Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Letter: Engineers of reform

Sir: Alex Callinicos (letter, 7 December) says that the assertion by David Aaronovitch (Comment, 3 December) that "the social-democratic governments of the West ... retain sufficient radicalism to want to re- engineer society, not merely to manage capitalism" is surprising and asks for some evidence.

Well, Professor Callinicos, look around and compare society now with what it was even 50 years ago. The "re-engineering" forces have ensured a far fairer division of the economic cake so that a large majority of the population in the western democracies now enjoy a standard of living that our grandfathers could only dream about. This dual force - capitalism providing the wealth, socialist forces "from below" ensuring a gradual "re-engineering" of society - is a force for good.

Professor Callinicos asserts that "change will come democratically through mass movements from below". Precisely. What he seems unaware of is the radical changes that such democratic pressures have already achieved. One has only to think of the abolition of the slave trade, the parliamentary Reform Bills, the clean air acts, the education bills, the suffragettes, the various pressures brought to bear by the trades unions and the Green movement etc to realise that he is right. But these mass movements cannot effect change except by bringing pressure to bear on democratically accountable governments who, whether he likes it or not, are the engineers of social change.

No doubt poverty has increased in the Third World but this is due to several factors, not least being the massive population growth caused by improved medical facilities with which no amount of redistributive policies or economic growth can compete.


Poulton, Cirencester