Letter of the week

Terry Eagleton's reminiscences ("Revolution by candlelight", 7 January) should provide a wake-up call to many on the left today. I have also been a radical leftist most of my life, but have become increasingly perturbed by the often aggressive language and unthinking invocation of revolution that characterises much of the left's rhetoric.

I have felt for a long time that most of us on the left are not revolutionaries at heart, but really conservatives. We are conservatives in the sense of wanting to conserve the best in society: basic human dignity, the traditional sense of solidarity and the co-operative spirit.

Our opposition to capitalism is based precisely on the fact that it destroys our basic humanity. As Eagleton points out, it is capitalism that has been revolutionary in the sense of turning life upside down and smashing traditional values.

The mass of the people will never be won to the banner of revolution because, in most people's minds, it represents chaos, uncertainty and a voyage into the unknown. Most of us want change for the better, but also want to hold on to those values, traditions and culture we are familiar with and like. If socialists emphasised their positive conservatism, rather than their revolutionary fervour and the joys of class struggle, we might be able to persuade more ordinary people to join the movement for socialism. Long live revolutionary conservatism!

John Green
London W5

This article first appeared in the 14 January 2002 issue of the New Statesman, A kosher conspiracy?