Social Scientist. v 16, no. 185 (Oct 1988) p. 1.


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Editorial Note

The socialist world is in the midst of a major reform movement which is unparalleled both in its sweep as well as in its extent of geographical coverage. From Vietnam to Poland, profound changes are taking place in the mode of organisation of the economy and polity of socialist countries which are bound to have far-reaching consequences and which, understandably, have aroused keen debate. Some, notably bourgeois publicists, have seen in these changes the ultimate proof of the intrinsic unworkability of socialism, as a system sui generis, and are gleefully welcoming back into the fold of 'civilised', i.e. capitalist, nations, these errant countries which, according to them, are at last mending their ways. Socialist supporters of the reforms, on the other hand, see the changes as a bold new step forward along the path of socialism, a step that would make the system more vibrant than ever before. Still others, who also cherish in their hearts the socialist dream, are apprehensive that these particular reforms would deflect the socialist countries from their true course; would, instead of enabling them to transcend their current predicament, get them bogged down in a morass of unemployment, inflation and balance of payments difficulties, not to mention increasing economic inequalities across persons and regions.

No socialist, of course, can fail to be enthused by the greater openness of expression, the greater participation of the people, the greater freedom to voice discontent which the reforms have ushered in. The questions arise beyond this point: are the economic reforms, entailing changes even in property relationships, a necessary complement to these reforms in the polity, or is their inexorable logic going to run counter eventually to the direction of the political reforms, either shifting greater popular political participation, or pushing such participation into the altogether undesirable channels of regionalism, local chauvinism, etc? Shouldn't economic restructuring in a socialist country bear a specifically socialist stamp, or is there no harm to socialism if its economic restructuring resembles in many respects the efforts that capitalist countries make in restructuring their economics? And above all, since whatever happens under socialism cannot be looked at in isolation from the activities of imperialism, what do these reforms entail for the struggle against imperialism? To raise



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