In the beginning there was the Word. This Word cast a shadow upon the whole world. In the name of the Word, civilisations rose and fell; old animosities dissolved as new tensions boiled to the surface. The Word is now long dead. But I do not care for the Word and its worn-out connotations. For behind it stands a concept as potent and current as ever. In this decaying world of unequal souls and colonised minds, in the arena of collective action there remains just one ideal worth fighting for, the Idea of Communism.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, we have witnessed an unprecedented onward march of globalised Capitalism as the predominant ideology. However, the current crises of Capital, of Climate, of Collective Conscience present humanity with problems for which our very vocabulary seems insufficient. As these crises deepen, the need for political solutions has uncovered even greater problems: our inability to conceive of possible alternatives to the current system; we suffer from a collective mindblock, a crisis of Imagination.
Forever at the forefront of forging new perspectives and perceptions, contemporary philosophers are discarding the shackles of common ‘wisdom’ and putting Communist critiques back on the agenda. But what does the Idea of Communism entail? Surely Communism can only lead to the sort of economically inefficient dictatorships which immiserated and enslaved entire populations? In returning to Marx and Lenin, we must first accept that, of the current crisis they did not say a word. It is not in reviving the historically conditioned failures of Lenin, Stalin, and the gulag that we will make any progress, but rather in reviving what is essentially eternal in Communism, that is to say, the reapplication of Marxism under entirely new circumstances, which is to use the logic of class to enlighten our current state of affairs.
Let us take a quick temperature check of the state of society. Globalised Capitalism has fundamentally undermined the capacity for citizens to exert democratic control in several important domains. Dealing with the ever-growing spectre of ecological catastrophe, the territorially-limited nation state is totally impotent against the transnationally polluting corporation; more and more do we hear of the worst excesses of the exploitation of labour in the global South; and Capitalism’s zombie-like need for constant growth spells certain uncertainty for financial stability in the ‘First World’. But in what way do these problems, ranging from the severe to the outright existential, require a Communist solution, as opposed to some simple tinkering reforms of the current system?
The Idea of Communism appears like a bright dawn on the horizon when the logic of class rears its head. The fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated as if it heralded a new age of human unity, but with the erection of new walls all around the world, this could not be further from the truth. Alongside physical separations (walling off Palestine from Israel, Mexico from the US, and North Africa from Europe) lie the slums, the so-called “blank spaces” within the confines of state authority where “de-structuralised masses” lie dormant, open to unlimited exploitation. Anyone reading this article on an Apple-Foxconn product should be familiar with this. The Idea of Communism can only be justified in reference to the universal community of citizens, ‘factoring in’ those humans otherwise unfortunately tossed aside and forgotten by an unforgiving politico-economic arrangement.
This concept of universality is crucial to the Idea of Communism for, without it, any collective action is deprived of its truly revolutionary power and becomes yet another tool in the technocratic arsenal of efficiency solutionism: but contrary to common wisdom, the Idea of Communism is not only an emancipatory project for the global proletariat. When we say “another world is possible”, and when we define this as “the autonomous growth of the space of the common created by the free association of men and women implementing the egalitarian principle,” then this must be understood as a better world for everyone. Capitalism has been the cause of the existential suffering of the global poor is just as much as the profound psychic alienation of humanity as a whole.
Of course only so much can be said in a brief comment piece. As always, I shall leave the final words to Zizek: “They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.” “Do not be afraid, join us, come back! You’ve had your anti-communist fun, and you are pardoned for it—time to get serious once again…”
Another World is possible. Think about that over your Summer Vac…