Left and Right

Marxism, Anarchism, & the Genealogy of “Socialism From Below”

by Tom Keefer

It is Marxism itself, in what was the best and most revolutionary in it, namely its pitiless denunciations of hollow phrases and ideologies and its insistence on permanent self-criticism, which compels us to take stock of what Marxism has become in real life.-Cornelius Castoriadis, The Fate of Marxism1INTRODUCTIONWe live today in an era in which socialism has largely lost its meaning, and at least in the mainstream political consciousness, much of its relevance. Its role as the bogeyman of U.S. empire has been replaced by Arab/Islamic “terrorism,” and even to those unconvinced by the triumph of capitalism and of “the end of history,” socialism’s meaning is obfuscated by an endless variety of parties, movements and states claiming to be socialist. The profusion of social democratic, Leninist, Stalinist, and Maoist governments over the past century which have failed to carry out their stated “socialist” objectives has dealt a serious blow to the integrity of the very concept of socialism and is largely responsible for today’s marginalization of revolutionary politics. Socialist organizations out of power have proved no better, as cultism, bureaucratization, and reformism have ossified and destroyed virtually every such grouping that has been able to amass more than a handful of members. Despite the best efforts of its founders, for most of the past century “scientific socialism” has become, as Cornelius Castoriadis puts it:

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