Book Review – Imagine Living in a Socialist USA

I discovered a gem of a book, at a gem of a store. It was the end of a rare outing nowadays with two of our three teenagers. We had spent the day in NYC, my original ‘hometown’, stopping at the Museum of the City of New York (highly recommended), then downtown to a gallery exhibition of polaroid photos (meh), and spur of the moment (because it was there) dinner at the innovative (and expensive) vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy.

We started driving home on Allen Street, when we saw an activist cooperative book store- Bluestockings. Such a sight was too shocking and potentially joyous to drive by. We stopped and spent the next hour perusing a store full of every activist and progressive topic and subtopic you could think of in published books, self-published works, periodicals, ‘zines, you-name-it.

Favoring used book stores and libraries, I rarely buy new books, but in this case, it was supporting a worthy enterprise, and I found a gem of a book: Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA.

This book is the brainchild of longtime activist Frances Goldin and co-edited with Debby Smith and Michael Steven Smith. One of 88-year-old Goldin’s goals before she dies was to gather together important thinkers for the cause of considering what a socialist USA would look like and to produce this at the end of a long life filled with activism (the other goal was to free longtime imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal). They enlisted an assortment of notable writers and activists, including: Richard Wolff, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Angela Davis, Frances Fox Piven, Michael Moore, and Ajamu Baraka, and more than a dozen others.

I especially enjoyed thought-provoking and memorable essays helping to guide one away from the destructive greed-based toxicity of crony capitalism and towards radical economic democracy and rebuilding of our institutions and what this could mean. These included pieces by Ajamu Baraka on socialism as the highest expression of human rights, Angela Davis and Mumia Abu-Jamal on the justice system, Juan Gonzalez on Immigration, Steve Wishnia on drug policy, Bill Ayres on education policy, and Mat Callahan on how artistic expression will be untethered from the artificial and toxic constraints of commercialism in a socialist society. Numerous authors expounded on the concepts of socialism in a modern framework as a form of economic democracy, notably Rick Wolff, who has long championed this idea including in his book “Democracy at Work” (and website & lectures of the same name). Noting the failures of twentieth century communist countries these essays help to untie the idea of socialism from forms of oppression and re-establish it as the best conception of radical democracy.

Just the idea of some of our best minds coming together for such a hopeful and forward-looking gesture is inspiring.  Frustrated as we all may be by the lack of progress in an era of contradictory technological progress and seemingly unending social devolution and disintegration, this book represents an embodiment of hope and change that we all seek.

Long time Connecticut Green Party member, Eugene Woloszyn runs a statewide “lending library” and I have enjoyed “borrowing” books from his collection. I spoke with him, and plan to add this one to his “collection”- along with others like Democracy, Incorporated by Sheldon Wolin, and some of my favorite Chris Hedges (Wages of Rebellion) and Noam Chomsky books (Manufacturing Consent, e.g.).

So if you are interested in imagining living in a socialist USA, the book is available, and, I highly recommend it!