The Corner

Politics & Policy

Re: The Green Leap Forward

In response to The Green Leap Forward

My own column on the Green New Deal will appear here tomorrow, but Kevin’s post below seems a good opportunity to quote Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s 1947 meditation on the future of socialism for Partisan Review. In it, he wrote:

If socialism (i.e. ownership by the state of all significant means of production) is to preserve democracy it must be brought about step by step in a way which will not disrupt the fabric of custom, law and mutual confidence upon which personal rights depend.

That is, the transition must be piecemeal; it must be parliamentary; it must respect civil liberties and due process of law. Socialism by such means used to seem fantastic to the hard-eyed melodramatists of the Leninist persuasion; but even Stalin is reported to have told Harold Laski recently that it might be possible…. There seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.

Socialism, then, appears quite practical within this frame of reference, as a longtime proposition. Its gradual advance might well preserve order and law…. The active agents in effecting the transition will probably be, not the working classes, but some combination of lawyers, business and labor managers, politicians and intellectuals, in the manner of the first New Deal.

If the Schlesinger of 1947 were to object to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green Leap Forward, his reservations wouldn’t have been about the direction of the leap, but — perhaps — the overly ambitious chasm it tries to traverse.

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