Vol. 75, No. 1, January 2011
How the US Hasn’t Been the Same Since the SU Passed Away
By LARRY GARNER and ROBERTA GARNER
We read David Laibman’s review of Marcel van der Linden’s Western Marxism and the Soviet Union with intense interest, and would like to respond to it with reflections on how the collapse of the Soviet Union has impacted social conditions and the cultural climate. We concur with Laibman’s position that the Soviet Union was a socialist country and that its presence had positive consequences for the working class and the left in the capitalist world.
The overwhelming majority of Americans reacted to the Fall of the Wall and the subsequent collapse of the USSR as if the home team had won the World Series. The unmitigated triumphalism of the media and the general public was echoed by much of the democratic socialist left, which now felt “free at last.” No more would the left have to bear the burden of defending the ideal of democratic socialism in light of the embarrassing reality represented by the Soviet Union. As Laibman points out, some western Marxists had even been reluctant to acknowledge that the Soviet Union was a socialist country at all.
In folk tales and popular culture — in old favorites such as “The Fisherman’s Wife,” “The Three Wishes,” and W. W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw” — the fulfi llment of a wish precipitates disasters. A solid reality is shattered, and the protagonists are hurled into a whirling phantasmagoria — an unstable, fast-moving, fragmented, and unpredictable universe in which the fulfi lled wish brings a cascade of unintended consequences. So too with the fulfi llment of the wish that “real socialism” disappear. Far from freeing the left from the burden of apologizing for the Soviet Union, its disappearance has made political discourse more diffi cult and social conditions more oppressive and unstable.
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