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A "razor-sharp" introduction to this political and economic ideology makes a galvanizing argument for modern socialism (Naomi Klein) -- and explains how its core tenets could effect positive change in America and worldwide. In The Socialist Manifesto, Bhaskar Sunkara explores socialism's history since the mid-1800s and presents a realistic vision for its future. With the st A "razor-sharp" introduction to this political and economic ideology makes a galvanizing argument for modern socialism (Naomi Klein) -- and explains how its core tenets could effect positive change in America and worldwide. In The Socialist Manifesto, Bhaskar Sunkara explores socialism's history since the mid-1800s and presents a realistic vision for its future. With the stunning popularity of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Americans are embracing the class politics of socialism. But what, exactly, is socialism? And what would a socialist system in America look like? The editor of Jacobin magazine, Sunkara shows that socialism, though often seen primarily as an economic system, in fact offers the means to fight all forms of oppression, including racism and sexism. The ultimate goal is not Soviet-style planning, but to win rights to healthcare, education, and housing, and to create new democratic institutions in workplaces and communities. A primer on socialism for the 21st century, this is a book for anyone seeking an end to the vast inequities of our age.


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A "razor-sharp" introduction to this political and economic ideology makes a galvanizing argument for modern socialism (Naomi Klein) -- and explains how its core tenets could effect positive change in America and worldwide. In The Socialist Manifesto, Bhaskar Sunkara explores socialism's history since the mid-1800s and presents a realistic vision for its future. With the st A "razor-sharp" introduction to this political and economic ideology makes a galvanizing argument for modern socialism (Naomi Klein) -- and explains how its core tenets could effect positive change in America and worldwide. In The Socialist Manifesto, Bhaskar Sunkara explores socialism's history since the mid-1800s and presents a realistic vision for its future. With the stunning popularity of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Americans are embracing the class politics of socialism. But what, exactly, is socialism? And what would a socialist system in America look like? The editor of Jacobin magazine, Sunkara shows that socialism, though often seen primarily as an economic system, in fact offers the means to fight all forms of oppression, including racism and sexism. The ultimate goal is not Soviet-style planning, but to win rights to healthcare, education, and housing, and to create new democratic institutions in workplaces and communities. A primer on socialism for the 21st century, this is a book for anyone seeking an end to the vast inequities of our age.

