Preparing for November and Beyond

Marx in Defense of Revolution and the Insurrectionary Commune

As the elections draw near, we face at least three possible scenarios, each resulting in an escalation of violence by Trump and his death cult.[1] With the unmistakable threat of a coup this November 3rd and beyond, by invoking the Insurrection Act, Trump could unleash an arsenal of enhanced state repression beginning the night of the election itself.[2] Regrettably, those like the “Dump Trump, Then Battle Biden” signatories remain convinced that the important task of defeating him electorally can be achieved without broader preparations against a possible violent coup d’etat, but in the absence of preparations, any realistically attainable “Electoral College margin” becomes a suicidal politic.[3]

We must prepare for the possibility that the elections will be violently contested, including by DHS/DOJ paramilitary forces, militias, police, and Trump’s armed “poll watchers,” with the entire death cult claiming the elections are being stolen by “the left.”[4] With the help of a compliant media, the death cult has made the core of their 2020 electoral strategy an “all-out assault” on the right to vote, including broad preparations to provide cover should Trump initiate a coup.[5] Even before Roger Stone explicitly advocated for a coup to take place on election night, 47% of the county had already come to fear that Trump would attempt something.[6]

It seems clear that the threat is not only what Trump and the death cult may do if or when he loses, but that their attempted coup could begin on election night regardless, without patiently waiting until mail-in votes are counted. They will likely seek to create chaos at the polls then claim victory on election night, deploy an elaborate legal challenge to invalidate the election, and, no matter the results, seek to repress the country into obedience as soon as possible.[7] This would imperil a peaceful transition of power in January even if Biden were to technically win, so why discourage preparations?

A mass uprising that evolves to counter any attempted coup or coups may end up being all that stands between us and an even deadlier phase of fascism. Contained within the collective experience of any upcoming coup attempt is also the potential for “combat-organizational knowledge.”[8] Though its potential is sufficient for an uprising to organize commune-ized systems of social reproduction capable of sustaining tactical dominance against the forces of fascism, that hardly guarantees it will be actualized as such, especially dependent on the time frame in question.[9]

The previous article put forth a strategic assessment as to the possibility that mutual aid assemblies and other forms of revolutionary self-organization could proliferate with general or social strikes against the threat of a fascist seizure of power in November and beyond. In this article, the previous assessment is reinforced by a critical examination of the arguments Karl Marx made on revolution and what is here referred to as the insurrectionary commune. This is undertaken to further examine the extent to which the November elections could precipitate a revolutionary struggle for the direct transition to commune-ism.

In the first of three scenarios under consideration, Trump ends up losing the election and escalates whatever initial coup attempt he began in November through at least the presidential inauguration on Wednesday, January 20th, 2021. In this scenario, we must not assume that the military and intelligence agencies will step in to “defend the constitution,” whatever that actually means to them. Depending on the extent to which this catalyzes enough of an uprising, it could very well be the beginnings of a revolutionary upsurge.

Secondly, Trump could actually “win” re-election. Though he will likely claim victory on election night and attempt some form of coup then, he may also wait until the actual results of the election itself. If he waits for the electoral process to work itself out, and there is absolutely no guarantee that he will, he could end up emerging the winner, especially depending on a prior shift in the Supreme Court. At this point, and claiming a mandate from voters, he would likely attempt a swift display of power, an attack on whatever or whoever stands in his way.

Yet any escalation of state repression and vigilante violence can help solidify further support for a revolution against what is becoming a more nakedly anti-democratic, fascist force by the day. If an uprising can establish the systems for its own social reproduction through the figurative scaffolding of insurrectionary communes, then either of these first two possible scenarios can be decisively shifted toward revolution. In either of these scenarios though, the so-called “democratic republic” will have been bludgeoned to death by fascism.[10]

The third scenario under consideration is if the so-called “popular front” Bernie Sanders advocated at the Democratic National Convention proves successful; that Biden wins and Trump eventually steps down.[11] Looking to Marx on revolution and the insurrectionary commune can be useful to find lessons on how to ensure that the “immediate revolutionary excitement is not suddenly suppressed after the victory.”[12] As the main governing bodies of a revolutionary proletarian political party called The Communist League, these communes were definitely not like political parties today, including the recently launched Movement for a People’s Party.[13]

Overall, the viability of liberal, progressive, and democratic socialist politics has become critically wounded by the orchestration of an obvious right-wing coup of sorts. Similarly, if Trump wins, the future potential of electoral politics, including even municipalist socialism, remains highly in doubt.[14] Unfortunately, there seems to be a deep pessimism regarding the possibility of revolution. Out of this pessimism, many now seek alliance with the military. During what is perhaps the greatest crisis this country has faced in generations, a crisis that could advance a revolutionary movement more than over the course of the entire neoliberal era, we must reject the endless array of electoralism and prepare ourselves for what is to come.

In December 2019, Chris Hedges, journalist and author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and their War on America, noted the possibility of an attempted Trump coup in an article titled “Onward Christian Fascists.”[15] Going forward to August 2020, he wrote that “the election will not stop the rise of hypernationalism, crisis cults and other signs of an empire’s terminal decline.”[16] Against “the two ruling parties in the service of a corporate oligarchy,” he argued, it is necessary to “mount sustained acts of mass civil disobedience to bring down the empire.” However, when it comes to identifying that which should be built from the ashes of the fallen empire, he just pessimistically urges us to “mobilize to build an open society.” Sadly, Hedges is far from alone in this thinking.

