[OPE] The Socialist Alternative

From: <glevy@pratt.edu>
Date: Fri Jul 09 2010 - 14:04:26 EDT

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------

Subject: Fwd: : The Socialist Alternative - MR editorial
"michael a. lebowitz" <mlebowit@sfu.ca>
Date: Tue,
July 6, 2010 7:25 pm
To: "me-g" <mlebowit@gmail.com>


-------- Original Message --------
: The Socialist Alternative - MR editorial
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 2010
23:37:45 +0530
From: Marx Laboratory
To: Marx Laboratory

Review editorial, July 2010*

The Socialist Alternative

For those wishing to understand the theory and practice of
for the 21st century,&rdquo; the publication this
summer of Michael Lebowitz&rsquo;s
/The Socialist Alternative: Real
Human Development
Review Press) is a major event. Like Marta Harnecker,
whose work, &ldquo;Latin
America and Twenty-First Century Socialism:
Inventing to Avoid
Mistakes,&rdquo; forms the content of this issue
of /Monthly Review/, Lebowitz
is associated with the Centro
Internacional Miranda research institute
in Venezuela, is an advisor
to President Hugo Chávez, and is a major
Marxian theorist and
political economist. He is also author of /Beyond
Marx&rsquo;s Political Economy of the Working Class/,/ /and, more
recently, /Build it Now
<http://www.monthlyreview.org/books/builditnow.php> /(Monthly
Press, 2006).

Lebowitz&rsquo;s new book is about
the transition to socialism, and in this
respect, he has been deeply
influenced by Venezuela&rsquo;s Bolivarian
Revolution, which
permeates his thinking. But /The Socialist Alternative
<http://www.monthlyreview.org/books/socialistalternative.php>/, as
notes in his preface, &ldquo;is not a book about the Bolivarian
process in
Latin America.&rdquo; Rather, it is an attempt &ldquo;to
go beyond the particulars
of that case and to prepare ourselves for
struggle everywhere.
Accordingly, /The Socialist Alternative
upon the Venezuelan experiment to develop a /general /vision
socialism and concrete directions for struggle&rdquo; (pp. 9-10).
In that
sense, Lebowitz&rsquo;s book is to be regarded as a
necessary complement to
Harnecker&rsquo;s discussion, in this issue
of /MR/, of the /particular
/aspects of twenty-first century

Lebowitz forcefully demonstrates in /The Socialist
/that the
phrase &ldquo;socialism for the 21st century&rdquo; is not
a mere slogan but a
rapidly developing critical practice. The red
thread running through his
book is an attempt to demonstrate at a
theoretical level how Chávez&rsquo;s
notion (derived from the
work of István Mészáros) of the &ldquo;elementary
triangle of socialism&rdquo;&mdash;social ownership of production,
controlled by workers, and production for communal
needs&mdash;has transformed
the entire conception of the transition
to socialism. The &ldquo;socialist
triangle&rdquo; thus becomes a
means of explaining what needs to be done (and
what was not done or
done badly in the past) and of suggesting the type
of immediate
strategies that can be implemented to build socialism now.

Indeed, underlying the entire argument in /The Socialist Alternative
<http://www.monthlyreview.org/books/socialistalternative.php> /is
fundamentally different notion of social systems, arising from
Mészáros&rsquo;s reinterpretation of Marx and the Marxian
legacy, and growing
out of Lebowitz&rsquo;s own work over the years.
This reinterpretation centers
on the treatment of capitalism and
socialism as /organic /(not
mechanical) systems. An organic system,
in this sense, is a system that
establishes its own premises, and is
to be regarded as a continuous and
developing process. This means
that changing an organic system requires
not merely the change of a
part or two, but rather the metamorphosis
into a new organic whole.
&ldquo;Mészáros,&rdquo; in /Beyond Capital/ (Monthly
Review Press, 1995), Lebowitz explains, &ldquo;stressed the need to
restructure all of the parts of [capital&rsquo;s] organic system&rdquo;
(p. 25).
Hence, The Socialist Alternative requires that all sides of
&ldquo;socialist triangle&rdquo; must &ldquo;mutually

