Political Philosophy Part 2

Socialism since Marx (pp17) Part 2 – in the UK.

see also:

other notes: British politics,

sm1 labour movement updates,

other notes: economics for credit crunch…




#part 1

1. Socialism in UK, outside Marxism, up to mid-20th century:

          1.1 Ruskin, Morris, Orwell 

          1.2 E. P. Thompson: notes on essay “Outside the Whale” #thompson


#part 2

2. In UK since mid 20th century                                                      

          2.1 outside Labour party: John Saville, the New Left

          2.2 associated with Labour party: Fabians, Tribunites, Bennites etc

          2.3 New Labour: the ‘third way’ #third way


#part 3      

3. since New Labour – current issues for the left

3.1 in the UK (notes from the papers, in chronological order, oldest first)

3.2 America.




1. Socialism, outside Marxism, in UK, up to mid-20th century:


1.1 NB English tradition includes many figures such as Robert Owen, (see socialism before Marx), John Ruskin and George Orwell:


In 1859 Ruskin started writing Unto this Last (1860): inspired the foundation of the welfare state, inspired Gandhi; for ‘health, education, hope, welfare and decency’ (Jonathan Glancey, G June 2009). Biblical tone, attacked political economy for assuming the human being is ‘all skeleton’ and ‘founds an ossifiant theory of progress in this negation of a soul; and having shown the utmost that can be made of bones, and constructed a number of interesting geometric figures with death’s-heads and humeri, successfully proves the inconvenience of the reappearance of a soul among these corpuscular structures.’


‘There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life, to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.’  



On George Orwell: recently released papers show how intelligence services spied on him – perhaps explains his paranoia (says Gordon Bowker, G).

Not a communist, though had “unorthodox” opinions – seemed to want to be seen as separate from the British establishment in Burma (where he was an ‘imperial policeman’), hence he had tattoos on backs of his hands (Burmese had them to protect against British bullets).


On George Orwell, good piece by Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Guardian 25.8.12: – he was attacked by the quasi-Stalinist left: R Williams: Orwell ‘created the conditions for defeat and despair’, and Isaac Deutscher: 1984 had created a ‘Bogey-cum-scapegoat... to frighten the masses.’


Paine and Orwell: June 8th 2009 marked 200 years since the death of Tom Paine, and 60 years since the publication (?) of 1984… There is a petition calling on 1984 to be taught in schools on the GoPetition website (‘1984 in Schools’).


1.2 Notes on E. P. Thompson’s essay: “Outside the Whale”:  DATE?!

we have been swallowed up by Natopolitan culture  e.g. Alistair Cooke report of Russell speech....


i.e. "consensus" was based on view that we "free",


also that idealistic visions are illusions  (impact of defeats again...: soviet purges, Munich & WWII, Sp Civil War, popular front and moscow (and fascism), Russo-German pact...


human predicament, condition, to fail (sin - or acquisitiveness, or sexual repression or gullibility of all of us?), so no point in political action - human condition includes evil (cf. Stalinism: evil a historical necessity) i.e. both accept evil, and try to show that revolutionary potential fails


e.g. Orwell, Kingsley Amis: individuals' motives, relations with your parents, fear of self... (cf. Fromm)


why Natopolis?  context of imperialism defending self against soviets: have to reject utopian goals - no society can ever be good


also shows in reduction of progressive ideas connected with industrial expansion (militant imperialism), to crude materialism, consumerism; politics becomes art of possible, nad aim: piecemeal social engineering


quote p 29, 33.


Peculiarities of the English:  p 77, re Marxism:


1. problem of models and how use (esp re history)

2. metaphor of base and superstructure

3. economic process = ?

4. concept of class

5. problems from teleological model wh preoccupied with power


1. model = metaphor (parts and relp)


history reducible to a model: or "all that happened"?


may draw up model, but danger of it "petrifying into axioms" - and of "taking the model to reality"  (e.g. French and English revolutions very different...but Marxists try to compare) - of selecting parts of the whole picture etc


how to use models? dialectic between model and evidence (bewteen "synthesising and empiric modes"  = "creative quarrel at the heart of cognition" - habit of model may prevent adaptation

2. basis and superstructure  again, dialectical intercourse between social being and social consciousness, culture and not culture is at heart of any comprehension of the historic process within Marxist tradition, but:


metaphor is wrong as excludes human attributes


hasn't helped explain events such as Nazism, Stalinism, racialism (except by showing superstructure interfering with base!)


i.e. tends to reductionism, to "economy in last instance" and esp. of actors to classes, of beliefs to interests, of works of art to class etc etc


3.  "to find a model for the social process which allows an autonomy to social consciousness within a context which, in the final analysis, has always been determined by social being"


Engels: quote p 81..


if only in crisis, what point? - and if just means productive forces and relations? only an analytic category that cannot be confirmed empirically i.e. imaginative etc faculties (planning, organising, enjoying) come into act of labour itself


economics as a separate category is a creation of capitalism cf. "moral economy" of "just price" vs. "economic price", and how long took to make change so people only work for economic rewards...


quote p 83 on mature Marx and economics... modes of exploitation have been other than economic; also capitalism is also a moral, cultural etc phenomenon  (cf Wm Morris...)


resistance to capm takes economic and cultural forms (i.e. both to reduce exploitation and to reduce reduction of people to economic categories)


4. class  again a metaphor, not a thing...(p 85...)


