The case for socialism.
Jacobin founder and editor Sunkara (editor: The ABCs of Socialism, 2016, etc.) considers the present world of “extreme inequality” and argues that “we can do better than this capitalist reality you’re stuck in.” At a time of growing popularity for progressive politicians like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders and of marked dislike of capitalism and affinity for socialism among American 18- to 29-year-olds (though “what young people understand as socialism is not clear”), the author finds a “surprising opportunity” today for socialism in Britain and the United States. In this accessible narrative, Sunkara describes the socialist tradition from Marx to the present and outlines the benefits of a socialist society of “expansive social services and public guarantees” that asserts “the moral worth of every person.” His lengthy opening explication of this idyllic view—a day in the life of a socialist citizen—will appeal strongly to readers dissatisfied with the “unnecessary pain and suffering” under capitalism. His subsequent recounting of the realities of socialist movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries in Western Europe and Russia is less enthralling, as the author is aware. Poorly led, facing many roadblocks, and sometimes producing “stifling authoritarianism and an increasingly sclerotic planned economy,” many social-democratic experiments “sputtered and failed.” In tracing the American story—from Eugene Debs to Michael Harrington and beyond—Sunkara explains how socialism’s appeal has been limited by prosperity and individualism; committed socialists were divided by language, geography, and ideologies. Lacking “mass parties, an active base, and a mobilized working class,” the country has never created a viable socialist movement. He suggests more than a dozen complex, nuanced actions for socialists—from waging democratic battles within unions to taking into account American particularities—to achieve the goal of “extending democracy radically…[and] ending the exploitation of humans by other humans.”
A sharp, hopeful, and useful primer short on evidence that a socialist future is at hand.