Monday, October 3, 2011

Towards a ‘Revolutionary Reformist’ Strategy: Within, Outside and Against the State

Ed Rooksby
Published in Critique 39: 1
February 2011

Daniel Bensaïd recently noted a ‘return of strategy’ – a revival in debates about strategy amongst left-wing theorists in the past few years. He points, for example, to the recent debates surrounding the ideas of Michael Hardt and Toni Negri, John Holloway and Michael Albert – much of which focused, either explicitly or implicitly, on strategic concerns. The discussion surrounding Callinicos’ An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto, too, bore witness to a general revival of interest in relation to the question of socialist strategy.

Bensaïd suggests that this return to strategic thinking reflects, in part, a generalised realisation on the part of the radical left as a whole that the ‘anti-capitalist movement’ could not, as many of its participants had thought, ignore or side-step the issue of political power – that, contra Holloway, the world simply could not be changed without taking power (specifically, state power). Another key factor in the revival of interest in strategy, Bensaïd suggests, has been the political and electoral success of the left in Latin America, which has posed the question in very immediate terms of how, and to what extent, the left can utilise capitalist state power for socialist objectives.

Nevertheless, despite this apparent return to strategy, contemporary thinking about strategies for socialist transformation, it is probably fair to say, remains at a largely undeveloped level. Those theorists who do devote their energies to questions of strategy often frame their analysis in terms of the perspectives of the Second and Third International as if nothing much has changed since the time of the classical debates between Bernstein and Luxemburg, and Lenin and Kautsky and as if, therefore, no fundamental revision of strategic approach is required. Furthermore, it is striking how little strategic thinking there is amongst left-wing intellectuals.

For a political tradition that is explicitly committed not simply to interpreting the world, but to changing it, it is quite remarkable how few socialist intellectuals seem to be very interested in the process of seeking to identify how, exactly, we should go about bringing another, better, world into existence. With this in mind, then, the recent return to strategy Bensaïd identifies, though a welcome development, is a return on a disappointingly small and unadventurous scale to what should be the central intellectual concern of socialists.

Read this paper HERE.
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