What Should Socialists Propose?

This is a copy of an article written for Demand Nothing.

In the quest for a scientific socialism, I think it is fair to say the former element has received undue attention compared to the latter. For several generations now, Marxists (and for that matter other socialists) have focused on defining capitalism, discerning its laws of motion, explaining and theorizing what it is and what it does, and how it is historically differentiated. This is an important task, that is not to be denied. Yet a socialist (or communist) politics is not the same as a socialist theory, and it does not have the same requirements. Like all radical movements of whatever stripe, a socialist politics is confronted immediately with the fact that its achievements need to be threefold: first, it must convince people of its understanding of present society; secondly, it must convince them that change is desirable; finally, it must convince people that change is possible, and in what way – including what it would look like. There is not necessarily any order of priority to these, although theorized for practical purposes, they will tend to flow from each other in that sequence. However, ‘centrist’ or ‘moderate’ politics – i.e., the politics suitable to the ruling establishment – has an easier job of it. All they need to do is the first, and they can safely ignore the other two, as they do not serve their purposes anyway. Liberals and conservatives do not need to convince anyone of systemic change, and can rest lazily on the comfortable bed that is technocratic management of existing conditions.

Sadly, the history of Marxist theorizing so far has seen a vast accumulation, if one may make that joke, of books detailing the first element, at the expense of the others. Continue reading “What Should Socialists Propose?”