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The Communist Left Was Never Left Communist

May 23, 2019

This our translation of Nuevo Curso's article "La Izquierda Comunista no fue Comunista de Izquierda"



To cram the historic Communist Left in with so-called "communization" in the catch-all that is "left communism" is a nonsense that reveals itself to be a political ploy once we closely study what "communization" really is and take it apart.





What was the "Communist Left"?


We call the Communist Left the internationalist movement that began fighting against the degeneration of the Third International, seeking to correct the errors inherited from the past reflected in its program, to face from 1928 the triumph of the Thermidor in Russia and the counterrevolutionary role of the International and the Stalinist parties. Seen from the perspective of the time, the Communist Left, including the Spanish Communist Left, was the response of the class to the need to clarify the defeat "from within" of the Russian Revolution and the consequent destruction of the Third International as a world political organization of the working class. In responding to a universal need, it was a global phenomenon even though - as a natural expression of a painful and profound defeat - it was fragmented into "national" groupings.


It can be said that the historical time of the Communist Left ends in the decade between 1943 and 1953 when the main currents that have maintained an internationalist praxis within the Fourth International denounce its betrayal of internationalism and configure a new platform that starts from the denunciation of Stalinist Russia as imperialist state-capitalism, doing moreover:


  • the critique of the supposedly socialist character of state property;

  • the denunciation of the reactionary character of the "national liberation" that would make it appearance during the war

  • the affirmation of the need to confine the united front within class borders lest destructive alliances with sectors of the bourgeoisie be sold to us as "working-class" ones;

  • and the denunciation of the absorption of the trade unions as organs of state capitalism.


Those of the communist leftist who did not join the international regrouping - Italians and their French derivatives – would arrive, although not all of them, not completely and not always on coherent positions, at a similar point in the same period.




What is "left - communism"?


So-called "left communism" is a concept that includes the Communist Left -especially the Italian and German-Dutch currents-, the groups and tendencies that give it continuity (from "councilism" to "bordigism") and the thinkers of "communization".


The combination makes little or no sense. Associating an already closed historical stage of the communist movement with the groups that depart or give continuity to their positions today is acceptable although it does not cease to lose very important nuances. But to cram the Communist Left in with a handful of thinkers and intellectual groups that have no any organic or political relationship to it is simply nonsense. This is a nonsense that would reveal itself to be a real political ploy once we examine closely what "communization" really is.




What is "communization"?


"Communization" was not born of an organizational or militant tradition, in reality it’s an ensemble of more or less convergent authors and small literary groups not directly related to the class struggle that appeared from the 1960s onwards. That is why it does not have a homogeneous program or body of positions either. It is an intellectual current in the way that "existentialism" or "postmodernism", of which in a certain way it is a part, were. Below we are summarizing and synthesizing common and noteworthy elements of the different communization authors.



The foundations of communization would be:


  • Capital is a bundle of relations that configures society as a total subject, as a unique collective being, a homunculus. The subject of contemporary history is not the classes or the class struggle, but the Capital that configures and shapes its parts.

  • The history of society under capital, its development, is the movement from "formal domination" (the society of opposing classes) to "real domination", a phase in which capital already escapes the control of the ruling classes themselves and becomes the social fabric itself. Under the "real domination" of capital, capital does not even focus on production, but on its own material and symbolic reproduction.

  • The very idea of "productive forces" and "progress", of the mode of production and decadence, reveal that the proletariat and its political expressions never abandoned the program of capital: "development" would signify nothing more than the development of capital itself, since capital is the whole social fabric.

  • The idea that the proletarian revolution would bring forth socialism, a period of transition, which would be capable of culminating in a society of hyperproductive abundance in common metabolism with Nature, in other words, communism, was never anything other than utopian. Utopian because the idea of progress would reproduce the same logic, capital itself.

