Issue 205 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published February 1997 Copyright Socialist Review

Stack on the back

Pat Stack

To this day I still consider becoming a socialist the best and most exciting decision of my life. I remember my mother telling me one time, when I announced that a career in accountancy was not for me, that I had no ambition. This always struck me as funny. While I had no desperate urge to become an auditor and professional tax fiddler, I did have a great ambition to be part of a process of changing the world, ridding it of the poverty, starvation, war and misery that we see all around us.

I had a desire to be part of a tradition for which people had in the past made huge sacrifices. Some, like Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg, had even made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Others had shown immense courage, given such hope, that they painted a picture of a future for all humanity to enjoy to the full.

This is a picture that appears in such contrast to the mind numbing aspirations of capitalist politicians.

Now, however, I understand that the dream I and all those great socialists before me had is fatally flawed.

Where, for instance, in our dream is the reference to homework, to children's bedtime, to the problem of aggressive begging? Those great socialists who went before only had zero tolerance for namby pamby things like oppression and exploitation. It is now obvious that they never had to travel on the London underground or have their windscreens washed at traffic lights.

If they had, they would surely have understood that worse, much worse than evil oppression and violence, worse even than poverty or war, is that awful moment when somebody says to you, 'Got any spare change, please?'

Trotsky may have fought the tyranny of the tsar, the horrific threat of the fascist General Kornilov, and the horrors of Stalin, but I bet he never had to put up with noisy neighbours, kids out late, or the bad grammar of those who didn't stay in and do their homework.

It was easy for Marx and Engels and their ilk to picture a world that was beautiful, full of sunlight and all the rest of that dreamy stuff. They didn't live in London's King's Cross or, nearly as bad, have to pass through there each day.

Had Trotsky and Lenin had to drive their kids through there on the way to a posh school, they would have understood just how seedy and nasty life could be. Siberian prison luxury, mate!

Why, only the other day the well known journalist philosopher of the modern age, Tony Parsons, was explaining in his column in the Daily Mirror that he too has to travel through King's Cross to take his kids to school, and how frightfully seedy it all was. Indeed one evening when Tony was in the area for another reason he was propositioned by a prostitute.

Even worse, this prostitute was, Tony informs us, wearing a shellsuit! This fact seems to have particularly upset Tony who is a delicate flower in the garden of life. Well, if these women are going to start breaking the dress code of their profession and refusing to freeze to death in skimpy apparel in the middle of winter, then how can we stigmatise them? One could, after all, get terribly confused and that would just make the declining of the offer all the harder.

These harrowing King's Cross experiences have made Tony the journalist a big fan of Tony the visionary politician, although Tony the journo is a bit of a softy, admitting he does occasionally give to beggars. Tony the politician, though, understands that this just encourages them. After all, if nobody gives these wretched creatures anything they have two choices to either get off their lazy bottoms and get all those jobs that are out there, or starve and freeze to death. Either way we'll be rid of them.

Indeed, and this is just a modest proposal on my part, this could be the first job creation scheme of a new New Labour government. The less feckless of the begging classes could be employed to cart off the corpses of the more feckless. That way you cut unemployment, get rid of begging, and keep the streets, doorways and railway stations clean. Vision or what? Trotsky, eat your heart out.

The only thing I don't quite understand is why Tony Blair admits to giving to charity. Look, if you don't like giving to the unsightly wretches you actually see face to face, then for goodness sake don't give to ones you've never met. They're probably even more unsightly and less deserving.

Finally, I heard on the radio this morning that people are to be urged not to feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Quite right too. Pigeons and beggars, both terrible eyesores, both such a nuisance, and of course they're in league together. The pigeon craps on your windscreen, which gives work to the squeegee merchant. Get rid of them both. It's the only way.

Skies without pigeons, streets without beggars, pensioners without pensions, unions without strikes, profits without fetters, police without restraints, humanity without hope. Mmm, I think I'm getting the hang of this New Labour vision thing.

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