Chris Harman


Paper Radicals

(Autumn 1967)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.30, Autumn 1967, p.33.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Radical Papers
Ed. Irving Howe
Doubleday, $1.45c.

Fabianism has always combined a willingness to countenance the major dimensions of the existing system with a Utopian belief in the ability of men of good will to change individual, particularly nasty, aspects of it. The result has always been a combination of simplistic naiveté with the nastiest forms of realpolitik. The latest collection from the American ‘democratic socialists’ around Dissent is no exception. For them it is the Democratic Party that has to be permeated and the welfare state that can be influenced. The fact that both embody quite definite social forces, and will only change when these are changed, is ignored. Where repression exists, as in Harlem, it is blamed on ‘moral indifference, social timidity and racial meanness.’ The ongoing systems of exploitation that constitute these hardly exist for the authors. Above all the realities of modern society are just ignored. ‘The Western democracies are still far less guilty ... of the drive toward transforming man into a passive object manipulable in behalf of abstract slogans, production plans and other mystifying apparitions ... than the Communist nations.’ It might seem like this to the liberal sociologist, but one doubts if the difference between life on the factory floor in Moscow and Detroit is perceptible. The very real ‘manipulation’ of men with napalm and other means in Vietnam is dismissed in an aside as ‘failures, stupidity and reactionary.’ Despite the general tone of the book one or two essays, in particular the one by Harold Rosenberg, are worth reading.

Last updated on 16 November 2009