Socialist Utopia

James Devine JDevine at lmumail.lmu.edu
Sat Jul 1 20:05:06 MDT 1995


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Justin writes: >>Jim's remark... embodies a confusion Marx and Engels
were attached to in a deeply inconsistent way. On one han it is said taht
the choice between utopianism and scientific socialism is the same as
taht betyween socialism from above, imposed on the workers by an
undemocratic elite, and socioalism from below, proposed and developed by
the workers themselves.<<

I guess my prose was bad. I didn't _want_ to say that. Besides, all I
said was "The point of utopianism for Marx and Engels was  for workers to
figure out for themselves how to run society rather than to follow Noyes
or some other utopian leader ... into the hinterland" and make a remark
about Marx favoring whole-society utopianism over micro-utopianism.

I didn't refer to "scientific socialism." Anyway, what I meant was better
explained in an earlier message. One of my points was that "scientific
socialism" (specifically Engels, who coined that phrase) was originally
not that opposed to utopian socialism. Engels _liked_ the utopian
socialists in a lot of ways (though no one was immune to Marx & Engels'
ruthless critique of all existing).  I argued that the main difference
was over _tactics_ (quoting a book by Ruth Levitas on utopias to that
effect).

I _thought_ I was saying that I liked utopias, even complete
models of the sort that Justin refers to. But such theories are
at best only academic games if they aren't brought to and
discussed by the people who are supposed to benefit from them.
(That's why Albert and Hahnel were _absolutely right_ to write a
popularized version of their scheme.) At worst, they end up being
pre-determined plans imposed on workers by intellectuals.

What came to be called "scientific socialism" (the Marxism of the
2nd and 3rd internationals, and maybe the 4th) was much more
opposed to utopian thinking than were Marx & Engels.  The 2nd
Int'l's leaders got into a "harder" kind of science than Engels
(more like physical science), partly to justify their
intellectual leadership roles.  The 3rd Int'l was even more
antagonistic, seeing any utopianism as criticizing the USSR
(which it often was) -- and therefore bad (which doesn't follow).
I'm not impressed by these Marxists.

Justin also writes: >>The problem with Jim;s traditional Marxist
line<<

I thought that Justin knew me well enough to realized that I am
not a "traditional" anything.  This wrong assumption is the
reason why he launched into a long polemic (which luckily lacked
invective, except the false accusation of traditionalism) even
though we agree on a tremendoous amount  of stuff.

As for the issue of plan vs. market issue, that's one for
another day.  Except to note that it's a completely different
issue from the "macro-utopia" vs. "micro-utopia" debate I
mentioned.

for socialism from below,

Jim Devine   jdevine at lmumail.lmu.edu
Los Angeles, CA (the city of emphysema)

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