Against Socialist Illusion: A Radical Argument by David Selbourne

By David Selbourne

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17 l\1oreover, it is the product of a left vision much more myopic than that possessed by the objects of its observation, and which, had it been true, ought long ago to have established the ideological priority in the minds of working people of a theory and practice devised in their interests. But above all, it is the organic historical strength in the working class of a wide range of (coherent) popular versions of nonsocialist and anti-socialist belief which have always been at the heart of Labour's chronic dilemmas; and it is precisely these forms which the left tries· in vain to keep at a distance by reducing them to the 'unsystematic' or the 'commonplace'.

41 Marx might argue that 'man is an animal which can develop into an individual only in society', 42 but most oftoday's Marxists, increasing their own dilemmas and exposing their flanks to the right, cannot argue so simply. Nor can they permit such a premise to lead them back into the determinist wilderness. Indeed, the view that 'there must exist a sphere of autonomous activity in which the individual is the sovereign author of actions carried out without recourse to necessity' 43 cannot really be disputed by any socialist.

The failure in the West of socialism's ideological reach in matters of peace and war, shadowed as it is by the militarism of the Soviet Union, has been such that the left's moral politics of nuclear disarmament has made relatively little practical progress, in the thirty years of development of the capacity for universal destruction, even against the barbarism of arguments for a mutual 'balance of terror'. Socialists now find themselves unable, fix the same reason, to challenge effectively the right's moral inroads, spuriously based or not, on the critical question of individual freedom.

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