As I wrote in my blog on EGYPT — Looking Back (August 20, 2013), most times when I reconsidered “the big picture” in the wake of important happenings, my estimates and outlook have proved overly optimistic. I‘m afraid my pendulum is finally swinging the other way. Try as I may, I’m having trouble keeping faith that this sick world might one day really heal. It’s hard to envision how we might move from where we are today to a society truly organized on the basis of liberty, equality and fraternity, one fundamentally committed to peace and justice.
I dislike and resist this outlook. I know that it can sap the sense of what is good and beautiful about life, about people, about struggles that are vital to all progress, about ideals and commitment to combat oppression and exploitation. These values remain indispensable. They are a way of life, without which existence would be mean and empty. I also believe that every new generation will produce its challenge to the way things are, will not be bound by an older generation’s loss of faith in humanity’s future — and maybe one day will prove that a different and much better world is possible.
But I can’t be at all sure, as I once was, that a socialist world can emerge out of capitalism’s ruins. It’s not just about the current implacable horrors in Egypt and Syria that have overtaken the Arab Spring, or the imminence of new US military action to compound a poisonous legacy of unending imperialist intervention. Overall it’s recognition of how deep are the roots of this failed capitalist system in the ways of the world. In its decaying stage of imperialism (politely termed “globalization”), its stranglehold on economic and political “norms” engulfs all governments and suffocates aspirations for fundamental structural change. Major social reforms are always possible through determined popular pressure and struggle, but revolutionary efforts to transform nations repeatedly are undermined or corrupted by enormous pressures to conform to established mores of the existing “world order”.
Of course many rebellions and revolutions have been crushed by brute force: Chile, Guatemala, the Congo and the Czech “Spring”, to name just a few. But issues more difficult to understand abound in examining the revolutions that were sustained for a significant period in the last almost one hundred years, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam, South Africa and others. The differences between them are substantial, even fundamental, but all have been distorted and deflected significantly from their original course in adjusting to the “real” world.
The disappointments and even tragic contradictions don’t negate the enormous achievements of each of these revolutions for their own people and for the world. That’s a separate matter, though it’s important to reject gross misrepresentations that dominate the media and much conventional history.
But as I am looking reluctantly today at the downside of events, troubling questions persist. Yes, we can make big strides forward on vital social issues — but is there “world enough and time” to break free of the dead weight of a system whose essence is greed and inequality, the planet be damned?