Posts Tagged ‘socialism’

The facts of Marxist thought remain

May 19, 2010

Morning Star Online, May 17,  2010

By Jean Turner

Two works vital for understanding the development of the human race and the origin of life on Earth were published in the mid-19th century – The Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in 1848 and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Both works were ground-breaking in that, by empirical methods, they produced a scientific analysis that refuted previous religious and philosophical concepts of the world in which we live.

Continues >>


Indian freedom movement’s heroic son, Bhagat Singh Shaheed

December 20, 2009

Red Diary, December 20, 2009

Disturbed to life by the atrocious massacre at Jallianwala Bagh (Amritsar) in 1919, disillusioned by the national political leaders who recoiled the promising Non-Cooperation Movement in 1922, alarmed by the rising religious divisions and reactionary rhetoric in the mainstream politics, and motivated by the Bolshevik Revolution of workers and peasants of Russia of 1917, Bhagat Singh and his compatriots entered the political scene of India and became the icon of the aspirations of the people of India in no time. Their aim was to bring a revolution that would not only end the colonial British regime but would also lay the foundations of a system that shall combat all forms of injustices. It was for these crimes that Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were hanged by the rulers of British colonialism on 23rd of March, 1931, at Lahore Camp Jail. Bhagat Singh was only 23 years old at the time of his hanging.

Continued >>

Neoliberalism and the Dynamics of Capitalist Development in Latin America

November 19, 2009
By James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer. Axis of Logic, Nov 19, 2009

Editor’s Note: All those interested in the political, economic and social directions being taken by the people and governments of Latin American states will do well to invest time in reading this treatise by James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer. Those who think they understand the future of the left on the continent may be surprised by what is happening in countries ranging from right wing governments such as Colombia to leftist states like Venezuela after reading this document. Time and energy given to building socialism and combatting the Global Corporate Empire everywhere in the world will be informed by neo-capitalist movements across Latin America. This analysis deserves careful study.

– Les Blough, Editor

An analysis of the dynamics of capitalist development over the last two decades has been overshadowed by an all too prevalent “globalization” discourse. It appears that much of the Left has bought into this discourse, tacitly accepting globalization as an irresistible fact and that in many ways it is progressive, needing only for the corporate agenda to be derailed and an abandonment of neoliberalism. This is certainly the case in Latin America where the Left has focused its concern almost exclusively on the bankruptcy of “neoliberalism”, with reference to the agenda pursued and a package of policy reforms implemented by virtually every government in the region by the dint of ideology if not the demands of the global capital or political opportunism. In this concern, imperialism and capitalism per se, as opposed to neoliberalism, have been pushed off the agenda, and as a result, excepting Chavéz’s Bolivarian Revolution, the project of building socialism has virtually disappeared as an object of theory and practice.
Continues >>

Petras: Latin America’s Twenty-First Century Socialism in Historical Perspective

October 13, 2009

The electoral victory of center left regimes in at least three Latin American countries, and the search for a new ideological identity to justify their rule, led ideologues and the incumbent presidents to embrace the notion that they represent a new 21st century version of socialism (21cs).

The James Petras website,  October 10, 2009

Prominent writers, academics and regime spokespeople celebrated a totally new variant of socialism, as completely at odds with what they dubbed as the failed 20th century, Soviet-style socialism. The advocates and publicists of 21cs claims of a novel political-economic model rested on what they ascribed as a radical break with both the free market neo-liberal regimes which preceded, and the past “statist” version of socialism embodied by the former Soviet Union as well as China and Cuba.

In this paper we will proceed by examining the variety of critiques put forth by 21cs of both neo-liberalism and 20 century socialism (20cs), the authenticity of their claims of a novelty and originality, and a critical analysis of their actual performance.

Read essay [PDF]

Welcoming Stan Newens

August 24, 2009

George Barnsby, The  Barnsby Blog, August 23, 2oo9

I had a great surprise today. A call from Stan asking if he could call on me within an hour or so. Stan visits me regularly but it has usually been at the end of a series of visits to John Saville and other contributors to the Dictionary of Labour Biography and a visit to relatives in the Midlands before coming on to me and then returning to Essex where he has lived for many years, a sort of Grand Tour of Britain which he undertook regularly. But, alas John Saville and others are dead so that he is paying me the great honour of coming specially to Wolverhampton and then returning home.

Continues >>

For more on Stan Newens, see  Wikipedia,

Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt. So what comes next?

