If the review is a fair representation of Bhaskar’s Sunkara’s new book, “The Socialist Manifesto,” I like the questions that Sunkara is exploring and the direction that he is suggesting. I’m impressed that he has the temerity to mention, according to the reviewer, the “counterrevolutionary” Kautsky in a favorable light.
Against the background of a left in the U.S. that hasn’t come close to “storming heaven” on the one hand and the experience of existing socialism in the 20th century – much of it went belly up – on the other, you would think that new thinking about socialism – what it looks like, who its protagonists are, and how to get there, not to mention the causes of its crisis and collapse in the first place (simply blaming “imperialism” is insufficient to say the least) – would be in high demand. But that isn’t the case. Old ideas, even when evidence isn’t on their side, resist burial, thanks to their zealous defenders of the faith who are captives of what my old friend Fred Gaboury called, the “politics of assertion,” while new ideas that challenge old understandings are quick to meet resistance by the same crowd.
I have said before that if anyone worries too much about defending yourself from criticism from the defenders of the faith on the left, they will probably serve up nothing but old bromides and formulas, dressed in a slightly different clothing and tone deaf to actual experience. The pressure to be “right” on the left militates against thinking that goes against the grain, as it applauds at the same time the repetition of received wisdom. And who needs that? Anyway, I look forward to reading Sunkara’s new book.