In May, an Illinois man emailed email@example.com with a plea: Graduate students at the University of Chicago were going on strike, and he wanted Bernie Sanders’ presidential team to help. “I’ve been super inspired by seeing the Bernie campaign support similar actions,” he said.
The debate here is really over reformism/revolution, but neither side can really turn the tide or offer any real resolution of the dilemma. It has been that way since the nineteenth century and the era of Bernstein.
In the mean time it is useful to both continue the debate and yet for both sides to be mindful they cannot control the future here: two potentials are better than one and generate the needed thought at a time when revolution is seeding itself, next to a reformist trend seeding itself, and a murky future where the prospect of revolutionary is seemingly beyond conceiving. The future has surprised the left before, and the real question is whether either side could manage a socialist revolution if it landed on their head. Like escapees from a chain gang, both sides are ‘interconnected’…
Louis Proyect Shreds Bhaskar Sunkara’s “Manifesto” | Washington Babylon
Source: The Democratic Socialist Cul-de-sac: A Critical Look at The Socialist Manifesto – COSMONAUT
This is an engaging critique of the reformist path and it is important, essential, for leftists to try to present the basics of revolutionary transformation, but the problem seems to be that while reformism can be critiqued for its failure the revolutionary framework is equally open to such criticism: if the leninist path itself failed just what is being pointed to as an exemplar for the left? The whole dilemma needs to be reexamined and those who preach the revolution sermon need to recast their thinking without citing russian revolution, a record of confusion, failure and finally stalinism.
The dilemma here is false if the real issue with the classic revolutionary wing is that it has no real platform beyond regurgitated marxism and leninism. The revolutionaries are so focused on the great moment of seizing power that they have forgotten to state what kind of society should come next and how it will evade stalinism.
A completely revamped framework and strategy might be far more appropriate at a time of terminal crisis. The revolutionary left is stuck in leninist confusion and can’t rethink its position. The ups and downs of ‘competing’ reformist and revolutionary sectors is illusory. At the very least reformists need the revolutionary idea in order to think holistically about a new kind of society.
The entire planet is at risk and the chances of reformist measures dealing with the issues seems a vanishing percentage, perhaps the same is true of the revolutionary angle. But it is false perhaps to polarize these two extremes: we need a revolutionary reformism and a reformist revolution, next to a project that can move along reformist lines toward a revolutionary transformation. Part of the problem is that the revolutionary brand is stale leninism, feckless marxism, in the context of an undefined platform.
If the revolutionary and reformist wings could reinvent the left in the sense of saying what kind of society they envision, the false dualism might moderate and the public could respond.
Right now, democratic socialism is on the rise in American society. Revolutionary socialists who have kept the torch of socialism burning during the lean years will now have to merge with democratic-socialist demands of the current moment.
We have discussed this issue many times here and while we have as frequently supported the revolutionary path we have also warned that marxist viewpoints merely wave the flag of revolution but can offer no solution to the problem of what should come after. To say that workers should smash the old state and construct communism is not enough. In the cases where the opportunity for this arose the left has in every case failed to complete the operation. Marx refused to go into details but in retrospect that was a mistake: the attempt to fill ad hoc the void behind empty terms like ‘socialism’ in a crisis situation has repeatedly failed. Worse, the confusion is codified as part of a tradition, one that in reality doesn’t exist: the leninist era was not in any way a path to communism. It was an artificial set of constructs that were more confusion than serious efforts to overcome capitalism.
The left cannot seem to grasp that it has no platform and the era of Lenin was a tremendous lost opportunity. It is a puzzle to consider just how dreadful was the botched chance to create a serious socialist society.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We have suggested numerous avenues to a practical approach that can work: our ‘democratic market neo-communism’ is one of them.
The left cannot appeal to a general public any more because all it can think of is stalinism. And the left barely even bothers to distance itself from that legacy. And this situation ends up feeding the reformist reaction.