Sunday, 25 March 2012

Homage to Homage to Catalonia...

Up here in Aragon one was among tens of thousands of people, mainly though not entirely of working-class origin, all living the same level and mingling on terms of equality.

In theory it was perfect equality, and even in practice it was not far from it. There is a sense in which it would be true to say that one was experiencing a fore-taste of Socialism, by which I mean the prevailing mental atmosphere was that of Socialism. Many of the normal motives of life - snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc. - had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class division in society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no-one owned anyone else as his master.

Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the whole surface of the earth. But it lasted long enough to have its effect on anyone who experienced it. However much one cursed at the time, one realised afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word 'comrade' stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality.

I am well aware that it is now the fashion to deny that Socialism has anything to do with equality. In every country in the world a huge tribe of party hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab motive left intact.

But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all...


  1. I was going to comment an enthusiastic "Hell yeah!", but then I got caught up in an hour of arguments and counter arguments over that book on inequality "The Spirit Level", and now I've concluded that it's so complicated that a more reserved "Amen Brother" or something else that gives greater weight to the proportion of opinion contained in my statement of assent would be more appropriate.

    But against that backdrop, no-one talks about Socialism any more. It's like a dirty word associated with collective farming dictats from central government that 'the harvest is now'. People say things like, 'you can't believe in socialism, surely that just means you want everybody to be the same' and talk about it having been 'disproved' by the cold war. So let's talk more about Socialism, which for me is more like 'making sure everyone is alright'. We could do with more of that I think.

  2. Just as the world has never seen a truly democratic state, the world has never seen a true example of socialism or communism. Fuck the Soviet Union: a planned state capitalism with the grab motive left in tact. And fuck archaic old Nazis in Prada shoes telling the world that Marxism is irrelevant. Definitely, definitely, fuck the idea that capitalism promotes choice! When we see true communism we will necessarily see true democracy, true choice, because one follows the other.

    Communism, socialism, marxism, for me is all just more and better sharing. We teach our children the virtues of sharing, the wrongs of greed. When I grew up the the cartoon baddy was rich and selfish and the hero humble and poor. And childhood is synonymous with freedom for a reason: as a child you are free to embrace these virtues and share your sweeties; then you come of age, get a job and are forced to compete for and hoard your sweeties. It's just unnecessary and counterproductive, and it's only a lack of understanding that makes it seem otherwise...


  3. I haven't fully taken in that link yet, that's an amazing, beautiful, heartbreaking story but mostly I just feel a bit sad. It feels like there isn't time any more to imagine and experiment because in the mean time the military industrial complex is systematically taking the world apart one grain of tar sand at a time. Perhaps I should read some Charles Fourier. There are many things I've not done because fear of failure prevented me taking the first step.

    And regarding children. It seems like at all levels of the human and political spectrum, it is possible for ideas like sharing and mutual aid to prevail, all the way up to the level of international politics, above which there is no greater power with a monopoly on the use of force to keep the bullies in check. And at that level it turns all Lord of the Flies, and you've just got a load of countries which lie and cheat and say one thing while they look after their own interests and nobody else's. At which point what's left of my idealism crumbles.

    And on a side note, the biggest barrier I can imagine to the socialist / anarchist ideas (I happen to think these are very similar, just that anarchism requires a sort of internal government in peoples' heads) of the type alluded to by people like Ernest Callenbach (, Ursula le Guin ( and Peter Kropotkin - yay for free books ( is the pesky existence of bullies who come along and impose themselves upon others. All three of those books are amazing, if you haven't read them by the way. The first two are entertaining too.

  4. The existence of bullies, along with Nietzsche's insistence that one always helps others to the detriment of oneself, has from time to time made me question hope. But, even when hope is gone, there's always desperation. The full quote goes: the most important political breakthrough of the past five centuries will come when some desperate half mad truth seeker learns to justify his instinct to anarchy. It has to come, because it's the only possible reconciliation between a man's best instincts and his worst realities.

    It's like the guy frantically working on his appeal case 3 days before he goes to the chair.

    Or maybe it's not so dramatic; things are getting grindingly better over the millennia, aren't they? Most people are much freer than they have ever been and as a species we're much less likely to die from random violence or war. If you look back at it, progress does seem to have a reluctantly inevitable quality. It seems unlikely now, but the glacier will carve the valley.

    On internationalism and beating bullies by cultural development: