The Contradictions of "Real Socialism": The Conductor and the Conducted

The Contradictions of "Real Socialism": The Conductor and the Conducted

The Contradictions of "Real Socialism": The Conductor and the Conducted

The Contradictions of "Real Socialism": The Conductor and the Conducted

Synopsis

What was "real socialism"- the term which originated in twentieth-century socialist societies for the purpose of distinguishing them from abstract, theoretical socialism? In this volume, Michael A. Lebowitz considers the nature, tendencies, and contradictions of those societies. Beginning with the constant presence of shortages within "real socialism," Lebowitz searches for the inner relations which generate these patterns. He finds these, in particular, in what he calls "vanguard relations of production," a relation which takes the apparent form of a social contract where workers obtain benefits not available to their counterparts in capitalism but lack the power to decide within the workplace and society.

While these societies were able to claim major achievements in areas from health care to education to popular culture, the separation of thinking and doing prevented workers from developing their capacities as fully developed human beings. The relationship within "real socialism" between the vanguard as conductor and a conducted working class, however, did not only lead to the deformation of workers and those elements necessary for the building of socialism; it also created the conditions in which enterprise managers emerged as an incipient capitalist class, which was an immediate source of the crises of "real socialism." As he argued in The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, Lebowitz stresses the necessity to go beyond the hierarchy inherent in the relation of conductor and conducted (and beyond the "vanguard Marxism" which supports this) to create the conditions in which people can transform themselves through their conscious cooperation and practice- i.e., a society of free and associated producers.

Excerpt

This is not a book for those who already know everything important there is to know about “Real Socialism.” For those fortunate souls who have inherited or adopted the eternal verities of particular political sects on the left, empirical footnotes that strengthen their claim to leadership are the principal tasks of scholarship. As a result, the central question about this book for them is likely to be, “Is he with us or against us?” in short, is this book good for the chosen?

I didn’t plan to write this book. My original idea was to include a few chapters on “Real Socialism” in my book The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, published by Monthly Review Press in 2010. the point I wanted to make is that the socialist alternative is an alternative not only to capitalism but also to “Real Socialism.” However, after drafting a few chapters based in particular on the experience of the Soviet Union . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.