Economics Politics

Communism Is Alive and Not Well

Those of you who thought that with the rise of China’s capitalist economy the last nail left to pound into Communism’s coffin was only North Korea, might be surprised to learn that Communism is not dead at all.


In a two-part series posted on, Anthony Faramelli (a PhD student at The London Graduate School) points out that a whole new group of thinkers has decided that Communism was not really a set of fixed principles and ideas that have been hopelessly discredited but,  and here he quotes the author Slavoj Sizek, “simply a move­ment that has to be rein­ven­ted in each new his­tor­ical situ­ation.”

Faramelli notes that fans of post-recession communism (and the little “c” is to distinguish the new idea from the old label) gravitate to toward four common points:

  • Recent polit­ics has attemp­ted to ban and fore­close con­flict. The idea of com­mun­ism con­fronts wide­spread de-​politicization by intro­du­cing new polit­ical sub­jectiv­it­ies and return­ing to a pop­u­lar voluntarism.
  • ‘Com­mun­ism’ is the idea of a rad­ical philo­sophy and polit­ics. As the pre­con­di­tion of rad­ical action, com­mun­ism must be thought today tak­ing its res­ist­ance from stat­ism and eco­nom­ics and becom­ing informed by the polit­ical exper­i­ences of the twenty-​first century.
  • Neo-​liberal cap­it­al­ist exploit­a­tion and dom­in­a­tion takes the form of new enclos­ures of the com­mons (lan­guage, com­mu­nic­a­tion, intel­lec­tual prop­erty, genetic mater­ial, nat­ural resources and forms of gov­ernance). Com­mun­ism, by return­ing to the concept of the ‘com­mon’, con­fronts cap­it­al­ist privat­iz­a­tions with a view to build­ing a new commonwealth.
  • Com­mun­ism aims to bring about free­dom and equal­ity. Free­dom can­not flour­ish without equal­ity and equal­ity does not exist without free­dom.

In the second part of his essay, the author goes on to praise the Mexican Zapatist movement that runs so-“schools” where those who seek a complete alternative to the capitalist model get together to share experiences and “learn about oth­ers’ struggles, their suc­cesses and fail­ures and then take these les­sons back with them to share in their home coun­tries.”

To anyone who would argue that history has thoroughly shown that while capitalism has serious flaws, those of communism are even worse, the new communists/Zapatists would reply that since narrative history itself is flawed, what it has or has not shown is pretty much meaningless. As Faramelli puts it, this time citing the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari:

This prac­tice of cre­at­ing a topo­lo­gical his­tory is very close to what Deleuze and Guat­tari also set out to do in their col­lect­ive works. They state that a haec­ceity, an indi­vidual that lacks a uni­fied (essen­tial­ized) sub­ject, has, “…neither begin­ning nor end, ori­gin nor des­tin­a­tion, it is always in the middle… it is a rhizome.” The sub­sec­tion entitled Memor­ies of a Haec­ceity from the “Becom­ings” chapter in A Thou­sand Plat­eaus explains that a non-​essentialized sub­jectiv­ity can be formed through a fold­ing of time (or his­tory), mean­ing that events are mov­ing in all dir­ec­tions and recog­niz­able by intens­it­ies, not in lin­ear pro­gres­sion; and imman­ent – that they are always here, always in the middle. Sub­jectiv­ity then is formed by the his­tor­ical events com­ing together by their prox­im­ity to one another and join­ing together to form an assemblage, which is het­ero­gen­eous to the sub­ject. By reject­ing uni­fied rep­res­ent­a­tional iden­tit­ies based in a mythic nar­ra­tion of his­tory (like the re-​articulated com­mun­ist iden­tity), this fol­ded his­tor­ical assemblage would sub­vert the danger of micro-​fascism by open­ing up space to ana­lyse and engage with the desire and his­tor­ical com­pon­ents that con­sti­tute both the indi­vidual and the group.

I am sure that most of us without PhD’s in Comparative Literature skipped forward about half-way through that last paragraph, since it’s all too easy to dismiss this kind of writing as nothing more than intellectual posturing by French leftists who should know better than to write about “folding” history. Yet to do so would be to miss the forest for the trees. What is important about Faramelli’s pieces is not the specifics of what they detail, since communist has about as much chance of regaining the status of a serious school of political thought as Mao has of coming back from the grave. The point is the fact that this conversation is even happening is yet another sign that those who believe in real capitalism, in the use of capital to foster innovation and personal freedoms, have to really think about saving capitalism from itself these days. It’s the corruption and lack greed of many of today’s major financial players that let’s loopy ideas like these resurface from the ashes of history. The return of communism is yet another sign — along with rise of alternative currencies and neo-fascist movements in countries such as Italy, France and the U.S — that if we do not reform capitalism, and make it once again the philosophy of honest competition and meritocracy, then one of these days another point of view,  one hostile to personal freedom, may emerge not as an intellectual exercise but as an active, and possibly violent, alternative to a failed and corrupt capitalist/democratic model.

Read more:

What’s “Left” of Communism? Part I of II

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