April 11, 2009

Whatever ideological logo we adopt, the shift from free market to public action needs to be bigger than politicians grasp

The 20th century is well behind us, but we have not yet learned to live in the 21st, or at least to think in a way that fits it. That should not be as difficult as it seems, because the basic idea that dominated economics and politics in the last century has patently disappeared down the plughole of history. This was the way of thinking about modern industrial economies, or for that matter any economies, in terms of two mutually exclusive opposites: capitalism or socialism.

We have lived through two practical attempts to realise these in their pure form: the centrally state-planned economies of the Soviet type and the totally unrestricted and uncontrolled free-market capitalist economy. The first broke down in the 1980s, and the European communist political systems with it. The second is breaking down before our eyes in the greatest crisis of global capitalism since the 1930s. In some ways it is a greater crisis than in the 1930s, because the globalisation of the economy was not then as far advanced as it is today, and the crisis did not affect the planned economy of the Soviet Union. We don’t yet know how grave and lasting the consequences of the present world crisis will be, but they certainly mark the end of the sort of free-market capitalism that captured the world and its governments in the years since Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan.

Impotence therefore faces both those who believe in what amounts to a pure, stateless, market capitalism, a sort of international bourgeois anarchism, and those who believe in a planned socialism uncontaminated by private profit-seeking. Both are bankrupt. The future, like the present and the past, belongs to mixed economies in which public and private are braided together in one way or another. But how? That is the problem for everybody today, but especially for people on the left.

Continued >>

Tony Cliff: Rosa Luxemburg – Imperialism and War

February 25, 2009

The fight against imperialism and war

During the two decades preceding the outbreak of the First World War support for imperialism grew steadily, within the Socialist International.

The Stuttgart Congress of the International in 1907 showed this clearly. The colonial question was placed on the agenda because at this time the jostling of imperialist powers in Africa and Asia was becoming fierce. The socialist parties did indeed speak out against the rapacity of their own governments, but as the discussion at the Stuttgart Congress showed, a consistent anti-colonialist position was far from the thoughts of many leaders of the International. The Congress appointed a Colonial Commission, the majority of which drafted a report stating that colonialism had some positive aspects. Its draft resolution stated, “[The Congress] does not reject on principle and for all time every colonial policy.” Socialists should condemn the excesses of colonialism, but should not renounce it altogether. Instead:

… they are to advocate reforms, to improve the lot of the natives … and they are to educate them for independence by all possible means.

To this purpose the representatives of the socialist parties should propose to their governments to conclude an international treaty, to create a Colonial Law, which shall protect the rights of the natives and which would be guaranteed by all the signatory States.

This draft resolution was in fact defeated, but by a rather slim majority – 127 against 108. Thus practically half the Congress sided openly with imperialism.

When the First World War, which was essentially a fight between the imperialist powers for the division of the colonies, broke out in 1914, its support by the majority leaders of the Socialist International did not come out of the blue.

At the Stuttgart Congress Rosa Luxemburg came out clearly against imperialism, proposing a resolution which outlined the policy necessary to meet the threat of imperialist war:

In the event of a threat of war it is the duty of the workers and their parliamentary representatives in the countries involved to do everything possible to prevent the outbreak of war by taking suitable measures, which can of course change or be intensified in accordance with the intensification of the class struggle and the general political situation.

In the event of war breaking out nevertheless, it is their duty to take measures to bring it to an end as quickly as possible, and to utilise the economic and political crisis brought about by the war to arouse the masses of the people and accelerate the overthrow of capitalist class rule.

This resolution made it clear that socialists should oppose imperialism and its war, and that the only way to put an end to both is through the overthrow of capitalism, of which both are the outgrowth.

This resolution was passed, but even so it was becoming more and more evident that, of those leaders who were not openly supporting colonialism, many did not conceive of the fight against imperialism in revolutionary terms.

These leaders, whose main spokesman was Kautsky, adopted the view that imperialism was not a necessary outgrowth of capitalism, but an abscess which the capitalist class as a whole would more and more wish to get rid of. Kautsky’s theory was that imperialism was a method of expansion supported by certain small but powerful capitalist groups (the banks and the armament kings), which was contrary to the needs of the capitalist class as a whole, as expenditure on armaments reduced available capital for investment in the country and abroad, and therefore affected the majority of the capitalist class which would progressively increase its opposition to the policy of armed imperialist expansion. Echoing the same ideas, Bernstein, as late as 1911, argued confidently that the desire for peace was becoming universal and that it was out of the question that war should break out. The armaments race, according to the Kautsky-led “Marxist Centre”, was an anomaly that could be overcome by general disarmament agreements, international arbitration courts, peace alliances, and the formation of the United States of Europe. In short, the “Marxist Centre” relied on the powers-that-be to bring peace on earth.

