“Marxism and Scientific Socialism as they emerged, they came to understand the concept of revolution as human beings advancing to higher stages of civilization.” — Caleb Maupin
Part 1: A crying need for change
At the Socialism 2010 conference in Oakland, Calif., SocialistWorker.org contributor Leela Yellesetty spoke on “What Would Socialism Be Like?” This three-part article is based on her talk. In the first part, she answers the time-worn charge that socialism wouldn’t work with this question–who can say that capitalism is working?
An article written for the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, to be read in Beijing today.
Socialism a century ago seemed to be the wave of the future. There were various schools of socialism, but the common ideal was to guarantee support for basic needs, and for state ownership to free society from landlords, predatory banking and monopolies. In the West these hopes are now much further away than they seemed in 1917. Land and natural resources, basic infrastructure monopolies, health care and pensions have been increasingly privatized and financialized.
The recent death of the Russian poet with whom I was acquainted, Yevgheny Yevtushenko, prompted these considerations of the role of poets in social-cultural-political progress in general and in a particularly spectacular fashion in Russia. In few other countries have poets played a more significant than in Russia. Nonetheless, for centuries Russian poets have been harassed, persecuted, and punished for their songs. Dostoevsky imprisoned, Pushkin exiled, Yesenin, Mayakovsky and Tsvetaeva suicides, Mandelshtam and others perished in the cultural events of 1937. Poets seldom lead easy lives anywhere. The poet sees the ideals but he must flee from the world in order to rejoice in them and he cannot remain unaffected by the caricatures of these ideals around him.
Politely walking into pens set up by police, shaking our signs and gently dispersing will not build a movement serious about root-and-branch change. Even the more militant demonstrations, in which people — gasp! — actually take the streets in defiance of authorities, both legal and NGO, are far from sufficient.