Communization and the show trials from our post-capitalist future…
What options do you have left when a sober examination of history demonstrates that every proletarian riot, uprising, rebellion and revolution in the past 150 years has led to a disaster or simply petered out inconclusively? According to Donald Parkinson, a Marxist writer from Tampa, the answer to this question furnished by the so-called ‘communization’ school is unambiguous: we should completely bypass all this mucking about with politics and head straight to full communism:
“Overall what unites [communization] is a belief that revolution will have to immediately establish communist relations of production from day one, that an immediate break from waged labor, commodity production and the value-form is to be favored as opposed to an approach where the working class holds political power and dismantles capitalism in a transition period that may temporarily maintain aspects of capitalism.”
It is generally agreed the revolution will not be televised, will not issue color manifestos and will not be sponsored by the George Soros funded Open Society Foundations, Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy, or even contributions from millions of small donors. We’re done with all that. The communization school takes this one step further: Not only will the revolution dispense with the usual trojan horses of the neoliberal order, with it goes much of what communists have traditionally assumed was essential to any post-capitalist order, up to and including that little period between capitalism and communism Marx called “the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other.”
According to Marx, this transformative period could only take the form of a political transition, a dictatorship of the proletariat. Not so, says communization: We must not only dispense with this transformative period, in truth we need to dispense with the proletariat itself:
“[The] “old workers movement” … was all about affirming the proletarian condition rather than abolishing it. This is meant to describe the entire workers movement of the past, not just its more reformist elements, describing all politics where ‘revolution is thus the affirmation of the proletariat, whether as a dictatorship of the proletariat, workers’ councils, the liberation of work, a period of transition, the withering of the state, generalised self-management, or a ‘society of associated producers’.”
Outrageous! This is just the sort of heretical thinking that will get the communizers sharing a prison cell with Zizek, Tsipras and their open and secret minions on the morning after the revolution. The charges will be read aloud in the secret court proceedings as follows:
“[The TC] argument, … essentially reduces the entire workers movement to a means of capitalist development and claims that all along communism was impossible until (conveniently) now.”
Pointing at the prisoners in their hermetically sealed holding tanks — to prevent serious infection from such close contact with their revisionism — the prosecutor (played, in this case, by myself, since I will have had the Trotsky-like foresight to have joined the winning side on the eve of the revolution) will ask:
“Yet why this era will produce communism when all class struggle in the past simply affirmed capital is never explained.”
The prosecution rests, your honor!
If Parkinson’s essay is accurate, communization does not explain how we get from a society where cancer patients are shaken down for every dime in their pockets to a society founded on the principle, “to each according to need.” Communization, as he describes it, has no real mechanism by which it is realized and thus must rely on vague mystical rupture fantasies. As Parkinson explains, naive visions of prefigurative communities breaking away from the larger world market ain’t going to satisfy any serious activist:
“[Communism] isn’t possible on a local scale … “true” communism where value has been completely abolished will require the co-operation of all of humanity utilizing the the worlds collective productive forces. This reason alone explains why immediate communization is not possible, with transition being a necessity imposed by objective circumstances rather than the will of revolutionaries.”
Communization does rightly attempt to dethrone politics and the Marxist fetish of the proletarian revolutionary subject, but only insofar as it replaces this fetish with a fantasy of a rupture that immediately breaks with capitalism absent any identifiable internal or external force driving it. Even theoretically, this leap is impossible unless labor power cannot be sold, which implies that s = 0, i.e., collapse of capitalism.
If communization was honest with itself it would have to accept that a “rupture with the wage relation”, logically begins with capital, not with the proletariat. This would seem to imply a pre-existing state: the collapse of capital. This is a problem. The last time I bothered to read Endnotes, they stated somewhat self-righteously that they were not catastrophists. Thus they assume that, somehow, society is to go in one leap from a situation where everything has a price to one where “To each according to need” governs.
And this in a society where you can’t even get air for your auto tire or an abscess treated unless you first pony up hard cash.
So, what is the mechanism for immediate communization in one huge leap? If this mechanism is not the proletariat acting as the revolutionary subject of history, is it not to be found in the material conditions of society; material conditions that have already made necessary (and not simply possible) the immediate emergence of communist social relations?