”, since without rates, taxes and Tzar Brezhnev capitalism would still exist as your pages of Socialist Theory make clear.

I notice that although you do not approve of the Morning Star article you nevertheless follow its lead in exposing the character of royalty. You in the end come down in its support because it gives “pageantry and a show”. If they did not get this some workers would have to start reading the Socialist Standard to find out why Royalty was not Rubbish.
Tom Braddock 
East Preston

Obviously the Socialist Standard makes you wild by being right. If you are prone to the Morning Star, that is understandable; though, curiously enough, we never mentioned the Morning Star in the article you object to. We do not think, either, that anyone else thought the final paragraph “came down in support” of royalty.

However, since you draw the Morning Star to our attention, we will say that no notice need be taken of it. First, because it does not attack the capitalist state. It supports it in Russia all the time and elsewhere some of the time, as expedient. Second, because Communist parties and papers are quite prepared to support national figureheads. The Morning Star's predecessor The Daily Worker in 1947 (21st June) wrote of the present Queen’s 21st birthday:
The dignity of a modern state can only be met when its titular head is chosen from among its most eminent citizens.
In July 1938 the French Communist paper L’Humanite welcomed a visit to Paris by the King and Queen of England in these terms:
We applaud the visit of these rulers in the measure to which it is devoted to this end . . . Our good feeling is extended to that England which fights on the front of Collective Security; that England in the name of whom leading bourgeois such as Lord Cecil, Churchill, Lloyd George, and prelates like the Dean of Canterbury, pronounce regularly such grave warnings . . .
And haven’t you heard yet that a royal visit to Moscow is in the air? Tom Braddock, you are confused.

Soviets and Socialists

I thought that the article in your December issue on the International Socialists made a lot of good points. But one point I am not yet convinced about is your preference for Parliament as a means for the Socialist working class to take power over and transform society.

Parliaments as institutions don’t seem to me to suit the practical work of delegates, under the direct control of their constituents and recallable by them. Parliament is geared to the deliberations of so-called representatives, controlled not by their constituents but by rival Party bureaucracies who make all important decisions behind the scenes.

“Soviet” is only a Russian word for “council”. If by Soviet we genuinely mean a council of direct delegates, then surely this would be a better way of establishing a society in which we all take an active rôle in social affairs. If they were based on workplaces of all kinds, educational institutions, neighbourhoods and so on, they could easily be made as universal and democratic as you think Parliament is. Of course, you could convert Parliament and other State bodies into the form of workers’ councils, or you could develop the councils independently in the course of the struggle, or maybe some of both — I don’t think that is the crucial point.

The Soviets which existed in 1917 were not real Soviets in the direct democratic sense, but often little parliaments in which different supposedly Socialist parties — Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, SRs and so on — competed for power. The Party leaders took the decisions, like in present-day Britain, not the workers. Otherwise how could Lenin and Trotsky have taken part in the Soviets — as delegates of fringe journalism? Lastly the Soviets were not a Bolshevik tactic, but a form of organization that Russian workers set up to cater to their needs. The Bolsheviks manipulated them (because the workers were not conscious enough to prevent them, and not because Soviets are particularly fishy organizations) and then suppressed them into tools of their Party dictatorship.

As far as State power is concerned, both your idea of capturing and using it, and the Bolshevik or anarchist idea of “smashing” it, seem to assume that the armed forces are things which must be seized or destroyed. But isn’t State power not a thing, but a form of social behaviour by which we all allow ourselves to be things, the blind tools of others? Surely conscious organized Socialists won’t allow themselves to be used against the revolution — in the armed forces (if they still exist) or in the industries and services which support the forces? State power would fade away.

By the way, do members of the SPGB have views on this or other subjects (Women’s Lib. etc.) which are different from the Party line — or have members differed on interesting issues in the recent past? If so, do they have the right to express minority views, clearly labelled as such, in the Socialist Standard? It would improve your journal still more if the ideas were sometimes discussed from more than one point of view. Otherwise some readers may gain the false impression that Socialists are all identical in their attitudes, without variety.
Cicely Joyce 
London N.10

The capitalist class have economic power because they have political power and not the other way round. They control the state machine and the armed forces through Parliament and are confirmed in their control by the working class at election times.

We are organized as a political party not out of preference (which implies that there are other ways of achieving our object) but because all the evidence of history and an analysis of capitalist society shows that this is the only way to achieve working-class emancipation. Without first gaining control of the state (the public organ of coercion and repression) through which the capitalists maintain their privileged relationship to the means of life by keeping the working class in its propertyless position, any minority movement seeking to challenge them will inevitably be beaten by the armed forces and the police who remain under the control of the capitalist class.

It does not follow that because Parliament is at present an institution of so-called “representatives” it must necessarily remain so. Once a working class who know what they want and how to get it send their delegates to Parliament with a mandate to capture political control of the state machine, it will cease to function as an instrument of class rule and become the indispensable instrument for our emancipation.

Soviets cannot establish Socialism
  1. because they are economic organizations and not political; and
  2. because they are based on the workplace, not on the centre of political power (See Gilmac’s articles in the Socialist Standard for January and February, and Horatio’s article in the October Socialist Standard.)
Before an electoral demonstration of a Socialist majority, Socialist ideas will have penetrated all strata of society — including central and local government, the police and the armed forces and this would strengthen the growing demand for Socialism.

However, control of the state machine is necessary
  1. to lop off its repressive features; and in order:
  2. to prevent any possibility of their being used in desperate attempts by counter-revolutionary groups to frustrate the wishes of the majority.
Armed forces will continue as long as capitalism because capitalism needs them. The capitalist class won't simply give up armed forces in the face of opposition. That is, they will still exist until consciously done away with.

On your final point we must point out that membership of the SPGB is dependent on acceptance of our aims and object set out in our Declaration of Principles. No-one is forced to join or prevented from leaving through disagreement. What for example would be the point of an advocate of minority action attempting to join the SPGB, other than possibly to be disruptive? Such a person is at liberty to join organizations which advocate his or her views. Party members finding themselves in disagreement with the Declaration of Principles invariably leave the Party — what would be the point in remaining in an organization dedicated to a method and object with which you disagree?