Rosa Luxemburg brilliantly tore to shreds this capitalist pacifism:

… the belief that capitalism is possible without expansion, is the theoretical formula for a certain definite tactical tendency. This conception tends to regard the phase of imperialism not as a historical necessity, not as the final bout between capitalism and socialism, but rather as the malicious invention of a group of interested parties. It tries to persuade the bourgeoisie that imperialism and militarism are deleterious even from the standpoint of bourgeois interests, in the hope that it will then be able to isolate the alleged handful of interested parties and so form a block between the proletariat and the majority of the bourgeoisie with a view to “curbing” imperialism, starving it out by “partial disarmament”, and “removing its sting”. Just as a bourgeois Liberalism in its period of decay appealed from the “ignorant” monarchs to the “enlightened” monarchs, now the “Marxist Centre” proposes to appeal from the “unreasonable” bourgeoisie to the “reasonable” bourgeoisie with a view to dissuading it from a policy of imperialism with all its catastrophic results to a policy of international disarmament treaties; from an armed struggle for world dominance to a peaceable federation of democratic national States. The general settling of accounts between the proletariat and capitalism, the solution of the great contradiction between them, resolves itself into an idyllic compromise for the “mitigation of imperialist contradictions between the capitalist States”. [29]

How apt these words are, not only for the bourgeois pacifism of Kautsky and Bernstein, but for all those who adhered to the League of Nations, the United Nations, “collective security”, or Summit talks!

Rosa Luxemburg showed that imperialism and imperialist war could not be overcome within the framework of capitalism, as they grow out of the vital interests of capitalist society.

The Guiding Principles of the Spartakus League drawn up by Rosa Luxemburg stated:

Imperialism, the last phase and highest development of the political rule of capitalism, is the deadly enemy of the workers of all countries … The struggle against imperialism is at the same time the struggle of the proletariat for political power, the decisive conflict between Capitalism and Socialism. The final aim of Socialism can be achieved only if the international proletariat fights uncompromisingly against imperialism as a whole, and takes the slogan “war against war” as a practical guide to action, summoning up all its strength and all its capacity for self-sacrifice. [30]

Thus the central theme of Rosa Luxemburg’s anti-imperialist policy was that the fight against war is inseparable from the fight for socialism.

With great passion Rosa Luxemburg ends her most important anti-war pamphlet, The Crisis of Social Democracy (better known as the Junius Brochure, as she wrote under the pseudonym Junius):

Imperialist bestiality has been let loose to devastate the fields of Europe, and there is one incidental accompaniment for which the “cultured world” has neither the heart nor conscience – the mass slaughter of the European proletariat … It is our hope, our flesh and blood, which is falling in swathes like corn under the sickle. The finest, the most intelligent, the best-trained forces of international Socialism, the bearers of the heroic traditions of the modern working-class movement, the advanced guard of the world proletariat, the workers of Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia, are being slaughtered in masses. That is a greater crime by far than the brutish sack of Louvain or the destruction of Rheims Cathedral. It is a deadly blow against the power which holds the whole future of humanity, the only power which can save the values of the past and carry them on into a newer and better human society. Capitalism has revealed its true features; it betrays to the world that it has lost its historical justification, that its continued existence can no longer be reconciled with the progress of mankind …

Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles! Long live Democracy! Long live the Tsar and Slavdom! Ten thousand blankets, guaranteed in perfect condition! A hundred thousand kilos of bacon, coffee substitutes – immediate delivery! Dividends rise and proletarians fall. And with each one sinks a fighter for the future, a soldier of the Revolution, a liberator of humanity from the yoke of capitalism, and finds a nameless grave.

