A New Kind of Socialism - help?
January 30, 2014 11:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm up late working on research for an article about, for lack of a better term (at least for now), millennial socialism. For the past forty years the many splintered socialist movements in the United States, even though in the strictest sense of the word "socialism" is an economic theory, have zeroed in on social and equality issues that have focused on "identity politics" versus income disparity, class politics, organized labor, and - if you will, traditional European "socialist" views. {Disclosure: I have no dog in this fight and am looking at this strictly from a point-of-view that there is a major shift among U.S. socialists toward class politics versus the many splintered single-issue identity and cultural wars.} My question is inside....

I have studied many U.S. socialist/communist/leftist parties and have read many articles concerning the sea change in what "socialism" means to millennials (and others as well). Much of this change is subtle, while much of it is a simple priority shift that seems to have not even taken the identity socialist history into consideration. It is like a whole new view of socialism, based not so much on U.S. history of failed movements, as a fresh look at the economic theories that are based on class and income inequality - agnostic as to race, gender, sexual preference, etc.

I find this fascinating, while not personally taking a position. I mean it when I say I have no dog in the fight - this is strictly an article on a new and growing body of evidence that this sea change is real.

I have found myself drawing a research blank as to organized socialist movements that are openly promoting this new view of socialist politics. I read articles and monographs from socialists who seem to be averse to "joining" and are taking a go-it-alone approach. Some do seem aware of the old sectarian fighting and splintering and see it as dysfunctional and want no part of it.

But, surely, there is an organized socialist movement, party, study group, etc. who have articulated this new position promoting this new "millennial socialism." (Again, my probably temporary term.)

Any assistance in pointing me to groups, parties, etc. on the left who are openly promoting this new all-inclusive "economic-centric socialism" (European-style, if you will) would be very much appreciated.

As always, MeFites, I appreciate your help and, in advance, thank you for any and all assistance. I marvel at the minds that gather here.

posted by Gerard Sorme to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I will give you the National Writers Union, part of the UAW.

I am trained in Labor Law for independent writers. So if you want any help, you can write to me. Because I am all about helping my brothers and sisters.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:46 PM on January 30, 2014

Seems to me like you are claim there has been a reversal of what Nancy Fraser in 1996 called a move from the politics of redistribution to the politics of recognition. Maybe you can mine more recent citations to her. She might be a useful foil for your argument, in any case.

I have no concrete suggestions but if I were you I would also check out the editorial staff and contributors at Jacobin Magazine. Peter Frase, Mike Beggs, maybe the heterodox Marxist folks in the economics department at University of Massachusetts--JW Mason, perhaps? Mike Konczal, too (not sure if he's from UMass). And he's not new at all, but Doug Henwood (of the Left Business Observer) has his eye on this sort of thing.
posted by col_pogo at 12:40 AM on January 31, 2014

I'm a bit confused about your basic premise. It sounds like you're suggesting that the past forty years of US socialist political thought has been focused on identity politics and that the "new" versions of US socialist thought are more focused on inequality and class issues? (That wouldn't be millennial socialism - that would be kicking it old school.)

If that's your assertion, I can tell you that US socialists have maintained a focus on class and inequality issues. The introduction of identity politics created tensions (of the collegial sort) because, basically, it turns out that the demands of identity politics are easily satisfied -- token representations -- and all the arguing over which identities get representation basically diverted attention from the robber barons who were sinking the US economy. But the socialists groups I know of were still focused primarily on economic class issues. (I cite the Democratic Socialists of America's efforts around single payer health care - including a national speakers tour -- back in the nineties. Or their stand against NAFTA. These were not identity politics issues and they've never been off the agenda.)

Joe Schwartz, a socialist, covers this ground in his book The Future of Democratic Equality.

The issue of identity politics is an interesting one. I would argue that everyone, including the media and popular culture, became preoccupied with identity politics because the political right saw that it would work to their advantage and stoked the fires (see: the rise and uses of the term political correctness).

At the end if the day, I would argue that "popular discourses around identity politics (generally, and on the Left) drowned out socialist voices and contributions," rather than "socialist turned their attentions to identity politics and away from economic class issues)

You can google groups like DSA and look at past newsletters/publications/conference agendas/etc. also check the Socialists Scholars Conference and the Left Forum.

I'm hopeful that "young people not focusing on identity issues" is a direct, successful result of all the work the oldies have been doing agitating and raises kids with better values (gay rights, for example, and how kids don't care whether someone is gay or not.)

And keep in mind that there is a difference between "focusing on the economy INSTEAD of identity politics" and "focusing on the economy and integrating cultural/identity experience and the politics of privilege and discrimination."

I for one have now lived long enough to see efforts wax and wane. There have been times (and movements) where economic analyes have accounted for identity intersectionalities very very well. (You can find good examples of this in many different decades..30's, 50's, 70's, 90's...I'm seeing a trend.) I'm hoping we're moving into another one of the "waxy times." Having written this out, I see we're OVERdue.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:18 AM on January 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

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