Socialism: An Analysis of Its Past and Future

Socialism: An Analysis of Its Past and Future

Socialism: An Analysis of Its Past and Future

Socialism: An Analysis of Its Past and Future


In this short, but rich piece of work, Erzsebet Szalai offers a neo-socialist alternative to socialism and neo-capitalism. Drawing upon the rich tradition of left-wing Hungarian Social Science, she offers her own theory of transitional society, suggesting that socialism was not an independent formation, but instead a society in transition. She relocates Soviet-type societies on the semi-periphery of the capitalist world system. In addition she offers a critique of capitalism that pivots on the two connected issues of over production and ecological crisis. She makes the distinction between an anti-globalism critique and a globalization critique, locating herself in the latter. This work offers readers the opportunity to engage in a critique of capitalism that is organized along a new understanding of socialism itself.


This is not my first attempt at an academic approach to what has been called 'really existing socialism'—or, more briefly, 'existing socialism'—our 'worst recent past.' My present endeavor is directly motivated by the welcome debate that began in the periodical Eszmélet (Consciousness); Péter Szigeti's thoughtful paper launching the debate induced me to reconsider and bring together my theses about that system, which disintegrated fifteen years ago. While writing my response (published since) I felt with growing certainty that I would have to expound my thoughts in a longer study, in greater detail and in a more differentiated and complex form. Here is the result of this enterprise.

My work was easy and difficult at the same time, because my basic socialization took place in the system of 'existing socialism,' and the larger part of my life belongs to that historical period. I retain many pleasant memories, but I also had two painful and decisive experiences: my communist father was arrested before my eyes on trumped-up charges in the early 1960s, and subsequently, as a result of my open support for the democratic opposition, I myself had to face the punitive machinery of power in the early 1980s.

Nevertheless, my leftist values, deriving from my childhood socialization and later confirmed by my social experiences, withstood these ordeals and ultimately emerged from them stronger. Primarily I feel that (not least) as a result of my personal traumas I succeeded in breaking away from a very bad leftist tradition of unquestioning trust and fanaticism. Therefore, I hope, my smaller and larger disappointments could not, and still cannot, undermine my basic values.

I have not given this glimpse of my life and my values for their own sake. Although I have always tried and still try to analyze society objectively, I do not believe in a science free of values. In this context it is worth quoting Gunnar Myrdal (1998): “It has been a misguided endeavor in social science for a little more than a century to seek to make 'objective' our main value-loaded concepts by giving them a 'purely scientific' definition, supposedly free from any association with political valuations. To isolate them from such association, new and innocent-looking synonyms were . . .

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