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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Response to Davidson and Dr. Scotch

I received the following responses to The Nation "Tackles" Socialism. My comments follow:

Carl Davidson said...

I assure you, Zoltan, that both Ehrenreich and Fletcher are socialists. Unless you just want to use the term to mean what you pick for it.

Ehrenreich is a traditional Social-Democrat, rooted in DSA, with all its upsides and downsides.

Fletcher is part of the ML movement, although not of your trend. His groups views are readily available.

If you want to do polemics with them over socialism these days, it's quite relevant to do so. But instead of flippant dismissals, it would be better to examine the actual view they hold, and their organizations represent.

Otherwise, we just get more of the curious sectarianism your trend is often noted for.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The French Revolution wasn't so bad.
Dr. Scotch

Carl Davidson may well be correct that Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher, Jr. are, in their hearts, socialists. All the more reason to be critical of their The Nation contributions. The same could be said for Tariq Ali. He has certainly written frequently and militantly about imperialism and the evils of capitalism. But maybe my point was not as clear as I would like. Surely the opportunity afforded by the largest circulation liberal/left publication in the US conjoined with an economic catastrophe the likes of which none of us have seen in our lifetimes provides a unique opportunity to put forward a vision of socialism - not necessarily mine or Carl's - but some vision that might actually provoke some reader to consider or even advocate socialism.

Carl, do you think that anyone - say a young activist - would actually seek out socialists or socialist organizations after reading these articles? Do you think the commentaries inspired anyone to go to the library or the internet to find out more about socialism?

For generations, the non-Communist left has constructed models of socialism based primarily upon what they viewed as flawed with the Soviet Union or the Communist Party. The Soviet Union is gone and the Communist Party USA is little more than a liberal think tank. Today, A Communist or Socialist must tell people what they believe in and, hopefully, do it with some conviction. You're welcome to show my where you find this in The Nation pieces.

What is relevant here is not whether we engage in polemics on our various takes on socialism, but that, when given an opportunity, we make some kind of impassioned advocacy for some kind of socialism. We don't have to agree with other visions of socialism, Carl, but at least put 'em on the table!

Carl, you refer to their "actual views". Why should I have to research them? Why weren't they in the article?

As for the Anonymous Dr Scotch: Yes, the French Revolution wasn't bad. In fact, it was great, except for one small omission: It left out the sans coulottes - the property-less and those without influence or power. They did the fighting and dying, but with little material change in their miserable lives. That's why they rose again in 1848 and 1871. They are still trying to find a little justice after two centuries.

Zoltan Zigedy


Carl Davidson said...

I have my own criticism of the Nation's picks for snapshot views on socialism. But the reason anyone would have to look into things is that there's only so much you can say in a relatively short piece. I especially thought Fletcher could have done more, but he was teamed up with Ehrenreich, and perhaps that limited both of them.

In any case, to answer your question, yes, I think their piece got lots of people digging into books about socialism. The Nation articles are being reposted all over the web. As for Tariq Ali, I've never seen much from him apart from militant anti-imperialism, so apart from warmed over Trotsky, I wouldn't know what to expect from him. Maybe there's something I've missed.

But for my two cents, I'm especially tired of hearing that no one has a plan, or at least a set of working hypotheses, when it's now 20 years since the onset of the crisis in socialism.

Perhaps I'm just grousing that the Nation didn't ask me. I'd have spelled out something affirmative for them along the lines of David Schweickart's 'After Capitalism,' which I think is a decent outline and a decent organizing principle for a 21st century socialism. I think all serious socialists should read it and take a stand on it--good, bad or in between.

Then I'd offer up a number of strategic and tactical pieces, including a few of my own, for a working plan of how to get from here to there. Many of the pieces we came up with from serious study post-1989 are located at if anyone's interested.

What I don't like is the idea that we can segment things into real and 'sham' socialisms according to some Coda from a coherence theory of truth. I'd much rather that theorists just say where they want to go, and how they'd plan to get there.

Anonymous said...

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