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New Left Review I/195, September-October 1992

John Saul

John Saul Replies

I don’t think I have misrepresented Alex Callinicos’s position. I do know that he has misrepresented mine. He says that one of my two criteria of a ‘structural reform’ (as distinct from a measure of ‘mere reformism’) is that it ‘form[s] part of an irreversible process of change’, and proceeds to twit me with the reminder that no progressive measures are irreversible, not even the provisions of the National Health Service. Yet the fact is that I did not advance the rather simple-minded position Callinicos chooses to criticize. What I did state (as the first attribute of ‘structural reform’) was that ‘any reform, to be structural, must not be comfortably self-contained (a mere “improvement”), but must, instead, be allowed self-consciously to implicate other “necessary” reforms that flow from it as part of an emerging project of structural transformation.’ In other words (and in contrast to Bernstein’s ‘the process is everything for me, and. . .the final aim of socialism is nothing’), the popular movement-cum-party attempting a programme of structural reform must constantly articulate both to itself and to its broadest potential constituency the goal of structural transformation/socialism. It is this alone that can situate and make revolutionary sense of short-term struggles and achievements and forestall a situation in which these latter take on no more than the vulnerable half-life of free-standing, one-off ameliorations of some particularly raw attribute of otherwise ascendant capitalism. [9] Note that Callinicos writes with the same arbitrary selectiveness in presenting the position of the cosatu-linked Economic Trends Group. Much more than a discussion of developing a new accumulation model is at play in their work; discussion of how best to conceptualize and consolidate such a model is generally linked closely to discussion of the modalities of consolidating working-class hegemony in South Africa.

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