The future of the Left, in the United States as elsewhere, is bound up with a larger question: What will it take to bring socialism back onto the popular agenda? In the eyes of many, the defeats of the past generation have been so crushing as to make this question no longer worth asking. By the same token, however; capitalism has come to enjoy a level of exclusive hegemony unknown since before 1917. In its current global incarnation, it is plunging more people into misery, at a more rapid rate than at perhaps any time since the beginnings of colonial conquest. The old first world suffers from aggravated social polarization, amplified by public-service cutbacks; what used to be the second world shows similar trends, but typically in more extreme form (in the Russian case, acute scarcity, a savage level of social breakdown, and a marked decline in life expectancy); and the long-misnamed third world, including its recently touted "tiger" economies, writhes under the impact of structural adjustment. While all this might seem at first only to reinforce the sting of defeat, it also sharpens the case for a revolutionary alternative.
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