Charlie Post on Non Reformist Reforms

I read this article by Charlie Post in Jacobin today – What Strategy for the US Left. It’s a critique of an article by Vivek Chibber. Both were written a while back but my eyes was caught by the prominence of the concept of ‘non reformist reforms’ – Chibber advocates it and Post is a critic.

I’d love to write a full response to this if I had any confidence at the moment, but I thought I’d just scribble down some immediate thoughts.

I think Post is bang on in many of his criticisms of Chibber’s essay – *market socialism* really?? The fundamental thing Post puts his finger on is that most ‘reformist’ accounts of socialist strategy completely ignore the structural reliance of the state (and indeed *society*) on capitalist profitability – what Fred Block and Adam Przeworski refer to as ‘business confidence’. This is why there can be no unbroken line of reforms leading from capitalism to socialism.

But what annoys me about Post’s argument is:

1) Post makes absolutely no reference to the originator of the concept of ‘non reformist reforms’, Andre Gorz, who did precisely orient this concept in terms of a ruptural strategy.

2). As usual the focus is on the concrete obstacles in the way of attempting to use the capitalist state for socialist purposes but the correctness of the revolutionary strategy is simply asserted without any indication of any of the surely considerable concrete obstacles that might attend that. As usual it’s assumed that workers councils and a parallel workers’ state can and will spontaneously spring up and moreover develop to the very advanced point at which they might provide a credible total alternative in a situation of dual power in a state like the US. As usual Zero evidence for this.

3). Capital’s structural power applies to capitalist *society* in toto – not merely to the state. We are all highly dependent, in capitalist society, on capitalist investment. A mass movement outside the state in no way escapes this somehow. In a predominantly capitalist economy an investment strike, lay offs, severe inflation on consumer goods etc will cut across soviets as much as they would cut across the capitalist state. A mass movement outside the state does not somehow float free of the various problems of ‘business confidence’. The problem is private ownership of the means of production. The problem is not overcome in any other way than via expropriation – whether this is done by the existing state or something else is wholly secondary. The main problem is- how do we hope to get to the point at which expropriation (under democratic control) is actually on the agenda as an immediate possibility.

4). Gorz (and indeed Poulantzas) were simply making the (wholly obvious) observation that any process of radicalisation in an advanced capitalist democracy will not and cannot by-pass the state. Can you really imagine, against all the recent historical evidence, any process of socialist radicalisation not – at first at least – finding (partial expression) in some sort of electoral challenge? Structural Reform is simply recognition of this blitheringly obvious reality and an attempt to think through the process of harnessing it, to take it to the point where rupture becomes an actual possibility rather than an abstract orientation in a strategy of magical thinking

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