How To Create A Classless Society: Abolish Profit!

“Don’t look at me!  – get back to work!”


Why is it important to create a classless society?


All of the social problems we face emanate originally from the division of society into two warring classes: capitalist, and proletariat.  These problems develop in manifold ways according to their own internal logic, or lack of, and alienate and oppress humanity.


Civil libertarians need to urgently realise the class basis to their causes.  The state is the primary organ through which the ruling class exert their control over society.  Whether your cause is a beef against parenting classes that undermine parental autonomy, smoking restrictions, or drinking restrictions, the ban on drugs, police harassment of ethnic minorities, immigration controls, whatever – all this stems from the state that is hungry to crush liberty, and itself is the primary organ through which the ruling class exert their control over society.


Those worried about the problems of work being unrewarding and causing of suffering in a capitalist society are also concerned about the class division.  The character of our whole society is affected by the class division.  Indeed, the project of human liberation gets nowhere until it confronts class.  The civil libertarians are necessarily on a losing streak until they confront class, because the state will keep on coming back and back at them.  Any victory for civil liberties tends to be short-lived.  Therefore, this blog seeks to unite everyone who has a problem with the way contemporary society is by locating the base problem in the fundaments of class society that creates the state.  It is that which must be done away with.  To get rid of the state presupposes we must get rid of class division.


How to create a classless society


The capitalist class are only reproduced by the existence of profit.  It is their ownership of profit that distinguishes them from even the wealthiest middle-class worker.  The ownership of profit gives them command over the way society is run, allows them to control the media in their own interests, and generally inhibits freedom for the majority.  Where the capitalist has profit, the worker has his wage.  These are quite different categories.


The wage represents the value of everything needed to reproduce and sustain the worker at a socially acceptable level – all the food, housing, childcare costs, occasional holiday, etc.  What it is not is an adequate compensation for work expended.  The worker generally produces more in a week’s work than he or she takes home as the wage.  But they are not paid for the quantity of goods they produce, they are paid as to what can reproduce them for the next round of work.  So, there is a discrepancy between worker’s pay and what workers have produced.  That quantity of value is what constitutes profit, the lifeblood of the capitalist.


Therefore, to create a classless society requires a new approach to wages and profit.  In fact, profit has to be done away with entirely to get rid of what reproduces the capitalist class.  How do you get rid of profit?  By abolishing wages.  Instead of paying the worker a wage that only represents what is necessary to sustain and reproduce him or her, instead workers-in-control pay themselves the full value of their produce.  If workers received an equivalent value to the work they have put in, then there is nothing left over, there is no profit any more.  Therefore, the capitalist class cease to exist, and you have a classless society.


The technology used in production could still be reinvested in by workers contributing part of their new earnings to it as part of the collective within the enterprise.  But without a capitalist owning the place and an army of managers and sergeants watching over them, then work suddenly becomes far more rewarding, especially knowing you will take home more than under capitalism.  Furthermore, you are now a real stakeholder as opposed to the bullshit use of this term by capitalistic politicians.


The worker would of course still pay some form of taxation – to fund schools, welfare, etc.  But given they have just received a 50% pay rise, they probably wouldn’t grudge that.  Also, they have an equal say over how the social fund from taxation is deployed, so would feel enriched by this.


Without the existence of profit, the post-capitalist economy loses capitalism’s tendency towards crisis, meaning the whole of society greatly improves in all dimensions, including morally.


It could be said that this is just a sketch of a worker’s co-operative.  It isn’t because I would advocate the model on a worldwide scale to get rid of capitalism in its entirety.  It should also be added that new participatory democratic structures would need to be called forward to co-ordinate the production of goods to unleash the already latent social dimension to production.  As people learn to co-operate more and more, they will swap jobs over with each other, to try new things, and develop their all-round capacities.


To summarise: the creation of a classless world unfetters a profound human liberation.



