George Walford: Reply to a Socialist

Dear Comrade,

You say you will remain a Socialist because you: “hate and are sickened by the present order of things.” You also say that struggling against this present order of things is “a matter of personal integrity, of feeling that we are ourselves. Success is not necessary to make struggle or rebellion worthwhile or meaningful. Here I stand, I can no other, as someone or other once said.”

This needs sorting out. Do you want to get rid of the present order of things? Or do you want to enjoy the satisfactions offered by struggle or rebellion?

You cannot effectively do both. The historical record is clear. The struggle and rebellion of the Left do not lead to getting rid of the present order of things, There is nothing worse in history than World War II, Auschwitz and Hiroshima, They happened after generations of Left-wing struggle and rebellion (and after more than one generation of activity by the SPGB and groups deriving from it), I do not say they happened because of Left-wing struggle. I say those struggles did not prevent them.

The declaration: “Here I stand, I can no other” (it was Luther), is a direct statement that the action in question is motivated by the personal needs of the speaker, and not by a consideration of the objective social situation. You say you subscribe to this.

You express an ideological need to stand up in opposition. You say you find struggle or rebellion worthwhile or meaningful whether successful or not. You say, in effect, that you personally need to do these things whatever the results or lack of results may be. As you phrase it: “I can no other.” Very well. There are worse ways of spending one’s time. But don’t think that doing what satisfies your personal ideological needs is to work toward changing society. The two activities are distinct. For generations the Left have been doing what they needed to do to satisfy their own ideological needs, doing what they felt they had to do, In doing this they have not seriously changed the present order of things, They have not rendered their own principles dominant over those of their opponents.

I should perhaps add that you are exceptional among Socialists only in seeing your situation with unusual clarity, I hope this means the light is about to burst on you. I hope you are about to see that to remain a Socialist is to help ensure the continuance of the present order, which you hate.

George W. Walford

February 1976