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Taking the measure of neoliberal capitalism (Populist Register reviews ‘Socialist Register 2022)


Socialist Register 2022
New Polarizations and Old Contradictions:
The Crisis of Centrism

Edited by Greg Albo and Colin Leys
320 pages; 978-1-58367-937-1; $29 paper

Reviewed by Seth Sandronsky

Socialist Register 2022 delivers thought-provoking analysis of the factors and forces driving multiple polarizations in our world. They include identities of nation and race, social class and political parties, the coronavirus pandemic and climate catastrophe. That is a partial list.

Simon Mohun takes a deep dive into the income and wealth inequalities of neoliberal capitalism as drivers of polarizations. The top 1%’s share of income has kept growing to the harm of the 99%. He calls for state actions to address the social damage, though not the type that expires such as in the US.

Walden Bello, a seasoned scholar of the Global South based in the Philippines, delivers an incisive analysis of China-US conflicts. He sees the causes and consequences of China’s emergence as an industrial powerhouse as the American economy financializes. The outcome is an uneven move away from a US-centric global system to a multipolar order, made more dangerous since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, heralding a New Cold War.

Ingar Solty explores the processes of market polarization and political polarization. A critical outcome is an erosion of political centrism as a balance between the forces of left and right. One could conclude as Richard Seymour does that the weakening of political centrism is in part fostering a moral stance of anti-Russian fervor as governance in the liberal democracies such as the US flounder.

Bill Fletcher Jr. focuses on the formation of a growing right wing, misogynist, nationalist and racist, under former President Trump. How can the US left push back against this mass movement? Fletcher makes a case for a united front that avoids the pitfalls of Democratic Party centrism.

Marcus Gilroy-Ware considers the system’s primary priority of accumulating wealth for an upper class as what generates the pathologies of social media. They were front and center during the Trump administration. A democratically owned and operated communication system is the progressive alternative, and necessary to building a united front to defeat the right wing, a theme that Samir Sonti and Sam Gindin also write about in Socialist Register 2022.

Adolph Reed Jr. and Touré F. Reed see the right wing ascendancy in the US as rooted in the defeat of labor and left-led social movements that gained strength during the 1960s. They see a “black political class” emerging from the conquest of the left that embedded itself in the Democratic Party. It, under President Clinton, rolled back Great Society and New Deal programs. Being a lesser evil to the GOP fails to eliminate the evil character of a political party committed to corporations and the wealthy profiting from exploiting everybody else, with the insane funding of the Pentagon during the pandemic, a case in point.

There are also must-read essays in Socialist Register that consider polarizations and contradictions in nations such as Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. Jayati Ghosh writes compellingly about India’s “pandemic polarizations.” Vishwas Satgar holds forth on the ANC’s failures during the pandemic, due in big measure to advancing the project of neoliberalism. In South Africa and India, the state does not wither away but intervenes increasingly on behalf of the capitalist class to the harm of poor and working people.

Ilya Matveev and Oleg Zhuravlev focus on regional polarizations in Russia. Their take on Russian leader Vladimir Putin in part sees his fondness for media control as a means to quell dissidents’ activism. Marginalizing opponents’ voices to political power has long been a tactic of the US corporate media, as Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote about in “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” in 1988.

Ana Garcia, Virginia Fontes and Rejane Hoeveler look at the crisis of centrism in Brazil under right-wing leader Jair Bolsanaro. There, and in the US, culture wars tends to pull left forces to the center and right.

Where do anti-capitalist movements stand in our precarious juncture? Thoughts on the ways forward comprise the essays from writers Samir Gandesha, David Harvey and James Schneider. The latter’s interview with Hilary Wainwright details lessons from Jeremy Corbin’s rise and fall in the UK.

Read the original piece at The Progressive Populist

You can also watch a recent re-posting of the MR Conversations episode on Socialist Register, at Left-Streamed.

Socialist Register 2022: New Polarizations and Old Contradictions: The Crisis of Centrism

Socialist Register 2022: New Polarizations and Old Contradictions: The Crisis of Centrism, edited by Greg Albo and Colin Leys.

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