Among the obstacles to contemporary socialist organizing is dealing with the myths created by Red-baiting during the 20th century and, more generally, working through the legacy of 20th century socialism. In "Why Marx Was Right", Terry Eagleton charts a course between the various socialist movements of the 20th century in order to test the ideas of socialism and historical materialism against their historical realizations. Through ‘myth debunking’, Eagleton creatively revitalizes the problem of how to bring Marxism into dialogue with normal, everyday notions about Left politics.
One of the most prominent features of the legacy of 20th century socialism is its staggering death toll, evident in movements from Maoism to Stalinism. The first session of this reading group will grapple with the question: is socialism inherently violent? We will read two chapters from Eagleton which consider the question of political violence through issues like: how to construct an economy that is both democratic as well as stable and plentiful?; how to understand when reforms can point toward revolutions and when revolutions are needed over reforms?; what are the preconditions for successful revolution and what might be its legacies?; what could liberal values such as free speech and human rights mean to socialists?
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