The s-word


Once upon a time, not so long ago, it was perfectly respectable to call oneself a socialist. It was a badge that one might wear with pride alongside the likes of Albert Einstein, George Orwell and Bertrand Russell. Nowadays, for reasons we’ll come to in a moment, to call oneself a socialist is to risk being perceived as some sort of cartoon amalgam of Arthur Scargill, Wolfie Smith, Derek Hatton, and Rik from The Young Ones. I have a neighbour who thinks it hilarious to tell people as a matter of routine that I am a fan of Joseph Stalin. Happily, I know that you’re not that stupid, so here goes.

I am a socialist. By that I mean that I believe in the socialism of Bevan and Beveridge, the socialism that gave us nationalised utilities, the NHS and the welfare state. Over the past couple of decades, since Labour was colonised by the right, politicians and media commentators of every mainstream party affiliation have done a very good job of turning ‘socialism’ into a dirty word, a conveniently misunderstood word, more often than not a meaningless knee-jerk buzzword, synonymous with ‘communism’ in the minds of people who have no real idea what either of those terms mean. It’s been a long time since any mainstream politician has dared to describe themselves with the s-word.

Granted, there was a brief period in the early noughties when Charles Kennedy’s Liberal Democrats appeared to be repositioning themselves to present a credible left-wing alternative to the Blair government, but how long ago that seems now. Otherwise, the concerted demonisation of left-wing politics has continued unabated. By the time of the 2015 general election campaign, we had reached the stage at which a TV audience and, more damningly, various high-profile Tories, were happy to applaud a politically illiterate pop singer for describing Ed Miliband as ‘a fucking Communist’. Never mind that Ed Miliband, like Tony Blair before him, is a politician demonstrably more right-wing than Harold Macmillan; the idea that parties might drift this way or that is far too complicated for this sort of idiot rhetoric, and anyway it doesn’t fit the tribal narrative.

For twenty years or more, the political and media establishments have worked jolly hard to promulgate the notion that socialism is foolish, naive, hopelessly idealistic, and – best of all – dead. Socialists have become accustomed to being patted on the head and told that one day we’ll understand, one day we’ll grow out of it. As anyone will know who heard Tony Blair’s imperious intervention on the Labour leadership contest last week, or has ever had the misfortune to watch the likes of Andrew Neil and Michael Portillo pleasuring each other on BBC One’s macabre Thursday night Tory harlequinade This Week, there are many on the right who have become so accustomed to dishing out this condescending treatment that they appear to have quite lost sight of the fact that the left are not actually a bunch of amusing children. Turns out that some of them are really quite clever. It’s not that they’re wrong about everything, Mr Blair. It’s just that they happen not to agree with you about everything. Amazing, I know, but there it is.

Which is where Jeremy Corbyn comes in. I don’t happen to believe that Mr Corbyn is the answer to all the world’s problems. I disagree with him on many points. I’ll be surprised if he is able to win a general election. But I don’t think that any of that is tremendously relevant right now. What has been fascinating over the last week has been to watch the gradual realisation among politicians and pundits alike that there are an awful lot of socialists out there who’d really like to have someone they can vote for. That dawning awareness has become obvious in the remarkable savagery of the attacks launched on Corbyn by panicking grandees and careerists on every side, ranging from the inevitable ‘hard-left’ and ‘Communist’ nonsense to ad hominem abuse based on Corbyn’s age and appearance (both of which, as his popularity increases, appear to be counting in his favour: apparently there are plenty of folk out there who would rather take an experienced, principled politician over a young firebrand or a media-savvy marketing executive. Who knew?).

Yes, I’m a socialist. And I’m proud of that. Whatever one’s reservations about Jeremy Corbyn – and I have mine – I hope it’s understandable that those of us who have spent the last couple of decades being patronised and unrepresented by mainstream politics are perhaps finding all of this just a teensy bit exhilarating.



February 1st 2019. Three and a half years have passed since I wrote the above post. I’ve just re-read it, and while I happily stand by every word of it, I suppose it’s inevitable that it has already become something of a period piece. It gives me no pleasure at all to note that the reservations I expressed above about Jeremy Corbyn have turned out to be more than justified, nor to observe that he has turned out to be perhaps the most incompetent, hubristic, misguided, arrogant, blinkered, morally compromised and downright disastrous leader with whom the Labour Party has ever had the misfortune to be saddled. At the time of writing the United Kingdom, and every precious value that it once stood for, are being smashed to pieces before our eyes by Theresa May’s openly corrupt, shamelessly mendacious, viciously xenophobic and utterly out-of-control wrecking ball of a government, while Corbyn stands by gormlessly, either unable or unwilling to land a single punch on the worst administration in UK history, let alone to represent the fabled “many” by whom he claims to set so much store. Jeremy Corbyn is a disgrace, and furthermore he’s not actually much of a socialist, is he? Thanks for listening. Just needed to get that off my chest.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to The s-word

  1. Tim Constable says:

    Absolutely. I may not agree with his politics but he appears to be a conviction politician, which is a rare breed these days. Napolean said once that he found the crown in the gutters, and he seized it up. Let Mr Corbyn find the labour crown left in the gutters by Tony Blair and all his acolytes, and seize it up.

