It’s Not Over

Thinking about the basic contours of a better world is a prerequisite to becoming effective in bringing about a better world. The march forward of human history is not a gift from gods above nor presents handed us from benevolent rulers, governments, institutions or markets — it is the product of collective human struggle on the ground.

It's Not Over coverThe path to a better world can’t be found without knowledge of history. It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment analyzes the 20th century attempts to supplant capitalism in order to draw lessons with application to the emerging and future movements that seek to overcome the political and economic crises of today. This history is presented through the the words and actions of the men and women who made these revolutions, and the everyday experiences of the millions of people who put new revolutionary ideas into practice under the pressures of enormous internal and external forces. This is history that can be applied to today’s struggles to shape our world, in which new ideas are emerging to bring about the economic democracy that is indispensable to a rational and sustainable future.

We are now several years into an ongoing economic crisis has led millions of people around the world to question the economic assumptions that they have long lived with, and to begin to seek out new ideas. As part of this process, people will inevitably look to the attempts to supplant capitalism in the past and want to know more about them. After frank examinations of the Soviet Union, the Prague Spring of Czechoslovakia and Sandinista Nicaragua, It’s Not Over concludes with a chapter on why we have the difficulties we do under capitalism, and ideas and discussion of what a better world might look like.

It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment is published by Zero Books. Copies are available from online sellers at well below the list price. And please encourage your local public and university libraries to carry the book.

It’s Not Over on Goodreads, with links to several online book stores, libraries that carry the book, and reader reviews: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27180526-it-s-not-over

Buy the book online at this link or at this link or at this link.

Official Zero Books page: http://www.zero-books.net/books/its-not-over

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“As Cold War taboos on honest discussions of capitalism and socialism lose their force, important books like this are emerging. They ask why capitalism keeps provoking movements to go beyond it, why they have not yet achieved that goal, and what we must learn from them so the next efforts prove more effective. Dolack here contributes to the vital emerging answers.”
Rick Wolff, author of Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism and host of the Economic Update radio program

“There is a great amount of knowledge to be gained from this ambitious work that takes us from the Paris Commune to the Sandinista revolution. It’s Not Over sifts through more than a century of revolutionary history persistently seeking the lessons to be drawn from it for the construction of a non-capitalist world. The result is original and useful book that should not be missed.”
Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation and co-founder of the International Feminist Collective

“Over two decades following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this book provides a timely and comprehensive appraisal of its internal and geopolitical contradictions and a grounded general schematic for workers’ movements which will form and build new socialist states in the near future. Dolack cogently recognizes the incredible advances of socialism in improving the quality of life among workers and peasants. The lessons of It’s Not Over point to the fundamental significance of worker control in organizing a sustainable and equitable system of social exchange.”
Immanuel Ness, City University of New York and author of Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class

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It’s Not Over Table of contents:

1: Foundation for isolation: The revolutionary period of 1917-1921
Arc of a movement: Fervent militancy to quiet accommodation in Germany
Acceleration in retrograde: Social democracy marches off to war
The paths of experience: Rebellions and schisms as nationalism fades
Preparing the spark: Russia’s long decades of struggle
Russia can’t stand still: February’s thaw brings October’s storms
The elusiveness of power and fragmentation of the parties: The crisis of October
Taking power: Coalition or the dustbin?
The German revolution: Fueled from below but guided from above
Impatience and reaction: Disorganization in German streets is countered by organized force
Blind to the right: Social democracy gives the counter-revolution a free hand
Revolution in Europe: Wishful thinking or a near miss?
Fight to the finish: The civil war in Russia
Ebb tide: The Communist International orders a revolution and fails
2: The socio-economic bases for the rise of the Stalin dictatorship
Lenin’s goal of a reduced state, and the opposite results
The Bolsheviks ban opposition and take away their own freedom
Lenin rethinks his views in his final days, and Stalin sees his opportunity
The bureaucracy underpinning Stalin’s power, and the party’s desire to back the majority
The origins of the cult of personality, and its effects on the struggle for control at the top
The surprising tepidness of change on the shop floor and in the countryside in NEP Russia
The debate over “socialist accumulation” and the gathering crises of standing still
The social forces for collectivizing agriculture from below, and the harshness of commands from the top
Material incentives and labor discipline in industrialization
Fear at the top and terror below during the Great Purges
The results of a personal dictatorship and the morbid decay of a system stripped of all moorings
3: The destroyed experiment of a developed, industrial state: Prague Spring
A popular beginning is overtaken by a larger neighbor
An early attempt at establishing workers’ councils in Poland and Hungary
An increasing chafing at political and economic bottlenecks
A country in ferment begins to find its voice
A question of pace: Too fast, too slow, or irrelevant?
A first foot forward: The Action Program
A series of responses from inside and outside
An acceleration of economic reform and the first formations of workers’ councils
A decision that reverberated for decades: The Soviet Union invades
An experiment in economic democracy continues (temporarily) as more workers’ councils are formed
A process of “normalization” turns into a rout
4: The destroyed experiment of an undeveloped, agricultural state: The Sandinista Revolution
Nicaraguan leaders provide “profitable investment,” with one exception
Multinational corporations extract profits from Central America, with some assistance
Somoza offers bucks for friends, bullets for enemies
Sandinistas struggle to find the right strategy, cope with life underground
Nicaraguan insurgency becomes a mass movement, defying organized terror
New government begins process of rebuilding, with strains showing early
Pressure from below shapes agricultural policy, with tensions
Competing economic interests grow more irreconcilable, destabilizing the multi-class coalition
Creating mass-participation democracy is one task, maintaining it is another
The United States funds a terror campaign, assisted by Sandinista high-handedness
Colonialism is easy to understand when you are on the wrong end, harder from the power end
Elections instituted by a vanguard party demonstrate support for revolution, despite sabotage
Nicaragua provides another lesson in the high cost of the rich, as the revolution is brought to an end
Nicaragua’s women take some steps forward and some backward, mirroring historical experience
The Sandinistas learn to become an opposition force, but develop into a conventional party
5: The dissolution of the Soviet Union
Sometimes yes, sometimes no: The contradictions of Khrushchev’s reforms
Ideology over intellect: The parallels of Leonid Brezhnev and George W. Bush
Look down below: Reform plans and intellectual ferment under the surface of stagnation
Fruits of stagnation: The complexity of structural dysfunction
Steel teeth and a fast start: Gorbachev makes his first moves as general secretary
More stick than carrot: Uneven implementation of the enterprise law of 1987
Differences come out in the open: The party is not so monolithic after all
Pushing back: Unrest develops as the slow pace of reforms fails to improve living standards
Man without a plan: Unable to make a decision, Gorbachev opts for capitalism
Grabbing power: Yeltsin creates a dual government
Steel into air: The August putsch brings down the curtain
Shock therapy: Unprecedented collapse as the “Chicago School” conducts an experiment
“Chopping the Gordian knot”: Capital slices through democracy
6: Imagining a better world is the first step
Explorations in theories of transition to and from capitalism
Explorations in theories of the continuing dominance of capitalism
Conceptualizations of the economic barriers to democracy under capitalism
Conceptualizations of the sociological barriers to democracy under capitalism
Conceptualizations of the financial barriers to democracy under capitalism
Conceptualizations of the nationalist barriers to democracy under capitalism
Notes toward a philosophy of political democracy
Notes toward a philosophy of economic democracy
Cooperating for the future or competing for the end

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Hear an interview with me conducted by Rick Wolff on the Economic Update radio program (second half of program), recorded in February 2016:

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34712-economic-update-lessons-about-and-from-socialism

Hear an interview with me conducted by Doug Lain on the Zero Squared podcast, recorded in March 2016:

http://douglaslain.net/zero-squared-59-its-not-over/

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Read excerpts from It’s Not Over:

What might a cooperative economy look like?

Colonialism and nationalism in the building of liberation movements

The forgotten workers’ control movement of Prague Spring

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A short excerpt from It’s Not Over has been published on the HOWL (Humanities Opposition World League) web site. You can read the excerpt here: https://119howl.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/from-its-not-over-learning-from-the-socialist-experiment-by-peter-dolack/

 

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I will be giving a talk on Saturday, June 30, on the untold story of the 1968 Prague Spring is the grassroots movement for workers’ control of industry and economic democracy, during which workers began organizing a socialized economy under popular control. This talk and discussion will take place in the second-floor conference room of The Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

This talk will be based on research I conducted for my Prague Spring chapter in my book It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment and other writings on economic democracy. The book will be available at a steep author’s discount for anyone interested, but please come even if you aren’t going to buy a copy.

Histories of the 1968 Prague Spring tend to focus exclusively on the drama inside the leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and the personality of reformer Alexander Dubček. The fuller story of the Prague Spring is the grassroots movement for workers’ control of industry and economic democracy.

Although reformers within the Communist Party sought significant reforms to the overly centralized system copied from the Soviet Union, including advocacy of workers’ councils, there were significant differences between the more modest reforms put forth by Czechoslovak economists and the more thorough-going concepts of activists and workers themselves.

This was a true grassroots effort, mostly organized by trade union officials and rank-and-file Communist Party members. One interesting wrinkle is that unions, representing members as individuals and freed from state control, would continue to exist alongside the workers’ councils. All this was to happen in a socialized economy in which formal ownership would continue to reside with the state but in which state and party control would be drastically curtailed.

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One comment on “It’s Not Over

  1. Al Markowitz says:

    Looks like an important book, I’ll have to put it on my list though money, even for is always a struggle. Part — a vital part — of “how we get there” is countering the crippling effects of toxic bourgeois culture. In that regard, I edit the Blue Collar Review, a journal of progressive working class literature with an emphasis on poetry. Unless we foster a class-conscious culture of militant solidarity, we are stuck. Check out the journal site (the actual journal is printed on paper), maybe we can exchange links as I really like your site.

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