New situations faced by the SPGB have to be thrashed out, e.g. the Russian revolution of 1917, the rise of CND etc. The Socialist Standard is under the control of the whole of the membership and must reflect the democratically arrived-at Party case. The Socialist Standard does not exist to propagate anti-Socialist views — these are to be found in abundance elsewhere.


Some years ago I read in the Standard that Socialism has nothing to do with morality, that it concerns practical decisions. This point, academic no doubt, has stuck in my mind over the years because I could not reconcile it. Did I, perhaps misinterpret what I read?

It seems to me that in the relationship between people there must be a moral element, implied if not expressed, and that factor will have a bearing on the kind of society created. Is not classless Socialism where all are given equal consideration according to their needs morally superior to the egoistic rivalry and financial divisions, injustice and inequality of a class system? I would appreciate your comment on this.

Taking the opportunity presented by the above question I enclose a recent letter to the Press “The capitalist way”. I would welcome any critical comment you might care to make on my letter. Although I have been interested in Socialism for the past twenty or thirty years and have badgered the Press when possible, I am still learning.
W. Walker 

Capitalism disgusts us, and most Socialists would say that their outlook is rooted in indignation at what they have experienced and seen. Nevertheless, the case for Socialism must be based on material interests and not ideas of moral superiority.

Whatever enrages you and us by its inhumanity and unreasonableness in the capitalist world, in fact arises from the class ownership of the means of living. Articles in the Socialist Standard point this out: it is the Socialist (materialist) analysis in contradistinction from beliefs that all can be made well by adjustments of capitalism, or by changes in attitudes and “values”.

Large numbers of capitalists and workers do profess moral attitudes. Political speeches abound in them. But what happens in practice, inexorably, is that “necessity” —i.e. the daily compulsions of capitalism—reduces them to either humbug or impractical personal philosophies. Everyone disapproves of wars, “the rat race”, and misery of all kinds: all who support capitalism go on doing (often expressing reluctance and impotence) the things which cause them.

On the question of relationships between people, we think you have been seduced by one of the claims made by religions and ethics—that “the brotherhood of man” is their preserve and depends on adopting their viewpoint. Man is a social creature with a natural tendency to co-operation and order; if he were not, we should not be here today. Class society opposes that tendency, setting man against man when neither wants it. In this circumstance “love thy neighbour” appears as a special moral teaching, but it is redundant.

Our position is the one stated by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto: instead of seeking morality, justice, etc., we want to do away with them and have Socialism instead. As ways of thinking about capitalist life they obstruct, not facilitate, harmonious relationships between men. And when Socialism is established, people will be able to behave as you, quite correctly, want them to; to cite Marx again, we shall have “human” instead of “civil” society.

Class and the Individual

Being one who glories in the uniqueness of the individual, and who believes, at the end of the day, there are two fixities in this world—the individual and the world—all other relationships are created by man himself, I sometimes wonder where your concentration on the “class” leaves the individual. What will his part and his place be in the Socialist Society? The lessons of modern China repel me.
R .Thomas

Certainly an individual is unique—by definition. Having said that one is no further forward—one has learnt nothing, clarified nothing, explained nothing. Our emphasis on class is an important part of our analysis of society. History shows that all propertied societies have been divided into economic (and social) classes each of which has a different relation to the means of production. In capitalist society there are two classes—owners and non-owners of the means of life. We call these classes capitalists and workers respectively.

The class to which any individual belongs is determined objectively by his relationship to the means of life. No matter how unique he is as an individual, if he is a member of the working class he will have interests in common with other workers, interests which conflict with those of the unique individuals who make up the capitalist class. The most obvious clash of interests being the price at which labour-power is bought and sold. This is the interminable wages struggle which is inseparable from capitalist ownership.

The expression of one’s unique individual personality is viciously limited by economic circumstances. For many people at present the highest aim in life is simply to be the same as everyone else. Look round you at the armies of workers churned out by the so-called education process as machine minders and office fodder. Millions of passive participants in the labour process stripped of virtually all individuality by the need to conform to a system of class exploitation. Your example of China (which is not Socialist but state-capitalist) is just as repellent as anything the “free” west has to offer.

Only Socialism can give the individual the freedom to develop his personality and abilities to the full, unrestricted by today’s profit-seeking and measurement by money. When we have established common ownership the individual will take his place as a free and equal member of society, able to give of his best secure in the knowledge that society is being run in a harmonious way for the benefit of all its members.

Lifting a phrase

Readers may be amused to know that at the beginning of an editorial in the Guardian (Feb. 24) there was a reference to “some people” talking about “the Footbill”. I suppose it was too much to expect that the paper would mention that the “some people” were the Socialist Standard (article on the Freedom of the Press, Feb.) but at least it is nice to know that they read the complimentary copy of the paper we sent them. At any rate we need not feel inhibited about sending them another copy. Who knows, one day they may even feel like dealing with our socialist criticism.
L. E. Weidberg 
London, N.W.3

Shall we be corrupted ?

I am an ardent reader of the Socialist Standard and a great believer in the case. My questions are if Socialists one day rule, what proof have the people of this country that the liberators will not become capitalists themselves? Hitler promised this and that and look what happened. The Russian people in the early part of this century fought and died for their beliefs and look at Russia today the worst capitalistic police state the world has ever known. There are scores of such happenings one could refer to, how do the British people know that the same will not happen here?

Also (I think many would agree) the past has shown as time drags on corruption and rot sets in everywhere. In the past wars and revolutions cleaned the dirt from the steps of the country for a while, but in this day and age the world cannot afford such drastic measures. What will the party do if the time ever comes, to clean and keep clean the welfare of the workers?
It would prove a lot if you did not publish and answer these questions.
Ian J. Wright

The SPGB differs from all other political parties in this country. We do not promise to do anything for you. We do not canvass for passive support so that we may rule, but ask for your understanding and active participation in the task of ridding the world of capitalism.

While the working class continue to put their faith in leaders they will continue to be disillusioned by political treachery, double-dealing and broken promises. We ask the working class to trust in their own abilities. They already run a complex world system from top to bottom and could quite easily run a Socialist society in their own interests. All that is needed is Socialist knowledge on the part of the working class. With this they can liberate themselves by voting Socialist delegates to the centres of political power with a mandate to abolish capitalism.

