Socialism Unbound

Socialism Unbound

Socialism Unbound

Socialism Unbound

Synopsis

Stephen Bronner presents a critical overview of socialist thought from Marx to the 21st century. Chronological chapters cover Marx and Engels, Kautsky, Bernstein, Leninism, Rosa Luxemburg and modern green connections to socialist thinking.

Excerpt

Socialism Unbound first appeared in 1990. the Berlin Wall had just fallen and the Soviet Union was in a crisis that soon would turn into its death throes. Mikhail Gorbachev was still in power and, incredibly, it seemed as if his sclerotic communist state might yet make way for a new form of socialism with democratic political foundations. Movements committed to liberal constitutionalism, whose dynamics still remain theoretically undeveloped, were taking to the streets almost everywhere in Eastern Europe. Hopes on the left were high. in the popular imagination, however, the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 seemed to vindicate the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Laissez-faire became the rallyingcry for most former dissidents and the new party professionals in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, in the West, attempts to temper market excesses were condemned as anachronistic. Left politics suddenly stood discredited. Indeed, soon enough, the attack on "socialism" would turn into an attack on welfare liberalism and the values associated with the 1960s.

Socialism Unbound offered a new libertarian socialist perspective amid the erosion of communism in the East and the effects of a conservative counterrevolution in the West. It introduced new ethical principles, new categories, and a new approach. Mainstream critics condemned the work for championing class politics just when the seeming alternative to capitalism had lost its validity. Meanwhile certain left-wing intellectuals castigated its critique of teleological optimism and populist assumptions. But ten years make a difference. Academic studies in industrial relations now often call upon the labor movement to reassert its "class" character, though they often have little sense of what this might ideologically imply, and most progressives are searching for answers beyond those offered by identity politics. the debilitating effects of the transition to capitalism in the East, and the economic dislocations attendant upon the shift from an industrial to an information society in the West, have given socialist thinking a new role to play.

No remedies seemed available when the dissidents of Eastern Europe were driven to the political margins in favor of party professionals and the initial outburst of revolutionary enthusiasm gave way before the economic inequities, corruption, and material insecurity associated with attempts to introduce a market economy. Unemployment and the accumulated costs of . . .

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