The transition from one organic system to
another is thus not the
mechanical replacement of one
&ldquo;strategic component&rdquo; (or &ldquo;commanding
height&rdquo;) for another. Nor is it simply the leap from one
system (say, the market) to another mechanical system (a
economy). Rather, what has to be nurtured within a
necessarily taking place within the old society, are the
specific relationships&mdash;relationships primarily between
human beings&mdash;that
are essential to the new organic whole.
These new relationships (such as
the promotion of worker management
and the creation of a &ldquo;solidarian
society&rdquo; based on
communal interchange) are at the same time to be
conceived as
&ldquo;/despotic inroads /on the rights of capitalist property.
are part of a process of subordinating capitalism to an alien
the logic of human development&hellip;.After all, [this] is the
socialist alternative&mdash;real human development&rdquo; (pp. 69, 136,

To what extent is this emerging theory of twenty-first
socialism&mdash;as articulated by Lebowitz in his new
Monthly Review Press
<http://www.monthlyreview.org/books/socialistalternative.php> and

by Harnecker in this issue of /Monthly Review&mdash;/applicable to
regions of the world, outside of Latin America, even to
Europe? We are
convinced that the world is now deep in a transition
phase away from
capitalism, as witnessed by the fault lines emerging
financial and economic crisis, planetary
ecological crisis, growing
militarism and imperialism, rising social
unrest, and the emergence in
some parts of the world of real
alternatives. The fierce, courageous
struggle being waged today by
the Greek populace is an indication of how
far things have now gone,
even in Europe. We were recently impressed by
a statement by Stathis
Kouvelakis, who teaches philosophy at King&rsquo;s
College in
London. In an interview for Esquerda.net on May 17, 2010, he
commented: &ldquo;Greece is the weak link [in the European context].
It&rsquo;s the
weak link because Greek capitalism is perhaps the
most fragile, at least
in Western Europe, but it is the weak link
also because it is the
country where the level of social resistance,
social movements, and
popular struggle is the highest. The ruling
class is very much aware of
this, and they want to make Greece a
test case, so everyone should be
aware of the stakes now&rdquo;
(&ldquo;Greece: The Weak Link,&rdquo; May 23, 2010

The stakes for the European working class as a whole are therefore
big. The social democratic welfare state across Europe is in
indeed, it cannot be saved. The choice, as the Greek
people seem to be
realizing in their courageous demonstrations
(bordering on
insurrection), is to capitulate to a savage system or
to seek a genuine
socialist alternative&mdash;real human
development&mdash;a socialism for the
twenty-first century.

** * * *
The Socialist Alternative:
Real Human

Michael A. Lebowitz

$15.95 paperback
191 pp.
July 2010

&ldquo;Michael Lebowitz has forcefully demonstrated that the
phrase &ldquo;Socialism
for the Twenty-First Century&rdquo; is not a
mere slogan. Rather it stands for
a developed theory and practice
stretching from Marx to Latin America&rsquo;s
new Bolivarian
Revolution. The Socialist Alternative is one of the
foremost works
in this new theory of socialist transition, and a worthy
to Lebowitz&rsquo;s previous works, Beyond Capital and Build It

John Bellamy Foster
editor, Monthly Review

Professor of Sociology, University of Oregon

&ldquo;&hellip;among the most thought-provoking works I have recently
read. Grounding
the work in an analysis of the crisis of socialism,
Lebowitz takes the
reader through an examination of the workings of
capitalism and the
problems of not only a transition to socialism,
but ultimately to a
society that represents freedom from class
exploitation. Lebowitz does
not stop there, but whets the appetite
of the reader in contemplating
the implications of all of this for
efforts to eliminate other forms of
oppression engendered or
enhanced by capitalism, as well as efforts to
save the planet from
the destruction wrought by capitalism. This is the
sort of book that
should be the focus for discussion groups of activists
as they
attempt to unite their radical practice with theorizing a
democratic, and Marxist alternative for the future.&rdquo;