A conscious Socialist majority cannot be sold out, side-tracked or misled by leaders. In the absence of leaders promising to do things for the workers the “corruption” or degeneration of the revolution will be impossible. Delegates will be held to the sound Socialist political principles clearly understood by those who elected them.

Our correspondent has a number of other misconceptions about the SPGB’s case. First, Socialism will be world-wide in nature. It cannot exist in one country only. Second, Socialism will mean an end to the working class and the capitalist class—both will disappear; together with the need for a repressive state machine needed by rulers to keep the ruled in their place.

Chinese language

Comrade Petter in the February issue seems to be basically in agreement with me: most public works were not managed by government officials (though it is correct to add that a few were), and there was small-scale trading throughout the Empire (again it is correct to add that larger enterprises were mostly to be found in specific areas).

However, although I do not wish to take up the pages of the Socialist Standard with trivia, I must protest about Comrade Petter’s remarks on the Chinese language. To claim that it is “almost devoid of grammar” is complete nonsense, a language with little or no grammar being a contradiction in terms. The case for the subordinate role of the CCP in its early years is surely quite strong enough from an examination of its relationship with the CPSU. To appeal to linguistic “facts” weakens the argument, being erroneous as well as irrelevant.
Paul Bennett 
London, E.2.

This matter arose from a reference in our Special Issue on China, October 1974. We cannot pursue a debate on the structure of the Chinese language in the columns of the Socialist Standard, but give the following quotations to show that there is warrant for what was said:
The Chinese written language, composed of characters with rich but shadowy meanings and devoid of grammar in the Western sense, provides the most challenging ground for literary exercise.
(The Ageless Chinese, Dun J. Li. Professor of Eastern Studies, Paterson State College, N.J.)

. . . because of the nature of the Chinese language (ideogrammatic characters, the minimum role of grammar, the natural conciseness of the written language.
(Chinese Civilization and Bureaucracy, Etienne Balazs)

Broadly, it may be said that a word may do a duty for any part of speech within the limits set by its intrinsic meaning; and. particularly, that what might at first sight seem to be adjectives, are in a very large number of cases capable of use as nouns and verbs, and almost universally used as adverbs. In spite of the opinions of some eminent scholars, the last word on the question probably rests with Dobson: ‘Undifferentiated, a plerematic word might be said to represent a notion undifferentiated by grammatical quality, rather than any inherent grammatical meaning, that invests the word with that quality.’
(The Chinese Language, R.A.D. Forrest, School of Oriental and African Studies.)


Held over, through pressure on space, to next issue.

So They Say: Bigger Crumbs (1975)

The So They Say Column from the April 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bigger Crumbs

Sir Andrew Gilchrist, chairman of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, has recently been pouring cold water on the idea that Scottish workers were all about to share in the much publicized “Oil Bonanza”. Writing in his Board’s journal (North 7) on 5th March he announced:
There were large areas (in Scotland) which would not secure a direct share of the massive investment needed to get oil out of the seabed and which would have no part in the well paid employment prospects.
(The Times, 6th March ’75)
“Areas” of course are not employed, it is workers who are employed; nor can any of them hope to “secure a direct share of the massive investment”, they are paid wages. Bearing in mind that Sir Andrew’s chief function is to act as a form of capitalist missionary in the north, even those workers who will be concerned in oil and affiliated industries would do well to remember that “well paid employment prospects” simply means that bigger crumbs will fall from the capitalist’s table.

For the others, Sir Andrew has been busily at work seeking out ways to make them useful:
We must look beyond oil and its present benefits. These are reasons enough for continuing and sharpening our effort to strengthen existing industry and to encourage new types of enterprise. If we are to have any hope of a balanced growth these things are essential . . . In the past nine years nearly 3,000 prospects of different kinds and different sizes have been brought to locations in the Highlands and islands. With them they have brought nearly 10,000 jobs. That is what Highlands development is about.
The interests of the "we” and the “our” refer to the capitalist class. That is what Highlands development is about.

War on Want

In a letter to The Times on 10th March, Mr. Peter Burns, General Secretary of “War on Want”, put forward the following view on the “world food crisis”:
The problem is essentially one of insufficient demand not insufficient supply. There is food available that the poor do not have the means to buy. Only poor people starve.
Considering its source, this is a most peculiar form of argument. If people are starving is there not a demand? The simple answer is that there is, but the capitalist answer — which Mr. Burns has clearly accepted — is that if men and women cannot afford to buy food there is no demand. He goes on to argue that supplies of food in the form of foreign aid merely “stifles incentive to invest in rural development” and the answer must be on a local basis to
increase food production and its availability to those in need within the Third World, there must be land reform, guaranteed food markets and prices for the Third World, and aid and development programmes directed toward the landless and the poor peasant farmer. These are the policies to tackle poverty, which is the real enemy that tightening one’s own belts will do nothing to combat.
Look again, Mr. Burns, at the world around you. Why imagine that such projects as your “guaranteed food markets and prices” will prove any more satisfactory than those already existing? The basis will remain unaltered, those who can make a profit from selling food will produce it. Those who cannot afford it will starve.

To make “War on Want” you will have to "make war” on the system of society which gives rise to such lunacy as starvation while food is both available, and is even deliberately destroyed for the "benefit” of its "markets.”

On the Bandwagon

The Church of England is always scouting around for some current events on which they can make meaningless remarks in an attempt to bring us all back into the fold. In this respect they have regarded the economic phenomenon of inflation with what could be described as a jealous reverence for some time. Now however a report has been published (6th March) “on behalf of the industrial committee of the board for social responsibility” which feeds out the C. of E. line to its followers. Among other things we note they recommend:
A more rational and institutional way of determining levels of income was needed to re-inforce the social contract, for unless wages and salaries were held to reasonable limits a situation would arise in which a statutory incomes policy would become a moral incentive.
(The Times 7th March ’75)
That word “reasonable” has been slipped in again, and when the Church talks of “reasonable limits” they mean just what the capitalist means — as low as possible. However the report does not apply the same criterion to the rate of inflation. It produces instead a dynamic new theory which will surely have even the confused capitalist economists rocking in the aisles:
Inflation, the report argues, is a sign of a society that has lost its way. 'In some ways it can be seen as the climactic by-product of a relaxed society’.
We fail to observe much that is “relaxed” about capitalist society, except perhaps the benign ignorance of the Church of England, but we would be interested to learn if successive governments since the war have realized that by increasing the supply of inconvertible paper money they failed to recognize “the sign of a society that has lost its way” and can now see this contemporary burning bush as clearly as the C. of E. does.

