When the flight of a bird catches our attention, or the mooing of a cow, or a shepherd boy singing, we think we are being very clever and concrete. But we are unable to seize the human facts. We fail to see them where they are, namely in humble, familiar, everyday objects: the shape of fields, of ploughs. Our search for the human takes us too far, too “deep”, we seek it in the clouds or in mysteries, whereas it is waiting for us, besieging us on all sides. — Henri Lefebvre
A Statement of Known Facts
Where are we? What are our tasks? What is our purpose?
There is (well, was) a spectre haunting the world. All the powers of industry and science entered into a rational alliance to exorcise it, from New York to Guangdong, Berlin to Paris, Mumbai to Moscow. The physician in Wuhan calls it “the novel coronavirus;” the journalist in London, “SARS-CoV-2;” the politician in São Paulo, “covid-19” In spite of all the fiery and emotional speeches given by representatives of each of these categories, one single motivation laid underneath, uniting all of them in a single thread: “The current situation is unsustainable; we ought to put an end to it.”
While we failed to thread the needle of a “cure” for the pandemic, as a global network structured by relations of production became ever more complex and diffuse, the show of life still went on. Crises and contradictions deepened and became sharper. Political struggles in the field of Democracy became apparently “more polarised” as the ever-so-unquestionable Illuminist values of Truth, Logic and Reason keep on being set aside in the Age of Information for the tyranny of first impressions and prejudice, which is something one would not possibly have dreamt about a few years back. Sarcasm aside, the truth is that millions are plunged every day into unemployment, unable to pay rent or utility dues, forced into the gig economy by one opportunist fell swoop of the free market. The amenities of our ideal climate get completely thrown out of the window, with extreme snowstorms in Texas in February, 50ºC (122ºF) in British Columbia in July, and warm enough seas for year-round navigation through the Northern Sea Route. Adding to all the land wars elsewhere serving as proxies in a multipolar world between regional players and American, European, Russian, and Chinese interests — such as the war in Yemen or the Tigray War on the other side of the Straits of Aden —, a land war in Europe intensified with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.
All these fundamental mechanisms of crisis kept on operating in the background, while talk about “closing schools” and “recovery and resilience plans” kept on flooding the news. Such a disconnect is reminiscent of the concept of alienation — after all, is it not true that a pandemic is necessarily facilitated by climate change and global commerce routes and relations? Shouldn’t we believe that the flooding of ICUs, ERs and infectious disease wards is “the perfect storm” brewed betwixt the cruelties of chance and the evils of [economic] science?
Of course, this all seems painstakingly evident to our young but weary eyes: it is also the case for the veritably innumerable Vanguards and Parties, from the mildest of white-collar, Democrat-voting YouTubers, to the most radical and erudite of political actor-thinkers. As a matter of fact, one is not far from a consensus among vast swaths of online groups, Discord servers, subreddits, Twitter group chats, and other similar micro-scale echo chambers: “capitalism bad, communism good: read Marx”. We can, at least among these virtual communities of workers, students, and the petty bourgeois, attain a vague feeling that “there is a movement” and that “we should organize” to fight the monsters that creep up in the rear-view mirror: fascism, climate apocalypse, imperialism, racism, sexism, LGBTQIA+ discrimination, and so on.
The monsters are there, indeed. It is also a fact that the struggle for emancipation, if one is to derive the meaning that Postone, after Marx, attributes to it, is a struggle for human emancipation, in the overcoming of the current relations of production. This, naturally, will necessarily overcome the precepts of those social divisions facilitated by capitalist production, though such an emancipatory war must always be a war against the bourgeoisie and its chauvinisms and supremacy of all kinds, from the dictatorship of gender and its roles to the bigotry of colonisers towards the non-Occidental Other.
However, there is a two-fold lack from our understanding of these enemies of closed and shackled, but human, Society.
First and foremost, we do not understand the manifold relationships between these problems with themselves, with the prevailing liberal-democratic ideology in the still-life flourishing from the corpse of Illuminism, and with the value-oriented relations of production, in a holistic way which allows for meaningful political action without fear of alienation. By “we,” I do not refer to the reader or whomever they may come up with, nor do I refer to myself (there still is, nonetheless, plenty for me to learn!). I wish to emphasise the extremely obvious lack of mainstream political programmes that deal with these concepts in such a way, advocating for radical and uncompromising emancipation in an all-encompassing fashion, through a coherent critique based on knowledge of the real, compensated by a surplus of Marxist jargon (often a calque of Leninist and\or Trotskyist language, now democratic socialist to be palatable to the populist post-2008 Left, critique) which informs immediate mediate action corresponding to a frequently ill-defined need for it.
Nonetheless, this has been attempted in the past, with greater or lesser success, and with greater or lesser theoretical rigour and attention to details. Projects based on an ideologically concrete, revolutionary break with the exploitation of both the Western archetype and “the forgotten of humanity” have been tried. One example could be the October Revolution, if one is to listen to the trenchant insight expressed by its social organisation and the voice it gave to women and ethnic minorities in its early moments. Another one, less successful, but still historically relevant, could be the German Revolution of 1918-19 through the figures of Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and Käte Duncker, among others.
These days, reveries of these events should sound at most like pleasant souvenirs of a teenage summer evening, given the world-historical succession of defeats that the workers’ movements have been handed from within and without. Our world is not the same as it was a hundred years ago: the laws of value have determined that the owners were to learn the importance of pathos in marketing, the need to appeal to emotion as the basis of pimping its commodity-wares. With only these past heroic victories and Romantic defeats as appetizer for the (em)pathetic among us, paths of political radicalisation and theoretical maturation naturally follow those lines of thought that end at apologia for something which has “Chinese characteristics” and a “privatized-and-deprived socialist economy,” failing to think holistically of the manifold relationships between our current crises, our foci of struggle and our current standpoint. In other words, we are forming great activists, but terrible actors.
If Mark Fisher described back in 2009 that “there is no alternative” (TINA) in arguably the best-read radicalising text of our epoch, Capitalist Realism, the current state of affairs isn’t exactly brighter or a cause for greater hope. If the famously “inactive” Adorno noted, after Hegel’s critique of Kantian ethics, that “…one could ask whether in its indifference toward its object all nature-dominating praxis up to the present day is not in fact praxis in name only…” in a scathing investigation on the concepts of theory and praxis, already in 1969, one ought to evaluate if this mediation between the object of action and the shortcomings of the theory that ought to interpret it has yet been noticed in our (the underclassman’s) political dynamics.
In fact, as Adorno dramatically (but ironically) reminds in §4 of the aforementioned Marginalia to Theory and Praxis, the point of action was to change the world which “[p]hilosophers have hitherto only interpreted…”, but the performance of action with “hostility to theory,” requiring its subjection under the heel of performance-for-need, “…dissolves theory’s truth content and condemns praxis to delusion.”
Can we not see the delusion of practice in certain political strategy, from “dirty breaks” and shared caucuses to the idea that the activity of the workers’ party should still focus, after all this time, in changing the world by decree via disputing seats in Parliaments by electioneering and corporate social media campaigning? What about the movements of masses and outbursts of spontaneity that wind up unavoidably as a target audience for a new type of consumer good? Why did we all buy Guy Fawkes masks to show up to Occupy and yellow vests to show up to gilets-jaunes demonstrations?
Can we not see the delusion of practice in the conceptions of “do what is achievable” employed in the favour of legitimation of reformist tactics in parties, syndicates, and the few student organisations which haven’t yet been taken over by liberal-conservative party youths, shooting down any and all critique from within and without like bombers in broad daylight? Can we not see the toxicity of coupling such an anti-emancipatory politics with the hints, pointing towards the new post-Keynesian realignment that is struggling to be born from the ashes of austerity liberalism, that “a new world is possible”? Appeals to a trans-historical concept of material realisation mingle perfectly with the positive feedback loop of admittedly reformist practice as being pragmatic, being on the right track, being against dogma. The old tale of the ultra-leftist bogeyman, almost as old as Communism and Communists themselves, eternally recurring as secular Ecclesiastes.
On the note of new worlds being possible, as muttered by many a podcaster and political organiser, Postone’s notes on Habermas’ critique of Marx spring to mind: starting from the assumed perspective of a vague notion of labor — conflated with work, as determined by commodity production and its social relations — as undesirable, the critique of commodity-work in the concrete becomes a critique of labor in the abstract: therefore, it acquires its revolutionary-reform potential at the cost of its internal cohesion. No emancipation can be attained if its future fails to be imagined:
Habermas's critique of Marx is a critique of the traditional Marxist notion of social constitution by labor from the standpoint of a position that shares some traditional assumptions. His concern is to develop a notion of emancipation in terms of liberating the many from material deprivation, as well as establishing the self-conscious control by people of social and political life-in sharp contradistinction to any technocratic conception. Yet, because Habermas fails to distinguish a historically specific social form — commodity-determined labor — from labor understood trans-historically as productive activity, he is less able than Marx, in my judgment, to ground the "automatism" of modern life and, hence, the conditions of its possible overcoming.
Ironically, then, such appeals to “dare to dream” end up stifling the dreams themselves: dreaming is action, after all, when performed with regards to theory. This comes back, like a hammer that hits the nail on the head, to our main point: no effective action is possible unless a renewed theory, based on the knowledge of the garden of forking paths that composes the fabric of society, from production and distribution, to nature as composing a unity with the human species, so to say, Gemeinwesen, springs forth from a group of (few or many) oriented individuals — the Party-form at its most essential —, which is to say: “In the party, consciousness precedes action, unlike what takes place among the masses and at the level of the individual."
In short, as Amedeo Bordiga puts it in his essay on Activism:
[T]he indefatigable and assiduous labor of defense waged on behalf of the doctrinal and critical patrimony of the movement, the everyday tasks of immunization of the movement against the poisons of revisionism, the systematic explanation, in the light of Marxism, of the most recent forms of organization of capitalist production, the unmasking of the attempts on the part of opportunism to present such “innovations” as anti-capitalist measures, etc., all of this is struggle, the struggle against the class enemy, the struggle to educate the revolutionary vanguard, it is, if you prefer, an active struggle that is nonetheless not activism. Do you seriously believe (…) that the arduous and exhausting task of restoring the revolutionary Marxist critique, is merely a theoretical undertaking? Who would dare to deny that it is also a political labor, an active struggle against the class enemy? Only he who is possessed by the demons of activist action could think such a thing.
