Well, yes, why not?

If we must look to the past, let’s make it 1989 – a year of transformation
John Harris

Celebrating the death of socialism sounds like an excellent idea. Someone should tell Owen Jones….

21 comments on “Well, yes, why not?

  1. The death of Soviet Socialism maybe? (Bit too early?) Death of East German socialism? Indeed. The death of socialism? Unfortunately NO. That zombie MFCS is alive and well. You need look no further than Islington or Brooklyn.

  2. I have had to explain to number one daughter, born 91, that the Wall kept East Germans from leaving the Democratic Republic, not hordes of migrating anticapitalists from moving into East Germany. The education system neglected this important point.

  3. I really struggle with this ’empire’ crap that Harris and his ilk keep spinning. There’s no ‘deep and understandable sense of decline,’ so much as a very human and natural distrust of change, particularly when forced on you. I recall 1989 and, though a little short of breath following a decade of Thatcherism and the death of socialism, the UK was anything but ‘crabby’. As for ‘today’s demagogues and chancers’, Blair, Mandelson and Campbell wrote the book.

  4. Communism, Fascism, National Socialism, Dirigisme, Social Democracy (sometimes called Democratic Socialism) are alive and well. These various sects of Socialism have been the basis of political ideology in Continental Europe since the late 18th Century and fought over, jostling for dominance, just like religious sects throughout history.

    See European Union aka Fourth Reich, or for that matter any of the Socialist Lite, Lo-So, I really cannot believe it’s not Socialism, Governments in allegedly democratic Countries.

    Britain managed to avoid this until 1945, but then came Labour Party, the EEC/EU and it has all been downhill since.

    Look no further than Comrade May supposedlly Conservative but certainly is Socialist albeit not quite so extreme as Chairman Jeremy of whom over a third of the population approve and want him in charge.

  5. The education system neglected this important point.

    People are forever expressing surprise at educators in the USA and Europe have embraced totalitarianism over democracy. Why is that a surprise? What is more totalitarian than the class room?

  6. Harris is correct in that there was a spirt of optimism in ’89, not least because national socialism (totalitarianism) in Eastern Europe was on its knees. For more than a decade we had been fighting a civil war on our own shores – and thankfully, right had prevailed. John Harris’s problem (and he’s one of the few Guardian journalists I read) is that he was on the losing side, has spent the rest his life whinging from the side-lines, dreaming of the day when someone like Corbyn/McDonnell would arise and facilitate a return match – afford them another shot at the title. In reality, given his age (50), Harris missed out on the first one and it doubtless rankles. Part of me secretly fanaticises about voting for Corbyn at the next election as a means of introducing another generation to the reality of socialist government – where hardworking schmucks and anyone with a modicum of talent is bled dry to pay for the feckless and work-shy, nationalised failures and the so-called public services.

  7. @ Dennis
    An awful lot of elite sports training environments (far from all of them although the extreme minority hit the headlines with depressing frequency).
    As to the classroom – it all depends on the teacher. Some bad teachers are utterly incapable of maintaining discipline any other way, some decent teachers choose to be authoritarian, a few of the good teachers welcome and encourage debate (as you may imagine I didn’t need too much encouragement but it wasn’t just me).
    Of course the quality of the median teacher has declined since I was young for a number of reasons – the most obvious being the expansion in the education system required a lot more teachers so (i) the enlarged university sector took more of the better teachers (ii) the selection criteria had to be relaxed hence (iii) fewer good teachers and more bad ones; as the USA, being richer, started its expansion of education earlier than the UK, and you are younger than I, you possibly suffered somewhat from this. Another reason, more applicable to the UK than the USA, is that in earlier generations becoming a schoolmaster was a step on the rise to middle-class for an intelligent boy from a working-class family and he didn’t feel superior to his pupils, just educated and thereby able to educate them.
    We now have an awful lot of inferior teachers (far from all of them but an awful lot) who require dictatorial power to manage a classroom and believe that is the only way to run anything the way they want it to be done.

  8. When my grandparents became teachers in the 1940s it put them in the same social position as the local doctor and solicitor, you’d made it, you were a triumph for your family. Nowadays, it just puts you in the same social position as the local doctor and solicitor, you’re a worker.

