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Preface to the Second Edition xi No thoughtful person could prepare a book of Marxist theory at this moment in history without wondering for at least a moment whether the enterprise is quixotic. Have not political and theoretical developments of the last decade raised all kinds of questions about the viability of Marxism? One set of questions is raised by the restoration of capitalism and the still-shaky mUltiparty political democracy in Central and Eastern Europe . Though this largely unanticipated revolution poses a challenge of explanation for Marxism, it is not a challenge that threatens the foundations of the theory. Marxism has encountered unanticipated developments before and has met the challenge. The threat is rather to the emotional energies that helped to sustain Marxism in the past. For manyyears most Western Marxists have regarded the Soviet Union as a brutal and exploitative dictatorship remote from Marxist conceptions of socialism. Yet it also represented the possibility of an alternative to capitalism. The workers and peasants may have been betrayed, but in 1917 they "durst defY the Omnipotent to arms" (Milton, Paradise Lost I.49) and founded a noncapitalist society committed to ending the exploitation of one class by another. Their success, even though later undermined by the hostility of the capitalist powers and the betrayal of xii Preface to Second Edition corrupt Communist party leaders, meant that others, too, could succeed . With time, with effort, with the right strategy, capitalism could also be overthrown in the West. To many Western Marxists, the faults of the Soviet Union were so deeply rooted, so intertwined with the structure of power in that country, that they could only be remedied by a second workers' revolution, one that would establish an authentic socialism in a country that called itself socialist but was not. Instead of choosing socialism, however, the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe opted for capitalism. To the Western Marxists who hoped for an alternative to both capitalism and dictatorial state socialism, the tum to capitalism is inevitably a disappointment. Now that the introduction of market principles to the economies of the former Warsaw Pact nations, and to China, is leading to higher levels of unemployment and crime, some people are beginning to regret the hasty adoption of capitalism. Still, in the short run, the former self-styled "socialist" nations are not likely to tum to socialism. It has been too badly discredited by those who ruled in its name. Can we expect more from social democracy? In those regions of Western Europe where it has been strongest, it has managed to achieve much-greater equality ofincomes and better medical care, for example. However, these important gains have now been checked by widespread opposition to high taxes and centralized governmental bureaucracies. It seems doubtful that social democracy will soon show us an electoral route to socialism. As politicians and newspaper editorialists have celebrated the fall of Communist governments and heralded the triumph of the market, Western leftists have rightly reminded us of the serious, seemingly intractable problems that continue to plague the "advanced" capitalist democracies: despoliation of the natural environment, urban decay, poverty and unemployment, crime and corruption, drug addiction, a failing education system, unaffordable medical care, racial and sexual oppression. Hard-won advances of the sixties are now threatened. Neither conservatives nor liberals offer viable solutions; even serious public discussion of these issues is rare. The left, disorganized, has not been able to capitalize on the failings of capitalism by mounting a broadly based challenge. Once upon a time, Marxists often argued that crises in the capitalist system generated discontent that could be mobilized to challenge the system. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, labor militancy grew, and American workers won genuine victories. Today we cannot count on achieving comparable gains. Though the Left's critique of capitalism has lost none of its cogency, its ability to articulate a credible alternative and to devise a workable strategy for reaching it has clearly suffered from the triumph of the market. Optimists contend that without an external military threat, greater attention will be paid to domestic issues, and that the Right will now find Preface to Second Edition xiii it harder to smear the Left as unpatriotic agents or dupes of an "evil empire." However, the government's ability to demonize uncooperative Third World countries may continue to keep attention away from divisive domestic issues. Moreover, the internationalization of capital, which is proceeding through the establishment of the European Economic Community and the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781439905647
MARC Record
OCLC
646067919
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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