Going back to the original article Meszaros says: freedom is not something that simply falls out of the sky and hits us, and then everything is all right. It is a very complex social transformation, and at the same time involves a certain conception of humanity and its conditions of existence. IMO the 'state of nature' debate can never be resolved scientifically until we have actual communism. Either one has faith in the 'natural condition of man' being lovely or you don't. Kropotkin and the anarchist argue very well that man is naturally co-operative, caring and considerate whereas someone like Hobbes argued that the condition of man was always to be nasty, cruel, brutish and short. How one decides scientifically without any concrete empirical evidence is beyond me. I think we should leave the question to the future a class-less society with humanity free is the only real test of how that humanity will operate (to predetermine it would be to prove that it was not really free). The quote from Capital Vol 3, London 1981, pp958-9 did not for me prove his argument. Marx use of the normally moral imperative 'must' I did not read a a moral direction but as a natural inevitability - it 'will' happen not it 'should' happen. it is value-laden, an aspiration towards which we have to strive. Unless society is orientated in the direction of overcoming such terrible legacies, such terrible determinations of the system, there is no hope that we can move forward. Talk of aspiration and HOPE (good old hope!) always makes me worry. I much prefer talk of the inevitability towards which material conditions are leading, when the contradictions with class-based society WILL unravel and 'human nature' is given its freedom. Labour cannot simply emancipate itself, and take over the role of the previous ruling classes which subordinated the rest of society. IMO it must ! Dream of a future society if you must but - unless you can prove its scientifically inevitability (or even likelihood) - then do not burden the rest of us with your false hopes. Christianity has spent the last 2000 years convincing people that the promise land is just a lifetime away and although millions believe there ability to achieve their promises is far from realization. If the workers just want hope then I think religion has had much better practice than we can ever have. They also get paid for it! the individual moral dimension is absolutely essential... He is now sounding more and more like the ultra-Liberalism of the anarchists tradition which is closely associated with utopian socialism. They also try hard to plough a course between aspiration and hard reality. At which point in order to keep posts down to a manageable length I will break off now. I'll be back for more. John === John Walker email: [EMAIL PROTECTED] === --- from list [EMAIL PROTECTED] ---
Meszaros says that communism concerns control and asks: what sort of control? In the past it was assumed that political control would do It was not political control that was at the heart of Communism but the control of the means of poduction, short and simple. Communism is effectively about people controling there own production. In fact, in the sense he seems to be inferring, political control (i.e. via the state) is precisely what communism seeks to surplant. The phrase 'the withering away of the state' as a definition of communism comes to mind. If you look around the world today, most of the former communist parties have abandoned the name 'communist'. The original CPGB now calls itself the 'Democratic Left'. Well a small section of reformist members who won control of its assets do (and some of them may still consider themselves to be communists regardless of the party name). There was an interesting article on its collapse posted to the Marxist-Leninist list I'll check the url if anyone's interested. In the former Soviet Union and the east European countries, there has been a complete change, a complete abandonment of all principles. The former communist leaders of eastern Europe have turned themselves into capitalists It was the captialism forces both within and without the CPs which brought about these changes not because they changed their minds but that the economic conditions changed with pressure from Imperialism. This meant that their own economic interests no longer accorded with communist priniclples but with the re-introduction of the capitalist market. The same forces have also arisen in China and Cuba but for the time being they haven't brought about the same destruction. He then goes on to Stalin (ignoring Lenins advocation of the same point - and I presume even Trotsky!): For him, communism meant overtaking the United States in coal, pig iron and steel production. How seriously can you take any notion of 'communism' which defines the idea in such totally vacuous and utterly fetishistic terms. You can double the United States pig iron production, and you have not moved one inch in the direction of communism. Communism is exactly about the question of production. Without large scale production (regardless of its relation to other countries) it would be impossible to bring about the radical shift necessary from a largely backwards, peasant-ridden, mostly agricultural society (as almost all these countries were) into an industrial one. But perhaps Meszaros' view of communism has more in common with Proudhon and some anarchists view of small farmholds. A sort of peasant society without the feudal lords and other classes bothering them. There can be no move to what Marx's means by communism except in relation to the improvement of production to provide for all and not just a few. The other problem with Meszaros' obsessive attacks on so-called Stalinist communism is that he does what many do when attacking these countries and that is to start out by attacking first a hate-figure like stalin and then the communist parties and then to slip un-noticed the 'fact' that these countries were Communist. It is not a mere oversight that the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics was not the USCR as it made no claim