30 review for The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    You'll be much better off with: Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present //April 14, 2020 Update: --After the collapse of the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign and its absorption into Biden/corporate imperialism, foreign policy journalists Max Blumenthal & Ben Norton critically reflect on Sanders and his campaign (including the role of Jacobin magazine/author Bhaskar Sunkara), in particular the American exceptionalism that sadly plagues the US Left (progressives/socdems/demsocs): -Part 1 (mo You'll be much better off with: Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present //April 14, 2020 Update: --After the collapse of the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign and its absorption into Biden/corporate imperialism, foreign policy journalists Max Blumenthal & Ben Norton critically reflect on Sanders and his campaign (including the role of Jacobin magazine/author Bhaskar Sunkara), in particular the American exceptionalism that sadly plagues the US Left (progressives/socdems/demsocs): -Part 1 (mostly Bernie, on Jacobin at 45:00): https://youtu.be/QrnQm9Y9_zU -Part 2 (details on Jacobin/Progressive media): https://youtu.be/B3I5MgbOvFo -On Russiagate/Progressive media: https://youtu.be/8676Q93GW1k?t=6957 --This American exceptionalism can be characterized by constant vilification of non-Western countries ("authoritarian", "dictator", "that's not real socialism!") and even promotion of intervention while simultaneously failing to halt the export of military/economic terror or achieve anything close to real socialism at home in the comfort of "democracy". --Should this critique be less severe in this review since the book simply omits contemporary foreign relations? We must then ask: how can a manifesto for socialism omit this, especially in the context of the US empire?! --We find the same omission (with a British context) in the more-overt NATO supporter Paul Mason's Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. Thus, this is another one of those books that is frustratingly difficult to rate, where the original intent had so much potential but the delivery leaves behind too many concerns... //Book review: The Adequate: 1) The Intent of Accessibility for American audiences: --We certainly need to engage the American public as corporate centrism escalates the age of inequality and fuels the cancer of reactionaries. This book (author is founder of Jacobin magazine) makes an attempt. --The big question tied to "accessibility": who is the target audience? I assume it is the same mass crowds the Bernie Sanders campaign has been able to bring out, i.e. a broad range of progressives/independents and "default liberals" (my way of distinguishing from "devoted liberals" i.e. Democrat Party hacks). --Some reviewers I follow laud the first chapter of the book, which describes a simple, fictional socialist transition within a Western factory. Economic democracy within the workplace (micro-level) is a promising start, but there are much better intros to the topic: -Yanis Varoufakis: Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present -Richard D. Wolff: Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism). ...I expected more than a brief and rather unambitious micro-level story, since we are already brushing over the tough bits: i) Realistic threats of capitalist reactionary violence. ii) Macro-level social imagination especially from a global perspective (global trade, imperialism, etc.) --If our imagination is so moderate, how will we have the fortitude to sustain ourselves through these struggles? 2) History of socialism (esp. Germany, Sweden, USSR, China, US): the bulk of the book is crash-course case studies. Once again, a useful component but questionable execution. ...Accessibility and crash-course "armchair" histories result in my concern of the lack of historical context (discussed later). While I can see radicals picking up this book and engaging with the commentaries (filling in certain contexts, debating the author's views), I have trouble imagining the average Bernie supporter appreciating the meaning of socialism to the global oppressed especially in the Global South from this book (having read Bernie's book Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In). Building this context takes time (I provide suggestions at the end). Instead, we may be left with what another reviewer (Avery) describes: The majority of this book is just a fairly trite and tepid history of socialism. I'm wondering what the point of this book was, especially considering it hardly makes socialism look viable or appealing. The Good: The contradictions of Social Democracy (i.e. capitalist economy + state redistribution + parliamentary democracy): --In the case studies (especially Sweden), this is spelled out. Let us unpack it together... --The Soc Dem class compromise is predicated on economic growth. This means the redistribution principle (which attempts to guarantee some level of existence for the masses, as opposed to just their economic values on the labor market) is still predicated on capitalist profits; while booming, capitalists may consent to sharing (cost-effective, as opposed to dealing with labor disputes). --However, unlike the rhetoric of capitalist/free market utopia (some natural, harmonious equilibrium of perpetual growth raising all boats), capitalism in the real world is a dynamic engine of lurching instability (and social power conflicts). In fact, capitalism's very dynamism is its systemic volatility! This is not examined here. For accessible intros, try: -Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works - and How It Fails -World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction --Those whose survival depend on wage labor are often swept up by the tides of "creative destruction" mechanization (leading to structural unemployment, forced migrations, overproduction leading to crisis of profitability), rising inequality (accumulation: money makes power, money makes money), financial crises (as credit disappears from speculative bubbles bursting, debts become unpayable), etc. --Thus, during inevitable downturns, Soc Dem unravels as the capitalist class (owning the capital) reconstitutes their class power. This can take 2 forms: a) More technical and less vulgar way: for example, Neoliberalism (including Soc Dems going the “Third Way”) following the decline of post-WWII boom/Bretton Woods/Golden Age of Capitalism, uses privatization, austerity, hording, threats (capital flight, embargo, or worse), and externalizing risk with new forms of extraction (ex. Financialization/debt peonage, corporate globalization by expanding property rights into intellectual property while outsourcing production). b) More vulgar way: scapegoating (with xenophobia + cruel nationalism) to unleash direct violence, like Nazism/Fascism following the endless Great Depression and Global Trumpism following the not-ending Great Recession. --Vijay Prashad illustrates this vividly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z11oh... The Contentious: What to make of the Socialism of Third World Revolutions? --The book’s purpose is to make socialist history and concepts accessible to Western audiences. However, there is a danger in presenting examples from drastically different historical and material contexts, for example Swedish Soc Dem side-by-side the Russian and Chinese Revolutions + rapid industrialization. --For Western audiences, Swedish Soc Dem is relatable with its level of established economic privileges and lack of foreign threats. The context of Russia and China prior to their revolutions is frankly unimaginable. Thus, without a serious and pain-staking attempt to establish this context, we end up with: 1) Romanticized views of Swedish Progressive Soc Dem, of its peaceful class collaboration and productive outcomes in a modern setting of (capitalist) "democracy", as if this was a ready option for those struggling in colonial/feudal backwaters. This same enthusiasm is reversed into hostility towards Third World Revolutions (i.e. "that's not Socialism, that's Communism", "we don't support [real world] Socialism, we want Democratic Socialism"). 2) Focus on some inherent violence of communism/real-world socialism, as opposed to the overwhelming direct violence of capitalism (starting with underdevelopment over-exploitation from colonialism/global capitalism, then endless acts of military and economic terror to sabotage alternatives) to hold onto its global division of labor/resources and prevent alternatives, indirect violence of justifying domestic self-defense (thus authoritarianism), and the violence of rapid industrialization (which the West did in dark satanic mills, fueled by New World genocidal pillage and slave plantations). --It is easy for those sitting in privilege to condemn others in profoundly different historical and material contexts. There seems much on the surface to condemn. But Marx was all about first investigating the historical and material contexts; in that spirit, we need to take a step back and consider the unequal exchanges between the privileged and the condemned. These are not nations in isolation; one side exports violence and extracts wealth (i.e. imperialism). For those who bemoan the violence of the condemned, perhaps we should prioritize what we are responsible for and condemn the exportation of violence first and foremost. Suggestions (for historical context of real-world socialism): --I'm accumulating a playlist on Global South Socialism, featuring Vijay Prashad, Michael Parenti, Utsa Patnaik, Max Blumenthal, etc.: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... --Highlights include: i) Michael Parenti: -on Cuban Revolution: https://youtu.be/npkeecCErQc -full: https://youtu.be/O8k0yO-deoA?t=27 ii) Vijay Prashad -on ideological censorship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jKcs... --In-depth: -Washington Bullets -The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World -The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World -Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World --As for comparisons, other perspectives need to be included. The numbers in global mortality (let alone famine deaths) are impossible for the developed West to intuitively grasp. The Western anti-communist anthem is to recite famine deaths, particularly of 1959-61 China under Mao. Curiously, there is a neighboring country (India) with: i) a similar historical context (large population of agrarian economy ravaged by colonialism, see: Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World), and ii) conveniently went a separate route of industrialization (parliamentary democracy + liberal market) during the same time frame. --Consider the comparison made by 2 prominent socdem(!) development economists in Hunger and Public Action: 1) China’s dramatic rise in life expectancy occurred prior to its 1979 market liberalization’s economic growth: In fact, it seems fairly clear that the Chinese growth rate was not radically higher than that of India before the economic reforms of 1979, by which time the tremendous surge ahead in health and longevity had already taken place. In the pre-reform period, agricultural expansion in particular was sluggish in China, as it was in India, and the dramatic reduction in hunger and undernourishment and expansion of life expectancy in China were not ushered in by any spectacular rise in rural incomes or of food availability per head. […] This is indeed the crucial point. The Chinese level of average opulence judged in terms of GNP per head, or total consumption per capita, or food consumption per person, did not radically increase during the period in which China managed to take a gigantic step forward in matters of life and death, moving from a life expectancy at birth in the low 40s (like the poorest countries today) to one in the high 60s (getting within hitting distance of Europe and North America). [p.208] 2) China’s focus on social support: As far as support-led security is concerned, the Chinese efforts have been quite spectacular. The network of health services introduced in post-revolutionary China in a radical departure from the past—involving cooperative medical systems, commune clinics, barefoot doctors, and widespread public health measures—has been remarkably extensive. The contrast with India in this respect is striking enough. It is not only that China has more than twice as many doctors and nearly three times as many nurses per unit of population as India has. But also these and other medical resources are distributed more evenly across the country (even between urban and rural areas), with greater popular access to them than India has been able to organize. Similar contrasts hold in the distribution of food through public channels and rationing systems, which have had an extensive coverage in China (except in periods of economic and political chaos, as during the famine of 1958-61, on which more presently). In India public distribution of food to the people, when it exists, is confined to the urban sector (except in a few areas such as the state of Kerala where the rural population also benefits from it, on which, too, more presently). Food distribution is, in fact, a part of a far-reaching programme of social security that distinguishes China from India. The impact of these programmes on protecting and promoting entitlements to food and basic necessities, including medical care, is reflected in the relatively low mortality and morbidity rates in China. [p.209] 3) Despite China’s Great Famine, how do life-expectancies compare? Finally, it is important to note that despite the gigantic size of excess mortality in the Chinese famine, the extra mortality in India from regular deprivation in normal times vastly overshadows the former. Comparing India's death rate of 12 per thousand with China's of 7 per thousand, and applying that difference to the Indian population of 781 million in 1986, we get an estimate of excess normal mortality in India of 3.9 million per year. This implies that every eight years or so more people die in India because of its higher regular death rate than died in China in the gigantic famine of 1958-61. India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame. [p.214-215]...Note: stellar radical political economist Utsa Patnaik disputes the Western mainstream famine death methodologies cited by (liberal) Sen: https://mronline.org/2011/06/26/revis...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Urgent and emphatic, The Socialist Manifesto draws upon the history of socialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to consider what forms the ideology might take in the twenty-first. Written by Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara, the book starts off strong by imagining what a robust but necessarily imperfect socialist state might look like today; so, too, does the work end on a high note by succinctly overviewing socialism’s recent resurgence among young and working people, while also offer Urgent and emphatic, The Socialist Manifesto draws upon the history of socialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to consider what forms the ideology might take in the twenty-first. Written by Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara, the book starts off strong by imagining what a robust but necessarily imperfect socialist state might look like today; so, too, does the work end on a high note by succinctly overviewing socialism’s recent resurgence among young and working people, while also offering a fifteen-point blueprint on how this raw energy might be converted into a lasting movement. The middle section, which reads like a collection of long-form pieces, hops from country to country (England, Germany, Russia, Sweden, China, etc.) charting the history of socialist activism and government from the mid-1800s to the present. These chapters are too selective and rushed to work well as cohesive introductions to socialism in each country, but the book’s still worth checking out for the middle’s occasionally insightful historical analysis as well as the visionary start and end.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steffi

