There is now a renewed interest in socialist ideas, an appetite to better understand how the world works and why it works in the interests of such a small minority. There’s a craving among a much bigger layer of people for ideas about what we do about the preposterous injustices of capitalism. These appetites and cravings need to be fed and satiated with ideas and arguments about what socialism is and importantly, what it is not (i.e. the 57 varities of the Stalinism of the twentieth century).
Sean Matgamna’s book, Can socialism make sense? An unfriendly dialogue, is, as he writes in the introduction, “a contribution to the urgent work of rebuilding a mass working class socialist consciousness, and perspective, and a movement that embodies and fights for them”.
This book is just what is needed at just the right time. This is not a book to be put in a pile by your bed, or on the bookshelf next to other good books you dip into now and again to bolster yourself up. This is a book to be read in a couple of sittings and to be discussed with anyone you can get into a conversation with about socialism. It’s a book you should always have a spare copy of to sell. And it’s book that should be part of your basic tool kit in the fight to create a world where meeting human need is the start and end point.
The big ideas in Can socialism make sense? are presented the first part in a really useful format — as a dialogue between a Marxist and a critic. It goes through fundamental arguments about socialism and leaves you inspired to go and find someone to persuade. The second part of the book is key texts from Marxists and useful debates with leading right wing theoreticians. It’s readable and inspiring. It focuses and invigorates the mind. It educates and agitates the reader and leaves you with no other honest conclusion than you have to organise. You’ve got to go and fight for these ideas. And we have to fight for them in a confident, self-assured way.
It’s not really a question of can socialism make sense? It’s an assertion that the liberation of humanity depends on fighting for and winning the ideas for socialism. We’re pitched against a class that has a sense of self-entitlement in its very DNA. Even when rocked by their self-inflicted crisis of 2008, their confidence and audacity leads them to conclude that working-class people the world over can be sacrificed in order that these few can hold their power and profits.
Can socialism make sense? asks the reader to rise to the occasion, and grasp the new opportunities facing us. Our class has to develop a sense of entitlement and take, as a class, what is rightfully ours. We can only do this through self-education and educating each other. We have to do this in a way that relates to people where they’re at, and the real world around us. We do it through discussion and argument, the opposite to hectoring, glorifying and repeating mantras. We have to learn to think for ourselves, in the interests of our class. We have to set out to make a long-lasting, useful impact on the current situation. To do this we have to be confident, bold and unflinching, armed with a set of ideas that can turn the world upside down; ideas that will help us reshape the world to meet human need. Can socialism make sense? is a useful contribution to this task.
Copies of the book can be bought online here.