to have attained Communism, the state had far from withered away (in fact it was quite openly a dictatorship of the proletariat). They did not claim that one could build 'communism in one country'. No one was more aware of the then inability to achieve a move to a communist society than the people in the Communist Parties. What they achieved was not communism but what they did show was that a break from Capitalism in the intense period of Imperialism was no longer merely a Utopian pipe-dream. Those who condemn these countries out-of-hand (such a Simon's 100 year old SPGB) have to come to terms with the fact that their belief in the transition to Communism - if not a Utopia - has not got off the planning stage. Which after a century and a half would certainly convince me that Marx was just wrong or at least so wildly optimistic that we can have no idea how long capitalism will last. Marxism then slips from a science of the historical development of human society to quasi-religious belief that humanity must be liberated one day. For some that is solice enough. I could go on but I have to have something to eat. I will be back. John Walker --- from list [EMAIL PROTECTED] ---
The following article, by Istvan Meszaros, is copied from the Socialist Register listserve. The title as stated in that list is, "Communism Is No Utopia." Best wishes, Jim Lawler ** Is Communism a utopia? The answer to the question depends on what we mean by communism and what we mean by utopia. My own attitude is that it is not a utopia. Communism concerns control. It envisages a different way of controlling our social interchanges, our relationship to nature. The moment I speak of control, the question arises: what sort of control? In the past it was assumed that political control would do the trick. Now we know from bitter experience that it did not, that it could not succeed. If you look around the world today, most of the former communist parties have abandoned the name 'communist'. The original CPGB now calls itself the 'Democratic Left'. God knows how long that will stay. And if you think of one of the most important communist parties of the past, the Italian CP, it has disintegrated. It has become reduced to something meaningless, a government party. The prime minister of Italy today is a former communist, but he would run away from any suggestion that he might have anything to do with communism. That is the reality of what happened in the last 10 years. If we look at the former Soviet Union and the east European countries, there has been a complete change, a complete abandonment of all principles. The former communist leaders of eastern Europe have turned themselves into capitalists, who parasitically profit from former state property, transferring it to themselves or their offspring. It is quite scandalous, but this is what happened. The problem goes deeper when we think of how Stalin defined communism. For him, communism meant overtaking the United States in coal, pig iron and steel production. How seriously can you take any notion of 'communism' which defines the idea in such totally vacuous and utterly fetishistic terms. You can double the United States pig iron production, and you have not moved one inch in the direction of communism. This shows the difficulty. Even if you have a political organisation which calls itself communist, as the former Soviet Communist Party and others did, that does not give you any guarantee that its ideas can be taken seriously. On the other side - the utopia side - you have serious problems. In one sense I sympathise with the people who say we definitely have to accept that utopia has value. That under the present miserable conditions, we have to envisage a social transformation which shows something beyond it. And if they call us utopian for that reason, so be it. We accept it. One of those who took this position was Marcuse. Some of his writings on the subject are brilliant. But what happened later? Poor Marcuse realised that the kind of strategy he envisaged, and his way of talking about the agency of social transformation which could take us to this idealised state of utopia, were identified with students and outsiders in general. His theorem turned out to be very utopian in another sense - he became an extreme pessimist. Towards the end of his life, in his last works, such as *The aesthetic dimension*, he embraced a totally pessimistic view of the world, saying that it was not made for man, that it had not become more human, that there are only islands of good in the sea of evil, to which one can escape for only short moments of time. In the Marxist tradition, from the beginning, utopia was questioned and criticised. The most sustained work was Engels's long essay on the development of socialism from utopia to science. Engels stressed that the utopian conception of socialism - found in Owen and the French socialists - envisaged a way of establishing a new social order which would be the product of enlightened, far-sighted people capable of persuading others that such a society was good and worth striving for. It was a sort of moral appeal, a set of ideas that would produce a great change in society. Marx asked the question, who is going to educate the educators, what are the circumstances under which the conditions become favourable for this kind of enormous leap from the existing social framework? There are those who would throw out the baby with the bathwater. If you think of more recent approaches, this idea - from utopia to science - was carried to the extreme by those who dismissed any element of social value. Moral values became labelled as negative and unscientific. A false opposition was made between science and values. Yet there is no way of avoiding the realisation that when we talk about a different kind of society - communist society - that involves values. The realm of freedom is not something that simply falls out of the sky and hits us, and then everything is all right. It is a very complex social transformation, and at the same time involves a certain conception of humanity and its conditions of existence.