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The Contradictions of "Real Socialism" reviewed on Organizing Upgrade

The Contradictions of “Real Socialism”

"Where fresh insights are rare, indeed, Michael Lebowitz provides a bundle of them … rich material for badly-needed discussion."

—Paul Buhle, author, Marxism in the United States

The Contradictions of Real Socialism: The Conductor and the Conducted

By Michael A. Lebowitz. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 2012.

Reviewed by David Cohen

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s brought forth an abundance of declarations that socialism was once and for all dead. However, for some, the task became developing a new vision of socialism for the twenty-first century. Across several books, Michael Lebowitz develops a new vision of socialism by going back to how Marx envisioned socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

Lebowitz writes, “There is though, a new vision of socialism that has emerged in the twenty-first century as an alternative to barbarism. At its core is the alternative that Marx evoked in Capital; in contrast to a society in which the worker exists to satisfy the need of capital for its growth, Marx pointed to “the inverse situation, in which objective wealth is there to satisfy the workers own need for development.” Human development, in short, is at the center of this vision of the alternative to capitalism.” (Page 17).

In The Contradictions of Real Socialism, Lebowitz continues the development of his vision of socialism by analyzing what happened in the Soviet Union and other European Socialist states during the period that they defined as “Real Existing Socialism,” which is basically the period from the demise of Stalin to the collapse in the 1990’s.

Here he applies his understanding of Marx’s theories of socialism to a real historical period. For me, the point in reading a book like this is to not only gather some understanding of socialist theory but to learn how “Real Existing Socialism” worked and what its achievements and its failures were. Is there anything in this analysis that can help us to understand our present situation in the U.S.? What is our vision of socialism, and what are we doing to realize it?…

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