After all, as we have stated earlier, it is impossible (and undesirable, in the name of the dialectical method) to try to attain such basic knowledge all by yourself, an affair with which Bordiga dealt during his political life theoretically and practically. With regards to this “political labor,” theory is not, but rather becomes, practice. It is crafted not through old, foggy lenses that settle the present in historically contingent categories of the past, establishing alienated and strict lines-of-sight and finding dogma in critique, but through a constant “ruthless critique of all that exists” through a practice of thought that tries to identify what is alienated, estranged, within its precepts, in order to learn through the contradictions that spring thenceforth. This permanent critique is, as Italian Communists put it in the fifties and sixties, and as radicals of other, varied, confessions have admitted before and since then, the core of the invariance of the doctrine of Marx and the litmus-test that separates theoretical production and concourse, even containing its own antitheses, from politically loaded n-dimensional empty jargon. As Adorno so cryptically puts it, at the end of his Marginalia to Theory and Praxis:
The dogma of the unity of theory and praxis, contrary to the doctrine on which it is based, is undialectical: it underhandedly appropriates simple identity where contradiction alone has the chance of becoming productive. Whereas theory cannot be extracted from the entire societal process, it also maintains an independence within this process; it is not only a means of the totality but also a moment of it; otherwise it could not resist to any degree the captivating spell of that totality.
Therefore, the first lack — that of a basic understanding of the operation of these social contradictions, of the concrete potentialities that action holds — must be atoned by theoretical work. This work does not entail producing theory for action, under the penalty of relapsing into either old, alienated precepts, or into mere positive feedback loops of “doing what is possible,” nor for action because of perceived action, in the eternal wake of the hole movements like Occupy left in proletarian hearts. Instead, theory must be produced for itself, against itself and before action.
The second lack in our understanding of the present and the dusk in our rear-view mirror is a lack of perspective. There is a sense that every single event is the final crisis. Every single death of an innocent person is the straw that will break the camel’s back. Every single social injustice and act of discrimination is the drop of water that will wake the people up to the exploitation that they suffer. Every single strike (and how few of them!) is an occupation. Every single protest is a revolution.
We ought not to discount the reasoning beneath the surface of said phenomena. If a parade saluting healthcare workers or a concretely-focused, goal-oriented industrial strike are not inherent manifestations of the revolutionary potential of the working class — unless one is naïf, and possibly so — the same cannot be said of a protest instigated by racial discrimination, white supremacist violence, and police brutality, or of a mass mobilization for women’s access to reproductive health care (such as the ones which occurred all over South America in recent years), or even more politically-charged insurrections, such as the ones in Chile or Colombia in fresh memory. These manifestations are far more openly daring with their discourse, often disunited and disjointed into several concurring and competing voices, but always physically expressed through a rather perceptible disdain towards the current order and a need for change.
If, as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, “a riot is the language of the unheard,” in that oft-repeated quote lays a rather obvious, but somewhat overlooked, kernel of significance. It is not just that the oppressed, the wretched of the earth, finally let go of their repressions at once. While certainly correct, I believe that there is something else to this sentence that can be of use to our analysis.
A riot, a bloody protest, almost everything short of a putsch is an expression of popular distraught that no longer moves in the semiotic territory of liberal democracies. It is by no means an attempt on the capitalist mode of production by itself — and anyone even slightly familiar with the history of fascism should know this! However, it expresses that concept of the unheard quite loudly: no longer content with the semantics of legalism, the parliamentarian plays on meaning and their byzantine rules, after the tipping point is turned, the people come knocking at the door. The language of the unheard is, more than the language of the fight against repression, the language of the desperate search for a change, the last stance of the desperado against the long arm of the Law.
We approach, then, a point of tension. If action, that is to say, palpable action that steps out of the semantic boundaries of “what is possible” and “pragmatic” or “dogmatic”, does indeed happen (and with quite a divine tone to its violence, too!), why is this action not coherent? Why is there not a unified thread of theoretical principles that unites a movement and mobilizes protesters by, and not in spite of itself? Why have we not seen the kind of united revolutionary movements sprout out of the ground as we did in the past? Why have our popular uprisings, our Arab Springs, our square occupations and yellow vest outings, all turned into either mere symbols or decayed into the political fiddling of the bourgeois and the military?
Those, I’d wager, are the fundamental questions a theoretical sweep of the conditions throughout the last decade should strive to answer; not in terms of subsumptions, alleged or even proven CIA interventions or other mystifying scapegoats, but in concrete terms of an analysis — both immanent, in the domain of epidemiology and demography, and transcendental, in the domain of the critique of the material community of capital and its repercussions in everyday life across the planet — of needs, living conditions, (in)satisfactions, hopes, desires, aspirations, fears, and betrayed expectations. A theory for effective action must also be a theory of motives of dissent first and foremost. This is not a way to position ourselves in the party-form debate, but a step before that, in the historical task of finding the moment in which the people wish to change. That is the perspective which is lacking.
Communism, as Marx said, “is not a state of affairs to be established.” One cannot impose communism, even as the most knowledgeable and devoted of revolutionaries, to an unwilling mass, even if it is for their supposed best. Revolutions are violent affairs, even if they have some dancing in-between the fighting. There has to be more than just the revolutionary conditions, which have been present in the so-called “high-income countries” for almost over a century and have started to afflict the last corners of the globe directly (after centuries of colonization, slavery, violence, humiliation, subjugation, genocide, massacres, brotherly wars and climate change) with the expansion of industrial capital and the proletarianization of the masses of “low-middle income countries” in the name of “industrial and social development” and “sustainable growth.” For the revolution, then, to just happen, much less succeed, our current chronic state of anarchy is insufficient (even if it all seems normal, it is physiologically anarchic, as I will demonstrate below!) It can also not spring forth from the great minds of a revolutionist clique: it must be derived from the conscious organization of the revolutionary class, its consent and its physiological response to the situation. As Bordiga puts it:
To say, “An objectively revolutionary situation exists, but the subjective element of the class struggle, the class party, is deficient”, is wrong at every moment of the historical process; it is a blatantly meaningless assertion, a patent absurdity. It is true, however, that in every wave of struggle, even those that pose the greatest threat to the existence of bourgeois rule, even when it seems that everything (the machinery of state, the social hierarchy, the bourgeois political apparatus, the trade unions, the propaganda system) has come to a halt and is heading towards its end, to its destruction, the situation will never be revolutionary, but will for all intents and purposes be counterrevolutionary, if the revolutionary class party is weak, underdeveloped and theoretically unstable.
There ought to be an interest from everyone. Not everyone; the bourgeois will by definition be against it, but the Law of Laplace allows us to round their numbers to a fat nil when compared to the mentally insurmountable number of human beings that, put simply, work for a living — or rather, for a surviving — and their dependents.
Perspective, then. What’s perspective going to do for us when, say, a hundred thousand people go out to the streets of Washington, D.C., demanding an end to racial discrimination against Black Americans and police violence? Most of us could name fifty people we know, if asked. The most socially linked of us, perhaps a hundred or two. A thousand? We might have seen that at our workplace or at the mall. Ten thousand, fifty thousand? Maybe at a sports venue, watching Sporting play Benfica in the league. A hundred thousand? The mind jumps to those large military parades in the DPRK, the USSR, or other socially Stalinist events such as the funeral of the Queen of England. At that point, even earlier, figures start to blur, people start becoming, in Stalin’s own terms, “statistics.” That is the domain of epidemiologists, mathematicians, public health specialists. What is perspective at the level, the macro scale?
The answer depends. What are we looking at? Scales? Rates (unadjusted and standardized)? Percentages? Age compositions and male-to-female ratios? Those are the tools of the demographer, the geographer, and the economist. They are also the tools of their own unbecoming, as Marxian critique (of, say, political economy) has shown time and time again. Nevertheless, if a standardized rate cannot tell us anything about the population from which it was extracted, why should the Communist movement care about the leading causes of disability-adjusted life years?
Even if public health has acquired a place in the sun in recent years, and somewhat rightfully so, it has been in part due to its importance in keeping the active and young population healthy. The same could be said of other systems of production of knowledge on the population of the earth’s crust: as certain French theorists of philosophy, history, and knowledge would say, they derive their legitimacy and methods from the mechanisms of power vis-à-vis the governance of said population. While it could certainly go unstated that this sort of knowledge is profoundly immersed in the mechanics of added value in all stages of circulation, both in its definitions and its applications, it is still nevertheless an expression of everyday phenomena at the macroscopic scale.
According to the aforementioned Law of Laplace, however, the particularities and microscopic fluctuations in circumstances dissipate themselves under the weight of the world-encompassing data on dependency rates, litres of alcohol consumed per capita or median household income. Big data is deceptive, it is known. As a matter of fact, confounding factors are a known phenomenon and plague in demographic studies: if more diabetic people live in predominantly Black American neighbourhoods, some less-caring, possibly racially-motivated and ignorant, data scientist or epidemiologist could try to propose a link between ethnicity and diabetes (as it has indeed been done, with its genetic hypotheses and cohort trialling) before accounting for cultural differences in diet, and, most importantly, the average income in said neighbourhoods. Poverty breeds misery, be it in health or anything else. Such biases and factors must be accounted for if one is to derive actual knowledge from the analysis of relevant data (which bear the marks of their compiler from their outset).
In a way, the atonement for this Positivist sin – this idea that data allows us to attain concrete knowledge of the passions and despairs of the human species in general and of the working class in particular – can only be complete through meticulous field work, the knowledge of the micro which determines the macro, the microdynamics of everyday life in each socioeconomical place that are rooted in and contribute to the continual becoming of the material community of capital. If Adorno proposed a science of sociological study and intervention, and if Lefebvre proposed a critique of everyday life on theoretically sound (one could call them invariant!) grounds, such plans ought to serve as a guide for what tasks await the Communists in the current historical moment. Perhaps Debord’s epithetical play on Lukács can summarize this: “The proletariat cannot create its own new form except by becoming the class of consciousness.” The class of consciousness! The attainment of perspective at a communal level, the understanding of both microdynamics and macrophysics of value-production and circulation and its effects on the nebulous entity that is the species-being!
