Donald Rooum and Ernie Croswell: Letters

“The economic structure of the rat race makes people behave like rats” (Socialist Standard, quoted in IC 52).

When food is put out in farmyards and, the stronger pigs, dogs, vultures, budgerigars, monkeys keep the weaker ones away from the supplies until they have eaten their fill. The stronger rats, on the other hand, move aside to let the weaker get at the trough. What makes rats such formidable pests is their interest in each others’ welfare. A colony cannot be killed with an instant poison, because when one member eats something and dies, the others notice it, and avoid that particular food.

A rat race, alternatively called a squirrel cage or a tread wheel, is an exercise wheel for caged rodents. The metaphor, “I am getting out of the rat race,” refers to the fact that an animal in a rat race runs very hard but stays in the same place. Some years ago, an article on higher education in The Guardian remarked that “a rat race can only be won by a rat.” I wrote then, pointing out that rats are socially concerned and that rat races are not competitions, but the Socialist Standard writer evidently neglected to read my letter. It is irksome to have to make the same correction twice, and I trust I will not have to mention the matter again.

Yours etc. Donald Rooum.

(Recently seen: “It’s rat sandwich time,” as an equivalent for eating humble pie. Ed. IC).

In IC, Summer 91, you quoted the following extract from my article “Purpose in Life” which appeared in the Jan 26 issue of Freedom: “Where is it that we have been going wrong? What is it that we do and animals do not do?” Nice to be quoted, even anonymously, but I did give an answer to my question, and I cannot see your point in giving your own answer but omitting mine. The essence of my Freedom article is that the overriding purpose in life is the continuation of the human race, because without that there can be no life and, therefore, no purpose. Also, that women, given the opportunity, are better suited than men to regulate the process, as demonstrated in the “lower” animal world.

Yours etc. Ernie Crosswell


TRUNDLING down M6 came the Labour Party campaign bus, a yellow two-decker with red rose and slogan: Labour on the Move. Everything on the road was overtaking it.

from Ideological Commentary 53, Autumn 1991.