By David Selbourne

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Extra info for Against Socialist Illusion: A Radical Argument

Sample text

85 Moreover, the simple or naive idea ofworking-class agency86 in the transcendence ofWestern capitalism and militarism is what it always was: a utopian reduction of the actual enormity of the task of such transcendence to intellectually-manageable proportion. Indeed, if we look closely, we will see that the (essentially middle-class socialist) project for the overthrow of capital by labour is nothing more than the rhetorical reflection of the practical working-class role, within the division oflabour, ofdoing the dirty work.

The Politics ofIllusion 23 and any form of socialism worth having, has served to multiply every dilemma. Even if'buying the economy from the capitalists, piece by fiece, until it [is] all state owned, and therefore all socialist' 5 was always a foolish notion, the results of having attempted in part to do it are still painfully with us. Responses to it vary. Some, like Raymond Williams, have struck empty poses: the nationalized industries 'have so deeply damaged any alternative principle in the economy, as to have emptied British socialism of any [sic] effective meaning'.

The close political and moral relation between the 'self-interest' of capital and the 'self-help' oflabour is only one of them. Failing to understand it permits very little understanding of the particular forms of the socialist crisis in Britain. Instead, the left takes refuge in familiar intellectual consolations. Some await the future revival of class 'consciousness', while others dream in their archives of past heydays of the proletariat. To avoid the real issues, emphasis can also be shifted from the fact that the working class may once and for all have 'ceased to be largely Labour>~ to the proposition that the 'new right' is itself engaged in an intensified form of 'ideological class struggle' as capitalism totters.

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