An Out-of-Date Creature

As various strange bedfellows begin to join together for or against Britain’s continued membership of the European Economic Community, Mr. Len Murray, General Secretary of the TUC, has given notice that his organization is opposed to membership. His reasons appear to be that the EEC as at present constituted is in some way harmful to “the social welfare” of the “British People.”
Unions in every EEC country were less than satisfied with the operation of the Community: many thought that it had started off with too much competitive purpose and too little community purpose: too much of economics and too little of social welfare: too much about fair business practices and too little about fair social practices. ‘I am afraid that your Market is rather out of date, a creature of its times, and its times were some time ago.’
(The Times, 8th March ’75)
Not that Mr. Murray has any basic objection to capitalism or the exploitation of the working class here or abroad,
We shall need to be satisfied that decisions are taken in ways which give due and balanced weight to common interests and to what the member countries themselves see as their essential and proper national interests.
We can reassure Mr. Murray that the capitalist class will most certainly take steps to realise their “essential” interests: in or out of the EEC. And they will continue to do so while men like Mr. Murray misleads his members into believing that “fair social practices” can have any relevance or application to capitalist society.

The Other Side of the Same Coin

To balance the issue, the Times report of Mr. Murray’s Utopian mouthings was adjoined by a report of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher’s “opening salvo” for her Keep-Britain-in-the-EEC campaign. That Mrs. Thatcher is capable of making any kind of “salvo” is open to conjecture; she did however make a realistic comment on the Government attempts to revise the terms of membership. Having wished Mr. Wilson success in this field, she said:
No doubt, she said, Mr. Wilson would return claiming that his renegotiated terms were vastly better than anything the last Conservative Government had been able to achieve. ‘In fact of course, they will be but the latest stage in a continuing process of adjustment between the members of what is essentially an evolving partnership.'
The evolving partnership she refers to is that between the various capitalists, and she is quite right in assuming that they will be constantly competing against one another for more favourable terms. The honour among these thieves will no doubt be sorely tested after Mr. Wilson announces the new rules of capitalist competition in Europe.

During the course of her remarks, Mrs. Thatcher expressed her willingness to “fight alongside all men and women of good will, from all parties and from none, who wanted to put the future of Britain above partisan quarrels.”

While noting this almost libertarian gusto, we can’t help remembering that Len Murray also wanted to put the future of Britain first; only he suggested doing so by leaving the EEC. How on earth then are we, “all men and women of good will”, to decide upon this momentous issue? It is all very puzzling and a report (“The Grudging Europeans”) published by Social and Community Planning Research on 5th March confirms this bewilderment. There is throughout Britain
a grudging acceptance of our need to rely on Europe, an almost petulant acknowledgement of the benefits to be derived from partnership, there is precious little enthusiasm either for the idea or the reality.
(The Times, 6th March ’75)
The answer is that with Britain in or out of the EEC, the international working class will remain shackled to a system of private property ownership. To believe that this relationship can be altered by leaving (or remaining in) the EEC is time-wasting nonsense and only further delays the job which all workers should be undertaking to establish Socialism.
Alan D'Arcy

50 Years Ago: Lansbury and the Unemployed (1975)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. George Lansbury contributed among others, to the unemployment debates (Hansard, March 9 1925). His proposal was to give every young man between 18 and 25 the choice between starvation and working on the land. If they refused to work for a ‘fair wage’ he would not let them have a farthing.

Mr. Lansbury is apparently satisfied that a man ought to be allowed to starve who refuses exhausting work for long hours on the land, work, too, for which most of the unemployed are quite unfitted both by training and by semi-starvation if they have been long out of work. Yet with Communists and other so-called ‘left-wingers’ Lansbury poses as a Socialist.

As it happens the capitalist class have so far been of the opinion, and probably correctly, that the system of doles and relief is the cheapest possible one for them.

The unemployed have to be kept from sheer starvation, and the capitalist class have to foot the bill. They may pay a man 18/- to do nothing, or set him to work on the land, but if they do the latter it costs them much more than 18/-. A man working hard eats more, wears out more clothes, and must have better clothes and boots, as well as tools, machinery, etc. Rent would need to be paid and, in short, it is fairly certain that the dole is cheaper and that the capitalists do know more about this aspect of capitalism than do the Labour amateurs who are so anxious to administer the system for them. This is but one of the many brilliant futilities offered by the Labour Party to solve what is within capitalism insoluble.

(From an unsigned editorial “The Labour Party Betrays the Unemployed” Socialist Standard, April 1925.)

Scots Nationalism - Part 2 (1975)

From the April 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

Last month we traced the development of modern nationalism in Scotland up till the founding of the National Party of Scotland in 1928.

The incredible hotchpotch of ideas contained in the new organisation soon became a cause for alarm among the more sensible members and drove one, Lewis Spence, to complain that the party was
“… a maelstrom boiling and bubbling with the cross-currents of rival and frequently fantastic theories, schemes and. notions we have people who wanted all Scotland to speak the Gaelic…. some hark back to the hope of a sixteenth-century Scotland regained … still others a Jacobite restoration. A certain group sees in the expulsion of all the English and Irish in Scotland the country’s only chance of survival . All is hubbub, outcry, chaos. There is no plan,. Nothing approaching a serious, practical Scotsman-like policy in -either art or politics. (H. J. Hanham, Scottish Nationalism. p. 154)
Poor Spence, but he should have known. With the loss of interest in Home Rule of the Scottish ruling class and their political sidekicks, the nationalist cause had fallen into the hands of all sorts of cranks, literary and otherwise, who were more concerned with “culture” than economics or social matters. Certainly they had little idea of the history of the toilers’ conditions as could be seen by their constant harking back to a mythical time when “our people were prosperous and contented” before the Union.