    The Socialist Manifesto (Basic Books, 2019) by Jacobin founder and publisher Bhaskar Sunkara. Spoiler: it’s not a manifesto, but it probably sells more copies calling it a ‘socialist manifesto’ than ‘a brief history of socialism or towards socialism of the 21st century’. And this is a great thing because this book is part of the ongoing popularization of Marx, rescuing Marx from the Marxisms of the 20th century for the 21st century. Yes, the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ experiments of the 20th century in R The Socialist Manifesto (Basic Books, 2019) by Jacobin founder and publisher Bhaskar Sunkara. Spoiler: it’s not a manifesto, but it probably sells more copies calling it a ‘socialist manifesto’ than ‘a brief history of socialism or towards socialism of the 21st century’. And this is a great thing because this book is part of the ongoing popularization of Marx, rescuing Marx from the Marxisms of the 20th century for the 21st century. Yes, the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ experiments of the 20th century in Russia, Eastern Europe and the 3rd world were NOT democratic alternatives to capitalism. I think we can all agree on this. But neither was social democracy able to deal with the inherent contradiction and crises of capitalism. I think this much is also clear by now where social democracy is either fully centrist (US), dying (Germany) or already dead (France). So what could a democratic socialist alternative look like and how do we get there? The book provides some of the latest thinking on this, with a practical focus on the US and a potential path towards democratic socialism under President Sanders come January 2021. Rather than providing (yet another) critique of capitalism, the book provides contours of democratic socialism in the 21st century, with all its globalized complexity. The author reminds us that socialists from the beginning have been students of history and he provides a very useful overview of the 19th century origins of socialism, the defeat of the radical left in the west in favour of social democracy in post-war Europe and not even social Democrats in the US ; the revolutions in Russia, China and other parts of the 3rd world and the authoritarian nightmares that ensued. This is an important background to avoid making the same mistakes of authoritarian socialism from above (including a tyranny of bureaucrats and central planning disasters) but also the mistakes of social democracy’s futile attempt to administer capitalism with a social face. If you don’t want to read this book, you can also listen to the recent The Vast Majority podcast episode with an interview with the author.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Allen

