Editor’s Note: The following article appears in the latest issue of Tikkun magazine (VOL. 35 NO. 1). To read all the other wonderful articles, purchase the issue here.
Two old men sit on a park bench in heaven, gazing down at the earth below. The first, Karl Marx, says, “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” The second man, Rabbi Hillel the Elder, laughs, gives Marx an affectionate slap on the back, and says, “Yes, yes, my friend! But if I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”*
*Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach,” Eleventh Thesis, and Hillel, Pirkei Avot, 1:14
The word “socialism” is currently experiencing a rebirth, but it is a word that often evokes either a Pavlovian response of approval or disapproval, depending on conventional political positions, or outright confusion. The confusion is compounded by the limited characterizations of socialism that abound in the incessant punditry of the media, on the right as well as on the left. This paper has two goals: a) to bring some clarity to that confusion, especially for a new generation of social activists drawn to the idea of socialism, and b) to articulate the need for a renewed socialism, consistent with but enhancing socialist humanism—a psychologically and spiritually informed socialism that can have real meaning for the complex 21st century world in which we live.
“Freedom,” said Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James, “is creative universality, not utility…The end toward which mankind(sic) is inexorably developing by the constant overcoming of internal antagonisms, in not the enjoyment, ownership or use of goods, but self-realization.”
The most commonly understood conception of socialism is that of economic redistribution of material goods and wealth, to achieve economic equality throughout the society. A facet of this economic definition is that the means of production in society would be controlled by the many (or the working class or the state) rather than by the few. These primarily economic definitions of socialism reflect the importance of material conditions and economic justice, but they neglect an equally important aspect of socialism, the humanistic essence of socialism. That essence is about human emancipation from the realm of necessity, beyond material and objective reforms, to the realm of liberation. The different definitions are not just a matter of emphasis. At issue is a profound philosophical and existential difference in viewpoints about the nature of human being. The economistic definitions of socialism are based on notions of human beings as defined by their economic circumstances, and primarily motivated by the desire for material wellbeing and access to justly distributed wealth. The humanistic notions of socialism, while not denying the need for material wellbeing, are based on the idea that human beings are thinking, sentient, creative beings, motivated by a desire for freedom to fully express their authentic selves, and capable of determining their own history in achieving that freedom. “Freedom”, said Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James, “is creative universality, not utility…The end toward which mankind (sic) is inexorably developing by the constant overcoming of internal antagonisms, is not the enjoyment, ownership, or use of goods, but self-realization.” This is essentially a spiritual notion of human activity articulated in secular terms.
The difference between these two conceptions of socialism and their attendant notions of human being has political significance as well, related to the question of how socialism comes about. The economic and materialist view is commonly associated with an elitist socialism dispensed from above with primarily administrative measures—either in authoritarian/ totalitarian societies, or in the liberal policies of the social-democratic parties, e.g., the European social democracies. Elitist socialism is rooted in the assumption that people need experts to create socialism for them, denying their creative capacity. The humanistic view of socialism, on the other hand, is more commonly associated with a participatory and democratic process, created from below by popular activity—rank and file, community, grassroots, and other spontaneous forms of social activism.
“…spiritualized socialism places the consciousness, the psychology, the feelings and desires, the relationships and activity of human beings at the forefront in understanding the possibilities of social transformation.
WHAT IS SPIRITUALIZED SOCIALISM?
What is a spiritualized socialism? And even before that, what is spirituality? Spirituality, for our purposes, reflects the deeper meanings by which people live, the sense of awe and wonder at the natural world and all living things, the “radical amazement” of which Abraham Joshua Heschel spoke. It means the appreciation of “something” that is beyond our complete understanding, but which gives meaning, inspiration, and depth to our lives. Spirituality means accepting that some things such as individual and social transformation, dreams, artistic creation, poetry and music, or love, cannot be explained by science, technology, measurements, or intellect. The feminist writer, bell hooks, describes spirituality as “the idea that there is an animating principle in the self—a life force (soul) that when nurtured enhances our capacity to be more fully self-actualized and able to engage in communion with the world around us.” (All About Love) An important part of this spirituality is the desire for authentic human connection, the feeling that one is a part of a larger and meaningful collectivity, in which all are mutually accepted and recognized. Spirituality, in this sense, has nothing to do with organized religion or religious institutions—but the fact that so many people express faith in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or other religious traditions, indicates that belief in a spiritual component to life is important. It is something that both current and traditional notions of socialism have neglected, to its detriment—it may partly explain the negative impressions that the word “socialism” evokes in so many people.
