The IIPPE Socialism Working Group (SWG) aims to bring together researchers from both Marxist and heterodox economic traditions to study, develop and critically apply appropriate political economy methodologies and frameworks for transcending capitalism. While the whole IIPPE political economy project has a Marxist presence at its core, the intent is to engage across the broad heterodox spectrum of theoretical and applied viewpoints about socialism that are being energetically debated in today’s rapidly changing world. Further, from the very nature of its subject, the study of socialism must be interdisciplinary. This defines political economy as an appropriate tool, broadly defined to include insights and content at least from philosophy, sociology, anthropology, political science and economics. Neoclassical economics and its recent imperial reflections in some of these other fields is particularly unsuited as a tool of any genuine value.
Two particularly visible broad approaches stand out in the current debates on the theory and practice of building socialism. One approach sees socialism itself as the appropriate goal of the anti-capitalist struggle, and seeks both to define it and debate how to achieve it in this framework. The Market Socialism approach is one such important current. The other sees socialism as a phase in the process of a transition from capitalism to a communist mode of production, and likewise then seeks to define it and debate how to achieve it within its framework. The SWG aspires to include both these approaches and all other currents of thought on socialism in its discussions and debates concerned with moving beyond capitalism.
It is impossible to discuss either theoretical or applied ideas concerning building socialism today without being confronted with the issue of evaluating the social experiments in the 20th century that claimed to be building socialism and communism. The SWG considers one essential component of its work to be to study, discuss and debate these experiments, looking in particular for both positive and negative lessons from them that can inform our work today.
At the time of the formation of this Working Group in 2008, Latin America has placed itself at the leading edge of new anti-capitalist struggles. In line with IIPPE’s goal of linking theoretical and concrete analysis, this imposes a particular task on the SWG of carefully studying these processes today, often vaguely referred to as “Socialism of the 21st Century”, again for both their strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, the SWG holds that theoretical and applied struggles in all countries to transcend capitalism are linked. There are also important lessons to be learned for the world struggle for socialism from countries where socialism is definitely not on the immediate agenda. Last, and by no means least, the current crisis of the world financial system, with the USA in the lead, has sharply exposed both the deeply dysfunctional nature of contemporary capitalism and the ideological acrobatics of neo-liberalism in embracing a sort of selective “socialism for the bankers”. The policy of seeking to save the financial system at whatever the cost to the economic and social provision it is purported to serve offers the prospect of promoting the case for socialism in material and ideological terms.
The IIPPE Socialism Working Group will address, along with other issues that present themselves as our work develops:
The initial goal of this working group is to facilitate the sharing of information and the interchange of ideas among academics or activists engaged in studying or building socialism. A first activity of this type will be to develop on its Web page a listing of relevant published and unpublished material, and then if the group desires, to go on to create some sort of appropriate channel for the interchange of ideas.
This working group is intended to contribute panels to IIPPE conferences, and hopefully eventually to conferences of other appropriate groups. Its first planned activity of this latter type will occur at the same Historical Materialism conference in London, November 7-9, 2008, that will see the official launch of the IIPPE.
To apply to join the IIPPE Socialism Working Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.