For Rob O’Connor: A Homeless Man Who Froze To Death In Chelmsford City

rob o'connor
Rob O’Connor

I first met Rob after a gig by my favourite comedian Stewart Lee at Chelmsford’s Civic Theatre back in 2011.  Rob asked me for “50p for a cup of tea” which I was able to spare.  Over subsequent years I saw him lurking in a sorrowful state on several occasions and would give him cigarettes or spare change.  Sadly, this man, who was a rough sleeper, died a week ago from the horrendous tragedy of freezing to death on the streets.  Yes, you read it right – he froze to death in the 21st century.


Regarding reporting of this terrible event, the BBC initially took the same response I did – implying fury and outrage at the preventable death of a young man.  But then 2 days later, the BBC reneged on their outrage saying there was a shelter available not too far away from where Rob died that had spare space, and he could have stayed there.


Rob died outside of an Argos store that had shut down several months earlier, laying off a couple of dozen workers.  This building is quite big – sufficient to house all of Chelmsford’s homeless.  Yet the building was not requisitioned on the popular thoroughfare of Springfield Road by the Council, it has lain idle.  So, the irony is, Rob froze to death in the doorway of a building that is not even in use, yet had been shuttered.


Regarding the so-called “shelter” that Rob ‘could have’ used, this is 23-24 George Street.  It is about a 7 minute walk from where he died, and does not tolerate smoking inside, drink or drugs, that inevitably puts off many homeless, hence it is frequently running under full capacity.  Furthermore, it is run by Christians who offer advice regarding benefits you can claim with the ultimate intention of getting you into work.  But if it was the world of work that the homeless often despise due to various ‘mental health problems’ (as they are called) or other factors.  In short, who would want to stay in a shelter that just moralises at you to get a job?


Don’t get me wrong, the Christians who run the shelter are motivated by good intentions.  It is great they are there to offer help to those who don’t mind the nagging aspect to their care.  And technically it is true that Rob would not have died that night if he had availed himself of such benign charity.  But let’s face it, it is not an ideal situation.  Run the risk of freezing to death or suffer patronising Christians when you have no faith is a perilous choice to make.  Furthermore, Rob probably was staying out late to try and get more spare change from people coming out of nearby clubs.


The big problem which the BBC reportage has glossed over is that it shouldn’t be the responsibility of caring individuals, Christian or otherwise, to provide the necessary help.  It should be a responsibility of the Council.  Individuals are not duty-bound to provide care to the homeless, though it may tug on their heart-strings and is a noble act when they do.  But because those in need often resent the kind of care being offered, it would be better if a Council offered a neutral form of support, i.e. simply providing shelter for those who through no fault of their own have become homeless.  There could be leaflets regarding the claiming of benefits, but no mandatory interviews with Christian counsellors upon arrival.  And the temporary accommodation provided must allow the individual homeless person or family to do whatever they want, as too the rest of us should expect in our homes – to smoke, drink, take drugs, if that is your poison.


3D printing can now knock up reasonable temporary accommodation in the course of a few hours.  Why isn’t this technology being deployed to solve a pressing social problem?


Really this issue harks to the whole problem of private ownership over each and every building.  Surely at least some buildings should be exempt from this notion.  If allocated rationally, homelessness – a rising problem in all the ‘advanced’ countries – could be abolished overnight and deaths prevented.  When humanity’s desire to solve problems encounters a problem with ‘objective circumstances’, then it is time to change those circumstances.


Chelmsford Council might argue that unhindered free accommodation would just encourage more homeless to come here.  The image they are trying to create of the town centre – fashionable stores (that always seem to close down within 2 years) – is incompatible with the socialist cause.  They would say that housing the homeless sends a negative advertisement to the rest of the country.  But surely the real negative advertisement for a city is that people freeze to death within its jurisdiction.  Do they really want to amend the road signs: “Welcome to Chelmsford: Good luck!” or would it better to have a rational policy regarding homelessness that is not governed by the law of value for money?

