Social Scientist. v 16, no. 185 (Oct 1988) p. 69.

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Comments on the Question of 'Historicizing the Problems of Socialism'

It is with a degree of trepidation that one has accepted the role of discussant for this paper by Professor Bagchi, which by providing as it were a whiff of the thinking behind it, leaves one asking for more. Trepidation not merely because of the canvas he captures in his tersely written paper, but also because 'perestroika* as a movement raises issues which anyone even indirectly involved with the worldwide quest that the socialist ideal involves should have raised at every point of Ns education in pursuit of that ideal. This note has no intention of coming to terms with all of those evaded questions, but rather to presumptuously think aloud about that subset of issues foeussed upon by Professor Bagchi.

One must begin by venturing to summarise his concerns. To start with, one needs to understand why those questions were evaded even within the socialist, theoretical legacy—was it, as Prof. Bagchi suggests, because of the. obdurate survivals of old social and cultural values, which allowed bureaucratic rigidity ,to masquerade as socialist solidarity and the- discipline of socialist planning? The full implication Qf this assessment need§ to be stated. It is not merely that the many hardships that the^building of socialism involved resulted in the fact that the socialist m^n and womay^clung to older values that foreclosed critical appraisal of a system which in a sense was ahead of its times in the countries where it emerged. But also that in a world where capitalism coexists with socialism, 'if a socialist citizen remains a nationalist in his highest level of solidarity with his fellow human beings, there is a grave danger of his sliding into the consciousness of a revancNst, imperialist man in his identification with a Roman Catholic, Orthodox or even Protestant past, especially since a 'free* capitalist West remains a land of opportunity for eastern European migrants in the memory of many grandfathers and grandmothers of today's citizens.' Thus the attitude to socialism itself would not merely be coloured by 'feudal' and patriarchal hangovers, but by its ability to offer and correspond to that 'land of opportunity' as it were. In a queer reversal of the theoretical roots of the socialist legacy, the failure rather than the success of socialism is its inability to ensure much of what a capitalist system does.

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