On Saturday 1 November an Alternative Politics Fair was held in Norwich and three of us decided to go along for the day to run a couple of stalls. We set the stalls side-by-side with one section piled high with copies of the Socialist Standard, including some free back numbers, and the other with literature, books, pamphlets, and leaflets of a radical nature.
Norwich (for those of you who have never visited it) is a colourful and cosmopolitan little city and political people know one another, either by sight, shared experience or reputation, so as we gathered in the auditorium of the Norwich Arts Centre there was no lack of co-operation between stall-holders as stalls were set up and boxes were carried into the hall. A general atmosphere of camaraderie reigned and some curiosity shown for other stalls. The Anarcho Syndicalists were there, a Disabled Rights Group, Friends of the Earth, Black Womens Rights, Ethical Investments—don’t ask me, I was told it was to do with investing ethically which is much as I thought. At ten thirty we opened to the public and waited for the surge.
The surge did not come and there were no hordes but there was a steady trickle and people did look round and some left laden with books and leaflets. Interest was shown in the Socialist Party stall and explanations required as to our political colour. We had to refute that we were anything to do with Militant Tendency, Socialist Workers, the Independent Labour Party or Arthur Scargill. Helpful discussion ensued from this but the idea of a system without the use of money was usually greeted with smiles of disbelief and some people said it would be very nice but . . .
The main problem for people seemed to be “human nature”. Fortunately the Socialist Party’s leaflet on the human nature question was included in packs of leaflets and Socialist Standards and handed to everyone who came to the stalls.There were the usual arguments. People would not work if food and shelter did not have to be struggled for. There would always be people who would grab more than others. We have to have leaders to represent us. Some people are bone idle and would live off the backs of those who worked harder. We endeavoured to deal with these arguments as they cropped up, but I have always found when talking to people about the abolition of money that they are, on the whole, not comfortable with the idea, seeing themselves as perhaps bereft without cheque books, wallets and purses to carry about with them. There is a general ignorance about the part money plays and a belief that it is money that is valuable and not the goods which are produced by people's labour. In fact I suspected that in the minds of some people money had been raised to that of almost supernatural status.
October's Socialist Standard was snapped up, the illustration on the front cover about Class War spotted immediately. We were asked what had happened to them. People agreed that in theory Class War s aggression had been unacceptable, but glints in the eyes of people told me that they found it exciting and satisfying, in some way responding to anger and frustration about the capitalist system. I found no-one to support anything the Labour government is doing and no-one who expected it to do anything other than it has done since it came to power.
It was a good day and Alistair sold many books on his stall, but disappointing to find that reformism is still depended on and money is still seen as the best means of exchange apart from perhaps the LETS system and bartering. A little sadly, I think, we packed our literature away and dismantled the stalls until the next time.