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The Return of Radicalism

The Return of Radicalism: Reshaping the Left Institutions

Boris Kagarlitsky
Translated by Renfrey Clarke
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Return of Radicalism
    Book Description:

    The rise of neo-liberalism has had a devastating impact on the institutions and organisations with which the left has traditionally been associated. In the final volume in the Recasting Marxism trilogy, Boris Kagarlitsky examines this crisis and explores areas of opportunity for the left. He begins by focusing on the decline of trade unions in the West and the attempts to revive them, contrasting this with the rapid growth of unions in the nations of the developing world and the new industrial countries. He argues that trade unionism has a vital role to play in the twenty-first century. Kagarlitsky then provides a critique of the post-modernist left, arguing that the experiences of Eastern Europe and of the Third World demonstrate the vital need for a universal left as the only viable alternative to the emerging ‘new barbarism’. The state of the contemporary left is explored, with an assessment of the contributions of the ‘third left’ and ‘third socialism’ and the new wave of left parties and movements, such as the German Party of Democratic Socialism, the Workers’ Party in Brazil, and the Zapatistas in Mexico.

    eISBN: 978-1-84964-064-0
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. iii-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Introduction: Pride and Protest (pp. 1-12)

    The twentieth century has unquestionably been the epoch of the struggle between capitalism and the ‘communist system’. Capitalism won this struggle. Nevertheless, the final years of the twentieth century have not been a time of triumph. On the contrary, the victory of the West over the Soviet Union, the transformation of the former super-power into a semi-colonial periphery, and the global revenge exacted by capital in its struggle against labour have revealed all the contradictions of the capitalist system on an unprecedented scale. To say the least, capitalism is not entering the new century in a particularly good state. The...

  5. 1 Does Trade Unionism Have a Future? (pp. 13-39)

    The 1980s were a difficult period for trade unions. Even in countries where workers’ organizations had traditionally played a decisive role in political and social life, the labour movement suffered one setback after another. The lengthy strike by British coal miners in 1984 and 1985 ended in defeat. In Italy the trade unions were unable to defend the ‘scala mobile’ – automatic indexation of wages that had been regarded as their most important gain of the 1970s. The alliance between the three main Italian trade union federations fell apart. In most other European countries, including those of Scandinavia, the influence of...

  6. 2 Beyond Identities (pp. 40-97)

    The market economy is supposed to satisfy the needs of humanity, offering the consumer a choice of everything for which there is a demand, just as newspapers promise to publish all the news fit to print. But in the marketplace, the customer ceased long ago to be the central figure. Consumers are now no more than a ‘necessary evil’ in a world of competition between brand names and image-makers.

    The less active a citizen is, the more he or she is transformed into a consumer of politics. Participatory democracy is replaced by a ‘freedom of choice’ resembling the ‘freedom’ of...

  7. 3 The Third Left or the Third Socialism (pp. 98-148)

    In the mid-1990s, during a debate on the programme of the Finnish Left Union, the economist Jan Otto Andersson formulated the idea of the ‘third left’. According to Andersson, the ‘first left’ was the bourgeois republican movement, which demanded liberty from absolutist and feudal fetters, called for equality through the abolition of rank and privilege, and extolled brotherhood over the power of the masters. It was ‘the Left of liberty, citizenship, democracy’.¹ The ‘second left’ was the working-class socialism of social-democratic and communist parties. This left struggled for economic and social rights and was the main vehicle of the welfare...

  8. Conclusion: The Stage We are In (pp. 149-160)

    The twentieth century began as an epoch of enthusiastic faith in progress, but as it draws to a close, the attitude toward progress is one of profound disappointment. Faith in progress and disappointment with it are both subjective matters. There is no question, however, that the twentieth century has done more than any other to reveal the limited and contradictory nature of social progress, just as it has shown the obvious dangers associated with technical progress. Even when the century began, none of this was really new; it is enough to recall how Marx in his writings on British rule...

  9. Notes (pp. 161-175)
  10. Index (pp. 176-187)