Thursday, 5 January 2012

Communism: A Love Story.

Ye are Many - They are Few!

In the midst of ideological and economic crises, we find ourselves unable to venture out from neoliberal capitalism and when we do it is only to conserve the social democratic post-war settlement which cannot defend itself. Of course, there are those who might have the audacity to walk further to socialism as a political alternative to capitalism in its entirety. We must remember socialism is an intermediate stage which seeks ultimately to undo itself. The time has come to resurrect the language of political ideals in this so-called post-political era of liberal managerialism. This is meant to be a world with no need for ideas and has moved beyond ideology. The anaemia of discourse as it is has gone on long enough. This is the time for serious theory as well as devoted belief and dedicated activism. For these reasons, we should be on the side of those - from Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri - who have devoted their intellectual capacities to developing a new kind of communism.

Even the enemies of socialism might concede it has some moral weight, but communism is irredeemable by comparison because of 20th Century history. We are reminded that not all socialists are communists, though every communist is a socialist. It should be noted that the idea of communism predates Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and actually has ancient roots, but this is not reason to step over Marx to his predecessors. As Terry Eagleton reminds us, in classical Marxian terms, the establishment of communism is preceded by the development of the material base to the point at which it can negate itself and drop clean out of consciousness. The material transcends itself at a certain point of superabundance. It was slavery and feudalism which provided the material conditions for capitalism, but it is capitalism which will produce the conditions for socialism and eventually communism. In a strange sense then socialism is indebted to capitalism, but as the great Nye Bevan would remind us "There can be no immaculate conception of socialism."

To this ultimate end socialism is a self-abolishing project, similarly the idea of communism will remain relevant until it is realised. The end and the means are eschew from one another to the point that the material prosperity, which will fund freedom, is the fruit of unfreedom. As it is inseparable from the horrors of slavery and market forces which laid the path to liberation. We might see communism as the escape from scarcity to the extent that we can actually forget about the very possibility of it. The Marxist notion of communism requires the development of the productive forces, free from the blockages of pre-history, to the extent that the economic system can give birth to a surplus sufficient for the abolition of labour and the fulfillment of the needs of everyone. Capitalism is the only historical mode of production capable of generating such a surplus, but the forces of production are not teleological. The system is not in place for the sake of historical development as it generates the surplus it is committed to the creation of scarcities.

The dialectical twist is that it is the materiality will release you from the forces of the material. We're not free of determinants in class society, we make our own history but by circumstances we cannot choose as Karl Marx reminds us in the Brumaire. The real kind of freedom is that where we're determined in such a way as to sit loose from economic determinants and to free us from the alienation of labour. As Sigmund Freud foresaw without the coercive process of labour we would all lounge about in various postures of jouissance - and this may be le communisme! Here we find the political and the economic are indivisible, as the reality of class society has to be acknowledged in order to eventually get rid of it. Terry Eagleton draws an analogy with revolutionary nationalism, where the point is to assert the unique culture of a nation in order for it to take an ordinary place in the community of nations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Today is good weather, isn't it?