The madness will cease and the bloody product of hell come to an end only when the workers of Germany and France, of Great Britain and Russia, awaken from their frenzy, extend to each other the hand of friendship, and drown the bestial chorus of imperialist hyenas with the thunderous battle cry of the modern working-class movement: “Workers of the World Unite!” [31]

With visionary power Rosa Luxemburg states:

Bourgeois society faces a dilemma; either a transition to Socialism, or a return to barbarism … we face the choice: either the victory of imperialism and the decline of all culture, as in ancient Rome – annihilation, devastation, degeneration, a yawning graveyard; or the victory of Socialism – the victory of the international working class consciously assaulting imperialism and its method: war. This is the dilemma of world history, either – or; the die will be cast by the class-conscious proletariat. [32]

And we who live in the shadow of the H-bomb …


29. R. Luxemburg, Gesammelte, vol.III, p.481.

30. Dokumente und Materialien zur Geschichte der Deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (Berlin, 1957), vol.I, pp.280-281.

31. R. Luxemburg, Ausgewählte, vol.I, pp.391-394.

32. R. Luxemburg, Ausgewählte, vol.I, p.270

Like, Socialism

October 29, 2008

By Hendrik Hertzberg | The New Yorker, Oct 29, 2008

Sometimes, when a political campaign has run out of ideas and senses that the prize is slipping through its fingers, it rolls up a sleeve and plunges an arm, shoulder deep, right down to the bottom of the barrel. The problem for John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Republican Party is that the bottom was scraped clean long before it dropped out. Back when the polls were nip and tuck and the leaves had not yet begun to turn, Barack Obama had already been accused of betraying the troops, wanting to teach kindergartners all about sex, favoring infanticide, and being a friend of terrorists and terrorism. What was left? The anticlimactic answer came as the long Presidential march of 2008 staggered toward its final week: Senator Obama is a socialist.

“This campaign in the next couple of weeks is about one thing,” Todd Akin, a Republican congressman from Missouri, told a McCain rally outside St. Louis. “It’s a referendum on socialism.” “With all due respect,” Senator George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, said, “the man is a socialist.” At an airport rally in Roswell, New Mexico, a well-known landing spot for space aliens, Governor Palin warned against Obama’s tax proposals. “Friends,” she said, “now is no time to experiment with socialism.” And McCain, discussing those proposals, agreed that they sounded “a lot like socialism.” There hasn’t been so much talk of socialism in an American election since 1920, when Eugene Victor Debs, candidate of the Socialist Party, made his fifth run for President from a cell in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, where he was serving a ten-year sentence for opposing the First World War. (Debs got a million votes and was freed the following year by the new Republican President, Warren G. Harding, who immediately invited him to the White House for a friendly visit.)

As a buzzword, “socialism” had mostly good connotations in most of the world for most of the twentieth century. That’s why the Nazis called themselves national socialists. That’s why the Bolsheviks called their regime the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, obliging the socialist and social democratic parties of Europe (and America, for what it was worth) to make rescuing the “good name” of socialism one of their central missions. Socialists—one thinks of men like George Orwell, Willy Brandt, and Aneurin Bevan—were among Communism’s most passionate and effective enemies.

The United States is a special case. There is a whole shelf of books on the question of why socialism never became a real mass movement here. For decades, the word served mainly as a cudgel with which conservative Republicans beat liberal Democrats about the head. When Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan accused John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson of socialism for advocating guaranteed health care for the aged and the poor, the implication was that Medicare and Medicaid would presage a Soviet America. Now that Communism has been defunct for nearly twenty years, though, the cry of socialism no longer packs its old punch. “At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives,” McCain said the other day—thereby suggesting that the dystopia he abhors is not some North Korean-style totalitarian ant heap but, rather, the gentle social democracies across the Atlantic, where, in return for higher taxes and without any diminution of civil liberty, people buy themselves excellent public education, anxiety-free health care, and decent public transportation.

The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent. The latter is what it would be under Obama’s proposal, what it was under President Clinton, and, for that matter, what it will be after 2010 if President Bush’s tax cuts expire on schedule. Obama would use some of the added revenue to give a break to pretty much everybody who nets less than a quarter of a million dollars a year. The total tax burden on the private economy would be somewhat lighter than it is now—a bit of elementary Keynesianism that renders doubly untrue the Republican claim that Obama “will raise your taxes.”

On October 12th, in conversation with a voter forever to be known as Joe the Plumber, Obama gave one of his fullest summaries of his tax plan. After explaining how Joe could benefit from it, whether or not he achieves his dream of owning his own plumbing business, Obama added casually, “I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” McCain and Palin have been quoting this remark ever since, offering it as prima-facie evidence of Obama’s unsuitability for office. Of course, all taxes are redistributive, in that they redistribute private resources for public purposes. But the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support. McCain himself probably shares this belief, and there was a time when he was willing to say so. During the 2000 campaign, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” a young woman asked him why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain replied that “wealthy people can afford more” and that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.” The exchange continued:

YOUNG WOMAN: Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism and stuff?. . .

