Andrei Znamenski argues that socialism arose out of activities of secularized apocalyptic sects, the Enlightenment tradition, and dislocations produced by the Industrial Revolution. He examines how, by the 1850s, Marx and Engels made the socialist creed “scientific” by linking it to “history laws” and inventing the proletariat—the “chosen people” that were to redeem the world from oppression. Focusing on the fractions between social democracy and communism, Znamenski explores why, historically, socialism became associated with social engineering and centralized planning. He explains the rise of the New Left in the 1960s and its role in fostering the cultural left that came to privilege race and identity over class. Exploring the global retreat of the left in the 1980s–1990s and the “great neoliberalism scare,” Znamenski also analyzes the subsequent renaissance of socialism in wake of the 2007–2008 crisis.
Andrei Znamenski is professor of history at the University of Memphis.
Introduction: The Varieties of the Left Experience
Chapter 1: Religion of Modernity: How an English Textile Baron and a French Aristocrat Jump Started the Socialist Creed
Chapter 2: “Sabbath of History”: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Moses Hess Make Socialism “Scientific”
Chapter 3: Great Schism: Social Democracy, Radical Cosmopolitans, and War Socialism (1870s-1920s)
Chapter 4: Prophecy of the World Revolution and Nationalist Temptations, 1917-1930s
Chapter 5: National Bolshevism: Stalin’s Soviet Union (1929-1953)
Chapter 6: True Believers, Fellow Travelers, and Dissenters (1920s-1940s)
Chapter 7: Creating Community: National Socialist Biopolitics in Germany, 1933-1945
Chapter 8: “Regime of Goodness”: Social Democracy and the Swedish Model, 1920s-1990s
Chapter 9: Blood and Soil in the Palestine Desert: Kibbutz Socialism, 1920s-1970s
Chapter 10: The East is Red: Communism in China, North Korea, and Cambodia
Chapter 11: African Socialism: Tanzanian “Village Socialism” and Zimbabwe Ethno-Racial State
Chapter 12: The Western Left: “Third Way” and Neoliberalism, 1970s-2010s
Chapter 13: Retreat of Socialism in the Soviet Union and China (1980s-2008)
Chapter 14: How Marxism Became Cultural: Frankfurt School, British Cultural Studies, and the New Left
Chapter 15: The Cultural Left and the “Curse” of the Western Civilization, 1960s-2010s
Conclusion: From Left Melancholia to New Militancy
Andrei Znamenski's history is told with verse combined with scholarship, comparable to old classics such as Wilson's To the Finland Station and Kołakowski 's Main Currents of Marxism. Any fair-minded leftist will be brought up short. Read it.
Andrei Znamenski, who experienced socialism firsthand, recalls the murder, mayhem, ethnic cleansing, arbitrary detentions, corruption, starvation, labor camps, warfare, forced disappearances, and famine that resulted from Marxism and its various iterations and offshoots. Socialism as a Secular Creed meticulously traces the concrete consequences of the spread of these ideologies, which, he suggests, displaced traditional expressions of religion and established secular eschatologies. His rigorously researched account is not to be missed.
Greatly erudite and richly detailed, Andrei Znamenski’s Socialism as a Secular Creed is an important addition to the literature on history’s most popular idea about how society ought to be organized.