    This is an excellent introduction to socialist history and to the current democratic socialist agenda. Sunkara points to where repressive communist regimes went wrong while creating a hopeful narrative of socialism's successes and humanitarian potential. Those who wish for more in-depth analysis of communism's tragic episodes should delve into the abundant academic literature. Sunkara surveys history accurately and accessibly for a young, popular audience of democratic socialists while also prov This is an excellent introduction to socialist history and to the current democratic socialist agenda. Sunkara points to where repressive communist regimes went wrong while creating a hopeful narrative of socialism's successes and humanitarian potential. Those who wish for more in-depth analysis of communism's tragic episodes should delve into the abundant academic literature. Sunkara surveys history accurately and accessibly for a young, popular audience of democratic socialists while also providing a road map to building a socialist movement. There are moments of subtle humor.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Doug McNair

    This is a useful, enjoyable, and oddly misnamed book that succeeds on many levels but fails to deliver on its stated promise. I suppose Mr. Sunkara named it “The Socialist Manifesto” to show his Marxist bona fides and possibly lay claim to Marxism for the Millennial socialist movement in America. But instead of a manifesto, almost all of the book is a well-written and engaging short history of socialist movements in Europe, the Third World, and the United States. The author, a self-described pes This is a useful, enjoyable, and oddly misnamed book that succeeds on many levels but fails to deliver on its stated promise. I suppose Mr. Sunkara named it “The Socialist Manifesto” to show his Marxist bona fides and possibly lay claim to Marxism for the Millennial socialist movement in America. But instead of a manifesto, almost all of the book is a well-written and engaging short history of socialist movements in Europe, the Third World, and the United States. The author, a self-described pessimist, pulls no punches in describing how and why the socialist movements of the19th and 20th centuries failed to achieve their goals -- and in particular how authoritarian communism came about in Russia and China. I was particularly fascinated by his history of Maoism, which was an attempt to impose socialism from above on a society that had none of the preconditions for socialism that Marx had laid out. As such, it was an authoritarian project from the get-go, making China’s current status as an authoritarian regime a foregone conclusion. His history of socialism in the United States through the 20th century doesn’t fill one with hope for socialism’s future either. Instead, he pins his hopes on Millennials, who have no memories of the Cold War or Tienanmen Square and therefore aren’t automatically turned off by socialism the way we older folks are. The problem is that the author’s excellent historical narrative and analysis gives us the expectation that he is leading up to an equally excellent plan for bringing a successful non-authoritarian socialist movement to the United States. It’s here that he falls flat. He acknowledges up front that “We can’t rely on the professed good intentions of socialist leaders: the way to prevent abuses of power is to have a free civil society and robust democratic institutions.” (p. 39) But while at the end of the book, he gives a 15-point plan for transforming the most capitalist nation on earth into a socialist nation, that plan includes measures that would vastly increase central government authority while providing no checks on that authority and no plans for stopping the slide into authoritarianism that his 20th century history of socialism warns us against. He argues that American federalism is antidemocratic and that it should be replaced by a strong central government with a unicameral legislature and mechanisms for passing national laws by popular referendum. But . . . how to keep that increase in central government power from causing an increase in central government corruption and abuse of power? To that, he devotes just two sentences: “Naturally, there are lessons from the Communist movements’ time in power: the difficulties of central planning, the importance of civil rights and freedoms, what happens when socialism is transformed from a democratic movement from below into an authoritarian collectivism. But pluralism and democracy are ingrained not only in civil societies in the advanced capitalist world but within the socialist movement itself.” (p. 249) That’s all -- just a statement of faith that we won’t slide into authoritarianism because we’re too attached to pluralism and democracy. Well . . . everybody in the 1920s and ‘30s knew Germany was the most enlightened nation on earth, and so they dismissed Hitler and the Nazis as a joke. The lesson of history here is that authoritarian leaders are dazzling at eliminating the very checks on authority that Mr. Sunkara puts his faith in to keep us free. The Nazis and the Communists removed the obstacle of civil society not by banning it outright, but by co-opting it: establishing government-run organizations that duplicated the functions of independent civil organizations, then incentivizing people to join them (with a carrot or a stick, as needed). Soon, the government was dictating what sorts of civil organizations were acceptable and what weren’t, and it was just one easy step beyond that to dictate what forms of speech, expression, and thought were acceptable too. Those who got with the program got government approval and the power that went along with it. Those who refused got sent to gulags or concentration camps. Nevertheless, Mr. Sunkara’s actual manifesto at the end of the book does contain some things Millennial socialists need to hear. Of particular importance is his takedown of identity politics and callout culture, which he says “will lead us down the path to a hyper-individualized and antisolidaristic politics. Hyperbole and the politics of personal shaming are a recipe for demoralization, paranoia, and defeat.” (p. 248) Amen to that. But his call for a return to class-based politics faces an uphill battle in a social-media age where everyone is sorting themselves into tribal groups rather than finding ways to build bridges to natural allies. I agree with Mr. Sunkara that identitarianism is antithetical to socialism in a multicultural society. Any American socialist movement must be universalistic, or it’s doomed. So overall, this is a good history book but not much of a manifesto. He needs to develop a plan that’s based not on faith in capitalist societies’ devotion to pluralism and democracy but on mechanisms designed to keep the system democratic and non-authoritarian. Frankly, there’s none of that here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jules

