Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Blinded by 'Political Science'?

Reading lots of books about politics is not rocket science...

This originally was a quick presentation I gave in a class for my Politics M.A. back in late 1992. I then developed it in early 1994 in the first year of my Ph.D studies, when I (and all the other first year Ph.D "social scientists") was lumbered with a "Social Science Research Training Course" which meant coursework and classes when I just wanted to get on starting my thesis. I wrote this around Easter 1994 (I've made minor modifications- mainly putting "-" around "free markets" and "free marketeers"- corporate apologists have as much to do with Adam Smith's ideas about free markets as our remaining Bolshevik day-dreamers have to do with Marx) and I think I should have written it the first week of my first year- then I could have said "I don't believe in the idea of social science- so why do I need training in it?" Instead I had no idea this course would be thrust upon us, so I spent too much time in the Student Union bar...

A polemic against the concept of “Political Science.”


I believe that “political science” is a dangerous, nonsensical concept. When I say “political science” I do not mean political analysis that uses theory and strives to be factual or even speculates about the future in an informed manner. I have no quarrel with political analysis, or even with such political analysis that is described by its authors as “political science”, either as a matter of course or as a way of impressing the gullible. What I do oppose is the belief that politics can be studied in a value-free, or to use Max Weber’s term, “wertfrei” manner in a similar way to how the physical world is studied by the so-called natural sciences, such as physics and biology.

In political studies, attempts to apply natural science methods to the understanding of political phenomena came rather later than they did in most other social studies disciplines (Hughes, 1980, p.16). The methodology of the natural sciences can be best described as being of a positivistic-behaviourist character. Positivism postulates that all human ideas come form experience (Hughes, 1980, p.21), while behaviourism attempts to use an observational language that only deals with outward behaviour (Hughes, 1980, p.39). From using such methodology, a number of characteristics arise which can define natural science.

Natural Science

Natural science consists of a number of testable (Ake, 1972, p.8), uniform laws of universal applicability. These laws are also interdependent; laws in one sphere of science, say physics, cannot contradict those in biology and chemistry if they are to be considered scientific (Allison, 1973, p.250).

Natural science is complete. Every event or phenomena in nature must be explained within the context of scientific theory. Otherwise, either than event or the scientific theory it contradicts must be reinterpreted (Allison, 1973, p.250).

Each event, or effect, must have a cause for it to be scientific. Natural scientists, if they cannot prove something occurs in nature, must accept what happens in nature for what it is. The natural sciences have no place for normative theory. Kuhn characterises “normal” science as consisting of “puzzle solving” empirical research, rather than by grand philosophical speculation about the fundamentals of theory and approaches (Hughes, 1980, p.35).

In the natural sciences, the concept of the random event does not exist (Allison, 1973, p.251). Natural science is able to predict future events, such as water at sea level always boiling at 100 degrees Centigrade, with complete confidence (Trig, 1985, p.181).

Natural science is unique, as there is one scientific universe. All events are reducible to a fundamental terminology, consisting of a set of analytical terms with precise definitions. For instance, all natural scientists know what defines water, gravity and heat. Unless events occur which change the terminology of science, such concepts are incontestable (Allison, 1973, p.251).

Why Politics is not a “science”

The methods of positivistic natural science cannot be applied to the study of politics because human beings are not inanimate objects (Trigg, 1985, p.41). Furthermore, humans distinguish themselves from other living creatures by being conscious of themselves and their possession of free will. Humans therefore have the ability to make deliberate choices about what values and motives to have, as well as the interests they want to pursue. It is not possible, then, for human behaviour to be describes as a kind of “brute fact” independent of motives or reasons (Hughes, 1980, p.81). Neither is it possible for positivistic methods to adequately explain the motives of what is “in people’s minds” (Hughes, 1980, p.78). Consequently, there cannot be any system of political analysis that has universal applicability. Political analysts are not ,therefore, constrained in their outlook in the way that natural scientists are by phenomena, such as the existence of gravity.

As there are no scientific laws to shape their theory, political analysts are compelled to construct theories to make sense of the complexity f political discourse and activity. To quote Leys (1989, p.4): “There is an observable reality, but the concepts we employ it hep to determine what, given the reality, the ‘facts; are held to be.” Such theories are inevitably imbued with the values learnt and accepted by the analyst (Trigg, 1986, p.107), and no neutral viewpoint can exist from which an analyst can look at political phenomena “objectively” (Hughes, 1980, p.116). There are, therefore, no totally undisputed ways of examining political phenomena. For instance, the different political values and outlooks that anarchists, elitists, Marxists and pluralists possess would result in all of them theorising about state institutions in different ways. Similarly, there are many different accounts, from many different political viewpoints, about how imperialism as a world system came into being before World War One> in both these examples analysts’ conclusions about the same political phenomena would be almost inevitably different, due to using different criteria based on the different values they hold. Unlike the natural sciences political theories can be incompatible, but, all other things being equal, have equal validity as a starting point for investigating political phenomena (Taylor, 1973, pp.143-4).

Political analysts must also allow for random events occurring which have political effects but no explanations in the political sphere (Allison, 1973, p.252). For instance, the fact that Czar Nicholas II’s son was a haemophiliac must be taken into account when investigating the collapse of Imperial Russia in 1917, but no political theory could explain why the heir to the Russian throw was a haemophiliac. Nor can political theory explain John Smith’s heart attack in May 1994, which allowed the rise of “New Labour”.

Human free will also interferes with any pretensions political analysts have of being able to predict future events in the way that the natural sciences can. This is because links between cause and effect in politics are so weak (MacIntyre, 1964). One cannot say that, in all case, unemployment makes people vote for politically extreme parties, in the same way that natural scientists can say that water at zero degrees centigrade or below freezes. This does not even take into account whether unemployment, instead of a thousand and one other, conscious or unconscious, reasons makes people act like that. How could such an assertion in political analysis be tested to a degree rigorous enough that it could be accepted as valid science? One could say opinion polls, but after getting the result of the 1992 British General Election so wrong, one might think such a “test “ as useless for predicting the future (Butler and Kavanagh, 1992, Chapter 7). Moreover, a person possessing free will might not fulfil the political analysts’ predictions, perhaps just to prove that valid general predictions about human behaviour are not laws in any true scientific sense (Trigg, 1985, p.179; Hughes, 1980, p.55).

Unlike the natural sciences, political analysis has a place for normative theories based on the theorist’s own free will and value system, since no political analysis can avoid basic questions about human nature any more than he or she can avoid making choices between different sets of values (Trigg, 1985, p.117). So-called “political scientists” who claim to be “wertfrei” in their outlook succumb just as inevitably to normative realities as the most politically partisan theorists. For example, the work of theorists such as Seymour Lipset and Harold Lasswell are based on their normative beliefs, since their “neutral” descriptions of “democracy”- and a particular definition of democracy at that- cannot be accepted without the reader failing to agree that “democracy” is a better form of government than any alternatives (Taylor, 1973, pp.150 & 157).