  2. Terry Molloy says:

    Superb Nick!

    Now, can we PLEASE have the Socialist Offshore Weather Report for 06:00 ‘Good, becoming Marxist at times’

  3. tabbyrenelle says:

    Socialists have become a dirty word by agenda and nothing more. You are a good and generous humane person! Thanks for the insights and vigilant inspiration.

  4. beingwoke says:

    Yes! And so many young students – many who were not even interested in politics until the conservatives got in – are now being rallied. Many of my friends have actually signed up to Labour Party – just so they can vote for him.
    I call myself a socialist but they don’t and even they see potential in him purely because he seems to have integrity!

  5. Nasir says:

    Reblogged this on TRUTH ODG.

  6. goulart says:

    How interesting! Substitute a few names and this could be about the United States. I know very little about British politics, so this is quite interesting. I’ll have to read about this Corbyn of yours. I wonder if he is much like our Socialist underdog Bernie Sanders.

  7. writegill says:

    A cogent analysis with coherent opinion!

  8. Thanks for the insight!
    I don’t know too much about British politics but the stigma against socialists is basically the same in Germany. I guess it has to do with the GDR history. If you call yourself a socialist in Germany – especially if you are younger than 25 – people assume you support communist GDR dictatorship and thought control.

  9. agesgist says:

    Reblogged this on agesgist and commented:
    Thoughts on springs

  10. bbeak says:

    Reblogged this on bbeak.

  11. drkkeith says:

    This was really interesting and coincidentally, I just watched a video on this topic not five minutes ago.

  12. ravensmarch says:

    A wonderful entry; it’s so nice to find that there are others who remember what the word and the concept actually mean.

    I think the tarring of the term “Socialist” has been fairly evenly pursued in most of the G20 nations; I know that it gets about the same treatment here in Canada as in the UK, and of course it’s essentially a unit of slander in the US. There’s also here in Canada an air of exhilaration amongst us who cherish the term; our most fervently conservative province just voted in provincial government that is as socialist as a sensible party can manage these days, and the same party is making a great show in the polls now that we’re on the way to a national election.

    We hope. We may even aspire.

  13. joeoctave says:

    Reblogged this on Crude Musik Blog.

  14. jlcarter119 says:

    Reblogged this on Life and a Little Bit More and commented:
    This is a wonderful article that tackles an issue most are afraid to even talk about.

  15. steelcityman says:

    Very well written, and an echo of what I feel exactly … I don’t think I can be so eloquent with my words so I took the easy way out and reblogged it on . Thank you for re inspiring my political wilderness.

  16. Absolutely bang on. The entire political landscape shifted to the right in the eighties. What would have been the centre ground in the seventies is now considered extreme left. Even being a union member is seen as subversive now. Fortunately we’re not as bad as America, which is about as best as you can say. I remember an interview with Harry Shearer where he said that a lot of Barack Obama’s policies are more right wing than Richard Nixon’s!

  17. seedoconquer says:

    Well written and enlightening.

  18. Mochamad Syaiful Anwar says:

    Reblogged this on mosi-tech.

  19. greekmeds says:

    Spot on. Hope Corbyn actually wins it!

  20. prof_jose_andre says:

    Reblogged this on HIGH UP!.

  21. I love your writing – and agree with your points ! It seems that people are still able to recognise the real belief in his politics and the integrity in these beliefs that Mr C consistently demonstrates and what’s more they like it!

  22. mjoba says:

    Love this post haha

  23. Jenny says:

    Love this – read it after being recommended to it from, which is also a good read.

  24. aryanchaurasia348 says:

    Reblogged this on Aryan Chaurasia.

  25. Pingback: REBLOG: The s-word | Salwa Sidahmed

  26. kurtdoesnyc says:

    To start off, I’m an American. Just thought I’d get that out of the way. My parents own their own business in Plumbing and Construction. I grew up thinking that you took care of workers (e.g., you paid them a good wage, made sure they had benefits, and that their families were taken care of) because my parents always did. My great-uncle was also VP of the Pipe-fitters Union. So, when I got to be of the age of becoming aware of politics, I learned about Socialism and thought, yup, that’s for me. But, living in America, telling people that and you are instantly either called a Marxist, Commie, or Nazi. And if you try to explain who Willy Brandt was or how Democratic Socialism isn’t about goose stepping through people’s front doors and stealing their shit, you just kind of get blankly stared at. Anyway, good read! Sorry for the long winded response.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s