MCCAIN: Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.

For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.

The current importance of Marx, 150 years after the Grundrisse

September 19, 2008

Conversation with Eric Hobsbawm

Eric Hobsbawm is considered one of the greatest living historians. He is President of Birkbeck College (London University) and Professor Emeritus at the New School for Social Research (New York). Among his many writings are the trilogy about the “the long 19th century”: The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848 (1962); The Age of Capital: 1848-1874 (1975); The Age of Empire: 1875-1914 (1987), and the book The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (1994).

Marcello Musto is editor of Karl Marx’s Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, London-New York: Routledge 2008.

1) M. M. Professor Hobsbawm, two decades after 1989, when he was too hastily consigned to oblivion, Karl Marx has returned to the limelight. Freed from the role of instrumentum regni to which he was assigned in the Soviet Union, and from the shackles of “Marxism-Leninism”, he has in the last few years not only received intellectual attention through new publication of his work, but also been the focus of more widespread interest. Indeed in 2003, the French magazine Nouvel Observateur dedicated a special issue to Karl Marx – le penseur du troisième millénaire? (Karl Marx – the thinker of the third millennium?). A year later, in Germany, in an opinion poll sponsored by the television company ZDF to establish who were the most important Germans of all time, more than 500,000 viewers voted for Marx; he came third in the general classification and first in the “current relevance” category. Then, in 2005, the weekly Der Spiegel portrayed him on the cover under the title Ein Gespenst kehrt zurück (A spectre is back), while listeners to the BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time voted for Marx as their Greatest Philosopher.

In a recent public conversation with Jacques Attalì, you said that paradoxically “it is the capitalists more than others who have been rediscovering Marx”, and you talked of your astonishment when the businessman and liberal politician George Soros said to you “I’ve just been reading Marx and there is an awful lot in what he says”. Although weak and rather vague, what are the reasons for this revival? Is his work likely to be of interest only to specialists and intellectuals, being presented in university courses as a great classic of modern thought that should never be forgotten? Or could a new “demand for Marx” come in the future from the political side as well?

E. H. There is an undoubted revival of public interest in Marx in the capitalist world, though probably not as yet in the new East European members of the European Union. It was probably accelerated by the fact that the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Manifesto of the Communist Party coincided with a particularly dramatic international economic crisis in the midst of a period of ultra-rapid free market globalization.

Marx had predicted  the nature of  the early 21st century world economy a hundred and fifty years earlier, on the basis of his analysis of “bourgeois society”. It is not surprising that intelligent capitalists, especially in the globalized financial sector, were impressed by Marx, since they were necessarily more aware than others of the nature and instabilities of the capitalist economy in which they operated. Most of the intellectual Left no longer knew what to do with Marx. It had been  demoralised by the collapse of the social-democratic project in most North Atlantic states in the 1980s and the mass conversion of national governments to free market ideology, as well as by the collapse of the political and economic systems that claimed to be inspired by Marx and Lenin. The so-called “new social movements” like feminism either had no logical connection with anti-capitalism (though as individuals their members might be aligned with it) or they challenged the belief in   endless progress in human control over nature, which both capitalism and traditional socialism had shared. At the same time the “proletariat”, divided and diminished, ceased to be  credible as Marx’s  historical agent of social transformation. It is also the case that since 1968 the most prominent radical movements have preferred direct action not necessarily based on much reading and theoretical analysis.

Of course this does not mean that Marx will cease to be regarded as a great and classical thinker, although for political reasons, especially in countries like France and Italy with once powerful   Communist parties, there has been a passionate intellectual offensive  against Marx and Marxist analyses, which was probably  at its height in the 1980s and 1990s. There are signs that it has now run its course.

Continued . . .

Reflections on Twenty-First Century Socialism

August 18, 2008

In order to explore the perspectives for socialism in the 21st century, it is essential to recover some of the basic postulates, which inform the socialist project. In addition, it is important to recover some of the basic advances achieved by 20th century socialist regimes as well as to critically reflect on their distorted structures and failed policies.

