Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/267/24581

From The Socialist newspaper, 6 September 2002

Brimming With Optimism For Socialism

Paula Mitchell reviews

Socialism in the 21st century

by Hannah Sell

WHETHER YOU are a first time reader of The Socialist or a longstanding member of our party, this book is for you.

Perhaps you have just bought this paper for the first time and are wondering what socialists have to say for themselves. Maybe you are a new party member and want to learn more about our ideas.

Or perhaps, as a longstanding member, you are looking for a tool to help you explain our ideas simply, to recruit someone, or help a new member get to grips with what our party is all about.

As Hannah begins the book by saying: "If you were to judge purely by the media, parliament, or the education system, you would decide that socialism is a spent force."

Yet masses of young people on anti-capitalist and anti-war demonstrations are against capitalism, and many are seriously looking for an alternative. Some consciously think of themselves as socialist and may already be reading Marx and Trotsky.

Many more want to know about socialism, others are looking at a whole range of ideas. Some think maybe they can mix and match between the different options.

In the workplaces, amongst all those hundreds of thousands of workers now taking or planning strike action - many for the first time - large numbers are also looking for explanations and alternatives to New Labour and their right-wing trade union leaders.

They see the Socialist Party and others on the Left and want to know who we are, and what socialism is about. But they want an explanation - not just agitation - about how and why capitalism is a rotten system; what socialism is and how it might work; how it can be achieved. And they want all this in an accessible form. Hannah's book fits the bill.

Fight for socialism

This book offers a devastating attack on conditions of life in Britain and the world today and is full of useful facts which demonstrate the barbarity of the capitalist system.

But this book is much more than that. Page by page, in everyday language, an argument is constructed which leaves you with one irresistible conclusion - we need to organise to fight for socialism.

The book is not long, deliberately so, and there are lots of issues that it cannot cover. But a wealth of important issues are here: globalisation and the current world economic crisis; the post-war boom, Keynesianism and neo-liberal policies; the transformation of New Labour into a big business party, the need for a new workers' party and how it could come about; racism, sexism and environmental issues.

The chapter on 'Could things be different?' grabs the imagination with what would be possible if the world's resources and the potential inherent in technology were used in a planned and rational way.

"For most of human history it has not been possible to satisfy even the most basic human needs. Now... the potential exists to eliminate want forever. The barrier to achieving this is the capitalist system itself."

Change the world

BUT HANNAH doesn't just assert that capitalism is the problem. The chapter 'Marx was right' is an accessible explanation of why we say this. It explains how the working class is exploited and that the interests of the working and ruling classes are diametrically opposed.

It also goes into the basic contradictions in capitalism, in particular that the working class cannot buy back all they produce, leading to periodic crises of over-capacity and over-production.

There is an excellent section on the working class, explaining that, despite changes in its composition, the working class is stronger now than in Marx's day. The issue now is about consciousness and confidence, affected by the collapse of Stalinism.

'How could socialism work?' deals with socialist democracy, the immediate gains that would be possible and, longer term, the kind of society that could be built on the basis of a socialist plan.

The chapter deals very well with the fear many people have about use of force in changing society, and also the worries about a bureaucracy.

The chapter 'Is there an easier way to change the world?', in particular, is a real tour de force. Hannah takes up the main ideas prevalent in the anti-capitalist movement.

Sensitively she explains how simply attempting to create islands of socialism or alternative lifestyles will not change the world: "It is clearly unviable to imagine that their [the world's richest companies'] resistance to fundamental change could be overcome merely by the good example of local co-operatives and communes. There is no alternative but to disempower the capitalist class by removing its control of the economy and state."

Equally, attempting to reform capitalism will not work. "No matter how hard people fight, or how many progressive laws are passed, capitalism will never be a 'fair' system.... At every opportunity, the bosses will attack the living conditions of working people to increase their own profits.... the idea that they can be controlled and made to act in a 'fair' way is more utopian than ever."

The chapter is superb on the central role of the working class in changing society, on why people need to be organised and the role of a revolutionary party.

It gives a succinct, moving account of the Russian revolution, Stalinism and Trotskyism, essential for many people today who are sceptical about socialism because of misinformation about what happened in Russia.

As I neared the end of this book, the list in my head of all the people I should buy it for was getting longer.

You can't help but feel that no-one could possibly finish this book without deciding that they have become a socialist while reading it.

Of course, as Hannah explains, it will take a bit more than reading one small book to convert most people to socialist ideas and action: "The mass of people accept new ideas, not because they read about them in books and newspapers, but on the basis of their own experience."

But this book will be a great help in that process.

Above all it is brimming with optimism. "Socialist ideas have been developed over centuries in the course of humanity's fight for a better life. Today they remain the only viable alternative in an increasingly unstable and brutal capitalist world. It is this reality that ensures that socialism is not a spent force but the wave of the future."

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 6 September 2002:

Fight for socialism

Support The Firefighters

War against Iraq: Unions Must Organise Opposition

Mass Protest Gave Workers A Voice

Brimming With Optimism For Socialism

A Year After 11 September: Will Bush launch a war on Iraq?

Socialism 2002

TUC conference: Critical Time For Trade Unionists


 

Home   |   The Socialist 6 September 2002   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Socialism:

triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

triangleSocialism 2018

triangleSocialism 2017 Socialist Students meet-up

triangleLeeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Socialism in the USA

Socialist:

triangle110 years ago: massacre at Santa Maria school in Chile - commemorate 21 December 1907

triangleThe Socialist's 2017 quiz

triangleTwo in five 'right to buy' homes now for let

triangleBrexit deal no solution to Tory rifts

Capitalist:

triangleTrump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian conflict

triangleIrish capitalist state: rotten to the core

triangleWhy I joined the Socialist Party: "I started to question whether there was a better way"

Capitalism:

triangleThem & Us

triangleFighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

Hannah Sell:

triangleRussia, October 1917: When workers took power

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

13/12/17

The Socialist

The Socialist's 2017 quiz

6/12/17

Fire

The Socialist Inbox

6/12/17

Surrey

Comment: Socialism and truth about Zane

6/12/17

Labour Party

Blairite horror and Labour's divisions graphically exposed

30/11/17

Theatre

Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

22/11/17

Working class

Left comic's take on politics will have you in tears

22/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

15/11/17

The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox

15/11/17

Abortion

TV review: Abortion on Trial - hard-hitting look at impact of 1967 act

15/11/17

Vietnam war

Comprehensive account of bloody conflict

8/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

8/11/17

Obituary

Obituary: Paul Randall, 1959-2017

8/11/17

Theatre

Welsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict

1/11/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

25/10/17

Letters

The Socialist inbox

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Dec Support the Crossrail Woolwich walkout

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

More ...

triangle13 Dec Caerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2