We can think of spiritualized socialism then as a socialism that encompasses and is enriched by attention to these spiritual aspects of life, a socialism that does not deny the importance of economic justice, but does not restrict its meaning to economics. Economic reductionism uses abstractions like economics (class, labor, the 99%), structure (nations, corporations), and institutions (religious, political, military, financial) to understand society. In contrast, spiritualized socialism places the consciousness, the psychology, the feelings and desires, the relationships, and activity of human beings at the forefront in understanding the possibilities for social transformation. Spiritualized socialism speaks to our internal processes, our psyches and our dreams, as well as to our external circumstances. Coupling thought and feeling, spiritualized socialism touches the aspirational part of being human, the part of each of us that longs for the freedom to be the person we want to be, and for recognition of one another’s authentic being. Rabbi Michael Lerner has been at the forefront in recognizing and writing about the need for a spiritual component to socialist politics.
How people deal with that longing or with its suppression has significant consequences. Fear of rejection of that longing for liberated authenticity, as Peter Gabel has articulated in The Desire for Mutual Recognition, leads people to the creation of “false selves,” behind which fears are denied and our innermost desires are hidden and suppressed. This internalization of our own oppression leads to detachment from, rather than connection with, others; it is commonly manifested in fear, apathy and cynicism, depression and despair—all masks worn by our disheartened beings. This state of chronic despair may well be the predominant emotional response to our current state of being. A socialism that distances itself from the psycho-spiritual realm, and does not acknowledge or try to understand these problems, loses its ability to engage and connect with people. While it is true that corporate and capitalist society promotes and benefits from perpetuation of our “false selves”, a spiritualized socialism searches for a deeper understanding of how that occurs, how these “false selves” sink their social and psychological talons deep into our being, so that we can learn to free ourselves from those talons. A spiritualized socialism looks at the ways in which people may resist that process and reach for authenticity. Frequently, as Peter Gabel points out, this freeing of people’s authentic selves, the connection with others, occurs in the midst of social movements.
OUR SOCIALIST INHERITANCE— IMPORTANT PRECURSORS
Still, it remains difficult to define spiritualized socialism, not for lack of trying, but because it is a moving process that continues to evolve, that takes on new elements, new language and culture over time. Part of the “trying” to understand and clarify the meaning of spiritualized socialism leads us to acknowledge some of its important precursors, who may not be known to a younger generation of aspiring socialists. In remembering the past, and its connections to the present, we stand a better chance of creating the future we desire.
GRAMSCI, REICH, DUNAYEVSKAYA, FROMM, AND KARL MARX
The creation and maintenance of internalized oppression brings to mind Antonio Gramsci’s concept of “cultural hegemony”. Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was an Italian Marxist philosopher who developed much of his political theory in essays written while he was imprisoned by Mussolini from 1929 to 1935, and collected in The Prison Notebooks. Gramsci’s thought was still rooted in the Leninist concepts of vanguard leadership, and his analysis was still grounded in an essentially economic and external view of social change. Nevertheless, his thinking was a significant departure from the economic determinism of the Italian Communist Party, in that he realized the importance of cultural processes in affecting people’s consciousness. Gramsci’s “cultural hegemony” described the ways in which the “manufacture of consent” in oppressed classes was shaped by the cultural institutions of capitalism, the media, education, and religion. While he wrote about the power of cultural hegemony to shape ideas and beliefs, Gramsci importantly also recognized that people were not totally defined by the power of dominant hegemony; he saw that in their resistance to oppression, people created their own “counter hegemony”, a new consensus of resistance. The #MeToo movement would be a contemporary example of counter hegemony, resistance to the dominant patriarchal hegemony.
