“Marx is dead, and I am not”

Jan Marijnissen, leader of a resurgent Dutch Socialist Party which current holds 25 of the 150 seats in Parliament, writes on the future for Socialism. Though the party was essentially born of Moaism it is clear from Marijnissen’s piece they possess an optimistic and modern Socialist voice.

Socialism has a past and a future

Only when we are aware that humanity is more than a ‘homo economicus’, and thus also understand that humanity is more than a consumer or producer, only then does it become more logical to adapt the structure of society to the demands of new times. That is why socialism has not only a past, but certainly also a future. In the Netherlands, in Flanders – and anywhere.

I am profoundly convinced that we place far more value on Gross Domestic Happiness than on the Gross Domestic Product that politicians and economists put on a pedestal. As you know, GDP includes the fattening of pigs, but not the raising of children.

Of course, the Netherlands isn’t the only place to see a revival in Socialism; it has firmly re-established itself in many countries on the America continent: from the radical socialism of Venezuela to a more market based approach in Brazil. The German left, now reorganised as Die Linke gaining an unprecedented 54 places in the last Bundestag election is another example of how socialism can retain a toe hold and start to thrive where it was recently written off and Cyprus through AKEL consistently returns a large left vote.

So is resurgent, modern, vibrant, Socialism possible in Ireland? Do any of the larger ‘left leaning’ parties have the ability to remould themselves and capture the public’s imagination like the Dutch Socialists? Could the popularisation of a traditional Irish political view, Socialism, come from elsewhere? Or is Socialism a struggle to be advanced elsewhere but not here?

  • Harry Flashman

    A party “born of Maoism” eh?

    Charming, can we have a nice pen picture of Vlaams Blok or the Austrian Freedom Party too, or are parties born of Fascism not quite so acceptable in the new squeaky clean Europe of today.

    Estimate of the number of victims of Maoist terror; forty million.

  • Mark McGregor

    Harry,

    It was an attempt to explain their ideology using easy shorthand. They weren’t involved in any killing and would have described the party they grew out of as Marxist-Leninist though the Socialist Party that evolved is certainly not Marxist-Leninist now.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mark McGregor: “It was an attempt to explain their ideology using easy shorthand. They weren’t involved in any killing and would have described the party they grew out of as Marxist-Leninist though the Socialist Party that evolved is certainly not Marxist-Leninist now. ”

    Fine, so you would prefer they align themselves with the Socialist leader that killed through mis-management, rather than one that killed through purges AND mis-management?

    The only thing that socialism came close to delivering equally is misery.

  • Mark McGregor

    Dread,

    The Worker’s Party of Brazil Worker’s and the Venezuelan PSUV seem to be ably delivering equality and change now that external interference from the US on Socialist countries has been reduced.

  • The only “socialist” parties that can survive aren’t socialist. Socialism is a dead duck and having to listen to lefties drone about “homo economicus” as if communists didn’t invent it is sickening. Socialism and fascism are basically the same – the State is everything and the individual is nothing and between them they have brought nothing but misery to the world whether in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    MM: “The Worker’s Party of Brazil Worker’s and the Venezuelan PSUV seem to be ably delivering equality and change now that external interference from the US on Socialist countries has been reduced. ”

    And if you believe that, you’ll buy this watch…

    Venezuela is a one-trick pony – pouring oil wealth down a sink-hole. Their leader is already drifting into Mugabe territory, threatening farmers with confiscation if they do not bow before his diktats. Chavez couldn’t even win a change to the Constitution even after larding it up with largesse from the public purse.

    The only one’s who follow him are the mob… and it may not be long before he must bow to the diktats of the mob.

  • happy lundy

    “Socialism is a dead duck”

    Only because the state’s learnt to regulate private production and (usually) banking in a way that’s more efficient than direct ownership.

    Check your tax return, consider your free education , free roads, free schools, the threat of property taxes, death duties, the regulation on your employment and trade, the absence of military conscription, international institutions with legal rights and then ask yourself whether your society is more reflective of the laissez-faire capitalism of Feb 21st 1948, or of a stage in the direction of Marx’ vision.