    The intro hooked me with it's look at workplace inequalities and precarious position of American workers and the idealization of what workplaces could be under a democratic socialist system. I expected an interesting book on the history of socialism, issues with/affects of capitalism and how it can be implemented or something generally tangible. It's more of a bro-cialism book downplaying historical issues with socialism (gulags, famines, etc) because things did improve! The section on modern so The intro hooked me with it's look at workplace inequalities and precarious position of American workers and the idealization of what workplaces could be under a democratic socialist system. I expected an interesting book on the history of socialism, issues with/affects of capitalism and how it can be implemented or something generally tangible. It's more of a bro-cialism book downplaying historical issues with socialism (gulags, famines, etc) because things did improve! The section on modern socialism/future of socialism lionizes Jeremy Corbin and rehashes Bernie's loss to Clinton. I have 41min left and I can't decide if I can stomach any more.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Why waste time choosing among 10 000 yogurt flavors? Your leaders could tell what is the best flavor and you could spend your time foraging the streets like rats, mice, raccoons or homeless dogs.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    To be a socialist today is to believe that more, not less, democracy will help solve social ills – and to believe that ordinary people can shape the systems that shape their lives. Bhaskar Sunkara's whole short career on the American left has been building to this moment, when he can release a book proudly claiming the Marxian legacy and defend socialism in layperson's terms as the most democratic, most humane and most logical replacement for a rapacious, corrupt and dehumanizing capitalism. Unfor To be a socialist today is to believe that more, not less, democracy will help solve social ills – and to believe that ordinary people can shape the systems that shape their lives. Bhaskar Sunkara's whole short career on the American left has been building to this moment, when he can release a book proudly claiming the Marxian legacy and defend socialism in layperson's terms as the most democratic, most humane and most logical replacement for a rapacious, corrupt and dehumanizing capitalism. Unfortunately, Sankara manages to do all of that in the first chapter – which, to be clear, is excellent, one of the best leftist essays I've ever read. That leaves the rest of the book, which is essentially a series of brief histories of major socialist movements and why they failed, followed by a brief list of steps that Sunkara lays out for effecting the transition from capitalism to socialism. In the end, none of it holds a torch to that first chapter, in which Sunkara displays a dry wit and an easy ability to grasp and relay in real-world terms the nature of capitalism and why it seems increasingly to stifle rather than enhance our lives today, using a farcical example of a pasta-sauce bottling plant owned by rock star Jon Bon Jovi. The histories are enlightening – and a useful counterweight to the reflexive anti-left narrative that has held sway in U.S. history books since the Cold War, although Sunkara still acknowledges and condemns the devastation of Stalin's purges and Mao's incompetence, among other failures. But ultimately this is not a manifesto. Certainly, it makes a strong case that socialism ought to be recovered from the dustbin of history where it was thought to permanently reside after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that capitalism is itself much more an obstruction to true democracy than Americans especially are likely to assume. But there's nothing here as memorable as Marx and Engle's opening line of their own manifesto ("A spectre is haunting Europe") – or the closing one ("Workers of the world, unite!"), and the book despite its relatively svelte 243 pages feels a trifle too long. To modify a famous phrase, when you imitate the king, you best not miss. Sunkara doesn't necessarily miss, but he doesn't hit it either. Of course, it's not like Marx and Engles' work holds up perfectly today either. In the end, Sunkara thankfully sheds his more acerbic, you might say arrogant, style to write a short, engaging and pleasant argument against capitalism – and conversely for socialism. However, his argument for how to get from the former to the latter isn't much more than tacked on, when it should be central to the book, and that ultimately has always been the trouble with socialism. For all the sense it makes on paper, getting it to work in real life has been elusive. Sunkara remains optimistic in the possibilities for socialism; I hope for all our sakes that his optimism is not misplaced.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eric Bottorff

    Beginning and end sections are the strongest. The middle chunk of the book, which traces the history of socialist movements and policies over the years, is competently done, though is both over- and under-detailed, depending on the particular focus. (Too much on the interwar German left, not enough on socialist movements of the Global South.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Avery

    The majority of this book is just a fairly trite and tepid history of socialism. I'm wondering what the point of this book was, especially considering it hardly makes socialism look viable or appealing. The majority of this book is just a fairly trite and tepid history of socialism. I'm wondering what the point of this book was, especially considering it hardly makes socialism look viable or appealing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julesreads

