Who are the communist today? What is the organizational vector that, to quote Marx and Engels, contributes to the “formation of the proletariat into a class”? Also: what is the relation between economic struggles and political struggles? What are the aims of a new economic policy built around the Commons? A thorough investigation into the processes of politicisation, into the practices that trigger or that may trigger these processes.
1. New Forms of Labour, New Political Subjects
The Communist Manifesto states that: “The immediate aim of the Communists is […] the formation of the proletariat into a class.” Also: “The collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon, the workers begin to form combinations against the bourgeois.” To consolidate, by struggling, coalitions and associations (of workers, migrants, unemployed) is a decisive step towards the transformation of the proletariat into a class. In the contemporary scene the actors in the labour market subjected to exploitation have multiplied, and so have the forms of entrepreneurship, thus putting an end to the marked differences between classes that characterized the nineteenth century and a good part of the twentieth century. What relation or translation exists between economic struggles and processes of political subjectification?
2. Enforcing Common Interests
Another definition can be found in the Manifesto: “The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: […] In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.” Neo-liberal globalization has supposedly made the world more homogeneous – this is how the story was told in the nineties – eroding national borders and cultures, and fuelling migration flows. Yet borders and gated enclaves have not ceased to proliferate, along with xenophobia, walls, deportations, fundamentalisms. What are the implications today of enforcing common interests in opposition to the multiplication of geographical, social and sexual boundaries?
3. The Struggle against Private Property
Communists fight bourgeois private property, which can be seen as a form of dispossession (see the enclosures), of theft of surplus labour. Both these processes in neo-liberal capitalism are mostly carried out by finance, by its extractive function which acts both by imposing new enclosures – of commodities, of urban space, of welfare – and through the creation of private debt. Is it possible to defend the right to the city, to basic public services, demanding a universal welfare system not based on work performance and on traditional insurance schemes, without, at the same time, waging an attack on bourgeois private property, in other words on the Capital, that is always social relation and power?
4. Leadership and Militancy
Communist militancy and vanguard: two notions that have been equivalent for over a century. This equivalence was mainly based on the distinction between intellectual and manual labour. The end of this separation, which could have taken on the form of communism, has on the contrary meant an unlimited strengthening of the hierarchy and exploitation of living labour. At the same time, however, the exploited have gained knowledge, languages, technical dispositifs that continually undermine the efforts and bearings of the leadership and the vanguard. Do social phenomena and contemporary struggles dissolve the equivalence between vanguard and communist militancy or, on the contrary, must we envisage a new relationship between avant-guard and political movements?
5. Conversatio inter pauperes
Contemporary capitalism constantly extracts value from subjectivity. Behaviours, ethical tensions, languages, relations are all essential tools, and are often the result of the production process. Class struggle is more and more about the way life is employed, or is about defending new forms of life. At a time when the crisis extends and intensifies forms of impoverishment, expulsion, déclassement, is it possible to envisage a communist militancy that is not at the same time a conversatio inter pauperes, commonality of living conditions and exploitation? Or, reversing the question: is a representative revolutionary political militancy still possible?