Perspective: a daunting proposition. Indeed, all caution to the wind and “to hell with perspective,” some more practically oriented folks would say, “most people don’t care about national median income and purchase-power parity and age-adjusted fertility rates and neither do I! And why should I care anyways? Isn’t the point to abolish value in production, circulation and exchange?” Yes, yes, and yes (grossly). Aside from having enumerated other topics that still require the contradictions and tensions within them to be discussed to the bitter end before achieving a consensual solution to be incorporated into the Communist programme, our practical-minded friends have touched a very important divide that must be bridged if one is to go ahead with the Revolution — the same divide we mentioned before — the one between knowledge and application, theory and practice, in a way, the one between mediation (as theory on real concepts of the world that surrounds us) and actuality (creation of new reality through meaningful expenditure of energy vis-à-vis situations that stand before us). Why should we care? Can we transpose this perspective, this theory derived from science and passion, into a concrete objective? So far, we have to believe it to be possible, though only with the social, pulsating mass of the global mental network deriving this knowledge from their experience in grappling with reality. From the perspective of the capitalist mode of production, such a social object of effective communication is a singularity, but one could easily imagine it as it just being the fulfilment of the material community of the human species [Gemeinwesen] if, after Marx, the human is defined not as “enlightened individual” but as a member of a communal species which contributes constructively towards its own physical and mental development.
This redefining of the task of the Communists, as collective search for a shared perspective, isolating as it seems, may not be such an awfully uphill battle after all if the dirt of enlightenment is cast aside and the ecological (synonym to Marxist) approach to the species is used as a starting point. After all, as Adorno famously stated:
The only philosophy which can responsibly be practiced in the face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption. Knowledge has no light but that shed on the world by redemption: all else is reconstruction, mere technique. Perspectives must be fashioned that displace and estrange the world, reveal it to be, with its rifts and crevices, as indigent and distorted as it will appear one day in the messianic light. To gain such perspectives without velleity or violence, entirely from felt contact with its objects—this alone is the task of thought.
It can feel as if we are sometimes looking through the rear-view mirror of a damaged and empty pick-up truck, through a metal grid we no longer notice after driving it for so many years and kilometres. Heading east, the sun sets behind us and the long, dark night lays ahead over a long desert road. If only distant stars will serve to remind us of a sunlight that never quite shone on us ourselves, the dying rays of sun appear to us as the still-life of a living past, touchable, consumable, and yet failing to nourish us as they disappear over the horizon.
Far from engaging, then, in a Romantic, pathetic retelling of a Dylan Thomas poem, futilely trying to turn the broken truck back around on its four wheels and banged axles, we must brace for the night. In Benjaminian fashion, the sun will shine again. We must know, then, not how to bring the day back from the night, but how to leave the truck and go back home when daybreak comes. To put an end to this convoluted analogy, I will once again quote Bordiga:
In communism, which has not yet happened but which remains a scientific certainty, the identity of the individual and his fate with their species is re-won, after destroying within it all the limits of family, race, and nation. This victory puts an end to all fear of personal death and with it every cult of the living and the dead, society being organized for the first time around well-being and joy and the reduction of sorrow, suffering, and sacrifice to a rational minimum, removing every mysterious and sinister character from the harmonious course of the succession of generations, a natural condition of the prosperity of the species.
This process, the attainment of perspective, then, as we move in the twilight of Communist desire since the seventies and eighties, requires two dimensions to not go gently into the night: analysis and prophylaxis. Both are interdependent and indissociable, both must move, like the divine attacks on the order of value(s) enacted by the masses of revolted humans against racial, sexual and class discrimination, outside of the territory of the enlightened and fetichized conception of (white, male, property-owning) Man. Prophylaxis against opportunism — the idea that “the busted-up truck can turn back,” no matter which strong hand claims to drive it, must be categorically denied! Analysis for perspective, for action — the idea that, even in the darkest of nights, there is still plenty to do for the principled Communists, for dawn is just a nanosecond away.
Such an analysis must, by its own all-encompassing nature, be restricted when undertaken at the level of the single research-unit-cum-person. It would certainly be possible — but not a task for a single person or small group of people – to pore over a large enough corpus of articles, current and historical facts, scientific and bourgeois-economic data, and life experiences, in order to accrue enough raw material with which to build such a basis for oriented and effective action. Thus, I will set out to explore some possible avenues of thought, through a perspective informed by certain readings of reality, regarding a few of the crises of today’s human-species as they stand. Rather than a definite recipe for political action, or a prescription for thought, I intend to share some of my thoughts and perspectives on how, as argued, the possibility of meaningful action has been stifled by the lack of critical understanding,or, for want of a less-exhausted term, dialectical, invariant reasoning, in both Communists and large-scale parties and workers’ organizations.
Oppose Crook Worship — The Dimension of Analysis
How should we engage with our history? How should we analyse the current historical epoch? How can we overcome the weight of past knowledge?
We strove to grasp the power of our enemies, to reverse their rhetoric, resist their efforts to corrupt us and match their weapons. But when the enemy eventually materialized, it looked too much like ourselves. We had no categories to describe what occurred, no definitions to capture what we had lost, and what we gained in its place. — Lea Ypi
If Mao’s eternal maxim of “no investigation, no right to speak” seems now, almost a century’s worth of history away, a mere matter of common-sense, the ripples it launched within the masses of Communists still seem to have quickly dissipated.
I won’t try to argue per se that militancy in Communist organizations is still heavily fraught with theoretical insufficiencies. That would put my point of view in jeopardy as well, for I’m not the owner of theoretical Truths — nor can these ever-standing Truths exist, due to the ever-changing nature of the material community of capital and its political and social manifestations. The transcendental aura such dogmatic prepositions exude ends up flying away when faced with the beating of the wings of the angel of History.
Instead, my point is far less ambitious. It’s not that (responsible) Communist organizations (with sensible leadership) are failing to understand the aforementioned struggles of the present because of an insufficient theoretical framework, but rather that “the tradition of (…) dead generations weighs like a nightmare” on said interpretations and analyses; which is to say, after the early nineties, the past has been shoved into a drawer by organizational leaderships and its ghosts still persist nowadays, both in the eternal recurrence of useless debates between tendencies, long-solved by time itself, and in the danse macabre of parties and orgs still “defending X” and “upholding Y” (or entirely denying their existence in the same political space as them!) long after their bodies have decayed and rotten into the Earth, conditioning their political activity to be a farcical rehashing of policies already judged elsewhere by History (or, in the case of the deniers, producing a birth-certificate from the political space of the bourgeoisie!).
This History of the Left has left, then, somehow, an entire century unexplained and unaccounted for in certain places. (Even the date of its disappearance is debatable: 1871? 1917? 1918? 1921? 1924? 1956? And so on…) There are still some realms that live in a state of uncertainty, much like Schrödinger’s cat, either as examples of “brave adaptation to austere circumstances through Socialist principles” or “dictatorial oligarchies that have failed even the most basic tenets of social-democracy and workers’ rights,” depending on the person asked, their organisation, their class background, and so on, and so forth. Schrödinger’s Korea, one could say — as an example! — would be a punchline among Communists (as it currently is for supporters of bourgeois politics!), if it weren’t for the fact that it is a real State with almost twenty-six million inhabitants, whose lives and livelihoods deserve respect as elements of the human species. Come on now.
By saying, then, that places like the DPRK or Vietnam exist in a state of uncertain potential for the so-called Left, we ought not to encourage the proclamation of definite statements regarding their respective experiences and historical fact, which is done in a fashion much like the above proposed. Rather, we ought to encourage a dialectical disposition, a dialogue between theoretical production, the practice — or attempt, even if not in earnest — of Socialism in said territories, and the political, economic, and historic circumstances, both present and past, of said practice.
This entails, then, an open conversation with, for example, the history of Korea, the circumstances leading up to the Korean War (such as, but not limited to, the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Chinese Liberation War, and the American occupation of Japan), the war itself, and so on, just to touch on the creation of the North Korean state. One could even have a dialogue with official DPRK historiography regarding said war in order to better understand depictions of power struggles, adversities and other formative events that would later contribute to the development of Juche, for example. What happened through the decades that led Korea to the present date, blurry to outsiders as it is?
This should be the message behind no investigation, no right to speak, and we have been sufficiently clear elsewhere regarding the relevance of said investigation to the Communist movement. The emphasis is now put on right to speak: how can a party, an organization, even a group of friends with a ‘zine, bestow upon themselves the mantle of Communism and all that entails, if they aren’t willing to engage in this search for perspective from the ones who did it in the past, honestly or not?
One must not blindly defend certain countries – or regimes – solely due to the colour of their flags, present or past. Oppose crook worship! One must also not be instantly dismissive of movements that have claimed to defend the interests of the same masses the cynics gallantly put on display. Oppose crook worship! Don’t discard Cuba a priori because the value-form hasn’t been abolished by decree yet; don’t laud the Albania of the PLA as an undying avatar of class emancipation because of literacy, health, food, and safety.
The quest towards knowledge and historical accountability will never quite be done until the age of the pre-history of the human species comes to its end, but the open avenues of dialogue, to better understand what happened, what stories were told and how were the masses (humans, all of them!) affected by these events, will come a long way in better taking on the responsibility of the struggle for the becoming of the material community of the human species. This constitutes the retrospective element of analysis in the collective search for perspective that beseeches Communism as of now. As Marx himself famously wrote:
Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
(Isn’t this the crux of history and the meta-histories of Communism to be built?)
From analysis, however historical or statistical it may be, spring guidelines towards political strategy, from orthotopic transplantations of concepts in organization to heterodoxic and radical inversions of thought. The importance, thus, of meta-analysis, of analysing not only oneself and one’s own organization, but also the way one analyses, becomes evident. What is the source of certain situations in the party? Why is our organization having trouble recruiting new members? What can be wrong in our analysis of international relations, internal bourgeois politics, and so on?
Marxism, comrades, is not a magical hermeneutics of social relations!
By calling it a “science,” situating the critique of political economy and the original contents of the Communist programme on par with Darwin’s work on evolution, Engels did the future generations a grave disservice. While one could successfully argue that indeed, through the presentation of the Critique of Political Economy in its first volume as a work rooted in a methodical scientific research programme — to borrow language employed by Imre Lakatos —, that of historical materialism, the grave truth is that the successors of Marx extolled the virtues of such a system while ignoring the precise meaning of its scientific nature: its historicity. After all, it is no mere coincidence that the official Soviet versions of the Marx-Engels Selected Works, prepared by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute and published through Progress Publishers… had the eighth part of Capital, volume 1, truncated, leaving chapter 33 to be printed only elsewhere.
This may sound like mere Marxology — but it is quite the opposite! By reneging on the historicity which this chapter — as a conclusion to a whole part which situates the critique of political economy on historical terms as something of Marx’s present — provides to the reader of Capital, the Soviet MESW, prepared for a broader audience of workers, laypeople and base party cadres, commits the same grave robberies of the historical content of Marx’s work as we see today when its character as immortal science is extolled by supposed intellectuals.