There is also more than one political universe in existence, due to the existence of human free will, values and motivations. Other intellectual disciplines can also examine political events and theories in ways that could not be attempted in the natural sciences. For instance, as well as countless explanations by political theorists in attempting t account for the rise of McCarthyism in the USA after 1945, there are also exist a number of quite valid psychological and sociological explanations of the same phenomena (Taylor, 1973, p.143).

Political analysis lacks a set of tight rigorous analytical terms that are found in the natural sciences. Claude Ake (1972, p.110), in attempting to “clarify the scientific status of political science”, bemoans the fact that so many political terms, such as “political change”, “political stability” and “political democracy” are descriptive rather than analytical terms. That is, they are identified empirically rather than through clear watertight definitions. He does not accept that political discourse inevitably comes up with many “essentially contested concepts”, to use W.B. Gallie’s phrase. Gallie defined essentially contested concepts as those that “the proper use of which inevitably involves endless disputes about their proper uses on the part of their users”: “democracy” was one of Gallie’s examples (Allison, 1984, p.49). One has only got to look at disputes over the precise nature of political phenomena such as “freedom”, “justice”, “socialism” and “terrorism” to see Gallie’s point. Moreover, just because they are disputed, “unscientific” terms surely should not preclude political analysts from studying them?

The dangers of “Political Science”

I hope that I have successfully demonstrated that political analysis cannot be described as a science in any meaningful manner. Many political analysts, however, hold the view that a genuine “political science” will eventually emerge. There is understandably, perhaps, a sense of failure amongst many political analysts that they have not produced analyses of political phenomena as convincing as those of natural phenomena achieved by natural scientists (Hughes, 1980, p.14). These “failures” are often rationalised by either describing politics as an “immature” science, or by arguing that the social world is more complex than the natural one. Consequently, political phenomena are more difficult to measure, and so more errors are likely (Hughes, 1980, p.52). Frankly, hoping that politics will “grow up” to be a “mature science” appears to me to be the intellectual equivalent of searching for the Holy Grail. This forlorn quest should be abandoned, since the whole idea of “political science” is as dangerous as it is futile.

It is an intellectually dangerous concept at two levels. Firstly, many “political scientists” give the impression that “value free” analysis is the only type of analysis worth pursuing if anything new is to be discovered about politics. As well as being a value judgement in itself, it is a strange notion since political thinkers such as Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Burke, Mill and Marx all analysed politics in ways that were in no way “wertfrei” (Cobban, 1953, p.331). Even Max Weber’s work is not “value free”, since his work on leadership, bureaucracy and the class structure (Garth and Mills, 1964, p.38) were developed as part of the debate about the legacy of Bismarck’s Chancellorship and the future of Germany (Garth and Mills, 1964, p.46). Furthermore, Hugh Stretton (1969, pp.155-7) argues that all other things being equal, a strong commitment to some particular goal will make a social researcher more anxious to be right than one who is indifferent to the potential implications of what he or she is studying, as “value-free” analysts insinuate.

Secondly, “political science” is an intellectually dangerous concept since it implies that, through investigation, sooner or later humanity will be able to understand all political phenomena in the same way as the natural sciences understand the natural world. With that aim achieved, there would be nothing left to learn about politics. If it is though that all questions in politics have been answered, surely all we need to do is teach everyone those answers. This, in turn, encourages a belief in scientific morality, for it an analysis is correct it must be morally right as well. Consequently, analytical methods become ideological dogma, and as William Blake once observed, “the man who never alters his opinion is like standing water/and breeds reptiles of the mind” (Thompson, 1985, p.261).

“Political scientists” may argue that this cannot happen, but look at what happened to much Marxist political thought in the Twentieth Century. “Scientific socialism”, whether “Stalinist” or “Trotskyite”, increasingly made a method of political analysis into a dogma, which stemmed from unthinking application of Lenin’s belief that : “The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true. It is comprehensive and harmonious and provides men an integral world outlook” (Callaghan, 1987, p.4).

Pretensions of scientific certainty espoused by subsequent generations of “Marxist-Leninists” have led to many Marxists becoming intellectually washed-up or brain-dead. For instance, most Trotskyites have had serious problems analysing the real world since their guru was assassinated in 1940 (Callaghan, 1987, p.175), and have been reduced to Gnostic readings of Trotsky’s work in attempting to understand the present world situation (Callaghan, 1987, p.219).

Furthermore, these scientific pretensions have meant, in practice, that many Marxists have had very strong tendencies- although, of course, there is no law- towards intolerance and the persecution of those who do not see all the answers to political questions as having being correctly answered by their particular brand of “scientific socialism” (Callaghan, 1987, p.4).

Similarly, the lack of doubt amongst those who currently believe that “the market is always right” is another example of “scientific” certitude being used to legitimise particular behaviour in the political sphere. This attitude amongst self-proclaimed supporters of “free market” economics stems from a belief in liberal economics that humans are naturally egoistic, self-interested and selfish [which now I think is as much a distortion of the works of Adam Smith as, say, the average Marxist political programme is a distortion of Karl Marx’s vision of the future]. In making such claims “pro-free market” economists produce universalistic explanations of human behaviour that ignore other views of human nature (Trigg, 1985, p.130). The frequent inability of professed “free market” supporters to see that other people might have other views of human nature, and so different political outlooks, stems directly from a belief in “scientific” certainties and truths. It also pushes “free marketers” towards a tendency to be as intolerant of other viewpoints as the most dogmatic “scientific socialists”.

Evidence of this dogmatism comes from “free marketers” selective application of Karl Popper’s concept of “falsification” to real life, as well as their eagerness to proclaim “scientific laws” for behaviour in the political sphere. Popper laid great store on Marxism being “unscientific”, as it could not be subject to “falsification”. Marxism could not be disproved in the face f Marxists’ faith in their doctrine, although, according to Popper, all of Marx’s predictions had been disproved. “Free marketers”, however, will never accept that their theories are ever fundamentally wrong, in the same way that die-hard Trotskyites will never accept that their “scientific” world-view is wrong. Neither “free marketers” nor Trotskyites will ever accept that their theories could ever be wrong or disproved for similar reasons: both of their theories are value-laden (Trigg, 1985, p.109), and their strongly-held views are used to interpret all facts and events they encounter to further justify and reinforce their original views. There is nothing per se wrong with this, especially if one wants to confirm prejudices. To claim, however, that such a method is “scientific” is complete rubbish.

