Michael Lebowitz: The path to human development -- capitalism or socialism?

The following is the preface to an important article in the March 2009 issue of Monthly Review by Michael Lebowitz, entitled "The path to human development: capitalism or socialism?". Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal encourages its readers to follow the link below to the full article. Michael Lebowitz will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit http://www.worldATACrossroads.org for full agenda and to book your tickets.

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By Michael A. Lebowitz

If we believe in people, if we believe that the goal of a human society must be that of “ensuring overall human development”, our choice is clear: socialism or barbarism.

These concluding lines from “The Path to Human Development” appear on the back cover of one Venezuelan edition—a pocket-sized edition much like the widely circulated “Socialism Does Not Drop from the Sky” (chapter 5 of Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century -- Monthly Review Press, 2006). The other edition, together with an extended edition of that latter essay (including my “New Wings for Socialism” from the April 2006 Monthly Review), is being published as The Logic of Capital versus the Logic of Human Development for the communal council libraries in Venezuela.

Both editions depart from the traditional format for books (and Monthly Review) because of the numbering of sections and paragraphs. There is a reason for this. While the analysis of capitalism and the presentation of a socialist alternative are there for individual readers (for whom the numbers are unnecessary), collective readers are the real target for this work. In other words, “The Path to Human Development” has been prepared to support educational and political discussions in Venezuela (in, for example, trade unions, communal councils and socialist formations). Numbering sections and paragraphs facilitates this kind of discussion. In short, this work is not at all intended as an end product to be consumed by an individual passive reader; rather, its purpose is to be a means to encourage collective struggle against capitalism and for socialism. As the line which precedes those quoted above indicates, “we know we have to be prepared to fight.”

Obviously, it is not only in Venezuela that we have to be prepared to fight for a society which permits the full development of human beings. As an example of the important work it does, Monthly Review’s policy of placing its articles online will make it possible for organisations to make whatever use of “The Path” they think may help the struggle. I think that this is one of the many contributions that the people at Monthly Review regularly make through its press and now MRzine. In my talk about the booklet at the Venezuelan Book Fair last November, I quoted Bertolt Brecht, “reach for the book: it is a weapon”, and noted that “The Path to Human Development” was written to be a weapon. In the struggle against barbarism everywhere, we need many weapons.

To read the `The path to human development -- capitalism or socialism?', please click HERE.