The Contradictions of

The Contradictions of "Real Socialism": The Conductor and the Conducted

by Michael Lebowitz


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What was “real socialism”—the term which originated in twentieth-century socialist societies for the purpose of distinguishing them from abstract, theoretical socialism? In this volume, Michael A.
Lebowitz considers the nature, tendencies, and contradictions of those societies. Beginning with the constant presence of shortages within
“real socialism,” Lebowitz searches for the inner relations which generate these patterns. He finds these, in particular, in what he calls
“vanguard relations of production,” a relation which takes the apparent form of a social contract where workers obtain benefits not available to their counterparts in capitalism but lack the power to decide within the workplace and society.

While these societies were able to claim major achievements in areas from health care to education to popular culture, the separation of thinking and doing prevented workers from developing their capacities as fully developed human beings. The relationship within “real socialism”
between the vanguard as conductor and a conducted working class,
however, did not only lead to the deformation of workers and those elements necessary for the building of socialism; it also created the conditions in which enterprise managers emerged as an incipient capitalist class, which was an immediate source of the crises of “real socialism.” As he argued in The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development ,
Lebowitz stresses the necessity to go beyond the hierarchy inherent in the relation of conductor and conducted (and beyond the “vanguard Marxism” which supports this) to create the conditions in which people can transform themselves through their conscious cooperation and practice—i.e., a society of free and associated producers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781583672563
Publisher: Monthly Review Press
Publication date: 08/01/2012
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Michael Lebowitz is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, and the author of Beyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class , winner of the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize for 2004, and Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century. He is Director, Programme in Transformative Practice and Human Development, Centro Internacional Miranda, in Caracas, Venezuela.

Table of Contents

Preface 7

Introduction: New Wings for Socialism 11

Overture: The Conductor and the Conducted 21

1 The Shortage Economy 29

2 The Social Contract 49

3 The Nature and Reproduction of Vanguard Relations of Production 67

4 Contested Reproduction within "Real Socialism" 89

5 The Conductor and the Battle of Ideas in the Soviet Union 107

6 From Moral Economy to Political Economy 131

7 Toward a Society of Associated Conductors 153

8 Good-bye to Vanguard Marxism 173

Bibliography 189

Notes 195

Index 217

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