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Opinion Learning to argue for a socialist future

Socialism has not had its day – not by a long stretch - and much can be learned from the changes it has brought about, believes BECK ROBERTSON

“THE problem with socialism is it doesn’t work.” “It’s been tried and it’s failed.”

Our political detractors often make statements like this and as socialists we often fail to properly challenge them.  

We might counter with: “It’s never been done properly before,” but in doing so we still fail to underscore the many positive achievements socialist governments have brought, and we also fail to lay out in tangible terms how we would do things differently.

One of the major reasons for this is that we are often guilty of a lack of imagination, of the ability to truly conceive of a different, radically transformed world.

Often, we are limited by a view of socialism fixated on the past, even though history does not, despite the popular phrase, repeat itself in exactly the same way, ever.

Yes, we can imagine a better-funded health service, but can we also envision a society where every citizen is free of the burden of debt, where bankers cannot exploit borrowing and credit loopholes for boom-and-bust profits?

Can we imagine one where everyone is seen and treated equally, where, because of investment in educational opportunities and grassroots pathways to power, all citizens have the opportunity to gain representation and adequately paid employment doing a job they enjoy?

Can we envision living in a country where no parent must worry whether they can feed their family?

Even if we can, are we able to explain what this world looks like to those whose votes are crucial to us being able to build this world, people who do not yet share our worldview?  

Can we explain to them, without coming across as patronising, or lecturing, that for all to have equality, both economic and otherwise, does not mean those who already have it must suffer a loss.

This is a country, after all, of plenty, not a Sovietp-era one of scarcity. In the West, we live among so much abundance, the problem is not that there is not enough money, or opportunity, to go around, but that what there is is unfairly distributed.

There are examples of socialism (or even communism) in action that have been demonstrably beneficial and we can point to these. We should not shy away from doing so, despite these examples sometimes coming from regimes that have been heavily flawed.

It’s relatively easy to point to the success of the social investment measures employed by Sweden’s left leaning — though not socialist — government, but we could also underscore the benefits of the Cuban healthcare system, far superior to many capitalist countries around the world.  

We could point out the unprecedented (for the time) freedoms enjoyed by women achieved by the Soviets, or that before the Chinese communist party took power in 1949, 80 per cent of the Chinese population was illiterate.

Cuba, China, or Soviet Russia, do not have to be perfect in order for us to highlight a benefit we could adopt, or adapt appropriately. Doing so does not mean that we aim to become these countries, and it should be easy to make this clear.

We have been both too scared and not scared enough. When accused of being too socialist we have backed away when we should have doubled down, yet when told our approach is making former left-wing voters disconnect from our politics, we have turned away.

Hardest, perhaps, is to hold our social values dear while understanding human beings are imperfect, and flawed, even, while (mostly) not being inherently evil.  

The way to change the prejudices still held in the minds of some, is to create a world where humanity is normalised in every person, regardless of race, sex, or anything else. A world where ritualised social dehumanisation is not hypocritcally accepted as the standard, for some.

Though many on the left feel we shouldn’t have to demonstrate why this is simply base fairness, not a machievellian attempt to destroy certain groups of more privileged people, due to various factors, confusion, fear, spin, lies, if we want to win power, we must.

This world we want to build, needs in its very essence, to be a deeply democratic one. It should be the epitome of the people’s will, not just directly serving the masses, but chosen, led, shaped and dictated by them.

This is why we must take time, effort, and energy, to weave a story that connects with the many, rather than wait for them to come around to our point of view, or stick our fingers in our ears and refuse to engage.

Most people want good things not bad, plenty, acceptance, harmony.

We must show that this world we’re striving to build is inclusive of everyone and offers something with appeal to most.   

We need to change the narrative the right uses against us, a stark vision that paints socialism as anti-apsirational, anti-success, even anti-pleasure. Instead we must paint a picture of a world full of abundance and a quality of life that as humans, we have never known since Western civilisation began.

Enthusing people with hope, inspiring them with a vision of a world they’ll yearn to live in, and want their children to prosper in, is definitively the way forward.

This is how to get people not just on our side, but actively fighting for the socialist cause.  

While most human beings don’t wish harm to those who are not harmful, they generally gravitate towards things that will directly benefit them. These benefits obviously differ for different people.  

The reason a white-collar person from an oppressed or marginalised group may be inspired to fight for a socialist world, might be different to the reasons a blue-collar worker on the breadline might, but the commonality is that both perceive a benefit to their own lives.

The job for today’s socialists is to understand the electorate in all its diversity. To identify those individual benefits and understand what people want, then highlight that they can attain their desires, under socialism. It is after all only the truth.  

Socialism is the superior solution to the problems of poverty, prejudice, and inequality.

We must reach out, we must now begin to connect with every voter, every worker, so we can light the fire of revolution that will transform our nation.  

With a growing wealth divide and old, ugly prejudices rising, radical change has never been more needed.


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