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Papa Q: The Challenge of Creating a 21st Century Left Politics

contradictions-of-real-socialism-300x452The Contradictions of Real Socialism: The Conductor and the Conducted

The Contradictions of Real Socialism: The Conductor and the ConductedBy 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).

Published in Beyond Capitalism

GramsciSquareThis is the third section of  a three-part series by Bill Fletcher, Jr, reposted from Philosophers for Change. The first post, available here, addressed the current political context and efforts at socialist renewal.  The second post, available here, addresses: “The Arab democratic uprising and the rise of mass Left radicalism” and “The question of who makes history.”  This final section explores the ways in which the left must advance long-standing socialist concepts to be relevant and effective for the 21st century. 


Refounding the Left

In the aftermath of the defeat of the Paris Commune Marx and Engels had to reflect on that experience and question some of their own propositions. This level of both self-analysis and self-criticism has been repeated occasionally in Left circles, but more frequently the radical Left holds onto certain ideological assertions as basic canon rather than making a concrete and exhaustive analysis.

Published in Bill Fletcher

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A discussion of the future of socialism and social transformation must be grounded in two realities.  The first reality is the broader economic, environmental and state-legitimacy crises in which humanity finds itself.  In other words, the convergence of these three crises means that the necessity for a genuine Left capable of leading masses of people is more pressing than ever.  It means that while one cannot sit back and wait for the supposed “final” crisis of capitalism to open up doors to freedom — since capitalism is largely defined by its continual crises — it is the case that the convergence of these three crises brings with it a level of urgency unlike any that most of us have experienced.  Not only is there a need for a progressive, if not radical set of answers to these crises at the level of immediate reforms, but the deeper reality is that capitalism — as a system — is incapable of providing legitimate, sustainable answers to these crises, whether individually or collectively.

Published in Bill Fletcher
Thursday, 22 March 2012 20:39

Beyond Capitalism

Imagine you’re at a rally, listening to a speaker—I know that’s probably not too much of a stretch for most of us, but imagine that the speaker is especially compelling. She is making a hard pitch for everyone to join a new campaign.

The campaign is calling for the eradication of a process that limits, constrains, and narrows the lives of almost everyone in the world. Left unchecked, this process diminishes our capacity, forces us into isolation, limits our choices, and eventually kills everyone it touches. The speaker backs up her claims with facts, figures and stories of people who have fallen victim. Her case is rock solid, and she’s got everyone ready to sign on.

Published in Beyond Capitalism

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About the Author

  • Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a longtime labor, racial justice and international activist. He is an Editorial Board member and columnist for BlackCommentator.com and a Senior Scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. He is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and a founder of the Black Radical Congress.

    Fletcher is the co-author (with Fernando Gapasin) of Solidarity Divided, The Crisis in Organized Labor and A New Path Toward Social Justice (University of California Press). He was formerly the Vice President for International Trade Union Development Programs for the George Meany Center of the AFL-CIO. Prior the George Meany Center, Fletcher served as Education Director and later Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO.

    Fletcher got his start in the labor movement as a rank and file member of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America. Combining labor and community work, he was also involved in ongoing efforts to desegregate the Boston building trades. He later served in leadership and staff positions in District 65-United Auto Workers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

    Fletcher is a graduate of Harvard University and has authored numerous articles and speaks widely on domestic and international topics, racial justice and labor issues.

Recent Bill Fletcher Posts

Organizing Upgrade 2012 / Built by Union Labor

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