Marx’s critique of political economy was necessarily historically situated and mediated by the facts of his time. This statement was quite obvious even beforehand. My point is precisely that the scale to which any science is historically mediated — even by available technology, even by social perspectives as a whole! — is drastically underestimated by capitalists, which desire for themselves clear-cut forms of value augmentation in production and circulation through technological progress. After all, the Luddites weren’t senseless chums who wanted to return to the Middle Ages — that’s precisely the standpoint of Fascism and its determinate (not absolute) negation, progressive liberalism!
This underestimation is, in a way, echoed at a structural level in society. Scientists are routinely lauded as heroes, their innovative work is seen as changing lives, the ages are defined from the Industrial Revolution onwards by their technological advances: the telegraph, the radio, film, telephones, the TV, mobile phones, the Internet, and so on. The way in which science-as-a-term has progressed has coincided with marvellous discoveries in Medicine that have allowed us to forever change the way in which we treat illness, save lives, and make people live longer. This is undiscussable – to want to “go back” amounts grosso modo to wanting children to die of polio, rabies or measles. The refrigerator and the microwave oven have changed nutrition forever, and so on.
How can we not vulgarly see “science” as, then, a dazzling human force imbued with the lights of progress and prosperity of the human species? Live long and prosper, said the Vulcans. The gospel of prosperity — the ethos of capitalism — goes hand in hand with the utility of science! We circle back, then, to a negative heuristic deep at our core, lodged there from even before we are born, listening to commercials in our mother’s womb, and staying with us even after our death, as our close kin choose the best way in which to remember us, as a pathologist performs an autopsy, as our bodies are cremated or laid to rest at a cemetery. This is the heuristic of added value, its laws now having fulfilled its entire, real domination over the totality of society across the entirety of the planet.
It’s easy to forget that even our truths bear the markings of the history in which they are born. The consequences of such an omission are, however, deeply troubling for whoever decides to practice analysis and meta-analysis within and without the movement, as it is subject to whatever social laws the community of its members are inclined to abide by. Punk anarchist orgs are, not unlike the most disciplined Chinese neo-Maoist student-worker cells, bound by a certain social code of group practice.
To sum up: analysis isn’t a simple labor of self-criticism in which one or one’s group works towards a solution for the world’s most common problems in an independent fashion. It must be a collective labor of mutual understanding rooted in a sound theoretical framework, itself always in need of being analysed – meta-analysis.
As Walter Benjamin put it:
The concept of the historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogenous, empty time. A critique of the concept of such a progression must be the basis of any criticism of the concept of progress itself.
This ties us back together — a philosophy of history without the history of philosophy is as utterly devoid of content as a history of philosophy divorced from a philosophy of history is useless — with our point on science, Marxism, and the vulgarised scientific character of Marxism as described by official parties and Communist organisations.
It’s evident now: just as Marx once stated “je ne suis pas marxiste!”, Communists must state “nous ne sommes seulement marxistes!” and understand the natural evolution of Marx’s critique of political economy throughout the post-Bretton Woods world, with the addition of Lenin’s critique of the global imperialist system (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism…), Fanon’s critique of colonial exploitation and the racist psyche (The Wretched of the Earth; Black Skin, White Masks…), and so on, and so forth.
This also seems a rather obvious conclusion to take at first from the proposal of bringing a renewed impetus to ruthlessly critique all that exists, including theoretical contributions from later authors, dealing with contradictions, taking conclusions, etc. Mao already wrote On Contradiction in 1937 and summed up the role of contradictions in the development of personal and social thought and political action — class struggle:
Opposition and struggle between ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the Party; this is a reflection within the Party of contradictions between classes and between the new and the old in society. If there were no contradictions in the Party and no ideological struggles to resolve them, the Party's life would come to an end.
Contradiction will always occur as long as there are two subatomic particles in the Universe to repel or attract each other. As the old saying goes – theory is when nothing works and everyone knows why; practice is when everything works and nobody knows why.
What matters, then, to Communists in the current moment, is not to solve undetermined contradictions, but rather to identify their conditions of existence as both historical and total. In other words, to start to know why nothing seems to be working as we slip more and more into climate apocalypse, global wars, ethnic genocides and racial, sexual and class violence. And to do it in a way which shares perspective, which goes beyond what “the books” have said for the millionth time, so to say: in a way which dares to create new intellectual content ready to be put to work through the barrel of a gun. In the way of materialistic historiography, historical materialism. Quoting Benjamin:
As a result of this method [materialistic historiography] the lifework is preserved in this work and at the same time cancelled [Aufheben]; in the lifework, the era; and in the era, the entire course of history. The nourishing fruit of the historically understood contains time as a precious but tasteless seed.
In a way, we ought to report back to the ideas expressed above on the collective knowledge of the human species and on the collective search for shared perspective as the historical mission for Communists. This is the invariant nucleus of the Communist movement. Only then can we cope and overcome our losses; shake off the mantle of the weight of history and start afresh without the nightmarish weight of the tradition of dead generations, but with the knowledge of their fortunes and misdeeds.
Communism as an idea – emancipation as an idea – will never totally fade away as long as oppression and the laws of political economy go hand in hand. Our task is to ensure that no time is wasted in halting the death march of our movement from the End of History onwards, and to see to it that our categories and definitions are created to understand in our terms what is to be done.
How can we change society? What is the role of violence? Why have there been no more revolutions?
No real revolution can, however, exist without hatred, passion, barbarian impulses, as it puts oppressed masses in motion, not pure intellects. How could millions of human beings task themselves with facing the terrible sacrifices or revolution if the “fuel” of hatred of the oppressor, the key element of political consciousness, was missing? How could a vestige of popular justice be established in times of need, hunger, and ignorance, if not for the strictest of egalitarianisms and its ensuing violence? How could the end of oppression not appear to the oppressed as if surrounded by a mystical aura? — Francisco Martins Rodrigues
Class struggle seems stuck at an impasse. On the one hand, direct confrontational modes of action are now being disfavoured due to questions of optics in the perpetual news cycle. Riots and serious clashes are usually either very spontaneous or saved for very dire occasions when the balance of forces appears reasonable to the assembled crowd. Faced with a growing militarization of security forces, a highly-effective state of surveillance egged on by the global encroachment on anonymity in the name of the War on Terror, and, of course, the flickering of public opinion, now more than ever in the grasp of bourgeois mass media, even the most courageous of anarchist black blocs have opted out of conflicts at times where they’d be willing to punch cops or light cars on fire otherwise. This is understandable – it’s not a Revolution which is at stake, but rather, usually, a protest with a political message, and violence is very frowned upon by its practitioners.
On the other hand, pacifistic forms of protest have seen an increase in popularity that could trace its roots to the anti-Iraq war protests — less violent than the anti-Vietnam war protests, as the socially accepted narrative goes — and Occupy in the 2000s. Unlike what’s happened elsewhere, as in the Middle East and North Africa later on, such protests were not violently put down by a show of force. Instead, the regimes shrugged and went on their way about doing war or austerity.
In Europe, the now-immortalised mass mobilisations in the PIIGS countries led to mass support for openly left-wing parties and solutions in some cases, injecting some fresh blood into Socialist and Communist spaces and bringing left-wing politics (even if through the constrained language of reformist practices against the Brussels-Berlin axis) to the spotlight for the first time since the End of History. A good deal of books, mostly drivel, have been written about this. The election of Syriza in Greece ended in the death of the Greek left, the creation of the Geringonça in Portugal (a Socialist [mild social-democratic] minority government with democratic socialist, Marxist-Leninist and green support) led to a social-democratic absolute majority and the strengthening of right-liberal and far-right parties, Italy has elected Fascists and paedophiles to power, Spain is well on its way to re-elect their own flavour of Fascism through PP and Vox… Only the Irish left seems to be playing the card of national reunification against the spectacular implosion of the British coloniser to good effect, with Sinn Féin having historic results, even in the Northern part of the country. Even then, the cycles of internal European pauperisation continued even through Brexit and Covid-19, with accumulation and centralisation of infrastructure, industrial capital and skilled labor coming from the EU periphery — the aforementioned PIIGS, ex-Yugo, and former Warsaw Pact countries — in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Scandinavia.
Yes, these mass movements were certainly demonstrations of popular discontentment with austerity policies instituted by the IMF, the ECB, the European Commission (and Berlin) which were later described as “too extreme” much to the surprise of Herr Schäuble, Madame Lagarde and Signore Draghi. They certainly played a role in the ousting of liberal austerity-driven parties from power — and even irreversibly changed the public discourse in places like Portugal, where said neoliberal parties now mention their policies of social justice as being opposed to “socialist austerity” — and in the installation of left-wing, redistributive, economically progressive governments with greater or lesser success.
But did these manifestations succeed in structural change?
Enough kidding — the point is simple. Getting out on the streets to sing Communist protest songs, wave carnations, and demand the replacement of the current government by another one is hardly sufficient to make a dent in the global structural causes of the misery of Portuguese life. Not even a great Workers’ Revolution, led by our blissfully centrist democratic Communist Party, one of the last Marxist-Leninist-Eurocommunist strongholds with political relevance and impact, could change the fact that Portugal is not — and never will be — totally and fully independent of the rest of the integrated systems of global trade-circulation, commerce-industry-production and culture-reproduction.
So, the point is that no change is possible? What? Surely not.
Of course not. Change is possible. The emphasis shouldn’t be on the verb, though, but on the subject — change. What do we want, after all? Communism. This is the point. A peaceful protest has its uses, but only when two agendas meet and when theoretical mediation is possible.
These agendas are demand and possibility — demands define the concrete goals of our demonstration, the main messages we want to move towards public attention; possibility defines the concrete chance that such demands can be realised satisfactorily in the future. Therefore, a peaceful protest which demands, say, the end of climate change, like Fridays for Future, and governmental actions to rein in the anthropic effects on the climate, probably mismatches with the possibility of governments annulling contracts with some of the most politically and materially powerful corporations: energy companies which supply industries, infrastructures and consumers with fossil fuels and whose profit margins are, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown us, more dependent on the short-term than we think (some companies are just more powerful than any state. BP would never bend the knee to the US government).
On the flipside, a protest with very possible demands may fail if those demands aren’t successfully mediated through an adequate political platform, be it a party, a task force, or a working group. Who can governments find to negotiate if people are just going out on the street to express their anger? Can a small group speak for the entirety of a more stochastically-formed movement?
