- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Some ambivalent words about utopias (and revolutions)

Posted by: Stoller on October 14, 1999 at 16:17:41:

In Reply to: Scientific socialism and utopian dreams posted by Samuel Day Fassbinder on October 13, 1999 at 12:38:59:

A brilliant post. Reminds me again why I came back to the Debate Board. Wish I had more time to get into each point presented.


Lark says: Utopias perform a very, very important component of any ideology, they inspire and motivate, as well as providing a blueprint as to what would be preferable to the existing order...

And Barry Stoller responds: We've seen a million of them! Myself included! They have never done anything but weaken the revolutionary resolve!

: I have to wonder if this position is a little more extreme than Engels' position on utopianism...

Yes, you caught me speaking rashly!

Although I am, for many reasons---and many of them anecdotal---skeptical about the hopes generated by 'lifestyle communities' (wouldn't RD love to hear me say that?), I would never propose actively discouraging their proliferation at this time.

They demonstrate the benefits of rationalization.

They demonstrate that the means of production can be maintained harmoniously by a majority instead of an elite.

On the minus side:

Their egalitarianism is buffered by---if not predicated upon---the ability to pick and choose their members.

They consistently fail to form coalitions that could effectively create alternate economies independent of capital. (They give away most of their surplus labor to capitalist companies.)

Nonetheless, I often wished that Parties (CP, SP, Spartacus League) would put their money where their mouth is and start their own communes in anticipation of the day their revolutionary aims can be increased. Who knows? They could even show a few skeptics that the communist future will be a marked improvement over the dictatorship of the bourgeois we live under today...

Still... Lark's posts often demonstrate why I feel that utopian visions weaken revolutionary resolve. Utopian socialisms (almost) always occur without class struggle. And mass class struggle (call it 'terror' if you are a capitalist terrorized by the idea of losing the surplus labor of the workers and having to actually do some surplus-producing work yourself) is the cornerstone of it all.

Calhoun's observation that 'the distinction between the beneficiaries and victims of capitalism has become less clear' is probably true of developed nations but fails to properly acknowledge the global division of labor and the global discrepancy between the haves and have-nots.

Because of such a vast discrepancy, I fear the revolution could assume nationalistic expression.

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