Sunday, May 31, 2020

A socialist alphabet

 From the May 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Action: What makes you angry? The destruction of rain forests? The threat of nuclear weapons? Racism? Do you believe that support for, or membership of, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Amnesty will help solve the problem? There are so many problems and causes that call for attention. Where will you find the time to write all the protest letters, go on demonstrations and earn the money for all the donations? Don’t try to alleviate the effects. Act against the cause.
Brave New World Throughout history the idea of a perfect world has captured the imagination. Thomas Mores book, Utopia, published in 1516, described an imaginary island with a perfect social and political system. The term "Utopian" is used to describe what is thought to be unpractical. Ask yourself, whose interest does it serve for you to think that a better society is an impractical proposition?
Class: No one admits to being working class. It conjures up pictures of flat caps, three ducks on the wall, breeding pigeons and keeping coal in the bath. Even being thought lower class is more acceptable. Ask anyone, they'll tell you that Britain is the most class-ridden country in the world. This may come as a surprise, but there are only two classes in society If you have no means of providing the necessities in life other than by selling your labour power for a wage or salary, you belong to the vast majority, the working class. If, however, you are one of the minority who own the means of production and distribution, who get their wealth from exploiting the working class, then you belong to the capitalist class. Wouldn't you rather live in a class-free society?
Depression: Haven't you ever said, “I'd rather be rich and miserable than poor and happy?". Everyone gets depressed with life at some time. Isn't one of the major causes of depression money? Or rather, the lack of it. The incidence of depression is highest in an economic slump. Capitalism is cyclical. Economic depression follows boom as surely as night follows day. Economic depressions result from over-production. What kind of society is it that is capable of producing enough goods to satisfy everyone's needs, but which refuses to let those who need, have, if they cannot afford to pay?
Exploitation: When your teenage children come home after a week working for a fast-food chain, and shows you their wage-packet, you may describe that as exploitation. But every day, all of us who belong to the vast majority of the propertyless working class are exploited by capitalism. By paying workers less than the value of what they produce, capitalists appropriate surplus value. Profits come from the unpaid labour of the working class. How long are you prepared to be exploited?
Freedom: “Man was born free and everywhere he is chains”, wrote Rousseau. Capitalism gives the world the freedom to go hungry, thirsty, homeless and naked. Tommorow, when another day of wage-slavery begins, ask yourself, how free am I?
Government: Essential to the smooth running of a modern civilisation. Everyone knows that. Why. without it we'd have anarchy! A society without government? Unthinkable. Who tells us so? Politicians! Abolish government? You'll be wanting to abolish money next!
History: It's all about remembering the dates of battles isn't it? It’s about Kings and Queens and Generals and it’s boring. Wrong. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. History is about you and me, not just about those who control what goes into the history books.
Idleness: You must have heard it at work, or in the pub. or in the post office. “Idle sods, they don't want to work. It's you and me what's keeping them while they're out enjoying themselves all the time. I don't know where they get all their money to smoke, drink and gallivant.” Dole scroungers? Or capitalists? 
Joke: Have you heard the one about the planet where starvation, famine, misery, homelessness and the threat of nuclear extinction reign? All because a minority owns most of the wealth. It's a very sick joke.
Krypton: The planet that Superman comes from. But superheroes don't exist. No one's going to save you in the last reel from the clutches of capitalism. You don't need "heroes", you need socialism.
Leaders: Only sheep need leaders, to fleece them. English soldiers in the 1914-18 conflict were described by a German General as “Lions led by Donkeys". Don't be misled into believing that civilisation would descend into anarchy without leaders. Leaders need you more than you need them.
Money: Something you never seem to have enough of. Money plays an essential role in capitalism. Money dispenses with the need to barter commodities; with commodity-production money serves as a universal equivalent which allows commodities to be exchanged. When goods are produced for need, not profit, money becomes unnecessary. Abolish your ration of poverty! 
Nationalism: My country right or wrong? When this planet is viewed from outer space there are no frontiers dividing one country from another. Whose country is it anyway? Yours, or the capitalist ruling class who own most of the wealth? Bugger the flag, sod the national anthem, stand up for one human race!
Opportunities: One of the biggest regrets in life is to reflect on what might have been. So rather than worry over the poverty of the pension, yet another hospital being closed, and the general awfulness of being a worker nobody wants, find out about socialism. The opportunity hasn't passed, but it's up to you to ensure that it isn't missed.
Politics: It is said that politics and religion are the two subjects of conversation to be avoided if you don't want to cause an argument. Religion is a device of the ruling class to help keep the workers quiet, but politics affect everyone. Only by capturing political power through the ballot box can a class conscious working class bring about socialism.
Questions: Go on, ask yourself, is this really what life is about?
Revolution: Socialists do not advocate manning the barricades. Those who tell you that violent revolutions have resulted in socialist states, like China or the former USSR, are kidding you and themselves. Violent revolutions merely result in the continuance of capitalism.
Status Quo: Not just a pop-group. Capitalism is a bit like theories about the origin of the Universe. Some say the Universe has always existed. Capitalists would like you to think that about capitalism. If capitalism has "always been" there's no point in trying to change it. Or is there?
Taxes: The policies of the present government and its attempts to privatise the health service, education, electricity and so on, are designed to reduce the burden of taxation for the capitalist class. Who benefited most from tax cuts? Taxes are not a working class problem, capitalism is.
Untiring efforts: If some Dr. Strangelove doesn’t blow us all to hell first, socialism can eclipse capitalism. But capitalism will not collapse of its own accord. Socialism has to be worked for, untiringly and unceasingly.
Value: Socialists do not argue for the abolition of capitalism because it is unfair, immoral or evil. Capitalism continues because the vast majority of the working class are unaware that they, the majority class, are economically exploited by a minority property owning class. Wealth is created by the labour of the working class; wealth which, in a socialist society, would belong to the whole community.
Wages: The price an employer pays for your labour-power. Also your ration of poverty, because your ability to purchase the commodities produced by other members of the working class is restricted by the amount of money you earn. Trades unions call for a fair day's pay for a fair day’s work. Socialists call for the abolition of the wages system.

Yoke: As surely as the oxen are tied to the plough, capitalism is a burden that oppresses the working class. Unlike the oxen, the means of releasing yourself from bondage are in your hands. Socialism is the road to freedom.

Xenophobia: The failure to acknowledge that we are all citizens of the world and one humanity.

Zeal: Socialists aren't zealots but zealous, defined in my dictionary as “Fervent in advancing a cause, and persistent in their endeavour". Are you going to wait until capitalism's ruthless pursuit of profits makes the world uninhabitable? Time is running out. The need is for socialism, now. Isn't it a cause worth striving for?
Dave Coogan
 (slightly adapted)

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