Disclaimer: The opinions expressed belong to our diverse range of talented writers, and don’t represent the views of Wessex Scene as a whole.
During Piers Morgan’s Good Morning Britain rant with Ash Sarkar, he was met with the taboo rebuttal ‘I’m literally a Communist’. Ash Sarkar, a 26-year old lecturer in Global Politics at Anglia Ruskin University and senior editor at Novara Media, claims Piers ‘accidentally rehabilitated communism’. Their clash has since sparked T-shirt printing of Sarkar’s words alongside articles and TV appearances by Novara Media’s senior-most staff such as Aaron Bastani who, in his Daily Politics appearance was asked: ‘Are you romanticizing a murderous ideology?’, a question enmeshed in the wider-subject of this piece – Is Communism relevant today?
Conservative and liberal dogma claims that ‘Communism was (and therefore is) as bad as Fascism’, oft-repeated rhetoric that perpetuates a triumvirate (embodied in the UK’s dominant political parties) of conservativism, centrism, and social democracy. This works under the guise of so-called ‘socialism’ providing that the capitalist framework is not challenged and arguments that reproduce capital’s competitive logic dominate consensus (e.g., improved wages and workers’ rights over the abolition of wage-slavery and artificial scarcity which resolves said conflict altogether).
As Jodi Dean explains in her essay on Slavoj Žižek’s (pictured above) analysis of totalitarianism: Fascism, Stalinism, and The Organization of Enjoyment, ‘Challenges to the present combination of global capital and liberal democracy typically encounter the rejoinder that revolution always leads to totalitarianism, that the present is the best we can have because any attempt to change it will lead to something worse, as the experiments of the twentieth century have made so bloodily clear’ (pp. 21-22). So-called ’20th century Communism’ has become a shibboleth of modernity, preventing and restricting radical thought in which the dominant consensus designates it a ‘murderous ideology’ that killed 100 million people according to the Black Book of Communism. (This claim is pernicious and multifaceted and so requires a reasonable analysis, see part 2 for a more detailed discussion).
Put simply, the supposed death-toll of communism is dubious. To put it politely, and using The Zeitgeist Movement Defined: ‘According to Gernot Kohler and Norman Alcock in their 1976 work An Empirical Table of Structural Violence, a dramatic 18 million deaths were found to occur each year due to structural violence and that study was over 30 years ago. Since that time the global gap between rich and poor has more than doubled, suggesting now that the death toll is even much higher today. In effect, structural violence is the most deadly killer on the planet’ (p. 50). They further explain Dr. James Gilligan’s “distinction between ‘behavioural’ and ‘structural’ violence: ‘The lethal effects of structural violence operate continuously, rather than sporadically, whereas murders, suicides…wars and other forms of behavioural violence occur one at a time’ (p. 6).
Capitalism, we can argue, is prone to ‘structural’, ‘continuous’ violence compared to socialism with its low-income inequality and living costs that minimise the insecurity of a competitive society. Thus, the notion that state-socialism can have deaths attributed to its system, yet capitalism not being subject to the same scrutiny, is both hypocritical and untenable.
Nevertheless, theorists and philosophers like Žižek and Alain Badiou utilize the consensus of the 20th century’s ‘failed’ revolutions, invoking not simply the fact that all countries affected by socialist revolutions were previously crippled by stark inequality, poverty and famine, unemployment and largely agricultural work, illiteracy, and a lack of healthcare and education which these movements overturned, but that we are now in an entirely different epoch with the means for achieving post-scarcity which did not exist in Lenin’s time. As Badiou explains in Philosophy and the Event: ‘we are still in the sequence opened up by the French Revolution… that there have been two stages of the communist Idea, that of the nineteenth century exemplified by Marx [focus being the abolition of private property]and that of the communist parties [where ‘victory’ and ‘the seizure of power’ were the focus]’ (p. 23). He thus suggests ‘We are faced with an alternative: either the category of communism has to be abandoned or we enter a third stage’ (p. 22) – this is my proposition.
The 20th century laid the basis for the recursive and eternal communist idea – namely, a ‘stateless, classless, moneyless’ society that enables equality and an entirely different social conditioning through material abundance and freedom, to be realized. Rather than the oxymoronic ‘Communist state’ of the past (which should be accurately referred to as ‘socialist state’ at best), the past’s failures call for a re-evaluation not an abandonment of communism within our present moment, as we possess the means of achieving its overdue outcome thanks to the efforts of past century. In this way, Aaron Bastani’s 2019 book ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’ is an apt title for this re-evaluation and resurgence of Communism, as by a combination of organizations like The Zeitgeist Movement (theory) and The Venus Project (practice) alongside objective and nuanced historians like Grover Furr, all of which dispel liberal-conservative propaganda, humanity can progress to living in material abundance freed of financial constraint. However, as Žižek claims: ‘It is the very success of capitalism that the chance to be exploited in a long-term job is now experiences as a privilege’.
Our current emphasis is wrong. Only by the implementation of the Communist Hypothesis (see Alain Badiou’s book of the same name) to its conclusion (regardless of semantics), can humanity escape the Capitalist frame, its restrictions and its bourgeois-democratic regimes masquerading as serving the people whilst all major UK political parties uphold private property relations and therefore slavery.
Communism is ever more relevant today with the various crises of commons threatening humanity’s global future, presenting the only alternative to the profit-drive that necessarily produces its excesses of pollution, poverty, and misery to ‘cut costs’, finally offering an end to the prostitution of selling ourselves to the dictatorship of capital for survival.