Transcending Pessimism: Rekindling Socialist Imagination

Panitch, Leo; Gindin, Sam
http://socialistregister.com/index.php/srv/article/view/5731#.U2kU0HIuSAY
http://socialistregister.com/index.php/srv/article/view/5731/2626

Publisher:  Socialist Register
Year Published:  2009  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX16217

Between Marx's broad historically-inspired vision of revolution/transformation and his detailed critique of political economy, there was an analytical and strategic gap - unbridgeable without addressing the problematic of working class capacities - which later Marxists sometimes addressed, but never overcame. Every progressive social movement must, sooner or later, confront the inescapable fact that capitalism cripples our capacities, stunts our dreams, and incorporates our politics.

Abstract:  Whether the socialist utopian goal can be revived must obviously depend on much more than a clarification and enrichment of socialist political theory. It will above all depend on agency, that is, on what human beings can still discover about their potential. For all the valuable insights, promising signposts and rich hints even the 'warm stream' of Marxism bequeaths, it must be said that the historical optimism in Marx that inspired generations of socialists came with an underestimation of the chasm between the scale and scope of the utopian dream and the capitalism-created agency honoured - or saddled - with carrying it out: the working class. Between Marx's broad historically-inspired vision of revolution/transformation and his detailed critique of political economy, there was an analytical and strategic gap - unbridgeable without addressing the problematic of working class capacities - which later Marxists sometimes addressed, but never overcame. Nor has the problem been overcome by recent social movement theory. For the rethinking that is required must be more profound than just imagining that the problem can be resolved by substituting a plurality of new social movements for the old workers' movements. The compensatory stifling of ideals we saw in the institutions of the labour movement has also appeared in the new social movements. Every progressive social movement must, sooner or later, confront the inescapable fact that capitalism cripples our capacities, stunts our dreams, and incorporates our politics.

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