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The Socialist Register 2017: Rethinking Revolution (Monthly Review Press)
The 2017 volume of the Socialist Register addresses the question of the meaning of revolution in the 21st century. Coming to terms with the legacy of 1917 is obviously one aspect of this. ‘October’ was a unique event which provided inspiration for millions of oppressed people but also became an inevitable point of reference for socialist politics in the 20th century. The 21st century left needs to both understand and transcend this legacy through a critical reappraisal of its broad effects – both positive and negative – on political, intellectual and cultural life everywhere as well as on the other revolutions that took place over the last century. But the main thing is to look forward more than back. All revolutions emerge in conjunctures saturated with unique contradictions, contingencies, class alignments and struggles. This is the concrete confluence of forces and setting that must be examined closely to understand the political conditions that the contemporary Left must not only understand but also act and organize in. The ‘political event’ of gaining state power, whether by taking parliament or in a collapse of the existing political regime, has proven time and again to be less crucial than the social revolution of building capacities for self-government and the democratization and socialization of institutional resources.