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By David Selbourne

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Extra info for Against Socialist Illusion: A Radical Argument

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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. But socialist misperception of the strength and reach of what is, in fact, a cross-class and national political culture is as deeprooted and hoary as the culture itself. Moreover, intellectuals who are not on the left do not make the left's disparaging (and foolish) errors about the allegedly threadbare content of 'bourgeois ideology', whose notions necessarily express - albeit often at a high level of abstraction - the governing ideas of this culture.

The close political and moral relation between the 'self-interest' of capital and the 'self-help' oflabour is only one of them. Failing to understand it permits very little understanding of the particular forms of the socialist crisis in Britain. Instead, the left takes refuge in familiar intellectual consolations. Some await the future revival of class 'consciousness', while others dream in their archives of past heydays of the proletariat. To avoid the real issues, emphasis can also be shifted from the fact that the working class may once and for all have 'ceased to be largely Labour>~ to the proposition that the 'new right' is itself engaged in an intensified form of 'ideological class struggle' as capitalism totters.

And if left protest is pressed, the worldly-wise maxim that in life the rough must be taken with the smooth can always, and still does, come to the rescue. The doctrine of individual self-development, even at its noblest, may be utterly blind to oppression; 'free' systems may depend on the most stringent control of economic and political behaviour; monopoly may be the necessary outcome of competition. 57 Yet should an Adam Smith once declare that 'it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest', or what he calls their 'self-love', 58 the socialist must lose himself in history, Marxist economic theory and moral philosophy to find the arguments to meet it.

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