Popper, while disparaging Marx for wrongly predicting future historical events in a law-like manner- whether Marx did this is yet another matter- was quite prepared to embrace sociological laws and hypotheses that appear similar to those found in the natural sciences which back up his “pro-free market” viewpoint. For example, Popper says that full employment cannot occur without causing inflation, which his “free market” disciple Anthony Flew describes as “most persuasive” (Trigg, 1985, p.180). Flew, however, does not believe that all of Popper’s claims are true, as they conflict with Flew’s value system. For instance, Popper claimed “you cannot introduce a political reform without strengthening the opposing forces to a degree roughly in ratio to the scope of the reform.” Flew says this is “simply not true” (Trigg, 1985, p.182). To claim that “free-market” economics are “neutral”, “value-free” and “scientific”, when its leading intellectual gurus cannot agree on which “laws” make up its underpinning makes this particular analyst wonder why anyone takes the “truths” of “free market” economics seriously. Particularly when its methodology is considered, which is “An ahistorical theory, which sees an economy as the sum of the atomised actions of millions of individuals…preoccupied with supply and demand rather than production, which insists that the roles of capital and labour are equal…” (Milne, 1987, p.27)

Who can claim this to be “scientific” except, perhaps, to justify their material self-interest?


At best, I would say that “Mostly, what is called political science seems…a device invented…for avoiding politics, without achieving science” (Cobban, 1953, p.335).

At worst, the concept justifies the triumph of unthinking dogma over humanity’s unique gift of being able to pursue intellectual enquiry.


Ake, Claude (1972) ”The Scientific Status of Political Science”, British Journal of Political Science, Volume 2, Part 1, pp.109-15.

Allison, Lincoln (1973) “Politics and the Problem about ‘Science’”, British Journal of Political Science, Volume 3, Part 2, pp.250-2.

Allison, Lincoln (1984) Right Principles (Oxford: Blackwell).

Callaghan, John (1987) The Far Left in British Politics (Oxford: Blackwell).

Cobban, Alfred (1953) “The Decline of Political Theory”, Political Science Quarterly, Volume LXVIII, No.3, pp.321-37.

Gerth, H.H and Mills, C.Wright, eds., (1964) From Max Weber (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).

Hughes, John (1980) The Philosophy of Social Research (London: Longman).

Leys, Colin (1989) Politics in Britain (London: Verso).

MacIntyre, Alasdair (1964) “A Mistake about Causality in Social Science” in Peter Laslett and W.G. Runciman, eds., Philosophy, Politics and Society Second Series (Oxford: Basil Blackwell), pp.48-70.

Milne, Seamus (1987) “The prophets who lost their touch”, The Guardian, January 14th, p.27.

Stretton, Hugh (1969) The Political Sciences: General principles of selection in social science and history (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).

Taylor, Charles (1973) “Neutrality in Political Science” in Alan Ryan, ed., The Philosophy of Social Explanation (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp.139-70.

Thompson, E.P. (1985) The Heavy Dancers (London: Merlin).

Trigg, Roger (1985) Understanding Social Science: A Philosophical Introduction to the Social Sciences (Oxford: Blackwell).

PS Another problem with pretending that politics is a "science" is that political writers attempt to replicate the language used in natural science publications. That is, the prose produced is often dry as the proverbial bone. To quote John Gray ("How to dish the Whigs", New Statesman, 27/6/97, pp.45-6):

"Anyone who talks of the literature of political science risks being suspected of irony. Few political scientists write books that give their readers pleasure. Fewer yet have written anything that is likely to endure...Since the second world war the academic study of politics has been dominated by an effort to replicate the methods and success of the natural sciences. The chief result has been a new genre of unreadable books."

Friday, 25 July 2008

Slagging off the Thatcher Economic Miracle...

1980: The Early Days of the Thatcher Economic Miracle, as Industry Secretary Sir Keith Joseph spells it out..

Growing up in the West Midlands in the early 1980s, when the original Workshop Of The World seemed to be in permanent Closing Down Sale mode, I was always sceptical about the “Thatcher Economic Miracle” Britain was supposed to have lived through during the 1980s (and which was reaching its apotheosis twenty years ago this summer in the pages of The Sun, Express, Mail, Telegraph, Times etc). After all, if the two worst economic recessions since the 1930s, punctuated by an unsustainable credit boom, the wiping out of a good chunk of the country’s economic base and the wasting of North Sea oil revenues constitute an “Economic Miracle”, what the bloody hell was an “Economic Disaster” supposed to look like??

I could never understand how the Labour Party in the 1980s let the Tories get away with the claim that they alone were "economically competent" (ditto for patriotism- on the EU, Thatcher, as Martin Walker once pointed out, talked like Enoch Powell, but acted like Ted Heath). Now Gordon Brown goes on about building on the 'achievements' of the 1980s...no wonder the Labour Party has been deserted by so many of its traditional supporters, as yesterday's Glasgow East bye-election debacle shows.

The following piece I wrote during the winter of 1989-90, when the second recession of Thatcher’s reign was taking off serious big-time, although I notice in this essay her Government were merely “prepared to gamble with recession"...

“The successes of Thatcher’s economic policy were costly and, in retrospect, have come to seem rather short-lived.” Discuss.

Tony Thirwall, in an article about ten years of Thatcher’s economic policy, comments that “if two million unemployed, 7 per cent inflation, 13 per cent interest rats, and a £15 billion balance of payments deficit constitutes an economic miracle, what, may one ask constitutes and economic disaster?) [1] In a similar critical vein, this essay will examine those areas of economic policy in which the present government claims great success, such as controlling inflation and the trade unions, before examining its biggest failure- the failure to stop the “deindustrialisation” of the British economy. The policies of the Thatcher government will be examined as well in the context of the world economic situation over the past decade and the economic windfall for the British state in the form of North Sea oil.

One of the government’s declared objectives was to reduce public expenditure. The first words of its November 1979 Public Expenditure White Paper were “Public Expenditure is at the heart of our current economic difficulties”, [2] and it went on to declare that the government wanted public expenditure reduced by 4% by 1983-84. [3] The 1980 Mid-Term Financial Statement (MTFS) planned a 5% reduction by 1984. [4] There are several reasons for Conservative hostility to public expenditure. PM a party political level, government spending was seen as the main reason for high levels of taxation, and since the Conservatives had promised to reduce income tax, reducing public expenditure seemed the easiest way to keep their promises, High levels of public expenditure, which apparently approached 60% of national income in the mid-1970s, [6] were seen as threatening to “squeeze out” private enterprise, a traditionally important Tory concern, one expressed most articulately by Bacon and Eltis in their book “Britain’s Economic Problem: Too Few Producers”. [6] High government spending was also seen as a reason for a high Public Sector Borrowing Requirement, which many, including monetarists, saw as a cause for high levels of inflation. [7] On an ideological level, the economic “libertarians” around Thatcher saw public expenditure as an expression of state-sponsored collectivism, which was spent on collectivist-inspired welfare programmes which were in direct conflict with individual responsibility and freedom. [8]

Despite the government’s plans, and the pressure from its supporters to keep to its plans, between 1980 and 1984 public expenditure in real terms grew by 8%. Reasons for this included higher levels of social security payments as a result of higher unemployment, increased expenditure on the internal and external security of the British state, and government reluctance to reduce spending on electorally popular parts of the public sector, such as the NHS. This was in spite of reductions in funds for sectors such as housing and education. Since 1984 public spending as a percentage of national income has fallen slightly, but this is entirely due to the economy growing faster than increases in public expenditure. [10] Income tax has been reduced, the standard rate falling from 33% in 1979 to 25% in 1988, [11] but without government revenue being obtained from privatisation sales and North Sea oil revenue, these tax cuts would have been almost impossible.