Anyway, the party was established and membership was open to all. Tories and Liberals as well as Labourites flocked in and even Lord Beaverbrook showed interest. Inevitably, some of the more opportunist leaders wished to “broaden the base of the party” and after an internal battle the party merged with a Tory splinter group to become the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 1934. From then until the 1950s the party endured the usual Right versus Left squabbling and several splits occurred, the largest of which was the setting up of a rival organisation, the Scottish Convention, in the 1940s.

Today the SNP seems to have left the lunatic fringe behind and appears as a modern, mass political party using the techniques of public relations and advertising industries to give it a new slick image, and the Executive Suit has replaced the kilt as standard dress for the party candidates. Not only does the party have a large and youthful membership of 120,000 but they carry out their propaganda with a style and enthusiasm which leaves the older reformist parties gasping. At the October general election they all but demolished the Liberals, hammered the Tories, and promise it will be Labour’s turn next time.

So the SNP may be poised for victory within the foreseeable future. How have they produced this rags-to-riches transformation? Obviously, their case is an economic one. They have taken advantage of working class discontent over insecurity, unemployment, low living standards, low expectations, and all the other problems which capitalism brings to workers the world over in one degree or another. They were also helped by widespread disillusion with the two major parties and Labour and Tory supporters have deserted to the nationalists in their tens of thousands.

Basically, the SNP is just another reformist party angling for support on a programme of reforms and even styles itself on the Scandinavian social democrats. After their first breakthrough in l968 the party went into a serious decline which lasted until 1970. Then came the discovery of vast quantities of North Sea oil. Now they can outbid all the others by proposing that the wealth from this oil be divided among five million people only, instead of fifty million, and paint a picture of how, given self-government, oil revenues will provide a paradise in Scotland.

Predictably the nationalists claim that their first priority is to launch a “war on poverty” and the party’s manifesto, Scotland’s Future, gives some idea of how they intend to do this.

For example, pensionable couples are told their combined pension will amount to the national minimum wage which, at today’s level, will be £25, with a single pensioner getting £15. So after a lifetime of producing fortunes for the parasite class worn-out wage slaves are to be “rewarded” with this ! Other dramatic SNP proposals include spending an extra 10 per cent on education and on health services, and just what significant difference this will make to working class life is a mystery to us. The important thing to note is that these are merely promises, and politicians have always found these far easier to make than fulfil.

The writings and utterances of SNP spokesmen present a bewildering display of confusion and contradiction and it is difficult to say whether they are more naïve than dishonest. William Wolfe, the party Chairman, claims the class-struggle can be avoided by passing legislation which outlaws “undue concentration of wealth in a few hands”. We wonder if they mentioned this to the capitalist Sir Hugh Fraser when he joined their ranks last year?

The party repeats the hoary old lie “that it is a lack of communications between management and workers that causes industrial strife”. It could not, of course, have anything to do with a fundamental clash of interests like, for example, the workers wanting better wages and conditions and the management, on behalf of the owners, not willing to grant these.

Despite the SNP’s indignant denials the idea somehow persists in some minds that the party is “socialist”. William Wolfe in his book, Scotland Lives, writes that he wants to give
“….the Scottish people opportunities for their own enterprise and capital to be used in giving their fellow Scots employment.” (p. 43)
Obviously, by “the Scottish people” he means owners of capital like Sir Hugh Fraser. Perhaps the latter joined the SNP on reading this passage in Wolfe’s book?

Another leading member, Mrs. Margo MacDonald, was asked in an interview how she reacted to the suggestion that there’s no advantage in replacing English or American capitalists with Scottish capitalists. She replied
“Well there is, actually. In the strict material sense there is. The Scottish capitalists, while still making lots of money, will be creating jobs in Scotland. They will realise that there is a quicker return to be made by, for instance, refining all of the oil in Scotland. So we would be slightly better off. Of course I agree exploitation by Scots is just as immoral in the long run. (Glasgow News, 12th March 1974)
So there it is. For the Scottish capitalist, “lots of money” and a “quicker return”. For the worker, the promise that he will be “slightly better off”.

The nationalists have shown they are fast learners when it comes to political cynicism. They pretend to the workers that should independence come then all the oil revenues will automatically go into the Scottish exchequer and be used mainly for the benefit of the workers. They must know that the United Kingdom would get some of the revenue as part of any deal made over the granting of independence, and that the capitalist class in Scotland would insist that oil revenues be used to reduce the burden of taxation which rests on them.

Will the Labour government’s proposed Scottish Assembly, but still under Westminster, outflank the SNP? This is possible since it is doubtful if the electorate in Scotland want complete independence as various opinion polls have shown. However, as the Assembly will have no more success in abolishing capitalism’s problems than the SNP’s claim that only full independence can succeed, it will probably gain more support.

Should self-government eventually be established the SNP will discover that they cannot will or legislate away those problems of capitalism. No country in the world, no matter how independent or rich in resources, has yet succeeded in eliminating poverty, unemployment, insecurity, etc. For the working class there will be wages while they are working and pensions when they are too old or disabled. An ominous glimpse of what leading SNP members regard as “prosperity” can be gained from their repeated claim that “Scotland was the wealthiest nation in the world” (Wolfe p. 12) up till the end of the 1914-18 war. How the working class lived in those days does not seem to have even occurred to them.

The SNP see themselves as visionaries but they cannot see beyond the narrow confines of the nation-state, conceived in pre-medieval times and as outmoded as the clan system it replaced. It is the Socialist Party of Great Britain who are the true men and women of vision, who look forward to and struggle for a new world of common ownership and democratic control of society’s resources, and uncluttered with the frontiers and class divisions which go hand-in-hand with “the nation”.
Vic Vanni

Scots Nationalism (1975)

From the March 1975 issue of the Socialist Standard

The First of Two Articles

Nationalists believe that all classes in society should hold allegiance to “The Nation”. Socialists do not and point out how nations have always been the creation of a ruling group having nothing to do with working-class interests.

What is a nation? It is simply the people and the territory which have been appropriated by a class of robbers at some point in history. It has less to do with a common language, religion, race, culture, and all the other things which nationalists imagine or pretend are essential ingredients in the making of nations.

