Dear Editors…

Herbert Marcuse in 1968

I came to your site seeking modern socialist writers and thinkers. My landing page was about Marcuse, lacking author and date. According to the article, Marcuse was born in the 19th century, but is alive and possibly well in 2022. I doubt that.

I read similar things about other historical socialists, written apparently by various writers and edited subsequently. There is a voice of a modern editor in some places, not much in others. There is even some ‘but we know now’ commentary without any discussion of ‘who we are and when.’

I then allowed myself the distraction of discerning who your group proposes to be and could only develop a negative image of what and who you are not. I hold religion, for example, much as you do, I think. Yet I read a claim that all religion is founded on a capital or leadership/control impulse which is false: religion and most all original magical thinking is a human response to death and emotional loss. Organized religion is a way of leading, purifying, and socializing those emotions and with rites and rules to help people move beyond grief. It has also served to join in the times of oppression and war. Yet the costs of organized religion, at least Christianity, exceeded benefits after it joined and assimilated into the all conquering, all powerful Roman Empire, which it still acts as successor having destroyed local paganism in Europe, controlled doctrine by punishment, exile and assassination, wars killing millions and inquisition. When rulers didn’t do its bidding, mobs were activated.

Religion will not disappear, nation-states will not dissolve, and value exchange tools like money will not disappear. As much as all absolute power corrupts absolutely, leaders are needed by nearly everyone. Structure is needed by mostly everyone and laws and authority must be used to keep us all civil.

So socialism taking hold may come, but from what I read here it will be the day after thermo-nuclear war and last about a day.

My critique, to return, is the absence of all you disown does not define something many humans can believe in or even hope for. It remains undefined as you have left it. It seems it can survive only in that form, since any definition, scope, methods or limns subject it to the realities of human nature, human needs and desires, and the reality that much of our structures and norms you discard, even those as outdated and counterfactual as superstition-religion.

Mark Bonine


Nostra culpa on Marcuse, it was an old text we should have revisited, and you’re right that there are different texts with different writers. We’re in the process of revising the website but it’s a big job.

You say that religion is a product of human magical thinking, and thus inevitable. It may be human, but that doesn’t make it inevitable. Science is also a product of human creative thinking. Wherever knowledge prevails, science advances and magical thinking retreats.

You also seem to argue that nation states and hierarchies are necessary evils to ‘keep us all civil’. This is a ruling class narrative element derived from Thomas Hobbes which, like the Bible story of original sin, has no science behind it and exists only to make you do as you’re told without question. It’s also an abnegation of individual power. The first act of a revolutionary is to ditch that subservient mindset.

Moreover it’s a feat of mental gymnastics to describe the global slaughter and planet-threatening destruction of the past hundred years as ‘civil’. These institutions don’t prevent or mitigate murder, wars or repression, they instigate and drive them, just as they are currently driving climate change, species extinction and possibly the next nuclear war. With ‘protectors’ like the capitalist ruling elites, nobody needs enemies.

As for socialism, if we tend to define it by what it doesn’t have, i.e, markets, states, leaders, money, etc, it’s because any attempt to be too prescriptive or predictive could easily be wide of the mark. When we started in 1904, the world was still using gas lamps and Hansom carriages. We can’t really guess what the world will look like even 30 years from now. Socialism is a global non-market society of free access and democratic common ownership. What more can we say? — Editors

Next article: Cooking the Books 1 – The moral mess ⮞

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