    Remember Marx believed in a dialectic process – one that would swing under the influence of different forces but with the force of history and the logic of material production set in the direction of ever greater regulation of monolpoly and distribution of wealth and power ;

    He said this about “utopian socialism”

    “The first direct attempts of the proletariat to attain its own ends, made in times of universal excitement, when feudal society was being overthrown, necessarily failed, owing to the then undeveloped state of the proletariat, as well as to the absence of the economic conditions for its emancipation, conditions that had yet to be produced, and could be produced by the impending bourgeois epoch alone. The revolutionary literature that accompanied these first movements of the proletariat had necessarily a reactionary character. It inculcated universal asceticism and social levelling in its crudest form.”

    Note “crude levelling”. According to Marx you’ll be needing to work through your emancipating “bourgeois epoch” before taking the next step to Communism.

    Perhaps the best marxists aren’t even those claiming the socialist mantle. Maybe they’re amongst the liberal distributists who believe that a well-regulated market economy at the service of first class, democratically managed, or even market oganized but free public services is the best compromise available today between the competing claims of efficient production and equitable distribution and between the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.

    Bertie might not be a “utopian socialist” but he could be a good marxist with a long term view.

  • happy lundy

    Mark,

    From your second link

    “We have described these values as the core of our socialism, the socialism of the Dutch SP: human dignity, equality of all people and solidarity between people”

    What’s wrong with old-fashioned;

    “Liberté, égalité, fraternité!”

  • shankly’s socialism

    Socialism to the extent you are all jumping to criticize is a dead duck, but their are many of us who would consider ourselves socialists who never would have followed such a strict doctrine.

    I am a modern socialist, clause four is an idealistic mission statement but not achievable. But equality of opportunity and the minimization of insecurity is possible, a narrowing of the gap between the haves and the have nots is achievable and desirable.

    Whoever said that socialism is about the state being everything is incorrect, my brand of socialism values, protects and promotes the potential of the individual, the state can help that by providing equality of health, eduction, mobility and opportunity, but not as any form of dominant force.

    There is room in Northern Ireland for a left of centre political movement, the only elected left of centre party is the PUP, which shows the current popularity of a socialist viewpoint, however when people start voting on the basis of personal experience and social policy rather than sectarian trade offs, there is room for development.

    Socialism in politics is essentially about the leveling of the playing field and the equal promotion of all citizens with access to anything they are capable of achieving.

    In a world market this is a must for Ireland and the UK, we are an island of a few million nothing more, we need all the well educated, promoted and developed individuals we can find, we cant afford to let anyone fall through the gaps. When faced with an increasingly educated and developed India or China…we cant afford to waste the potential of any of our citizens.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    SS: “Whoever said that socialism is about the state being everything is incorrect, my brand of socialism values, protects and promotes the potential of the individual, the state can help that by providing equality of health, eduction, mobility and opportunity, but not as any form of dominant force. ”

    The problem is that socialism doesn’t recognize its own inability to provide equality of outcome in the first three (health, education and mobility) and, historically (and for the forseeable future) is more that willing to crucify anyone who takes advantage of their opportunities. As a matter of fact, the only way that the first three can be provided equally is for the state to become a dominant force.

  • Garibaldy

    Good man Mark. The Dutch SP is a very interesting party, with some interesting things to say. Ignore these reactionaries 🙂

  • Dewi

    Let’s all move on and back to syndicalism – Noah Ablett – my forgotten hero:

    Sadly Forgotten

  • Don’t you just love it when neo cons start ranting about socialism being dead, I have heard that so many times in my life, the same people used to rant on about the end of history, now what did happen to the guy who came up with that daft idea, oh yes he rejected it.

    What really gets up the nose of those who believe that human kind was put on this earth to be a cart horse for the rich, is that socialism is far more resilient than they would wish, as long as there are people who care about humanity and believe we are more than unthinking and uncaring beings, then there will be socialists, get used to it. As far as I can make out it is the neo cons who are going down the plug hole and about time to.

    “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”  –Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife, Brazil

  • BfB

    “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” – Winston Churchill

  • happy lundy

    Oops,

    “Feb 21st 1948”

    in post 7 should of course have been

    “Feb 21st 1848”

    Publication date of Mr Marx’ Magnificent Manifesto.