    The Socialist Manifesto isn’t a manifesto. So, right there, it fails on its title’s intention. Streamlining an incredible amount of history (the coverage of socialism’s/communism’s failures in Germany, Russia, and China takes up most of the book) into an easy narrative, and keeping the book under 250 pages, is actually a disservice to Sunkara’s attempt to really reach its audience. Someone unfamiliar with all of this stuff and perhaps on the fence about socialism (and god help us if you are one The Socialist Manifesto isn’t a manifesto. So, right there, it fails on its title’s intention. Streamlining an incredible amount of history (the coverage of socialism’s/communism’s failures in Germany, Russia, and China takes up most of the book) into an easy narrative, and keeping the book under 250 pages, is actually a disservice to Sunkara’s attempt to really reach its audience. Someone unfamiliar with all of this stuff and perhaps on the fence about socialism (and god help us if you are one of those “on the fence”) will likely be swallowed up by the amount of information being tied together. Indeed, as a friend put it, much of the book comes off as this: “okay, here’s what’s happened so far, and now that you’re caught up, trust me, here’s how it’s gotta be.” This kind of approach to a vast and complicated subject is a risk. And I’m not sure why it had to be so. This book could’ve (and should’ve) been 500+ pages. Naomi Klein, another pop-political writer, has mild tomes in her name, and they’re readable and incredibly informative. Sunkara should’ve gone for it. Instead, what we have is a compromised project. There isn’t enough analysis for someone familiar with the history and/or ideas presented, and not enough time to breathe and review for a layman. That said, it is a fun narrative and it is impressive how well he puts it all together. I read the book rather quickly, never felt overwhelmed (though sometimes I did feel a bit bored), and understood his arguments (and with the help of my other reading pursuits, was able to parse out where I thought he was being a bit too prescriptive/dismissive of communism). Part of this understanding came from the last couple of chapters, one of them entitled “How We Win,” which is often a forced inclusion to such a book, and here it still lacks the emotional force of a manifesto-like screed on the necessity of socialism. Democratic socialism is not my bag, per se (marxism all the way), but I didn’t feel the passion in Sunkara’s decry. On page 235, he says: “With the bedrock of a class politics, identity politics has become an agenda of inclusionary neoliberalism in which individual qualms can be addressed but structural inequalities cannot.” I wanted more of this throughout the book, not 8 pages from the finish. It stands to reason that a book aimed at a general public supposedly virgin to (or at least only mildly familiar with) socialism enough to be intrigued by a “manifesto” would probably respond to more rousing statements such as the one found in the middle of pg. 235 rather than a swirling history of failed (and specious/abusive) communist enterprises (though is may also be my biases). Sunkara has seen it as important to admit the failures of communism, and not to run away from their history, but at the same time, I don’t see the point in creating a socialist manifesto around the most massive “failures” of communism, which is intertwined with socialism in many fundamental ways (and more importantly is intertwined in a way I think many layman’s will see them). This is giving ground to right-wing and neoliberal criticisms more than it is inspiring the troops, so to speak. This is just my opinion, of course, but I see Sunkara’s vast efforts as coming off more “dud” than “thud.”

  12. 4 out of 5

    Henri Vickers

    One of the most important general audience books written on the socialist left in the past few years. A must read and a tool for anyone looking to rebuild radical egalitarian politics in today's hellscape. One of the most important general audience books written on the socialist left in the past few years. A must read and a tool for anyone looking to rebuild radical egalitarian politics in today's hellscape.

  13. 4 out of 5

    June

    Part 1 (history of socialism) is succinct, sharp, a well curated guide, a nice surprise out of my expectation. Part 2 (acclaim the roadmap!) at least changed my (a catch 22) perspective towards the socialism and the states.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Sunkara provides a brief, yet informative overview of the history of socialism, bringing to light both its positive and negative impact on society, and argues that a return to the most hopeful aspects of this political philosophy is the best path forward for preventing unrestrained capitalism from further increasing inequality and the deterioration of our planet. In other words, the author might say, when nothing goes right, go Left.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Black

    While not exactly a manifesto, that is a statement of principles and beliefs, this does go into many beliefs and principles of socialism and Marxism. More than a manifesto, I’d call it an introduction to the history and principles of socialism. Don’t mistake me to imply this is a 101 book, an intro text. This is deep and rife with history. I came away with a bit more connection to the long history of worker strikes, walkouts, and more in this country. The author knows his stuff. Only the smalles While not exactly a manifesto, that is a statement of principles and beliefs, this does go into many beliefs and principles of socialism and Marxism. More than a manifesto, I’d call it an introduction to the history and principles of socialism. Don’t mistake me to imply this is a 101 book, an intro text. This is deep and rife with history. I came away with a bit more connection to the long history of worker strikes, walkouts, and more in this country. The author knows his stuff. Only the smallest bit has permeated my thick skull. Heartily recommend this book for any and all Americans or citizens of the world, if you believe in Democracy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    rosalind

    041520: reason stricken: there’s a reason people don’t get excited about socialist potentialities (it’s that socialism is inherently transitory). eta: ok looking at this without having taken way too much benadryl this is a bad take but i’m still not interested in this book

  17. 5 out of 5

    C G Beck

    The beginning and end serve as a manifesto of sorts, though most of the book is dedicated to a brief but thorough historical overview of socialist movements throughout the world. Regardless of your political disposition, this book is a great objective preview, including the "good and bad," of a movement that is once again gaining steam. The beginning and end serve as a manifesto of sorts, though most of the book is dedicated to a brief but thorough historical overview of socialist movements throughout the world. Regardless of your political disposition, this book is a great objective preview, including the "good and bad," of a movement that is once again gaining steam.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David Flood

