Monday, September 17, 2007

Our goals and theirs

Those of us who argue for a fundamental transformation of existing society, consisting of an expansion of both the spheres of democracy and freedom, are inevitably faced with the reactionary condemnations of those who represent and defend the existing social structure. Hurled at us are charges of “utopianism” and “idealism,” claims that our arguments, criticisms and alternatives are “unrealistic,” and “unattainable.”

The argument that our socialist-humanist goals are utopian, unattainable and thus unworthy of pursuit is nothing more than a transparent and empty reactionary defense waged, predominately by those who have a vested interest in the current organization of society, in order to protect the existing edifice of power relations and class structure.

The socio-political landscape is carved by the conflicts and arguments arising from within it and from without it. Society makes progress through conflict and in conscious life by argument and disputation. In this sense society evolves dialectically through socio-political conflict. There are many instances, even keeping only to the history of the United States, where were it not for the “extremists,” “fanatics,” and “utopists” who regarded compromise as disgrace and morally unacceptable – for instance, fanatic abolitionists such as John Brown – progress may very well have not been achieved, certainly not as soon as it did; and with regards to such monumentally important questions as slavery and freedom, immediacy is very much of the essence.

It is our immediate task to not only argue and struggle for what is plausibly attainable immediately, but, even more so, what is ultimately just and ethically right; regardless of whether or not it is in the short term likely to be achieved. We refuse to subvert ethical principle, justice and freedom for shrewd and opportunist short-term gain which is in the end fundamentally inadequate and indefensible.

It is the goal of those who have a vested interest in the existing order to condemn as outrageous and unrealistic our goals. It is our goal to falsify their reactionary condemnations by way of action.


Jim Jay said...

Interesting stuff - thanks for this

melloncollie said...

It's important for the status quo that the majority of people see this way of thinking as unrealistic. We are conditioned by the society we live in to never question or think. It's interesting to think about how many times I heard "that's just the way it is" from adults when I was growing up. The idea that "life isn't fair" is often used to dismiss concerns about social justice, and so a change in our socio-political structure is made more difficult because of that ingrained notion.

Quote: "The argument that our socialist-humanist goals are utopian, unattainable and thus unworthy of pursuit is nothing more than a transparent and empty reactionary defense waged, predominately by those who have a vested interest in the current organization of society"

Exactly. Very well stated.

(I also love your example about abolitionists. I get frustrated when politicans talk about "politcial expediencey" and what's politically feasible right now.)

This is a great, interesting piece, and the more I hear about socialist-humanism, the more intrigued I am.

Dave Marlow said...

The claims of utopianism are absurd and made only by those who have not read a word of Marx or Engels. These two made sure to completely distance themselves from the so-called "socialist" utopian movements of the early 19th century. Moreover, "Critique of the Gotha Program is essentially a rebuttal to this idea that inequality and injustice will magically go away after attaining socialism.

The truth is that we are the realists in understanding, observing, and accepting the dialectical conception of history.

JDHURF said...

jim jay:

You're welcome.


There is nothing more spineless and disgraceful than the defeatist attitude inherent in such claims as "life isn't fair," with regards to social justice.

I am glad to hear that you are finding socialist-humanism intriguing.

comrade dave:

While I agree with you regarding the distance Marx and Engels made sure to put between their socialism, the socialism which preceded theirs and libertarian-socialism also - which has been fallaciously derided as "utopian socialism" - I disagree with you that only through a Marxist conception of socialism is one able to falsify all charges of "utopianism."
The ever churning waters of the dialectic are not perceived exclusively by the Marxists.

Thank you all for stopping by and commenting.

Renegade Eye said...

I returned the favor, and linked back to you.

I agree with my long time comrade, Dave. I think Trotsky's Transitional Program, provides a method to make capitalism, fall on its own weight.

Even if you organize a coop to run a business, it's still subject to the laws of capitalism. The institutions have to not only be taken over, they need to be rebuilt.

JDHURF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JDHURF said...

Thank you for the link, comrade.

I agree with portions of Trotsky's Transitional Program, such as that we would do well to be wary of “demagogues of the People’s Front who, giving lip service to nationalization, remain in reality agents of capital.” I also agree when Trotsky states that “we call upon the masses to rely only upon their own revolutionary strength,” and that “the necessity of advancing the slogan of expropriation in the course of daily agitation in partial form…is dictated by the fact that different branches of industry are on different levels of development, occupy a different place in the life of society, and pass through different stages of the class struggle. Only a general revolutionary upsurge of the proletariat can place the complete expropriation of the bourgeoisie on the order of the day.

It is especially because I agree with what I have highlighted that I disagree with the following:

“Trade unions do not offer, and in line with their task, composition and manner of recruiting membership, cannot offer a finished revolutionary program; in consequence, they cannot replace the party. The building of national revolutionary parties as sections of the Fourth International is the central task of the transitional epoch.”

It is as though Trotsky paid no attention to the events in Spain. It has also now become very clear, as I quoted Rudolf Rocker in my Socialist post, that "participation in the politics of the bourgeois states has not brought the labour movement a hair’s-breadth closer to Socialism, but, thanks to this method, Socialism has almost been completely crushed and condemned to insignificance. The ancient proverb: "Who eats of the pope, dies of him," has held true in this content also; who eats of the state is ruined by it. Participation in parliamentary politics has affected the Socialist labour movement like an insidious poison. It destroyed the belief in the necessity of constructive Socialist activity and, worst of all, the impulse to self-help, by inoculating people with the ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above.”

However, I do agree with you when you point out that not only are the existing institutions in need of being taken over, but even further, they need to be dismantled and rebuilt anew.

Thank you for stopping by and commenting.