On Idealism

My politics are not comparable to those of a great majority of Americans’.  I identify as a Socialist because I don’t want to give false impression of moderation.  While I don’t believe in the most common conception of socialism, an economy administered by the government, I believe that my core principles put me far outside the norm for an American and are similarly divergent from most major ideologies in the Western world.  These are:

1) Society has no purpose other than to aid its members

2) Social structures should be changed wherever this is not the case

3) 1 and 2 taken together imply a society with drastically different order than exists anywhere on Earth

I believe that there is something deeply wrong with a world in which one billion go hungry while another billion suffer from an excess of food.  I think that it’s atrocious that at a time when technology allows some to live in unprecedented excess while they, through action and inaction make it hard to even begin to effect the changes that could create a better world.

It is unfortunate that people focus on money and possessions more than learning for its own sake, than on love and satisfaction and fraternity.  Where biological need has been eliminated, I don’t see a quest for enlightenment, but simply for more items.

I don’t know the solutions to these problems.  I know many don’t think that they’re problems.  I know many more don’t see their importance compared to more immediate concerns.  I know that, no matter what I say or do for the rest of my life, there will be people who disagree with me.  This puts us in a situation where, to use Machiavelli’s terminology, we have hard questions to answer about ends and means.

Every person who wants to change society has a fundamental question to answer with regards to strategy:  Do you act as a part of the society you seek to change or do you attack it as an outsider?  Depending on your choice, you are guilty either of appeasement or a willingness to fail.

The difficulty of formulating a coherent answer to this question only becomes harder when the realities of electoral politics are taken into consideration.  By placing your ideology on the ballot, you are putting yourself in a process which pushes back strongly against original thought and meaningful change.  Minority parties are often powerless, and achieving majority status usually means sacrificing your beliefs along the way.  My response to such realities is as follows:

Never compromise on your ideology or beliefs.  Never.

Always compromise on strategy.  Do everything you can to do something.  If your beliefs are important, partial successes matter, and a good compromise is success.

Eliminate the bourgeois capitalist system, one compromise at a time.

See wikified version at http://gammafactor.wikia.com/wiki/On_Idealism.

3 thoughts on “On Idealism

  1. Will says:

    Great post. We may have talked about this, but I thought I’d mention that in Marxist scholarship there’s a noticeable difference between how academics (e.g. Althusser) and activists (e.g. Gramsci, Luxemburg) view their commitment to Marxist principles.
    In my experience, I’ve found that academics are much more comfortable with the inevitability of the fall of capitalism. In their writings, the time for revolution is almost never “now,” and usually at some future point where the situation will be such that radical social change is possible.
    Luxemburg, on the other hand, believed that the proletariat should continually revolt to foment a revolution. If you only do something once, how can you expect to succeed?
    As for compromise, I’m not totally sold. Concessions given to workers by the ruling class can pacify social unrest. In many workers’ movements, low-skilled workers tend to just want higher wages, while skilled workers want to be valued more by society. When the low-skilled workers are given their higher wages, they tend to stop caring about the movement. When a sizable proportion of the movement no longer has any desire to participate, the movement fall apart. One example could be the establishment of Works Councils in Germany in the post-WWI era. Belief in radical change and compromise are often be at odds with one another.

  2. That intellectuals are so comfortable predicting a revolution is possibly one of my greatest issues with Marxism. It’s one of the defining tests of Marxism as a science that it makes predictions and in the 166 years since the Communist Manifesto was published no global revolution by the proletariat has occurred.

    What I was trying to offer with this post was a way to deal with the issue of coalitions. While it might be tough to tell in advance, if the low-skilled workers would eventually leave the movement after achieving mild success, they don’t really belong in a Marxist movement because they are not really pushing Marxism so much as liberalism and social democracy. It’s my claim that if Marxists see social democracy as being closer to what they want society to look like than how it actually looks, they should ally with social democrats until that’s happened.

    This will only work if you have a core group of committed idealogues. This will more or less mean permanent minority status in a representative system, which isn’t an issue if you can still achieve your end goal.

  3. Diego says:

    wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

    We are born as individuals and experience life as such. Therein lies the origin of all evil. Social, political, and any other manifestation as you have implied in this post. Empathy, in my opinion, is part of the enlightenment. The world as it stands collectively is far from perfect, however, i would assume you would agree that despite its archaic shortcomings we continue on a minimal but gradual improvement as society as a whole. It would take an event of great worldwide social impact in order to effectuate socialist change rapidly. Until then it will continue to be gradual. I could elaborate but i think this provides the basis for you to understand the point im trying to make. Excuse my high school English, not at the college level yet

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