  • good grief

    So if we’re not socialist we’re neo-cons. Bit black and white that Mick Hall…

    “Socialism in politics is essentially about the leveling of the playing field”

    To me that sounds like ill-advised, broad strokes interference backed up by the assumption that the socialist elite no what’s best for the rest of us.

    The point about liberal distributists and well-regulated market economies ignores the fact that deregulation has driven UK & Ireland’s success over the previous years. Certainly a better distribution of the wealth would have benefited society, unfortunately we look to have missed the boat, sadly international economic conditions currently mandate a period of belt tightening.

  • happy lundy

    “The point about liberal distributists and well-regulated market economies ignores the fact that deregulation has driven UK & Ireland’s success over the previous years…”

    Er…exactly!

    Well-regulated market economies rather than unresponsive state monopolies, exploitative natural private monopolies or an enterprise wrecking “license Raj”. I didn’t notice the state scrapping anti-trust legislation.

    A case of violent agreement I fear.

  • “sadly international economic conditions currently mandate a period of belt tightening.

    Posted by good grief ”

    Ah but who exactly will be tightening their belts, the answer to this question is why many of us are socialists.

    By the way if you are not a neo-con I was not aiming my criticism against you, many people support capitalism but also argue for a well regulated economy that stops what was once called the unacceptable face of capitalism of the type we have seen so much of in recent years; and I respect their opinions.

    A successfully run business should be about much more than the largest profit the company can make and to hang with the human consequences.

    A successful economy should provide a big enough cake to provide a fair share to all, other wise what is the bloody point.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mick Hall: “What really gets up the nose of those who believe that human kind was put on this earth to be a cart horse for the rich, is that socialism is far more resilient than they would wish, as long as there are people who care about humanity and believe we are more than unthinking and uncaring beings, then there will be socialists, get used to it.”

    Of course there will be — so long as there are those willing to prostitute government as a nanny, there are those who are willing to demand a share of what they have not earned and willing to elect those who promise them largesse, pimped- out as “their fair share.”

    Mick, I have a news break for you — life isn’t fair, was never fair and likely is never going to be fair. Empowering the the government to rob Peter to pay Paul because Paul thinks Peter lives too well is just armed robbery tarted up in a bureaucrat’s suit.

    Then there are those lovely examples of socialism where Paul’s complaints put Peter int he “re-education camps…”

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s fantastic to see the revival of socialism.

    I’ve often wondered how successful my work in Russia might have been if there weren’t capitalist countries for me to sell our produce to, in order to raise the money to build weapons. A few million people got starved to death in the process, and a few million more got murdered over trumped up charges, but sure, what’s that between friends ?

    The Worker’s Party of Brazil Worker’s and the Venezuelan PSUV seem to be ably delivering equality and change now that external interference from the US on Socialist countries has been reduced.

    It’s a merry tradition I see being carried on in Venezuela. I think it’s wonderful – quite sincerely – that Mr Chavez is using the oil wealth, in many cases, for the benefit of his people. But how would this be possible without the refined capitalism present in the international oil markets ? What is he going to do when he runs out of oil ?

    Mick:

    Mick Hall: “What really gets up the nose of those who believe that human kind was put on this earth to be a cart horse for the rich, is that socialism is far more resilient than they would wish, as long as there are people who care about humanity and believe we are more than unthinking and uncaring beings, then there will be socialists, get used to it.”

    Mick, this isn’t it. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly dislike the super-rich. The trouble is, when it comes to creating general wealth and improving health and living standards, socialism completely sucks. The kind of capitalism we have in the West – with social safeguards – does a much better job. Yes, quite a few people end up being stupendously rich out of it. I don’t like that. But it sure beats the hell out of the gulags and the famines. The Soviets completely destroyed Russia; the Maoists completely destroyed China.

  • Dread

    That life is not is unfair is not written in stone, the world is that was because people made it so, now you appear to believe human beings are evil, greedy, power mad or just plain stupid, whereas I happen to believe the vast majority of people are not like that, and given the chance would like to help build and live in a more equitable world.

    As to socialism I am certain you have no understanding what it is or could be. You see all socialism through a cold war time warp.ie Stalinism, whereas like most political ideas it comes in 57 varieties.

