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Archive for the ‘Socialism’ Category

Socialism on Human Nature

Posted by Nicole Berry on May 2, 2010

Socialism can be divided into two main factions: revolutionary socialists and evolutionary socialists. Both of these branches agree that humans are intrinsically sociable and should be left to work cooperatively, and equally, without an overbearing state corrupting them into egotistical individuals. However, the way and extent to which society should be reconfigured to enhance our basic natural state varies between the revolutionaries and evolutionaries.

Evolutionary socialists (e.g. Fabians) believe in ‘the inevitability of gradualism.’ They believe that society is heading towards a complete restructuring as humans are inherently philanthropic and will realise the negativities of capitalism, subsequently wishing to return to their natural state. This process will happen slowly over time with small changes; with each step, society moving closer towards a socialist society comprising of equality, collectivism, and common ownership. People will reject the state and choose to live in self run communes divided into trade groups, working for use not exchange/surplus value, and living without the need for money and competition. Eventually, this will become a widespread phenomenon.

Revolutionaries, in particular Marxists, would argue to the contrary. Although they agree in the inevitability of a socialist society arising, they do not believe the process should be gradual. Because humanity’s corrupt nature, induced by capitalism, is so deeply entrenched in society, society as it is needs to be destroyed and completely reconfigured from scratch. This one massive blow towards the state and capitalism will come from the aggrieved proletariat. To ensure that society is led in the right direction, there will be an interim period in which the proletariat will govern. In this phase they will teach about the benefits of a communist society, and once basic human nature has been restored in all, the state can gradually ‘wither away.’

How does this compare to conservative and liberal views on human nature and role of the state?

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Does inequality matter?

Posted by Matt Walker on February 1, 2010

parenting or wealth Whether inequality matters or not is a big question and one that is central to modern politics. At AS level, students need to grasp the differences between Labour and Tory ideas, and this question is arguably central. At A2, the issue of equality features right across the study of ideology.

Last week, a government commissioned report stated that the rich-poor divide is wider than it was 40 years ago. The top 10% of the population have assets worth £853,000, whilst half the population earn less that £20,000 a year. The report also found that men on average earn more than women, Bangladeshi and Pakistani five year olds are developmentally  four months behind their white counterparts, whilst the bottom 1 per cent of the population are on average nearly £4,000 in debt.  The report stated that more needed to be done to achieve a level playing field or an equal starting point in life for everyone.

The report did state that all parties were agreed on this, but that is not entirely true. Various Labour ministers recently have pointed out that differences in wealth between families means that many children are automatically disadvantaged. A few weeks ago, however, David Cameron whilst acknowledging poverty as a factor, stated that it was  "not the wealth of their upbringing but the warmth of their parenting"  that mattered most.

As we would expect, the Labour Party emphasise class and inequalities in wealth as a barrier to equality, whilst the Conservatives stress the importance of the nuclear family.

Poverty or up-bringing? What do you think?

Posted in Conservatism, Liberalism, Political Parties, Socialism | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

FAQ: What is the Labour Party?

Posted by Matt Walker on October 27, 2009

Labour poster The Labour Party was created by the trade union movement in 1900 but it was only in the 1920s that they became the main challengers to the Conservative Party.

In 1924 and 1929-31 they formed their first but minority governments. It was only in the 1945 election that they were able to win a significant majority and pursued Keynesianism, nationalisation, and welfare policies.  This approach later became known as Old Labour.

Labour spent most of the 20th century trying to appeal to working class voters. This was natural given their trade union origins and subsequent reliance on their funding. It was also tactically sensible at a time when the working classes comprised the majority of society.

During the 1990s, however, Labour shifted its position on many policy areas, pulling the party to the centre ground.  In 1992, they lost their 4th consecutive election and it became apparent to many in the party – including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – that a coalition of working class and middle class voters was required to win a general election. Hence in 1994, after Tony Blair became leader, the party changed Clause IV of its constitution, abandoning its largely symbolic commitment to socialism.

