Socialist Register 2018 Preface

Leo Panitch, Gregory Albo


We have conceived this 54th volume of the Socialist Register on Rethinking Democracy as a companion volume to the 2017 volume on Rethinking Revolution. As we put it in the preface to that volume: ‘The “political event” of gaining state power, whether by taking parliament or in a collapse of the existing political regime, has proven time and again to be less crucial than the social revolution of building capacities for self-government and the democratization and socialization of institutional resources … The “event”, in itself, … will never be a sufficient condition for the exploited and oppressed to build their own capacities for establishing collective, rather than competitive, ways of living through developing socialist democracy.’

The Wilsonian rhetoric a hundred years ago of an essential opposition between revolution and democracy was reinforced for much of the twentieth century by the authoritarian cast of the Communist bloc countries; and by 1989, the triumph of capitalist liberal democracy was proclaimed as ‘the end of history’. But as the contradictions of neoliberal capitalist globalization have thrown up ever more reactionary responses of the kind our 2016 volume on The Politics of the Right examined in close detail across a broad range of states, the antagonism between capitalism and democracy is increasingly visible. It becomes in this context all the more important to help lay some foundations for the new visions, organizations, practices, and institutions that will be required for the development of socialist democracy in the twenty-first century.

The essays with which this volume opens serve as a sharp reminder that the achievement of what is known as democracy today involved profound and protracted social struggles by working-class people, men and women, which were always resisted by those whose privileges and property were thereby challenged.

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