In the most basic sense it is important to remember that ‘socialism’ is a means to a better material life than under capitalism: Higher living standards, greater political freedom, social equality of conditions, and internal and external security. ‘Respect’, ‘dignity’ and ‘solidarity’ can only be understood as accompaniments of these basic material goals, not as substitutes. ‘Respect” and ‘dignity’ cannot be pursued in the face of long-term, large-scale deprivation, sacrifice and delayed fulfillment of material improvement. Governments claiming to be ‘socialist’ which idealize ‘sacrifice’ of material living standards in the name of abstract principles of justice, are more akin to ‘spiritual socialism’ of a religious order rather than a modern dynamic socialist government.

Social transformations and the replacement of capitalist owners by the socialist state can only be justified if the new order can improve the efficiency, working conditions and responsiveness to consumers of the socialist enterprise. For example, in some socialist regimes, under the guise of a ‘revolutionary offensive’, the state intervened and eliminated thousands of small and medium size retail urban enterprises in the name of ‘eliminating capitalists’. The result was a disaster: The stores remained closed; the state was incapable of organizing the multitude of small businesses and the great majority of workers were deprived of vital services.

Twentieth century socialist states built effective and successful medical, educational and security systems to serve the majority of the workers. The majority of socialist states eliminated foreign control and exploitation of natural resources and in some cases developed diversified industrial economies. On the whole living standards rose, crime declined, employment, pensions and welfare were secured. However 20th century socialism was divided by deep contradictions leading to profound systemic crises. Bureaucratic centralism denied freedom at the workplace and restricted public debate and popular governance. Public authority’s over-emphasis on ‘security’ blocked innovation, entrepreneurship, scientific and popular initiatives leading to technological stagnation and mass passivity. Elite material privileges based on political office led to profound inequalities, which undermined popular belief in socialist principles and led to the spread of capitalist values.

Capitalism thrives on social inequalities; socialism deepens through greater equality. Both capitalism and socialism depend on efficient, productive and innovative workers: The former in order to maximize profits, the latter to sustain an expanding welfare state.

20th Century lessons for 21st Century socialists

21st century socialist can learn from the achievements and failures of 20th century socialism.

First: Policies must be directed toward improving the living as well as working conditions of the people. That means massive investment in quality housing, household appliances, public transport, environmental concerns and infrastructure. Overseas solidarity and missions should not take priority over large-scale, long-term investments in expanding and deepening material improvements for the principal internal class base of the socialist regime. Solidarity begins at home.

Second: Development policies should focus on diversifying the economy with a special focus on industrializing the raw material, making major investment in industries producing quality goods of mass consumption (clothing, shoes, and so on) and in agriculture, especially becoming self-sufficient in basic essential foods. Under no conditions should socialist economies rely on single products for income (sugar, tourism, petroleum, nickel), which are subject to great volatility.

A Socialist government should finance education, income and infrastructure policies, which are compatible with its high economic social and cultural priorities; this means educating agronomists and skill agricultural workers, skilled construction workers (plumbers, electricians, painters) and civil engineers, transport workers and urban and rural planners of public housing to decentralize mega-cities and substitute public for private transport. They should set up popularly elected environment and consumer councils to oversee the quality of air, water and noise levels and the availability, prices and quality of food.

Twentieth century socialist governments frequently alienated their workers by diverting large of amount of aid to overseas regimes (many of whom were not even progressive!). As a result, local needs were neglected in the name of ‘international solidarity’. The first priority of 21st century socialism is solidarity at home. Twentieth century socialists emphasized ‘welfare’ from above – government as ‘giver’ and the masses as ‘receivers’ – discouraging local action and encouraging passivity. Twenty-first century socialism must encourage autonomous class action to counter privileged ‘socialist’ bourgeois ministers and functionaries who use their office to accumulate and protect private wealth through public power. Autonomous popular organizations can expose the hypocrisy of rich ministers who attack well-paid industrial workers as ‘privileged’ while riding in chauffeured Mercedes and enjoying luxurious apartments, second and third ‘vacation homes’ and who send there children to expensive and exclusive private schools at home and abroad.

Above all socialism is about social equality: Equality in income, schools and hospitals; equality between classes and within classes. Without social equality, all talk of ‘diversity’, ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ is meaningless. Capitalists also support ‘diversity’, as long as it does not affect their profits and wealth. Socialists support income and property equality which effectively re-distributes wealth and property to all workers, white and black, Indian farmer and urban worker, men and women, and young and old. There is no ‘dignity’ in being poor and exploited; dignity comes with struggle and the achievement of socialist goals of social equality and rising living standards.