The critique of Harrington is cogent enough, but are Marxists in a position to stand in judgment? Their own flawed framework drives socialists into reformism, among many factors no doubt.
Harrington was right to criticize the Soviet Union, and the muddle of Marxists over the whole issue of Bolshevism has paralyzed the left. The ultimate source of the confusion is Marx himself who crippled the left with his bad theories and failure to specify what was to be done in the name of socialism. The result was Lenin, then Stalin on a socialist platter. Historical materialism was a mediocre pseudo-science. Why not just chuck it.
If the left can’t disown Lenin/Stalin, they will never get a second chance as they smother all other options. In fact, the anomaly of Russia 1917 clouds the fact that no revolutionary Marxist initiative has ever succeeded. Without exception, save Cuba, they all failed because the moment of coming into power was bungled Marxist assumptions. State ownership of capital was a mistake from the start. A system of coercion enters to reinforce the initial wrong axioms. The hard break with liberalism made democracy impossible, etc… A true socialism should be immensely popular. Instead, we see the immense disgust with socialism, fed by the right, but also by leftist confusion.
We have suggested many times a far simpler version of socialism as neo-communism in our construct or model of ‘democratic market neo-communism’. It is an erector set of potentials, and shows at once the way the Marxist framework constantly fails.
If the left can’t create a democracy it is doomed at the start. But to be sure the counterrevolution can destroy good intentions and immediately turned Leninist hopes into a covert agency domination of psychopaths.
Such system as our DMNC doesn’t destroy the capitalist state, which was an invitation to Stalinism, but remorphs a liberal state into a neo-communist extension by expropriating capital to a Commons, under its own laws and checks and balances and not subject to one-party control. Markets can operate with resources licensed from the Commons. Economic rights within an economy that can deliver would make socialism (needs a new name) very popular.
Markets, planning, can coexist very easily if done right. This kind of system can emerge from revolution or, at the outside, reform. We have discussed many versions of this, one with an indifference level below which the control factor is minimal. In another a five party state, and a set of guardians. The main issue is economic sanity in a balance of markets and planning. The coming crisis demands a core eco-socialist version.
The Marxist left keeps harping over reformists but it is in many ways they who have smothered a real left. The chance for revolution may have passed, as Marx/Engels must have sensed as they fought in the revolutions of 1848. If there is no chance of revolution then the high and mighty judgment of reformists is a fantasy. But, to be sure, the DSA/Harrington approach is stuck in its own treadmill. It is a rigged system that makes third parties impossible. The whole Bolshevik experiment accomplished nothing but to turn into Putinism. The current political paralysis will soon follow suit as the dictator syndrome arrived so swiftly with Trump.
Here the left must be the champion of democracy, ‘real democracy’, and that must be the control core around which a transition to expropriation can occur. The coming climate crisis will stage the opportunity. But Marxists have shown they will spoil every chance they get.
Time for the multiple alternatives such as our DMNC spectrum. Marxists can disband and reform overnight, and renounce their legacy of wrong thinking.
Interview with Doug Greene, author of a new biography of Michael Harrington.