Socialist Utopia

Andy Daitsman adaitsma at
Tue Jul 11 14:48:15 MDT 1995

Whoops!  A little misunderstanding, and I'm afraid it's my fault.

Jerry wrote:

>Tim W. wrote:
>> I am afraid both the example of Chile and the example of the Turks during
>>  Byzantium make, in a way , my point.
>> Both are examples of pre-capitalist society, with loose community-based
>> structures, resisting a more structured, centralized and powerful urban
>>society.  This suggests, by analogy, a romantic notion of socialism as having
>> a PRE-capitalist rather than POST-capitalist structure.
>Chile under the Unidad Popular government could hardly be described as
>having being a "pre-capitalist society" (although it was not a
>*completely* capitalist society).

Tim was referring to my post about Mapuche resistance to Spanish conquest,
not to my later posts about the UP.  Jerry may have missed the earlier one.

And of course Tim is right.  I wrote the Mapuche post hastily, after having
read his decentralization post hastily, and I skipped over the part where he

>>> A decentralized government body and administration, however, is incapable of
>>> defending the gains of the revolution from counterrevolution and
>>> administering an industrialized economy and urbanized population?

Obviously, my Mapuche example is completely irrelevant in the context Tim
lays out here, and I gotta admit I was pretty embarassed when I realized my
mistake.  Too embarassed, I guess, to write in and admit it.

[Jerry's stuff cut]

[Back to Tim's post on inadequacy of Mapuche and Turkish models:]
>> And it is decidedly impractical.  We are talking about socialist revolution
>> in a modern urban society, which already has a centralized structure and
>> massive urban population.  You both seem to be suggesting an abandonment of
>>nine-tenths of the society to the counterrevolutionaries while the socialists
>> hole up in the hills and carry on  guerrilla warfare, perhaps like the
>> Chechens.  Not a very pretty picture of utopia!

I think what I'd like to do here, though, is separate out two questions.  On
the one hand, there's the problem of seizing and holding state power.  If
that's your objective, then you're right that a decentralized movement isn't
going to cut it.  On the other, though, there's the question of how best to
organize a truly emancipatory socialist society.  I think socialism, to be
real, has to be decentralized.  There's a contradiction for you, hey?

The way I've resolved this for myself is to abandon the project of seizing
state power.  That doesn't mean to abandon a revolutionary project, but a
shift of focus away from the state and onto civil society.  In other words,
like Jim D.'s tag-line, to begin the process right now of constructing
socialism from the ground up, to exploit the gaps and contradictions
inherent in the advanced liberal state to create socialist spaces within
that state, and then to relentlessly expand the scope of those spaces until
no room remains for the capitalist.  In other words, to build a
counter-hegemony.  By the time that counter-hegemony becomes hegemonic,
we'll no longer need to seize state power, because we will have already
caused it to wither away.

Note that this vision doesn't imply a retreat from political action, but it
does imply that the focus of politics should fundamentally be local and
democratic, that people deserve to have a say in the issues they confront in
their daily lives.  Nor does it imply a retreat from national or even
international organizing.  We'll need a coherent coordinated strategy in
order to make it work.  But it does clearly imply a retreat from leninism.
No talk here of a vanguard party, of advanced sectors of the working class
to lead the revolution, of democratic centralism, of a dictatorship of the

Uh, oh.  My diss is calling me away.  Time to get off the soapbox...


>Indeed, this is "not a very pretty picture of utopia!"  To "hole up in
>the hills and carry on guerilla warfare" is "decidedly impractical" when
>placed in the context of US society.  To abandon "nine-tenths of the
>society to the counterrevolutionaries" would clearly be a mistake.  Yet, who
>was "suggesting" the above scenario?
>     --- from list marxism at ---

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