Going back further, we see the roots of a humanized socialism in the writings of Karl Marx (1818-1883). The problem has been that so much of Marx’s thought has been distorted, oversimplified, or misrepresented. The notion of Marxism as a “science” of materialism, of economic reductionism, comes primarily from the orthodoxies and dogmatism of Soviet Marxists, which extracted the humanism from Marx, and replaced it with “scientific theory”. This view of Marxism, essentially a structural-functionalist view of history, defining people as determined solely by their socio-economic environment, has become, sadly, the most commonly held view of Marxism today. In addition to its history with Soviet dogmatists, this view of Marxism is also perpetuated by reformist and revisionist socialists, as well as by opponents of socialism. It has been iterated and reiterated by theorists like Eduard Bernstein, Marxist theorist of the German Social Democracy (1850-1932) and more recently, Louis Althusser (1918-1990), who while critical of some aspects of Stalinism, nevertheless saw Marxism as a science guided by experts.
A distorted Marxism has been presented as economic justification for a totalitarian state apparatus which called itself a “workers” state, but which in fact oppressed people as much, if not more, than did capitalism—this we can see in Soviet Stalinism or Chinese Maoism. In the European social democracy version, distortions of Marxism and socialism take the form of managed and planned economies offering significant social and economic reforms. In the U.S. today, we see politicians of all stripes touting Medicare, the New Deal, and Social Security as examples of socialism, either to good or bad ends. Of course, there are undeniable and real benefits to people in these reforms, but they are developed, not by the people themselves, but by policy makers who are acting, more or less, in the interests of “the people”. And as they deliver their reforms they still maintain and reinforce the power of capitalism and its institutions. In practice, whether totalitarian or social democratic, these state forms of socialism or social democracy prevent people from making their own history and deny that they are even capable of doing so. And lest there be any doubt that Marx did not equate socialism with economic reform alone, or better pay and higher wages, he wrote that “an enforced increase in wages…would be nothing more than a better remuneration of slaves and would not restore, either to the worker or the work, their human significance and worth.” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, EPM)
Of course, Marx himself was influenced by the 19th century world in which he lived. He was unable to address the psycho-social manifestations of capitalist oppression, and he remained detached and aloof as a social observer, unable to include himself in the emancipatory process he envisioned. Further, because he was oblivious to the patriarchal hegemony of which he was a part, he neglected the role of women in the social reproduction of labor, unable to see women’s caregiving, child-raising, and other nurturing interactions that both sustained and humanized the male laborer (Nancy Fraser, “Behind Marx’s Hidden Abode”, New Left Review, 2014).
While acknowledging these limitations, it is still important to recognize what was politically and philosophically unique in Marx’s approach, and that is his emphasis on the worker as a real human being, not objectified as a source of work output, value, or profit. For Marx, this real human being had thoughts, feelings, desires, imagination, creative impulses, and spirit, and whose human potential was obstructed by the role that capitalism imposed upon the worker. The worker “is reduced both spiritually and physically to the condition of a machine.” (EPM “Wages of Labor”) For Marx, alienated labor represented the negation of the worker’s inherent human essence, the need to engage in activity that was a meaningful expression of self as well as the means of connection to others. This human essence was “not only the five senses, but also the so-called spiritual senses, the practical senses (desiring, loving, etc.) in brief, human sensibility and the human character of the senses…” (EPM, “Private Property and Communism.”). Marx asks and answers:
“What constitutes the alienation of labor? First, that the work is external to the worker, that it is not part of his nature, and that, consequently, he does not fulfill himself in his work but denies himself, has a feeling of misery rather than well-being, does not develop freely his mental and physical energies, but is physically exhausted and mentally debased…” (EPM, “Alienated Labor”)
Marx’s analysis, however, did not lead him to portray human beings as only alienated. On the contrary, because Marx ultimately saw human beings as creative beings, he also saw them as capable of superseding that alienation, as subjective agents of their own history. This relationship between circumstances which negated human essence and the struggle for transcendence of those circumstances to something better is, in Hegelian terms, the “negation of the negation”. This was the heart of the Marxist dialectic, a dynamic and decidedly nondeterministic way of looking at human activity. Human beings, while alienated and affected by their circumstances, also reflected and thought about those circumstances, and that thinking, that consciousness, influences how they act, and therefore they could, in turn, change their circumstances:
“The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstance and upbringing and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that circumstances are changed precisely by men…” (Third Thesis on Feuerbach)
Marx’s notion of human activity and alienation still deals primarily with external aspects of that negation, rather than with internal and psychological aspects. A spiritualized socialism can look beyond Marx’s concept of alienation with a deeper and more psychological and spiritual perspective.