Why Was Marx So Fundamentally Opposed To Capitalism?



Numerous misinterpretations prevail.  This blog attempts to clear up two of these: the environmentalist interpretation, and the ostensibly ‘materialist’ take.  No blog of around 800 words could do Marx’s ideas justice – these are a few ideas that are intended to spur debate.


Firstly, the environmentalist interpretation holds that capitalism is destructive to the environment and must be reformed to enable a simpler type of existence that is more harmonious with the desires or interests of the planet.  But Marx’s concern is only for human welfare – this depends on a functioning planet, yes, and also some concern for animals is appropriate to the extent they enrich human life.  This is Big Anthropocentrism.  Capitalism does degrade the environment, even to life-threatening levels as we are beginning to see with the growing frequency of extreme weather events constituting a new trend.  And yes, part of the issue is indeed non-human species depletion or extinction.  Today Marx would be horrified at the conversion of Africa’s big game into just another resource, or the undermining of the sustainability of coral reefs.


But this is because Marx the humanist is worried about things that concern us, rather than some kind of inherent non-human moral value floating within such entities.  The solution to capitalistic environmental degradation is a new human society where our relationship to nature is considerate and rational rather than solely profit-oriented, that doesn’t preclude doing this or that where appropriate.  Moreover, with concerted effort, capitalism can sometimes mop up ecological disasters, so the environmentalist critique is non-revolutionary, whereas Marx wanted to transform our whole relationship with nature so as to remove the powerful alienation that prevails under capitalism.


Because Marx wrote so much about economics, and academia has failed to link this to his earlier focus on alienated human relationships, some have claimed that the essential Marx was all about developing the productive forces, go for economic growth whatever the cost.  This is erroneous firstly because it silences that most petulant of productive forces – labour.  Although Marx clearly thought the good society massively develops machinery and the such, his main concern was on the freedom of the individual worker and their own self-development that capitalism negates.  Capitalism reduces the individual member of society to an appendage to the machine and crushes them both mentally and physically.  Thus, the emphasis on developing the productive forces is first and fore mostly about liberating labour from the drudgery of profit-driven society.


Secondly there seems to be a semi-conscious attempt to interpret Marx as a vulgar pro-growth materialist in order to let capitalism off the hook – to say that alienated human relationships and their impact on everyone are irrelevant to his overriding concern with fixing or ameliorating the tendency for the rate of profit to fall.  Thus, Phil Mullan’s recent book Creative Destruction that I reviewed here takes a very narrow interpretation of the oeuvre only in order to suggest ways capitalism might overcome some current barriers to growth.  The role played by the theory of the falling rate of profit in Marx’s overall outlook is totally neglected.

The centrality of the theory of the falling rate of profit in Marxism is the final proof that the bourgeoisie would undoubtedly cease to be a revolutionary force in every country they reign, and that capitalism would have to undermine its own moral and intellectual foundations to persist.  In other words, the quality of human life would necessarily deteriorate as long as capitalism persisted, not only in terms of the material standard of living but also in terms of the quality of human relationships in society at large.


Marx’s understanding of the consequences of his theory of the falling rate of profit upon the quality of human existence is borne out by subsequent history.  Two world wars later and perhaps a third on the horizon, with only 36 minutes of peace known to the world since the end of World War Two, racism and brutality, the increased role of the state in social affairs, increased homelessness in the ‘advanced’ countries and massive destitution everywhere else, show capitalism has not fulfilled the claim it originally made to be an ‘Enlightenment’ society heading towards a new golden age.  The falling rate of profit is not important because we want capitalists to make lots of money – who cares? – but because the consequences of it upon society are dire as the ruling class offer apology after apology and quietly drop the claims to liberty and equality they once made.  Nowadays everyone hates everyone else, partly because economic life is so frustrating, and, filtered down, you get the new trend of horrendous school shootings in the USA.


