Some Suggested Priorities for Democratic Socialists

To help stimulate debate on the way forward for the left, HARRY BARNES has produced the following wish-list of priorities for democratic socialists. We welcome your thoughts and responses in the comments section below.

1. Tackling climate change and contributing towards saving the planet.

2. Seeking an end to world-wide pollution, such as that created by the production and dumping of plastics, and clearing up the mess.

3. Participating fully in overcoming deprivation, starvation, major conflicts and oppression in many of the world’s poorer areas.

4. Controlling and removing the exploitative powers of the world’s major financial institutions and trading companies.

5. Adapting modern technology so that it advances serious discussion, intelligence and democratic understanding.

6. Tackling deprivation among the working class due to the collapse of industries such as coal, cotton, steel and manufacturing in which workers had come to enjoy some collectivist interest and mutual support, including from the labour and trade union movement.

7. Recognising the need for life-long education to enable people to benefit from the positive possibilities of modern technology while sharing lifetime experiences in supportive communities.

8. Building an integrated society in which people from different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds are drawn together to develop common social bonds.

9. Tackling housing needs and reversing the loss of social services such as youth services, via adequately funded local government.

10. Shaping parliamentary democracy and constitutional arrangements that enable people to engage in serious and mutually respectful forms of dialogue and debate.

11. Dealing better with passing problems such as Brexit, where the Labour Party has missed an opportunity to work for an improvement to Theresa May’s deal,especially by tackling the problem of the backstop arrangement for Northern Ireland.

12. Accepting that in many cases the above goals will only be reached gradually and with persistence as we seek to overcome the strength and extensive world-wide power of capitalism and more reactionary forces.

In pursuing the above objectives we need to remember the following words from Clem Attlee (as recently quoted by Lisa Nandy): “Socialists are not concerned solely with material things. They do not think of human beings as a herd to be fed and watered and kept in security.They think of them as individuals co-operating together to make a fine collective life. It does not demand submission and acquiescence, but active and constant participation in common activities.”


You can read more of Harry Barnes’ ideas on his blog, Three Score Years and Ten.



  1. Harry Barnes
    6 September 2019

    Yes Paul, the matters you add need to be raised, discussed and pursued. There is a strong tradition to draw from and develop from co-operative values, GDH Cole’s early input on guild socialism, and adult education in the earliier Ruskin College, Workers’ Education Association and trade union adult education traditions. These need to be developed to take into acccount modern technological developments.

  2. Paul Overend
    8 August 2019

    Thank you for this list. I find much I agree with, including the environmental focus.
    I would suggest that democracy is more than parliamentary democracy, but includes all sorts of worker/employee and local community participation being involved in business and community decision making – with unions involved in management of devolved community-owned industries, local communities involves in local community budgeting and planning, for example. (I’m imagining community ownership more than state nationalisation.) This involves a change of culture from being ‘done to’ by the state, to being participants in the state, drawing in community groups, charities, local pressure groups, co-operatives, and so on.

    For this participation to take place, those who are union and community representatives will need community-leader training and above all TIME – otherwise such participation will be limited to those who can afford the time, such as the retired middle classes who like to volunteer (and who have much to offer too). But for younger people and working people, this requires a shorter working week or remunerated community participation.

    I am convinced that democracy can lead to some very good decision making, but that skills and time will need to be supported for this.

  3. Harry Barnes
    9 July 2019

    Thanks Steve. But I did miss out on the significance of pursuing Co-operative values. So it needs to be added.

  4. Steve Thompson
    2 July 2019

    Very much in agreement, Harry

  5. Harry Barnes
    21 June 2019

    John Stephen Enderby is correct to place stress on the nature of communications which need to be widely open to us, so we can respond to these attempts to infuence political developments at local, national and international levels.

    When I joined the Labour Party back in 1957 I belonged to a solid coal mining community. The great bulk of the men worked at the local pit, while others directly provided faciities for the mining community as shopkeepers, doctors, pub and club workers, teachers, library workers, chapel preachers, colliery bandsmen and myself as a local railway clerk – even though I failed by my Maths and English Language O level exams.. Many of the women after early employment settled as housewives, sometimes having to look after husbands, sons and lodgers who worked over a three shift system.

    The bulk of the people mixed together. A walk down the main street would involve people entering into many conversations. People were not isolated in their own homes with only a TV to watch. The local dance hall was always packed as well as the pubs and the icecream shops.

    While everyone’s life was not dominated by political matters, local Labour Party activities were well attended and dominated by miners and their wives. Most people knew who their local councillors, branch officials, lay preachers and the like were, plus how you could bump into them. These could easily get you in touch with the local MP – Manny Shinwell.

    Rebuilding equivalent close connections in today’s world of new techology is not such an easy task. There are numerious ways to contact forms of officialdom via less personal avenues on the internet. And many people click into comment boxes, but too often just blow political raspberries at each other. (Hopefully not here).

    How we adapt the internet to raise and develop serious concerns and advance people’s wellbeing is a key issue. Then there is how we find the space to mix with each other, rather than just dashing past each other in cars.

  6. john stephen enderby
    19 June 2019

    I agree with Harry Barnes. There are many major issues which a socialist movement needs to tackle, both locally and globally. The green movement share many of our wider aspirations and objectives, which raises the possibility of a future political alliance based on a broadly agreed set of principles.

    Many of the problems facing our modern society have a global origin and their solution needs to be tackled at a global level, this requires some grown-up thinking on the part of our blinkered politicians.

    A major and overlooked issue for me is the power and influence of the media, particularly its ownership and control. The post-war Labour movement largely ignored the power of the press and had allowed publications, like the Daily Herald, to be sold off and turned into the mouthpiece of sinister right-wing interests.

    The early Labour movement had a less cavalier attitude towards the power of the press and created its own newspapers to spread the still fragile message of socialism. Maybe this partly explains the sudden rise and success of the Labour movement – and its gradual decline in later years. You have to get the message out there to the people and voters who count.

    It’s now time for the Labour Party, the green movement, and the trade unions to get together and launch a new national daily, available online, to spread the message of hope in a world dominated by greedy self-interest and blinkered nationalism. We ignore the power of the press at your peril.

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