Boundaries of Utopia - Imagining Communism from Plato to Stalin (Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series)

Boundaries of Utopia - Imagining Communism from Plato to Stalin (Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series)

Language: English

Pages: 248

ISBN: 0415703727

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The idea that socialism could be established in a single country was adopted as an official doctrine by the Soviet Union in 1925, Stalin and Bukharin being the main formulators of the policy. Before this there had been much debate as to whether the only way to secure socialism would be as a result of socialist revolution on a much broader scale, across all Europe or wider still. This book traces the development of ideas about communist utopia from Plato onwards, paying particular attention to debates about universalist ideology versus the possibility for "socialism in one country". The book argues that although the prevailing view is that "socialism in one country" was a sharp break from a long tradition that tended to view socialism as only possible if universal, in fact the territorially confined socialist project had long roots, including in the writings of Marx and Engels.

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the Soviet proletariat from establishing a ‘complete socialist society’. Collapse through economic pressure, a point the April 1925 resolution had allowed and that the Opposition leaders had been emphasising, was now ruled out.47 The loophole was closed. One last occasion for the matter to be debated at length was the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the Comintern Executive Committee, to assemble from 22 November to 16 December 1926.48 Stalin was particularly incensed by Trotsky’s assertion that it was

bordering on religious ecstasy’. Backward Russia was therefore the only country where all conditions for the ‘social revolution’ were in evidence. It must therefore become the ‘initiator of the new era in the existence of humanity’, the first country to break through to socialism and to set an example for the Western workers.50 Engel’gardt did not regard it as an insuperable problem if Russia transformed its ‘whole economic and social system’, and the workers of the West did not follow the

established by Plekhanov had to go. The first indication that his thinking was shifting came in the famous ‘Farewell Letter to the Swiss Workers’, written in March. The Bolshevik leader confirmed that the Russian proletariat ‘cannot complete [zavershit’] the socialist revolution when it uses only its own forces’, for which purpose the support of the European and American workers remained indispensable. But the socialist revolution could nonetheless ‘be begun in a certain way’. Russia could engage

Kowalski, 1991: 32–3. The November 1915 theses of the ‘Bukharin–Piatakov group’ held: ‘The imperialist epoch is an epoch of the absorption of small states by the large state units’. Correspondingly, the ‘proletarian forces’ should be mobilised ‘on an international scale for their international activities’ for the overthrow of capitalism (Gankin and Fisher, 1940: 219–20). 16 ‘Voina i rossiiskaia sotsial-demokratiia’ (PSS, vol. 26: 20–2). 17 Notes about Lenin’s October 1914 presentation on the

to be first. Also, living in a world order consisting of separate states, the socialists were bound to imagine communism in terms of states and countries. Even the imagination works with what it finds. The idea that the revolution would have the power of an avalanche breaking down state borders, rolling on, and only subsiding when the world would be completely covered, sounded just too fantastic. Realistically, in the world as it was, the revolution could hardly proceed in any other way than state

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