George Walford: Systematic Ideology

As the years and the decades go by, and now the centuries begin to pass, it becomes increasingly evident that neither socialism, communism nor anarchism embodies the first restless movements of an oppressed majority about to grasp its freedom. Although each of them claims to work for the great body of the people each of them remains confined to a small group of protestors.

Harold Walsby’s theory of systematic ideology set out to explain how this comes about, and in doing so has assembled evidence, concepts and reasoning which help to account for a range of social behaviour extending far beyond party politics. According to this theory, each of the mainstream political movements – those known in Britain as conservatism, liberalism, labour-socialism, communism and anarchism, as well as the great body of non-political people – is the appearance in this area of activity of a major ideology which also affects behaviour in education, administration, science, religion, philosophy, the trades and professions, private life and elsewhere. There is good reason for holding that each of these ideologies, the one appearing as conservatism just as much as the ones appearing as socialism, communism and anarchism, is a functional constituent of any viable advanced society. Also, that the nearer an ideology stands to the anarchist end of the range, the smaller the number of people who will identify with it (Readers who would like to know more are invited to write in).

IDEOLOGICAL COMMENTARY was founded to make this theory better known and to expose it to criticism. The response has revealed a number of common misunderstandings. We shall of course make extra effort to avoid these in the future; in the meantime we set out below what we do say on these subjects, in order to save future critics and ourselves the labour and embarrassment of correction. Systematic ideology demonstrates or implies, and IC maintains:

  • That the ideological structure has not always been, and probably will not always be, as it is now.
  • That society changes.
  • That a society operating wholly by economic collectivism is so improbable as not to be a reasonable objective but not, strictly speaking, impossible.
  • That the more advanced or higher ideologies are of no greater value, except for certain specific purposes, than the less advanced or lower.
  • That it is not lack of intelligence which prevents the working class (and the capitalist class) from accepting the ideas put forward by socialists, communists and anarchists.
  • That systematic ideology is complex and difficult; it is not likely that any large numbers of people will make the effort required to grasp it. This does not mean it has to remain ineffective; few people can claim much understanding of physical science, yet it exercises great influence.

If you come across any statement of ours which seems to contradict any of those above, please let us know so we can clarify, modify or if necessary withdraw one or the other.

from Ideological Commentary 37, September 1989.