This is certainly true of Scotland and far from having a common history or anything else the population there are mainly the descendants of native Picts, invaders from Ireland (the original Scots), Western Europe and Scandinavia. After centuries of what were really tribal wars the whole land came under one king by the middle of the ninth century and the nation was born–by the coercion of the people and in the interests of a class of bandit chieftains.

Right up until the union of the Scottish and English parliaments in 1707 there were really two distinct nations in Scotland. The Highlanders  spoke Gaelic and had a culture (way of life) very different from that of the dialect-English speaking Lowlanders. Indeed
“In rural districts, the Scottish dialect or dialects was barely intelligible even to a Scot of another district” (James G. Kellas. Modern Scotland–the Nation Since 1870. p. 7)
So the nationalist idea of a once united Scotland is just a myth. Yet no one can deny that despite over two hundred years of Scotland’s incorporation within the United Kingdom most Scots feel themselves to be part of a separate nation. This can be explained by the fact that the Act of Union allowed Scotland to retain its own law, religion, and education system thus ensuring the continuation of national identity.

Why, then, has nationalism never been a strong political force until recently? The answer is that after 1707 the Scottish bourgeoisie, the only ones who could have provided a nationalist impetus, were far too busy building their fortunes through the Empire trade which had hitherto been denied them by the English Navigation Acts. Later on there was the industrial revolution and even greater opportunity to find wealth and contentment within the Union.

Even so, there were some malcontents and by the middle of the nineteenth century we find some bourgeois complaining
“that England was getting very much more out of the Union than was Scotland . . . that during the last few years public expenditure had been largely for the benefit of England . . . Naval expenditure was almost exclusively allocated to English dockyards, shipyards and arsenals. (H. J. Hanham. Scottish Nationalism, p. 76).
This discontent resulted in the founding of the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights in 1853 and it was composed of Tory and Liberal notables plus some aristocrats. Although the Crimean war soon killed off the Association this didn’t prevent some Scottish propertied interests (the Tory Marquess of Bute among them) returning again and again to the theme that not enough time was devoted to Scottish business in the House of Commons, that public money (their taxes) was being spent unfairly, etc.

And as if to emphasize the propertied interests represented by nationalist ideas the Scottish Home Rule Association was formed in 1886, again comprising Tory and Liberal bigwigs but this time with a sprinkling of Labourites. Basically the SHRA represented those sections of the Scottish owning class who wanted more time spent on and more control over their affairs in a separate parliament in Scotland but still within the United Kingdom. The movement took its inspiration from the Irish bourgeoisie who were struggling to obtain Home Rule for themselves, and Gladstone’s support for this fanned the flames in Scotland.

Of course Home Rule met with opposition from other sections of the owning class who had different interests. Liberal business men who had trade links with Ireland feared any kind of Home Rule, Scottish or Irish, while Liberal MPs representing seats in west and central Scotland had to make sure they didn’t antagonize the Orange vote. The result was a split in the Liberal Party and the emergence of a group of Liberal-Unionists who allied themselves with the Tories against Home Rule.

Tories generally opposed Home Rule for the same reasons as did Liberals. Also the landowning section opposed it because they were outraged at Liberal plans for land reform, while the ambitious politicians were worried about how their career prospects would be affected since there wouldn’t be the same opportunity of landing plum jobs in “the government of Empire” if Scotland were to have its own parliament.

So although support for and opposition to Home Rule cut across party lines the growing band of nationalists usually supported the Liberals who had created the post of Secretary for Scotland and because the party in Scotland was committed to Home Rule. Various Bills for a Scottish parliament were submitted to Westminster until in 1913 one actually looked like succeeding but was cynically dropped by the Liberal government because of political complications over Ulster.

The emergence of independent Labour politics at the turn of the century meant that much working class support was drained from the Home Rule party, the Liberals. By the end of world war one the Liberals were completely shattered so Home Rule looked a lost cause to any Scottish capitalists who had been interested. In any case, as the division between the Liberals and Tories became more and more blurred the owning class had gradually been turning to the Tory Party, which had strong working class support, as the guardian of their class interests.

Nationalist now had to look elsewhere for support and they found it in the growing Labour Party and Trade Union movement in Scotland. John MacLean, plus James Maxton, Tom Johnston, and other prominent Labourites were ardent Home Rulers and they followed in Keir Hardie’s footsteps by pandering to nationalist sentiment in their writings and speeches. Indeed Scotland is currently plastered with a Scottish National Party poster which quotes one of Maxton’s contributions:
“I am convinced we can do more in five years in a self-governing Scotland than could have been done with 25 or 30 years of heart-breaking struggle in the British House of Commons.”
Today the Labour and Communist Parties, along with various “revolutionary” groups continue the reactionary work of spreading nationalist ideas among the working class.

However, the honeymoon with Labour was soon over and eventually it dawned on the nationalists that they could hope for nothing from the three major parties, none of which had even included Home Rule in their 1924 general election manifestos, so the warring groups swept their differences under the carpet and merged in 1928 to become the National Party of Scotland.

The presence of political nationalist ideas is an indication that some groups in society feel its real material interests are being frustrated by forces outside or even inside the nation. Of course the desire to achieve their aims is never expressed in terms of their own needs only. In order to enlist the necessary working class support such arguments as “justice”, “freedom”, and “the nation” are used to justify the real bone of contention and to give it an aura of sanctity. Next month we will continue to show why the workers in Scotland should oppose nationalism.
Vic Vanni

Rear View: Chinese Capitalist Party (2021)

The Rear View Column from the August 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

Chinese Capitalist Party

‘China is now an integral and irreplaceable part of global capitalism’ (consortiumnews, 28 July 2020). More recently, the Financial Times had this to say:
‘The very first line of the Chinese Communist Party’s constitution declares it is “the vanguard of the Chinese working class”. In reality, the last ruling Communist party of a major country has morphed into a conservative reactionary party bent on preserving the power of state capitalist elites and advancing a distinctly 19th century form of ethno-nationalist imperialism. None of this will be allowed to spoil the festivities as the CCP celebrates the centennial of its founding next month’ (, 16 June).
There was nothing to celebrate, and the event merited no mention in last month’s Socialist Standard. The FT’s largely correct analysis in a piece titled ’How Xi’s China came to resemble Tsarist Russia’ provoked numerous rebukes, including one from Zeng Rong of the Chinese Embassy in London, who described it as ‘. . . ideologically biased and full of smearing, defaming and groundless accusations against the Communist Party of China and China’s political system. It smacks of political prejudice and is a long way from the standard of journalism and professional ethics of the FT as an influential international newspaper. The leadership of the Communist party is a choice of the people…’ She could not be more Rong!