Following from Marx’s concept of the human need for self-activity, was the methodology with which he viewed society and class, not as abstractions external to human beings, but as relationships among living human beings. When society is viewed in this way, as relationships among real people, then transformation of that society is no longer mystified and unachievable, but instead becomes immanently possible.
We owe a great deal in understanding Marx’s humanism to the thought and work of Raya Dunayevskya (1910-1987), who was an early translator of the Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (EPM) (1844). In her book, Marxism and Freedom, (1958) Dunayevskya rescued Marx from the Soviet determinists, and showed that Marx was ultimately concerned with the freedom of humanity. Contemporaneously, during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, some members of the German “Frankfort School,” like Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm, also showed that Marx’s analysis went beyond the merely economic, as they opened areas of culture and psychology to a Marxist perspective. Fromm, in particular, wrote
…if we look at how people are surviving and living their lives, we will also see the possibilities of liberation often hidden in the cultural crevices of their lives, even before overt resistance occurs.
extensively against the tendency of “making a dead saint of Marx and to restore him to the position of a living thinker.” He struggled with other members of the Frankfort School, Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, not always successfully, to recognize that for Marx, the essence of humanity was human self-activity, and thus the goal of socialism was the achievement of independence and freedom for humankind.
Another important contribution to the expansion of socialism beyond the merely economic, and more closely approximating a spiritualized socialism, came from the Austrian psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957). In his work, both The Mass Psychology of Fascism, and the pamphlet, “What is Class Consciousness?” Reich explained the failure of the German Social Democracy (SPD) to resist fascism by the failure to appreciate the importance of psychology, dismissed by most socialists of the time as “counter-revolutionary.” In explaining why the German people were untouched by the “message” of the Social Democrats, Reich said:
“…this unhappy state of affairs is due to our clinging to old, worn out, ossified, dogmas, words, schemes, and methods of discussion, and that this clinging is in turn due to the lack of new ways of posing problems, new ways of thinking…” (“What is Class Consciousness?”)
In their “ossified dogmas”, the SPD was oblivious to the importance of “the psychical structures of the human beings”, with dire consequences. Reich went on,
“While we presented the masses with superb analyses and economic treatises on the contradictions of imperialism, Hitler stirred the deepest roots of their emotional being…we acted like mechanistic, economistic materialists.” (“What is Class Consciousness?”)
The relevance of this perspective today is immediately apparent. The American Left scratched its collective head, wondering where it went wrong, and how people could have voted for Trump, clearly not in their own economic or social interests. But Trump addressed people on an emotional level, and assuaged their hunger to feel a part of something, albeit in reactionary and racist terms, whether it be to get rid of the immigrants, or Muslims, or to Make America Great Again. And as with the German social democrats, the American left has had little to offer in its place—talking about “the 1 percent” has not been enough.
So the contemporary desire for authentic expression of self and for social and spiritual interconnectedness must be taken seriously. It builds upon Marx’s notion of the essence of human being as a striving for self- activity and connection with our “species being,” and makes it meaningful in a 21st century context. We can see how contemporary society distorts and undermines human interactions. And if we look at how people are surviving and living their lives, we will also see the possibilities of liberation often hidden in the cultural crevices of their lives, even before overt resistance occurs. It can be seen in the folksongs of African American slaves, in the musical genre of the Blues, in the radical theology that buttressed the Civil Rights movement, in women’s wearing of bloomers in the 1900’s allowing them more physical activity and thus opening their social horizons, in the women’s consciousness raising groups of the 1970’s, challenging women’s’ domestic roles. It can be seen in the struggles for trade union democracy, fighting a labor bureaucracy for the rights and safety of rank and file workers, and for social issues which transcend the limits of negotiated contracts, or in the gay communities in large cities that set the stage for Stonewall uprising and full gay pride. This dynamic process between what is and what can be both individually and socially, contributes to the essential vibrancy of all movements for change.
THE CRITIQUE OF VANGUARDISM:
ROSA LUXEMBURG AND OTHERS
Understanding socialism as the self-activity of people means appreciating the creativity with which they act to resist oppression and move towards liberation of their lives. Through this lens, we view social movements and social activism in new ways. Thus, social theories or ideologies which promote vanguard leadership of movements and organizations, or the primacy of cadres, “experts”, managers and bureaucrats in forming policies, are revealed for their denial of human agency, of real people in creating social and political movements, and in determining their own history.
