Socialist Utopia

Jorge.E.Pedraza at williams.edu Jorge.E.Pedraza at williams.edu
Thu Jul 6 11:28:28 MDT 1995


Please excuse me if I run a little out of synch in these discussions as I
download and upload only once a day (I pay the bills not some university.)

The point I am trying to make on Marxism and utopia is that the concepts of
the very First Stage of socialism in Marx -- and later codified by Lenin --
are simply unworkable.  We all know that Lenin wrote one thing in State and
Revolution but implemented something quite different in reality between
1917-1921.    I suggest that a partial explanation for this is that the
vision, useful to mobilizing workers for the struggle for power, was
unworkable once power was achieved.

An interesting example of this is Trotsky's, usually ignored, critique of the
Paris Commune.  Marx's writings on the Commune were Lenin's main source for
his seemingly semi-anarchist vision of the workers state.  Trotsky, however,
attack the  "communal autonomy" of the Commune as "mundane anarchism."  More
significantly, he concluded that the Commune failed because it was not led by
a centralized "apparatus" and a "centralized party, internally welded by an
iron discipline."

Now if we combine a decentralized governmental structure, like the Commune,
with a centralized party, clearly power shifts to the party apparatus while
the communal structure, in time, becomes a hollow shell without meaningful
influence.  And so it came to pass in Russia.

But a decentralized governmental structure, within which a multitude of
parties compete, is open to easy overthrow from counterrevolutionary elements
and will be incapable of organizing a modern industrial and urbanized
society.

What, pray tell, should we do?  Abandon our socialist endeaver?  No, consider
administering a relatively centralized state through a representative
democratic structure.  There are passages in Marx, as Hal Draper once pointed
out, which suggest such an approach. (Much of Marx's writings on the Commune
were politically motivated by an effort to identify with it even though his
own people in France played almost no role).

It seems to me the problem facing socialists is to make it through the very
First stage of socialism without totalitarian deformation.  Can there be a
second or third stage of withering states and communitarian society?  I see
no basis in the world we NOW know which gives a materialist basis for such
dreams.  But dream on!  It's good for one's "soul."

However, it would be a Crime to seek to Impose  your dream of utopia and thus
create a Frankenstein (Stalin's collectivization, Mao's Great Leap Forward
and Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot's agrarian communism).


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