In 1997, 2001 and 2005 New Labour maintained sufficient middle class support in southern England to win three consecutive elections for the first time in its history. However, the war in Iraq and the current recession have undermined its electoral coalition, which may see a large number of its southern, middle class voters decamping back to the Tories.

Profile: the Labour Party

Posted in Political Parties, Socialism | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Left winger attacks New Labour

Posted by Matt Walker on September 10, 2009

cruddas In a brief discussion with year 12 yesterday, we acknowledged the fact that political parties are broad coalitions of opinion, rather than a completely unified group of people. A good example of this emerged yesterday within the Labour Party.

Labour backbencher, Jon Cruddas, made a speech to the left wing think tank, Compass. According to a BBC article he:

 

… blamed New Labour for adopting a "sour, illiberal" form of politics which assumed the worst in people and "equated aspiration with nothing more than crude acquisitiveness". 

It also states that Cruddas called for:

more redistributive taxation, a fairer deal for Labour’s core supporters on housing and immigration, an end to airport expansion and scrapping Trident….

In other words, Labour’s values should move away from a preoccupation with consumerism and do more to help the core supporters which Labour was created to represent.

This is a direct criticism of   New Labour and its architects, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The Left favour greater equality between rich and poor and are against Britain’s nuclear weapons (Trident). By contrast, New Labour, whilst favouring some redistribution of income, have never really attempted to close the gap between rich and poor. Where Cruddas and the Left favour community and the public sector, New Labour have often (but not exclusively) stressed their values in terms of the market.

Cruddas believes that Labour will lose the next election. He is setting out his stall early in an attempt to shape Labour’s  policy agenda which will undoubtedly be up for grabs if they do return to opposition next year.

Labour ‘lacks a compelling case’

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The oppressive stethoscope?

Posted by Matt Walker on August 15, 2009

The US debate over Barak Obama’s healthcare plans, which seems to have infected British political debate, is a useful reference point for thinking about the role of the state. For many Americans, or so it seems, the idea that the state should have a role in healthcare provision is akin to Communism. This is of course historical, with liberal individualism lying at the core of US identity, exacerbated perhaps by perceptions of the USSR during the Cold War. The American point of view is that if state power increases, then individual liberty must decrease. It is a belief in negative freedom.

British liberalism sees things differently. At the turn of the 20th Century many liberals recognised that the poor health of many people in Britain could not be alleviated through market solutions, and that individual freedom was being restricted by social deprivation. This culminated in the creation of the NHS in 1948. From a liberal perspective, the idea here is that people cannot be truly free, and hence be individuals, unless the state actively overcomes market failure. This has come to be known as  positive freedom. These are our Modern Liberals.

From a commonsense point of view, it is hard to see the NHS as means of Orwellian repression. But Americans  might well ask, ‘but where does it all end?’ Indeed, where should we draw the line? We are entitled to ask a Modern Liberal how active the state should be, and whether taxing individuals to provide public services collectively is  actually a form of socialism rather than liberalism.

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Back in the USSR?

Posted by Matt Walker on August 14, 2009

I awoke this morning to discover that I lived in a socialist state, akin to the old Soviet Union. This revelation came as I watched BBC News24, and saw an American woman, on the verge of tears, exasperated that Barak Obama’s healthcare reforms would turn the US into a socialist state like Russia. What does that make us with our NHS?

David Cameron awoke this morning to discover that his carefully crafted image as a Progressive Conservative, was being picked apart from within his own party. One of his MEPs, Daniel Hannan, had appeared on Fox News in the US to say that the NHS was awful, had reduced standards of health in Britain, and should be got rid of. Mr Cameron has been swift to claim that the Tories are the party of the NHS.

The Labour Party awoke this morning to discover that it had a political opportunity to attack the Tories, something they haven’t been able to do for a while. Gordon Brown isn’t leading the attack – as Mock the Week pointed out yesterday, if he happened to pull a chain whilst on holiday in the Lake District, he’d probably drain lake Windermere. Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, has been quick to argue that this spat demonstrates that the Tories are divided and only Labour can be trusted to support the NHS.

All good, political fun. But this debate is also rather interesting, and it will be worth picking it apart over the next few days. In the meantime, have a look at the BBC article.

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