Inflation was another great worry of the Conservative government in 1979, and “monetarism” was the method by which it said prices would be controlled. In practice, this meant that the government planned to control inflation through issuing monetary targets under the MTFS. It was only in 1983, though, that Sterling M3 growth targets were met. [12] Previously, actual growth in Sterling M3 had easily exceeded projected growth. [13] Contrary to the “monetarist” arguments of Milton Friedman, which the government had used as intellectual ballast for their policies, the House of Commons Committee on Monetary Policy said in March 1981 “that there was no relation between changes in money supply and the rate of inflation.” [14] In early 1985 Mrs. Thatcher publicly repudiated one of central tenets of “monetarism”- the natural rate of unemployment thesis- and this, says David Smith “was also a rejection of the monetarist ideas she had nurtured during four years as leader of the Opposition, and which she had vigorously attempted to put into practice on her election as Prime Minister…” [15] Inflation, however, was kept at a low level throughout most of the 1980s. If “monetarism” did not cause this, what did? The price of commodities, especially oil, affected inflation a lot. Around 1980 the Retail Price Index went up to around 22% [16], in the midst of the “monetarist” experiment. The main reason was the increase in the oil price following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. [17] During the 1980s the price of oil and other commodities fell as a consequence of a worldwide downturn in demand for such products, The high exchange rate, helped by the price of North Sea oil and high interest rates, kept inflationary pressures down as well. Wage militancy amongst workers was severely affected by the rise in unemployment, although wage increases throughout the 1980s on average, at about 7%, exceeded the inflation rate. [18]

Inflation started to rise in the late 1980s again as the result of several factors, government policy perhaps the most important. After abandoning monetarism, the government embraced another “New Right” economic doctrine- “supply-side” economics. [19] “Supply-siders” believed that cutting taxes can stimulate the economy. Some believed that tax cuts should have priority over controlling the money supply. In the early 1980s the government rejected this course, believing that tax should be cut only when conditions were favourable. The budges between 1986 and 1988, however, saw income tax cuts, but Britain’s economy did not have the capacity to produce all the goods desired by consumers with more ready cash. In an effort to answer demand, firms were prepared to push up wages in an attempt to recruit workers with the right skills. Where there were skill shortages, workers were able to demand higher wages. In its efforts to control inflation, the government are prepared to gamble with recession through using the same high interest and exchange rate policies as in the early 1980s- what John Hillard describes as “the application of age- old deflationary policies.” [20]

Sir Keith Joseph in 1979 wrote a pamphlet with the title “Solving the Union Problem is the Key to Britain’s Recovery.” [21] Several bills have been passed by the government aimed at controlling union activity, and the spectacular defeats the unions suffered in the 1984-5 miners’ strike and 1986-7 Wapping dispute suggested to many that the Conservatives had “tamed” the unions. As Thirwall says, though, the fall in the number of strikes was “largely a function of the high levels of unemployment”, [22] and Gamble notes that “trade union organisation remained strong. Examples of union-free industries and no-strike agreements remained rare, and earnings of unionised workers in permanent employment continued to rise faster than output and inflation.”[23] Moran even claims that the government’s trade union reforms could mean more strikes, since the law now gives more power to rank-and-file unionists, who are fragmented, unpredictable, a fertile breeding ground for all kinds of novel ideas”, as opposed to “full time officials, who…have been patriotic, cautious and well integrated into the dominant political culture.” [24] The action taken in 1989 by tube drivers and ambulance crews against the advice of their leaders suggest that Moran may be correct in believing “Conservatives may yet rue the day they undermined the trade-union officials.” [25]

Thatcher’s economic policies have failed dismally to reverse, or even stop, the fundamental problem of the British economy- the long-term decline of domestic manufacturing industry. The acceleration of Britain’s “deindustrialisation” in the 1980s is the result mostly of the government remaining staunch supporters of two long standing principles of British economic policy- that the interests of the financial sector take precedent over the interests of domestic manufacturing industry, [26], and that free trade should be encouraged as far as possible. [27]

The application of these two principles by the government, after taking office, to the British economy, led to a major recession in industry. Increases in interest rates and the rise in oil prices led to an increase in the effective exchange rate of more than 20%. [28] Unable to compete effectively with foreign goods, and unable to pay for much extra investment, manufacturing output fell by 19% [29] between 1979 and 1982. Unemployment almost doubled between 1978 and 1981 to well over two million. [30] Import penetration of domestic markets in sectors such as engineering and textiles rose by 25%. [31] In 1982 there was a record 12,000 company liquidations, [32] and for the first time in history more manufactured goods were imported than exported. [33]

At the same time s this domestic manufacturing slump was occurring, the City of London and “Those sectors able to trade and produce internationally…consolidated as the leading sectors of the economy.” [34] The government’s abolition of exchange controls in 1979 led to a major export of capital from Britain throughout the 1980s. By 1986 the volume of exported capital had almost increased threefold from its 1978 figure [35]. And “Foreign investments, both direct and portfolio, increased from £38 billion at the end of 1978 to £177 billion by the end of 1985.” [36] The forty largest UK manufactures had also between 1979 and 1986 increased employment abroad by 125,000 while reducing it in Britain by 415,000. [37] Throughout the 1980s exported capital had exceeded manufacturing investment in Britain. [38]

This export of capital helped to keep the balance of payments in surplus, as did exports of North Sea oil. Under Thatcher, North Sea oil was not used to fund the regeneration of manufacturing, as the Labour Left and Scottish Nationalists in their different ways advocated, [39] but instead took the burden of paying for “deindustrialisation.” Between 1979 and 1985, the government’s North Sea oil revenues amounted to £52 billion [40], while, says McInnes, £33 billion of that could be said to have been spent on unemployment benefit. [41] Arguably, North Sea oil also helped, along with privatisation revenue, [42] to finance income tax cuts.