A protest, when nonviolent, is a weapon of political propaganda, like a peaceful strike or a public speech. It has uses and it is one of the most important means for a large group of people to sway the public voice and make its agenda heard. In fact, the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict has conducted research, inspired by the colour revolutions of the post-Soviet era in Czechoslovakia, Georgia, and Estonia, as well as the anti-Marcos campaign in the Philippines and the anti-dictatorship movement in Brazil, on peaceful mass mobilisations against governmental practice worldwide, comparing them with other conflicts defined as violent. The data presented by the Washington, DC-based ICNC — that claims inspiration from the words of many advocates for radical change, such as Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Susan B. Anthony — helped prove their point: in the Atlantic Council-linked American group's opinion, peaceful protests are a better and more convincing way to agitate for social change.
This group advocates for the “3.5% rule” — that such a small slice of the population, when adequately mobilised towards a common goal, could overthrow even the hardiest of tyrants through peaceful means. In fact, according to researchers Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, who analysed data from 323 anti-governmental campaigns between 1900 and 2006, both violent and non-violent, non-violent campaigns succeeded more than half — 53% — of the time, while violent campaigns only had a 26% success rate.
Researchers from the ICNC identify three key components of a successful civil resistance movement, namely: “1. ability to unify people; 2. operational planning; 3. nonviolent discipline”, which set the stage for three trends identified as “highly impactful” on movement success: “1. increasing civilian participation in civil resistance; 2. diminishing impact of repression, and increasing backfire; 3. increasing defections from a movement’s adversary.” Put together, these aspects comprehend what researchers Peter Ackerman and Hardy Merriman call the “Checklist for Ending Tyranny”. We’ll circle back to this later on, so bear these opinions in mind.
Anyways, this is data! We’re finally interacting with data at the macro scale on the question of political strategy! What are we going to do with this?
How is data useful if one is unaware of the biases behind its collection, its study, the formulation and testing of hypotheses? This is the supposed reason behind scientific paper peer reviewing. Poor Honest Joe! Doesn’t he know that even drugs can get approved with Stage IV randomised controlled trials with entirely flawed and biased premises? (That’s why, precisely in the commercial approval of drugs, the EMA and the FDA don’t usually see eye-to-eye — one’s control is supposedly much tighter and less subject to industry lobbying than the other!)
Although media narratives are easy to cook up — who remembers Saddam’s WMDs? — and historically relevant facts are hideable — who recalls Abu Ghraib? — thinking too much about something (“going too far, too deep”) isn’t usually necessary when the real, the human, is right there, “besieging us on all sides.”
The fact is that these popular interventions have been mostly successful, but the degree of violence involved in these movements for change, I’d argue, has a very small relationship with the success of said interventions. They’re more related with two factors — popular participation, one of the mentioned tenets, and ideological affinities.
There is a certain point, however, made by the American research group, which bears a certain important relationship with non-violence, and with which I agree: the power of popular adhesion to movements. In the current stage of political life, police action and criminal records can be a severe factor for the dissuasion of working-class participation in political action. Sure, the severely dispossessed and the incredibly desperate will always be willing to risk anything to change their situation (and this is a growing trend in political manifestations in the impoverished Global South, like the popular anti-monarchy protests in eSwatini, which had Communist involvement), but in any case, the degree of impoverishment and dilapidation of the masses needed to impulse such a change was only found in certain times of history and only after great catastrophic events, such as in Russia after World War I and the great destruction of the country aggravated by the incompetent Tsarist regime, or in China after the so-called “Century of Humiliation” and the havoc wrecked by Western colonization, market manipulation, and Japanese invasions. In the imperial core, prospects for popular organisation and the formation of parallel political and violent powers which can threaten the state apparatus seem to only come from the petty-bourgeois reactionary class, such as the MAGA-crazed gun-freak Republicans in the US. In the periphery, prospects of working class organisation are still irregular and the seizure of power would serve little to correct global inequalities that would probably deepen themselves through barrages of sanctions and “concerned citizens’ movements,” such is the maintained power of Amero-European imperialism over the autonomy of the oppressed peoples of the world.
Tangents on so-called “third-world politics” (it’d be more of an epistemology of the concentration of living capital in these areas of the world) aside, the truth is that the oppressed, both in the North and the South, have much, too much to lose in clashing with state apparatuses of violence in unorthodox, unsanctioned ways. Yes, even peaceful protests are violently disbanded in many parts of the world — even in places like the USA — but not only are they far less commonly cracked down upon, a criminal record and a prison sentence also bear different weights on different classes. For the bourgeois which touts civil disobedience and roadblocks — or even rail blockades! — as the prime way to protest against climate change, going to prison may not strip them of a network of social support or material safety; but for the working person, a prison sentence, however small, can mean the difference between getting hired or becoming much harder to employ (or, in some cases, in some countries, entirely unemployable in some sectors, namely as a state employee). To deprive a worker of the ability to sell its own labor power, or to greatly harm it, means sentencing them to a life of precarity.
Therefore, as nonviolent manifestations are more likely to result in less arrests, less identifications and less state action — both positive and negative — they’re also more likely to have greater popular support. This point is also made by the ICNC researchers, although it is not quite settled in class terms there.
However, besides this obvious fact, the success of nonviolent movements is also tied with another factor less related with the strategy of said movements: its approximation to the democratic consensus of regionally powerful geopolitical entities. This one goes particularly unstated by researchers, or at least masked by the a priori judgments of proximity of said movements to some God-given democratic ideals that are incarnate in the American ethos and are, thus, pre-approved by the researchers as ideal and rational. Many of the nonviolent cases of successful protest cited by the ICNC are related to colour revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus in the nineties and aughts. I hope you don’t need to look anything up to understand this! Or to understand why the most annoying, ossified, Dimitrovist Marxist-Leninists in your city have been calling these “color revolutions” CIA ops ever since — as if some corrupt and weak government like, say, Lukashenko’s one, would ever organically come into conflict with its citizens, who would have zero influence whatsoever from locally powerful geopolitical entities with greater material wealth and ideologically-motivated reconstruction programmes like, say, the European Union…
Nevertheless, none of the cited movements are necessarily related with the establishment of a truly incompatible form of social power — only with the affirmation of the power of discriminated minorities, or the re-establishment of the current forms of power-violence in more palatable (“democratic”) ways. Although struggles for racial, sexual, and climate justice are invariably a part of the Communist programme, these protests lacked, first and foremost, the call for the total restructuration of society according to Communist practice, even if their leaders are Communists, espouse Communist ideals, and identify the structurality to their discrimination and violence in class society and the capitalist mode of production and social reproduction.
This fact carries a deeper meaning, in a certain sense: as we live in the epoch of the real domination of capital over the human species’ domination of nature, protests can either demand everything change, or nothing change at all. “Protests” which dare not disrupt the order of paradise are then epistemologically inserted as a political tactic within conventional bourgeois means of action and, therefore, answer as mass citizen movements directed to pile pressure on political agents, and not as mass political movements from the people themselves, each as an emancipated political subject.
You can see how this works with the simple strike, as we’ve mentioned — eg: demand higher wages or no work, putting pressure on corporate agents to change conditions. It’s effective when the picket line isn’t crossed and scabs are pushed out. Unity: one, or several, reivindications; one, or several, concessions. Simple, tried, and tested: how, in many countries, we got the five-day work week and the eight-hour work day.
The validity of this concept, however, quickly gets called into question when the sands shift and more abstract, more structural, but nonetheless really existing problems are brought up in protests. We’ve mentioned Fridays For Future. We’ve mentioned the Student Climate Strikes. Well, even Greta Thunberg has now correctly identified the capitalist mode of production as the cause for climate catastrophe! We have the technology and the scientific consensus on the serious issues that not just the human species, but the entirety of life on Earth face with growing carbon dioxide emissions, more and more extreme climate events and rising sea levels. One could even go so far as to say that life of any kind in our known Universe is at stake…
But why aren’t we acting? Why do we keep occupying roads and insisting on peace — and even then, getting mauled by police and arrested indiscriminately like climate activists in Lisbon! — when our only results are the polarisation of social opinion and the entrenchment of climate negationism? Even if the question of climate change, which should be the main question in public consciousness, has been correctly identified as a priority even by global financial capital (no industries left to finance if everyone’s dead!), nothing has realistically been done at national and international level to assuage the growing apprehension of the IPCC Reports. And, by the beard of Socrates, they’re getting grimmer by the year, while the COP is getting organised in sunny Sharm El-Sheikh and giving us absolutely nothing in return for the equivalent of the World Economic Forum for people with a human soul.
I do not want to condone, especially not in a piece which bears my name, any sort of climate, or political violence, directed towards the current ruling governments and multinational big emitters, including the energy sector, heavy industry, the tourism industry, etc.. Nor do I want to reduce climate change to a question of CO2 emissions, when clearly water and land usage, ecosystem pollution, and, even closer to my medically-oriented heart, deforestation and wildlife hunting with potentially catastrophic pandemic consequences, are all part of a multiplex system with several feed-forward loops of annihilation already in motion and with great ties to policy-making and global geopolitics. I disapprove, legally speaking, of any sort of direct action of violence towards climate-oriented ends.
To understand the importance of violence, nonetheless, one must understand the relation between one’s goals and the degree of disturbance of the current order, not only in the Washington-approved sense of “increasing backfire” and “increasing defections” from the opponents, but also in the sense of who exactly a movement is taking on, and what weapons do they wield in the battlefield of theory and practice.
We have dealt with matters of theory above, so there is no need to drag ourselves on regarding this point. This text ought not to be a theoretical text, or even a meta-theoretical text (alas, I am far too uninformed for any ambitions of the sort!), but a personal reflection on the formation of political thought, the direction in which the Communist movement is headed, and the tasks that the historical party of Communists must deal with.
Practice, however, is where the bourgeois forces of Order have soundly beaten the Communists, the Socialists, and even the apolitical “citizens” with concrete ambitions, the strikers of the world; this defeat has been a defeat both in a concrete and in an abstract sense.
In the realm of everyday life, let us put it simply: Communists have lost their voices. Not only are they instantly either ridiculed and painted as Putin supporters (or as supporting whatever geopolitical enemy the West has had since That Date In Which the USSR Ceased to Be Supported By Our Movement), they are also either routinely silenced or, more commonly, left without a platform.