  • The idea of a universal class carrying communism in its social being would therefore be absurd: the part -the proletariat- cannot rise against the whole -society- abandoning what constitutes it and defines it in its being and understanding of the world as a class: capital. Communism was never possible.

  • What was always possible, however, was "communization", the pure and simple negation of the dominant social relations and their abrupt end through the generalized revolt of the social whole. The homunculus would untie its parts and crumble. But what parts would drive the process if the classes are not historical subjects? All of them: racial revolts, gender revolts, workers' revolts, environmental protests, riots and looting of the lumpen... all of them are particular expressions, "partial", of the contradictions of capital. By themselves none of its protagonists configures a historical subject... nor do they have to. It is not a question of any part, identity or class "moving" society anywhere - it is only possible for capital to be moved and therefore be reproduced. It would be enough, however, for those parts, identities, or classes to "stir up" the social fabric that unites them, to disturb it until it collapses. To "separate" from production, Tiqqun-style, or by squatting houses, forming small unproductive and consciously parasitic communities, would play a vanguard role in itself. The looting and outbursts of the lumpen would demonstrate better than any mass strike the way to negate capital: to individually appropriate products, enjoy/consume them, and to refuse to produce ever again.

  • "Communization" would lead immediately not to the end of wage labor, but to the end of social work; not to the end of the commodification of production, but to the end of social production; not to a self-conscious society but to the disappearance of society; not to a common metabolism with Nature but to a "regeneration" of Nature for the end of human society.



The Communist Left was never "left communist"


The "communizers" like to "interpret" and give Marx's quotations and notes "new meanings". For example, the distinction between formal and real domination of capital in Marx referred to the ways in which capitalism expanded by absorbing industries or regions that had other modes of production: first by integrating them into the market through exchange (formal domination), opening ports, markets and exchanging industrial production for raw materials, crafts, etc.; then by introducing capitalist relations until production and the set of social relations in that territory are shaped by it (real domination), transforming the legal framework, creating industries, investing capital in different activities and giving rise to the formation of a local proletariat.


But as we have seen, "communization" is nothing more than a sophisticated parody of individualist anarchism. From the old Malatesta who affirmed that revolution has always been possible, to Bakunin who believed that there is no revolutionary subject as such, to Kropotkin who considered the Marxist idea of a liberating productive development to be impossible, to Stirner for whom there is no other revolutionary principle or objective than the individual and his desiring capacity; and to Thoreau for whom there is no possible reconciliation between Humanity and Nature, but instead affirms the negation of society and the affirmation of the individual, the isolated individual, within Nature.



It denies from the onset the existence of a class capable of revolutionizing social relations and making a demercantilized and abundant society a reality. That is to say, it denies the very foundation of the entirety of Marxist analysis, the universal class. Thus, since the class struggle is no longer revolutionary, since the class is not a revolutionary subject, any consideration of a boundary between class positions and bourgeois positions vanishes. Everything that shakes the social body is revolutionary and necessarily bourgeois at the same time, except perhaps that which has no aspiration other than individual and direct appropriation: the outbursts and looting of the lumpen.



There exists no continuity or community between the historic Communist Left and "communization”. The principles, objectives and legacy of one are opposed to those of the other. Moreover, it could not be any other way. The positions of the Communist Left were the result of a series of experiences of the class within militant organizations that, in continuity with a long series of political expressions of the class, tried to respond to the needs and hurdles of the class struggle. Their positions were intended to be and to express elaborate forms of class consciousness useful for the struggles of the workers as a class. By contrast, "communization" is the product of the "reflections" and ideas of a series of academics and para-academics who depart from the very negation of the class struggle, negating the proletariat as a revolutionary class.



No, there exists no continuity or community between the historic Communist Left and "communization". "Left-communism" is a fraudulent concept to give historical legitimacy to an anarchist and reactionary parody of the Communist Left. Neither was the Communist Left ever left communist; nor should its followers or us accept being placed under a common category that includes the most decrepit and reactionary of the expressions of the '68ers.


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