Why would you want to be a socialist in this day and age? When it seems capitalism has triumphed over and above everything else. This has lead to people, like Francis Fukuyama, to proclaim “the end of history”. In contrast to Marx this end is embodied in liberal western democracies and, more importantly, in the dominance of the free-market. In current politics, with the advent of Anthony Gidden’s ‘third way’ politics and the idea that left and right politics have become obsolete, socialism is no longer seen as a political force in society.
I would, in essence, like to say this is precisely what makes me a socialist. My need to challenge the malaise that is strangling the life out politics today and insists on an unethical and inefficient socio-economic system. Marx stated: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways, the point is to change it.” However, it is important still to interpret the world first, before one goes about changing it so one knows why it needs to be changed, and hence why I am a socialist. All around me, I can see injustices, poverty and war, and I can interpret the root of these problems in contemporary capitalism.
As far back as I’ve be able to grasp and understand political concepts, I’ve been anti-capitalist, although not necessarily socialist. I’ve come to see the inherent and intrinsic emptiness that accompanies materialism, consumerism and profiteering. I suppose it started off with me becoming aware of certain things around me, the vast inequality between rich and poor people and countries. It was through George Monbiot and his book The Age of Consent that I first became aware of the extent of conflict and oppression of poor countries by rich countries and the exploitation that huge corporate multi-national companies get away with.
It thus became obvious what system I’d rather want to be a part of. Although Marx left no practical policies in how to implement socialism, and he didn’t want to speculate on how socialist policy would take shape in a future society. But socialism does allow us to be creative in how we achieve it.
Socialism, then, is about the future, and in different ages each generation defines what socialism means to them. Socialism today, for me, stands for the various issues we can see in contemporary society; it is irrevocably linked to the feminist, gay rights and green movements. It stands for all those that are oppressed under capitalism. It is for those who are victims or subject to the officious nature of the corrupt and powerful. Socialism is a reaction, just like it was initially a reaction to the industrial revolution, and a way out. It’s a project, the great humanistic project that helps give meaning to our earthly existence- namely by altruistically helping the whole of humanity.
As part of the Socialist Students group in the University of Kent at Canterbury (a mainly conservative area), socialism has become a chance for me to evaluate the human condition. Through comradeship and a sense of solidarity it becomes clear to me that the same worries, anxiety and yearning to create a sense of meaning in life is something experienced by most people. In a way, we can all help ourselves; socialism, at heart, is the deep friendship we experience with our comrades in order to help them make sense of the world and ease the nature of their existence. Albert Camus puts this in a poignant light “Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
As part of the unsuccessful ‘John4leader’ campaign to get John McDonnell nominated as Labour Party leader, I am aware that socialist forces are still active and important today. Gordon Brown, now Prime Minister, in ten years as Chancellor of the Exchequer, failed to turn New Labour back from the brink of Thatcherism and capitalist influences. It is clear that, even with a change of PM, nothing much has changed, and the fight must go on…