FDL Book Salon Welcomes Paul LeBlanc and Dianne Feeley, Imagine: Living In A Socialist USA
Welcome Paul LeBlanc (LaRoche College) (video – Lessons from Lenin for 21st Century Socialism), Dianne Feeley (Solidarity) (International Viewpoint) [Paul and Dianne: authors, Leon Trotsky and the Organizational Principles of the Revolutionary Party] and Host Deena Stryker (Deena’s website) (Twitter)
At a time when “East” and “West” have been unexpectedly revived as political categories, twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which was followed two years later by the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a political entity – a book that dissects and up-dates socialist concepts and realities is more timely than ever.
New York’s most progressive literary agent, Francis Golden, who is now ninety years old, once again put her energies where her mind is asking thirty-one progressive writers to imagine how life would change for Americans were we to enjoy a socialist-oriented government. I say enjoy because I’ve lived half my life under such governments in both Western and the former Eastern Europe, and I can testify to the fact that life is a great deal easier when national governments are organized around principles of solidarity.
Americans have heard of the “welfare state,” but “welfare” has a negative connotation here, implying indigent populations surviving on government handouts, resented by those whose work contributes to that relief (another tainted word, this time from World War II). So overturning negative stereotypes is as much a part of a turn toward socialist principles as spreading an understanding of what socialism is all about. Francis Fox Piven addresses that issue in the chapter “Welfare in a New Society: An End to Intentional Impoverishment and Degradation,” while Juan Gonzalez analyses the many ways in which “Immigrant Workers Point the Way to a Better World.” This chapter echoes a post I wrote in 2006, when the Latino community played a major role in the revival of May Day as the worker’s holiday, bringing the United States in line with the rest of the working world. I noted that Latin American immigrants brought with them the experience of anti-imperialist resistance in what used to be America’s backyard.
At the same time as Imagine! punctures the myth of socialism taking away individual freedom, it addresses chapter by chapter the main areas of political and social life that would be positively affected by a socialist form of government: Among them is a chapter on Justice written by Mumia Abu-Jamal and Angela Davis; “Socialism as the Highest Expression of Human Rights,” by Ajamu Baraka; “Law in a Socialist USA” by Michael Steven Smith; “Personal, Emotional and Sexual Life” by Harriet Fraad and Tess Fraad Wolff; and “A Woman’s Workday in a Socialist USA” by Renate Bridenthal.
In “Dignity, Respect, Equality and Love,” Blanche Weisen Cook evokes the leaders of the American Suffrage Movement, as well as a major figure of the Russian Revolution, Alexandra Kollontai, who impressed Ilya Ehrenburg when she claimed during her exile in Paris that “personal happiness, for which women were created, was unthinkable without universal happiness.” Kollontai returned to Russia after the revolution and was put in charge of social welfare. In a strikingly modern coincidence, Cook recounts how Stalin dismantled the women’s commission following a wave of terror against Muslim women in Crimea, sending Kollontai abroad as ambassador to several nordic countries. (Reading this, I wondered whether the Scandinavia countries’ early embrace of sexual freedom can be traced to her influence. (Can any FDL readers shed light on this?….)
Finally, I’d like to signal the chapter on technology by Clifford D. Connor, who underlines the deleterious effects of planned obsolescence, seeing researchers in a socialist economy being rewarded for creating things that last. Personally I am not aware that any of the social-democratic countries still surviving on the planet have seriously implemented such policies, however we are talking here about a uniquely American socialism that would be at the forefront of a worldwide campaign to preserve the planet. As such, both Big Pharma, Big Energy, and the military would be in for a serious overhaul.
As news comes this weekend of the coup government in Ukraine and NATO conspiring to “request to be invited” and “accelerating” the process of Ukraine’s incorporation into NATO, this chapter is particularly relevant in a book that breaks with the taboo against the word “socialist” and covers the subject from every imaginable angle.