    I can understand why you think that, but I have great difficulty in understand why an intelligent man like you makes no effort to search out the truth. I do not expect you to become a socialist but I do wish you would make some attempt to understand what makes us tick.

    I can see that not all capitalists are wicked exploiters and support and advocate capitalism as they feel it is to the benefit of human kind. Yet you cannot and are unwilling to understand socialists like myself, who no more trusts the State than he would Joe Stalin or the boy Bush, although I can see that at this stage of human development the state is necessary to organize things like health care, education, law and order etc.

  • Dread

    I could say there are lovely examples of capitalisim like Birkenau, Treblinka, Maidaneck, etc but that would be infair and plain wrong as such things do not epitomize capitalism as a whole just as Stalinism does not socialism..

  • But comrade stalin almost all of the benefits in social welfare came about due to socialists demanding and advocating them or people like Bismark stealing our ideas in the hope of heading us off.

    Few socialist today are demanding a single party state, most would support a mixture of regulated capitalism, a decent welfare and education system, a foreign policy that is not based entirely on the self interest of big business and an extension of our democratic rights. i e left social democracy.

    What we have learned is just like an unregulated capitalist economy is a disaster, so is a 100 percent state run economy. Although some State infrastructure, railways, water, should be state owned.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick:

    But comrade stalin almost all of the benefits in social welfare came about due to socialists demanding and advocating them or people like Bismark stealing our ideas in the hope of heading us off.

    I completely agree with you there. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the establishment/aristocracy, seeing what happened in the Soviet Union (and perhaps some time before then, in France) realized that they would have to make some concessions in order to maintain their position. Our predecessors a few generations ago made their argument, and won. I won’t try to claim that there isn’t injustice, that the healthcare system is perfect, or that everyone lives happy carefree lives. But we don’t have workhouses anymore.

    The work of our ancestors, in my opinion, is in serious danger of being unravelled. On several occasions lately, I have heard young working people with young families – not in the middle classes I might add – complaining about how they go to work while their neighbours skive on the brew. Our predecessors in the 1920s, 30s and 40s protested and agitated for the right to work, the right to have decent conditions, and the right to have decent housing and access to a doctor. They did not protest and agitate for the right to be paid for a lifetime of not working and I believe they would be horrified if they saw what goes on. The welfare state was advocated and supported by working people. If working people begin to think it is there to harm them and do them no benefit, it will collapse in on itself. No, I’m not advocating the elimination of the welfare state; and no, I’m not saying that all or most people on the dole are screwing the system. But there’s fiddling going on out there, and not on a small scale.

    Few socialist today are demanding a single party state, most would support a mixture of regulated capitalism, a decent welfare and education system, a foreign policy that is not based entirely on the self interest of big business and an extension of our democratic rights. i e left social democracy.

    If I were asked to define my own principles, I’d write pretty much what you wrote above. However I call myself centre, or possibly centre-right on a bad day. I wonder what the difference between us is ? Fundamentally I recognize that the only way to create and spread wealth is to encourage business and to have open economies. I think the private sector is better at running most things, including railways and, yes, possibly healthcare (although with healthcare you’ve got to have a heavily regulated environment with the state controlling prices and specifying acceptable minimum standards of care and coverage). I think the largesse in our public sector, what with this nonsense of four victims commissioners being paid to tell us what we already know, is wrong; this is the diversion of tax money paid by working people away from health and education, and towards stunts for already-rich society it-people.

    To me the word “socialism” means state control of the means of production and distribution. That is doomed to failure. Fundamentally, people have to accept the role of business. Fundamentally, while the role of business involves increasing general wealth and prosperity, it will involve some people getting very rich – in some cases, deservedly so; in other cases, not so deservedly so. It’s bad but I can’t think of a better way of doing it.

  • lib2016

    Comrade Stalin

    To paraphrase what Mick Hall has so rightly said socialism is about the right to work and not about the right to live without working. The idea of the brew as we know it in this country is more to do with ‘one nation Tories’ who at least had the gumption to realise that a society where people could be left to starve on the streets is inherently unstable.

