From International Socialism, No.24, Spring 1966, p.28.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Paul Mattick’s article Socialism and Humanism (IS 22), if I understand it correctly, does not sufficiently observe the inherent difference between the humanism of the intellectual or middle-class person who realises that his humanism, or just ‘humanism,’ implies a socialist formation of society, and the proletariat’s demand for socialism not on abstract ‘humanist’ grounds but as a part of natural economic conflict and development. Mattick writes from the viewpoint of the intellectual abstracted from practical involvement, and can thus say that to him ‘humanism as a practical reality presupposes socialism.’ Yes indeed – but socialism does not presuppose full socialist humanism. It is too easy for the theorist to feel that the same forces that drive him towards socialism – those of humanism – are shared by the proletariat, and thence to imagine that the attitudes that accompany his socialist-humanist approach are also to find fulfilment naturally in the establishment by the proletariat of a socialist state. This is in effect reducing the aim of a socialist humanism to no more than the economic reordering of society – but surely those advanced humanists will wish to expand their attitude which supports their socialist view of the economy, into fields where the tendency of the proletariat, which has no humanist basis abstracted from economic pressures, will go the opposite way by and large – one thinks of racialism and sexual mores, criminal law and respect for minorities, where only the most unrealistic and Utopian socialist would claim that a proletariat in a socialist economy will have the ‘progressive’ views which socialist theoreticians may consider to be indivisible from thek general socialist-humanist philosophy?
Abstract socialist humanism is not the quality of an economic class: it is the quality of an elite, a vanguard, an ‘enlightened’ socialist intelligentsia in affluent advanced capitalist society. Mattick’s last sentence, ‘The resumption of the struggle for socialism would also be the rebirth of socialist humanism,’ would better read that the resumption of the struggle for socialism does not of itself fulfil the need and desire for a general socialist humanism. The difference has not been so apparent to us merely because so much of our socialism in the advanced capitalist countries is guided by the socialist-humanist intellectuals rather than by an ‘unsophisticated’ proletariat. We may well have to force ourselves to conclude that it should remain so if a rationalised humanist rather than a purely ‘natural’ socialist society is to prevail.
Last updated on 24 April 2010