Socialist Visions

Socialist Visions

Socialist Visions

Socialist Visions

Excerpt

Lucky for the left capitalism is so grotesque.

It has not been the clear and compelling vision of socialism that has sustained the United States left all these years. Rather the left has developed and grown in response to the horrors of contemporary capitalism: the grueling poverty amid immense wealth, the brutal and persistent racism of both North and South, the ferocious assault upon the inhabitants of Indochina, the subordination of the female half of the population, the oppression of gays, the alienation and powerlessness of most everyone, and the emptiness of a social order whose preeminent value is the dollar. It is these evils that have drawn us to the Left and these evils that have sustained the conviction that there must be something better.

This "something better" we have called socialism, but precious little attention has been devoted to elaborating a notion of just what this actually means. Socialists have turned their intellectual efforts almost exclusively to two other tasks: to providing a critique of the existing social order and to developing strategies for changing it. These are tremendously important tasks; and indeed socialists have delivered a devastating indictment of American society and have explored programs for social change in considerable depth. But in a crucial respect each of these accomplishments remains incomplete, for without a better-defined vision of socialism neither the indictment nor the programs are ultimately compelling.

Socialists have demonstrated the failings of capitalism beyond the slightest doubt only to hear from all too many Americans--who are, after all, essential to any fundamental social transformation--that "yes, things are awful, but could any alternative system be better?" This is a legitimate concern. Conditions are abominable in the United States, but they certainly do not constitute the worst of all possible worlds. It is not true that anything would be better, and it is fairly evident to most Americans that quite a few things that have gone under the name of socialism have been worse. And the Left's assurance that socialism does not mean endless bureaucracy, forced labor, secret police, cannot fully . . .

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