File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-04-03.022, message 30

Subject: Re: M-I: Spring '92 Science and Society editorial dissent
Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 14:54:41 -0500 ()

     Maybe Doug Henwood could forward this to the 
leninlist.  There are serious issues raised here for both 
would-be utopians (like myself, although even this S&S 
dissenting editorial agrees that worker-managed market 
socialism is not as far from practicality as others) as 
well as others, such as those thinking that no crimes have 
been committed.  I hope that Louis also recognizes that 
even his preferred "utopia" (Cuba) has its problems as 
well, not all of which are due to (very real) US hostility 
or to (also very real) Soviet aid cutbacks.
Barkley Rosser
On Tue, 1 Apr 1997 11:13:50 -0500 (EST) Louis Proyect 
<> wrote:

> The collection of essays in this issue, offered as models for a revived
> socialism, calls for a public disclaimer on the part of a group of our
> editors. While we recognize differences among these essays, and the value of
> some of their arguments, we still believe that three of the pieces are
> disfigured by a naive utopianism and a tendency (in places disguised with
> pro forma references) to minimize what has happened recently in almost all
> the "existing socialist" nations. Their common failure is not to take the
> collapse of that socialism seriously enough.
> One model offers "participatory planning" [Albert-Hahnel] as a feasible
> substitute for the undeniable collectivism of the Marxian tradition. The
> method chosen is a blithe utopianism brewed out of wholly imaginary
> ingredients. Another perhaps more reasonable form of utopianism is to be
> found in the attempt to pull together selected features of various societies
> --U.S.-occupied Japan after World War II, Yugoslavia's "self-management,"
> and Spanish regional reformism-- to build a model of "market socialism."
> [Schweickart] If this model differs in significant ways from the utopianism
> Marx and Engels attacked, we fail, especially in this present world of grim
> power-politics, to see such difference.
> Perhaps more ingenious, but hardly any more convincing, is the attempt to
> stitch together those practices in Soviet planning deemed still viable to
> provide a model for a new mixed socialism. [Laibman] But what sort of
> Marxist inquiry is this that places once-tried planning techniques in some
> ideal realm above history, ready to be taken up from the shelf, dusted off,
> and started up again? By whom? Under what circumstances? The historical and
> political contexts in which they have been already rejected, and the
> presumed new political and ethical configuration in which they are to be
> revived, are both ignored.
> To set forth blueprints for a future socialism, especially at this time is
> to mock what is sound and viable in Marxist social science. In an 1843
> letter to Arnold Ruge Marx warned:
> "Since it is not for us to create a plan for the future that will hold for
> all time, all the more surely, what we contemporaries have to do is the
> uncompromising critical evaluation of all that exists, uncompromising in the
> sense that our criticism fears neither its own results nor the conflict with
> the powers that be."
> To avoid that "uncompromisingly critical evaluation" of what now exists and
> is changing before our very eyes, is an evasion of the primary challenge
> confronting all Marxists today. Anyone who envisions a socialist revival
> must look steadily at the manifest profound failure of existing socialist
> societies. That is the only real vantage point from which to consider how
> any new socialism can be built. Unfortunately, three of the papers in this
> issue, earnest as they may be, attempt to frame the problem of socialist
> reconstruction or renewal without any such consistent perspective....
> Foremost in any cogent discussion of socialist renewal must be questions of
> historic and geographical agency. Who will chose among the possibly still
> viable options? Who will reach for elements of a socialist future never
> before tried -- but still within, nor outside of, a real world? At what
> sites? For the inquiry to proceed in a Marxist manner, the agents of any
> prospective socialist renewal, and their class relations, must be admitted
> to a prominent place in the analysis. Will they come from the working
> classes of the formerly socialist countries when they realize, probably
> through bitter experience, that the Marxism once hastily discarded still
> provides a key to understanding the structures of post-1989 oppression? How
> will the temporary deradicalized working classes shed their illusions of
> born-again capitalism? What role will be played by intellectuals, who too
> often in existing socialist societies allowed the vital tenets of Marxism to
> degenerate into ritual formulae, used for gaining and keeping privileges?
> In thought as well as in action the revival of socialism and attempt to
> rebuild socialist movements must squarely face the immense, if, hopefully,
> temporary, defeat suffered by all socialists in this post-1989 period of
> shocks, surprises, strange turns and sobering realities. Whatever other
> contributing causes there were, the main responsibility for the collapse and
> defeat of socialism must rest on socialists themselves --especially the
> socialist leaders and administrators and their apologists. The brutality,
> the callousness, the denial of elementary human rights and decency in
> socialist countries cannot be ignored or minimized. We must not palliate the
> crimes committed in the name of socialism by dwelling on the likelihood that
> there have been worse crimes committed over a far longer period and against
> many more people in the name of capitalism. Worse still would be the attempt
> to de-emphasize socialist crimes by highlighting socialism's genuine
> achievements while ignoring the context which negated them. If socialism is
> to be rebuilt masses of people will have to come to the conviction of the
> necessity and possibility of doing so. Intellectuals have a small but
> honorable role to play in integrating in theory and practice an
> understanding of past crimes, while they work toward laying the foundations
> of a just socialist world. This is no time to draw blueprints for castles in
> the air.
>      --- from list ---

Rosser Jr, John Barkley

     --- from list ---


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