Commentary Magazine


Socialist Ideals

To the Editor:

Oscar Gass’s article on “Socialism and Democracy” [June] strikes me . . . as hardly the “substantial contribution to the analysis of contemporary politics” which he is seeking.

Mr. Gass says that socialism is not distinguished by any moral ideal, this primarily because he is intent on defining it in terms of ownership of the means of production and distribution. However, when he then finds a distinguishing moral ideal—G. D. H. Cole’s third criterion or socialism, the ideal of the elimination of politics—he calls it an “unfortunate . . . illusion” unacceptable to any “reasonable person.”

Indeed, I must be most unreasonable, but I continue to believe that the ideal of replacing coercion by cooperation, political relationships by personal relationships, passive delegated representation by active and total democracy—this is what gives socialism its meaning. That Mr. Gass himself does not accept this ideal shows to a degree how distinguishing it is. That so-called liberals and conservatives alike accept the dominance of politicized relations as an inevitable feature of human life distinguishes them from socialists even more than their views

on public enterprise and private. It is what makes them “realists” (or “reasonable persons”), while socialists remain “utopian.” I wonder if Mr. Gass would find Martin Buber reasonable? Or Paul Goodman? . . .

Eugene S. Mornell
Los Angeles, California

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To the Editor:

I enjoyed Oscar Gass’s articles in the June and July issues immensely. He is a very sound, sober analyst and, to top it off, an excellent writer. . . .

Max Block
Mount Vernon, N. Y.

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