George Walford: Editorial Notes (37)

With this issue we present the new, improved IC, itself to be improved in future numbers. The reduced number of pages contains rather more than the former amount of material. The (A-)SPGB have been squeezed out of this issue, but it is an omission we shall try hard not to repeat: “My fires are banked, but still they burn…” The article Man’s Role in Social Change, by Harold Walsby, continues our series of reprints from the SOCIALIST LEADER, from copy supplied by Ellis Hillman; this first appeared there on 23 February 1952.

SYSTEMATIC ideology presents society as possessing an ideological system, that is to say a structure of mutually dependent parts, each of them responding to change in the others. This tends towards equilibrium, a current large-scale instance being the return to the surface of Russian life of the ideology appearing on the British political scene as liberalism, repressed in the USSR since the Revolution. Gorbachov can hardly be bringing this about singlehanded, but he has put himself forward, at some political risk, as the cutting edge and deserves as much credit as is ever due to a single person for a social movement.

DIALECTICAL relationships appear not only in the depths of philosophy but in everyday life too. In writing technique, for example, where spontaneity begins to come at about the tenth re-write.

A BROCHURE issued by Sotheby’s describes the engagement ring of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as “priceless.” It also tells us that this ring, on which it was impossible to set a price, was first bought (from Cartier) and later sold (by Sotheby’s).

HOW MUCH longer before English gets itself a singular personal pronoun not tied to either sex? In his struggles to overcome the lack of one this journalist is driven to speak of a machine as “he”:

…he or she transfers a copy… to their own machine. He uses and updates the file…” (PERSONAL COMPUTER WORLD, Nov. 88)

FREEDOM: Each major ideology imposes its own set of limitations, and for those identified with it subjection to these constitutes freedom. We are free to choose how we shall be determined.

FREEDOM in practice:

In economic policy Mrs. Thatcher is a liberal, a believer in free markets, in the abolition of petty regulation, in the right of people who work hard to become rich. In social policy, alas, she often appears as a traditional right-wing Conservative whose instincts are repressive. These two contradictory strands co-exist uneasily, and lead her into uncharacteristic failures of logic. (Observer 20 Nov 88)

The article goes on to protest against the proposed revision of the Official Secrets Act and the limitations recently imposed on reporting IRA affairs.

Is this not fairly summarised by saying Mrs. Thatcher and those who support her favour economic individualism and political collectivism? The Observer tries to present the current conservative attitude as an oddity of Mrs. Thatcher’s, but she has done no more than put sharper edges on the normal conservative approach. Conservatism since its beginnings has believed in free markets, the abolition of petty regulations and the right of all who can to become rich. It has not believed that people operating the market should be left to behave exactly as may suit them, it has attempted to impose standards of decency, honesty, reliability, and so do Mrs.Thatcher and her supporters. They may not always follow their own prescription, but which of us does?

Isn’t it a pity
About the inner city.
People leave who hadn’t ought,
And that affects the rate support.
If only those who stayed behind
Had gone instead, no one would mind.
(Stephen Holley, quoted by Colin Ward in RAVEN No. 5)

from Ideological Commentary 37, January 1989.