    The Socialist Manifesto is an excellent primer on how Socialism has developed over the course of the last century. The first few chapters clearly and simply define all the terms you need to navigate the last few chapters. Throughout it speaks plainly on where socialism has come from, how it has faltered but more importantly, what we have learned and how we can use the outlook of socialism to more effectively seize the power of the working class to win political gains for all. Sunkara does an exc The Socialist Manifesto is an excellent primer on how Socialism has developed over the course of the last century. The first few chapters clearly and simply define all the terms you need to navigate the last few chapters. Throughout it speaks plainly on where socialism has come from, how it has faltered but more importantly, what we have learned and how we can use the outlook of socialism to more effectively seize the power of the working class to win political gains for all. Sunkara does an excellent job covering all the bases of an increasingly fractured political landscape (particularly in the US) and effectively relating how socialism speaks to the concerns of the groups. This is probably an excellent read for anyone who’s recently gotten into Bernie Sanders and the things he’s talking about.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dobbs

    I was really disappointed by this book! Maybe it would be great for someone who knows nothing about Socialist history or theory, but for someone who does it just doesn’t go far enough. I was also disappointed that there was no mention of Venezuela, a very brief touch on Cuba, and zero mention of socialism in Canada. It seemed like the author only wanted to talk about instances where Socialism became authoritarian, not where it has been successful. Also, the fact that it spent all of about 2 minutes I was really disappointed by this book! Maybe it would be great for someone who knows nothing about Socialist history or theory, but for someone who does it just doesn’t go far enough. I was also disappointed that there was no mention of Venezuela, a very brief touch on Cuba, and zero mention of socialism in Canada. It seemed like the author only wanted to talk about instances where Socialism became authoritarian, not where it has been successful. Also, the fact that it spent all of about 2 minutes talking about the climate crisis was quite surprising. As the biggest threat to our society right now and only leftist/socialist parties and candidates are demanding action on it, how could this be brushed over so quickly? Overall, really disappointing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Phizacklea-Cullen

    Quite a bold (and slightly misleading) title for this polemic from the founder of Jacobin magazine, it's more concerned with giving an overview of socialist societies of the past, the ones that worked (Olof Palme's brand of Swedish social democracy) to those which have been justifiably abominated (Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong's perversions of communism from on high), and only gets around to suggesting a blueprint for how socialism can be the answer for our current times in the final chapter, taki Quite a bold (and slightly misleading) title for this polemic from the founder of Jacobin magazine, it's more concerned with giving an overview of socialist societies of the past, the ones that worked (Olof Palme's brand of Swedish social democracy) to those which have been justifiably abominated (Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong's perversions of communism from on high), and only gets around to suggesting a blueprint for how socialism can be the answer for our current times in the final chapter, taking in such recent phenomenons as Occupy, Corbyn's Labour and Sanders' presidential bid amongst others. If you're enthused by these movements, you'll find plenty to enjoy here, but best to see it more as history than manifesto-making.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zihad Azad

    Took a bit of a time with this one. The author tried to squeeze the entire history of socialism and its various strands into a compact 300-page book. Not an easy undertaking by any stretch of the imagination. But he largely succeeded in his endeavors. Although packing up so much information and history within such a short volume inevitably led to a trade-off between reading facility and comprehensive analysis. As you can already tell from my review, this is not a "Socialist Manifesto" per se. And Took a bit of a time with this one. The author tried to squeeze the entire history of socialism and its various strands into a compact 300-page book. Not an easy undertaking by any stretch of the imagination. But he largely succeeded in his endeavors. Although packing up so much information and history within such a short volume inevitably led to a trade-off between reading facility and comprehensive analysis. As you can already tell from my review, this is not a "Socialist Manifesto" per se. And clearly the author chose this title to invoke obvious similarities to the Communist Manifesto. A marketing ploy well-executed. However, the book does conclude with a well-defined set of rules and caveats that socialist should keep in mind while building a social democratic, mass mobility-driven bottom up revolution that ties together class struggle and workers movement to change the system. The similarity with the earlier manifesto starts and ends there. It is basically an evenhanded historical treatment of Socialism, in that it talks about the success of the Swedish social democratic model but does not sugarcoat the atrocities of either Stalin or Mao. And that's the reason this book is an essential read for anyone who wants a solid introduction to socialism.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    I'm not a socialist, and am unsympathetic to the core claims in Sunkara's book (e.g. I think he measures inequality incorrectly, and that inequality in itself isn't reason enough for redistribution - especially when real wages for the bottom quartile of the world's population have risen so dramatically in the last century) BUT I think this is a pretty good book, and would be a good read for anyone that wants to know the arguments used by modern socialists and the way that democratic socialism di I'm not a socialist, and am unsympathetic to the core claims in Sunkara's book (e.g. I think he measures inequality incorrectly, and that inequality in itself isn't reason enough for redistribution - especially when real wages for the bottom quartile of the world's population have risen so dramatically in the last century) BUT I think this is a pretty good book, and would be a good read for anyone that wants to know the arguments used by modern socialists and the way that democratic socialism differs from the Stalinism used as a strawman by a lot of pro-capitalism authors. Further props have to be given to Bhaskar for not shying away from the towers of corpses that socialism has left in its wake, as the history sections of the book were by far the strongest. My biggest critique would be the tendency to focus on an ultimate vision (e.g. a utopian post-revolution communism) instead of the rather violent acts implied by words like "dispossess" and "expropriate" that litter the pathway to this socialist future. Overall well worth a read in between some Hayek/Mises and some Gulag Memoirs.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    This book was a fantastic primer on socialist systems in history with a mind towards how they could apply to our western societies (namely the U.S. and the U.K.) today. While the title speaks to the book being a guide to implementing socialist policy in the 21st century, most of the content was actually about socialist governments and movements of the past. I really enjoyed that it was more comprehensive as this is an area that I feel I had very little exposure to in my education. I really enjoy This book was a fantastic primer on socialist systems in history with a mind towards how they could apply to our western societies (namely the U.S. and the U.K.) today. While the title speaks to the book being a guide to implementing socialist policy in the 21st century, most of the content was actually about socialist governments and movements of the past. I really enjoyed that it was more comprehensive as this is an area that I feel I had very little exposure to in my education. I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn at a very basic level the ideas behind those governments and political parties as well as a chance to explore the dysfunctions they experienced and how they each respectively fell apart or out of favor.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sami Eerola

