SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Issue 226 March 2019

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Excerpts from the new introduction by Tony Saunois

The republication of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is to be warmly welcomed. It should be read and studied by socialists, worker-activists and young people interested in socialist ideas, as it greatly adds to our understanding of the roots of socialism and the tasks of the working class – the need to conquer, to fundamentally change society. This short pamphlet by Friedrich Engels is, along with the Communist Manifesto, one of the best and most significant introductions to Marxism.

In particular, Engels discusses the development of the classes and class struggle in each historical epoch and social system. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific was a reworking of three chapters from Anti-Dühring in a more accessible form to give an account of the origin and development of socialist ideas and the Marxist theory of history, also known as ‘historical materialism’. Both of these works were used as basic education studies in the German workers’ movement.

Although written in another historical era, the ideas contained in this short pamphlet are fully relevant today. They help us to understand and answer the ideas of today’s ‘utopian socialists’. These re-emerged following the rise of the Occupy movement and other ‘new left’ formations, like Podemos in Spain and Momentum in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. It is against the background of the rebuilding of the workers’ and socialist movement – following the collapse of the former Stalinist regimes in the USSR and eastern Europe – that some of the old ‘utopian socialist’ ideas have re-emerged.

The scientific socialist ideas contained in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific are a crucial tool for understanding the functioning of capitalist society and the struggle between the working class and poor and the ruling class. They answer the utopian notion that it is possible to appeal to the ‘reason’ and ‘sense of justice’ of the capitalist class and its political representatives. It also provides a clear answer to those who argue that alternatives to capitalism can be constructed within a capitalist framework, without transforming the entire system and beginning to build a democratic socialist alternative by the working class.

The reprinting of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is therefore extremely welcome and can assist the new generation in the struggle to rebuild the workers’ and socialist movement, as an instrument to replace capitalism with socialism.

Pick up your copy of the new edition for just £5 from Socialist Books and find resources for discussion groups including a group discount, suggested discussion questions and a podcast.

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