To conclude, Marx was fundamentally opposed to capitalism because he was the most astute and consistent humanist that philosophy has ever produced.

Fear Over Artificial Intelligence Taking Over Has Good Grounds – But Not in The Way You Think



The latest developments in technology point to an increasingly mechanised work process.  The abilities of robots to perform tasks, and even to learn on the job, coupled with the way in which we are never away from our smartphones and other smart tech, seem to point to a future where machines are central, and humanity peripheral.  Highly developed AI has won games of chess – and even beaten top players in poker – which shows the magnificent heights to which our creations can attain.  In human culture, there is much fear, or conversely, celebration of the new machine age.  From fear, we have movies such as The Matrix trilogy, The Terminator franchise, the recent Alien spin-offs where it seems that an android sets the whole debacle going, to warn us off putting too much faith in technology; from the celebratory side we are told that artificial intelligence is just a tool to help us with things like medical care and connecting people all over the world.  Both these sides miss the fundamental problem with what is going on.


There is a new level of domination going on, but it is not out of machine’s malevolence, but the way production is organised.  To that extent, it is not entirely new, nevertheless a quantitative shift can become a qualitative shift it we are not made aware of what is taking place, and it is that which this blog seeks to address.


The market develops by extracting surplus value from workers that is partly represented as ‘profit’.  This ‘profit’ certainly helps business owners lead luxurious lifestyles whilst workers still effectively battle like rats over a piece of courgette that has fallen into a urinal, but that inequality is not the main problem.  Profit also gets re-invested in new technology, to speed up production, make it more efficient, and to increase the productivity of labour.  More gets produced, often to a higher quality and in less time.  Thus, we are told, society ‘progresses’.  But also involved in this is the stripping of the worker’s creativity.  Value he or she has produced, once the surplus is re-invested in machinery, comes to turn his work into a series of just pressing buttons and supervising machinery – it requires less conscious process, and has thus become less creative.  The labour from the past cycle is now embodied in a machine that leaves little room for creativity, hence you have a domination of ‘dead’ over ‘living’ labour.  This is a process that has existed since the dawn of capitalism, and hence is nothing new, but what is new is that the level the process has developed into – seemingly, machines using algorithms to make judgments (including on the stock market), does show that high-tech capitalism leaves even less room for human productive-expression in the commodity.  This self-relegation of the human species gives rise to the culture of fear over new technology where we cheer the sexy Sarah Connor played by Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) in Terminator: Genisys, for smashing things up.  It also gives rise to the celebrationists – who it turns out, tend to be those with a vested interest in the status quo, or are simply brain-dead.


Of course, machines can never become self-conscious so as to pose a direct threat to human life.  A good argument from the philosopher John Searle asked us to imagine an isolated room in which a man handles Chinese symbols he doesn’t understand.  In “The Chinese Room” the man, let us say his only language is English, receives Chinese symbols through a hole in the wall.  He doesn’t understand what any of these symbols mean, but has a set of rules for how to process them.  So, he looks at his list of rules, and selects a different Chinese symbol to pass back through the hole.  This is effectively what ‘syntax’ is all about.  You have an input, a rule for processing it, and then an output.  There is no conscious involvement, simply a rule-following procedure is sufficient for syntax to take place.  Therefore, syntax is quite different from the world of semantics (the realm of meaning).  All computers and robots, no matter how advanced, only still operate at the level of syntax, they have never, and can never, develop semantics.  Without semantics, a being cannot develop its own wishes and desires and needs, and therefore can never pose a deliberate threat to any person.  They will always remain our tools.


