George Walford: Greedom?

“Socialist Spain is not the only country to pursue policies of Thatcherism without Thatcher. Communist Vietnam is reported to be practising Thatcherite monetarism and advocating the importance of the market, while proclaiming Marxist-Leninism …” (Freedom 27 Jan 90)

These two have to be added to the list of countries proclaiming economic collectivism while practising individualism. It is in fact misleading to speak, in this connection, as though each country enjoys freedom to choose for itself the principle on which to operate; production, distribution and finance form one world-wide system.

The reason this system operates by individualism rather than collectivism, and persists in doing so against all efforts to change it, also appears in this same issue of Freedom (in an article by J. K. Sanderson):

A reunion between human needs and the release of Eastern European aspirations to have more and own more was the unexpected reaction to the wave of revolution which brought down the curtain on 1989. A cartoonist might have summed it up by drawing a peasant dragging full shopping bags with ‘Democracy’ on them from the West to the East. In January the ‘I want’ culture spread to Russia. In Yaroslav, near Moscow, 200 people went on hunger strike when the authorities would not let them buy video recorders.

This response to the removal of ‘communist’ repression can have been unexpected only to people who have been closing their eyes against the evidence coming out of Russia, China, and the other ‘communist’ countries since each one had its revolution. It was mainly the solid resistance of the great body of the people to the attempt at imposing a collectivist economy that produced the need for the repression marking all these countries. It has been mainly because the avowedly capitalist countries have made no such attempt that they have not needed to impose equivalent repression. Reformers and revolutionaries, keener on intellectual satisfactions than material ones, may despise ‘consumerism’, but the great body of the people could hardly care less what the intellectuals think. The preferences now appearing have not so much spread to Russia as achieved official acceptance there.

Still in the same issue of Freedom, J. T. Caldwell takes up the political side of recent events:

The knock-on effect of Gorbachev’s reforms has resulted in a chilling revelation to folk who had a profound faith in the innate wisdom of the ‘common people.’ I (being one of the naive) thought that once the oppression of Leninist communism had been removed the inner urges of the people would burst forth like pent-up lava bursting the crust of authority… but… We have had an upsurge of reaction. The call for freedom has been for a more refined authority.

The general body of the people in Eastern Europe have shown as clearly as can be that their inner urge, in political affairs, is to find their freedom in compliance. But the writer of this piece, along with most of his comrades, cannot accept this; he condemns them for lack of ‘innate wisdom’ and ‘ideals of genuine freedom.’ One is driven to exclaim, adapting Cromwell (and failing to achieve his brevity):

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that beliefs other than your own may also have value.

([1] We owe “greedom” to Cynthia Blezard of SPES).

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“GOVERNMENT cannot exist without the tacit consent of the populace”. No argument so far, but then it continues: “This consent is maintained by keeping people in ignorance of their real power.” If that is so, then the anarchist movement cannot exist and those words cannot have been written. (Quotations from Fred Woodworth, in Freedom, 27 Jan 90)

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“You will generally find that there are certain central principles which the man takes as fundamental and incontrovertible, which he assumes as true in all his thinking and acting. These principles form, as it were, the nucleus of his whole mental life; they are the centre from which all his activities radiate… This central core of convictions, which is the nucleus and basis of his whole life, exists in each one of us, and in that sense every one of us has a philosophy.” (R.G.Collingwood, Ruskin’s Philosophy, pages. 6, 7. Quoted by Peter Heales in Ethical Record Jan 1990)

from Ideological Commentary 45, May 1990.