Socialist Utopia

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Tue Jul 11 19:41:58 MDT 1995


Andy wrote:

> 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.

The first question is actually two questions.  One question is: can a
decentralized movement seize power?  I think the answer the that question
is yes, it can.  Simply because a movement is decentralized does not mean
that there can not be decision-making and coordination.  Also, there have
been examples of decentralized movements seizing (and even holding)
power.  One such example is The Hungarian Revolution of 1918.  A
spontaneous rebellion in the streets ended the monarchy and put into
power a group of liberals, radical democrats, and social democrats even
though the "leaders" unsuccessfully tried to stop the rebellion.  They
actually sat in a room expecting to be arrested and then executed, when
revolutionary forces burst into the room and declared the leader of this
reform coalition, Michael Karolyi, to be President.  I am sure there are
other examples as well of noncentralized movements seizing state power.

The second question in question one is: can you hold state power without
a centralized governmental body and administration? I don't think you can
answer that question with a definite no, you can't.  The ability to hold
state power depends on a number of factors of which
centralization/decentralization is just one.  More important factors, IMO,
include:

-- the balance of class forces;

-- the degree of popular support for the revolutionary government, and;

-- the willingness of the decentralized movement to unify around the
objective of defending the gains of the revolution.

Andy writes later on in his post:

> 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.

For the sake of argument, let's say that a movement such as you describe
above does become popular.  Let's say that you do establish "socialist
spaces."  Now, let's say that there are forces within the capitalist
class and the capitalist state who seek by extra-legal means, such as
military force, to restore the "socialist spaces" to the capitalist
sphere.  My question to you is: wouldn't you organize to defend the
"socialist spheres" against this attack?  If you answer that question
yes, aren't you saying that you would fight to maintain socialist power?

Don't you assume above that the capitalist elements in the state (and
outside of the state) will not attempt to maintain power through an
undemocratic act and/or force?  I don't believe this to be a warranted
assumption.

Jerry


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