Since 1982 the economy has been growing on average at 4% per annum. [43] Productivity has risen since 1980 at almost 6% per annum, [44] but this can be explained, says Leys, as “largely a statistical effect of the closure of so many inefficient plants, and of reduced manning levels” [45], and by 1988, says Victor Keegan “wage increases per unit of output- the measure used by the government.- arte actually worse in Britain than in nearly all of our major competitors….” [46] The unemployment figures have been falling since 1986, but this has been a lot to do with the 29 changes affecting unemployment statistics [47], as a Bank of England report stated recently “The sharper fall in unemployment…has been due to the introduction of the Restart interviews and stricter availability-for-work tests. Thus the Restart variable has since 1986, contributed about 750,000 to the fall in unemployment.” [48]

The economic recovery since 1982, says Gamble, depended on “the recovery in the world economy” brought about “by the supply side policies pursued in the United States which reflated the American economy and increased world demand.” [50] The recovery in Britain also depended on foreign governments, firms and financiers having faith that it could be sustained. As a result, interest rates have stayed above 10% in Britain throughout the 1980s to keep “hot money” invested in the pound and the City of London. [51] It has also meant that foreign manufacturers have been encouraged to either buy up existing British firms or set up completely new plants in Britain. This trend has been encouraged by the fact that “London has one of the most open stock markets in the world and is…the easiest place in Europe to buy companies either as a foothold for outsiders o for expansion by existing [European Economic [C]ommunity companies in the run up to 1992 [the Single European Market, which actually began on January 1st 1993].” [52] Around 10% of UK employees work for foreign firms [53], and many sectors vital to nay modern economy, such as microchips, have past under near total overseas control. [54]

In short, the government’s whole strategy for Britain’s economic future is dependent in the “internationalisation” of the British economy. This is heavily dependent on keeping foreign confidence in Britain’s economic performance, and on the health of the entire world economy. Neither of these two suppositions can be assumed to go on indefinitely. A global stock exchange crash, a trade war [55], a debt default or an economic downturn could lead to major problems for the British economy; not only could global demand decline dramatically with “knock-on” effects for the British economy, but foreign firms might pull out of Britain altogether to concentrate on home markets.

More probably, an economic slowdown in the early 1990s, to reduce the balance of payments and the rate of inflation sop that foreign confidence in the economy as a whole, and the currency in particular, could be maintained, might lead to a Conservative electoral defeat in 1991-2. [56] The problems for the Conservatives is that they are economically at the mercy of forces they cannot control, and forces, moreover, that have more influence over the British economy that when Mrs. Thatcher took office in 1979; in many cases that increased influence is a direct result of the government’s own policies. [57] Yet without the support of those international forces- whether nominally British or foreign- and the underlying world economic situation that those forces, in turn, depend upon for their influence, the Conservatives would have been unable to claim the few economic successes they point to now. Gamble, writing in the mid-1980s, may turn out to be correct in saying that “The Thatcher Government may turn out in the end to be just another administration that proclaimed economic regeneration in its rhetoric but was still forced to preside over further relative decline.” [58]

1989: The Thatcher Economic Miracle Start To Go Arse Over Tit, Despite Chancellor Nigel Lawson's best efforts...


[1] T. Thirwall “Myth of Thatcher’s miracle”, The Guardian, 26/4/89, p.15
[2] A. Gamble (1988) The Free Economy and the Strong State, p.101
[3] Ibid, p.101
[4] D. Kavanagh (1987) Thatcherism and British Politics, p.229
[5] A. Gamble (1985) Britain in Decline, p.229
[6] R. Bacon and W. Eltis “Too few producers” in D. Coates and J. Hillard, eds, (1985) The Economic Decline of Modern Britain, pp.77-91.
[7] J. Hillard “Thatcherism and Decline” in ibid, p.354
[8] J. Hoskyns “Mentioning the Unmentionable” in ibid, pp.127-133.
[9] Kavanagh, op cit, p.299
[10] Gamble, (1988), op cit, p.122
[11] Ibid, p.122
[12] Kavanagh, op cit, p.228
[13] Ibid, p.228
[14] Ibid, p.228
[15] D. Smith (1988) The Rise and Fall of Monetarism, p.123
[16] Ibid, p.191
[17] Ibid, pp.89-90
[18] V. Keegan “One last chance to cure the British disease”, The Guardian, 20/11/88, p.8
[19] Smith, op cit, p.176
[20] Hillard in Coates and Hillard, eds, op cit, p.355
[21] K. Joseph “Solving the Union Problem is the Key to Britain’s Recovery” in ibid, pp.98-105.
[22] Thirwall, op cit, p.15
[23] Gamble, (1988), op cit, p.127
[24] M. Moran “Industrial Relations” in H. Drucker et al, eds, (1988) Developments in British Politics 2, p.294
[25] ibid, p.294
[26] Gamble, (1988), op cit, p.194
[27] Gamble, (1985), op cit, pp.59-60
[28] Thirwall, op cit, p.15
[29] Gamble, (1985), op cit, p.194
[30] J. McInnes (1987) Thatcherism At Work, p.66
[31] Gamble 91985), op cit, p.194
[32] Ibid, p.194
[33] Ibid, p.194
[34]Gamble, (1988), p.195
[35] McInnes, op cit, p.66
[36] Gamble, (1988), op cit, p.177
[37] McInnes, op cit, p.80
[38] Ibid, p.66
[39] C. Leys (1989) Politics In Britain, pp.134 & 261
[40] McInnes op cit, p.67
[41] Ibid, p.67
[42] Asset sales had realised £12 billion up to 1985; Gamble, (1988), op cit, p.257
[43] Thirwall, op cit, p.15
[44] Leys, op cit, p.332
[45] Ibid, p.332
[46] V. Keegan “A cure which can only make things worse” ,The Guardian, 5/12/88, p.14
[47] R. Waterhouse “Anxiety grows over integrity of statistics, The Independent, 9/10/87, p.3
[48] Ibid, p.3
[49] Gamble, (1988), op cit, p.111
[50] Ibid, p.111
[51] Keegan, (1989), op cit, p.14
[52] P. Rodgers et al, “Who owns Britain as the ‘for sale’ sign goes up?” The Guardian, 2/8/88, p.11
[53] Ibid, p.11
[54] Ibid, p.11
[55] M. Walker “Iron Lady fights old dragons”, The Guardian, 16/11/88, p.23
[56] L. Elliott “Forecasts warn of long, hard slog” The Guardian, 26/6/89, p.12
[57] “Mrs. Thatcher has done more to lock Britain’s fate into Europe than any British politician since Ted Heath”; M. Walker, op cit, p.23
[58] Gamble, (1985), op cit, p.203.