Nevertheless, although they really are just tools, this doesn’t justify AI celebrationism.  As said, the incoming high-tech machine age poses a problem for the majority because it represents such a weight of domination of dead over living labour, and thus the end of labour as in any way a creative enterprise, as experienced at the individual level by the majority in society.  The solution to this does not consist in the smashing up of machines (although that is morally admirable), but in the reorganisation of the mode of production.  Instead of producing for profit, we need to produce to meet people’s needs instead, and have full social democratic control over this process, invoking new models of participatory democracy.  A new post-capitalist mode of production does not see the surplus product re-invested in machinery, unless so desired by the freely-associating direct producers themselves.  In that way, advances can and will occur, but only as a result of democracy rather than businessmen operating behind the scenes wondering how to extract more profit.  If machinery only advances because it is democratically willed, then the alienating consequences of said machinery disappear.  They really do become just tools, then.


Finally, this is no pipe-dream – humanity will necessarily be compelled to face these issues.  Just as more of the surplus product is re-invested in high-tech machinery, so too many workers get laid off because their jobs have been replaced by machinery.  This immediately is a source of protest.  But moreover, with fewer people in employment, the capitalist ends up seeing his own rate of profit decline, because the source of profit always was labour, not the machines.  Eventually he has to shut down the enterprise and try and recoup a scrap from a fire-sale.  Expanding these principles worldwide, the most high-tech capitalist economies breakdown and collapse.  This forces people to address the underlying logic of what was already going on, and wasn’t exactly experienced as a holiday camp in the first place.



Why Society’s Surplus Product Should Be Democratically Controlled


Measured in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which is a superior measure to GDP, global output in 2017 is forecast to be $126.7 trillion.  Assuming a population of 7bn, in which 50% of the population work (a generous estimate), then everyone’s wages throughout the entire world ought to be $36,200 per year.  Not bad, huh?  But the mean average wage of a world worker that conflates the difference between a Luxembourger (the highest paid) and someone in the Third World, is only $18,000 at 2012 estimates (and it’s doubtful wages have risen much since then).  So, where’s the extra money gone?  Where is the other 50%?  Not in wages!


Naïve people might think the missing 50% goes into paying for health services, education, welfare, or paying off national debt.  Wrong!  All these things come from taxes which are taken from the wage.  They are not taken from the missing 50%, they are taken from the accounted-for 50%.


So where is the missing $60 trillion, each and every year, at current levels of development?  We know that $32 trillion of it resides in off-shore tax havens.  But that’s just a total, and doesn’t account for $60 trillion per year, every year.  Obviously, some of it goes on elite hobbies such as the art market, yachts, racehorses, and squandering ¼ $1bn on footballer Neymar, etc.  But such ultra-luxury consumption still couldn’t explain the size of the missing trillions.


The missing trillions, given the number of years this situation has gone on, are actually not trillions.


They are quadrillions.


Here is what a quadrillion looks like written out:




Quite big, huh?


There is $1.2 quadrillion invested in derivatives alone.  Other investments such as real estate, industry, etc., pale in comparison, merely at the level of x trillion.  But yeah, the largest chunk of society’s surplus product is invested in speculative finance.


When right wing economists tell you we all need to work harder and create a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, it is worth bearing in mind that we already work hard enough thank-you, and perhaps a cybernetic future in which we all go around wearing VR headsets is a bit too much to stomach.  The problem isn’t a lack of wealth, it is the way it is distributed.  And this mode of distribution flows from a particular mode of production in which the surplus product becomes privately rather than socially owned.


When elites tell you ‘there isn’t enough money’ to fund this, that, or the other, we should now question what measure of wealth they are using.  If they are talking about funds raised from taxation of the working class, sure, there isn’t enough money.  But what if society, acting as a collective entity with purpose, took back our missing quadrillions?  Perhaps if the surplus product, which is all entirely derived from the total work of the world, was in our hands, instead of a minority parasite blood-sucking vampire class, i.e. placing the surplus product under the democratic control of society, maybe something useful could be done?


Should Sportswomen Be Paid the Same as Men?

Fans of the female Dutch football side

I have been embroiled in an interesting facebook debate on this question, initiated by a thoughtful trouble-maker, henceforth referred to as AC.  His argument was that in many sports (though he conceded not all), the women’s game is far inferior, therefore it attracts less audience and subsequently less revenue and sponsorship opportunities.  Ergo, the female players in, for example, football, ought to be paid less.


