letter to a progressive friend afraid of socialism (and watching too much tv)
By Alexis Alexism at Feb 27, 2008
« La Sagesse, c'est d'avoir des rêves suffisamment grands pour ne pas les perdre de vue lorsqu'on les poursuit. »
What we have been living for thirty years is a counter-revolution, in reaction to the relative progresses of the sixties and the seventies. It would be silly to regret this period, plenty of activists at that time were brain-washing themselves with their different kinds of socialist theories and people are actually now more educated. Since then however, the activists grew-up, many of their leaders changed their mind as their wallet was getting heavier. They became realistic and so on. I do not learn you anything here. Today, if I say that I like Marx, and I believe in Socialism, I appear even for a progressive like you as an extremist who wants to build gulag, or as an idiot who did not learn anything from the past. I know I exaggerate a little bit, but unfortunately not too much. I think this question is important because we need to be clear to the other people, for instance those less politically educated, those for who we are pretending to fight. We need as well to say what we want and not only what we do not. The popular and democratic appropriation of production goods, this is socialism. It’s just not possible to be free if eight hours a day you obey to a chief who force you to produce faster, that’s all. In the XXth century, many countries were supposed to live according to such an ideology, and almost all of them were dictatorships. What does it mean?The answer could be straightforward: these kinds of theories are just not compatible with freedom. This is a fashionable view nowadays. But that would be a bit too quick. First, the countries where a communist revolution exploded were mostly rural, not as industrialized as the ones Marx described in his work. Secondly, in third world countries where you could see really democratic movements, the West came and killed the leaders and the activists. It happened in Africa, in Latin America and in Asia, only the rudest regimes survived, and that is not by chance. Thirdly, in our countries, the social-democrat parties and the workers unions had until recently a clear heritage from the socialism of the XIXth century and especially Marx views. They try to get rid of it now, since they focus their action on the middle-class and do not mind any more on the workers, but that’s a big part of their history anyway. I could quote Jean Jaures, or Leon Blum or Mendes-France, for french politicians, but it the same anywhere else in Western Europe. Nationalizations of car factories,mines, banks, electricity and so on, after the second world war did not lead to dictatorship. Finally, we can not ignore what Marx brought to social sciences. People, like Bourdieu in sociology, Foucault in philosophy, Braudel in economical history and even Vernant and his colleagues in Greek history were influenced by his work.
Once this written, I would like to point out that I am not a fanatic (believe me, please!) admirer of Marx. It s already hard to find a global theory in physics, I am quite pessimistic for a one that would explain the human history and tell us how we can, tomorrow live free in brotherhood. To mention just one thing among the many defaults, Marx did not take into account the limitation of natural resources, and how could he anyway at his time? And that s a problem we have now. So we have to find another way out of the capitalism that what was tried before, and for that the anarchist ideas should not be forgotten either. But I don t see other goal than the popular, and democratic, appropriation of the production goods, i.e. socialism. If I like Marx, it is for the same reasons that I like Einstein, Chomsky, Bourdieu or Bricmont: they tried to bring rationality in politics. I use famous people here but every non educated worker can reach the same conclusion, it is only common sense. This attitude just consists in asking the powerful and rich people if there are reasons why they have this power and wealth, while people are starving and fighting in useless wars. So why would it be allowed to believe in god or destiny and not in socialism?