As an afterword, I wish I could have cut down the footnotes. When in Freshers' Week back in October 88 I was given no advice on writing essays, but I was given a sheet of A4 that warned me about plagiarism. After that I went overboard on citing my sources. However, I think that if you want to say anything that goes against received opinion i.e. “Mrs Thatcher saved the British economy” (‘for whom’? is the question) you need to cite support of your arguments in chapter and verse ad infinitum if need be. Otherwise it is just you versus the Memory Hole...

I think my piece over-estimated the potential for the unions to regain their power (outside of the public sectors/utilities). However, I think I got spot on the potential for any "British Economic Miracle" to be brought down by external factors. Look at NuLab now getting serious grief from the rising price of imported raw materials (better not ask what happened to revenues from North Sea oil...). The "internationalisation" of the British economy has vastly increased since the late 1980s, helped by NuLab policies. If there was to be a major world economic crisis, one wonders how we would cope, particularly if foreign investors do the patriotic thing and re-invest in their own economies....

Monday, 14 July 2008

Workers' control of the means of production?

Not quite, but if more companies were owned by their employees, it would be a very good thing.

Why power-sharing beats the traditional plc
Simon Caulkin, management editor, The Observer,Sunday July 13, 2008

Asked to name employee-owned firms, most people would have difficulty getting past one finger of one hand: John Lewis. A few might have heard of ad agency St Luke's. If pushed, those of a certain age might mention the ill-starred Meriden Co-operative, set up by Tony Benn to make Triumph motorbikes for a period in the 1970s.

In fact, chides Patrick Burns, executive director of the Employee Ownership Association, co-ownership isn't the same as co-operative, which is about voting rather than ownership, and the clumsily named co-owned sector - companies where employees have a chunk of the equity above, say, 25 per cent - has an estimated turnover of around £25bn, which makes it a larger component of the UK economy than agriculture.

There is very little systematic data on employee-owned firms in Britain (there is much more in the US), but it turns out that John Lewis is far from unique. Burns reckons that there are at least 200 either fully or partly employee-owned outfits in the UK, excluding co-ops, quietly making a good living in almost every market sector in the country - from Unipart (automotive) and Wilkin & Sons (jam) in manufacturing to Loch Fyne Oysters, Divine Chocolate, Central Surrey Health and a couple of care homes, and a whole slew of design and consultancy groups, of which the best known is probably Arup.

Even at a cursory glance, the list contains more than its fair share of interestingly different and successful firms. And this, according to a new report by an all-party parliamentary group, is no coincidence. Far from being quirky exceptions that prove the normal publicly traded rule, co-owned companies, says the report, are 'exceptional mainstream companies' operating successfully in competitive markets across the public and private sector. The co-owned model, it adds, 'offers enormous potential for the UK economy'.

This is because of the performance dividend the model seems to generate. What most people experience as the 'John Lewis effect' appears to hold across the sector. 'It stands to reason,' says Burns. 'When people know it's to some extent their company, it releases huge productivity increments' - a permanent boost of 4 percentage points, according to a US survey. In fact, 'researchers now agree that the case is closed on employee ownership and corporate performance', notes the US National Centre for Share Ownership. It adds: 'Findings this consistent are very unusual.'

This doesn't make it easy. There is a catch, but a logical one. Employee share ownership on its own makes little or no performance difference. It is only when it is combined with open and participative management that it delivers the goods. This makes intuitive as well as empirical sense, and accords with separate findings about the so-called high-performance workplace. As one company put it in evidence to the parliamentary group: 'Co-ownership is perhaps half the equation of productive employee engagement. Of equal importance ... is co-control: an employee's feeling that he or she can genuinely effect change within the organisation. This is something that may be a likely, but not inevitable, consequence of co-ownership.'

It also means, as the Employee Ownership Association's Burns points out, that companies 'have to be brave twice over: sharing power as well as equity'. However, the payoffs are clear. As well as superior productivity, co-owned companies report higher levels of employee engagement, exceptional standards of corporate responsibility, and greater responsiveness to the needs of change and innovation.

Contrary to the expectations of outsiders, employee-owners are highly realistic about the implications of changing circumstances, sometimes more so than the board. In one case, aware of impending hard times, employees volunteered a pay standstill. This, of course, is one reason why the trade unions habitually distrust co-ownership; but on the other hand, in times of difficulty they show impressive 'durability under fire', preferring to adjust pay rather than jobs when business is slow and preserving employment throughout the business cycle; none of the Employee Ownership Association members is called Persimmon or Bovis or Redrow.

The UK is bad at asset transfer. Given the poor record of trade sales and the divisiveness of private equity, the parliamentary group argues that we would all be better off if more people were aware of the advantages of employee buyouts. The parliamentarians are not alone in believing that the model may be particularly suited to emerging public-sector markets, where 'the social objectives of co-owned firms, married with the more equitable distribution of resources among employees, makes co-ownership a far more palatable option for outsourced public services than traditionally run plcs'.


Lenin and Politics

The essay below I wrote in early 1990. I wish I had been much more aware of libertarian socialist/anarchist critiques of Bolshevism then, and I would be more wary now of saying Western socialism can cope with more bureaucracy. Plus it understates my own feelings about how far the powers-that-be would go to stop a democratic socialist government in the West taking power and implementing its programme. Having said that, there is a lot in it I still agree with...even more so now!

PS Sorry for all the footnotes...

“Lenin was a political genius who despised and distrusted politics.”

Lenin was undoubtedly a political genius in that he was able to seize a fleeting opportunity during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and gain power for the Bolsheviks. He organised a successful coup d’etat and let the peasantry “do the work of the proletarian revolution.” [1] He was distrustful of politics, however, in the way that many avowedly Marxist political parties throughout Europe in the early Twentieth Century were developing. He was particularly concerned about the German Social Democrats, who through theoreticians like Eduard Bernstein and politicians like Karl Kautsky, had “revised” Marxism [2], so that the SPD could declare that parliamentary politics, rather than violent insurrection, could bring about socialism. Lenin’s disillusion with many European Marxists was heightened when the SPD and other socialist parties failed to opposed the First World War [3], and when the avowedly revolutionary Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries supported the Provisional Government in Russia during 1917 [4]. In State and Revolution Lenin wanted to show why parliamentary politics was a dead-end for Marxists, due to the nature of contemporary capitalist states and democracies.