Part of our debate hinged on this notion of ‘ought’.  Just because there is less revenue attached, does that justify the situation of gender inequality in sport where England’s top player Steph Houghton earns around £65,000 a year whilst Wayne Rooney earns £300,000 a week?  AC thought it did, because the revenue streams are so much greater around Rooney, unlike Houghton who many people could not identify if shown a picture of her.  A battle ensued concerning if both players put in an equal amount of work, shouldn’t that imply equal wages?  A snipe from BL asserted this notion does not work because if a blind cripple also put in the same amount of labour time, then this would not justify equal wages because they would be hopeless.  So, merit also has to be a consideration.  Obviously, there’s no point in only paying sportspeople according to labour time expended because that trivialises the spectacle of winning and succeeding and putting on a good show, the essential life-blood of any sport, or indeed much of entertainment, as a whole.  But is merit and achievement the only consideration?  Why then, has tennis ace Serena Williams attracted less total revenue than Maria Sharapova, given she has won far more tournaments?


Whatever the case, it remains somewhat troublesome that there is such a stark gap between the top women and top men in sport.  Furthermore, it seems that even when women do attract a greater revenue stream than the men, they still don’t get paid as much!  Revenue from the USA’s women’s soccer team amounts to £14m more than the men’s game, yet a female player only gets £30,000 whereas a man would get £48,000.  Five US female players are going to court against US Soccer to try and sort out this anomaly.

So what of the argument that the women’s game is inferior to the men’s?  It could be argued this is for historical reasons.  The women’s game has been chronically underfunded for centuries with less coaching opportunities and little financial incentive that can reward talent.  So, the argument about superior quality may be a ‘chicken and egg’ thing.  What came first – women’s exclusion from sport that creates a poorer performance when they do play, or an ‘inherent’ poor performance that might justify less investment?


An article in ‘The New Statesman’ argues, “Victorian society viewed sport as “inseparable from the philosophy of Muscular Christianity, which defined itself against femininity and ‘softness’,” says Tony Collins, the author of Sport in Capitalist Society. It did not think much of the notion of women playing.  Nor did Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic Games, in 1896. He described women’s sport as “the most unaesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate” and advocated that the games be reserved for men, though a few females were allowed to compete from 1900. In 1921, the Football Association in England deemed the sport “quite unsuitable for females” and banned its clubs from loaning pitches to women.”


So perhaps what is happening now is a redress to sport’s shameful past that systematically excluded women.  However, this is not without naysayers.  AC thought the promotion of women’s sport that is happening today, most recently with the Women’s European Football, is actually ‘social engineering’ and therefore distasteful if the women’s game is inferior.  But if the women’s game is not inherently inferior, but appears so only as a product of history and society, then the notion of ‘social engineering’ needs to be stripped of its negative connotations.  The promotion of women’s football need not incur negative feelings among men unless they have a problem with equality in general.  (And besides which, lots of people do think the women’s game is just as good as the men’s albeit with different qualities).

Regarding the huge sums of money thrown at men’s football where someone like Neymar can earn a quarter of a billion pounds compared to Steph Houghton’s £65,000 a year, this is merely money from the surplus product of society as-a-whole that cannot find a profitable investment in industry.  It is leisure-capital that doesn’t even seek much of a return on its investment, it is luxury consumption, and thus these top male footballers have become playthings of the rich.  It is a popular perception that football stars are overpaid, but we need to ask why?  It is because some people literally have tonnes of money to burn where investing in healthcare or education isn’t as sexy.  Nevertheless, the indication is that there is such a thing as a gigantic surplus product in society that needs to be better used, and perhaps some of that could go to paying sportswomen equally.  It is only a capitalist class that is desperate to cling on to what little remains of its traditions that is throwing massive money at the male footballers as a last show of chauvinist defiance in an era when women’s equality has become a popular prejudice.