One nation under Xi

‘One party has ruled China for 72 years, without a mandate from voters. That is not a world record. Lenin and his dismal heirs held power in Moscow for slightly longer, as has the Workers’ Party in North Korea. But no other dictatorship has been able to transform itself from a famine-racked disaster, as China was under Mao Zedong, into the world’s second-largest economy, whose cutting-edge technology and infrastructure put America’s creaking roads and railways to shame. China’s Communists are the world’s most successful authoritarians’ (, 16 June).

The history of Leninism and Maoism in power shows that allowing elites to rule on behalf of the working class is always disastrous — for us. Working class self-emancipation necessarily precludes the role of political leadership. So, for its anti-democratic elitism and its advocacy of an irrelevant transitional society misnamed ‘socialism’, in theory and in practice, vanguardism deserves the hostility of workers everywhere. And there are signs in China and slsewhere of resistance: ‘Zhang is a Chinese millennial who has joined the ranks of a social movement called tang ping – the “lying flat movement.” It’s a mindset, a lifestyle, and a personal choice for some disillusioned Chinese youth who have given up on the rat race and are staging a quiet rebellion against the trials of 9-9-6 [9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, plus overtime] work culture’ (, 8 June).

Arbeit macht frei

‘The Chinese government remains in opposition to the “lying flat” movement. It promotes working hard — as Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a 2018 televised address — as the “most honorable, noblest, greatest, and most beautiful virtue.”‘ Emperor Xi wants his wage slaves to continue working hard: ‘The number of US dollar millionaires in China will increase by 92.7 percent to 10.17 million by 2025, compared with a 27.8 percent rise in the US to 28.06 million US dollar millionaires over the same period, according to a projection by the Swiss lender’ (, 22 June).

Wealth is the product of human labour, acting upon nature-given materials, that is capable of satisfying needs. We work, they take and pass on. Paul Lafargue reminds us: ‘The Greeks in their era of greatness had only contempt for work: their slaves alone were permitted to labour: the free man knew only exercises for the body and mind… The philosophers of antiquity taught contempt for work, that degradation of the free man, the poets sang of idleness…’ (The Right to Be Lazy, 1883). The Ju/’hoansi people work only 15 hours a week and ‘they hate inequality or showing off, and shun formal leadership institutions. It’s what made them part of the most successful, sustainable civilisation in human history’ (, 29 October 2017).

Ministry of Truth

‘Xi Jinping‘s new history of Chinese communism has little room for criticism of Mao Zedong. In February Mr. Xi issued a revised version of “A Brief History of the Communist Party of China,” the official party history, in preparation for next month’s commemoration of the party’s 100th anniversary. This edition plays down Mao’s atrocities, in particular softening the party’s historic 1981 condemnation of the Cultural Revolution. That places Mr. Xi in the dubious company of dictators for whom “yesterday’s weather can be changed by decree”—a power George Orwell attributed in 1942 to Franco, Stalin and Hitler’ (, 20 June).

But it was another journalist, Julian Harvey, writing a century earlier who came much closer than Orwell to describing the democratic (i.e., leaderless) revolution socialists work for and regard as essential if we are to establish a post-capitalist world of production for use and allocation according to self-defined need: ‘It is not any amelioration of the conditions of the most miserable that will satisfy us; it is justice to all that we demand. It is not the mere improvement of the social life of our class that we seek; but the abolition of classes and the destruction of those wicked distinctions which have divided the human race into princes and paupers, landlords and labourers, masters and slaves. It is not any patching and cobbling of the present system we aspire to accomplish; but the annihilation of the system and the substitution, in its stead, of an order of things in which all shall labour and all shall enjoy, and the happiness of each guarantee the welfare of the entire community’ (The Red Republican, October 12, 1850).

Pathfinders: Eye to eye (2021)

The Pathfinders Column from the August 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

Eye to eye

The recent Guardian exposé (19 July) concerning Israeli company NSO and its Pegasus phone-hacking software is only the latest in a long line of media revelations about government surveillance. One can no longer be surprised by this sort of shenanigans. Of course governments watch people of interest to them. Ruling elites have always had their spy networks for keeping an eye on enemies from without and enemies from within. It’s an unwise ruler who fails to keep themselves sufficiently informed, as Julius Caesar found out.

NSO says that the Pegasus software, which monitors your location and can secretly activate your camera and microphone, is only for tracking criminals and terrorists. But of course they would say that. An investigation by Amnesty International and others revealed that human rights activists, union officials, journalists and lawyers have also been targeted. One journalist in Mexico, whose number appeared on a leaked Pegasus list, was assassinated at a carwash after, it’s believed, being tracked there via his phone. NSO won’t say who their state customers are but they are known to include Mexico, India, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Morocco, Rwanda, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

What other countries might be customers? Pakistan, surely, and Burma, given that India is. If Saudi Arabia and the UAE are on the list, then Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iran and Syria probably are too, demonstrating incidentally that the Arab-Israeli ideological divide which incites poor workers to kill each other is of no concern when it comes to businesses making lots of money. Other countries probably don’t need Israeli software. Belarus almost certainly gets its hacking tools from Russia, as North Korea will from China. Five Eyes, the intelligence group of the ‘Anglosphere’ that includes the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, no doubt has its own sophisticated spyware, indeed might well have provided the Israelis with the tech expertise to develop Pegasus in the first place.

The obvious concern for workers everywhere, and for anyone who wants to see a better society supersede capitalism, is that government surveillance could become so powerful and all-pervasive that independent critical thought and deed become impossible.

