by Gary Fraser
Readers will be aware of the ongoing crisis engulfing the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). For me, as someone with a background in criminology, the SWPs crisis raises interesting questions into how the far left thinks about crime. I will come to the SWP in a moment, but before doing so I want to explore why I think the far left has never been strong on the subject of crime. The reasons are complex. Yet, broadly speaking I want to argue that it comes down to this – the left has emphasised a purely sociological approach to the exclusion of all else, an approach known in the academy as ‘social constructivism’. Of course sociological analysis is a useful conceptual tool in understanding crime and why people commit crime, and few would dispute this; but a successful political project, which aims to win the consent of the people, cannot rely on sociology alone.
Two discourses informed the politics of the 1960s. The first was opposition to the Vietnam War and the second a series of social movements in
The counter-culture transformed the arts, particularly popular music and film. In the mid-60s, beginning with Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and then culminating in the Beatles Sgt Pepper, rock music went through its golden period. We should also note the transformations in other music, especially music associated with black artists. Jazz is just one example, where artists such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman changed the structure of jazz; called free jazz it seemed to, unconsciously perhaps, represent the chaos of the changing times and the innate anger and frustration of the black artist.
‘You say you want a revolution’
Revolution was the word of the counter-culture. ‘Everybody knows the revolution is coming’ said rock musician Neil Young. According to the great beat poet Gill Scott Heron, ‘the revolution will not be televised’. ‘One solution, revolution’ was a regular cry of the Black Panthers. Meanwhile, an excited John Lennon sang, ‘we better get the revolution on right away’ in his anthem Power To The People. The word ‘revolution’ seemed to catch the spirit of what was taking place in the streets and college campuses across
This summer, the Scottish Government announced that it would be passing a bill through Parliament legalising same sex marriage. For most forward thinking people in a modern society like Scotland this would have been viewed as a sensible and uncontroversial move. For the vast majority of Scots sexual behaviour between consensual adults should be none of their, or the state’s, business, and gay relationships, including marriage, should be afforded the same legal protections as their heterosexual counterparts.
It beggars belief then, when self- styled moral guardians of the modern world, like the Catholic Church in Scotland and the literalist Presbyterians in the ‘Scotland for Marriage’ campaign attempt to derail progress because of their own outdated religious beliefs and force the majority to accept these beliefs as their own: Nobody is to be allowed to enter into a gay marriage because a minority of particularly fundamentalist religionists don’t like it.
American Christian lobbyists have also fought tooth and nail to prevent ‘ Evolution through Natural Selection’ being taught as an evidence based part of the science syllabus in US schools, and in some states, schools must give equal attention to the creationist view that the world was created in a matter of days, less than ten thousand years ago, by God.
These debates between the modern day and the past have brought into focus the role of religion today. Does society require institutions such as the Catholic or Protestant churches, Islamic or Jewish faiths, as moral compasses? Should society give an equal voice to all religious belief when formulating laws, providing public services or setting educational curricula, for example?