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Neil Faulkner


The animal alphabet

(March 1995)

From Socialist Review, No. 184, March 1995.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Matt Staples is wrong on the animal protests (February SR). The expression ‘animal rights’ is a convenient slogan. It means there is unnecessary suffering and it should be stopped. Philosophical debate about who does and does not have ‘rights’ is pedantic and irrelevant. It is enough that large numbers are mobilised around the slogan.

The same goes for debate about whether this or that animal test is necessary. Capitalism makes the question meaningless. Profit drives the system therefore profit drives the cruelty. Only under socialism will we be able to make rational decisions about whether any animal testing is necessary.

Nor does it matter a jot whether animal rights appear on Matt’s private priority list. The class struggle does not follow his or any other personal priority list. That, of course, is the tragedy of the sectarian, ever lamenting the workers’ failure to get their priorities right.

Serious socialist politics begins with an understanding that there are no predetermined priorities, programmes and timetables. Struggles erupt unexpectedly. The job of socialists is then to intervene – to build the struggle, to make the links, to draw the general lessons, to win the best activists to socialism.

Refusing to support animal rights protests does not, as Matt implies, leave socialists free to concentrate on reducing human suffering and building a revolutionary party. It simply leaves them on the sidelines.

You build a general fightback and a socialist tradition by intervening in the struggles actually taking place alongside the militant minority. You don’t do it by standing back and making snide remarks – claiming the issue is silly, the slogans are wrong, and the whole campaign rotten because some Tories support it. This should be ABC. To forget it simply because animals are the issue is to relapse into sectarianism. I propose Comrade Staples for the 3 a.m. paper sale at Brightlingsea!


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