ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Tribune. À quoi nous sert le communisme ?
by Pierre Zarka
Translated Thursday 27 March 2014, by
Conceiving of a post-capitalist society is not only a goal, but also a means...
By Pierre Zarka, of the association of unitarian communists. "People will say that talking about communism is a distraction from urgent questions. But what communism can bring is not dreams, it can change the center of gravity in the class struggle."
Socrates told his students this story: "A man is walking and he comes to a ravine. He turns right, and he comes to another ravine. He turns right again, and comes to yet another ravine. He starts over again, and finds he is surrounded by ravines. How does he get out?"
The students remained silent. Socrates told them: "The answer is, how did he get into this situation? You don’t find the solution if you remain shut up in the terms in which the problem is posed; you have to free yourselves of them."
Can’t the same be said of us?
The ideological frame of thought in which our problems are posed is one that was created by Capital. Struggling within these terms leaves us like those bumblebees which, wanting to escape by the window, keep bumping into the window-pane. A large number of people who are disappointed by capitalism feel this, and this makes them open to thinking about a different path. It can help us to break out of this feeling of powerlessness if we attack the present and the urgent problems with a different conception of society. Since capitalism is in crisis, conceiving of a post-capitalist society is not only a goal, but it can also become a means.
People will say that talking about communism is a distraction from urgent questions. But what communism can bring is not dreams; it can change the center of gravity in the class struggle. The work undertaken by the unitarian communists to re-conceive communism is not that of a social club, it is a kind of political action. Two examples:
According to Marx, communism implies a process of withering away of the State, contrary to the Soviet experience. What good is such a concept? Going from one election to another with the situation continually worsening feeds a feeling of powerlessness. Now, what reduces citizens to just voters in elections, if not the bourgeoisie? If we start to think that democracy is doing things yourself with people who are like you, without waiting for the State, we realize that the common point in all our struggles and expectations is to hope for a power to impose our goals. From that point on, politics becomes less a question of leaders than one of "how can our actions be directed towards seizing a share of "being able to do something." Now that’s something that would promote the convergence of all our struggles. If the workers were to be freed of all ideas of dependence, in what business enterprise would they still be at the mercy of a hypothetical white knight purchaser?
Marx said that communism is going beyond wage slavery. Is this science fiction?
It was thought to be true. But do we have to think that the only periods of time that are useful to society are the ones spent working for a company? Only the exploiters have an interest in defining the production of wealth in this way. When teachers concern themselves with children, this is recognized to be useful labor, but when parents or grand-parents concern themselves with these same children, is it no longer useful labor? Is it necessary for work to be done in a commodity relationship and as a constrained activity for it to be recognized? Can’t the categorization "useful labor" serve as a standard to guarantee an income at every period in a lifetime? Is this a utopia? What is maternity leave, what is leave for continuing professional training, what is paid leave to work for a trade union, what are paid holidays? Doesn’t developing oneself and keeping oneself in good health contribute something to the economy? Wouldn’t the struggles for retirement and against unemployment be stronger if the relationship on-the-job / off-the-job were seen as productive of wealth?
Are these ideas going unheard?
There isn’t a political discussion in which the idea of power is not touched upon. What do workers demand when they form a cooperative? Not to have any authority over them, except themselves. And temporary show business workers? To go beyond the on-the-job / off-the-job dichotomy. Basing yourself on what you want when you fight against what is, attacking the present based on what does not yet exist — this can liberate enormous potentialities and profoundly change who is taking the initiative and what makes up current affairs.