Utopian Socialism, Marx and the Industrial Revolution

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Fri Mar 15 21:19:35 MST 2002

Mark Lause wrote:
> [clip]
> The problem is that equating "scientific" with Marxist implies an
> equation between "utopian" and preMarxist.  The latter not only included
> Fourier talking about the oceans turning to something like lemonade but
> self described "workingmen's parties" with leaders like Thomas Skidmore
> talking about class warfare and expropriation.  The former ("Marxism")
> includes Bernstein, Kautsky, Stalin, Mao, etc. as well as anyone we might
> find more principled.

We're running into a problem here that sometimes (it seems to me) gets
magnified on maillists (and is one of the reasons that despite the time
I've spent on them I'm still skeptical as to their political use): a
tendency to follow in practice a somewhat vulgarized version of the
Chinese sloganizing of dialectics: "One divides into two."
(Incidentally, it's not a bad start on dialectics, but that is for
another occasion perhaps.) That is, there seems to be a drive on
maillists (and I include most emphatically the marxism list) to divide
everyone up into two camps, and seeing all members of each camp as
identical to each other. If A, B, C, & D all believe X, then it is
assumed that (1) anyone who believes X agrees with A, B, C, & D on every
other issue also and (2) that A, B, C, and D are defined by their belief
in X, so that anyone who disagrees with X must condemn everything that
A, B, C, and D stand for.

For this kind of two-line struggle (as the Chinese called it and as the
"New Communist" movements of the '70s aped it) can  work -- but the
conditions for it to work are both extremely complex _and_ demand a good
deal of what may be called principled sloppiness. You have to stack your
contradictions in the right order (that's the complicated part) AND you
have to resolutely ignore, except in very tactful ways, contradictions
which are not yet "ripened," which are not, that is, directly relevant
to IMMEDIATE central concerns, no matter _HOW_ immensely relevant,
eventually, the "ignored" contradictions might be.

But maillists have an vicious tendency to push to the front just those
contradictions which ought to be kept in the back of the mind and only
discussed among those who are in pretty complete agreement.
(Incidentally, Hunterbear seems pretty good at this. He clearly has very
strong convictins, but he also doesn't let differences over _many_ of
those convictions separate him from those with whom he shares unity on
other issues.) Differences that, in a party engaged in political
practice, could simmer for years or decades before they caused
antagonism have people at each other's throats in weeks it seems like on

Unless we can somehow resolve this tendency in maillists they will
constitute an ever growing barrier to forming a new revolutionary party
in the U.S.

  I don't know how to avoid this latter problem
> unless we assume that there is a "real" Marxism that involves only a tiny
> portion of those who call themselves Marxism.

That assumption of course is utterly unacceptable. To assume it is to
mistake Marx for Plato, Marxism for (what its enemies accuse it of
being) just another religion.

> As indicated, I'm not optimistic about persuading people of this by
> email, but merely registering my protest against categories that obscure
> and mislead as much as they might clarify.

Difficult, isn't it.


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