Marxism is the gateway to a revolutionary socialism which is thoroughly democratic and a democratic socialism which is thoroughly revolutionary

Phyllis Jacobson remembered – from New Appeal to Reason:

There are a number of remembrances of Phyllis Jacobson who played a leading role in the the creation and sustenance of New Politics, one of the most important journals of the American democratic left. Bogdan Denitch, Barry Finger, Sam Farber and others.

New Politics had two lives–from 1961 to 1975 and from 1986 to the present. It occupies a space to the left of Dissent (and to my left) and  has always been a valuable and thought provoking journal.

Joanne Landy and Steve Shalom write

“The Jacobsons did not want an editorial board of clones. They welcomed board members from a range of left perspectives that supported the basic orientation of New Politics: standing “in opposition to all forms of imperialism,” “uncompromising in its defense of feminism and affirmative action,” and above all insisting “on the centrality of democracy to socialism and on the need to rely on mass movements from below for progressive social transformation.”

If that sounds like the kind of thing you might be intersted in, check out New Politics. And if you like what you see, subsribe.

At Arguing the World: Alan Johnson on Zizek part 2 (extract below the fold); Ben Gidley on left antisemitism; Nicolaus Mills on Ivan Dee.

Ron Radosh defends Elena Kagan.

Oliver Kamm on Paul Hirst in his Communist days (provoked by Alex Massie on a Stalinist optimist).

A miscellany from The New Centrist.Alan Johnson:

Take the relation of democracy to socialism. That socialism can only come to life as an extension of democracy was the idea of the anti-Stalinist Left. Žižek hopes to obscure this.

Hal Draper, the revolutionary socialist and Marx scholar, spent his life trying to clarify the relationship, making it the basis for a renewal of Marxism itself. He summed up the thinking of an entire tradition—one to which Dissent can trace its roots, by the way—in these terms:

The political character of the Independent Socialist League quickly broadened… to a wide reinterpretation of the meaning of revolutionary socialism for our day. Reacting sharply against the bureaucratic concepts of both official Stalinism and official Trotskyism, it swung to a deep-going emphasis on the integration of socialism and democracy in all aspects of politics.

Draper devoted the last two decades of his life to a scholarly excavation of, as he saw it, the democratic nature of Marx’s own socialism: “For me, Marxism is the gateway to a revolutionary socialism which is thoroughly democratic and a democratic socialism which is thoroughly revolutionary.”

In a general way Marx’s socialism (communism) as a political program may be most quickly defined, from the Marxist standpoint, as the complete democratization of society, not merely of political forms(…)Marx’s theory moves in the direction of defining consistent democracy in socialist terms and defining consistent socialism in democratic terms. (Draper, 1977: 282)

Draper died in 1990, but in his understanding that socialism has always had “two souls” he can help us understand who Žižek is. Draper recalled that,

In the middle of 1958, after dropping the weekly burden of journalism and after a knockabout tour of Europe taking most of a year, I settled down to a period of reading and research in the history of socialism that went on for almost a year and a half. Its focus was on tracing the antidemocratic (in modern slang, ‘authoritarian’) currents in the early and later formation of the socialist movement. I knew well enough that these currents existed.

What I discovered, however, which penetrated beneath the surface of popular socialistic historiography, was this: The difficulty was not in finding the antidemocratic elements, it was in identifying any representatives–even a very few–of consistent advocacy of a socialism-from-below, the only “democratic socialism” worth recognizing. “Stalinism” and its forerunners–or, in general, authoritarian forms of socialist thinking and organization–had far more claim to the socialist tradition than I did. It was not a wild aberration, as the joint statement had seemed to say.(…)

Today’s new authoritarian Marxism is not a wild aberration. It is only the latest example of the “authoritarian forms of socialist thinking and organization” that have always disgraced the socialist idea.

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