The Social Science Association Introduces Democratic Union

Social Science Association Introduces Democratic Union

The Social Science Association Introduces Democratic Union

The new scientific field
WHEN the second world war broke out, it was the signal in the intellectual world for a tremendous rebirth of activity. There poured forth books and pamphlets on the world situation; social problems became the subject of numberless meetings, lectures, discussions and private arguments; a new generation of idealists arose, demanding a new world for mankind. When one considers the energy and enthusiasm they expended, it is a grim reflection that today a grave and profound metamorphosis has fallen upon them.

The world problem, far from responding to the well-meaning efforts of political theorists, is rapidly growing vaster and more complex. Limited improvements may have been achieved, but they are dwarfed by the major national and international conflicts which abound in every quarter of the globe. In such bitter circumstances, it is small wonder that a dull and heavy apathy has set in among intellectual groups. Some, it is true, still strive doggedly to interest the working classes in erudite political solutions; others have traded their higher critical faculties for the less frustrating atmosphere of popular politics; others still have forsaken the political scene altogether, to indulge in “looking after oneself,” “making money,” and other time-honoured practices of the “bourgeois” way of life they had once so vehemently

Their behaviour is something not to be criticized, but to be understood. The elementary concepts of psycho-analysis tend to show that in the emotional life of the individual, frustration leads to morbid depression, and regression to more primitive levels of the mind. The disillusionment – and retreat to lower political forms – of the socially frustrated intellectual is but one instance of how the usual psychological mechanisms appear to operate in the ideological field also.

The more sufficient escape from intellectual frustration may possibly be found, however, not in a withdrawal, but in a more advanced and adequate approach.

Birth of the S.S.A.
In the autumn of 1944 the Social Science Association was founded for the purpose of studying social problems in of the accordance with scientific method. Especially was it concerned with the ideas and discoveries of Harold Walsby in the ideological field; these were first mentioned in “Understanding the Mass Mind,” “The Intellectual and the People,” and other papers. Early in 1948, when Walsby’s “Domain of Ideologies” was published, it was felt that sufficient theoretical groundwork had been done to permit some practical activity. This is not to imply that the “last word” has been said on ideology: it is in an early stage, and one must expect it to be modified and extended, like any other science. Yet the social situation has become so acute that to wait till every theoretical “t” has been crossed may be to wait too long.

No thinking person can be unmoved by the prospect of atomic war, which might so dislocate and reduce our highly complex civilization that any survivors might be forced too revert to some primitive agricultural type of subsistence. If, an the other hand, war be avoided, recovery from the present period of scarcity may bring a far more drastic incidence of the ‘poverty-amid-plenty” problem, especially if atomic energy becomes widely introduced into the productive sphere. And moreover, the harsh threat of fascism, and similar forms of intolerance, is too real and constant to permit complacency.

The SSA is gravely concerned with these and other urgent problems; therefore it feels impelled to point out why they cannot be salved by the old, unscientific methods. We are aware that the political theorist is not without “reasons” for his lack of success: “the situation is not ripe”; “the capitalists control the machinery of propaganda”; “other parties mislead the workers”; “it is the fault of the people, who should take more interest in social matters.” All this, unfortunately, does not get to the root of the trouble. It is little more than rationalization. While the intellectual may wish that the capitalists, rival parties, and the mass of people would behave differently, one must deal with how they do behave. One must not lament the situation, but face it. If one is to apportion “fault” (and it is not greatly justified, since the position is in important respects rather deterministic) it lies in fact within the intellectual himself, in his unscientific method of thought.

Ideological Science
The ideological field – that of human social attitudes and behaviour – receives little or no special study from the political intellectual, yet like any other field, it contains recognizable laws and structures, which can either (when scientifically understood) produce effective action, or else (when ignored) render the most vigorous and sincere efforts utterly futile.

Ideology may be defined – briefly and tentatively – as the cognitive assumptions and emotional identifications implied in the beliefs and behaviour of individuals and groups. The essence of Walsby’s analysis is that ideologies form a hierarchic structure of levels, or “layers,” which have evolved one out of the other throughout history, each succeeding level embodying something of its antecedents, so that there is a progressive development towards greater and greater heterogeneity. In other words, the process is similar to that ascribed by natural science to the material world. Further, the historical evolution of ideology is said to be recapitulated in the mental growth of the individual (similarly to the physical recapitulation indicated by biogenesis).

It is important to note that, on available evidence: (1) the various ideologies (which form the general mental “back¬≠ground” of political concepts, in the sense that Communism has its background in dialectical materialism) are permanent acquisitions of human society; (2) they achieve a greater logical content as they ascend in the ideological scale and at the same time suffer a progressive loss of numerical representation, In short, the more rational elements are necessarily in a minority.

