Book review: 'The Socialist Manifesto' by Bhaskar Sunkara

"Sunkara claims that “his” version of socialism would avoid the problems of central planning, because it would still leave some room for market mechanisms. Although all companies would be owned by the state, they would not be run by the state. They would be run by their own workforce, on a democratic basis, like worker cooperatives. There would be no labour markets as such anymore, but there would still be product markets, thus obviating the need for a Five-Year-Plan.

But this is not a new version of socialism. It sounds like Sunkara has just reinvented “market socialism,” the economic system of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Of all the variants of socialism that have so far been tried, market socialism was probably the least bad one. If I had to pick a socialist country to live in, it would probably be the SFRY. And yet, despite some initial success, that model ultimately also led to stagnation, and decline. Even at the best of times, though, market socialism was an unstable system, characterised by permanent tensions between its market components and its socialist components."