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We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine gun. It is unfortunate that the English working class are exceptionally ignorant about and wasteful of food.
(George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier)

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

There is an ideal country called Utopia (“Nowhere”). Its people are always happy. No such place has ever existed, but because a number of men have thought and hoped that it might be possible for such things to be, socialism has come into existence.

The first socialists were called the Utopian Socialists. Their plan was to reconstruct society and establish a system by which the profits produced by labour should be divided among the workers. Robert Owen (1771-1858), one of the most famous of the Utopians, was a wealthy manufacturer, who made his own factory town, New Lanark, in Scotland, a model community.

Owen wished to establish such communities all over the world. Each was to contain about 1,200 people, who were to live in one large building and share the profits from their labour on farm and in factory. Several communities modelled on his ideas were set up, but failed. The chief outcome of the movement was the forming of co-operative and profit-sharing industries and stores, which have been successfully introduced into many parts of the world.

Louis Blanc, a Frenchman who was at the height of his fame in 1848-49, represents a second type of socialism, sometimes called “political” or “government-ownership socialism”. Its chief outcome was the gradual adoption in many lands of government ownership of railways, telegraphs, telephones, waterworks, etc.

Karl Marx, a German Jew, was the founder of modern “scientific socialism”. He maintained that through all history there had been a struggle of classes. The last phase of this struggle would be that of the labourer against the capitalist. With the victory of the labourer the socialist state would be established. In it only those who toiled – with their hands or their heads – would receive the products of labour. Since labour was the sole creator of value, it alone had a right to the fruits of its efforts. All means of production – land, factories, mines, and so on – should, therefore, be controlled by the workers and operated for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Socialism should not be confused with anarchism (from the Greek for “without rule”), which demands the utter abolition of the state. Many great and good men (e.g. John Lennon, Ronald Reagan) have believed in anarchism in this sense, for they contend that human beings if left to themselves without prescribed laws or organized authority, will soon learn to adjust peaceably all their conflicts over property and privilege.

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The only thing for which we can combine is the underlying ideal of Socialism; justice and liberty. But it is hardly strong enough to call this ideal “underlying”. It is almost forgotten.

(George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier)

Michael Foot, Labour party leader between 1980 and 1983, has died aged 96.

The 1983 General Election which he famously lost with his “longest suicide note in history” was the first in which I was old enough to vote. I voted Labour.

I remember seeing Foot on the platform at Westminster station on the London Underground, I should think this was in 1987 when I’d just started working in London. He was swinging his stick absent-mindedly and had an old knapsack over one shoulder. What are the chances of seeing a politician of that stature taking the Tube these days?

Indeed, what are the chances of seeing a politician of that stature anywhere these days? They don’t seem to make orators like this anymore.

I also remember the revolting Kenny Everett crying “Let’s kick Michael Foot’s stick away!” at a Tory party conference. The other end of the political spectrum from Foot in every respect.

Related:

World of politics unites in tribute to Labour veteran Michael Foot

Michael Foot: an honourable man and a great parliamentarian

Daily Telegraph obituary

R.I.P. Michael Mackintosh Foot, politician, journalist and author, born 23 July 1913; died 3 March 2010



Arts

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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