No Plan for Utopia

Francis Fish
17 min readJan 2

But a better world is necessary

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

William Blake’s Jerusalem

A Facebook friend of mine said to me: If you can show me a practical, workable solution to bring about a Socialist/Communist utopia, I would love to see it sir.

So here is what will be a long article explaining how we might get to a better world, not a perfect one. It’s also interesting to note that the original use of the word utopia was a better world. I haven’t read Thomas Moore’s book that originated the word (or at least a translation from the Latin), but when I went to a talk about utopia the speaker pointed out that all Moore was arguing for was a better world than the one he was experiencing at the time. The idea it means some kind of unattainable perfection came later.

So we can’t have a perfect world because we aren’t perfect, and also because things change and perfect for one time could be extremely wrong at another. A perfect world would adapt and change, rather than the unchanging sterility that people imagine. The idea of a perfect world takes no account of history and how societies change over time. Also, this idea denies us agency, it means that someone (or some godlike thing) has to make that world for us. We make the world we live in, just by participating in it, no gods need apply. This also means that world is a compendium of our vices, virtues, blind spots, and knowledge.

Utopian Socialism

Way back in the 19th century Marx’s close collaborator Frederick Engels wrote a book called Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, (PDF here) which is in fact an excerpt from a longer work. It’s written in 19th Century language which can make it hard to understand, but it’s also mercifully short and is well worth studying. I will try and summarise the relevant points here for your delight and delectation.

He first talks about the Utopian socialists such as Robert Owen. The socialism of these individuals is that of the imagination, in Owen’s case he was a very wealthy man and created ideal factories. Workers were paid well, harsh…

Francis Fish

Socialist, guitarist, sometimes I write code too