That great creator of quotable quotes, A Non, is once alleged to have said “if you’re not a socialist at 20 you’ve got no heart, if you’re still one at 40 you’ve got no head.”
I definitely have a heart (it belongs to my Muse but she lets me have a free rein with it when it comes to politics and rugby) and believe that I was a socialist by the time I was 15.
I also definitely have a head, within which is the house called Mind wherein I store all the information I have accrued in more than 70 years, and here I must disappoint A Non, because let alone being a socialist at 20 and 40 I am still one at 71 and will still be one at 100 (if Mind hasn’t burst at the seams by then with that ever-expanding store of information).
In fact I became a socialist before I found a home within the Labour Party. Indeed, I became a socialist before I found my spiritual home (can I use that term without believing in God, can I have spirit without religion?) within the union movement.
Socialism is a political, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production. It includes the political theories and movements associated with such systems.
The above definition of socialism is one that most people will recognise but to me it is very simplistic. Yes, it does talk about social ownership, which many see as an all-embracing nationalisation of everything, which would, of course, be complete nationalisation with control in the hands of the government of the day.
I have always considered socialism to be far more than just control of production and the products of that process.
To me socialism grew as I saw what went on around me.
My models were my parents who cared about our family: myself and my siblings; the broader group of blood relatives, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins; and a wider group who were not blood relatives but considered family by ties of marriage.
It went beyond this, however, because they both cared about others, their friends, acquaintances, those in need.
This is how I became concerned with the rights and the plight of others.
I learned that my actions, no matter how small, could affect people I might never have met and how their actions could affect me as well as people on the other side of the world.
I was never going to be a historian but, after English (literature and language), my favourite subject was history and once my interest was piqued by a reference to an event in the past I would go and research that event and that period.
This is how I really discovered the ancient Egyptian civilisation, and the Greek civilisation and the Roman empire.
Not that I was overawed by the idea that the Egyptians had an ideal society with great monuments to show what they had done; or that the Greeks came up with what they called democracy; or that the Romans took civilisation to vast areas of the globe.
The Egyptian monuments were built by slaves; the so-called democracy of Greece did not give the vote to slaves, or women, just to male citizens; Roman civilisation was what the Romans considered right and proper and they brought it at the point of the gladius and the javelin.
Throughout history we, the people, have discovered amazing things, but far too often the discoveries are not used for good but for evil.
The Romans may have colonised Britain but when they ran to defend the remnants of their empire they left behind a civilisation based on hierarchy which existed only because they had slaves to do the work.
The slaves became serfs (another form of slavery) and eventually the serfs became freemen and women, although they were never free.
Many of them tilled the land, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the landowners; others toiled in the towns and the cities, again, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of those who employed them and paid them a pittance for their efforts.
The shoemaker who crafted a fine pair of leather boots for a customer never had the time or the money to craft a pair for personal use. The lady’s maid who dressed the hair of her mistress as well as dressing the body in silks and satins would never be able to afford such care or clothes for herself.
Over the centuries we have talked of society – by which we mean a group of people who live together and interact with each other, but society is not socialism and society retains its ranks, or, as it is often called, the class system.
This system divides us into working class, middle class and upper class and all too frequently the upper class look down on the middle class and do not even notice the working class. The middle class look up to the upper class and down at the working class (although that is where many of them started). This leaves the working class to get on producing the goods that make the world go round without having the benefit of many of those goods for themselves.
This is not socialism.
The socialism I see is where we all do our best, work to our abilities, and share the product of that work. For those unable to work or produce, the elderly, the sick and the young, we care for them and share the product of our labours with them.
It is for just such a society that I became a socialist.
It is for just such a society that I remain a socialist.
Red ’til I’m dead and I’ll be waving that red banner as they take me to my grave.