the spirit of utopia today

A talk by Mark Ellingsen at the recent Bristol Anarchist Bookfair

First of all I would like to make a distinction between utopia and utopianism, or the spirit of utopia. So let’s start with a couple of definitions which I think is close to how I see the two concepts:

Definition of utopia:

“The word describes an ideal community free from conflict which incorporates a clear set of values and allows the complete satisfaction of human needs.” (Burden 2006: 716).

Definition of utopianism:

“Critical and creative thinking projecting alternative social worlds that would realize the best possible way of being, based on rational and moral principles, accounts of human nature and history, or imagined technological possibilities. Utopian thinking invariably contains criticism of the status quo. It aims to overcome social inequality, economic exploitation, sexual repression, and other possible forms of domination that make well-being and happiness in this life impossible” (Kögler 2005: 939). Continue reading “the spirit of utopia today”

links added in ‘ideas’

today we have added three more links to the ‘ideas‘ page of the commune.

the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in marx and engels, by hal draper, explains how marx and engels used the term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ not to mean a specific form of government but rather to denote the class rule of the working class once it has overthrown the bourgeoisie. in this vein draper attacks the understanding of the term elaborated by plekhanov, who proclaimed “when we come to power, we will allow no freedom for anyone but ourselves”.

anton pannekoek’s world revolution and communist tactics, written for an organ of the comintern in 1920, effectively combats statist visions of working-class power and bureaucracy in the workers’ movement, and looks at the new organisational forms workers must use to re-shape society: “the formation by the workers of the soviets, their own organs of power and action, in itself signifies the disintegration and dissolution of the state. as a much more recent form of organisation and one created by the proletariat itself, the trade union will survive much longer, because it has its roots in a much more living tradition of personal experience, and once it has shaken off state-democratic illusions, will therefore claim a place in the conceptual world of the proletariat. but since the trade unions have emerged from the proletariat itself, as products of its own creative activity, it is in this field that we shall see the most new formations as continual attempts to adapt to new conditions; following the process of revolution, new forms of struggle and organisation will be built on the model of the soviets in a process of constant transformation and development”.

ubu saved from drowning: worker insurgency and statist containment in portugal and spain 1974-77, by loren goldner, is of particular interest in that focuses on the struggles of the portuguese working class rather than merely the history of the sects that aspired to lead it (much like mailer’s the impossible revolution). the fact that the portuguese revolution represented the end of an era of class struggle rather than the beginning of a new one, and that the onward march of state capitalism had also petered out by the end of the 1970s, by no means devalues the lessons of the portuguese revolutionary crisis, which saw mass working-class mobilisation, factory expropriations and efforts at workers’ self-management.