This argument is a meme/pasta thrown around by illiterate leftcoms
That quote is also misinterpreted as saying "we can't say anything about communism in advance", what it is actually referring to is the utopian socialists like Comte, Owen, etc. who believed that they could create socialism out of some vision they had. Marx points out this is ahistorical, and sees "scientific socialism" and the materialist conception of history as explaining history as a process, and that socialism/communism will be the result of that, in the same flavour as Hegel's historical theory he lays forth in the philosophy of right.
The problem is modern day leftcoms take this (ironically) completely out of historical context. Marx lived before the USSR was a thing, whats idealist is to ignore actual history and actually existing socialism and still pretend that we live in 1916. When Cockshott wrote TANS, it wasn't as some abstract vision he cooked up out of his head, to create socialism where none had existed before. It was a policy paper intended to be applied to the late 1980s USSR. In fact many of the idiosyncrasies to a modern reader of TANS can be explained by this, but I digress. So far from being ahistorical it actually engages in the real history of socialist political movements in the 20th century, unlike the idealist leftcom who is still living in the 19th century. Cockshott is doing the exact same thing as Marx but analyzing the political movements of his day. To quote the man himself,
>21st century Marxism can no longer push to one side the details of how the non-market economy of the future is to be organised. In Marx's day this was permissible, not now. We can not pretend that the 20th century never happened, or that it taught us nothing about socialism. In this task 20th century Western critical Marxists like Cliff, Bettleheim or Bordiga will only take us so far. Whilst they could point out weaknesses of hitherto existing socialism, it did this by comparing it to an ideal standard of what these writers thought that a socialist society should achieve. In retrospect we will see that these trends of thought were a product of the special circumstances of the cold war, a striving for a position of ideological autonomy ‘neither Moscow nor Washington’, rather than a programmatic contribution to Marxism. The very psychological detachment that such writers sought, deflecting from their own heads the calumnies directed at the USSR, prevented them from positively engaging with the problems faced by historically existing socialism. It is only if you envisage being faced with such problems oneself, that one would come up with practical answers
The only way the "Cockshott=utopian" line makes sense is if you ignore the fact that he's actually analyzing 20th century actually existing socialism. Of course, certain leftcoms/trots stick to the line that the USSR was "state capitalist" and therefore socialism has never existed
>Idealist marxists, on the other hand, tend to claim that failure in the Eastern bloc should not count against Marxism, since the Soviet system represented the betrayal rather than the realisation of Marxian ideals. While the social democrats say that Soviet socialism was not the kind of socialism they wanted, these marxists say that the USSR (post-Lenin, perhaps) was not really socialist at all. Social democrats may accept that the Soviet system was indeed Marxist, and they reject Marxism; idealist marxists cling to their theory while claiming that it has not yet been put into practice.
>we reject the idealist view which seeks to preserve the purity of socialist ideals at the cost of disconnecting them from historical reality. We recognise, that is, that the Soviet-type societies were in a significant sense socialist. Of course, they did not represent the materialisation of the ideals of Marx and Engels, or even of Lenin, but then what concrete historical society was ever the incarnation of an Idea? When we use the term `socialism' as a social-scientific concept, to differentiate a specific form of social organisation by virtue of its specific mode of production, we must recognise that socialism is not a Utopia. It is quite unscientific to claim that because the Soviet system was not democratic, therefore it cannot have been socialist, or more generally to build whatever features of society one considers most desirable into the very definition of socialism.
>Our view can be summed up as follows: Soviet society was indeed socialist. This society had many undesirable and problematic features. The problems of Soviet society were in part related to the extremely difficult historical circumstances in which the Bolsheviks set about trying to build socialism, but that is not all: important policy mistakes were made (just as possible in a socialist society as in capitalism), and furthermore the problems of Soviet socialism in part reflect serious weaknesses in classical Marxism itself.
>The failure of the Soviet system is therefore by no means irrelevant to Marxian socialism. We must reflect carefully on the lessons to be learned from this failure. Nonetheless, unlike those who delight in proclaiming the complete historic rout of Marxism, we believe that a different type of socialism – still recognizably Marxian, yet substantially reformulated – is possible. The Soviet Union was socialist, but other forms of Marxian socialism are possible. This claim can be sustained only by spelling out in much more detail than hitherto both the sorts of economic mechanisms and the forms of political constitution which socialists consider both desirable and feasible. This we try to do in the book.
Marx himself, famously also laid out the foundations of socialism in his 'Critique of the Gotha Program', a reading of which Cockshott actually derives TANS from. In fact TANS, arguably, is nothing more but an elaborated version of Marx's 'Critique of the Gotha Program', since the matrix algebra Cockshott explains in TANS is just showing how it is both practical and mathematically/computationally feasible to calculate labor inputs to goods/services as Marx wants. If Cockshott is a 'utopian' for writing TANS, Marx is even more of a utopian for writing 'Critique of the Gotha Program' before socialism of any kind had yet existed. The reality is that neither Marx nor Cockshot are utopian and leftcoms are simply abusing the term out context, the same way that social democrats pick up the term 'reactionary' and throw it around to describe socialists and communists.
Yet leftcoms will continue to "quotemine" Marx and somehow pretend that Cockshott is equivalent to the 19th century utopian socialists like Comte and Owens that Marx was criticizing in that quote. All it does it reveal their lack of understanding of both and Marx and Cockshott, not to mention socialist history.