Leo Panitch and Greg Albo (eds)
Socialist Register 2017: Rethinking Revolution, London: Merlin Press, 2016; 363 pp.: ISBN 978-0-85036-725-6, 17.95 [pounds sterling] (pb)
The 2017 Socialist Register is composed of 18 chapters that deal with the question of the meaning of revolution in our present, also drawing from the heritage of the Russian Revolution, but explicitly trying to look 'forward more than back' as highlighted by Leo Panitch and Greg Albo in the preface (p. ix).
One of the major contributions of the book is certainly the variety of problems touched upon, across regions and more broadly at the global level. Particular attention is dedicated to ecological challenges. Andreas Malm argues that more or less everyone involved in social struggles is 'objectively fighting global warming, whether or not she or he cares about it or suffers its consequences' (p. 136). The importance of the ecological problem is echoed by David Schwartzman who suggests that even though 'eco-catastrophe is not inevitable, its potential is growing and we already witness ever-stronger signals' (p. 144). The collection also provides useful summaries of left and social movements' experiences worldwide. Individual contributions range from the assessments of the leftist in Latin America to the discussion on the potential of the recent experiments of Sanders and Corbyn, from the experiences of left governments in Bolivia, Venezuela and Greece to the prospects of a revolutionary process in Quebec and South Africa. Certain essays also try to contribute to a theoretical understanding of the revolution. For example, Adolph Reed provides a thought-provoking critique of antiracist and other identity-based tendencies within the left that lean more towards groupist stances than solidarity. As a great deal of attention is dedicated to the problem of organization, August H. Nimtz seeks to demonstrate that, although Marx and Engels have not theoretically articulated specific principles regarding the revolutionary party, their political activities can shed some light on their approach to revolutionary organizing.
The second, and perhaps most important, achievement of the collection is that the authors openly identify in the weaknesses of the world's left a major factor contributing to the current persistence of neoliberalism. In their critique of contemporary left, the authors seem to suggest that increasing democratization and actions from below are both possible and crucial...