Monday, August 20, 2018

The Silliest Story! (short story)

 Short Story from August/September 1990 issue of the Socialist View

Stephen was born the year The Revolution started, the year Two Thousand and Three. I was not very much involved at the beginning and, indeed, the changes, by the time I did get involved, were so great and so rapid that my part in The Revolution was largely confined to the fateful election when an overwhelming majority of people formally established Socialism.

That was nine years ago. For just over a year before that, the word Socialism was on everyone's lips; there were nightly arguments on the T.V. and the radio and all sorts of people were arguing, pro and con, in the papers. 'Free Access!' became a cliche and, as the clarion grew, so the governments of the countries where the demand was most urgent, responded by widening the area of free public access to various goods, and services. Indeed, the form of capitalism that was eventually swept away by the democratic action of a majority of socialists was dramatically different to capitalism before the turn of the century-

Nine years on, I can't even recall the first place, I think it was Germany, where the people opted for Socialism. Britain was next, though just two days ahead of the United States and Bulgaria, but Britain probably provided the biggest human interest story. The TV cameras were out in the London parks – there were several million people gathered, celebrating, in Hyde Park alone – when the 'News Flash' came through. The ex-king, Charles something-or-other, a very rich parasite and an eccentric recluse who had abdicated the previous year, had committed suicide by jumping off a parapet at the Buckingham Apartments, which up to the time of his abdication had been one of his palace homes.

When I think about that, the suicide of the old king, I have suddenly realised that that was probably the last great item of 'news' to occur on these islands. The word, news, is rarely used now, except by some very old people – almost as though it had unpleasant associations with the terrible things that used to happen before Two Thousand and Three. Then of course, 'news' was about wars, about the terrible realities of the old world: poverty, insecurity, world hunger, unemployment, slums, vandalism and all the other things that simply don't happen anymore.

The word 'information' is now generally in vogue. In the participative democracy in which we live, it is important that people are provided with accurate information to enable them to register their opinions which, since last year, can be done through a system of buttons on the television set.

Many words have fallen into misuse. Even the word 'socialism' itself is seldom heard. That's why I wanted to tell you about Stephen. He had gone with some other young people on a trip to the museum and returned with a facsimile of one of the old 50p pieces that people exchanged for goods before the advent of Socialism. The fact sheet that he had been given with the coin contained information about how money was used in capitalist society. Stephen was intrigued.

I never knew much about the old economics but I explained to Stephen as best I could how the old money system worked. A small minority of people owned the resources of the earth and the factories, etc. where these resources were transformed into all the things that people needed. The great majority of people owned little or nothing and were employed to carry out the work of creating all the wealth and performing all the services in society. The minority of owners, the capitalist class, had laws (regulations enforced by violence, if necessary) that required the majority class of producers, the working class, to give up the things they produced in exchange for money, called wages. These wages allowed the workers to exchange their money for food, clothing, etc., just enough to live and ensure they remained in need so they would continue to create wealth for the capitalists. That is why the Socialists always referred to the working class as wage slaves.

I had lots more to tell the boy but when I looked at him he had his head raised slightly and a smile hovered on his lips. Slowly he moved his head from side to side; 'Dad,' he said, his voice elongating the word to allow him to raise his tone as he spoke, 'Your telling silly stories again – and that must be the silliest yet!'

Richard Montague

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