One of the first to critique the vanguardism developing in Soviet society, even before Stalin took power, was the Polish-German revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919). Luxemburg saw the mass strikes taking place in Europe in the early 1900’s as evidence of the importance of peoples’ spontaneity in creating revolution. She saw the early tendencies of Soviet vanguardism as impediments to the spontaneity of people in creating something new in their work and in their lives. Socialism, she said, “… cannot be dictated, introduced by command.” In her classic pamphlet, “The Mass Strike, the Political Party and Trade Unions,” Luxemburg countered those socialists who believed themselves indispensable to the creation of militant trade union organization: “A rigid, mechanical, bureaucratic conception will only recognize struggle as the product of a certain level or organization. On the contrary, dialectical developments in real life create organization as a product of struggle.”
Luxemburg, a prescient political thinker, was also not afraid to bring feeling, emotion, spirit, and passion into her political activity—she resisted the cold, sterile culture of the socialist movement of her time, and urged her comrades to open their minds beyond the limited perspective of “politics”; she felt that “such onesidedness also clouds one’s political judgment, and above all, one must live as a full person at all times.” She recognized that in the struggle for human emancipation, political activists themselves must acknowledge their own needs for emancipation. This insight was an important precursor to a spiritualized socialism.
There have been more recent socialist and Marxist theorists who have emphasized the importance of human self-activity, among them the Trinidadian Marxist, C.L.R. James, the Americans, Grace and James Boggs, the British Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson, and the South African poet and social critic Mphutlane Wa Bofelo.
“One could say that the critique of vanguardism has stood for socialist humility as well as socialist humanism.”
All of these men and women have articulated, in various forms and formats, the importance of human agency in making history and the tendency of vanguardism to deny that human agency. The critique of vanguardism does not promote an anti-leadership or even an anti-organizational position, but has emphasized the need for wise leaders to seek reciprocity in relationship with the rank and file of organizations and social movements, to promote transparency and democratic processes in decision making, and to learn from the real struggles and initiatives of men and women. One could say that the critique of vanguardism has stood for socialist humility as much as for socialist humanism.
THE ISSUE OF CLASS, AND 21ST CENTURY SOCIALISM
There is another persistent and fixed belief, among traditional socialists, that the working class is an unchanging category and is the only class that has the power to overthrow capitalism. That may have been true and meaningful in the 19th century, even the early 20th century—but it cannot hold in the complex world of the 21st century. The traditional industrial working class has diminished in size, and the nature of class (and class consciousness) is itself being transformed. Newly acknowledged forms of domination and oppression exert their forces on multiple intersectional aspects of social being—class, but also race, ethnicity, sex, gender, and religion. Today’s socialism must have meaning for, and be expressed by, those beyond the traditional industrial working class. Thus have contemporary movements for freedom taken on new dimensions, often with a more spiritual approach, with attention to the quality of relationships among people, with a healing approach to the survival of the planet, with a demand for an end to patriarchal domination and racism, and freedom of sexual choice and gender expression. This is not to say that rank and file struggles within the traditional working classes are no longer meaningful, but that they are not the only transformative force. Today industrial workers are joined by teachers, healthcare workers, domestic workers, transportation workers, hotel workers, food production workers, communication workers, professionals, intellectuals, spiritual leaders, and small business people, in cities and in rural areas, among women, immigrants, students, and LGBTQ communities—by all of us. A renewed socialism of the 21st century must have sensitivity to new kinds of consciousness which arise, sensitivity to the lives of people and how they experience their oppression, and how they strive to get beyond it—in their social movements, their language, their slang and vocabularies, their songs, their poetry, their diverse and vital cultures, and even the mistakes that they will inevitably make along the way. In short, a spiritualized socialism must be curious, must pay attention to contemporary manifestations of the creative self-activity of people. We see these creative manifestations in the incredible power of the #MeToo movement, in the Black Lives Matter movement, in the Poor Peoples’ marches, in the “March for Our Lives” movement of young people against guns and gun violence, and in the worldwide actions of youth for the survival of the planet. In this way, with new forms of resistance, spontaneous organizational groupings, openness to the imaginativeness of people in creating social alternatives to what appears as “reality,” a spiritualized socialism can flourish, beginning our collective journey to the world we all want.
