Socialist Utopia

glevy at glevy at
Sat Jul 8 20:41:53 MDT 1995

Tim W. wrote:

> Of we could develop a vision of a socialist society based on representative
> democracy, combined with workers co-ops and management, some market economy,
>  some bureaucracy, a civil society, multi-parties.  Utopia?  Certainly not!
>  An improvement over what we got?  You better believe it!

I never got around to dealing with this part of Tim's post.  The vision
that Tim presents is decidedly non-Utopian.  This is OK, in my view,
since Utopian visions tend to have rather rigid conceptions of the future
society and leave very little room for improvement.  It is
nonmaterialistic and ahistorical to believe that people will ever come to
a lasting agreement on the specifics of future society.  Too many
authors have assumed that history will end when we reach Utopia and further
struggles will cease.  We, I believe, have to view socialism as an
ongoing process where each generation and society is allowed to develop
its own vision free of our preconceptions and will.  We , especially,
have to be on guard against developing any visions that require
authoritarian measures to repress individual freedom and expression where
people have alternative visions.

The society that Tim proposes is most assuredly "an improvement over what
we got."  The proposal that we have a "representative democracy, combined
with workers' co-ops and management" with "civil society" has the advantage
of being a  proposal that would fit in well with workers' ideas
concerning personal  freedom and expression.  From a pragmattic
perspective, it is very hard  to envision a scenario in which we could
convince workers to forego a  formal democratic structure without
resorting to authoritarian measures.

The challenge, as I see it, will be to convince workers of a vision of
society where *they* will be the main agent of change (rather than their
representatives or organized political parties).  We must allow workers
themselves the freedom to develop the specifics of future society *even
where* that vision differs from our own.

Workers themselves must develop their own autonomous democratic
structures which both allow for free expression and are committed to
defending freedom and advances against any authoritarian opponents who
attempt to thwart their will.  After the "revolution" it is safe to
assume that this will require ongoing effort and vigilance.

"Multi parties" will, IMO, also be demanded by workers in this country.
Any political party that claims that it is the *only* representative of
workers' needs will be increasingly marginalized and trivialized.  In
fact, any party which denies other parties the right to organize and seek
mass support will forego its chances of winning mass support.

Do we need, as Tim suggests, "some bureaucracy" and "some market
economy"?  I think that *we* should oppose both.  Yet, we have to
recognize that workers themselves might have different conceptions of
these institutions than we have.  We can argue against bureaucracy and a
limited role for the market, but we have to allow workers themselves the
right to decide.  Democracy is an empty shell if we fail to allow an
outcome other than the one we desire.


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