In the times of newspapers and radios, a Communist Party could afford, through militant contributions, the upkeep of a printing press or a radio station to help bring its message to the masses, and such strategies were the focus of Leninist practice for many, many years. However, with the development of more advanced, more consumer-friendly, but also costlier outlets of mass media — the TV, the Internet, social media — only the organisations with serious resources could afford to create their own outlets to afford their say in the public opinion. Even though nowadays papers like Morning Star, L’Humanité, or even Neues Deutschland still exist and operate, their role is far less relevant than in the past, with smaller circulations and a smaller audience. It seems that not only are specialist newspapers a dying breed, with audiences flocking more and more to tabloids and other “apolitical” (read: right-wing capitalist-run) papers, but also that people are getting their news and opinionated analyses from other media sources, mostly fed through social media algorithms.
This is not new: not only did the Arab Spring start on Facebook and on Twitter (don’t google what’s located in Langley, VA!), but the last 2 American presidential campaigns were mostly marked by social media discourse, thanks to Twitter hawk/shitposter Donald Trump. In fact, the current Great Conspiracy Scares have all been amplified to extremes in social media — mostly the delusional flat-earthers and the murderous anti-vaxxers — and it seems pretty clear that even “conventional” news outlets such as newspapers, radio stations and TV channels, usually all part of large media empires controlled by sui generis far-right-wing capitalists like Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch and the like, get more news nowadays from Twitter than from the AP.
This would sound good on paper — social media means everyone’s posting at the same level, bar a couple of checkmarks in the case of people who cannot afford to get impersonated — but in reality it’s quite the opposite. The question of algorithmic control, though now definitely thrusted again into the limelight after Ghislaine Maxwell’s Boer failson friend Elon Musk bought Twitter, has been worn out time and time again after Trump’s election in 2016, when even less progressive sectors of the bourgeoisie felt their standards of decency violated by the rise to power of such a crass personality and his never-ending parade of incompetent but incredibly ghoulish cronies, each with a more zealous approach to Evangelical White Supremacy than the last.
What content is shown to us? What sort of message gets through? What is a social network? All are great questions that even nowadays researchers try to guess at, thanks to the blissful opacity that Zuckerberg, Musk, et al. condemn the end-user to. At first glance, the point is: connect to other people you’ll probably like, get to know what’s happening in the world, meet new people from the safety of your home, exchange new ideas with others.
The execution is true to these principles. Empirically, you’re more likely to be recommended the profiles and tweets of other leftist accounts if you like a tweet by a leftist account, especially if they’re talking about something like Cuba or Marx instead of, say, going goblin mode. Eventually, after a certain amount of time using the service, your timeline will be refined to the point in which you’ll mostly see the tweets of your favourite accounts, which are usually people or things you like to see, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them, or news channels, celebrities, sports teams, bands, culture blogs and the like.
This both ensures user retention — and, therefore, exposure to paid advertisements, one of the main sources of income of all social media sites — and creates a closed echo chamber effect which ironically hampers message distribution and outreach, as “leftist accounts” will be labelled as “politically charged” by the people uninterested in them and, therefore, not get followed or interacted with. Claiming social media as a battlefield is, therefore, a bit daft: social media is just an extension and amplification of real-life trends, where having a more affirmed and unyielding opinion counts far more than in face-to-face contact. This entrenches positions and serves to radicalise, both in the good and the bad sense, end-users, not just to political positions but also to apolitical apathy as a whole.
More abstractly, this entrenchment of positions is just a materialisation of the way the class character of Enlightened reason expresses itself as weaponizing the “power of ideas and words,” the debate-form, as a form of class violence. To quote Horkheimer:
The more ideas have become automatic, instrumentalized, the less does anybody see in them thoughts with a meaning of their own. They are considered things, machines. Language has been reduced to just another tool in the gigantic apparatus of production in modern society. Every sentence that is not equivalent to an operation in that apparatus appears to the layman just as meaningless as it is held to be by contemporary semanticists who imply that the purely symbolic and operational, that is, the purely senseless sentence, makes sense. Meaning is supplanted by function or effect in the world of things and events.
Ideas are judged on their relationship towards production, towards social reproduction, and, in some more charitable cases, towards phenomena within the common social consciousness that pertain to optimizations in these processes by change, though not in radical or threatening amounts, as is the case with green or pink capitalism and their precepts. Such is the logic of the reason which pairs Communists and Fascists as “extremes of the same coin,” the same reason which now calls even the mildest of striking students “inconsequent utopianists” and the proposals for an adjustment of wages to inflation “lunacy that begs for labor shortages.” In spite of what Lenin said, reading the Economist, or the Financial Times, may indeed be the best window towards a concrete realisation of this instrumental expansive logic that must permeate every single thought:
- prisons ought not to be abolished, lest the State spend too much on the rehabilitation of individuals who will never be productive;
- racism in the Global North can’t be fought unless we fight illegal immigration;
- equal wages for women can be attained, but only at the cost of rewarding lesser productivity in half of the workforce;
- unemployment is mostly a problem of high taxes on corporations and a growth of constant capital can only occur through this way;
- the housing crisis can not be solved with the construction of social housing as the market has a problem of excessive demand, not supply;
- and so on.
Contradictory expositions to these statements, so broadly repeated in opinion sections by misinformed and unethical economists or, even worse, people with MBAs, are only tolerated insofar as they propose other methods of problem-solving within the logic of the expansion or maintenance (not-smaller-than) of constant capital, being derided as radicalism or totalitarianism if they suggest otherwise, when eventually an editor-in-chief with a conscience concedes freedom of speech to the militant or the so-called activist.
This is the logic of the circulation of capital, indistinguishable from Enlightened, problem-oriented, but not mythos-free, reasoning, in its application to the subconscious control it authoritatively presents to public discourse, elevating the current knowledge of our historically-determined society to scientific certainty (why do economists keep insisting on being scientists?), and the current determination of societal organisation, ie, the capitalist mode of production, as a trans-historical immutable category that ought to be praised and preserved at every step because of the great progresses it performed in bringing Humanity out of the Feudal Era and into Enlightenment, individuality and the social contract!
As in the days of magic, each word is regarded as a dangerous force that might destroy society and for which the speaker must be held responsible. Correspondingly, the pursuit of truth, under social control, is curtailed. The difference between thinking and acting is held void. Thus every thought is regarded as an act; every reflection is a thesis, and every thesis is a watchword. Everyone is called on the carpet for what he says or does not say. Everything and everybody is classified and labeled. The quality of the human that precludes identifying the individual with a class is 'metaphysical' and has no place in empiricist epistemology. The pigeonhole into which a man is shoved circumscribes his fate.
This labelling, this instrumentality of word and thought, this rudimentary unity of theory and practice which capitalism seems to have perfectly solved in its Great Revolutions against the Old Order — the French, the American, the German, the Industrial — is precisely what is at the base of every great contemporary thinker, even if their thoughts are completely devoid of original or meaningful content. Even Medicine has focused so far in the questions of restitution of function and functionality — a definition which, as we’ve seen, breaks down slightly into old age — to the point in which health itself is still unconsciously defined as an ability to work, and negatively defined in temporary incapacity certificates. The same goes for mental health, where the paradigm was crucially shifted in the French Revolution by Philippe Pinel’s breaking of the chains in the lunatic asylum at Bicêtre — freed from their shackles, these men were now humans, no longer devils, and, therefore, passible of being reintegrated as productive members of society. In the decades since, through Charcot, Kraepelin, the invention of chlorpromazine, and the end of institutionalisation, we have not stopped trying to get the schizophrenic and the bipolar out of psychosis and mania respectively and back to the workplace.
Capital, then, only has a need for productive forces, which ought to develop themselves further, lest we risk another crisis, like the one we’re currently having, and the one before, and the one before that one as well.
But what then do we make of most of the world’s real productive forces? The vast majority of industrial and agricultural workers (most are indeed peasants in labor-intensive, mostly-sustenance work) do not live in upper-income countries, and yet these depend heavily on primary and secondary sectors of industry in said countries, through the exploitation of cheap, when paid, adult (not always) labor. Things as simple and fundamental as clothing, food or tools are made elsewhere: in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia or Pakistan, very far away from the imperial core where the pesky workers demand “fair wages,” “the right to vacation time,” and so on.
If the rise of specialised industry in the Global North caused the formation of a workers’ movement whose demands shaped everyday life today as we know it, and its peak coincided with a peak in the development of Communist movements and formal parties, the same can hardly be said for these countries, where multinational corporations deal with willing governments and local capitalists to prey on impoverished populations whose ability to maintain a traditional way of life has been deeply shaken by the development of capital (through its many arms, including education, health, foreign mass culture, infrastructure, and so on), and, in some cases, even climate change. It seems as if, after successes in Jakarta and Brasília, the ruling classes in these countries, usually descended from previous aristocratic ruling classes or colonialist chums, if not outright colonisers as in the case of some places in Latin America, have gotten wise to the tactics of the Communists, and saw China, Vietnam, and Cuba as examples of botched operations for the maintenance of power.
Thus, enter Jokowi, Bolsonaro, and Modi, members of a succession of virulent oppressors of the local developing proletariat, each one more vicious than the last. In Russia, as a result of shock therapy and Yeltsin’s legendary incompetence, Putin did it too, counting on the help of a subservient and pathetic spiritual successor to the already very pathetic CPSU, the CPRF. Tactics are similar: stoke nationalism and religious supremacy, extol traditional values, favour a small class of capitalists to help run the country, brutally and violently crack down on dissent while deriding dissenters as degenerates and evil. In the case of Russia, as it is an enemy of the West, it’s clear, even though the West clearly has its favourites in Navalny and co., who also aren’t very clean at all. In the cases of Indonesia, India or even the Philippines, where Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (“Bongbong”) is finishing what his father started, it’s less clear who the enemy is.
Violence is freely used by these regimes, but seldom used by their opponents. The Naxalites in India have been slowly but surely fading away into inactivity, and it seems as if the only enemy of Russia at the moment may be another Eastern European semiperipheral regime with a whole other host of their own deep, deep problems, including their very own persecution of dissidents, like the Kononovich brothers. The Philippines are indeed fighting the NPA, and we hope that our comrades can successfully fight back against persecution by one of the world’s most corrupt and violent regimes, but it’s still very much the exception.
In most cases, dissidents tend to steer clear of violence unless conditions are dire, as we’ve said. In Sri Lanka, with fuel and domestic good shortages, bubbling inflation and rolling blackouts, people voiced their dissent against an authoritarian government in the streets with protests that eventually became riots. They partially died down due to an improvement in economic conditions and prolonged police and military crackdown, but not before Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the main target of protests due to allegations of corruption and severe incompetence in handling the pandemic and its associated economic downturn, resigned and left the country. Behold — a violent protest which (initially, at least!) worked in favour of the rioters! What a sight!
