- Capitalism and Alternatives -

some comments on utopia theory and practice

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on October 16, 1999 at 12:03:30:

In Reply to: Some ambivalent words about utopias (and revolutions) posted by Stoller on October 14, 1999 at 16:17:41:

: On the minus side:

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

SDF: Why should communes be "egalitarian" toward the self-professed fair-weather friends of democracy? Should the "revolution" take on bourgeois fellow-travelers who fraudulently promise us utopia?

How are you going to sort out the above questions, weighing "egalitarianism" against capitalist society's endemic ideological pollution, if you don't have a communal democratic process?

How do you have any process at all if your group doesn't have the immediate goal of "get people who can fuck with your business out of your lives"? The continuity of dependency is what legitimizes sucking up, for that vast majority of us who do it for a living. Isn't it? It also sounds the death knell for communal self-determination. I've seen the operation of I don't know how many communal households in Santa Cruz, California, which died because of the necessity of paying the rent to a member of the owning classes.

: 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.)

SDF: Yup, got to create a utopian form that tries to avoid that, and is successful enough to maintain its continuity as a community.

: 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...

SDF: There are far more than a few skeptics, thus the rest of your argument increases its force...

: 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.
: __________

SDF: So what causes you to impute these things about Lark? Does his utopia have lots of pubs in it or something? I don't get it.

: 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.

SDF: Sure, there are still communities with an interest in opposing capitalism, and I would imagine that some of them have even survived the crushing force of global US imperialism. The "have-nots" are still not in the category Marx called the "most advanced nations".

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

SDF: Would it be "the revolution" if it did?

Follow Ups:

The Debating Room Post a Followup