When you look at some of the more authoritarian or unstable countries in the top 25 global economies, it’s easy to believe that this is indeed their ultimate aim. China is obsessed with totalitarian control freakery despite having given up any vestige of its so-called communism years ago in a bid to become the world’s top capitalist economy. Russia, with an economy smaller than Italy’s, is run by gangsters who have made murdering journalists and political opponents almost an Olympic sport, as have Mexico and Saudi Arabia. But what about other countries in the top 25, such as Australia, Canada, the US, Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, etc? Flawed to be sure, but as capitalist democratic freedoms go, these states score fairly high, with little outward sign that they are bent on creating Orwellian dictatorships.

They probably could do it, technically speaking, if they wanted to. Some, like the UK, have granted themselves the legal powers for almost unlimited surveillance, and the tools for the job already exist. Nowadays you don’t need armies of red-eyed, chain-smoking spooks listening in on phone calls. You just need AI plugged into the cable and satellite feeds. Even so, round-the-clock surveillance of an entire population would be a huge drain on money and resources, and would it represent a good return on investment given that 99 percent of the population don’t do anything interesting?

It depends how paranoid you are. Some regimes are so dodgy they have every reason to be paranoid. Needless to say, all capitalist states feel the need to be eternally vigilant, however for the most part, they are likely to be more judicious in their focus, keeping a weather eye on individuals and groups deemed dangerous but in general letting the population go about its business.

It’s easy too for individuals, especially angry and radical dissenters, to get themselves caught in a feedback loop of confirmation bias regarding state surveillance, and become convinced that Big Brother is staring at them out of every CCTV, phone screen and laptop webcam, and that everything that happens, even in a pandemic, is part of some dark design by the deep state. How far any of this is justified or based on objective reality is a matter of debate, but unfortunately rational debate tends to fly out of the window when paranoia comes knocking at the door.

Whistleblowers like Julian Assange are held up as evidence of deep-state conspiracies, and certainly their treatment by vengeful governments can be appalling. But if state control was really as strong as some people think, how did these individuals manage to blow the whistle in the first place? And why is it that states and their politicians seem to conduct their affairs in a way that is so often confused, chaotic and incompetent, a fact made very obvious during the pandemic? Are these devious Machiavellis just pretending to be idiots, or are they what they appear to be, venal mediocrities with little idea what they’re doing? What kind of deranged global plan would include runaway climate change, now thought to be causing record heat levels, forest fires and catastrophic flooding? Is the simpler explanation not the more likely one, that capitalism is out of control and its leaders clueless?

Lose the ability to wield Occam’s Razor and you can lose your bearings. Once, at a socialist meeting, a visitor asserted that there was no point doing anything because the whole world was mind-controlled by a giant media conspiracy. When socialists asked him how come, in that case, we were free to hold a socialist public meeting, his reply was ‘You’re in on it too.’ That’s a cave-dive down a very deep rabbit hole.

Still, it’s understandable that a lot of radical political activists worry about state surveillance. If it’s not happening now, they argue, it soon will. If you try to downplay this concern, perhaps by suggesting that any large-scale suppression of legitimate working-class activity would create more problems for the state than it solved, you can be seen as naïve. Conversely, we suspect that activists sometimes overestimate how ‘dangerous’ they really are. In any case, the more secretive you aim to be, the more the state will take an interest in your affairs.

So, all things considered, the Socialist Party conducts its political activity in plain sight, with open public meetings, because it’s a democratic organisation that seeks change by democratic methods, and you can’t be democratic from the shadows. The best way to challenge the legitimacy of capitalism is, we think, to be legitimate yourself. Instead of trying to avoid the state’s gaze, we meet it, eye to eye, and wait for it to blink.
Paddy Shannon

After the Revolution: Life in a Socialist World (2021)

Party News from the August 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party's Summer School
6th-8th August 2021
Fircroft College, Birmingham.

A socialist society will only come about when a sizeable majority of people worldwide want it and democratically and co-operatively work towards it. As such, it can only happen after many of today’s attitudes have changed, once people have rejected capitalism and its institutions of states, employment, money and classes. Instead of the dead-ends of reformism and division, society will be working together to make a world which satisfies everyone’s self-determined needs and wants.

We can’t say anything certain about what life would be like in a socialist world. That’s for the people at the time to decide, and would vary between communities and regions. How things run will also be shaped by future advancements in technology, and also by what environmental damage has been inherited from capitalism. Although we can only speculate, we can say that a socialist society could only succeed by being based on the principles of equality, democracy and voluntary co-operation.

This weekend of talks and discussion is an opportunity to imagine some of the possibilities of this new world. How might decisions be made? What kind of job roles would we have, and what would motivate us? How might friends and families spend time together? How would free access to goods and services work in practice? And how would we balance a world of abundance with safeguarding the environment?

The event includes an exhibition, bookstall and exclusive publication.

Talks and sessions during the weekend:

Socialist Recipes
Richard Field

Humanity makes its own history, and socialists in the process of building a post-capitalist society will make choices based on what they believe to be possible and desirable. The success of the socialist project will rest in some measure on the choices made. So what arguments can we make now to ensure a positive outcome?

New News From Nowhere
Glenn Morris
In 1890 William Morris wrote the utopian novel News from Nowhere in which a certain William Guest fell asleep and awoke in a socialist society. Glenn will focus on a few areas of what life in a socialist society might look like today over 100 years since Morris’ novel.

Do Utopias And Works Of Sci-Fi Offer Appealing Visions Of A Socialist World?
Leon Rozanov

Are there any works of fiction that offer a vision of an appealing and realistic future socialist society where one really wants to start living right away?

Town Planning For Socialist Living
Carla Dee

What could a town high street, village or city look like in a post-capitalist world? What would or wouldn't be needed and wanted? This is your chance to be designers and planners of our new world - all you need bring to this session is your imagination.

Socialist Decision Making And The Rule Of Three
Paddy Shannon

The World Socialist Movement has favoured delegate democracy as the decision-making model most likely to be adopted in a future socialist society. But that was before modern online communications made direct democracy a real possibility. Though attractive in theory, it sounds like chaos in practice. Who would get to vote on what, and on whose say-so? But that was before modern online communications made direct democracy a real possibility. The entire thing might be managed by the application of just three rules, backed by the same ethical principle that applies across every other sphere of socialist life: from each according to ability, to each according to need.

Blogger's Note:
Some of the talks (with resulting discussion) were recorded and are available here.