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Szalai Erzsebet

Chapter 7. The Message

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1Although the greatest socialist experiment so far has failed, the challenge that had created it has not lost its validity, even for those paths that ultimately branch off from it. Indeed today, in the age of new capitalism, the ‘temptation’ to reflect on the societal problems that constitute that challenge has become stronger than ever before. The question is whether a harmonious realization of the values of liberty, equality, and fraternity can be ensured, given the concentration of the means of production and other kinds of property, and the tendency towards their further concentration.

2Today it is not possible to begin to formulate a response to that challenge without a summary of the problems, errors, and even crimes resulting from the ideologies, attitudes, and behavior which represented the foundations and driving forces of ‘existing socialism.’

3I would like to summarize the lessons (perhaps not quite objectively) as follows. There are no exceptional people (despite “We communists are special people”) who have the right to impose a model invented in the study on other people—no one can be made happy against his or her will. There are no exceptional people who need not be controlled by others, because uncontrolled power inevitably runs wild and lends itself to abuses. The idea of a perfect society is an illusion, and a dangerous one at that: the idea of the perfect society is in fact the omelette for which any number of eggs is supposed to be worth breaking (Berlin, 1996). Societies built on a single principle and a single value inevitably lead to dictatorships, because the assertion of other principles and values can be restricted only by violence. But these principles and values, sooner or later, will find ways of blowing the society apart. This also holds true for the market and market values, because there will always be scarce goods that can be efficiently distributed only by the market. Therefore, the complete elimination of the market in any more equitable society of the future is also an illusion. Likewise, the idea of a society free of conflict is an illusion; there is (and there must be) constant struggle between the different societal forces and values, because they can find their balance in the long run in no other way. There are no ultimate ‘solutions’ and it would not be good if there were any. The condition of perfect equality and solidarity can never be reached, because man is only a “moderately altruistic creature” (Rawls, 1997; Kis, 1998) and the values of equality and solidarity can only be approximated. Without a chain of voluntarily created and accepted microcommunities bringing together free individuals, even the idea of a society merely approximating communalism will remain an eternal illusion. Only the results of organic development nurtured from below are enduring, because the inherited socio-cultural patterns bind people even where the societal conditions change radically, since such changes occur or can be brought about only very slowly.

4In my understanding this is the message in the bottle. I could not have written one word of this book if I did not believe in a society with more solidarity, more justice, fewer inequalities, and (as a result) more freedom than the present one—in short, socialism.

© Central European University Press, 2005

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