The Right Lesson and The Wrong Conclusion
Prof. Randhir Singh’sCrisis of Socialism – Notes in Defence of a Commitment, dealing with the why and how of the collapse of Soviet Union’s ‘actually existing socialism’, its implications and the question of socialism in our time and recognised as a pioneering work – “One of the most important, if not the most important book we have read”, “a key to all that is going on in our world today”, “if there were a required reading list for the US left, this should be on it”, and so on – is now being published in six separate volumes.
This volume deals with two important issues consequent upon the failure of Sovietsocialism and disappearance of the Soviet Union – ‘the single most important rightlesson: democracy’ and ‘the single most important wrong conclusion: triumph ofcapitalism’.
It is argued that democracy is not only integral to socialism as a value, it is alsoan economic necessity for it;for, as against capitalism, where ‘the market’ commands theeconomy, providing it with the necessary indications and correctives, in socialism, it ispolitics which commands the economy and the necessary guidance and correctives canonly come from the people, that is, from democracy.
The wide ranging discussion of democracy that follows touches upon a variety oftheoretically important issues ranging from democracy as ‘a theoretical absence’ inclassical Marxism to the forging of extra – parliamentary sanctions to defend or enforcepeople’s democratic verdicts.
As regards ‘the wrong conclusion’ drawn from the failure of ‘actually existing socialism’of the Soviet Union, it is argued that at the end of its five centuries old existence,‘actually existing capitalism’ too is a failed system and that there is an importantdifference between the two failures. The failure of capitalism has a systemic or structuralnecessity about it, so that it is the only kind of capitalism possible. In contrast, withpolitics commanding the economy, socialism simply has no structural logic or ‘laws’similar to what market-governed capitalism has. Socialism in the Soviet Union failedprimarily due to the inadequacies of political leadership, so that socialism remains apossibility in the future.
Pointing out that the late middle ages witnessed several promising yet false starts forcapitalism, and that therefore in a long-term perspective we can be legitimately hopefulabout the future of socialism, it is further argued that this ‘long-term’ however is todayloaded with a problematic, once available to capitalism to emerge, consolidate itself and grow dominant,timeis no longer so available to socialism. The reason lies in the growing
ecological crisis in the world where capitalism’s systemic or structural logic nowthreatens the very existence of humankind on the planet earth which suggests not only theurgency of a socialist negation of capitalism but also that the chances of survival andrealisation of the potentials of both human species and socialism have come to beinterlinked today. Which also means that the future of socialism is as bleak or bright asthat of humankind.
Randhir Singh, a distinguished teacher and former Professor of Political Theory,University of Delhi, is the author ofReason, Revolution and Political Theory;FiveLectures in Marxist Mode;Marxism, Socialism, Indian Politics – A View from the Left;Contemporary Ecological Crisis – A Marxist View;Indian Politics Today – An Argumentfor Socialism-Oriented Path of Development;What was Built and What Failed in theSoviet Union;andStruggle for Socialism – Some Issues.He has been associated with thecommunist movement since 1939. Of his writings, Harry Magdoff, editor,MonthlyReview, has said: ‘I admire the solidity of your analysis as well as the firmness of yourcommitment’.