Socialism is making a comeback but it is important to see that the older brand is played out and that a new generation will be done a disservice if they fall into old grooves. Time is short but no work is being done to recast the old legacy into something new and practical and the result will be a kind of sluggish inaction stuck in a dated version of marxism. We have critiqued marxism, after praising its historical moment and the way it created a way station to the future. But after the legacy of Bolshevism, the subject must start over and become a new framework.
We have suggested a new view of history, ditching the useless historical materialism, along with stages of production theory, adopting a broader view of historical forces beyond economic determinism, adopting a fact/value distinction in the study of history, culture and ideology.
Taking up a Kantian view/critique of metaphysics, along with its exposition of free will in the critique of Newtonian scientism: the whole legacy of Kantian ethical socialism deserves to be annexed into a future socialist package. Taking up the Romantic counterpoint to the Enlightenment (both are needed) to create an ecological socialism, adopting a view of the Reformation at the dawn of modernity in order to debrief religion in a right manner and in the process develop new brands of secular humanism. Promoting idiot atheism probably cost the left its chance of success even if idiot theism deserves challenge and a kind of intelligent agnostic stance might be a better way to communicate with a global remnant of religionists. Marxism probably did more to generate a religious comeback than anything else in the last two centuries. In the name of bad theory Marx rejected ethics, free will, and values and the result has understandably repelled a majority. The trend beyond religion is sui generis and inexorable and the best the left can do is not make the problem worse with atheist fanaticism of the New Atheist brand.
The question of the working class is a huge Cliche for Marxists, with an incredible amount of verbiage. If ever there was a failure it is with the Marxist failure to harness the working class 9with a few exceptions).
The movement of the working class to the right in the period of the International during world war I probably crippled the left ever since. Since all the people on the left are mostly middle class maybe the idea in its original form needs a recompute. Nonetheless, the working class focus is fortunately not another theory of history but an empirical sociological given that middle-class leftists can and should study and radicalize.
In fact, with a new perspective, the older left might radicalize the working class for the first time. If the working class is all those who are subject passively to the force of capitalist, that class can be seen rightly for the first time. A revolution by factory workers isn’t likely to happen.
The working-class focus done right is a great tactic but in the end the whole range of classes has to create socialism/communism.
We can go on and on here but we have made the point: as things stand now the ‘left’ has no program, and the best thing that could happen is for marxists to get lost, take a rain check and let a new generation of radicals attempt something new. The older Marxist left has some sound warnings as to the pitfalls of reformism versus revolution. But a revolutionary path if inexorable and/or inevitable requires a lot of thought.
The era of Lenin is not a model.
Movements like Black Lives Matter along with feminist, and then ecological groups can provide some of the impetus to a rewrite. But at this point, the left needs to consider the difficulty of doing the job right, the way social democrats will tend to spoil everything, while Marxists inject their own nonsense, and the way the issues get smothered by Marxist quote mongers who can do no more than cite chapter and verse from Marx.
The Marxist left is always living down its reputation re: Bolshevism. A new left will have not connection to any of that and no impulse to defend a failed legacy.
I joined the labor movement 41 years ago. I had enrolled in the socialist movement two years before that. When I started out my links to the rest of the socialist movement were few; there were dwindling handfuls of people who identified publicly as “socialists.” The U.S. Mail and shortwave radio were my links to the bigger movement out there in the world. What remained of the socialist movement was rapidly decelerating and fissuring after the big 1960’s radicalization had run its course.