Publications Index | Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’s Internet Archive

Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 176 Contents

Socialist Review, June 1994

Stephen Arthur


Better than nothing


From Socialist Review, No. 176, June 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The four letters in May’s Socialist Review vividly show the abuses of psychiatry ranging from its repressive ideology, the class and racial bias, to the abuses of drugs. After working in psychiatry for 14 years I could name many more examples.

However, it is a mistake for socialists to take a pure anti-psychiatry position. It is like being anti-teacher or anti social worker and dismissing completely the limited amount of caring these workers are able to carry out.

Dileep Bagnall calls all workers in psychiatry ‘agents of social control for the ruling class’. Presumably all SWP nurses had better shoot themselves!

To take this position echoes how the left helped close the mental hospitals of Italy, and how the ‘do-gooding’ left of Britain, most of whom had never spent time in an institution, welcomed the Tories’ money saving closure programme.

The argument went, ‘psychiatry is bad – we’re better off without it.’ Tell that to the thousands of ex-patients wandering the streets and dying in various ways in their hundreds. Tell it to the families of the 40 or so patients who killed themselves after Torbay closed its acute unit a few years ago.

Working in a mental hospital caused me to become a socialist. There is no contradiction if you realise that even ‘good psychiatry’ can only help the odd individual in our sick world.


Stephen Arthur

Socialist Review Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 4 May 2017