Socialist abstraction in a void

Booknotes: Revolution in the air…socialism never failed because noone defined anything that could be put into practice…
July 22nd, 2018
Reading through:
Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che
Max Elbaum
July 21, 2018
We can comment at length over a series of posts, but it is useful to record a first impression of this book, or rather the history of the left it describes.

Although somewhat daunted by the complexity of the history here and wary of snap judgments one is struck with a strange perspective: we did not see the failure of the left up to 1989. We rather saw a leftist void with no platform performing a ritual dance of imaginary socialism that never came into existence because it had no platform or blueprint, noone knew what they were talking about and the few actual ‘communist systems’ such as russia, china, etc, were never communist at all and hence no conclusion can be drawn. The simply concocted authoritarian fantasies based on fictions and tidbits of jargone as fantasy socialism. It is a remarkable portrait: in every case the left acted with no real plan of action or realizable script. It is all gear spinning with no engagement of the clutch. Check it out: this is not exaggeration. At no point in the us history did anyone get straight what they were supposed to do. You can see it in the endless equivocation over ‘marxism-leninism’, an exercise in futility that wobbles between conversion and disillusion and then back again, with not final outcome.
In one way this is a dismal portrait: every initiative depicted was a failure not because socialism is unworkable but because noone had a definition of what it should be, instead spinning in circles around completely irrelevant substitutes. It is a striking portrait and confirms our analysis in our many posts here that marxism by refusing to make definite constructs of a revolutionary society left a void that could never be filled where instead bits and pieces of fragmentary marxism rose and fell in ‘alice in wonderland’ absurdities.
It is actually possible to be realistic as a result: if socialism was never tried because it was never defined then the dissolution after 1989 was a good thing since now the real thing could conceivably come into existence, if someone can define a socialist society and economy.
Our current situation then has waited a generation after 1989 for the remnants to dissolve leaving a new opportunity. And another strange development has come into being: the capitalist system has itself shown itself to have reached the end of the line in an ecological catastrophe of its making and the destruction of democracy via inequality as devastating as any in the socialist vein.
We are left then with two pieces of a puzzle, imaginary socialisms, and really existing capitalist failure, as a challenge to reassembly in a viable system finally defined and more or less a postcapitalist system of some kind.
Our two manifestos: Two Manifestos, as an experiment have tried to define something specific, however limited: ‘democratic market neo-communism’: this formulation could be tried tomorrow and to a high probability could succeed because it is practical and answers to the critiques of both socialism and communism with practical suggestions. The point is that it is a set of practical steps to be taken in succession, generalized recipes. The ‘left’ is free of the endless chasing its own tail in attempts to figure the real socialist ideology, the pros and cons of marxism/leninism, with endless variants, etc… Let us again recall the american revolution, mindful that such a ‘revolution’ was a very limited ‘bourgeois revolution’: it ‘succeeded’ in quotation marks because it created a script of action that could be put into practice and which had some democratic potential, at least. But the point here is that its agents did not try to spawn theories. They produced recipes and practical men has a sense of what to do, and then did it. If the result was flawed at least it didn’t end up in the hands of dictators who could not imagine a result except via concentration camps. Nothing in socialism implies the need for such camps. So if they came into existence it was because after tearing your hair with no plan of what socialism is you are reduced to putting the other mad haters in the game away in ‘extra-social’ detention, and still no definition of a system to be realized.

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