This obviously contradicts prominent assumptions in the outlook of the political intellectual. Far from regarding ideologies as permanent, and from treating the majority of people as necessarily irrational in their social outlook, he believes that at some time or other the masses will forsake their “mistaken” attitudes, and embrace the one true and rational outlook (i.e. his own). We must contend that such assumptions arise mainly from emotional factors, and do not accord with hard scientific evidence, When once, however, the unscientific assumptions and restrictive inhibitions of the political haute monde are surmounted; when once the laws of ideology (and especially mass ideology) are thoroughly grasped by the social thinker, then at last he comes into his own, If he can discipline his thought to the impartial objectivity of the scientific attitude, then will he really understand – and start to control – the problems which have for so long defied his most arduous efforts.

Democratic Union
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows, and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”

DEMOCRATIC UNION is a body of men and women who, in the face of the growing threat to the democratic way of life, recognise the need for unity. In a democratic society, differences of opinion must always exist. These, however, should never obscure the agreement on basic principles, nor weaken the determination to act together when circumstances demand. Yet it is not enough merely to preserve the old form of democracy, with all its faults and injustices: a wider and richer conception has to be devised and brought to life.

THE SCIENTIFIC AGE: This conception must go beyond the confines of narrow patriotism and old-world party politics. It must be drawn to the wide perspective of the scientific age, in full knowledge of the historic decision which modern man must effect: either the gruesome chaos of atomic war, or else the greatness and splendour of a new era based on scientific achievement.

BEYOND PARTY POLITICS: Democratic Union contends that every major political outlook – whether conservative, liberal, socialist or communist – expresses a necessary aspect of democracy, and must therefore contribute towards the new social structure. Extremists may never agree, but the more moderate and tolerant people of all party viewpoints can, it is felt, work together for the furtherance of democratic principles, especially in an organization where there is a mediating element of independent opinion to help iron out their differences.

WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? Some contend that democracy is essentially political; others that it is economic; but true democracy is both political and economic. Political democracy is the right to express one’s views in the sphere of government, no matter how much they may differ from the majority. Economic democracy is the right to work and express oneself in the productive sphere according to one’s abilities and interests.

THE ECONOMIC STRUCTURE: Today all but the narrowest of party advocates recognise that the central problem of the modern economy (the equation of purchasing power with commodity production) requires considerable government control over output, wages and prices. However much the right and left may battle and fume in their debates, they are both broadly agreed that control should apply to large-scale industries, rather than to small (and especially one-man) businesses. It is not a rigid issue of private versus social ownership, but a question of the extent to which each should be expressed in the life of the nation. Private, individual enterprise is vital, and should be kept free so long as it is private and individual; but it should not be free to exploit the labour of others. Large concerns, employing more than an agreed minimum of workers, should come under public control. What that minimum is, and whether it should be the same for all industries, is a matter for all-party decision. Yet the broad principle should be: PRIVATE CONTROL OF PRIVATE ENTERPRISE: SOCIAL CONTROL OF SOCIAL ENTERPRISE.

THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE: Democratic Union believes that from top to bottom of the nation, from the smallest local councils to the national assembly, all the main democratic viewpoints should be represented, on the basis of one conservative, one liberal, one socialist, one communist and a non-party chairman.

DEMOCRACY FOR DEMOCRATS: There will be no democracy for those who are contemptuous of it, and aim to destroy it. If such people, regardless of the name they adopt, think so little of freedom, they presumably will not miss it. If they are so greatly in favour of suppression, suppression they shall have. There is no need for indiscriminate excess: if by his words (or more especially by his deeds) a person betrays an opposition to democracy, democracy shall be denied him. It is, however, vital that the decision be made from a non-party – or better still, an all-party – standpoint.

THE INTERNATIONAL SCENE: Democratic Union is opposed to the denial of political freedom in the Soviet Union. It is also opposed to the machinations of western finance-capital. Yet it pays tribute to the greater economic democracy of the Soviets, and equally to the valuable tradition of political democracy in the western world. By creating the first complete democracy – political and economic – this nation can bring to the international scene the vital mediating influence which is so desperately needed.

SCIENTIFIC PROPAGANDA: Democracy must inspire the enthusiasm of the great mass of people. Anti-democratic forces have no qualms about using all the modern methods of propaganda: democracy must reply in an even louder voice, using a highly scientific appeal. The broad masses must be addressed in spiritual and emotional terms, not in terms of logic: that is a psychological axiom. If democracy hesitates to do this, fascism certainly won’t hesitate. Therefore, Democratic Union will make its meetings as spectacular as possible, with symbols, slogans, emotional oratory, pageantry: in short, its propaganda methods will be similar to those advocated by Chakotin in his famous Rape of the Masses.

THE FIRST PIONEERS: Democratic Union, therefore, calls for its first pioneers: men and women of all democratic viewpoints who are prepared to work together in a united movement. For some time now, the coming of a new dynamic social creed has been sensed by people of all outlooks, and in all walk of life. Now, in its first significant expression, it asserts itself resolutely upon the political scene. It is born of no narrow dogma, nor yet is it the comfortable off­spring of high finance: it emerges rather as a disciplined and intent body of men and women, bound together by a new ideal, and inspired by the knowledge that the future holds great things for them.

S.S.A. Publications

Address all inquiries to Richard Tatham [address]. Printed by F. J. Wilkes [address] and published for the Social Science Association by Richard Tatham [address]

circa 1948