This article is from Critical Proletariat, a site which we at the underground hope to be working with in the future. I strongly recommend that you go to the site if you enjoy reading the underground.
By James O. Gibson
As you already know from my previous posts, I think that combating the criticisms of socialism will be a crucial part of building any anti-capitalist movement in our world today. The opponents of socialism will often criticize its practicality, sometimes even branding it as utopian. What these people don’t understand is that Marxism sits very far away from utopianism, Karl Marx was strongly against utopianism. In many respects, Marx was a realist with a very scientific way of approaching the problems that he diagnosed, however there was one thing that made Marx stand out among other thinkers of the time. Karl Marx was open about his passions in regards to class struggle and socialism, and was always transparent about the fact that his passions would influence his work. The critical thinking applied by Marx went far beyond his critique of capitalism, but became a tool of diagnosis for his own analytic frameworks.
If anything, neoliberalism is much more utopian than Marxism ever was, as it relies on the concept of a market equilibrium meeting the social needs of the people. Marx saw that this equilibrium would be unlikely and it almost certainly wouldn’t meet the needs of the majority, as an equilibrium relies of absence of external factors. As we know, our economy is rife with these external factors. Marx saw that within capitalism there are a variety of contradictions, and eventually these contradictions result in crisis. Marxism is more about the critique of capitalism than it is the establishment of a socialist state. That said, his criticisms of capitalism helped create the need for the creation of a socialist movement, and Marx spent a good portion of time in Britain as a journalist trying to raise support for such issues.
Marx recognized the concept that people wouldn’t always act in ways that were intended in a certain system, he also understood that not everybody was a complete rational actor. He draws to phenomena such as fetishism to explain the desires and misconceptions that lead people to make decisions that may not be entirely rational on an underlying level. In a market economy, not everything is as it seems. In Marxism, there is this underlying idea that the market is a mechanic used to exploit- but most working people hadn’t recognized this. Aside from fetishism, Marx was also focused (arguably more greatly) on the flaws of the endless desire to accumulate wealth. Infinite growth can’t be supported in a world with a limited amount of resources and so on.
Understandably, there are breeds of socialism that encourage a certain flare of utopianism, however for the most part – socialism and Marxism are simply the desires to give the working people more equality and empowerment than the current capitalist system gives them. Personally, I recognize the fact that within the socialist system there will be bad eggs who are corrupt and want to abuse the system – however the socialist cause would be to eliminate these counter-revolutionaries. In the period after the Russian revolution, there was a huge divide among the factions involved – an internal dispute that ended with Joseph Stalin succeeding to General Secretary after Lenin’s death. Stalin then conducted a mass-industrialization of the country and implemented policies that created an entirely new ruling class in Russia. It was a failed revolution, but not a failure of socialism.