But all things considered, what is really needed is for sport to be brought down to earth.  Rather than have everything decided by elites and their committees, more social democracy is required over sport.  In that way, people could collectively discuss how much a sportsperson should be paid – to choose whether we have equality based on equal labour time expended, how much merit should be extra-valued, the degree of corporate sponsorship permissible (or intrusive government advertising as well).  Perhaps the banning of ‘offensive’ chants at football matches, the increasingly sterile atmosphere, the policing of football fans, goes hand in hand with the overpayment of the stars, because both are symptoms of an underlying problem, the private appropriation of a social event.  We need our ball back, and properly investing in the women’s game will make it seem more natural to introduce equal pay between men and women with an eye on the balance between effort and achievement, as decided democratically.  What’s clear at the moment, is that leaving everything to blind market forces is creating chaos.

Why Swimming Pools Should Take A Relaxed And Tolerant Attitude To Nude Swimming In ‘Adults-Only’ Sessions

My body not as hot as this lady’s – but we need to assert to right for fat sods like me too

I have taken to nude swimming in my local leisure centre and think that others, if they want to, shouldn’t be shy.  It creates a sense of freedom both bodily and mentally, and is an exhilarating experience.  Writing in the Daily Mail, Quentin Letts, who has a private pool, said, “There’s no greater joy than skinny dipping.”


There is no law in the lands of England of Wales that prohibit public nudity, although one can experience harassment from ignorant authorities who are unaware the law acknowledges that the human body, in and of itself, is not indecent or obscene, and they might try to ‘ASBO’ you, though it rarely stands up in court.  But when ‘the naked Rambler’ Stephen Gough travelled to Scotland to pursue his chosen lifestyle, he ended up spending 10 years in jail.  So too in Northern Ireland, where the winning of peace hasn’t meant the winning of liberty, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has threatened skinny dippers with 2 years in jail.


At least however, the PSNI use the argument that “children might be present.”  This is a valid argument not because children have inalienable natural rights never to see an adult nude, but because their parents may not wish it.  Parents who wish to steer their child in a certain direction – e.g. away from nudity – should be respected for their will and others should be sensitive to this aspect of parental autonomy.  But this blog is about challenging a climate of fear – not necessarily a legal enforcement, but a moralistic one – that prohibits the free expression of nudity in a situation where no child is allowed to be present, i.e. swimming sessions that are billed as ‘adults only.’


With butterflies in my stomach to the verge of feeling sick, the first time I tried this, I slipped my trunks off on the 32nd of 40 lengths and placed them under my towel by the side whilst still being in the water.  I swam the remaining 8 lengths totally naked.  I was highly nervous because of the social climate of repression nowadays, but perhaps I need not have been.  The pool’s policy has no section about nudity, no-one complained, although I did receive a look of disdain from a lifeguard accompanied by a knowing smile.  The truth is there was little they could do about it in an ‘adults-only’ session where everyone there has previously seen a naked body.  Furthermore, just doing breast stroke, only my buttocks could have been visibly exposed, and even then, only to the lifeguard sitting up high, not to the other swimmers whose eye level isn’t much higher than the water level.  Nevertheless, I was breaching a serious modern taboo, and for everyone to experience liberation which is just as much bodily as mental, the assumptions need to be questioned.


Firstly, it is not about sex.  Public masturbation can rightfully get you 14 days in jail in England because that really is an obscene act to present to others.  But simply being nude in a public place can just be seen as an act of free expression without the intention to shock or offend.  If you think the sight of a naked human body is inherently offensive, indecent, or obscene, then you might as well accept an alien invasion that would ban us for it.  To see things in this way, you are saying human beings should find the human body offensive, indecent, or obscene, a notion that expresses the height of alienation and repression.  It is also clearly not about sex because it is very difficult for a man to get an erection in chlorinated water and similarly for women: vaginal lubrication decreases in these circumstances.


