By David Selbourne
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Extra resources for Against Socialist Illusion: A Radical Argument
37 There is a political world of difference in this seemingly like judgement. Moreover, behind its ex cathedra confidence there stands one of the classical assumptions of the social liberal, but an assumption increasingly uncomfortable for socialists who must bear the cross of 'real' socialism everywhere with them. It is the premise that liberal democratic freedoms under capitalism, however unequal their expression, can provide for the individual of all classes a sufficient quantum of political 'good' to overshadow all theoretical objection, every left demonstration of their lack of substance notwithstanding.
22 To attribute such a dismissal to Marxism, is itself a distortion of Marxist argument; yet it is nevertheless true that the 'conception of individual freedom' as essentially 'petit-bourgeois' - and 'linked with voting for the Liberal or the Conservative Party', as Trotsky put it 23 - is still disastrously pervasive on the left, in one qualified form or another. An intellectually up-market but deeply authoritarian version of this ideological crudity might pronounce the concept of the individual to be an 'essentialist abstraction [sic] based on the notion that persons ...
Yet despite this, what Tawney once called the 'oldest and toughest plutocracy in the world', 13 and ruler in its time of a world empire, is perceived as lacking 'any systematic major ideology', its 'hegemony' instead 'diffused in a miasma of commonplace prejudices and taboos'. 14 Saddled with such selfdeluding assumptions, it is simply not possible to make any sense 34 Against Socialist Illusion of our politics; indeed, any socialism founded ideologically upon them deserves to be defeated. For if the socialist alternative does, conversely, constitute a 'systematic major ideology'- of and for the working class in the bargain - it says little for it if mere 'commonplace prejudices and taboos' have triumphed for a century and a half over its persuasions.