People should read this book for the very reason that it is not a blueprint for socialism, but because it provides a basis for deep ongoing discussions of what socialism should look like in the twenty-first century. I think that many of the theoretical points are the basis for a discussion on how socialists in the USA should be acting, what struggles are key, and how our struggles now lay a basis for a socialist future.
The issue of “Real Socialism” has plagued the global Left since 1917. Michael Lebowitz brings to bear on it a sharp focus, informed not only by a thorough reading of Marx, but also by many years of activism, leavened by the extensive contacts he has gained with Cuban and Venezuelan protagonists during his recent years of residence in their respective countries. The main empirical reference in his present book is to the Soviet experience, in particular, to its last three decades (the 1950s to the 1980s), by which time the regime’s structures and institutions were firmly in place. While the general stance of recognizing the contradictions of this period has a long lineage, Lebowitz’s particular approach to defining them is new and fruitful.
It was early evening, a few hours before my shift’s end. The cab line at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco was a crapshoot. Sit in line and take your chances or cruise the streets for fares in hope of being bounced around the city like a pinball. You got in line because, like the people who work slot machines, there’s always the chance of a jackpot. Here you invest your minutes, not your money, but the anticipation is similar. It was airport action that represented the most likely bonanza. Better odds here than cruising or taking your chances on a radio call—a rigged radio at that—though at the St. Francis you could easily end up waiting fifteen or twenty minutes for a $5 ride to the Wharf.
Michael Lebowitz offers a rigorous Marxist explanation of what went wrong in the USSR (and its allied countries). To Lebowitz (following Marx in this regard), a socialist society is one “that removes all obstacles to the full development of human beings” (p. 17). … Lebowitz has made a valuable contribution to our understanding of the Soviet experience. For revolutionaries who want to build a socialism that is an alternative to the misery of capitalism, while also learning from the mistakes of the past, this is a highly recommended work.
This is an extraordinary book. Many volumes set out to explain the work of Karl Marx. A good number of these denounce him, but many sympathetic publications offer competing analyses of what he really meant, often flowing out of narrow sectarian interpretations. Heinrich’s greatest contribution comes in the first half of this surprisingly readable book, in which he carefully lays out the logic of how Marx constructed his work.
Sprague’s book is a stark, disturbing reminder, to those born into more fortunate circumstance than the wretched poor of Haiti, of the absolute lack of morality employed by those committed to an ideology dramatically opposed to democracy, human rights, equality and social justice.
Heinrich provides a concise, clear and exemplary introduction to Capital. Because of its theoretical orientation I would venture to say that is also the most lucid introduction to the monetary theory of value in English. In addition Heinrich’s translator, Alexander Locascio, has done valuable work correcting some important mistranslations in the standard editions of Capital. I can therefore recommend Heinrich’s Introduction to readers of all levels who are interested in Capital. Those who have never read it before can benefit from its wide-ranging introduction to Marx’s mature thought. Those who have read Capital, but avoided the value theory debates, can benefit from its excellent discussion of value. Whilst theorists rooted in Hegelian-Marxism can benefit from the way in which Heinrich shows how section one of Volume 1 relates to all three volumes of Capital. For all these reasons An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Capital is far and away the best introduction to Capital in English.
István Mészáros’ newly expanded critical study of Jean-Paul Sartre not only makes a powerful case that Sartre was one of the great philosophers of the twentieth century, but also underlines his continuing importance as a thinker whose lifework is ‘manifestly representative of our time’ (p.141). In demonstrating Sartre’s strengths and integrity, Mészáros also reveals how his very failures are sources of illumination. Some of Sartre’s most ambitious works remained unfinished, and the reason lies in the contradictions at the core of the philosopher’s thinking, and also, as Mészáros points out, at the heart of late capitalist society.
I am writing this in Córdoba, Andalusia. Outside the Mezquita, alongside Burger King, are the ubiquitous tourist shops with Che Guevara T-shirts inevitably on sale. A question that has long preoccupied me struck me again. What does this T-shirt mean? Jon Lee Anderson (1997) suggests that the image of Che Guevara often symbolises youthful rebelliousness, jettisoned at adulthood along with piercings and dyed hair. Does it mean anything other than an alternative to a flamenco sombrero, a figurine of a bull, or an ‘I Love Spain’ T-shirt?
I can’t recall if Walter came before or after the demonstrations, but he certainly participated in the discussion that followed after the 1966 expulsion and after the Arusha Declaration. After the Declaration, in ’67, ’68, there was a small group of people called the Socialist Club in which Malawians, Ugandans, Ethiopians, and many other students were involved. The Socialist Club was transformed into the University Students African Revolutionary Front (USARF). It was all the initiative of students, not the faculty. Walter was one of the few young faculty involved, but purely within a relationship of equality. There was no professor and student there.
(From the Havana Times) HT: What do you think of racism in Cuba? Does it exist? How can it be combated? Aren’t the current socio-economic changes encouraging racist attitudes, which certainly don’t contribute to greater equality between people? . . . EM: Certainly there are changes that don’t contribute to greater equality, but there’s no choice other than to implement them. We had an egalitarian system, but it threatened all of our equilibrium. It would be worse to repeat that kind of egalitarianism, it is not even possible to defend it. There will be people who within a yet unknown period of time will have to suffer so that in the end we’re all saved. That is a price we have to pay for the mistakes that we acknowledge were committed. Within this, we need to seek policies so that the suffering is minimized – but we can’t prevent it entirely.
Socialist Register 2013 seeks to explore and clarify strategy for the Left in the light of new challenges and new opportunities. Socialists today have to confront two realities: that they cannot avoid the question of reforms and a gradualist path out of capitalism, and that the organizational vehicles for socialism will most likely have to abide by different structures and principles than those that dominated left politics in the 20th century. Though solutions are not obvious, Socialist Register 2013 interrogates these dilemmas and critiques some unhelpful radical thinking that obstructs the reconsideration of socialist strategy for the 21st century.
The Endless Crisis is a welcome, and very needed, departure from the usual apologetics for capitalist outcomes. Professors Foster and McChesney provide a single source for understanding the present economic impasse, laying out with devastating precision the reasons for the economic crisis, the inevitability of crisis, the inequality and instability inherent in the capitalist system, and the need to move to a more humane system.
This book presents a moving and insightful portrait of the great scholar and revolutionary Walter Rodney through the words of academics, writers, artists, and political activists who knew him intimately or felt his influence. These informal recollections and reflections demonstrate why Rodney is such a widely admired figure throughout the world, especially in poor countries and among oppressed peoples everywhere.
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