    One social democratic idea which I’ve seen in action in Holland is to refuse long term unemployment to those deemed capable of work. Instead they are recognised as having a social illness and given the help and support needed to earn a living, right up to half-way housing where they can learn such simple things as budgeting, cooking a basic diet, and buying an alarm clock before going to the pub, even remedial literacy classes where appropriate.

    The underclass in our society has frequently had that lifestyle for generations and they need sustained support to escape it. They frequently need help just to see that there is hope for them and their families.

    Even a lousy job beats unemployment any day of the week and people whose selfworth and chaotic lifestyle is such that they don’t recognise that fact need help, not the big stick approach.

  • BfB

    Socialism is communism light. No socialist regime has endured in practice. They evolved into communist, dictatorial, killing fields. You can’t force income equality, human nature dictates that the result is a loss of productivity. It is industrial strength naivety to think that taking the willfully non-productive segment aside and morphing them into productivity is remotely possible. I have spent time living and working in some of these places and they were bad places to visit and I certainly didn’t want to live there. Except for Cuba, the people were turned into quite nasty carnivores. Socialism is a fools game, great sport for the young and rebellious to champion, but a living hell for the real people who live a tortured, and temporary existence under it. One hundred million or so, souls have fallen under the sword of these ‘socialist’ regimes.
    Josef Stalin, Soviet Union
    Pol Pot, Kmher Rouge
    Adolph Hitler, Germany
    National Socialist German Workers Party(nazi!!)
    Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet Union
    Fidel Castro, Cuba
    Mao Zedong, China
    Kim Il Sung, North Korea
    Tito, Yugoslavia
    Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

    Socialism?
    please.

  • lib2016

    The Scandanavian states and to a lesser extent the Benelux countries would be more like most people’s idea of modern socialism. A society which recognises the need to protect the weak, the old and the ill while making sure that the ablebodied contribute according to their ability.

    No country now espouses ‘pure’ capitalism because it just didn’ work whereas every country, even Britain and America realise the damage a lack of social capitalism does in terms of excluding a huge section of society from developing their talent.

    With the middle class being squeezed in America particularly the worm is turning. People pay the same taxes overall as they do in Europe but get back much less. Closer to home the NHS is being squeezed so that the British government can afford Trident and foreign adventures like Iraq.

    It’s not just the poor are suffering but the guy who faces working all his life to afford a small mortage and a secondhand car, if he’s lucky. Hit the middleclass and they’ll turn on you, as Bush and the republicans are currently discovering.

  • BfB

    I worked for a Finnish company for a few years and that flavor of socialism seemed to work ok. The country is small, with most of its’ citizens native for generations, or from other Nordic states. Hardworking, smart, people who had an understanding on how to help out each other. Immigration trends have put that model in flames. Look over to the Netherlands.
    The deterioration of the middle class in the US is the result of the Democratic, socialist congress and their activist judges. Approval ratings for these fools is much lower than Mr. Bush. Do a little research before you enter the Bush Derangement Zone.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Hit the middleclass and they’ll turn on you, as Bush and the republicans are currently discovering.’

    Indeed . Bush’s State of the DisUnion speech said it all. Having turned the country from a budget surplus situation into one with 4 trillion in debt – 2 trillion of that gone into a hole in the ground in Iraq the entire world can’t wait for the cowboy to depart .

    In truth the deterioration of the American middle class began 20 years ago and to be exact post 1973 with the Nixon regime . Nixon ‘deregulated’ banking oversight activity to such an extent that the groundwork was set for the present financial markets shambles . The paranoid Nixon was too busy listening to his tapes and planning break ins to bother much about the economy.

    Common sense should tell most people that health care if left to the private sector alone will become available to only the rich and the healthy . With modern technology and data retrieval systems large insurance companies can refuse /reject anyone with a previous condition . Eventually you end up with a system whereby the insurance companes will only insure those who have the money and who don’t get ill /sick or need operations.

    Both totalitarian communism and neo cons (the market alone will work to the benefit of everybody) both fail . The first because it fails to take account of human nature and the second because it also fails to take account of human nature .

  • I feel many socialist have changed their minds somewhat about capitalism, not that we have concluded it is the best way to organize an economy, but that as capitalism has proved so resilient and has managed to reinvent itself we socialists have come to understand that for the foreseeable future we will have to learn to live with it, whilst attempting to trim off its more inhumane edges and extending democratic accountability.