5. power/teleological model  can all human phenomena be reduced to class and power?  is history just a train heading for workers' power? (if so, what of the passengers who live and die on the way?) what of individuals' quality of life, experience etc (not just their actions as bearer of class relations)?


other things missing: e.g. work ethic (applied in stalinism..) problems of industrialism (anti-nature, dehumanising etc)


end quote p 87-8 re dismissal of "impossible utopian rejection" by Morris et al


time for a few words from Morris biog??


2. Socialism in England since mid-20th century:


2.1 outside Labour Party


John Saville (obit G 160609): co-edited Dictionary of Labour Biography, with Joyce Bellamy (1972 – 2000); Essays in Labour History, with Asa  Briggs (1960, 71, 77). Born John Stamatopoulos in Lincolnshire village near Gainsborough. 1934 to LSE and joined CP for next 22 years. Taught at Hull from 1947 – 1982. went to India and met Nehru and Muslim League leaders. After 1956 Khruschev speech edited New Reasoner with EP Thompson – suspended from CP and then resogned after Hungary uprising. 1958 helped found Society for the Study of Labour History. From 1964 wrote mostly in Socialist register (co-edited with Ralph Miliband)1970s co-founded Council for Academic Freedom. Memoirs from the Left published in 2003.


New Left Review…

See obit of Peter Gowan, G 170609: involved Black Dwarf, VSC, organised youth wing of IMG (Spartacus League), taught at Barking College – maybe where he was exposed to asbestos that led to his fatal mesothelioma.

Founded Labour focus on Eastern Europe in 1978, with wife Halya Kowalsky. Drew together IMG and SW and left of Labour supported Solidarity (Poland) , Charter 77 (Cz). Edited under name Oliver MacDonald. Drew up fine documentary archive.

On the NLR board from 1990, taught at London Met (previously North London Poly). 

1999: The Global Gamble.

Article in NLR Jan-Feb 2009 on current financial crisis.


Eric Hobsbawm – what Nick Cohen (Observer 31.03.13) calls a ‘conservative communist’ or ‘revolutionary traditionalist’: he stayed loyal to the Soviet Union ‘to the very end’ but had already decided that ‘socialism was dead’ so he put his weight behind the movement that led to Tony Blair... He was disillusioned by the collapse of ‘progress’, and of rational science (replaced by quantum theory), and disillusioned with mass consumer culture and democracy which undermined old elite tastes and certainties. Basically, so long as the Soviet Union survived he could believe in the Marxist idea of progress. This article is a review of Hobsbawm’s ‘Fractured Times: culture and society in the 20th century.’


And another review:




2.2 associated with the Labour party:


A spread of views today: Fabian, Tribunite, Bennite…


2.3 New labour and the Third Way:


How new is the third way?


From: New Labour: Government and Opposition, by Michael Harris, Political Quarterly, Blackwell, Vol 70 No 1, Jan - March 1999:


"New Labour is a project to improve the working of a capitalist economy and society for progressive ends, primarily the fuller development of its citizens, that is necessary for Britain to be a more successful and productive society within the context of the global economy."




Blair: “we are re-writing some of the traditional rules of politics” (Labour Conference 1999)

“A new political synthesis is taking shape.  After a period of stasis and confusion, a modernised centre-left (NB) has won power in much of the western world.” TW (Demos) p 1… (but see below!!)


not just private vs. public sector, but “third sector” i.e. non-profit, mutuals, co-

operatives, voluntary sector [Ian Hargreaves] – though note is now only 4% of

GDP, and why is third sector part of third way and not socialist or liberal?



important is “centre ground, (because) the extremes are becalmed” TW p1 “far right” and far left are largely irrelevant (though “primitive populist nationalist” politics is not dead!)


