Socialism is extremely in vogue. Opinion pieces which tell us to stop obsessing over socialism’s past failures, and start to get excited about its future potential, have almost become a genre in its own right.
For example, Bhaskhar Sunkara, the founder of Jacobin magazine, recently wrote a New York Times article, in which he claimed that the next attempt to build a socialist society will be completely different:
“This time, people get to vote. Well, debate and deliberate and then vote – and have faith that people can organise together to chart new destinations for humanity. Stripped down to its essence, and returned to its roots, socialism is an ideology of radical democracy. […] [I]t seeks to empower civil society to allow participation in the decisions that affect our lives.”
Nathan Robinson, the editor of Current Affairs, wrote in that magazine that socialism has not “failed”. It has just never been done properly:
“It’s incredibly easy to be both in favour of socialism and against the crimes committed by 20th century communist regimes. […]
When anyone points me to the Soviet Union or Castro’s Cuba and says “Well, there’s your socialism,” my answer […] [is] that these regimes bear absolutely no relationship to the principle for which I am fighting. […] The history of the Soviet Union doesn’t really tell us much about “communism” […]
I can draw distinctions between the positive and negative aspects of a political program. I like the bit about allowing workers to reap greater benefits from their labor. I don’t like the bit about putting dissidents in front of firing squads.”
Closer to home, Owen Jones wrote that Cuba’s current version of socialism was not “real” socialism – but that it could yet become the real thing:
“Socialism without democracy […] isn’t socialism. […] Socialism means socialising wealth and power […]
Cuba could democratise and grant political freedoms currently denied as well as defending […] the gains of the revolution. […] The only future for socialism […] is through democracy. That […] means organising a movement rooted in people’s communities and workplaces. It means arguing for a system that extends democracy to the workplace and the economy”.