Re: M-TH: Meszaros article: Communism Is No Utopia

1999-11-26 Thread J.WALKER

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 Walker

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Re: M-TH: Meszaros article: Communism Is No Utopia

1999-11-24 Thread J.WALKER

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

 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 

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 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 

I could go on but I have to have something to eat. I will be back.

John Walker

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