In the late seventies Foucault posed the following question: is “socialist governmentality” possible? Today global governance defines the State and its functions in a new way, and the question posed by Foucault becomes not only current but urgent. Also: is it possible to imagine or build institutions that do not converge with the State? Is the federalist option, repressed and absent in the debate on the European crisis, also a communist hypothesis? Does a communist practice of jurisprudence, beyond and against national sovereignty and the neo-liberal project, exist?
The present neo-liberalist context makes it necessary to question the role played by the state and its possible progressive function. The issue becomes urgent in light of the profound transformation undergone by the form, function and presumed autonomy of the modern state. On the one hand we are witnessing phenomena that highlight its porosity, ambivalence, disaggregation, the alignment with neo-liberal standards; on the other hand, however, it is also true that some aspects point to the fact that the state’s role is at times still strategic and occasionally anti-liberal. To what extent does the clash between dominant and dominated classes revolve around the state? Does the notion of state still play a central role in the communist struggle for power?
2. New Institutions
Recently there has been much talk about the possibility of inventing and setting up new institutions, alternative to those of the state, beginning with existing political practices, from communal forms of action, from the way life is employed. The definition itself of institution has become broader compared to a more traditional one, since it no longer signifies the mere act of setting boundaries to an excessive use of power. Rather, today, an institution can be seen as the expression of collective forms of self-management, re-appropriation of production and redistribution of wealth. In a scenario of institutional creativity, how does one ensure the effectiveness, the expansive nature and reproducibility of new institutions? Is it possible to reshape, in a communist way, the already existing institutions, starting from welfare?
In The Civil War in France Marx defines the Commune as a “thoroughly expansive political form”, antithetical to empire and contrasting with the centralized state; it is an organism that may become “the political form of even the smallest country hamlet”, organized around the principle of assemblies, the expression of the “self-government of the producers”. Beginning with the experience of the Commune, is it possible to rethink, in a progressive way, the concept of federalism, considered as a federation of experiences of self-government, an instrument for the dissemination of power?
The current neo-liberal context is characterized by a hypertrophy of legislation and by the multiplication of players carrying out resolutions. Law, in its double nature of lex and ius, discursive practice and performative power, seems however to play a crucial role within a process of radical political renewal. Some experiments, the result of recent political activism, have shaped a regulatory countervailing power (using charters, statutes, regulations…) that aims to bend current legislation in an alternative way. Are jurisprudence and legal form solely means to enhance capital or is there a space, an overflow, an excess, which may allow the communist revolution to employ jurisprudence and legal form? Does it make sense, in this perspective, to defend the Constitution, presently being raised as a banner by a portion of the left?
In light of the evident breach between neo-liberal capitalism and democracy, it is perhaps necessary to rethink the latter in an insurrectionist and tumultuous sense, the way it is described by Marx when speaking of the Paris Commune. Conceived in terms of tumultuous self-government, democracy may render the exercise of constituent power central in the political sphere. How is the concept of democracy to be intended in opposition to its liberal vulgarization and against the recurrent distortions constructed in the name of alleged democracy?
In the Manifesto the “organization of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently into a political party” is a crucial point. Marx put a lot of effort into the constitution and development of The International Workingmen’s Association, better known as The First International. During the course of the twentieth century class-consciousness and the role played by the party in forming a revolutionary working-class awareness became central. A widespread crisis undermines political parties today, as they increasingly lack a social base, fail to provide answers and guidance, and are unable to shape common needs: in this context, how must we rethink the forms and contents of the communist organization?