    However what the last three decades have shown is that many capitalists and their political gofers, especially in the USA, failed to learn some of the lessons Comrade Stalin mentions in his post; and which came about due to the traumatic impact of the Russian and French revolutions.

    Thus they have become over greedy and at times extremely nasty and the downside of this may well be revolutionary situations developing. If that were to occur we socialists would have no viable alternative but to be in the camp of the dispossessed.

    Which in many ways would be a shame as human kind needs to change considerable before we resort to a totally planed economy again, otherwise it will simply repeat the mistakes of the Soviet economy which became bureaucratic to a sclerotic degree and used force to impose economic order.

    Capitalists and the right should understand that by grinding billions of people into poverty, they may well be manufacturing the rope that will hang them. The Macmillan generation of Tories in Western Europe understood this fact, and it is to their credit that in the UK when they returned to power in the 1950s, they made no real attempt to turn back the clock on the welfare state etc, that was left to that foolish and nasty woman Thatcher.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Which in many ways would be a shame as human kind needs to change considerable before we resort to a totally planned economy again’

    Human nature does not change . Systems of Government do -usually in response to perceived and actual failure of a particular system to deliver ‘bread’ and /or ‘security’. We are not all equal and never will be . Even the fingers and thumbs on your right and left hands are all different . What’s needed is developing a ‘system’ which takes human nature into consideration and accepts that people are not just solely economic nor political animals.

    The increased living standards and expectations which arose after the Black Death dispatched one third or more of the mediaval european population and thus set the stage for the ‘people ‘to increase political demands for more ‘rights’ (Cromwell’s Parliament). The accompanying growth of the commercial /banking /trade economy gave rise to an increased middle class which eventually because of it’s economic clout reduced the absolute power of the divine ‘Kings’ and ‘Queen’s’. The Industrial Revolution in turn created the conditions which led to further demands (form the Chartists and later the Trade Union and Suffragette movements for better working conditions -right to vote etc etc .

    Despite all the progress mentioned above it’s sad to see that many people won’t even bother to vote !

    What has happened in the West since the end of history i.e the fall of communism can be seen as an initial triump for ‘capitalism’ .Today just as in Industrial revolution days capitalism has outreached to the farthest corners of the globe in order to get the best returns on it’s investments. Better to invest in a sugar plantation in Barbados in 1810 than in overpopulated -over peasanted Ireland (much better returns ye see ) was in retrospect not that much different from investing in China or Indonesia or South America in 2008 where the ‘returns’ are so much better than say in clapped out thinly populated Northern Ireland etc etc .

    The difference between MacMillan’s time and the ‘You never had it so good era’ and the present is that now the world is a much more competetive environment . National Governments have less control than ever on the movement of international finance on the move for better/safer returns .

    It’s a mistake to think of captialists and the right as being an ‘international movement’ all marching with the one step . Millions of ‘capitalists ‘ in China, India, Brazil , Indonesia (those four countries alone account for almost 50% of humanity worldwide ) want their share of the ‘goodies’ of the earth just like everybody else.

    Getting the ‘balance’ right in an open democratic economy is always going to be difficult given the number of competing interest groups etc etc .

    Even the Scandinavian ‘model’ of socialism is crumbling as those societies are forced to adapt to the new economy .

    The problem for NI politicians is that economically there is no going back and neither is there much leeway to move forward from their present situation.

  • Greenflag

    Good post, although I never mentioned human nature, you must be a young person if you believe it does not change, as I can assure even over a persons own life time it can, if only in small, but pretty important ways.

    By the way the world is no less competitive today than in the past, it is just people compete over different things and there is more of them doing it 😉

  • Greenflag

    Mick ,

    ‘you must be a young person if you believe it does not change, as I can assure even over a persons own life time it can, if only in small, but pretty important ways.’

    What you are saying here I think is that individuals do change their views and attitudes based on growing maturity , or personal experience , through education or economic prosperity or it’s reverse etc etc. If so I don’t disagree . This can even take the form of changes in attitudes e.g compare attitudes towards ‘serfdom’ in medieaval Europe with the present day . But basic human nature doesn’t change . The basic human drives remain . Each age adjusts it’s ‘politics’ so as to best manage this ‘human nature’ against a backdrop of a sometimes very fast changing economic and political environment .

