Skip to main content

Democracy - Growing or Dying?

Democracy Growing or Dying?
The Spokesman 100

This is the hundredth number of The Spokesman, so we are expected to have a birthday party. Nostalgia is in order at such events, and we have accordingly devoted quite a large part of this number to reproducing articles and features which involved us, with many of our readers, in a variety of campaigns to change things for the better. Sometimes these have succeeded, if only, say the sceptics, in provoking our old antagonists to find new ways to make them worse again.


Sometimes they have failed, only to stiffen our resolve to try again, when times may be more propitious for their success.

There are, of course, a number of key concerns which have continuously preoccupied us. There has been no possibility of forgetting, even temporarily, the desperate urgency of the struggle for peace and disarmament. It has been quite possible, but very regrettable, to forget the struggle for the widening and deepening of democracy, and this possibility has been amply brought into evidence by the progress of sundry statesmen, not to say less elevated tribunes of the people, some of whom have opted for popular emancipation, one at a time, me first.

This kind of apostasy does discourage people, if only temporarily. If hope springs eternal, so too does the aspiration for effective power over the terms and conditions of our own lives.

Politicians commonly tell us that the major social struggles are about power. ‘We need’ they say, ‘power to prevent the next war, or to save the environment from destruction, or to protect people from exploitation and domination.’ That is one way of putting it, but there are dangers wrapped up in it. Power does not come sanitised, prepacked only for good causes. Time and again there is contrary evidence. What we really need is the annulment of power, so that none can make wars, burn the atmosphere, or lower the people into misery. Yet if we are to avoid the charge of piety, toothless anarchism, empty promises, then we have to concede that the first step to a higher freedom requires that we learn the necessary arts to stop the various evildoers who breed for us all these wars, depredations and oppressions. But if such steps are truly to lead upwards, then the higher freedom itself must always remain in mind.

Fittingly, we have chosen a number of contributions by our founder upon which to thread the thoughts of our contributors on these matters. Bertrand Russell reviewed one of our books, Max Beer’s History of British Socialism, when it first appeared shortly after the First World War. He highlighted Beer’s acute perception that the English establishment could vainly attempt to school their people in the rites of caution and conservatism, but ‘in periods of general upheavals … the English are apt to throw their mental ballast overboard and take the lead in revolutionary thought and action. In such a period we are living now’. After a long and depressing lull in their energies, it could be that we may be about to see their strong renewal very soon ...

Excerpted from Ken Coates' Editorial


You can order Democracy - Growing or Dying? online.

Contents:

Russell as Industrial DemocratJohn Hughes & Charles Atkinson
The Infancy of SocialismBertrand Russell
Market against EnvironmentKarl W. Kapp
Meeting Social NeedsMike Cooley
European Nuclear DisarmamentKen Coates
The Zhukhov FileYuri Zhukhov & Ken Coates
Palestine TragedyBertrand Russell
Left Parties EverywhereOskar Lafontaine
After HiroshimaKevin Rudd
The Surge: A Balance SheetWilliam E. Odom

Russell Tribunal on Palestine
Obama on Cuba
Castro on Obama
War Crimes in Derry

Reviews – Bruce Kent, Christopher Gifford, Henry McCubbin, Michael Barratt Brown, Elizabeth Trapp, John Daniels & John Grieve Smith.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Jeremy Corbyn: Internationalist at Work

Another featured article from the latest issue of The Spokesman comes from the 2011 edition of J. A. Hobson's Imperialism. Jeremy Corbyn penned the book's foreword, which we reprint here under the title 'Internationalist at Work'.
As a separate point of interest, we also include this comparative image of the logo of publication The Week, circa 1960s, and Corbyn's recent campaign logo. Cut from the same cloth? 





Internationalist at Work
J. A. Hobson wrote his great tome at a different age. His thoughts were dominated by the zenith of the British Empire and the Boer War. The outcome of the war demonstrated Britain’s then ability in sustaining global reach, since Elizabethan times, but also its extreme vulnerability. At home the poor physique of working class soldiers led to Haldane’s investigation into working class health and living conditions. The difficulty in containing the rebellious Boers, and the huge opposition to the war, encouraged further doubts about the whol…

'Not as dumb as he looks' - Muhammad Ali on Bertrand Russell

In his autobiography The Greatest: My Own Story, Muhammad Ali recounts how Bertrand Russell got in contact with him, and their ensuing correspondence:


***
For days I was talking to people from a whole new world. People who were not even interested in sports, especially prizefighting. One in particular I will never forget: a remarkable man, seventy years older than me but with a fresh outlook which seemed fairer than that of any white man I had ever met in America.
My brother Rahaman had handed me the phone, saying, ‘Operator says a Mr. Bertrand Russell is calling Mr. Muhammad Ali.’ I took it and heard the crisp accent of an Englishman: ‘Is this Muhammad Ali?’ When I said it was, he asked if I had been quoted correctly.
I acknowledged that I had been, but wondered out loud, ‘Why does everyone want to know what I think about Viet Nam? I’m no politician, no leader. I’m just an athlete.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘this is a war more barbaric than others, and because a mystique is built up around a cham…

Keywords: Art, Culture and Society in 1980s Britain

Tate Liverpool: Exhibition 28 February – 11 May 2014
Adult £8.80 (without donation £8) Concession £6.60 (without donation £6)
Help Tate by including the voluntary donation to enable Gift Aid

Keywords: Art, Culture and Society in 1980s Britain, is a new take on how the changes in the meaning of words reflect the cultural shifts in our society. This dynamic exhibition takes its name and focus from the seminal 1976 Raymond Williams book on the vocabulary of culture and society.
An academic and critic influenced by the New Left, Williams defined ‘Keywords’ as terms that repeatedly crop up in our discussion of culture and society. His book contains more than 130 short essays on words such as ‘violence’, ‘country’, ‘criticism’, ‘media’, ‘popular’ and ‘exploitation’ providing an account of the word’s current use, its origin and the range of meanings attached to it. Williams expressed the wish some other ‘form of presentation could be devised’ for his book, and this exhibition is one such int…