cf. Gray 1998:  “The truth is that free markets are creatures of state power.. they are products of artifice, design and political coercion.  Laissez faire must be centrally planned" (p 17) - and that its rationalist project of social engineering is akin to that of soviet communism – and its costs in global terms: increasing social inequalities, widespread poverty, social chaos and political instability, and in USA: “crime, incarceration, racial and ethnic conflict and family and community breakdown” (p 216)   Note Gray was pro-Hayek and Thatcher…now supports New Labour,  and advocates “plural capitalism” and “global governance” i.e. government/transnational organisations must create and uphold framework of regulations within which different capitalisms may flourish


note Bourdieu 1998 has also criticised market capitalism, but from old-fashioned state socialist perspective (BM in Freedom 27/11/99) (vs. regression of state to “penal” form, where no longer has welfare and other functions)


to the right?: “It has had to accept some of the right’s agenda…” TW p 1 (!!) also: new synthesis which not yet “a fully-formed ideological position”

old welfare and education structures are breaking down - divorce is bad for children, and stable families are good for the economy etc [Helen Wilkinson] (though claims to be beyond liberal/traditional conflicts)


Giddens 1998: we need to orient ourselves to a world where “there are no alternatives to capitalism” and all to do is decide “how far, and in what ways, capitalism should be governed and regulated”



reversing trends to inequality and social exclusion

opposes myth that govts are powerless (= left view?)

protecting the environment (nether right nor left?)

racial and sexual equality

preventing poverty, poor education, poor health etc rather than trying to “cure” or

patch up



new technologies must enhance our lives

we live in an “information economy” (see below)

supporting parents and education so children flourish

improving international co-operation and democratising trans-national governance

not just = pragmatism…

connect progressive politics with imperative of ecological sustainability (ecological arguments not progressive?)



information economy: “citizens live in the same information environment as those in power over them” (Giddens 1999) – and the traditional authoritarian politics won’t work any more, so must “deepen democracy”



recognition of globalisation and market plus sense of progress and justice

prosperity with social inclusion

capitalism with community

welfare, public systems and labour markets modernised (i.e. flexible labour force)


contradictory (?):

socialism can be achieved through market

conservative ends may require interventionist government (but Thatcher…)

green goals may depend on deals with business (“deals” with is the key…)


confused (or old liberal):


a “social investment state” (Giddens 1998) – what’s new, and what is a state for, and what implications for power of state?


differs from conservative view that human wickedness needs to be kept constrained          by strong authority, and from liberal view that human goodness needs to be freed from restraints – instead, optimistic view of human nature because (?) now industrialised world has opportunities for learning, travel and exploration


(Demos – also self-govt, respect for autonomy, communities of interdependence, citizenship as opportunities which prevented by social exclusion – but nb “the very prosperous voluntarily exclude themselves from social institutions” (? I.e. the ruling class rules but doesn’t govern?)


[Tom Bentley]: back to Ivan Illich and de-schooling (right of parents to create own school) – assessment of educational performance by external bodies e.g.

employers; use of school buildings for variety of community purposes


and cf. Chomsky on American politics: there is a one-party system – the property party and its various factions (1984 interview…) – Americans are voting for Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola -  the packaging has to make them look different [cf. Ralph Miliband 1974)


 and in practice New Labour has:


proposed Freedom of Information Act which criticised as being the opposite!!


Cf. Bauman 1998: mobility of capital means “unprecedented disconnection of power from obligations”

Removed right to trial by jury for some 18,000 cases a year

Asylum bill

Terrorism redefined in Prevention of Terrorism Act: “the use of serious violence against persons or property, or the threat to use such violence to intimidate or coerce the government, the public or any section of the public for political, religious or ideological ends” – and police can arrest without warning any one they suspect of being involved in preparation, commission or instigation of acts of terrorism – civil courts will be used more, where standard of proof is lower (Freedom 27/11/99)


Prison population risen fastest ever to 65,000  (Cohen 1999), conviction rates rose by 6% (to 1,470,000) [Freedom 27/11/99]

£34 million to be spent on new DNA database to test evidence at scenes of crime on known offenders

Minimum wage £47 per week – but cf. new millionaires and fat cats (Kingfisher paid £350 per head to attend Labour conference dinner…) – Capital Gains Tax reduced from 40% to 22% for investments held for more than three years (and to 10% for more than 5 years)

Under Enterprise Management Initiatives, firms can award up to £1million in share options free of tax  - cost to exchequer: £45 million, which = what saved under new rules for incapacity benefit… taking from poor to give to rich?


32 cases of insider dealing referred to DTI in 1997 – 8, and not one has been acted on


Health and safety Executive fails to investigate 90% of reported major injuries, and of those investigated only 10% resulted in prosecution ( – no company

prosecuted for workplace injury or death between 1996 and 1998)


Redefined “conservative” to include opponents on the left… “those idiotic workers who believe in, at the very least, true industrial democracy and, at the very most, the infamous ownership by themselves of the means of production” 

Will Self in Independent on Sunday (date?)



Cf. Clinton:

Number in jail up from 1,200,000 to 1,800,000  (& California spends more on jails than on higher education)


Elite/ etc evidence for


Lack of participation/involvement evidence, and meaning of Third Way??