    Perhaps you can recall from your history the long drawn out demise of the aristocratic barons in medieval and later Europe as they lost out economically to the nouveau riche business class . Eventually their relative economic decline was to become a political decline as democratisation took hold .

    It’s no different today except in worldwide terms the ‘old order’ the rich West is having to make room at the table for the populous fast growing countries of Asia .

    ‘By the way the world is no less competitive today than in the past’

    In the sense that human nature is the same today as it was in the past -you are correct . But in absolute terms a world of 7 billion people is going to be much more competitive than one of 1 billion or less .

    The task facing those of a ‘socialist bent ‘ is how to curb the worst aspects of neo con capitalism without stunting the natural dynamics which have enabled ‘capitalism’ to deliver a better world for most people . IMHO it is essential that the State plays the key role in regulation of Education and Health as these are two areas which will sooner or later determine the quality of any nation’s workforce and thus it’s ability to prosper into the future . Other than basic regulation the State needs to keep out of ‘business’ . Civil servants like to work 9 to 5 . Unfortunately nobody ever builds a successful business working such short hours 🙂

  • Mark McGregor

    I’ve tried not to comment too much as getting to set the topic is probably a big enough say but to those questioning Venezuela on the basis its social change is paid for from oil wealth and the oil can’t last for ever: can I remind you until recently that oil wealth was directed for the benefit of the few and in no circumstances did they intend to do anything with it for the disadvantaged/many ever. Yes, it may be fleeting but at least the majority see some benefit from it and it leaves them better prepared for life without it as education standards, housing, health etc. improve. Something that never would have happened without a socialist government, the money benefits the people and not multi-nationals.

    Also, as Mick Hall points out no modern socialist (well, very few) is calling for a return to Soviet style politics or Maoism. Most of us recognised long ago, if we ever didn’t, the failings of those regimes. Suggesting socialists are arguing for a return to Stalinist or Year Zero style states is disingenuous and pretty much shows that you probably haven’t read the article/speech that prompted this blog.

    Though being a socialist, I love you all regardless.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’ve enjoyed reading the other contributions here. lib2016, I agree with you – the long term unemployed need help at getting back to work, and I agree that the big stick approach is not necessarily the best way to do this. However, from one frame of mind what you have advocated is, essentially, welfare to work which is championed by rightwingers everywhere. Those on the left seem to be generally quite careful to avoid associating themselves with such positions.

    My family background is somewhat to the left of where I’m at, and they are people who would have identified with the (old) Labour Party, and going back further, with the Worker’s Party and so on. The language of socialism and class struggle that I hear is the language of a previous generation where people had to deal with high unemployment and a real lack of opportunity. Ironically, that high unemployment and lack of opportunity occurred in a place where there was a great proportion of nationalized industry. I remember when I was growing up, knowing of people who were made redundant and had real trouble finding work, and the queues at the JobCentre. It seems like a distant memory now.

    The socialists I have known have always been concerned with the right to work. They were proud and determined people who stood up to make themselves known, and who wanted to better themselves. They would be horrified, as I said earlier, if they saw what goes on now. There have never been so many people doing A-Levels or going to university, opportunities which were once a dream for most people. Instead, teenagers in the poorer neighbourhoods, despite having the brains and the wit to do well academically, are refusing to take this option for fear of being labelled as snobs.

    I remember when I first read that quote from Norman Tebbit, who said words to the effect of “My father was once out of work. He did not riot. He got on his bike and went to look for it, and didn’t stop until he found it”. Is Tebbit a closet socialist ? Or are socialist closet Tebbit admirers ?

    Mick writes :

    The Macmillan generation of Tories in Western Europe understood this fact, and it is to their credit that in the UK when they returned to power in the 1950s, they made no real attempt to turn back the clock on the welfare state etc, that was left to that foolish and nasty woman Thatcher.

    The legacy of the inter-war and post-war generations lives on – capitalists do know this. They want to line their pockets, but they know they can’t do that if their workers or their worker’s children are too sick to work, or who lack the skills or education to work, or who are rioting because they are being treated badly. They’ll grumble, but they’re not interested in setting up work camps. The capitalists have never been richer than they are now, and they know that that is because spreading the wealth helps keep them secure.

