The Contradictions of Real Socialism : The Conductor and the Conducted
What was "real socialism" – the term which originated in twentieth-century socialist societies for the purpose of distinguishing them from abstract theoretical socialism? In this volume, Michael A. Lebowitz considers the nature, tendencies, and contradictions of those societies. Beginning with the inner relations which generate these patterns. He finds these, in particular, in what he calls "vanguard relations of production,"a relation which takes the apparent form of a social contrat where workers obtain benefits not available to their counterparts in capitalism but lack the power to decide within the workplace and society.
While these societies were able to claim major achievments in areas from health care to education to popular culture, the separation of thinking and doing prevented workers from developing their capacities as fully developed human beings. The relationship within "real socialism" between the vanguard as a conductor and a conducted working class, however, did not only lead to the deformation of workers and those elements necessary for the building of socialism; it also created the conditions in which enterprise managers emerged as an incipient capitalist class, which was an immediate source of the crises of "real socialsm." As he argued inThe Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, Lebowitz stresses the necessity to go beyond the hierarchy inherent in the relation of conductor and conducted (and beyond the "vanguard Marxism" which supports this) to create the conditions in which people can transform themselves through their conscious cooperation and practice – i.e., a society of free and associated producers.
Michael A. Lebowitzis professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, and the author ofThe Socialist Alternative, Beyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class(winner of the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize for 2004),Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century,andFollowing Marx: Method, Critique and Crisis.He was Director, Program in Transformative Practice and Human Development, Centro Internacional Miranda, in Caracas, Venezuela, from 2006 to 2011.