THE CHALLENGES OF A SPIRITUALIZED SOCIALISM
Spiritualizing socialism requires courage and honesty in confronting our own fears about ourselves or about others, openness to new forms of resistance to oppression, and a willingness to change, as uncomfortable as it sometimes may be. The challenge of spiritualizing socialism is acknowledging that we who want to transform society must ourselves be transformed. This means we do not see ourselves as experts, or a vanguard, or as separate or detached from others who are striving for change. The challenge of spiritualizing socialism is attending to our internal realities, our psychological, emotional, existential realities, as well as to the external circumstances in which we find ourselves. Grace Lee Boggs wrote:
“To make a revolution, people must not only struggle against existing institutions. They must make a philosophical/spiritual leap and become more “human” human beings. In order to change, transform the world, they must change/transform themselves” (Grace Boggs, Living for Change, University of Minnesota Press, 1998)
As we struggle to become “more ‘human’ human beings”, we begin to understand our own internal contradictions between our false selves and our authentic selves, between fear of the “other” and desire for connection with others. We learn from the historical and contemporary experiences of real men and women who did just that: the Parisian masses in the Paris Commune of 1844, the striking women textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, who in 1912, marched for “Bread for all, and roses, too,” or from Rosa Parks in the Montgomery Bus Boycott challenging the notion that “the colored section” was an immutable fact, and vitalizing the civil rights movement.
It takes courage to challenge the hegemonic hold that the appearance of reality has upon us. It takes courage to maintain confidence in our abilities to transform society, at the same time maintaining humility in the presence of ongoing struggles. Again, we learn from the creativity of people in the midst of struggle, and glimpse visions of how alternative realities might look. During that same Montgomery Bus Boycott, Montgomery’s black citizens, not the boycott leaders, organized alternative modes of transportation on their own, so people could still go to work. (Forbes, Dec. 2016, “How Cars Saved the Montgomery Bus Boycott) Similarly, during the recent Oakland Teachers Strike, teachers worked with community members to create “solidarity schools” in the city’s recreation departments, so children could be educated without breaking the strike (Post News Group, Feb, 2019).
The challenge we face is to live in our vision of the world to which we aspire. We try to avoid the demoralizing effects the legacy of fear, and the power that “false selves” can have in undermining social movements, lest we be destined to recapitulate movement failures of the past. We try to avoid dehumanization of those with whom we disagree, even those struggling alongside us (witness the debilitating aspects of factionalism and sectarianism on the left), lest we diminish the world to which we aspire. If we do not attend to this psychosocial and spiritual dimension of our existence, if we remain tied only to the material, economic, and external structures and aspects of society, we will be unable to sustain the transformative power and spirit of our authentic interconnectedness, and our movements will wither, succumbing to apathy, inertia, pessimism, cynicism, and bleak and dreary organizations that cannot inspire anyone.
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
There is an additional and critical challenge of spiritualizing socialism. As important as is our understanding of the humanism of Marx and others in socialist history, we note that there is a still a paucity of feeling, emotion, and spirituality in that humanism. A spiritualized socialism must transcend previous humanism. Today we need a socialism that can aspire to heal the black hole of fear and cynicism that dominates the contemporary world, a socialism that is not afraid to nurture and not afraid of spirituality. What is missing is love. Love is the essence of the mutual recognition we yearn for, and it is love not confined to the relationship between two people, but felt in community, in nations, and among the world’s population. We need a socialism that does not turn away from, but welcomes, the power of love, as Rabbi Lerner writes in his new book, Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World.
This concept of love is well defined by M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled, as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Love, therefore, is recognized as a profoundly social and transformative emotion, and one that has the power to connect people, and to counteract the fear driven divisiveness that traumatizes and incapacitates all of us.
How we behave toward ourselves, and toward others in our personal lives, in our movement, as well as toward those who may oppose us is as critical, maybe more critical, to social transformation than the goal we are trying to achieve. We are at a turning point in human history, and the survival of our humanity as well as the earth’s survival requires a radical change in how we approach social transformation. That radical change includes a renewed, refreshed, and spiritualized socialism. The transformation we desire cannot be limited to a change in the form of property, or of economic redistribution, but must be more (roses too!)—a transformation in the nature of human relations and the nature of being human. If not now, when?