Friday, 13 November 2009

Bring me sunshine - Bring me Utopia!


Well it’s being forecasted that we are going to have storms this weekend, and just looking out of my flat window it’s pelting it down with rain. With only weeks to go before we arrive at that dreadful time of the year again. ‘Christmas’, and yes, I’m being a bit like Scrooge looking back at some Christmas’s past. I remember one year in the late 70s when I was working in the fitters department on the Scunthorpe Steel Works. I decided to volunteer to do all the overtime; over the holiday period, in order to avoid the whole thing, what a sad sod I must have been back then, but it didn’t last long when my work mates were able to persuaded me to come along for a few drinks, not only did I get caught up in the whole thing. I had one of the best times in my life that particular Christmas and needless to say didn’t turn up for the overtime.

Because it was the fitters department the lads new a thing or too about the clocking on machine and they would manage to stop it hours before the end of the last shift on Christmas eve, and then everyone would trek down to the nearest pub or club – they were the days!

Oh and when I say that I was working in the fitters department, I don’t want folk to get the wrong impression for my job entailed going around the works with a grease gun greasing the thousands of grease nipples on plant; yep, that’s me a greaser!

I was speaking to my friend and comrade Brian Hopper from Scunthorpe yesterday, now Brian along with his partner Linda (Giant Haystacks) Hastings and me were amongst the first to join the Socialist Labour Party back in 1996 the party setup by the former leader of the NUM Arthur Scargill, who we got to personally know quite well back then. It’s just dawned on me if Linda reads this I’m in trouble - Oh well that’s life!
But seriously, whilst I was talking to Brian who stood for the SLP in the 97 general election in Scunthorpe against the flipper, fiddler whatever he is anything but honourable Elliot Morley. Anyhow, Brian mentioned the word utopia, this is a big word and I find that most people that use the word may try to discredit ‘socialists’ of the calibre such as Brain, and they really have no idea what they are talking about. It was only afterwards that I realised that I possessed this great littlie book authored by Socialist Party member the late Ron Cook. I love the title ‘Yes – Utopia – we have the technology.’

What I will post underneath this is an edited extract of some of the first chapter, but just before I do, I want to say that I intend very shortly to write a full account about Brain and his bid to oust Elliot Morley in 97 the year that New Labour was thrust onto the workers; that’s led to two wars and an unearthly favourable position of capital and I must say at our expense!

Yes – Utopia – we have the technology

By Ron Cook


Utopia is a dream that will not go away. Every child that is born brings with it from the womb the desire for a safe, free, contented life. It is part of basic human nature.

It is not surprising that Western civilisation has produced a succession of books about ideal or at least preferred forms of society ever since Plato’s Republic. In our own era especially, (quite unlike the Middle Ages) it was taken for granted until very recently that we could all look forward to a better future made possible by the progress in science and industry. Advances in medicine, dietetics, public hygiene and house building were prolonging life and raising its quality. Washing machines, refrigerators, TV sets and cars for everyone meant, it was assumed, a generally rising standard of living. Such utopian thinking has been one of the main intellectual strands of Western culture for the last two hundred years.

A modest utopia

For the vast majority of the world’s people, however, the ideal society would consist of no more than a modest – but assured – standard of living, together with freedom from war, oppression and exploitation. And, indeed, in such a context it is possible for an infinite variety of individuals to live creative and fulfilling lives in co-operation with one another. There is nothing novel or extreme about this conception of utopia. What is remarkable is that, even in the advanced industrial democracies, these modest conditions are far from being general or permanent.

Politicians?

Similar feelings of frustration and disillusion have become common responses to politics and politicians in the democracies of the west. Gone are the day’ when voters believed that a change of party in government could bring about a substantial improvement in their day-to day life, let alone cure the deep-seated problems of the world society. In Eastern Europe and the republics of the former Soviet Union the people become so dissatisfied with their deteriorating standards of living that they threw out the ruling Communist parties and voted in a new array of politicians. They had high hopes of their new leaders and their new freedom.
It soon became clear, however, that the regime of the market was no less ruthless and inhuman than that of their former dictatorships. Moreover, criminals had moved in to fill many of the gaps left by the collapse of Communist parties. Instead of being harassed by police and party officials, they were now harassed by grinding poverty, profiteers and thieves.

In the West, especially the USA, the financial cost of running a successful election on a national scale is now well beyond the resources of all but the most wealthy parties and politicians.

Politicians are now groomed, coached and presented by the advertising industry. Their posters and slogans, the very timing and planning of their election campaigns, owe more to show business than to statesmanship. The whole business has become so blatant and insolent that, as television viewers and newspaper readers, we are even persuaded to connive in all the tactics for impressing the voters – ourselves.

Politicians no longer bother to pretend that they are really honest and trustworthy. All they want us to believe is that they are winners. The issues at stake become so many re-iterated clichés as the party leaders demonstrate their skill at handling reporters and questioners. They express deep concern about poverty, inequality. Cruelty and injustice, and – every time – they declare their firm commitment to fight these evils. Behind their rhetoric, how ever, it is tacitly acknowledged by them all, as well as their listeners, that the basic problems of the world society are beyond the reach, and certainly the control, of the politicians and governments. Our vote is, in effect, a mandate for yet another few years of the status quo.

Capitalism is only unbeatable as long as everyone thinks it is. As soon as everyone thinks it is finished, then it will be finished. We therefore need to keep in touch with what other people are really thinking. And we need to explain, tirelessly, where the only viable future for the human race lies – in that post-capitalist society of common endeavour and common concern through common ownership of the world. It is impossible to be neutral in this desperate struggle.

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