Lenin disagrees strongly with those Marxists who believe the state is “above” class conflict: it is, he says, “a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonisms objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable.” [5] In capitalist society, “A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power”: Lenin sees the state as primarily a coercive force. [6] He adds that “Bourgeois states are the most varied in form, but their essence is the same: all these states…in the final analysis are inevitably the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” [7] Lenin concludes, through his interpretation of Marx and Engels, that “The supersession of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution.” [8] Lenin is aware, however, of some of the writings of Marx and Engels that suggest that peaceful change is possible, and hence “revisions” have got an excuse to claim that parliamentary politics is what socialists should concentrate upon. [9]

Lenin’s main objection is based upon what he sees as major changes to capitalism since the era of Marx and Engels. Lenin believes that the state has changed due to changes in capitalism: “Imperialism- the era of bank capital…gigantic capitalist monopolies…the development of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism- has clearly shown an extraordinary strengthening of the ‘state machine’ and an unprecedented growth in its bureaucratic and military apparatus in connection with the intensification of repressive measures against the proletariat both in the monarchical and…the freest, republican countries.” [10] To quote Bukharin, from whom Lenin got many of his ideas about Imperialism: “In former times parliament served as an arena for the struggle amongst various factions of the ruling group…Finance capital has consolidated almost all of their varieties into one ‘solid reactionary mass’ united in many centralised organisations. ‘Democratic’ and ‘liberal’ sentiments are replaced by open monarchist tendencies.” [11]

These changes means, says Lenin, that those “petit-bourgeois democrats” who believe that socialism would arrive with “the peaceful submission of the minority to the majority which has become aware of its aims” causes “in practice…the betrayal of the interests of the working class…”[12] The apparently democratic features of capitalist society, in fact, help the capitalists. Lenin cites Engels as being both “most explicit in calling for universal suffrage an instrument of bourgeois rule”, [13] and believing that “In a democratic republic…’wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely’, first, by means of the ‘direct corruption of officials…; secondly, by means of an ‘alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange’…”[14] The illusion of power that parliamentary government can control capitalism is, says Lenin, most powerful under a democratic republic and that is why it “is the best possible shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell…it establishes power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.” [15] As a result “the servile social democrats…acted the role of pliant accomplices of the imperialist state.”[16]

Lenin also criticised parliamentary politics on the grounds that it did not allow meaningful democratic participation on politics, He observes that “in the ordinary course of events, the majority of the population is disbarred from participation in public and political life” [17], and “If we look more closely into the machinery of capitalist democracy…we see restriction after restriction upon democracy…in their sum total these restrictions exclude and squeeze out the poor from politics, from active participation in democracy.” [18]

If Lenin saw parliamentary politics as ineffectual in changing the nature of capitalism and alienating to the mass of people, how did he see the political system changing after a socialist revolution? Lenin saw the 1871 Paris Commune as the model of a future socialist society, and believed that the soviets that emerged in Russia during 1917 could become latter-day versions of the commune. Lenin believed that “The commune…replaced the smashed state machine ‘only’ by fuller democracy” [19]- “democracy” which saw the participation of the whole population in the running of the functions previously carried out by the state. Lenin notes that “The first decree of the Commune…was the suppression of the standing army, and its replacement by the armed people…”[20] Since Lenin saw armed force as the mainstay of all states, all authority in the commune/soviet would flow from this. Lenin saw mass participation as the answer to the threat of a bureaucracy emerging as a result of the administration needed during the “first stage” of communism. The rationalisation of capitalism during the Imperialist stage would help this process considerably: “the great majority of the functions of the old ‘state power’ have become so simplified and can be reduced to such exceedingly simple operation…that they can be easily performed by ever literate person…and…these functions can…be stripped of every shadow of privilege.” [21] In time there would be a “gradual ‘withering away’ of all bureaucracy, to the gradual creation of an order…under which the functions of control and accounting, becoming more and more simple, will be performed by each in turn…and will finally die out as the special functions of a special section of the population.” [22]

Despite opposing the parliamentary system, Lenin saw the possibility of mass participation in the running of the country: “The way out of parliamentarianism is not…the abolition of representative institutions and the elective principles, but the conversion of the representative institutions from talking shops into ‘working’ bodies.” [23] Like Marx, Lenin saw such institutions as being a “a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time.” [24] The representatives are delegates of their constituents and “have to work…execute their own laws, have themselves to test the results achieved in reality, and to account directly to their constituents.” [25]

Lenin’s belief that the commune can create freedom via direct participation in democracy starts to put into doubt by his plans for the economy under socialism. He declares that “Until the ‘higher’ stage of communism arrives…socialists demand the strictest control by society and by the state over the measure of labour and the measure of consumption…” [26] Also, “All citizens become employees and workers of a single country-wide state ‘syndicate’. All that is required is that they should work equally, do their proper share of the work, and get equal pay.” [27] Lenin believes that “Marx was a centralist.” [28]

Before examining the anti-democratic and arguably “anti-political” tendencies of Lenin’s post-revolutionary vision, it is worth considering two major flaws in Lenin’s critique of capitalist political systems. Firstly, his discussions of the capitalist state depended a lot upon Marx and Engels; the problem was that their “discussions of specific and concrete social institutions was concerned almost exclusively with moments, of rupture, destruction and reconstruction in European history- the years 1789, 1848 and 1871 being the recurrent foci. Lenin was transmitted no knowledge at all of the realities of stability of the complex networks if institutions and practices which constituted the body of western society.” [29] Also “Marx wrote in a period where there was a consensus…about the impossibility of a pluralistic and consensual politics.”[30] Between that period and 1914 there was an increase throughout Europe in the scope of liberal democracy, and Polan points out that “Even…minimum liberalization and democratisation implies the possibility of evolution towards something more substantial.” [31] Radicals like Lenin “were confronted with a quite unfamiliar world of ‘competitive open’ politics, in which much of their established thought and practice became simply irrelevant.” [32]

The second major flaw was that Lenin was Russian; Czarist Russia was probably the most politically repressive and socio-economically backward country in Europe. Indeed, Russia was barely capitalist. [33] Lenin’s distrust of the social democratic belief that socialism could come through parliamentary legislation was because in Russia “there existed no possible connection between the state and freedom, there was only a profound antagonism,” [34] while in much of Europe “the connection between the state and freedom was law.” [35] Similarly, his prejudice towards the “bourgeois state machine” which “would resist, sabotage and destroy social democratic movements”, [36] stemmed from the common Russian belief “that civil servants were not just corruptible, but that public administration was synonymous with corruption…” [37] Lenin believed from Russian experience that freedom under socialism “demanded a reduction in the tasks and responsibilities of the state.” [38] Yet this could not apply to Western socialism, which saw the introduction of measures essential for building socialism in advanced complex societies, such as state economic intervention and welfare provision, needing a large bureaucracy. [39] Lenin’s belief that direct participation could end the alienation of people from “politics” floundered in Russia, since most of the population had no experience of even the most minimal kind of participation, such as voting for parliament. As a result of “the comparatively low educational…attainments of the average Russian worker” [40], and a realisation that “The peasantry…was incapable of political initiative”, [41] Lenin had to, post-revolution, support “the swift re-introduction of specialists and one-man management” [42] and ask the soviets “to separate ‘the necessary, useful preparation of the masses for executing a certain measure and checking upon its execution…from the actual execution itself’.” [43] According to those on the left of the Bolsheviks “Bureaucracy was…the inevitable result of the…move way from proletarian self-activity.” [44]

