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 CriticalLegalThinking.com, 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.