Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

READERS’ LETTER: Communist East Germany & British Socialism Today

In Readers on October 3, 2011 at 11:43 am

Dear the Clarion

I wish to make a response to Carl‘s article from the Clarion, July issue, entitiled ‘East Germany, and the fall of Communism’.

I read the article with interest; the quote from Rowan William’s Easter address was particularly relevant given that the most heartfelt and cogent condemnation of the  current Coalition policies has once again come from the Church. Today, we are not used to people with much to lose speaking unpopular truths.  A reminder of the South American Liberation Theology movement when brave priests defied the Vatican, engaged in politics, and worked to feed people  and keep them safe before looking after their spirituality.

So true, that Socialists must always see the struggle in terms of the current times and conditions however constant the goals may be.  Marxist principles remain but as Carl pointed out the thinking must be revised to suit our age.

I have found the final statements in the article extremely thought provoking.

For the minority of people in the Country who are actively engaged or seriously interested in politics these are exciting times.  Opportunities for change seem more possible than for some long time.  The excitement one feels can seem vicarious – the very conditions that are giving rise to such possibilities are causing acute anxiety and misery for many people and those who are already poor are right to feel afraid. The need to join with other like minded people and ‘do something about it’ has never felt more urgent.

Apparently, the feeling is that the most effective path to change is to join the Labour Party and influence policy and thinking from inside the ranks. I can see how attractive this may seem to people who have been members of minority groups or Partys. The thought of belonging to a mass Party and enjoying the benefits of campaigning from such a secure base is perhaps inviting. The idea of debating with right wing Labour stalwarts, winning the arguments and making a difference to people’s lives is a great challenge.

BUT I am curious to know what has happened to the Labour Party to make this possible?

I totally agree that the conditions outside are conducive to progress but see little or no change inside.  Some people have always held the view that it is better to work from inside. I was one of them for very many years, until as members we were expected to register our links with Socialist groups and it was made very clear that we were not wanted in the Party.  Dave Nellist, a tireless MP and a committed Socialist was thrown out of the Party and his job for his beliefs and his actions.  Some people chose to remain inside and have held fast to principled and humanistic values.  Sadly they have been unable to rise through the ranks and their influence inside the Party has been small despite being inspirational in many campaigns. Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn to name two. Tyler Chinnick in his ‘Cuts’ article makes fair comment about Labour’s  appallingly weak opposition to the havoc being caused by the Government.  So far Ed Milliband, despite some promising words, is not looking like a man who is about to prepare his Party to take on the worst aspects of Capitalism.  Socialists know that this is what is needed if poverty is to be eradicated and justice and equality is to be achieved.

From my, possibly jaded, perspective the energy and the action is coming from elsewhere. from small local groups, from single issue campaigns and from a growing sense of outrage amongst people who have little faith left in mainstream political structures.  If these people are to be politicised it seems unlikely that they will be drawn towards old style Party meetings and the beaurocracy that goes with them. Hopefully, the Trades Unions will support growing grass roots opposition to what is happening and this in turn may influence Party politics.

As a member of the Socialist Party, formerly The Militant, I was somewhat dismayed to see that Carl had bracketed us together with the SWP in terms of our level of maturity and at some stage would be interested to know why.  The SP has a good record of standing  in local  and national elections and when elected, of building good reputations for their hard work in protecting services. Members are encouraged to be active and take up positions in their workplace Unions and give unflagging support to worker’s struggles. They have a good education programme and young people are encouraged to speak out and organise campaigns on issues which affect them. The SP has a policy of working together with other groups, of course with the agenda of influencing direction, and has strong and active links with overseas workers.  I believe that any Socialist would find it difficult to fault the aims of the Party.

My response to Carl’s article was not meant to turn into an  advert for the SP  but more a difference of opinion on the Labour Party being the ‘only one true place for British Socialists’.

DG, Coleford (Forest of Dean)

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  1. […] article on East Germany and the failure of communism drew some interesting responses. Here I intend to reply to some of the points raised, including Diana Gash’s communication which […]

  2. […] I said in my response to Carl’s original article, the Labour Party offers nothing to people who are desperate for […]

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