Posts Tagged ‘Robin Thorpe’

Socialism for today

03/12/2011, 05:27:56 PM

by Robin Thorpe

“It is necessary and possible to create an altogether different society in Britain, a society whose organising principles will be co-operation, fellowship, democracy and egalitarianism…a society free from every form of domination and exploitation, of class, of sex and of race”.

That statement is hard to argue with. However, when one realises that these are the words of Ralph Miliband speaking at a socialist conference in the mid 1980s, then the statement becomes more controversial. Following 30 years of neo-liberal dogma and 60 years of anti-communist propaganda, the term socialism carries such pejorative connotations that no mainstream politician would dare mention it. Yet I think that the core of socialist philosophy has a lot to offer contemporary society even if the methods of implementing such a paradigm shift have yet to be determined.

The three principles of socialist international are freedom, justice and solidarity. They define the goal of democratic socialism as “to achieve a peaceful world where these basic values can be enhanced and where each individual can live a meaningful life with the full development of his or her personality and talents and with the guarantee of human and civil rights in a democratic framework of society”. The fundamental difference between the various political groups is the emphasis on individual and collective rights. Liberalism and its modern mutation neo-liberalism value individual freedom over justice and solidarity; by contrast the communist movements claimed to have created an equal society but sacrificed individual freedom. The conservative right espouses both stronger communities (in a nostalgic, village green kind of way) and the freedom of the individual. During the 80s the Conservative government even started their very own revolution; a revolution of ideas that has all but removed the notion of “class” from public discourse.


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Governing for people; not property and profit

07/08/2011, 12:00:09 PM

by Robin Thorpe

In December last year, Neal Lawson and John Harrison presented an outline of their proposal for new socialism. With many European nations still circling the edge of the economic abyss and people starving to death in Africa is now a pertinent time to look again at the way in which we organise our world?

Each generation seemingly gets a chance to make a paradigm shift in the way in which their brand of civilisation is governed. Apart from a very few cases, they opt for evolution in the place of revolution. The consequence of this evolution is that despite the diminishing role of aristocracy and landed wealth, most world nations remain capitalist economies.

For the majority of the so-called civilised nations, the primary objective of governance has for centuries been as an enabler in the pursuit of profit and the expansion of capital. Historically this was because the ruler and the ruler’s peers were the primary holders of capital. More recently, because the professional political class are the acolytes of the wealthy and the preservers of the capitalist economy (particularly in the USA where election depends on the size of your marketing budget). Even our celebrated legal system only exists because of our forebear’s predilection to the preservation of private property rights. (more…)

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Only direct action can save us from Cameron’s Machiavellian Prince

28/01/2011, 03:00:42 PM

by Robin Thorpe

Machiavelli advises any aspiring Prince (or ruler; royal blood not necessary, although being related to the Queen can’t harm) to be ruthless from the day that he seizes power and “to determine all the injuries that he needs to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all, and not have to renew them every day, and in that way he will set men’s minds at rest and win them over when he confers benefits”.

The ruler should do this while his people are still getting used to his rule so that they start off fearful and learn to love him as he becomes more lenient. The lesson is that people do not mind being afraid if they are looked after and that things improve. If they improve, then it does not matter if they are not as good as before, as long as there is tangible improvement on the immediately preceding time. Machiavelli advises not to be timid or delay any acts of violence, but to inflict them once and for all so that “people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful”. (more…)

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Which is worse: work or welfare?

19/12/2010, 10:30:21 AM

by Robin Thorpe

The viability of full-employment has been debated since the industrial revolution. Ever since we began replacing human labour with machines, people have sought to create more efficiency in the workplace. Agriculture, manufacturing and construction now need fewer operatives to generate a higher yield. Individuals are increasingly employed in offices and call-centres dealing with the flow of information and money. Those without the skills or opportunities for this type of work are supported by the community as part of a philanthropic welfare state.

The Tory-Lib Dem government seems to have decided that the burden of welfare is too great and that work should be made “more attractive”. This ideological goal is to be achieved by reducing the extent of benefits available to the unemployed (whether through ill-health, redundancy or lack of skills). However, the reality is that often, although not exclusively, people would prefer to be in work, but do not have the opportunity.

At the same time as cutting benefits, the government has chosen to reduce the funding allocation of local authorities, universities, police, military and other public sector employers. These cuts will increase unemployment. The NHS is also being asked to make efficiency savings, which again will probably result in higher unemployment. And further private sector redundancies could arise in businesses that rely on public sector contracts. A by-product of high unemployment is an increase in the welfare bill. (more…)

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