When Marx and Engels announced in 1848, at the beginning of the Communist Manifesto, that “A specter is haunting old Europe” they were referring to a growing movement of workers who were linked to each other by increasingly militant demands for social equality and political freedom through labor and political organizations, various publishing outlets, as well as informal networks of activists, writers, and intellectuals made possible by the standardization of postal communications and increasing penetration and accessibility of railway transportation.
Much ink has been shed over the past few decades on the question of what the status of this concept of ‘specter’ might be in Marxist theory. Not much, so far as I know, has been said about the specter itself. I actually don’t want to cast disparagement on the former, and I will certainly use them in my own reflection. But it does seem to me like the interrogation of the specter of communism needs to be radicalized in a much more materially concrete direction! In other words, few have been those who have tried to theorize the specter in its own right rather than in relation to the paradoxes and parrallogisms of Marxist theory. The premise of this web log will be that such an effort is mandated by the current historical conjuncture.
In fact, the question that will thematically unite the entries I will post in this space could be formulated as follow: Has a new specter been haunting global capitalism since 1989? For if the ghost Marx and Engels had invoked in 1848 was finally materialized in 1917 by the October revolution, it died from a serious case of sclerotic overmaterialization in the countries of the former Soviet block. Everywhere else it took hold (China, Cuba, Vietnam, etc…) it is simply dissolving into the ether of the capitalist market.
But beginning in the mid-80s of the last century, and perhaps with roots in the New Left of the mid-60s, something else has been brewing, a new specter that is beginning to haunt the global order. In some places like Venezuela it has attempted to take institutional form—so far inconclusively—while in others it is still gathering intellectual and political momentum. In France the eco-sabotage of activists linked to Tiqqun and the Invisible Committee have put the forces of order on notice. In Great Britain some of the student protesters against tuition hikes and university privatization explicitly linked their struggles to the work of some of the leading intellectuals in that movement, while in the United States the resurgence of communist-oriented anarchism over the last several decades seems to me to be a sign of the same yearning.
What is the relationship of this neo-communist specter to the feminist and queer movements? What significance does it have for Africa, the Middle East, and Asia? In other words can it become globally significant? What are its distinctive theoretical forms and its social and material roots? How can it or should it constitute itself subjectively? What forms can its agency(ies) take? These are some of the questions I hope to think about in this web log. Some of them I have some idea about, while for others I am still at a loss and will try to formulate hypotheses on the basis of current events. For all of them I hoping that vigorous debate by readers in response to the entries I post here will enlarge the richness and depth of both questions and possible answers.
At this stage I am planning on posting an entry every other week or so. The entries should be about 1000-2000 words long, and, while there will be detours by way of current actuality (political and social events, but also analyses of recently published books and articles), they will be largely focused on developing the concept of a “neo-communism” and responding to some proposals that have been made about how to conceive it.