Break The Chains

Sean Mallory reviews a recent book that critiques austerity and capitalism while promoting socialism. 

From the outset, Venton seeks through this book to arm the reader with the nominal realities of poverty in modern Britain with specific focus on his home country of Scotland.

It seeks to be a handbook of facts that can be used as weapons in the hands of those principled people fighting for a decent standard of living for the working class majority population.

Stark realities between the gulf of rich and poor, that convey to the reader the depth and severity of the past and present effects of the harsh and brutal litany of austerity policies, enacted by Tory, Tory/Lib-Dem and Labour in equal abundance and severity. And on the most vulnerable section of British society – the majority working class.

Venton proceeds along an historical and concurrent political path of the rise of the working class through their representation by the Unions. Their eventual downfall, beginning under Thatcher and finishing with their current floundering and wallowing in a sea of extreme Dickensian poverty and unexplained Brexit.

A gravitas path, which at times, evokes extreme emotions of anger and a powerful desire for justice – not alone legal justice but moral justice also.

He highlights the past treacherous betrayal of the working class by the previous Labour leaderships of Kinnock, Blair and Browne, coupled with the cosy relationship of the wider Union leadership with big business.

Although Tory betrayal and disdain for the working class is similarly dealt with and analysed, for the majority working class this really needs no explanation.

For Scotland alone, he emphasises the treacherous neo-liberal actions of the Scottish Nationalist Party also through their cosy relationship with big business.

Within this infrastructure, Venton explains the extreme power of the Establishment and why the working class accept such conditions with relative unquestioning of the status quo, rationalised by Gramsci’s ‘cultural hegemony’.

From it we come to understand the current rise of the Tories in Scotland through demagogy and the systematic attempts to undermine the current Labour leadership of Corbyn.

He stresses the pernicious nature of zero contract hours and their particular detrimental and destabilising impact on the physical and mental health of workers and their families, and its responsibility for their inevitable downward spiral towards debt. The inherent contradiction of capitalism through its implementation of these zero hour contracts with the economic theory of demand and supply of goods – poor workers have less purchasing power!

To overcome this descending helix of poverty, Venton calls for a legally binding minimum wage of £10 per hour and lays out a very convincing, and detailed case for an amount that initially seems absurd. At the opposite end and demanding a levelling of the playing field in all quadrants, and in attempt to stymie the greed of the boardroom fat cats, Venton calls for an equivalent cap on their salaries and similarly, lays out a compelling case for such also. In essence a reality call for a more ethical distribution of the values attained through production.

He finishes the book with a series of measures that will lead us on a path to socialism and hopefully resolve this immoral and unethical society we current live in.

A path beset by the confines of capitalism, perhaps wrapped up in utopian wishful thinking rather than practically achievable, when considering the undulating historical nature of the rise and fall of the working class within the powerful capitalist system.

Nonetheless, Venton intends by this book to arm the working class with the historical knowledge of the root causes of their misery and with a plan through his series of measures, if applied correctly, that will finish what was begun many years ago and what was savagely and ferociously hacked down and curtailed by the subsequent ruling political parties of Great Britain.

What Venton brings to the table with this book is initially a potential way forward to ease the burden of debt and the everyday struggle for survival, currently heaped upon the shoulders of the majority of people on both sides of the Scottish border. And lastly, a method for cementing this potential way permanently in to the foundations of the State. What the book clearly is not is a call to man the barricades or storm the Bastille. 

Although, as the book travels towards the end, there is detectable, an underlying current of militancy present and he does hint at the future possibilities of such actions:

….we shouldn’t be content with just perpetually battling for a slightly larger slice of a cake of a fixed size. We should demand control and ownership of not only the cake, but the bakery.

And with:

Those who want to eradicate poverty and inequality need to square up to the conclusion that trying to do this on any lasting basis without also toppling the capitalist despots from their boardroom thrones is as futile as trying to rub out your own shadow on a sunlit day.
The scientific language of the revolutionary philosopher is not present in this book. It is written in a plain language that does not confuse the reader, but supplies him/her with comprehensible explanations for any stray Marxist terms that may inadvertently worm their way on to the page. This book is written for the working class and not written on their behalf.

Although the book does not directly call for a revolution of sorts it stirs the reader with powerful emotions of the injustices imposed by the capitalist establishment. There is no Che Guervera hidden in the pages of this book nor is there a potential future Robespierre.

This book attempts to provide facts, figures, arguments and answers to some of the issues any genuine trade unionist or socialist will encounter in seeking to outlaw poverty, inequality and insecurity for the working class majority.

It is a book that needs read by all those who believe in the establishment of a fair and just society…….perhaps Venton’s socialist society.

Richie Venton, 2015; Break The Chains: of poverty pay casual labour and exploitation. Publisher Scottish Socialist Party. ISBN-13: 978-0957198661

Sean Mallory is a Tyrone republican and TPQ columnist. 

Share This:

Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

2 comments to ''Break The Chains "

  1. Thanks for the review Sean, definitely on my to read list now!

  2. Well done that Fermanagh man!!!

    "Richie Venton was originally from Fermanagh. He had been a Militant organiser in Liverpool during the Derek Hatton era, came up to Scotland to assist the Pollok general election campaign [in 1992] — and never went back. Richie brought a wealth of campaigning experience into the socialist movement in Scotland and [...] would become one of the key organisational driving forces behind the SSP".


  • To add an Emoticons Show Icons
  • To add code Use [pre]code here[/pre]
  • To add an Image Use [img]IMAGE-URL-HERE[/img]
  • To add Youtube video just paste a video link like