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New Left Review I/106, November-December 1977


Rudolf Bahro

The Alternative in Eastern Europe

I would like to start by discussing my book’s point of departure and purpose. Its original title was ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Socialism as it Actually Exists’—perhaps somewhat old-fashioned. Now this is simply the subtitle. It is deliberately reminiscent of Marx’s celebrated analysis of social formations, particularly the 1859 preliminary study for Capital which he called ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’. For a period of some ten years, I have devoted practically the whole of my free time to analysing this actually existing socialism as a social formation of its own type. The result so far may not yet have the same degree of completeness that Marx was to achieve in his critique of bourgeois society. Yet the text must now reach the public—and naturally enough not just outside Eastern Europe, but even in the German Democratic Republic itself, difficult as it is to distribute it here. Moreover, I had decided right from the start that it should appear under my own name. A direct challenge, and this is the aim of my book, is incompatible with fear, not simply in the moral sense, but politically too. [*] This presentation of Rudolf Bahro’s Die Alternative: zur Kritik des realexistierenden Sozialismus, Frankfurt 1977, was originally devised by the author as a series of six ‘lectures’ to introduce the main themes of his book.

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Rudolf Bahro, ‘The Alternative in Eastern Europe’, NLR I/106: £3
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