Sunday, March 07, 2010

Why I am a Socialist

I am Socialist. Except I'm not. It's queer how the identifications we arrived at so painfully as we became adults haunt us, ever after. It's been a long time since revolutionary political theory held much charm for me, and I don't think revolutionary action ever held any charm any for me: I loathe mobs. When masses of people get all stirred up, for any reason, I get away as fast as I can. And being in a room with people who are all agreeing makes me feel like I can't breathe.

But this comes up because of reading a biography of William Morris: the biographer is at some pains to demonstrate that Morris remained a committed Socialist all his life, even if he became less active in his later years. The biographer is right: it is important to understand that he never “got over” Socialism, never repudiated it. But I suspect he remained a Socialist much as I have remained a Socialist. Not because he supported any particular plan of action, certainly not out of any yen for violence. When I say I'm a Socialist, now, really I mean only one thing: I mean to say no.

No, I don't agree that this is the best we can do. No, I don't agree that it's tolerable for one person to have at his personal disposal everything of value that ten thousand other people make, no matter what his virtues or their vices. No, I don't accept the justice of a market that drives people into meaningless repetitive jobs, into kowtowing to stupid, mildly or venemously abusive bosses, into watching their creativity and energy wither, their bodies stiffen and fatten, their minds grow brittle and resentful, their spirits starve, as the prime of their lives dribbles away. I don't accept it: I will never accept it. This is not how human beings are supposed to live, not how they are supposed to work.

More. I am a Socialist because, as Morris so succinctly put it, fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death. Because I am my brother's keeper, and he is mine.

I'm perfectly willing to entertain arguments against any proposal of any Socialist group -- or against all of them -- on grounds that they will make things worse instead of better. Often enough they have. But what I will not entertain, ever, is the idea that what we have now is acceptable. It's not.

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