A month has passed since the end of C17-The Rome Conference on Communism, an event which has left a strong mark. For five days in a row thousands of people literally swarmed the debated, held at Esc and at the National Gallery; thousands visited the exhibition and the conference Sensible of the Common (at the National Gallery). An extraordinary success, especially if we consider the subject being debated: communism. A word that has been forgotten, offended, mispronounced, cursed, that still fuels the hatred of reactionary writers, and that has suddenly taken centre stage. A stage bustling with bodies, controversies and passions. A success for which we are grateful to all those who made it possible, from the guests invited to speak (at the conferences and at the workshops) to the audience, from the artists to the technicians, and the activists.
C17 was not a symphony—and those taking part, in person of following the conferences in streaming, know this. The voices were many, diverse, at times contrasting. There were those who supported the idea of communist institutions as a radical alternative to the State, and those who would prefer to retain some or many functions of the State; some defended the central role played by the party, while others claim this role is of the protest movements; some stressed the power of capitalism (and of its algorithmic control over cooperation), while others gave more importance to living labour and its relative autonomy. All who took part, however, agreed that future communism depends on the primacy of difference, on a radical critique of identity and of neutral universality. C17 presented a heterogeneous territory, often dissonant, certainly polifonic, and yet common. Common in that the search for a perspective able to highlight the struggles and social turmoil—beyond the event—is a shared one. During the conference what became manifest is the desire to “think big”, without ever giving in to populist alarmism. The large conclusive assembly, where hundreds of people discussed past and future objectives, was a clear indication of this.
As you know, the conclusive assembly of C17 decided that the collective “C17” will not write—not now, at least—a new Manifesto; rather, it will draft a series of Propositions for a future Manifesto. Differences will not be eliminated, and the writing process, structured around a first 1.0 draft, will be collective. C17 will be followed by a C18, and by many more in the future, to be held elsewhere, not in Italy; it will not be a communist festival, rather a transnational workshop for the production of theoretical and political thought; combined and resonating with social struggles and movements.
From the questions, that structured the debates at Esc and at the National Gallery, to the Propositions, and from these to a Manifesto. This is how the assembly—hundreds of people taking part with about thirty interventions—decided to proceed. In order to allow the concrete implementation of this plan the collective “C17” is putting forward two additional proposals: 1. A Roman workshop, larger than the original collective that organized the conferences and the exhibition held in January; 2. Starting from the 1.0 version of the Propositions, a transnational online journal, a space for debate, for the critique, development and the relaunch of the Propositions. Very soon you will receive updates concerning the first point, via the website and the Facebook page of “C17”. Regarding the second point we must specify that the main task of the journal, which could be published in more languages, and that will obviously count on the participation of the guests invited to speak at the Roman conference, will be to develop the debate centred on the Propositions and prepare the ground for C18. The aim of the journal, however, will also be to strengthen and broaden the programmatic and constituent imagination that communism, the “real movement which abolishes the present state of things”, entails.
We all know it will not be easy, but it could not be otherwise. If we intend to rise to this challenge—provide a follow-up to an event thousands took part in, give voice to a desire strongly felt during the five days of the conference, whose outcome was beyond our expectations, but also beyond perimeters and consolidated identities—what we need is open processes, organizational continuity, and a lot of courage. We will do our best.
The Collective “C17”