Socialism Unbound

Socialism Unbound: Principles, Practices, and Prospects

Stephen Eric Bronner
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 2
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/bron15382
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  • Book Info
    Socialism Unbound
    Book Description:

    Published more than twenty years ago, Stephen Eric Bronner's bold defense of socialism remains a seminal text for our time. Treating socialism as an ethic, reinterpreting its core categories, and critically confronting its early foundations, Bronner's work offers a reinvigorated "class ideal" and a new perspective for progressive politics in the twentieth century.

    Socialism Unbound is an extraordinary work of political history that revisits the pivotal figures of the labor movement: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Karl Kautsky, Vladimir Lenin, and Rosa Luxemburg. Examining their contributions as well as their flaws, Bronner shows how critical innovation gave way to dogma. New practical problems have arisen, and this volume engages with the relationship between class and social movements, institutional accountability and democratic participation, economic justice and market imperatives, and internationalism and identity. With a foreword by Dick Howard and a new introduction by the author, Bronner's classic study remains indispensable for scholars and activists alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52735-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Dick Howard

    “No political thought without political history” is the epigram that unites the works published in this series. Stephen Eric Bronner’s Socialism Unbound expands on this adage doubly. His book explores the relation between contemporary socialist theory and the tradition from which it emerges. It argues that a valid ethics is possible only within the framework of a socialist politics, but that there can be no socialist politics without ethical responsibility.

    What had previously “bound” socialism? Paradoxically, it was its vision of history as teleological that gave its adherents a blind faith in the material and moral inevitability of their victory....

  4. Preface to the New Second Edition
    (pp. xi-xx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. 1 The Demoratic Legacy of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
    (pp. 1-32)

    As Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were finishing The Communist Manifesto, a specter was haunting Europe. Heine knew it. Tocqueville knew it. Mazzini and Daumier, Lassalle and Metternich knew it as well. Across the political spectrum, everyone with eyes to see knew it. How could they not?

    The upheavals of 1848 occurred because the October Revolution of 1917 was not the only one that history would betray. The great French Revolution had produced an emperor who fell before an epoch of “restoration”—a “swamp” (Stendhal) wherein the hopes of Danton, Marat, and Robespierre drowned as surely as the dreams of...

  7. 2 Karl Kautsky: The Rise and Fall of Orthodox Marxism
    (pp. 33-54)

    For over a quarter of a century, Karl Kautsky was the preeminent theoretician of social democracy and the authentic interpreter of the Marxian legacy.¹ He was a friend of Marx and Engels as well as a prolific scholar whose valuable historical works include The origins of Christianity and Precursors to Socialism. He was the founder of Die neue Zeit, which, under his editorial reign, became the major intellectuall Marxist publication of the era. Along with Eduard Bernstein, he coauthored the Erfurt Program that served as the guiding document of the German Social Democratic Party and the inspiration for virtually every...

  8. 3 Eduard Bernstein and the Logic of Revisionism
    (pp. 55-76)

    Eduard Bernstein had been a friend and collaborator of karl Kautsky’s for close to twenty years. Born in 1850, the son of Jewish working-class parents, he worked at a bank in his younger years, and participated in the Gotha Congress of 1875, which gave birth to what would ultimately become the SPD. An early admirer of Eugen Dühring, like so many others, he became a Marxist after reading Engels’s attack on the anti-Semitic philosopher of violence. An editor of the influential The Social Democrat, exiled to England during the period of the antisocialist laws, Bernstein was a socialist of impeccable...

  9. 4 Leninism and Beyond
    (pp. 77-122)

    Leninism has surrendered: its supporters have been dispersed and its victims curse them from their graves. Its integrity has been withdrawn and its appeal has been destroyed. The abject failure of the communist experiment makes it difficult to imagine the masses it inspired, the sacrifices it received, the moral capital it once possessed, the reverence accorded its leaders, and the utopian hopes it inflamed. World history has rendered its judgment: Leninism is a thing of the past.

    Especially in the postcommunist climate, however, it is important to bring balance and a sense of historical perspective into our view of events....

  10. 5 A Bridge to the Present: Rosa Luxemburg and the Underground Tradition
    (pp. 123-144)

    Economic reformism and political authoritarianism vied for influence over the labor movement for most of the twentieth century. But there was always another tradition lurking in the background. Its trajectory would extend from the Paris Commune and the Russian mass strike of 1905 to the European workers’ uprisings of 1918–23 over the Spanish Civil War and to the student revolts of 1968. Its partisans were eclectic and bound by a spirit of revolutionary humanism and libertarian socialism. Most of them are regrettably forgotten. The most visible representative of this underground tradition remains Rosa Luxemburg.¹

    Two films have been made...

  11. 6 Recasting the Project: Prologue for a Critical Theory of Socialism
    (pp. 145-184)

    The specter is no longer haunting anything. Conditions have changed—economically, politically, and ideologically. Employing an eighteenth-century understanding of the market is anachronistic. The terrain of struggle is different and exploitation in the industrially advanced societies is no longer what was exhibited in the novels of Dickens, Zola, or Upton Sinclair. The “class enemy” is no longer the capitalist in his top hat and fur coat or the racist imperialist of old. Fighting a phantom is a waste of time: the face of the enemy is now more benign. Workers clearly enjoy tangible benefits from capitalist democracies whose resilience and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 185-222)
  13. Index
    (pp. 223-234)