Is Socialism Doomed? The Meaning of Mitterrandby Daniel Singer

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<ul><li><p>Is Socialism Doomed? The Meaning of Mitterrand by Daniel SingerReview by: W. Rand SmithThe American Political Science Review, Vol. 83, No. 2 (Jun., 1989), pp. 675-677Published by: American Political Science AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 18/12/2014 13:59</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>American Political Science Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access toThe American Political Science Review.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:59:58 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Book Reviews: Cor arative Politics </p><p>(Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador from 1979); populist or non- socialist reformist regimes (Argentina under Peron); and finally the least industrialized, usually conservative or reactionary, regimes (Bolivia, Haiti, and Paraguay, among others). </p><p>Sheahan dissects them all, finding some to be unacceptable, others unhelpful, and very few potentially able to balance efficiency and equality in Latin American development. Socialist and populist regimes do not pursue macroeconomic balance because of their dis- dain for market forces. Yet Sheahan is also skeptical of the authoritarian conservative re- gimes, which he calls "market authoritarian." A close cousin of ODonnell's "bureaucratic authoritarian" state, the "market authoritarian" regime uses the power of the state to repress popular demands for greater redistribution of wealth but does not use the power of the state to promulgate statist economic policies, prefer- ring instead to rely upon market forces and economic efficiency. </p><p>Almost inevitably Sheahan's analysis brings him to a qualified endorsement of "middle- road market economies." Their modest abilities to balance the imperatives of the market against the imperatives of popular preferences hold out a glimmer of hope for reducing pover- ty, bolstering democracy, and holding depen- dency at bay. Mexico, Colombia, and Costa Rica "can scarcely be considered to have achieved the kind of egalitarian, participatory, self determined styles of development most of us would like to see.... [But] they have gone a long way through the strains of transition from old-style societies . . . toward urban-industrial economies able to reduce poverty and to re- spond to more diverse interests without falling into the reaction and the repression that hit Brazil and the Southern Cone. That is not everything but it is a lot" (p. 309). </p><p>Sheahan's analysis of development strategies lacks the heat of more highly charged and sweeping remedies for Latin American ills. Many may welcome this, but others may dis- miss it as too complacent about the value of the middle road. In his advocacy of the possi- ble, Sheahan may have granted too much to public choice and too little to structure. One thing is for certain: radicals will find little com- fort in his conclusion that "nothing inherent in Latin American conditions rules out either democracy or development or reduction of in- </p><p>equity, provided that each society manages to combine requirements for a well-functioning economy with specific measures designed to broaden participation" (p. 324). Sheahan dares to express a 'bias for hope," as Albert 0. Hirschman has done for so many years. </p><p>Latin America has few choices and must choose wisely among those it does have. For example, it must develop in a context of declin- ing but lingering dependence upon its North American neighbor. While the United States can, and sometimes even does, play a con- structive role in alleviating poverty, it is hard to do and usually does not succeed, Sheahan concludes. Latin America must look else- where or to itself, because the United States is "neither a consistent force for progress ... nor a monolith bent on domination" (p. 354). </p><p>Balance, pragmatism, and hope are them- selves not strategies but they are the essential values underlying workable strategies for de- veloping Latin America. In the din of uncer- tainty and confusion about the political econ- omy of development in Latin America during the 1980s, Sheahan, an economist, offers a calm and sophisticated analysis valuable to both political scientists and economists. </p><p>GuY POITRAS </p><p>Trinity University </p><p>Is Socialism Doomed? The Meaning of Mitter- rand. By Daniel Singer. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. 324p. $24.95. </p><p>The only people busier these days than Montmartre artists sketching tourists' portraits are political observers drawing lessons about the Mitterrand "experiment"-the nearly five years between May 1981 and March 1986 dur- ing which the Left ruled France for the first time under the Fifth Republic. Much was ex- pected of President Francois Mitterrand and his socialist legislative majority, who promised nothing less than to change the way French people lived. Indeed, this government accom- plished much during its first two years, includ- ing reforms in social policy, local and regional government, industrial relations, and industri- al policy. By 1986, however, the socialists' symbolic rose had wilted, and in legislative elections voters turned once again to the Gaullist-led Right, Most lesson drawers pro- </p><p>675 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:59:58 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>American Political Science Review Vol. 83 </p><p>claimed that the Mitterrand experiment had fizzled. </p><p>Daniel Singer, the Paris-based European correspondent to the Nation and author of studies of the May 1968 "events" in France and the Polish Solidarity movement, joins this fiz- zle school on its left flank. Mitterrand and the socialists failed, Singer argues, not because their program was too ambitious but because their political vision was too limited. Instead of promoting autogestion (self-management), the Left remained statist in approach, legislating in a vacuum and failing to mobilize public opin- ion or potential support groups. Although en- acting many reforms, the socialists abandoned the spirit of their program, "the promise to break with capitalism, to initiate a long march toward a different society" (p. 115). The French case, Singer concludes, demonstrates not that true socialism is doomed (since it was not tried) but that Western European social democracy, having grown content to manage capitalism's crises, has reached a dead end. </p><p>Singer develops his case by interweaving context, chronology, and polemic. The context when the Left took power was unpromising for radical reform: international recession, an ideological climate favoring market solutions over state intervention, and a political Left de- mobilized by the economic crisis and internec- ine struggles. The socialists thus came to power disarmed ideologically and organizationally. With a sure sense of postwar history, Singer places the Mitterrand-socialist government in both French and European perspective. </p><p>The book's core (part 2, entitled 'The Road to Surrender") chronicles the Left's early