heterodox communism (a sketch)

commie germany
“The Way Out Of The Conservatives,” T.T. Heine (1910)

Surely, what follows is mostly a misunderstanding of communism, but we can’t be so uniquely stupid that these ideas are even original errors. In any case, we can find some explosive little heterodoxies running through a sample of Marx+Marx-Engel’s arguments, margins, and one-offs. To paraphrase haphazardly, without much regard for context:

Communism is not a state of affairs to be established, but a real movement to abolish the present state of things, and so is neither a Platonic Idea we elect to participate in or approximate nor a Kantian Ideal for us to asymptotically approach. [1]

Communism is not a theoretical programme, which would remain bound to the demand to generate ‘adequate’ descriptions of status-quo ‘facts,’ but is an experimental programme for launching attacks on the material – therefore mutable – basis on which the edifice of ‘facts’ said to compose the current world has been built. [2]

Communism is not, properly speaking, anti-theoretical, but involves reading theory as an arsenal of embryonic concepts which can only undergo maturation insofar as they inform revolutionary assaults and transform to fit the needs of revolutionaries as a result of their deployment. [2]

Communism never resolves into a world of new natural ‘givens,’ but names the programme of collective techno-social denaturation of so-called ‘natural facts,’ which are revealed to be historically produced – all to the effect of dissolving (gendered, racial, etc.) hierarchies ‘justified’ by naturalistic appeal. [3]

Communism does not require the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat in principle, but only insofar as we remain limited in our ability to imagine a more effective forcible/coercive means to hasten the bourgeoise out of existence. [4]

Communism does not rely on some agential capacity of sovereign, liberal subjects to simultaneously will themselves to emancipation, but, when effective, spreads like blight through the social field as the trans-personal mob-mind of ‘communist consciousness’ seduces defectors from other classes. [5]

Communism does not name a dutiful, dogmatic commitment to some ‘way the world ought to be,’ but a revelry in the anarchy of having no idea about what ought to happen among those who find their new world by bringing this one to ruin. [6]

Communism is not some indefinite reinforcement of class stratification, but an endless expression of the dissolution of classes by a class which becomes unrecognizable as a class in its war to end all class war. [7]

Communism does not consist in the individualistic moral injunction to either satisfy your pre-given desires – as a hedonist – or deny them – as an aescetic – but is an attack on the material basis on which the fixity of your ‘pre-given’ desire depends and, consequently, brings about the liquefaction of all desire. [8]

Communism has nothing in common with the moralizer’s dream of a sentimental revolution that would bring about a new, universal morality of love – since ‘love,’ like ‘selfishness,’ as we understand it now is not guaranteed a future after the abolition of all earlier relations of intercourse [9] – but, rather, disabuses us of the idea that the job of the revolutionary has anything to do with preaching morality at all. [10]

Of course, this is only a sketch, but it is another ‘sense’ in which one could call oneself a communist, unburdened from at least some of the stultifying dross with which communism has become associated. Here’s to the thought of a meaner kind of communism than any we’ve seen before.


[1] “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_The_German_Ideology.pdf)

[2] “[On Feuerbach:] He wants to establish consciousness of this fact, that is to say, like the other theorists, merely to produce a correct consciousness about an existing fact; whereas for the real communist it is a question of overthrowing the existing state of things. We thoroughly appreciate, moreover, that Feuerbach, in endeavouring to produce consciousness of just this fact, is going as far as a theorist possibly can, without ceasing to be a theorist and philosopher…. […] In reality and for the practical materialist, i.e. the communist, it is a question of revolutionising the existing world, of practically attacking and changing existing things. When occasionally we find such views with Feuerbach, they are never more than isolated surmises and have much too little influence on his general outlook to be considered here as anything else than embryos capable of development.” (Ibid.)

[3] “The capacity for development of infants depends on the development of parents and all the mutilations of individuals, which are an historical product of ancient social conditions, are equally capable of being historically avoided. Even the natural diversity of species, as for example the differences of race, etc., are and must be checked historically.” (Ibid.)

[4] “[S]o long as the other classes, especially the capitalist class, still exists, so long as the proletariat struggles with it (for when it attains government power its enemies and the old organization of society have not yet vanished), it must employ forcible means, hence governmental means. It is itself still a class and the economic conditions from which the class struggle and the existence of classes derive have still not disappeared and must forcibly be either removed out of the way or transformed, this transformation process being forcibly hastened.” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/04/bakunin-notes.htm)

[5] “In the development of productive forces there comes a stage when productive forces and means of intercourse are brought into being, which, under the existing relationships, only cause mischief, and are no longer productive but destructive forces (machinery and money); and connected with this a class is called forth, which has to bear all the burdens of society without enjoying its advantages, which, ousted from society, is forced into the most decided antagonism to all other classes; a class which forms the majority of all members of society, and from which emanates the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution, the communist consciousness, which may, of course, arise among the other classes too through the contemplation of the situation of this class.” (Ibid.)

[6] “Not only has universal anarchy broken out among the reformers, but also every individual must admit to himself that he has no precise idea about what ought to happen. However, this very defect turns to the advantage of the new movement, for it means that we do not anticipate the world with our dogmas but instead attempt to discover the new world through the critique of the old.” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/letters/43_09-alt.htm)

[7] “In all revolutions up till now the mode of activity always remained unscathed and it was only a question of a different distribution of this activity, a new distribution of labour to other persons, whilst the communist revolution is directed against the preceding mode of activity, does away with labour, and abolishes the rule of all classes with the classes themselves, because it is carried through by the class which no longer counts as a class in society, is not recognised as a class, and is in itself the expression of the dissolution of all classes, nationalities, etc. within present society” (The German Ideology)

[8] “Since they attack the material basis on which the hitherto inevitable fixedness of desires and ideas depended, the Communists are the only people through whose historical activity the liquefaction of the fixed desires and ideas is in fact brought about and ceases to be an impotent moral injunction, as it was up to now with all moralists “down to” Stirner.” (Ibid.)

[9] “Communism differs from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of hitherto existing men, strips them of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of the united individuals.” (Ibid.)

[10] “Communists do not oppose egoism to selflessness or selflessness to egoism, nor do they express this contradiction theoretically either in its sentimental or in its highflown ideological form; they rather demonstrate its material source, with which it disappears of itself. The Communists do not preach morality at all. They do not put to people the moral demand: love one another […].” (Ibid.)

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communism on the way down

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