Democracy and Revolutionby George Novack
"In this eminently readable book, the author has made a valuable
The limitations and advances of various forms of democracy in class society, from its roots in ancient Greece through its rise and decline under capitalism. Discusses the emergence of Bonapartism, military dictatorship, and fascism, and how democracy will be advanced under a workers and farmers regime.
"In this eminently readable book, the author has made a valuable contribution to the study of the evolution of democracy."-Library Journal
- Pathfinder Press GA
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- 5.30(w) x 8.29(h) x 0.72(d)
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Like everything else, democracy has a beginning, a present, and a future. George Novack¿s Democracy and Revolution will be a big help to the growing number of working people and youth who want to do something effective because they understand that as capitalism enters a deepening social and economic crisis¿the prognosis for the health of democracy in the U.S. and elsewhere is already showing symptoms of prolonged illness. Novack, an outstanding Marxist scholar and revolutionary activist who wrote some 16 books before his death in 1992, presents an accurate diagnosis and useful political prescription for those who want to defend (and extend into the economic and social sphere) these ailing democratic rights against the capitalist politicians of both the Democratic and Republican parties who today are attacking democracy ¿in order to save it.¿ Novack explains that, ¿Democracy was everywhere the offspring of revolution.¿ Its origins were in the Greek city states where newly wealthy commercial layers found it necessary to appeal for support from plebian layers in the city and countryside in their struggle against the old landlord aristocracy. The book develops this point in its extensive review of the failure of democracy in the Roman Empire, the democracy of the medieval communes, and the rich history of the bourgeois revolutions in Holland, England, France, and the U.S. His explanation of the achievements and limitations of the first American Revolution and how it took a second revolutionary struggle against slavery to complete the work begun in 1776 is alone worth the modest price of this book. Novack details how democracy has been a useful form of rule for the handful of capitalist families whose interests are actually what is defended by the bourgeois state. By disguising their plutocratic rule, democracy as we know it, has helped the capitalists to stabilize their rule and deflect the class struggle it engenders into the safe channels of a two-party system designed to defend the interests only of the exploiters. But Democracy and Revolution demonstrates (with examples from the Spanish civil war, and Italian and German fascism) how these stable forms can and have¿and most importantly, will again¿break down in times of capitalist crisis. Novack discusses Bonapartism, military dictatorship, and fascism as other, inevitable governmental forms that accompany capitalist rule as it enters a period of crisis and decay. Anyone reading this part of the book will recognize its direct importance for understanding political developments today in all the advanced capitalist countries. Novack concludes with a rich discussion of the challenges facing working people when we actually made revolutions that expanded democracy from the political to the social and economic sphere through the conquest of state power¿first in the Soviet Union, and later in China, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and Cuba. He discusses the rise of bureaucracies that carried out political counterrevolutions in all those countries but Cuba. And he demolishes the cynical argument that this proves the inherent utopianism of the struggle for socialism. Democracy and Revolution leaves you convinced of the need to remain vigilant in defense of the democratic rights workers and farmers have won over centuries through revolutionary struggle. But more importantly, it opens your thinking on how these rights will only be defended and expanded and secured by successful revolutionary battles for working-class power against the minority of capitalist exploiters. The book¿s footnotes, bibliography, and index are useful enhancements.
I liked this book because it provides the answers to historical questions like: Why did democracy develop in Greece and not in Asia? Were there any democratic forms in the Middle ages? What was the English Revolution? Where do the democratic illusions of Americans come from? It also makes a number of striking points. For example, the fact that the overthrow of Reconstruction was actually a reign of terror against Blacks. Plus the book makes the subject understandable from a working-class perspective and puts it in an easy-to-follow time line. Scholarly but not academic.