Inspired by the LA class proposal, 'the destructon of Socialism in America,' I am interested in something slightly less fatalistic.
The LA proposal reads:
"Phase 1- We'll all contribute, discuss literature from the period between ww1 and ww2 in which the socialist party of america was targetted by the Wilson Administration using his sedition act to jail it's leaders and finacial backers to lengthy prisons sentences and the following creation of American social sciences and introduction to higher education by John D Rockefeller Junior through the philanthropic institutions of Rockefeller Philanthropies, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, Social Science Research Center and the Problems and Planning committee (among others).
Phase 2- We'll dig up the texts to arrive at an understanding of american socialism at the time of it's eradication and we will restart the evolution of the philosophy from where it left off, publish our findings so that large scale participation can be acheived in the ideological advancement of socialism
Phase 3- The goal of the class will be to describe a viable tactic for separating socialism from it's association with the welfare/prison state created by the social sciences to replace socialism. We'll develop and implement strategies to gain popular support with the goal of creating a viable, popularly controlled entity that can challenge government power and force legislation that benefits the people."
I would be cuious to hear which parts of this people would be compelled to keep, and which could be modified. Which is to say, perhaps the first class ought to be a discussion of the concept itself. Is socialism the prefered name for the contemporary leftist imaginary? It's not at all clear to me that it is, and yet, at the same time, there is this strange attatchment to the word as the preferred slur of the populist right.
The work it seems, therefore, is twofold. On the one hand there is the practical question - what is socialism presently, and what has it been. And, second, what is the word socialism, and what has it, in turn, signified historically.
For example, seperate from this question of socialism-as-smear, there remain quite powerful anti-essentialist arguments against socialism made by the new social movements. These began to see theoretical articulation in the late 1970s and early 1980s through a revitalization of Gramsci's concept of hegemony, among many others. Most contemporary theory continues to operate within this paradigm, which is not self-evidently socialist, far from it, in fact. Any return to socialism, it would seem, must reckon not only with the current, largely semantic, insidiousness, but also with much more difficult and entrenched historical and theoretical legacies.
The reading list should be synthesized based on the interests of the participants.