Posts tagged communism

Posted 3 years ago

“This Christmas present is not for one but for all in equal measure.”


“This Christmas present is not for one but for all in equal measure.”

Posted 3 years ago
But I think all communists agree: robots. Fucking tons of robots. Everywhere.
A friend of mine, on the glorious future that awaits us.
Posted 4 years ago

Athens and New Spaces

The potential for turning a few isolated acts of protest into a genuine mass movement lies in the construction of an alternative geography. By carving out a space for themselves in the built environment, these activists opened up possibilities for truly bold social changes. Great and terrible things are possible when the lines of authority are erased, however temporarily. As Žižek observes: “…in the first years of the October Revolution, in spite of the so-called Red Terror, there was sexual liberation, literary explosion and then it turned into the nightmare.” This time, the potential for good and bad has repeated itself- in the case of the latter, a bank was burned with the employees still inside.

Almost immediately the government appropriated the tragedy to condemn the protests, and the protesters appropriated it to blame the managers. Those in sympathy with the protesters who lay the blame purely at the feet of the bosses do so for the sake of an ideological cheap shot, one that comes at the cost of reflection and critical engagement concerning the left’s role in the incident. 

I think it’s a terribly unhealthy response. It entails a reflexive retreat into an overly simplistic ideology and absolves the left of any responsibility whatsoever for what happened. What the Athens leftists need to admit in accepting responsibility is that they created a space in which the bank could catch on fire without little warning. Whether it was a deliberate bombing by anarchists, the work of some opportunistic murderer taking advantage of the upheaval, or even a false flag operation by the government, the new geography of Athens’ streets formed a necessary condition for the burning. 

This is not to deflect attention from the bank’s management, who also contributed considerably to the danger of the space by ignoring the fire code in their operation of the building. Nor is it a compromise fallacy between the views of the protesters and their opponents’. But any response to the accident that immediately and uncritically tries to place blame purely on either side gets in the way of a real understanding of what happened. If we give that up, we’ll never be able to effectively use our knowledge of these new geographies, both in theory and in practice.

Posted 4 years ago

Marxism: An Extremely Brief Introduction

This was the first question on my midterm for History of Socialism & Communism.  I think it answered the question, but may not be a suitable introduction to Marx’s thought for its length.

Posted 4 years ago
…in no intelligible sense can Engels or Marx bear culpability for the crimes of historical actors carried out generations later, even if the policies were offered up in their honor.
Tristram Hunt
Posted 5 years ago

First as Tragedy, then as Farce

Even if you disagree with him, you have to admire Slavoj Žižek’s style. Rapid-fire, witty, and peppered with references to everything from Microsoft to Bolshevik jokes. His lecture was entertaining and enlightening. Given his sometimes ironic tone, I have to say it was appropriate that directly across from his speaking podium was a sumptuous neoclassical painting glorifying the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

His major points (some of which you may have gleaned from my notes) were very interesting, and I’d like to try to enumerate some of them in more detail.

  • When capitalism fails, the capitalists point towards the socialists who have secretly been manipulating things. In this regard they are similar to the communists who supported Stalin and Mao’s purges: They believe that success can come only with total ideological purity put into practice.
  • He predicts that in Europe the main political antagonisms will be between mainstream capitalist liberalism (of the neo-liberal bent, with opposition to bigotry playing an important role) and a right-wing populist minority. The reason for this, he said, was because the real left in Europe is absolutely terrified of being perceived as working-class.
  • Žižek used the example of Microsoft to explain that in the new capitalist economy, rent, not profits, are the main source of wealth. Though Windows is ostensibly a product, Microsoft uses its monopoly position (enforced by intellectual property) to charge rent for what Marx called the “general intellect,” in the form of the web and computer access. Marx thought that the general intellect would be something the ruling classes could not control and therefore was another way in which they would bring about their end. What Marx did not realize, Žižek said, is that this general intellect could be privatized and used to extract rent.
  • Going on with his point of something that Marx failed to predict, Žižek said that “if communism is an immortal idea, we must re-invent it continually” and therefore be unafraid to revise Marx’s theories where necessary.
  • He talked about the healthcare debate’s emphasis on “freedom of choice” and made the point that now many people are “forced to live as free,” in that the new economy necessitates upheavals in people’s lives, such as when industries become obsolete or event the previous models of hiring become obsolete (the new emphasis on contracting work instead of hiring full-time employees), and how these upheavals are masked as “freedom.”
  • Real freedom of choice, Žižek says, comes with not needing to worry about basics, thereby freeing up time for other things. He said he would hate to have the “freedom” to choose his electric company and the worrying about cost and so on that comes with it. He argued that healthcare in the US can become something that people no longer need to worry about having access to, and it would make us a freer society as a result.

Of course, a blog post can never live up to the inimitable Žižek, so I hope that the video they shot of the lecture will be available on the web soon.