Socialism

H is for History

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Throughout history rulers mystify the past to convince ordinary people that their rule is inevitable. The first recorded histories - in the form of king lists - were used to justify their legitimacy.

King Arthur: "I am your king".
Woman: "Well I didn't vote for you."
King Arthur: "You don't vote for kings."
Woman: "Well how'd you become king then?"
King Arthur: "The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king."

G is for gay liberation

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The modern gay liberation movement was born out of two nights of rioting in June 1969 after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York.

The rioters, once dismissed as "sick" or "perverted" by many, took inspiration from the anti-war and black power movements. Chanting "Gay power", they started a mass movement that changed the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people forever.

Gay liberation has come a long way. In the last decade alone we have seen six legislative changes in favour of gay rights. Attitudes have shifted - a recent poll found 90 percent supportive of gay rights, yet only 20 years ago 70 percent of the British public thought homosexuality was "always or mostly wrong".

F is for Fascism

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Fascism is so often used as an insult that any real analysis of its specific meaning is often obscured.

There are those who use it to describe any authoritarian action, or any extreme racism or anti-Semitism. There is the opportunistic labelling of Saddam Hussein as a fascist to justify the war on Iraq. There is also a more serious argument on the left put forward by John Pilger that George Bush and the US are in a pre-fascist situation.

E is for Ecology

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The ecological relationship between human society and the planet's environment has become a major preoccupation for thousands of people around the world.

The extent to which we have already changed the world's climate and how much more we will change it is a matter hotly debated by the media and politicians.

Few would deny that humans have an impact on their environment - it is easy to see the connection between a dead fish and a toxic chemical leak into a river.

D is for Dictatorship

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The phrase the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is famous, and much misunderstood. It's certainly liable to frighten the bourgeoisie. The difficulty is, it's also liable to frighten our side.

Karl Marx used the term a few times, and Frederick Engels a little less. What did they mean by it, and why did they use this phrase?

As to what they meant by it, that is quite clear. They meant what today is meant by the phrase "workers' state", or "the rule of the working class", or "conquest of political power by the working class". No more, and no less. They also used these terms, and other similar ones.

A-Z of Socialism: C is for Capital

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Both across the social sciences and in popular parlance, there has emerged what has been termed a plethora of capitals.

There is not only economic capital but also fixed capital, human capital, social capital, environmental or natural capital, financial capital, and cultural, symbolic, intellectual, organisational, emotional and many other types of "capital". The term is indiscriminately used to cover any resource deployed in any context.

B is for Bolshevik

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When I was a young man way back in the days when Blair was a much loved performer and Brown was noted for his twin ambitions to be leader of the Labour Party and to drink Westminster dry (I speak of course of Lionel and George), the term "Bolshy" was a common one.

Bolshy tended to mean anyone who might stir up trouble, stand up for themselves or rebel against the rules. Its use went way beyond the obviously political, and yet its roots were entirely political. It had become a British abbreviation of the word Bolshevik, the name of the party that had led the workers to revolution in Russia in 1917.

The word itself sounded romantic and inspiring, or dark and dangerous, but was in fact simply the Russian word for majority.

A is for Alienation

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Alienation is one of the most frequently encountered concepts not only in philosophical, political, psychological and sociological writings, as well as in creative literature, but - on an almost daily basis - even in the popular media. This is not surprising. For the practical reality of some form of alienation is an inescapable experience in the life of every individual in our society.

Understandably, this experience has negative connotations, indicating the need to do something about it, in order to overcome its frequently deplored impact. But protest against alienation seems to be in vain. Why is this so? What is the apparently all-powerful agency of "alienation", capable of negatively affecting the whole of humankind over a long historical period, and how could it be consigned to the past?

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