Bill Fletcher, Jr.
co-author, Solidarity Divided
Editor, BlackCommentator.com

&ldquo;At this historic moment,
when the limits and insanity of capitalism are
especially clear but
an intimidating sense of fatalism militates against
response&mdash;neither an alternative to capitalism nor a way to get there

seem &lsquo;realistic&rsquo;&mdash;Lebowitz has produced the
must-read book for those
still clinging to hope. Highly accessible
without setting aside the
complexities involved, Lebowitz provides a
desperately needed framework
for linking vision to action to
self-and-social transformation. The
radicalism that has been so
commonly written off as impractical becomes
what is in fact the
truly &lsquo;practical&rsquo; in today&rsquo;s world.&rdquo;

Sam Gindin
York University
Former Research Director,
Canadian Auto Workers

&ldquo;Michael Lebowitz has written a
compelling argument for viewing the
transition to socialism as a
process of human development. He rejects
the concept of stages, in
which the forces of production are first
developed to create the
conditions necessary for people then to change.
Instead, he argues
that by acting on society now people change both it
and at the same
time themselves. Drawing on the Venezuelan concept of
&lsquo;triangle of socialism,&rsquo; and deeply rooted in Marxist
this is a thought provoking and inspiring
book&mdash;essential reading for all
interested in and working for a
socialism for the twenty-first century.&rdquo;

Pat Devine
University of Manchester

&ldquo;This is socialism as it has
been intended from the 1500s onward, a
society that supports and
promotes real human development. This is
socialism as Marx saw it,
created by active conscious protagonists who
at the same time
re-create themselves. Anyone interested in the current
21st century
rebirth of socialism should carefully read and reflect on
important contribution to the debate by Michael Lebowitz.&rdquo;

Al Campbell
Professor of Economics, University of Utah

&ldquo;This is a terrific book that is both theoretical and practical.
importantly, it challenges us to take socialism seriously.
illuminates and extends Marx&rsquo;s powerful insights to
provide a clear and
well grounded vision of socialism, a critical
perspective on past
failures and current efforts, and a strategic
framework for building a
successful path towards socialism.&rdquo;

Martin Hart-Landsberg
Professor of Economics, Lewis and
Clark College

&ldquo;A good society,&rdquo; Michael Lebowitz
tells us, &ldquo;is one that permits the
full development of human
potential.&rdquo; In this slim, lucid, and
insightful book, he
argues persuasively that such a society is possible.
That capitalism
fails his definition of a good society is evident from
even a
cursory examination of its main features. What comes first in
capitalism is not human development but privately accumulated profits by

a tiny minority of the population. When there is a conflict between

profits and human development, profits take precedence. Just ask the

unemployed, those toiling at dead-end jobs, the sick and infirm, the

poor, and the imprisoned.

But if not capitalism, what?
Lebowitz is also critical of those
societies that have proclaimed
their socialism, such as the former
Soviet Union and China. While
their systems were not capitalist and were
capable of achieving some
of what is necessary for the &ldquo;development of
potential,&rdquo; they were not &ldquo;good societies.&rdquo; A good
society as
Lebowitz defines it must be marked by three
characteristics: social
ownership of the means of production, social
production controlled by
workers, and satisfaction of communal needs
and purposes. Lebowitz shows
how these characteristics interact with
and reinforce one another, and
asks how they can be developed to the
point where they occur more or
less automatically&mdash;that is,
become both a society&rsquo;s premises and
outcomes. He also offers
fascinating insights into matters such as the
nature of wealth, the
illegitimacy of profits, the inadequacies of
enterprises, the division of labor, and much more.

Lebowitz is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser
University in Vancouver, Canada, and the author of Beyond Capital:
Marx&rsquo;s Political Economy of the Working Class, winner of the Isaac

Deutscher Memorial Prize for 2004, and Build It Now: Socialism for
Twenty-First Century. He is Director, Program in Transformative
and Human Development, Centro Internacional Miranda, in
Caracas, Venezuela.

Michael A. Lebowitz 
Professor Emeritus 
Economics Department 
Simon Fraser
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6 
Currently based
in Venezuela. Can be reached at 
Residencias Anauco Suites 
Departamento 601 
Parque Central,final Av. Bolivar 
Postal 1010, Oficina 1 
Caracas, Venezuela 
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724 
ope mailing list
Received on Fri Jul 9 14:10:13 2010

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Jul 31 2010 - 00:00:02 EDT