History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Beyond social democratic farce to a critique of the revolutionary path with a related evolutionary potential…

January 24th, 2018 · No Comments

https://jacobinmag.com/2018/01/social-democracy-socialism-ralph-miliband: a useful classic essay.

We have frequently adopted a critique of social democracy here but have also produced a critique of the revolutionary path, not in and of itself, but in terms of its actual content and disposition.

We can propose a revolutionary path but we must get it right and it is clear from the bolshevik legacy that the initial perspectives mostly marxist did not have a really functional revolutionary option. It is hardly an accident that just as Lenin was beginning the realization of communism the questions of economics emerged to confound the opportunity created by a unique moment soon frittered away and deviating into stalinism. And it is no accident that a counterrevolutionary counterattack very directly emerged in such figures as Mises who pointed to the spastic character of socialist proposals, to the extent they even existed. The calculation debate, itself a form of capitalist propaganda, nonetheless raised the question of how any form of functioning communism could arise at all beyond the imagination of leftist radicalism. The refusal of Marx/Engels to get specific came home to roost and in the end the whole question was subject to caudillo communism as a form of dictatorship. The appearance of the reactionary Mises just at the moment of Lenin’s NEP muddle is almost spooky.
We have suggested that the rigid conceptualization of historical materialism enforced a kind of dogmatic view of the stages of history and this in turn enforced an extreme logical contrast between a stage of capitalism and a stage of communism. And the association of capitalism and liberalism made this rigid opposition wary of democracy. Clearly the outcome must be a variant of a democratic revolution, and not a rigid anti-liberal absolute.
We have instead in our two manifestos created a set of evolutionary/revolutionary proposals that specifically construct a postcapitalist future, not as an absolute, but as a comprehensive holistic package that distinguishes between capitalism and markets and allows a multi-sector system that is able to use a market system in relation to a planned system that together, in the context of the expropriation of capital and the creation of a Commons set as a fundamental in a constitutional sense, realize a practical form of communism, one requiring a democratic political revolution that deals and proposes and new international, yet also evades the muddle over ‘socialism’ in one country with just that: a form of market neo-communism that can both function as a national context and an international challenge to globalization.
This package can itself be taken as a starting point arrived at whether by revolution or by evolution, the latter to be sure in danger of devolving into social democratic farce. But there is the definite possibility, always foreseen at the start of the first/second internationals, of an electoral possibility of communist transition. That possibility seems to have been lost, but we can’t be sure that it is completely beyond realization. In any case the developing crisis of capitalism may well resurrect the real revolutionary potential and thus we must be at the ready with a set of proposals that embrace the evolutionary/revolutionary duality.
At a point of ecological collapse the focus of the communist, or neo-communist initiative is more than a focus on the working class: we have suggested a more comprehensive analysis involving the ‘universal class’ as a way to study more closely the actual class solution that a socialism requires. This can also be a hybrid multitasking approach that courts the working class as the principal core of the universal class. But the point is that the trend toward social democracy is in part a concession to purely economic issues raised by industrial labor. But the problem to be solved is far larger.
In any case it has proven misleading to propose historical materialism as a solution to the whole question: there are many ways to propose a revolutionary communism and done right these can provoke both an evolutionary path that is more than social democratic compromise or as circumstances increasingly hint a revolutionary path with a project that is actually intelligent and doesn’t get a flat tire on the question of economics day one of the great transition beyond capitalism.

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