Violence, therefore, can help bridge the gap between demands and possibility, or, rather, help create more overlap between both. It is shunned by capitalist reason for the same reason radical discourses, words are shunned from the debate-form: it is the carrying-out of a threat on both dead and living capital, productive forces and means of production are paralysed, accidentally or intentionally destroyed, Order is put in hold as the full-on barbarism of riot police, tear gas canisters, water cannons and military intervention rears its ugly head upon protesters. After the first rock is thrown, all is justified. It is the bare-nakedness of reality in the class struggle put into full view, the “language of the unheard” that we quoted from Rev. King earlier.
Therefore, what have we learned about strategy, you may ask? Legally, I’m not allowed to give you the full answer. Of course, the answer doesn’t stand with the side of violence-for-violence, as is often the case with disaffected imperial-core boys who just want to smash a couple of windows in solidarity — noble feeling, but you know what’s said about good intentions! — or with nonviolence-for-nonviolence, as is the case with people who read too much of the Guardian.
Violence has a standpoint, and it is the standpoint of the end of injustice, of the Assault on Heaven, of the hatred of the oppressor, as FMR put it in the epigraph to this section. Violence ought to happen only when necessary, only when we are sure that it is the correct tactic to ensure the seizure, the permanent seizure, of certain gains or the infliction, the serious infliction, of certain losses upon the class enemy. It’s a gambit that carries, now more than ever with the militarisation of riot police and the nonstop growth of national militaries in the West, a very grave risk — so rewards should be planned accordingly. Violence ought to be divine within the realm of the immanent, to carry within it the wind blown by the Benjaminian Angel of History, and for it to acquire such a feature it must have the impact of all the fists who could not strike at the enemy at the time of its execution.
Revolutions don’t happen overnight. It’s clear now why revolutions rarely happen at all nowadays. At most, there’s a coup d’état, usually a military coup, here and there. Any revolution is a paper tiger, like imperialism, unless it has the strategic possibility of victory. For that to happen, violence must not only be dispensed wisely, and at steps in which it guarantees progress, but also in a patient manner, ensuring a growing support and a lasting effect. Violence is not terrorism, which, in its more correct definition, disproportionately affects the working class, be it through direct effects, be it through the effects of anti-terrorist laws, used to crack down on dissent even in the West.
What can be a future revolution, say, a climate revolution? A revolution in which the masses, mostly the dispossessed and the oppressed, slowly but surely whittle down the modus operandi and modus vivendi of the great causers of the calamity of the human species. A global, transnational, transcultural — because it transcends nation and culture — war on the Todestrieb of Capital itself: its need for constant expansion and extraction. An ecological revolution is a Communist revolution, because ecology is Communism. Communism, the movement which seeks to establish the material community of the human species with the biosphere and its fulfilment, is Ecology.
Tomemos la arcilla, es de madrugada – the dimension of prophylaxis
What do we need to solve? How will we get there from here?
The struggle to build a society of free association, not just free from discrimination and prejudice, but having superseded said notions, will not hang itself up in the economic and the political. All is permeated in the system which we currently strive to overcome, and yet it’s not as if capitalist society has no archaeological vestige of the feudal society that came before it in the West. The concept of ethics is still discussed from Ancient Greece, and most, if not all, so-called “traditional Western epistemologies” can trace their roots to so-called “Judeo-Christian tradition,” if one is to believe the zealous right-wingers who parrot the supremacy of said traditions in the face of “modern feminism,” “queer studies,” “critical race theory,” or whatever misogynistic, homophobic, racist, or other discriminatory type of strawman they built that day.
The truth, nonetheless, is that said phenomena of misogyny, homophobia, racism, transphobia, etc. are the kernel that can be extracted from the delusional statements of the failed Philosophy professors of the petty-bourgeois cultural Right. These phenomena exist in everyday life and are the cause of deep suffering for more than half of the world’s population. That much should be clear.
Yet, it seems that economic and political liberation does not need to go hand in hand with other forms of human — and even animal, in the case of the vegan cause — liberation. In the opinion of some Communists, these are either “unrelated issues” or “caused by capitalism, thus will resolve themselves following the revolutionary process” (others are far less kind!). But neither are true.
Not to get, this late into this article, into a deep analysis of Communist queer, feminist, and antiracist theory, but the point is that neither are entirely true! If, say, the bourgeois Rights of Man only applied to property-owning literate white men, as they did in the American Constitution, can they really be called human rights? Are they rights of the human species, or rights extended passively throughout the ages to certain groups, like women, the dispossessed and ethnic minorities? And, in this passive extension of rights, some even after violent protests or civil wars, like the Votes for Women Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and the such, didn’t these people remain socially outcasted, in some cases to the present day?
But wasn’t the bourgeois Enlightened Revolution one of liberty, equality, and fraternity?
The argument is now old as time: it was liberty, equality, and fraternity that gave us Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo and their ilk, as Adorno argued.
The negation of rights was contained in their negative affirmation. As Lafayette put it: “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.”
And it is the idea of “the general good” that has allowed everyone to go soundly to sleep as atrocities are committed behind their backs every day! All politicians agree: “we may disagree on almost all points, but we are all committed to the greater good.” Dante’s Inferno certainly had no shortage of men who had preached it in life.
As Communists who cannot, and won’t, stand with the rational framework of Enlightenment and its logical reasoning, whose task it is to identify its faults, the ghosts of its past, the ways in which it was made to ruthlessly destroy all that it found to disagree with, the colonisation of the mind as Fanon described in The Wretched of the Earth, the “greater good” isn’t a sufficient explanation for the self-rule of the human species.
The mythical “greater good” is, at most, a metaphor used by these supposed comrades who tell us to be quiet about the struggles of trans people, or who fear the alienation of an equally mythical “real working class”. It is not, and cannot be, a justification for inaction or action. It is not, and cannot be, a justification for prejudice or not calling into question past knowledge. It is not, and cannot be, a justification for stagnation or the adoption of reactionary positions. It can’t do! It won’t do!
Communism is more than that. Communism is the liberation of the whole of the human species and the development of each and every one's own capabilities in the fruition of the realisation of collective life as the collective sum of intelligent life on the planet. It should be immunised — prophylactically — against the opportunism of the left-populist, which desires to reach power, almost by narcissism, through the people, pitting segments of the working class against each other in a frenzied rush for luxuries, consumption and the development of productive forces within the imperial core; the opportunism of the left-winger, which hopes to work within a framework of bourgeois respectability towards the “greater good”, maintaining global and local structures of discrimination and exploitation; and the opportunism of the left-partyist, who institutes another Party, with another mission for Unification of the Working Class under the Correct Banner and Party Line, left in an ossified status of rehashed Eurocommunism with different flavours and no strategy.
The only sustainable position on the part of the individual element of the human species being historically and really exploited by being forced to sell their labor-force to sustain itself is, therefore, that of Communism. The Communist programme has already been drafted up by Marx, Lenin, Mao and many others in historical moments. Its invariant contents have been demonstrated above in their applicability to a meaningful analysis of the current conditions of production, circulation and reproduction. Its historical contents are in perpetual motion with the winds of time itself, so long as there is at least one element of the human species capable of original critical thought, that “ruthless critique of all that exists.” The grand schisms in the history of the Left as a whole, at least where it mattered, are schisms in the order of tactics and strategy, not goals, however far-fetched, and outcomes. This much is clear.
The actual task of the historical party of Communists — this bulbous mess that is divided into sects, zines and parties — is, then, to strengthen the historical programme of Communism through analysis, to prevent or mitigate the slow decay of Earth’s biomes into ecological apoptosis and to shield itself from prejudice, errors of scale and of interpretation. Only when such a programme becomes clear-cut beyond a vague gesturing towards the world after saying “capitalism” can a formal Party, or any other sort of more-or-less structured organisation organically form itself upon the ashes of centenary Communist parties of Marxist-Leninist, Maoist and Trotskyist pedigree, depending on the geographical position.
Even if Communism and the past mission of Communists were to wither away as a relic of past hopes and aspirations for a just society birthed out of the ashes of our current one, an antique souvenir, one could say, the principled opposition and critique of the political economy and real domination of Capital and its mode of production and reproduction would forever be contained within its positive affirmation. This is the core of the materialist dialectic, to borrow a term from Camatte. We know this premise to be false — after all, it’s not like dead generations leave no tradition behind them! — so we, as Communists in a historical moment in which our mission is deeply thrusted into survival and theoretical development, ought to precisely start from it and develop its rationale into more than a mere determined negation of capitalism, but an affirmation of its superation, a positive programme.
Invariance, then, is not the dogmatic immutability of the interpretation of the conditions of the class struggle in our midst. It is, rather, the expression of the class content of the programme of the historical party of Communism. It’s the part of Communism and its programme that stays, still within the prehistoric age of Capital, outside history. Thus, it’s the part of the programme that does not budge to populist slogans of “castles, clothing and food for all,”, higher wages, lower taxes, and other materially important but historically conditioned and transient demands that can be — and often are — brought up by the progressive sectors of the bourgeoisie.
Invariance is, in a certain, but now more than ever fundamental, way, the motto of the task of the liberation of the oppressed peoples of the world from their yoke — and the way in which their oppression is derived from capitalist social relations of (re)production. The overcoming of prehistory is not, thus, a mere apriorism, but rather the simultaneous and contemporary construction of a support for focused, directed, and logical action with effective means in the advancement of the current position of Communists towards a more favourable foothold.
In other words, no more reappropriating theoretical frameworks from the past and deriving outdated practice from preceding (and superseded) theory. Let a hundred flowers bloom! Create programmes for political action beyond adventurism and the fetishization of violence and/or parliamentary compromise! Create tools for effective change based on invariant, but updated, concepts of struggle in the areas we have here listed and beyond! Create the new world from the ashes of this one!
“Lo haremos tú y yo, nosotros lo haremos
Tomemos la arcilla para el hombre nuevo.
Su sangre vendrá de todas las sangres
Borrando los siglos del miedo y del hambre
Por brazo, un fusil; Por luz, la mirada
Y junto a la idea una bala asomada.
Lo haremos tú y yo (Por brazo, un fusil)
Nosotros lo haremos (Por luz, la mirada)
Tomemos la arcilla: Es de madrugada”
— Daniel Viglietti, “Canción del hombre nuevo”
- i.e. Enlightenment, the Philosophy of the Lights and Reason.
