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Michael A. Lebovitz


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The Contradictions of “Real Socialism”: The Conductor and the Conducted

By Michael A. Lebowitz

“The profound understanding in this new book of why twentieth-century attempts at constructing socialism failed must be an essential element in the socialist renewal emerging amid the first great capitalist crisis of the twenty-first century.” —Leo Panitch, editor, Socialist Register

 “Lebowitz shows, theoretically and historically, that the socialism practiced in the Soviet Union and Central Europe was doomed. There is a lot to learn here.” —Martin Hart-Landsberg, professor of economics, Lewis and Clark College

 “One doesn’t have to agree with all the theses presented in Michael Lebowitz’s latest book in order to acknowledge that this is a major contribution to the international debate on socialism of the twenty-first century.” —Michael Löwy, co-author, Che Guevara: His Revolutionary Legacy (with Olivier Besancenot)

 “What would Marx have thought had he lived to see the Soviet Union? Nobody has interpreted Marx to greater advantage to answer this question than renowned Marxist scholar Michael Lebowitz, who explains why Marx would not have been pleased!” —Robin Hahnel, professor of economics, Portland State University

 “We need this well-written book to understand that socialism did not die with the fall of the Berlin Wall.” —François Houtart, Executive Secretary of the World Forum for Alternatives

 “Where fresh insights are rare, indeed, Michael Lebowitz provides a bundle of them. Although no one will (or perhaps should) agree with everything here, the book provides rich material for badly-needed discussion.” —Paul Buhle, author, Marxism in the United States

 “A riveting exploration of what can be learned from the first attempts to create socialist systems, specifically the period from 1950 through the 1980s. Required reading.” —Fred Magdoff, professor emeritus of plant and soil science, University of Vermont

From the author’s preface:

This is not a book for those who already know everything important there is to know about “Real Socialism.” For those fortunate souls who have inherited or adopted the eternal verities of particular political sects on the left, empirical footnotes that strengthen their claim to leadership are the principal tasks of scholarship. As a result, the central question about this book for them is likely to be, “Is he with us or against us?” In short, is this book good for the chosen?

I presume, however, readers who begin with questions rather than answers. What was this phenomenon known as “Real Socialism,” or “Actually Existing Socialism,” a concept created in the twentieth century by the leaders of countries in order to distinguish their real experience from merely theoretical socialist ideas? What were its characteristics? How was this system reproduced? And why did it ultimately yield to capitalism without resistance from the working classes who were presumably its beneficiaries?

Michael A. Lebowitz is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, and author of The Socialist AlternativeBeyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class (winner of the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize for 2004), Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century, and Following Marx: Method, Critique and Crisis. He was Director, Program in Transformative Practice and Human Development, Centro Internacional Miranda, in Caracas, Venezuela, from 2006-11.

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