re- form wave followed by retreat beginning in 1982, when balancing its budget and trade ac- counts became the main objective. Bungled at- tempts to placate disillusioned party activists -for example, the 1984 educational reform debacle -only hastened the government's slide in popularity. While this story has long been known in France, Singer provides a vivid, bal- anced summary for a general English language audience. Here his on-the-spot observation post serves him well as he provides numerous trenchant and witty vignettes, especially of socialist politicians. Of Laurent Fabius, Mitter- rand's second prime minister, Singer writes, "He had the skill, so appreciated among the enarques [graduates of the elite National School of Administration], of being able to </p><p>plead anything and then its opposite" (p. 190). Mitterrand appears as a man guided more by opportunism than by vision: 'To cut the losses in order to remain fit to fight another battle had been the major art of his career" (p. 212). Far from adopting an egalitarian style, Mitter- rand, like General de Gaulle, remained at- tached to ceremony. For example, Mitterrand's only deviation from the general's protocol at weekly Council of Ministers meetings was to allow his ministers to serve themselves a glass of orange juice. </p><p>Singer's ultimate goal is not to tell stories but to draw lessons for European socialists. How- ever, his polemics fail to convince in several re- spects. One obvious problem with the 'Mitter- rand failed" school is that the man has proved to be far more unsinkable than the Rainbow Warrior (the Greenpeace vessel blown up by intelligence operatives in 1985). Recently re- elected to a second seven-year term, Mitter- rand II will indeed fight other battles-a dis- pleasing prospect, perhaps, to many, including Singer, but hardly indicative of failure. </p><p>Even granting that the socialists failed to ful- fill their promise, the question remains of whether another path, a "true" socialist pro- gram, was possible. Singer's argument presents three problems. First, while it is true that the Mitterrand-socialist government never at- tempted popular mobilization (whatever this would have meant), it is hardly obvious that such attempts would have worked, given the weakness, division, and demobilization of such groups as the labor unions. Moreover, successful mass mobilization, as Singer real- izes, would have forced the government to practice "permanent brinksmanship" with domestic and foreign opponents, thus running the risk of economic collapse and electoral de- feat. Given the fierce international financial pressures the socialists faced in 1982-83 after only a mild reflation, one wonders whether brinksmanship under such conditions would have guaranteed political suicide. Finally, Singer's own New Left-style proposals (espe- cially in chapter 12 ("Socialism and National Frontiers") and chapter 15 ("Socialism to Be 'Reinvented' ") are far too vague to inform any government's agenda. </p><p>The Mitterrand "experiment" indeed disap- pointed many observers, and Singer has pro- vided a biting critique from the Left. But the ultimate verdict on Mitterrand must await the </p><p>676 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:59:58 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>Book Reviews: Comparative Politics </p><p>last act, for the enigmatic leader who has been called both 'The Florentine" and Uncle"- the schemer and the benevolent buddy -still com- mands the stage. </p><p>W. RAND SMITH </p><p>Lake Forest College </p><p>The Political Economy of Modern South Africa. By Alf Stadler. New York: St. Mar- tin's, 1987. 197p. $35.00. </p><p>The Political Economy of Modem South Africa purports to identify and examine the kinds of constraints that would need to be "transcended in order for the significant changes to be accomplished" (p. 4). The book suggests that the decolonization of Mozam- bique, Angola, and Zimbabwe transformed the South African regional political and eco- nomic system by polarizing the contending forces into the coercive, repressive, and coop- erative powers (of the state) versus greater determination and militancy on the part of blacks, particularly the black working force. Dramatic economic decline in the 1970s cou- pled with the polarization of contending forces ushered the South African political economy into greater entropy. </p><p>It is against this backdrop that Stadler delin- eates the three significant features of the South African political economy that form the basis of the apartheid state. First he discusses the ex- tent to which the political economy, unlike the sub-Saharan African context, is controlled by "a domestic political class, by the presence of a local bourgeoisie, and by the increasingly inti- mate links that developed between the bour- geoisie and the state" (p. 22). He buttresses this position by showing that domestic investments by 1980 accounted for over 90% of capital for- mation. </p><p>Second, the close affinity between the state and dominant economic classes reveals a polit- ical economy with state corporatism tenden- cies. Stadler shows how the state provides "capital, technical assistance, and subsidies to producers and [controls] the production and distribution of agricultural commodities" (p. 23). Furthermore, the symbiosis between state and capital shows the state coercing and regu- lating the supply of labor. Such is the dialectic of the political economy of apartheid where </p><p>free market principles are often set aside to allow for the exercise of authoritarian controls to buttress an anachronistic social order. </p><p>Third, the cold war, East-West axis allows South Africa to be politically and economical- ly classified as among the procapitalistic, anti- communist elements of the international com- munity. The political economy of apartheid is thus fraught with contradictions enabling South Africa to thwart external and internal pressures for change. </p><p>In several chapters (5-8) of his study Stadler examines the subterranean logic undergirding the implementation of a convoluted and con- tradictory set of policies and strategies, the purpose of which is to guide "reform from above" as a reactive process "aimed at control- ling, containing, diverting and redirecting the pressures for change emanating from above" (p. 8). Stadler correctly sees this effort and other piecemeal and peaceful reform strategy being supported by liberals and the business community as stillborn, for they all lead to greater repression and exploitation, not greater equality and freedom. He sees them as being a part of "a defensive strategy designed to avert fundamental change, by a process of incremen- tal modification to the status quo" (p. 5). </p><p>Stadler's study is a useful insight into the substructure of the South African political economy, how it evolved, and how it sustains itself with the aid of the manifest contradic- tions of apartheid. If the study has shortcom- ings, it is Stadler's failure to develop a theoreti- cal perspective on the political economy of South Africa or to test alternative theoretical propositions relating to the direction and sur- vivab...</p></li></ul>