Secondly, it is also not abnormal to desire the freedom to swim nude.  For most of history, including most of the 20th century, it was the norm, although sadly mostly only for men, not both sexes.  Swimming pools up to the 1970s often demanded it because swim-suit material was often woollen and unhygienic – threats to the pool itself.  But as clothing tech progressed, the arguments over hygiene and security of the pool waned.  What was left was a pretty paltry notion that ‘swimming nude is character building.’  The notion here was that the heavily militarised society required this as a kind of ‘team-building’ exercise right from the Army down to the Boy Scouts: kinship and bondsman ship was to be served by swimming nude together.  If only ‘character-building’ had meant ‘expressing freedom,’ ‘right to enjoy life,’ ‘to combat repression,’ then we might be in a better situation today.  Furthermore, even in Western countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada, nude swimming is acceptable if not obligatory.  So, the current situation of fear in England is certainly not ‘natural.’


Adults should be able to swim nude in adults-only sessions at a local swimming pool rather than have to face cold dirty rivers, lakes, or seas, as an article in The Guardian compromised.  If we have social tolerance over this issue, we will find that many other liberties and the dignity of mankind, partly based on the dignity of the human body, will fall into place.


Thirdly, it is worth stressing that contemporary taboos over public nudity co-exist with increasingly sexualised TV and internet porn.  This can mislead people into thinking we are freer today.  But observing something through the remoteness of an electronic medium is far from experiencing it in actual life.  The two trends – sexual TV in for example, ‘The Game of Thrones’, can co-exist with an increasing repression in society.  It is the latter trend that really is harmful to people.  If you consider the exponential rise of eating disorders and general dissatisfaction with one’s own body, you will see that modern body-shaming which is intensely expressed in the taboo over swimming nude has a lot to answer for causing real harm to individuals.


Finally, there may be a broadside against my position from a minority of some feminists.  They might say “we just don’t want to see men’s wibbly bits.”  However, we don’t normally expect to go through life not seeing things we might not like, be it homelessness or an immigration-enforcement riot van.  Moreover, the struggle against alienation ought to involve women just as much as men, if not more so, given their historically higher level of repression.  Women have fought tooth and nail to dress how they want without certain stereotype-ideas being applied by men, including the infamous ‘burning the bra’ protests.  This battle persists to this day.  An Ontario woman recently won the right to bare breasts in a swimming pool – Canadian law was already lax, but there were attempts to upset it.  Men and women should be able to admire each other’s bodies without that ever being necessarily a sexual thing, as it isn’t usually in a swimming pool, as discussed earlier.  Men or women who lack clothing in a swimming pool are not ‘asking for it’ just as much as a woman who dresses provocatively in the town isn’t ‘asking for it’ – that pathetic apology went out in the ‘80’s.  It is about human beauty and freedom, rather than a sexual fetish.  The real existent fetishes are on TV and on the internet, and perhaps to undermine those things, we need naked-equality in circumstances where no child is present.


Addendum: the empire strikes back 😦 Tonight after doing 16 lengths in the buff in an ‘adults-only’ session, an angry female pool manager came out and said “We don’t allow naked swimming”. As far as I am aware none of the other pool users had complained – she’d probably spotted it on the CCTV as the lifeguard didn’t give much of a shit either. I said, “I wasn’t aware there was a policy – I’ve checked the internet.” She said “All the councils have agreed on this – NO NAKED SWIMMING!” I was about to say, “Isn’t that a bit Kafka-esque to not even tell us the policy exists and rely on social taboo for enforcement?” but I thought I’d better cool things down rather than be barred from my local pool. So I said, “Oh sorry – I’ve lived in Germany the past 2 years where it’s perfectly normal. OK, I won’t do it again, it’s not a problem.”

There we go, another little avenue of pleasure closes down. But the war has just begun.