What Do People Need?

On rereading Andrei Amalrik’s Involuntary Journey To Siberia of 1970, all sorts of impressions were received, most not at all new: the lack of freedom in the Soviet Union, the Kafka-esque Soviet legal system, the primitive life lived by Russian kolkozhniki (collective farm inhabitants) in Siberia etc.

However, at the end of the book, the author’s sentence for being a “social parasite” (5 years internal exile –2.5 years of which to be hard labour on a collective farm or elsewhere–) is quashed on appeal, Amalrik returns to Moscow with the wife whom he in fact married in Moscow and during his exile (because he was allowed compassionate leave from the collective farm or kolkhoz to visit his unwell father). He applies to the housing people in his district and, after some difficulty when he has to share with others, is given a flat with a decent bathroom and telephone.

Now, we are often told and quite rightly that Soviet people generally lived poorly, had to share, in many cases, their accommodation by living in communal flats or kommunalki (usually large flats expropriated from affluent persons during and after the Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent Civil War, though in fact some such shared apartments pre-dated Bolshevism), sharing kitchens and bathrooms etc and given, at best,one room per person (it was usually worked out, in theory, at so many square metres per person or family).

All of the above is true, but when one looks at the situation in 2018 Britain, many are not much better off, and some are worse off. Would a prisoner released from incarceration in the UK be given a flat, even a small one? The most he could expect would be B&B accommodation of a markedly poor sort, and to be put on a local authority waiting list, probably behind a horde of “refugees”, “asylum-seekers” and other riff-raff.

In fact, look at how many British people with full-time jobs live! Many in shared houses and flats, or in bedsit rooms. No better off than Soviet citizens! How many “hardworking” (the label of the past few years) people are living in not very nice shared accommodation in the UK, living off pot noodles and the like?

To go off at a tangent, this “hardworking” thing has become a joke: for example, school students all deserve (increasingly meaningless) “A” “grades” in exams because “they have all worked so hard”. Doesn’t matter if they are thick as two short planks and know only force-fed “facts” (often incorrect, as in the case of “holocaust” “history” etc). They are “hardworking” and so are the “deserving” academic poor. They therefore “deserve” to attend a “uni” where they will also “work hard” to “achieve” an almost meaningless “degree” (an equally-meaningless “First”, in half the cases) before –for many–getting a minimum wage (or not much better) job…

The above thoughts should impel us to think about what people need in a basic way, about what should, arguably, be the State-provided or guaranteed minimum.

Ideally, everyone should live in a decent house or flat, free of worries, with pleasant neighbours if any, while doing work which benefits society. That of course is a counsel of perfection, but that fact should not stop us from aiming at a higher and better form of living for all citizens.

For me, everyone should at least have a home, preferably one where there is reasonable space, reasonable peace, reasonable access to green gardens or wider Nature. Living space should be regarded as a human right, not as a way for buy to let parasites to make profits from the need of others. Everyone should have access to telephone and Internet. Everyone should have access to cheap or free public transport, at least in the local area and arguably within a 20-mile radius of home. Everyone should have (up to a determined cap) free water, electricity, heating. Beyond that, everyone should also have a “basic income”, even if only (in today’s money) £20 a week.

We can move to a society where the basics are provided. When people have the basics, they can work to get more, or to improve aspects of society in other ways.

Notes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Amalrik

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communal_apartment

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Involuntary-Journey-Siberia-Andrei-Amalrik/dp/0156453932#customerReviews

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1?ie=UTF8&text=Andrei+Amalrik&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Andrei+Amalrik&sort=relevancerank

 

 

3 thoughts on “What Do People Need?”

  1. In the interests of debate/discussion, I offer a different perspective:

    I must concede that a social-democratic state can work well where the society is relatively homogeneous, everybody works to a common goal, standards are high, and all social classes are valued – but these are difficult contingencies to achieve and maintain.

    The social-democratic settlement fell apart in Britain and manifestly collapsed. In fact, the end of it was apparent before Beveridge had even got under way writing his admirable report. The political class began importing waged labour from abroad and this began quite early on, during the First World War, when there was rioting in protest at blacks coming to work in the docks. Standards in society declined during the Second World War, which was when the sexual revolution really began. It’s not the boomers who started the decline, it was actually their parents, who in some cases practically shagged for Britain. Sorry, but it’s true.

    Now let us turn to Nazi Germany, which had an ineluctable social-democratic character. I cannot prove this because we are in the thin air of speculation, but I am pretty sure in my own mind that had the Third Reich survived the War, it’s own socialistic character would have caused much the same problems as we have today, and the unravelling of its singular racial politics would have been an inevitable, if tragic consequence of this ‘we’re all Germans together’ ethical credo.

    I say all this as someone whose background was on the Left and the Labour Party – something that fits naturally with National Socialism – and I retain vestigial sympathy for it, but time and views change and today I have a more original perspective. I’m not at all sure that I would like a return to a big state, with guaranteed incomes and so on, and I certainly don’t like the state now. I think we need less of it, not more. I would even venture to say that social-democratic ideas have contributed to social-liberalism, neo-liberal capitalism and multi-culturalism and that these things go hand-in-hand.

    Personally I think we need completely fresh ideas that reach back deep into our history and that celebrate the strong over the weak. People who can look after themselves should be rewarded. People who can’t, should not be looked-after like wards of state at everybody else’s expense. They may be white. They may even be British, but I am not everybody’s keeper, and I wonder if it actually does them more harm than good? Of course, we all have problems and we all need help from time-to-time – I am not overlooking that.

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    1. We differ. My perspective is basically Christian/spiritual (though many might add “but not as we know it”!). I believe that Nietzsche went wrong (or perhaps is interpreted wrongly) in that “might is right” world view of his later years. I concede that things have gone too far when the “weak”, such as the handicapped, sexually-unusual, poor, unintelligent, uncultured, even the racially-inferior, are “celebrated” and put forward as the equal and even superior to those who are, in the classical sense, “superior”. That is what is happening in Europe and across “the West” now, of course; however, Social Darwinism has no future and if applied in practice in the Ayn Rand manner would cause social warfare on a scale not yet seen.

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  2. The promotion of the weak, abnormal etc plainly are symptoms, not causes; symptoms of a purpose-driven destructive force, the wrecking of nations, and one which has been facilitated over time through the power of money and specifically, usurious money. e.g. David Astle: The Babylonian Woe (and scores of others).

    Henry Ford said “The Money Question, properly solved, is the end of the Jewish Question and every other question of a mundane nature.”

    “Might makes Right”? From the man who dedicated his book to Lucifer:

    “Moral rationalization is indispensable at all times of action whether to justify the selection or the use of ends or means. … All great leaders, including Churchill, Gandhi, Lincoln, and Jefferson, always
    invoked “moral principles” to cover naked self-interest … This even held
    under circumstances of national crises when it was universally assumed that the end justified any means. All effective actions require the passport of morality….”
    — Saul Alinsky: Rules for Radicals.

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