Great essay. I made this comment at the website:
Thanks to A.J. for this extraordinary essay. It isn’t every day that we read an homage to utopianism, let alone from a Marxist.
There is much more good than bad here, much more, but there are a couple of points worth making.
It’s proper to refer to Owen as a utopian. I attempted to read “A Vision of a New Society,” if I remember the title correctly, and gave up because I concluded that it was indeed utopian. But his utopianism is greatly overstated. He was a very practical fellow, unlike many of his critics, and his GNC was a remarkable achievement. Proof of that is evidenced by the lengths to which the British government went to suppress it (the anti-Combination Laws etc.).
There are a higher percentage of workers than ever before? My impression was just the opposite, that as a class, numerically anyway, the proletariat is in decline. But perhaps I am wrong.
Now the controversial stuff: “Socialism, for Marx and Engels, was not inevitable but very possible”? This is certainly a heterodox view. Certainly great numbers of Marxists, particularly those organized in political parties, have believed the opposite and followed a revolutionary course determined by that belief. My reading of Marx tells me that he did believe socialism was inevitable, but that it required quite an effort to effect. Capitalism cannot last, that’s Marx’ analysis. He was not the first to offer such an opinion, but he did embrace it.
“[Marx] decried sectarianism within the working class movement, which he described as those who, ‘demanded that the class movement subordinate itself to a particular sect movement.'”?
This is a real shocker. I’m wondering where the author gets this quote.
Whether he said it or not he certainly didn’t embrace such a sentiment. In the history of the socialist movement, nobody is more guilty of sectarianism than Karl Marx. Nobody! Socialist discourse was pretty well advanced before Marx plunged in. His contribution was enormous, but, despite what a good many Marxists believe, he didn’t invent the field. Contemporaneous with Marx there were the LaSalleans, the Blanquists/Jacobins, the anarchists, and the utopians, and Marx intrigued against and/or slandered all of them. The underhand and sectarian things he did to Bakunin pretty much undermined the First International. Marx’ squalid “Confidential Communication” was certainly not the effort of a non-sectarian, whatever he may have said on other occasions.