|Illustration for the 1516 first edition of Utopia.|
From the February 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
Why oppose dreaming? Who opposes dreaming? Those who are supporters of the status quo.
The enemy of the dreamer of better times is the ideologist of the present, out to defend the existing miseries with the claim that the prevailing relationships of oppression are immutable.
‘You wouldn’t abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn’t control the winds.’ – Thomas More (1478 -1535), Utopia, published in 1516 in Latin.
‘One man with an idea in his head is in danger to be considered a mad man; two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act; a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and the cause has victories tangible and real; and why a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon earth? You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer the question.’ – William Morris (1834-1896), ‘Art Under Plutocracy’ 1883, LINK. ).
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) once remarked, ‘We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.’ Also that: ‘The map of the world which does not include Utopia is not worth glaring at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.’ (Plays, Prose Writings and Poems, p. 270).
‘Be realistic – Demand the Impossible’ was the slogan of the active dreamers who gave the ‘realists’ a good shock in the Paris of May 1968. A couple of years later John Lennon (1940 -1980) composed one of the finest modern contributions to utopian literature: the words of Imagine urged the millions who sent the song to Number One in the record charts to share the vision of a world without possessions, commerce, countries or religion. ‘You may say I’m a dreamer’, sang Lennon, ‘but I’m not the only one: I hope some day you’ll join us , and the world will live as one.’
William Morris (who had little time for music) would have had a lot of time for those words. In another lecture he said:
‘It is not we who can build up the new social order; the past ages have done the most of that work for us; but we can clear our eyes to the signs of the times, and we shall then see that the attainment of a good condition of life is being made possible for us, and that it is now our business to stretch our hands to take it’ (How We Live and How We Might Live).
In Marx’s words, ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please: they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.’ (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte).
World Socialist Party of India