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New Left Review I/120, March-April 1980

Raymond Williams

Beyond Actually Existing Socialism

‘Communism is not only necessary, it is also possible.’ The quiet words carry a major historical irony. For what has now to be proved, before an informed and sceptical audience, is indeed possibility. And this not only in the reckoning of strategic or tactical chances, which in these dangerous years carry as much fear as hope. Where the proof really matters is at another level, where intention and consequence, desire and necessity, possibility and practice, have already bloodily interacted. Thus we are no longer in any position to cry great names or announce necessary laws, and expect to be believed. The information and the scepticism are already too thoroughly lodged at the back of our own minds. Strategy and tactics can still be played from the front, but the greatest unknown quantity in any of their moves is again possibility. The condition of shifting any of it beyond the parameters of a desperate game is possibility in the hardest sense: not whether a new human order might, in struggle, come through, but whether, as a condition of that struggle, and as the entire condition of its success, enough of us can reasonably believe that a new human order is seriously possible.

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Raymond Williams, ‘Beyond Actually Existing Socialism’, NLR I/120: £3

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