- https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/20/weather/texas-winter-storm-saturday/index.html (23 Feb. 2021).
- https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-alberta-heat-wave-heat-dome-temperature-records-1.6084203 (4 Jul. 2021).
- https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/2021/02/arctic-shipper-shows-historical-icebreaking-voyage?fbclid=IwAR30Y3jAkAKP3OK0x1M0AOkWE2rL61pu3Jl1LsL5r4uXe0hkWfhVTMbyzxo#.YC-ogHZr3Zg.facebook (23 Feb. 2021).
- Moishe Postone, Time, Labor and Social Domination, Chapter 9.
- In Portuguese, the verb “privar” takes on the meaning of “to deprive”, but its past participle conjugation, “privado”, can also be used in economic jargon to mean “privatized”. The snippet in itself refers to Venezuela’s economic and financial organization.
- In a way, this echoes sentiments well-expressed by The Platypus Affiliated Society (cf. http://platypus1917.org/2009/11/18/the-decline-of-the-left-in-the-20th-century-introduction/) and Théorie Communiste (cf. Sic 1.1 https://libcom.org/library/sic-11-further-remarks).
- T.W. Adorno, Marginalia to Theory and Praxis (https://www.marxists.org/portugues/adorno/1969/mes/notas.htm).
- 2002 (C. Smith) translation of Marx’s 1845 Theses on Feuerbach (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/index.htm).
- T.W. Adorno, Marginalia to Theory and Praxis.
- Moishe Postone, Time, Labor and Social Domination, p.237 (and ch.6 in general).
- After Lefebvre’s foreword to the first volume of Critique of Everyday Life, which is modeled, naturally, after the Marxian concept of the human-nature dialectic expressed in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.
- Amedeo Bordiga, Activism (https://libcom.org/library/activism-amadeo-bordiga).
- id., ibid.
- The famous letter from Marx to Ruge.
- T.W. Adorno, Marginalia to Theory and Praxis.
- With results taking on a pinkish hue, for better or worse, through Mr Boric and Mr Petro, respectively.
- A Marxist, or class-based, approach to the revolutionary question must be “physiological” insofar as it is invariant, towards homeostasis and performed through the working mechanisms of the social body – that is to say, the producer class (see Canguilhem’s writings on Medicine for a deeper definition).
- Amedeo Bordiga, Activism. Bordiga has a clear position on the party-form question, though his divergences with Camatte, later in life, as to the form of the party itself (formal vs. historical) are a very interesting question taken up marginally by Endnotes in the conclusion to We Unhappy Few. Naturally, we recommend a primary source as a teaser for further investigation: “Origin and Function of the Party Form”, by Jacques Camatte (1961, with 1974 postface, available at marxists.org).
- Bitter rivals in Portuguese football, to a degree with no equivalent in North-American sports. Organized fan groups have murdered each other in the past during sports events.
- The role of the elderly in public health is also fundamental, and it contains within itself several antinomies that could be worthy of their own article. Nevertheless, an understanding that the WHO and several key players and policymakers are trying to rethink the role of retirement and “lifelong employment” must suffice, even if I must also come to defend Health’s Hippocratic grace by saying that a focus on the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence ought to prevail at all times.
- Take, for an example, a rather short and awfully synthetic review by Carulli, L., Rondinella, S., Lombardini, S., et al. (2005), Review article: diabetes, genetics and ethnicity. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 22: 16-19. This is not to dismiss, however, a link between ethnicity and diabetes. Such a link will come, nevertheless, from the study of genetic backgrounds and populational genetics, rather than that open, base-level link to ethnic (read: racial) phenotype ever so reminiscent of less tolerant times in this field of knowledge.
- Debord, Society of the Spectacle, §88.
- T.W. Adorno, Minima Moralia. Such an aphorism could be interpreted in many ways. I choose to believe that what I have defended so far brings justice to my interpretation of it.
- Amedeo Bordiga, In Janitzio Death is not Scary.
- The familiar, just because it is familiar, is not cognitively understood (Hegel).
- Crucially, this argument mustn’t be confused with the invariance of Marxist doctrine. It should be evident by now that it cannot be, due to the nature of invariance as a concept expressing a ruthless, unyielding critical disposition regarding social, economic, political, philosophical, etc. spheres of knowledge through the core principles of analysis and critique that Marx pioneered, as many after him.
- Marx, 18 Brumaire.
- A strong choice of words, but let us echo the Preface to the 1st German edition of Capital: “My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.” (See what has been done here?)
- See Factory Stories, in Chuang, Issue 1.
- Theses on the Concept of History, XIII.
- On Contradiction, II.
- Theses on the Concept of History, XVII.
- Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain.
- Please, please, please, give José Afonso and José Mário Branco a listen: Portuguese Communist singer-songwriters who penned some of the most incisive - and symbolic - protest songs of the Portuguese anti-war, anti-colonial and anti-fascist movement of the 1960s-70s.
- As Lenin said - don’t laugh! Let us engage with their argument in earnest. We may learn something.
- Chenoweth E, Stephan M. Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, 2011.
- Ackerman P, Merriman H. A Checklist for Ending Tyranny. In: Burrows M and Stephan MJ (eds.), Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback?, Washington, DC: The Atlantic Council, 2015.
- Even in semi-peripheral economies such as Brazil, “concerned patriots” seemed to be waging the waiting game for Jair Bolsonaro to give them the go-ahead to engage in another mass-killing of suspected Socialists and Communists, as had happened in the past, during the military dictatorship. Ironically, it was the Biden administration’s openness to the elected candidate, Lula, seeing Bolsonaro as a political adversary close to Trump, that led the fascistic Brazilian president to settle down and allow for a peaceful transition of power. Which, ironically, marks a change for once in the USA Latin-American policy, favouring progressive sectors of the national bourgeoisie against reactionary forces for the first time.
- Some places do have strong traditions of organisation and political participation, such as the state of Kerala in India; others maintain legacy socialist-inspired forms of political organisation, such as Vietnam and Laos; others have long-since degenerated into parliamentarianism, such as the curious case of Nepal; others are still under the yoke of neocolonialism and mired in the depths of constant political interference by foreign business and paid interests in the military, as is the case in some West African countries, like Burkina Faso and its tragic post-Sankara history; others, such as Indonesia and Thailand, have entire histories of virulent anti-Communism as part of the nationally sanctioned narrative.
- Yes, of course many of the color revolutions had Western (mostly NED) influence, but to say that popular adhesion to these events was a bust or mere manipulation is to discount the effect of the so-called “Western lifestyle” (ie.: the fruits of the colonial and imperialist exploitation of the material wealth and labor force of oppressed nations) and its gospel of wealth and “prosperity” in the masses of countries where, well, commodity fetishism and the concept of luxuries still was a part of the common consciousness. I suggest Lea Ypi’s half-autobiography, half-romance account of the fall of the PLA, Free, for the perspective of an Albanian Kantian Marxist academic on it.
- cf. Jacques Camatte, Capital and Community
- From Greta Thunberg’s speech at the launch of The Climate Book in London, November 2022. (speech available at: https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg/status/1587725366021472257). We find the lines “We are never going back to normal again because ‘normal’ was already a crisis. What we refer to as normal is an extreme system built on the exploitation of people and the planet. It is a system defined by colonialism, imperialism, oppression and genocide by the so-called global North to accumulate wealth that still shapes our current world order.” to be particularly noteworthy.
- As seen November 2022 in the College of Humanities of the University of Lisbon (Source: https://expresso.pt/sociedade/2022-11-12-Ativistas-retirados-pela-PSP-da-Faculdade-de-Letras-vao-estar-na-Marcha-do-Clima-1e6b478d).
- In any case, allow me to invoke the Woman at War (Erlingsson, 2018) defence insofar as this text represents a personal opinion and I do not intend to be involved in any sort of climate-related violent actions.
- Regarding news channels: an entire dedicated infrastructure for content production, management and divulgation is a key aspect as to why there are so few Communist or worker-related ones. Posting hourly for a magazine or a newspaper is the equivalent of many full-time jobs and man-hours — speaking from my experience as a student magazine director — and outlets with larger outreaches will be the ones who can generate the most content the fastest or in the most compelling and regular way. This is actually a great point on how so many fascist fake news outrage farms have taken hold of the discourse in a certain fringe of society, and ties in perfectly with Aristotelian notions of rhetoric, but it’s less the point here, where we discuss how social media are actually purpose-designed echo chambers.
- Max Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason.
- cf. Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment.
- Max Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason.
- cf. Georges Canguilhem, Writings on Medicine.
- We suggest Michel Foucault’s History of Madness to learn more on the topic.
- Regardless of anything — and this is a big “regardless” — Russia still invaded Ukraine, and thus it is still the aggressor in this war. One can argue, and there is justice in such an argument, that conflicts in the Donbass from 2014 onwards can count as acts of war, but Russia’s goal from the start has been territorial acquisition, lending very little, if none, credence to the argument of “liberation of a Russian ethnic minority”. Arguments calling for “de-Nazification” of the Ukraine are laughable when the Russian government extols the virtues of “a traditional Russian Orthodox lifestyle” against “the degeneracy of the West”, and when people like Ramzan Kadyrov, whose anti-Semitism rivals Hitler’s, or the Wagner Group, engaged in contemporary neo-Colonialism in Mali and the CAR, are part and parcel of everyday life in Russian politics. Ukraine’s no better, but then again, the Azov Battalion was just a glorified hooligan group like the ones in Poland, Holocaust denial, pogrom-inciting and all, before 2014 and the Maidan protests, where their neo-Nazi brand of Ukrainian nationalism gained popularity in a way which can be justified by Badiou: “At the global level, it should be possible to describe the dominant structures and identify the paths that allow for an alternative. This has not been done. Many people are dissatisfied with what is being done, with what is being proclaimed, but, on the other hand, they do not have any constituted reference points to orient themselves in a creative and positive way. All these phenomena together constitute political disorientation. Hence the pathological appearance of nationalist and identitarian groups.”. I want to make it clear that I support peace — and that Ukraine, while indeed having nefarious influences in its politics, is not alone in such a fact. Both sides should respect the international accords and put an end to this senseless bloodshed.
- For the archaeological reference, see n+1, Contributo per una teoria comunista dello Stato, no.48, December 2020.
- Yes, there are still “sundown towns” in the USA.
- The first article of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, 26 August 1789.
- “[F]ood for all” is more than a populist slogan, one could say, as it is, indeed, a physiological need. But this quote from Louisiana senator Huey P. Long’s presidential campaign song is inserted here purely for the historical context.