While recent developments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union have undoubtedly dealt a severe blow to the world socialist movement, these developments, it should be remembered, represent the culmination of a process of reforms initiated in all cases by the ruling Communist parties themselves. This phenomenon, if we rightly reject the assumption that the socialist world should forever have remained frozen in the mould it had taken on earlier for a variety of historical reasons, raises a number of questions: were the reforms misconceived, and if so what should have been their shape? Is it possible to combine social ownership of the means of production at least in key areas with a decisive role of the free market or should the market be subordinated to some overall plan? Are free markets a necessary condition for the sustenance of democratic structures, or are such structures compatible with a system of overall planning? In either case, what should be the value of a socialist polity^ Then, going beyond 'ought' questions, can socialist structures, in particular social ownership, continue to draw sustenance from the commitment of the working masses to such structures or would they inevitably get dissolved in self-seeking apathy which bourgeois writers claim to be in conformity with 'human nature'? Can such continued commitment, if it is possible, provide the basis for an alternative work-motivation? And above all, if in the future socialist forces once again gain ascendancy in particular parts of the world, as they inevitably will since the current triumph of the so-called 'free market capitalism' is bound to be short-lived, what should they do to avoid traversing the same road which the earlier socialist regimes had done?
Answering these questions is tantamount to rethinking the basic positions which socialists, notwithstanding all their mutual differences, have subscribed to until now. Rethinking does not of course mean rejection, but a protracted process of such rethinking is a must for socialists today. In this context Social Scientist plans to bring out a number of articles by socialist intellectuals giving their own individual views on the kinds of questions raised above. These articles represent diverse positions and do not necessarily correspond to the views of the editorial board of the journal; they would, we hope, stimulate wide-ranging debate and discussion among socialists.
Social Scientist, Vol. 19, No. 7, July 1991