    This is not just a piece of far-left propaganda, but quite a hones history of Socialism, its gains and failures. The writer does not hide behind the word game "not real socialism", but explores all version of Socialism, from Nordic Social Democracy to the Maoist China. The book is construed in three parts. First is a blue print of how a Socialist utopia would work, then the history of real Socialism and then tactics to gain political power and change society. Basically this book is a attempt to This is not just a piece of far-left propaganda, but quite a hones history of Socialism, its gains and failures. The writer does not hide behind the word game "not real socialism", but explores all version of Socialism, from Nordic Social Democracy to the Maoist China. The book is construed in three parts. First is a blue print of how a Socialist utopia would work, then the history of real Socialism and then tactics to gain political power and change society. Basically this book is a attempt to revive Kautskyan Social Democracy to the 21 century.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Grant

    Whilst it doesn't quite live up to its title and it's more a history of Socialism, the good and the bad, if you combine reading it and "Why You Should Be a Socialist" by Nathan J. Robinson and "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" by Richard D. Wolff it's a very helpful addition to knowledge on new ways of governing through socialism. It's gets a little too brief at times and doesn't cover any of the MSN propaganda machine that is a major enemy to the people and politicians looking to insta Whilst it doesn't quite live up to its title and it's more a history of Socialism, the good and the bad, if you combine reading it and "Why You Should Be a Socialist" by Nathan J. Robinson and "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" by Richard D. Wolff it's a very helpful addition to knowledge on new ways of governing through socialism. It's gets a little too brief at times and doesn't cover any of the MSN propaganda machine that is a major enemy to the people and politicians looking to install progressive policies like Sanders and Corbyn.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hina Ansari

    It took me forever to finish this book. It wasn’t that it was boring, so much as it read more like a history book for 90% of the read. The actual manifesto was maybe 8 pages and while it has great ideas, in execution, and this could be the pessimist in me, I feel like the author should have suggested burning it all down. Socialism is a great philosophy, but taking power from the wealthy is something even Ayn Rand could only fictionalise.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    An illuminating work, but not quite as powerful at delivering its message as it should be. I think someone devoid of any knowledge of socialism might leave confused at the aims of the movement. Still, I think this has a lot of merit as a grounding work to educate (or re-educate) about the history of socialism in America and around the world over the past few centuries.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Todd Toussaint

    Did miss the warmer (ok, funnier) tone of the first section as Sunkara moved on to Socialism's history and the prescriptive final section. Minor quibble. It's smart, he writes with clarity & the tripartite structure is helpful. Did miss the warmer (ok, funnier) tone of the first section as Sunkara moved on to Socialism's history and the prescriptive final section. Minor quibble. It's smart, he writes with clarity & the tripartite structure is helpful.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jaime Menegus

    This book is such trash. I am actually furious about it. It’s written so poorly-concepts just thrown out there and not explained, whole subjects strung loosely together in a nonsensical way, time skipped over like a pebble thrown in water. I tried to keep going to gain just a loose understanding of the historical aspect, but after spending countless hours (it was also just generally hard to read, very boring because it was just word after word with almost no rhyme or reason) trying, I realized I This book is such trash. I am actually furious about it. It’s written so poorly-concepts just thrown out there and not explained, whole subjects strung loosely together in a nonsensical way, time skipped over like a pebble thrown in water. I tried to keep going to gain just a loose understanding of the historical aspect, but after spending countless hours (it was also just generally hard to read, very boring because it was just word after word with almost no rhyme or reason) trying, I realized I was getting nothing out of it other than names and places and concepts that I had to look up myself and then didn’t stick because I had no context. I gave up reading at the beginning of the 3rd chapter. He cheated with the title and the caption-it’s catchy and alluring and draws you in but honestly I can’t believe this even got published, it’s like a grade F college paper from some night-before student trying to con the professor into believing he worked hard on.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristofer Grattan

    More of a historical analysis than a manifesto for action, this is still one of the best introductory chapters to the ideas of socialism I have read :)

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