Friday, 7 June 2013

The Question of Strategy

What is to be done? The question posed by the title of Lenin’s short book over a century ago is always demanding an answer. For socialist activists, seeking not only to understand the world but to change it, this is a matter of the greatest importance. It is, as the title of this volume puts it, the question of strategy. Fundamentally this means considering: who has the capacity to change the world, and how can they do so?

At a time of deep crisis across a number of overlapping fields – economic, imperial and ecological – the question of strategy demands urgent and persuasive answers. Yet the crisis of the system has not automatically generated a convincing response from the left. Indeed it is often suggested that the crisis of the system is matched by a crisis of the left. The multiple crises of capitalism, matched by the difficulties faced by the contemporary left in responding to them, are the background to this new, wide-ranging volume of nineteen essays.

Socialist Register began in the early 1960s as part of the post-1956 New Left. Every year there is a fresh volume, always with a theme, drawing together diverse contributions from an international range of socialist writers and activists. This review is an essay divided into two parts over two weeks: the material in Socialist Register’s 2013 volume demands a serious and considered response. Rather than attempting to summarise every contribution, however, I pay fairly detailed attention to several very stimulating contributions in particular. These engage directly with the question of strategy for the radical left in the ‘old capitalist heartlands’ of Europe and North America.

Three aspects are in the foreground here: protest movements (specifically Occupy and anti-austerity), left-wing electoral parties, and the revolutionary left. The relationship between these different elements is of fundamental importance if we are both to develop a successful strategy for defeating austerity and to create a new left capable of leading a challenge to the entire system.

Read Part 1 of my 2-part review essay on 'Socialist Register 2013: The Question of Strategy' HERE. Part 2 will be published on Counterfire next Friday.


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