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Capital & Class

http://cnc.sagepub.com/ The Politics of Marxism: The Critical Debates


Jules Townshend Capital & Class 1997 21: 201 DOI: 10.1177/030981689706200120 The online version of this article can be found at: http://cnc.sagepub.com/content/21/2/201.2.citation

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Book Reviews
collapse). Why this particular global selection is not explained. The detailed accounts of national experience of (primarily) emergent national capitalisms are informative and often thought-provoking. What emerges is the variety of relationships between state and market, capital and labour, within an integrating global economy.

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However the volume lacks systematic comparison and integration. Boyers overview is based on established industrial capitalisms (in western Europe, the USA and Japan); Lipietz does refer briey to developments in the South and the East, but essentially in terms of his wellknown categories of Primitive Taylorization and Peripheral Fordism.

Carl Boggs

The Socialist Tradition: From Crisis to Decline


Routledge, New York and London, 1995. pp.320 ISBN 0-415-90669-5 (hbk) 37.50 ISBN 0-415-90670-9 (pbk) 12.99

Jules Townshend

The Politics of Marxism: The Critical Debates


Leicester University Press, New York and London, 1996. pp.294 ISBN 0-7185-1420-3 (hbk) 49.50 ISBN 0-7185-0004-0 (pbk) 14.99

Reviewed by Lawrence Wilde


These well-crafted and stimulating books add to the growing body of literature seeking to take stock of socialism in the wake of the demise of communism in Europe. Boggss account begins with a discussion of the multiple tensions present within socialist politics before the First World War, culminating in the collapse of the Second International in 1914. The fate of the communist and social democratic movements which emerged in the aftermath is discussed in a single chapter, After Lenin, which is far too brief to do justice to the issues. I shall return to the implications of this, but clearly Boggs is keen to get on with the task of discussing the various attempts to resolve the dilemmas faced by Leninism on the one hand and Bad Godesberg social democracy on the other. The failures of Eurocommunism, on which Boggs is an expert, and Eurosocialism (the Spanish, Greek and French socialist parties in the 1980s) are discussed at length, and the final two chapters deal with attempts to forge a new kind of pluralist socialism which is sensitive to the issues raised by the new social movements, particularly ecology. The bottom line is that the socialist tradition has exhausted its political legacy (p.217) and that universal discourses do not seem to offer a way out of the multiple problems that beset the world (p.249). On both these points I think Boggs is unjustifiably eschatological. Although there is no escaping the

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seriousness of the situation for socialists it is all too easy to mistake setback for termination, the sort of thing which seems to flourish at the fin de siecle. It would be hard to quarrel with most of the general conclusions which Boggs draws about the failures of the two major models of socialist politics, which have been widely recounted in a number of recent books. But when those conclusions are not based on careful analyses of the cases there is a tendency to write off every social democratic or communist policy because they were aspects of a flawed strategy. In fact there have been many policies which might have flourished in a more favourable context and which might resurface in modified form, particularly within the framework of the European Union. For example, the current IGC is considering a proposal from the Swedish Social Democrats to add an employment chapter to the Maastricht Treaty to be used as a basis for combating mass unemployment in the European Union, using aspects of the active labour market policy which was a feature of the old Swedish model. Boggs does not even consider the potential which a federal Europe may hold for socialist politics, nor does he pay attention to the resurgence of the Left in the former communist states of eastern Europe. As for the rejection of universalist discourses, this smacks of the loose talk for which postmodernism is notorious. An appeal to the proletariat to liberate the world by liberating itself is a universalist discourse which might be considered obsolete. But Marxism as a universalist discourse which reveals the remorseless logic of the law of value has been spectacularly vindicated by the development of capitalism in the past two decades. To have any chance of success, resistance to the master

Capital & Class #62


narrative of capitalism has to overcome fragmentation and seek new forms of articulation and intervention. These forms are touched on by Boggs, but largely to reveal how limited and inadequate they are. But these are early days yet when it comes to the politics of new social movements, their articulation with older anti-systemic movements, and the development of demands for the accountability of global decisionmaking, as discussed in Helds recent work on cosmopolitan democracy, are important. Townshends book is less gloomy, for he rightly concludes that as long as capitalism holds sway Marxism will be there as the most coherent body of theory available to reveal its exploitative essence and offer the hope that it can be challenged (p.272). The Politics of Marxism is best understood by its subtitle, The Critical Debates, for it takes us with great skill through the big stand-offs that have signposted Marxist politics. We have succinct accounts with commentary on a range of significant questions; Bernstein versus Luxemburg on revisionism, Stalin and Lenin versus Bauer on nationalism, Lenin versus Kautsky on democracy and dictatorship, Stalin versus Trotsky on the nature of socialism and the nature of fascism, Mandel and Cliff on the nature of the Soviet state, and more recent debates on Eurocommunism, underdevelopment, feminism, and class analysis. In all there are 15 chapters, ideal length for an undergraduate course, and it is to be hoped that the book encourages such a development. The debate format is great for pedagogy, but it is not without its problems. At its best the central arguments are encapsulated in direct textual confrontation, and in the case of Marxism this often involved theorists who were also politically responsible for

Book Reviews
their arguments. Kautsky versus Lenin on socialist democracy and Trosky versus Stalin on socialism in one country are excellent examples. However, there are often more than two protagonists and the issues then become more complex; for example Townshend focuses on Luxemburgs response to Bernstein as the most renowned rebuttal of revisionism, but it was Kautsky who led the charge at Conference and in print, and his Social Revolution was far more signicant at the time. However, only a few pages of his earlier reply to Bernstein are published in Patrick Goodes edition of Kautskys Selected Political Writings, so for want of an available translation we are denied a ticket to the main bout. The same problem of availability prevents us from viewing some important debates between communists and social democrats who

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considered themselves still to be Marxist Blum versus Thorez, Nenni versus Togliatti. Tito and Stalin would have been a good one too. By the time we come to the post World War II period the debaters tend to be academics rather than political leaders and it becomes increasingly difficult to present a clear focus on the issues concerned. However, Townshend accomplishes this well, and the chapter on Marxism and feminism is particularly bright. My only complaint is that Herbert Marcuse does not rate a mention. Although Townshend argues that it was not until the 1970s and early 1980s that some within the Marxist tradition began to question the central role of the working class in the socialist project (p.231), Marcuse did so in the 1960s, and his ideas are still relevant.

Dennis E. Gale

Understanding Urban Unrest: From Reverend King to Rodney King


Sage, Thousand Oaks, California, 1996. pp.226 ISBN 0-7619-0094-2 (hbk) 39.95 ISBN 0-7619-0095-0 (pbk) 18.95

Reviewed by Luis L.M. Aguiar


Since the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles in 1992, and the subsequent unrest, is there a more pressing issue in American society today than urban uprisings? Many academics do not think so. Dennis Gale is amongst them. Gales study, however, differs from most in that it is not concerned with the Rodney King tragedy per se , but with a historical examination of the US governments urban policies on rioting since the 1960s. The author compares and contrasts the genesis, development, and outcome of two key US government initiativesModel Cities and Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities (EZEC). He argues that the federal government has consistently developed its urban policies as responses to rioting implementing place-specific programmes in riot-potential ghettos in cities across the country. This is shortsighted policy since it is temporary (most initiatives last 5 or 6 years), and avoids a holist strategy for dealing with the causes of poverty, despair and