George Walford: Letter from E. Hardy

IC 13 printed a letter from Mr. E. Hardy of the “Socialist” Party of Great Britain. We replied that the opening statement in a debate between ourselves and that party had already been made and should be answered before any other subject was taken up. We have now received their “Reply” (when our answer has been sent them and their concluding statement received the whole debate will be published) and accordingly now turn to the matters raised by Mr.Hardy. The paper he quotes is “The Unscientific Socialists; An Open Letter to the Editors of the Socialist Standard and the Members and Supporters of the Socialist Party of Great Britain” 1979; if you would like a copy please send a stamp if in the UK; if abroad, just write and ask for it. We reprint Mr. Hardy’s letter:

Dear Mr. Walford,

I have received your letter of 2 September, with enclosures. Debate, if it is to be useful, has to be between stated alternatives; as a socialist I am interested in “solutions for social problems”and am willing to consider your alternative to the socialist case.

In a document The Unscientific Socialists (about 1979) which was signed by you and others, it was stated that socialism was an illusion , because it is not “reasonably capable of attainment.” Will you please let me have a statement of your “solutions to social problems” so that I can consider whether it is “reasonably capable of attainment,” and whether in fact it offers solutions at all.

In the document referred to, a half-promise was made to produce your solutions. (“We shall also be able to consider what solutions for social problems may be possible taking this into account”). The “this” was the fact that a majority of the workers do not accept the socialist case.

I fail to see how your ability to put forward your own solutions is prevented (correct word? doubtful legibility GW) by the fact that a majority of the workers do not accept the socialist case. On the contrary, it ought to be a reason why you should produce your solutions without delay.

Assuming of course that you are really interested in solving social problems.

Yours faithfully, E.Hardy.

Reply from IC
The Unscientific Socialists to which Mr. Hardy refers, presents evidence and argument leading to the conclusion that the prospect of “socialism” is an illusion, and the “social- ists” are unable to counter these arguments; Mr. Hardy has not attempted to do so. But they are also unable to accept them. (To do so would be to move beyond the limitations upon thinking imposed by acceptance of the “Socialist” Party’s views). They find themselves under pressure from arguments they can neither refute nor accept, and the paper describes their response:

They seek ways of escape, and a favourite one is to demand to be told what alternative to socialism is proposed.

The writers of that paper understood the “Socialist” Party so well that they saw Mr.Hardy’s letter coming five years before he wrote it.

Mr. Hardy says he is willing to consider an alternative to the Socialist Party’s case. But is he in a position to do so? It is hardly possible to consider an alternative to something unless one knows what that something is, and we have shown, in the Challenge to the Socialist Party and in IC, that the “socialists” do not know what their case is.

Does Mr. Hardy hold that the capitalist class performs a necessary part in the running of capitalism or that it does not? His party has asserted both.

Does he hold that the coming of socialism is a certainty or only a possibility? His party has asserted both.

Does he hold that political power is based upon ownership or that ownership rests upon political power? His party has asserted both.

These are not the only confusions in the “socialist” case, but they are enough to make the point. Mr. Hardy writes as a socialist, and the “socialists” cannot consider alternatives to their case, they cannot know whether anything put to them is an alternative or not, until they have decided what that case is.

 from Ideological Commentary 15, December 1984.