  9. @ Bernie G.
    You do not understand what you are wishing for.
    I still remember, after quarter of a century, seeing an elderly Albanian standing and watching his undernourished cow eating the grass on the central reservation of a main road: so the most valuable use of his time was to watch one cow and the best grazing to which he had access was the central reservation of a main road. When we looked down on Elbasan (I’ve forgotten where we were going but not there) there was a yellow cloud from the Chinese-designed-and-built factory covering it: there is no data (because there never was) on the mortality and sickness due to pollution in Elbasan. Attlee’s Labour Party set up the NCB that caused Aberfan – Hoxha’s hard left created Elbasan; Corbyn’s pals are Hard Left.

  10. john77… I know, I know, it was just bedevilment on my part. As to your observation on teachers….almost one third of the girls in my form went on to teacher training college and spent the next forty-odd years working in state education (if you were a bright girl you stayed for Sixth form and became a nurse, the less academic took their five O-levels to TTC – all of us passed our 11-plus). The limited number of boys who joined them fell into two categories: lads that felt more comfortable in the company of girls, or chippy class-warrior losers. Yes, I know, I can also name a zillion exceptions that acquired first class degrees before TTC. But they didn’t go on to teach at Crap Street Comprehensive.

  11. Ljh,

    “I have had to explain to number one daughter, born 91, that the Wall kept East Germans from leaving the Democratic Republic, not hordes of migrating anticapitalists from moving into East Germany. The education system neglected this important point.”

    I’ve recently been amused by a Twitter spat in which someone claimed that the wall was built by the Nazis. Most people just gave up at that point, presumably on the basis that anyone that stupid should be left to rot in their own ignorance.

  12. @John B January 2, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Look no further than Comrade May supposedlly Conservative but certainly is Socialist albeit not quite so extreme as Chairman Jeremy of whom over a third of the population approve and want him in charge.

    Spot on. Too many refuse to accept that, they say “May etc can’t be a socialist because she’s in Conservative Party”

    John Major & Cameron are socialists too.

    FYI:

    @46m excellent audience member speech
    Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart appeared at a Spectator Event last week to discuss Brexit and the Prime Minister’s Deal, alongside James Forsyth, Katy Balls and Fraser Nelson
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXBdHMuaPXU

  13. “…someone claimed that the wall was built by the Nazis”

    That is epic, first-rate trolling.

  14. John –

    The competence of the teacher has nothing to do with whether the class room is a totalitarian environment. It is totalitarian… by definition.

  15. @ Dennis
    By YOUR definition.
    I’ve been in classes where the teacher accepted the majority view of the pupils on something (and I was in the minority more than once – which I put up with because the others were more knowledgeable on those points).

  16. @ Bernie G.
    Sorry if I over-reacted – that example of the poverty created by Communism is so burnt into my memory (whereas all I can remember of “Carrie” is the title) that it gets triggered by quite innocent remarks.
    I never had as many as three girls simultaneously in my class after I was nine and I lost contact with all of them after I went to boarding school but I doubt that any became teachers – the seriously bright one (nearly as bright as my sister) who chose to go St. Andrew’s instead of Oxbridge because she was Scots (the SNP hadn’t yet been invented but that wasn’t due to any lack of enthusaism on her father’s part) could have become a professor if she wanted to teach.
    I do not wish to say that all teachers, even now, are duds – a few good and bright guys choose to teach because they have a vocation. I don’t because I know I should be awfully bad at it.

  17. @Dennis “Grades done by committee…”
    I agree, with provisos/some modification.

    1)there’s a difference between totalitarian and authoritarian; education is naturally the latter, it is not usually totalitarian;

    2) at university level in the UK, final grades are done by committees (exam boards), although the “component” marks will be provided by individuals moderated by a second marker (or else just marked by pairs of markers with some form of averaging).

  18. @ Dennis
    You’re so young that you can only think in terms of grades. We had marks (usually, but not always, out of 100) in my day.

  19. Even in non-authoritarian regimes there is a police force and tax office. Having some limits on what you can do doesn’t make a place totalitarian.

    Lots of classrooms are full of smiles and kids enjoying their day. It’s not an atmosphere most would describe even as authoritarian. There are some teachers who enforce strict silence, but they’re very rare.

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