    Thatcher didn’t happen in a vacuum; she was a product of her time. The trade unions and the left in the UK did not stand for the right to work and the right to have fair conditions; they did not stand for retooling, learning new skills, and modernization. They stood for stagnation, and they stood on the principle of “screw the bosses”. As such, they helped to completely destroy the UK’s industrial base, blocking efforts to modernize and reform in the way that competitive industrial social democratic nations such as Germany and Japan did. Thatcher just kicked the door in, and the whole thing fell to bits. I can see the same pattern in danger of being repeated in Ireland. The trade unions on the railways and buses attempt to extract a ransom for every reform and modernization move the government try to make. Dublin Bus is still running the same Luas-duplicating bus routes in the south of the city, because the bus driver’s union won’t let them change them to something more sensible. The taxi driver’s union strangled the country of taxis until they were overruled; likewise, the driving examiners have done the same, creating the farcacial situation where it takes nearly a year to get a driving test.

    Mark:

    can I remind you until recently that oil wealth was directed for the benefit of the few and in no circumstances did they intend to do anything with it for the disadvantaged/many ever.

    Mark, that’s all great, but my point was that socialism can’t work without evil capitalism, which makes the whole thing ironic. How can such socialism be implemented in countries such as, say, Ireland, which have no natural resources ?

    Also, as Mick Hall points out no modern socialist (well, very few) is calling for a return to Soviet style politics or Maoism. .

    There are still the diehards, though, and they need to be confronted. The hard left Soviet apologists are in many ways far more dangerous than the capitalists.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mick Hall: “I could say there are lovely examples of capitalisim like Birkenau, Treblinka, Maidaneck, etc but that would be infair and plain wrong as such things do not epitomize capitalism as a whole just as Stalinism does not socialism.. ”

    I would remind you that Hitler was not a capitalist, but that would require something of a knowledge — SPECIFIC knowledge — of history. The National Socialist Worker’s Party is hardly the model of a capitalist organization, Hitler saw reactionaries as the enemies of his revolution. Likewise, the camps were not places of commerce or capitalism, but of asset confiscation and murder, not unlike the gulags of Soviet Socialist Russia or the “re-education camps” of Maoist or Khmer Rouge socialism.

    Now, there were some of the capitalist class who thought they could use the Austrian corporal, but Hitler was a socialist, as was his party. They were National Socialists, as differentiated from international socialism, which was pretty much a dead letter with the coming of the First World War.

    I am suprised an otherwise intelligent fella like yourself lacked the intellectual curiousity to understand the words and concepts he was casually tossing about.

  • Dread,

    Do not be so pompous your better than that, Fascism is the system sections of the capitalist elite use when they believe they have no other option if they wish to remain in power. Nazi Germanys had a capitalist system, indeed even during WW2 Hitler refused to allow the same degree of economic centralization which operated in the UK. There was to be no nationalization of essential industries under Hitler, for he understood throughout most of his period in office, who pays the piper calls the tune.

    As to Hitler being a socialist, it is absolute nonsense, although some fools did believe he was, but he showed them what deluded creatures they where when he removed their heads from their shoulders[so to speak] during the night of the long knives.

    Hitler’s was the creature of German big business from day one, it was not an accident of history that on his first day in power he destroyed the once mighty German Trade Unions and the party of organized labour the SPD.

    Indeed without this business elite throwing their weight behind Hitler in 32-33 he would never have attained power. Of course during the cold war much of these links with between Hitler and German capital were ignored by the west as they had need of the corporal pals in big business.

    I say again fascism is not some group of people who behave in a despicable way but a well thought out system which during a grave economic crises a section of the capitalist elite use to attempt to maintain their power and wealth, we would all do well to remember that.

    Indeed even at a glance it is easy to see that Hitler regarded Capital as his allies not enemies, if you doubt this perhaps you should check out how many Capitalists ended up in the camps, in the early days even the Jewish ones were allowed to go over seas.

    It was not until very late in the war that Capital lost confidence in the Nazis and by then it was to late, as 50 million people were dead due to the alliance German Capital formed with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.