A centralised economic system, as Lenin envisaged, would perhaps inevitably led to the Soviet Union coming under the control of a bureaucracy. However, Lenin’s state structure, combined with his distrust of politics, meant that a bureaucratic dictatorship was inevitable. The bureaucracy would arise to administer state functions: “Administration concerns the carrying out of an already determined policy”, says Polan, while “politics involves the discussion and negotiation of such policies.” [45] The soviets, however, could not offer “politics”, Polan says; for “If the ‘parliamentarians’ of the soviet system have to ‘execute their own laws’…we are talking about the same people as…administrators and bureaucrats.” [46] Also “The elected deputies…have to make the laws, carry them out and criticize them”[47] in a state which allows “no distances…spaces…appeals…checks…balances…processes
…delays…interrogations, and above all, no distribution of power.” [48] The system “demands…for Lenin’s political structure to work…an absence of politics.” [49] In short, “Lenin summarily overthrows any…claim he might have had of treating bureaucratisation as a serious problem.” [50] Lenin believed in practice that the “answer ‘to…bureaucracy was to fall back on the more advanced workers, on the proletarian elite, or, rather, on the Party.’” [51] Students of bureaucracy, such as Weber, would know that “this was…to make the cure even worse than the disease.” [52]

Lenin by 1917 denied “the very existence of problematic political ideas within the bulk of the working class.” [53] He saw the politics of other socialists being purely “private self-interest made public.” [54] This allowed Lenin “to abolish any possible distance between the gross economic position of an individual and his motivations”; [55] hence “there can be no genuine differences of opinion in political life” [56], pushing “to the limit the possibilities of economic reductionism that Marxism might contain.” [57] With all people in the same economic position, working for the state, there could be no genuine disagreements over ends in the Bolshevik system, according to this logic. As a result, all political oppositions to the Bolsheviks, whether or not socialist, could be justifiably eliminated. Under Lenin’s system “Politically, the people were abolished”, [58] and bureaucratic administration ruled supreme.

To conclude, it can be said that Lenin’s distrust of politics which was inappropriate to Russia in 1917, and the elimination of socialist groups and ideas that opposed him, such as the Kronstadt sailors [59], made his genius in making Russia socialist ultimately flawed. If he had accepted that social democracy and “revisionist” forms of Marxism were appropriate for Western parliamentary democracy, socialist regimes may have come to power in the years following 1917 which would have allowed a socialist transformation of advanced industrial societies, and saved the USSR from backwardness and isolation. Instead, Lenin’s belief that his model was appropriate to all countries, combined with his intolerance and suspicion of parliamentary politics, meant him exporting his model to Europe via the newly formed communist parties of the time. This led to the left either being split [60] or advocating socialism totally inappropriate to Western countries [61]. In time this led to the Soviet Union becoming an isolated bureaucratic monstrosity, and socialism in Europe being unable to find a viable alternative to capitalism, while being tainted through association with Soviet socialism, Lenin’s distrust of “politics” could be said to have put back socialism in Europe so far that to call him a political “genius” is rather ironical.


[1] G. Lichtheim, (1971) Marxism, pp.332-333
[2] V.I. Lenin, (1964) “The State and Revolution” in V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Volume 25, eds. S.Aspreyan and J. Riordan, p.386
[3] J. Callaghan, (1987) The Far Left in British Politics, p.1
[4] Lenin, op cit, p.393
[5] ibid, p.387
[6] ibid, p.389
[7] ibid, p.413
[8] ibid, p.400
[9] ibid, p.415
[10] ibid, p.410
[11] N. Harding, (1981) Lenin’s Political Thought, Volume 2, p.96
[12] Lenin, op cit, p.404
[13] ibid, p.393
[14] ibid, p.392
[15] ibid, p.393
[16] Harding, op cit, p.115
[17] Lenin, op cit, p.460
[18] Ibid, p.460-461
[19] Ibid, p.419
[20] Ibid, p.418
[21] Ibid, p.421
[22] Ibid, p.426
[23] Ibid, p.423
[24] Ibid, p.423
[25] Ibid, p.424
[26] Ibid, p.470
[27] Ibid, p.473
[28] Ibid, p.429
[29} A. Polan, (1984) Lenin and the end of politics, p.154
[30] Ibid, p.174
[31] Ibid, p.175
[32] Ibid, p.174
[33] Callaghan, op cit, p.3
[34] Polan, op cit, p.161
[35] Ibid, p.161
[36] Ibid, p.58
[37] Ibid, p.163
[38] Ibid, p.67
[39] Ibid, p.67
[40] Harding, op cit, p.126
[41] Ibid, p.212
[42] Ibid, p.126
[43] Ibid, p.191
[44] Ibid, p.265
[45] Polan, op cit, p.77
[46] Ibid, p.80
[47] Ibid, p.81
[48] Ibid, p.129
[49] Ibid, p.129
[50] Ibid, p.81
[51] Ibid, p.68
[52] Ibid, p.68
[53] Ibid, p.171
[54] Ibid, p.175
[55] Ibid, p.175
[56] Ibid, p.176
[57] Ibid, p.176
[58] Ibid, p.78
[59] Harding, op cit, p.272
[60] Callaghan, op cit, pp.3-4
[61] Ibid, p.4

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Blimey, he's still going!

Forcing myself to sit down and post stuff for my blog has been a bit difficult for me in recent weeks. I've been out and about a fair bit when not working, so getting "quality time" to sit in front of a PC screen and tap tap tap away hard (as opposed to, say, messing around on Facebook)has been a bit difficult.

Anyway, I hope to be a bit more regular in coming weeks. One thing I will be doing is going through old essays of mine from my undergrad days and post them up. We are talking the period 1988-91. Apart from one or two stylistic changes I will leave them as they were originally written (one thing I've noticed reading them is how badly my writing has degenerated in the last couple of decades!). I got a 2.1, so they are not so bad! Furthermore, there are a lot of footnotes in them, so you can follow up stuff if something I say interests you. During Intro Week in my first year every fresher was given a guide to plagiarism and how to avoid it (the only official guidance we were given at the time to writing essays). Basically everything we wrote had to be backed by evidence. Consequently my essays were full of footnotes- more than were really needed. However, I think another reason for this was that holding non-conventional views on a fair few political topics (you may have noticed!)I needed back-up. Being able to quote sources to back you and your arguments up if you do not have conventional views is essential if you are to be taken seriously by others.