In a Common Dreams article from August 2020, political scientist Jeffrey Isaac argued that “we must be prepared to defend a democratic election in the streets.”[17] Unfortunately, Isaac does not believe in the possibility of revolution, arguing that “no serious person imagines that we are on the cusp of a genuinely ‘revolutionary situation.’” He presents what is perhaps the clearest example of why liberals, progressives, and advocates of the electoral path to socialism have little to offer. According to Isaac, if Trump loses the election and tries to retain power, the goal of an uprising should be “to work in tandem—a complex and agonistic collaboration to be sure–with professional politicians, communicators, lawyers, bureaucrats, and police and military officers to defend the rule of law.”

Isaac discusses two other sets of people who advocate a similar approach to save the “democratic republic.” This includes two neoconservative military officers from the George W. Bush administration who co-authored a piece directed at General Malley, current chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying; “If Donald Trump refuses to leave office at the expiration of his constitutional term, the United States military must remove him by force, and you must give that order.”[18] Isaacs’ views are shared by notable leftist academic and former advisory board member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Francis Fox Piven. In an August 2020 article published by The Intercept, she and Deepak Bhargava urged us to believe that, in the event of Trump refusing to leave office, we should emulate Ukraine from November 2004 to January 2005, saying: “We can pull off a peaceful Orange Revolution of our own.”[19]

What exactly are they advocating by looking to Ukraine anyway? Though a popular uprising was successful in forcing the removal of a president who rigged an election in an attempt to remain in power, not only was he voted back in a few years later, but it was a single instance in a long line of so-called “color revolutions” backed by and also in the interests of US imperialism.[20] When it comes to the strategy of defending the rule of law and to protect the results of the election, much of the more conservative elements of the US left have implicitly adopted this regime change strategy.

The event of a “constitutional crisis” or “contested elections” could entail an immediate escalation of coup tactics by Trump and the death cult. An uprising would no doubt be up against a dangerous enemy who may emerge victorious in any early battles come November. But if, over the course of winter and into the spring, enough communities establish their own commune-ized systems of social reproduction, including self-defense forces, even in but nascent form, their resulting general or social strikes could build toward an insurrectionary rupture. Instead, much of the left has tasked itself with rescuing the republic at a moment in time that would potentially be a greater “revolutionary situation,” as Isaac called it, than what has occurred in generations. At least military historian Andrew J. Bacevich was upfront about the strategy of an alliance with the military when he said; “Down that path lies rule by military junta.”[21]

To “protect the results” of the election, as a broad progressive coalition of some 100 non-profit organizations under the umbrella of Stand Up America intends, hinges on exactly this strategy.[22] With a digital approach, Stand Up America played a key role organizing demonstrations in support of the limited Trump impeachment attempt, culminating in 600 “nobody is above the law” rallies throughout the country.[23] The slogan is different and the coalition has grown, but is their goal to assist in building the necessary popular power, or flash-in-the-pan rallies that fizzle out as soon as they begin? How are people supposed to take this seriously when the fascist opposition is preparing for a possible coup, including both state repression and vigilante violence? Against this threat, the purported strategy here is last minute text messages and Facebook posts for people to gather.

Turning to Stand Up America’s managing director from a press release; though Donald Trump is “an existential threat to our democracy,” the response is only “mobilizing to vote him out of office and peacefully take to the streets to defend the valid results of this election if necessary.”[24] The inclusion of the word “peacefully” here is notable, similar to what Lazare and Johnson noted back in June with regard to “democratic leader’s shamefully tepid response to Trump’s threat of military crackdown on protests.”[25] Clearly, the Democratic Party wants to be sure it can repress any uprising once it no longer serves its purpose. They have been laying their own groundwork for this since George Floyd was murdered by police, based upon a much longer history that includes “cooptation as ruling class strategy” and the belief “that you can somehow get rid of the police without overthrowing the system that the police are there to protect.”[26]

When it comes to these sorts of liberal, progressive, or democratic socialist arguments, Marx hoped the “various middle strata of bourgeois society,” as he viewed them, would “rapidly get over their illusions and disappointments” the more nakedly a “bourgeois republic” degenerated from class dictatorship to one ruled by emperor.[27] He hoped the “middle strata” would recognize the necessity of revolution before it was too late and argued for a “proletarian commune,” the core of a revolutionary movement toward “insurrection.” As for the insurrection itself, Marx hoped revolutionaries would seize upon the failures of a “protect the results” coalition in their day and launch a general or social strike in order to “plunge into the fight and push the revolution forward beyond the petty bourgeois aim set for it.”[28]

So we should look to what union organizer Chris Townsend wrote in a “Letter to the Socialists, Old and New,” published by Regeneration Magazine July 2020.[29] He encouraged us to “dismiss the pleadings of former movement glitterati who long ago gave up on revolutionary change” because “it’s your movement now, it’s not theirs anymore.” Though Townsend also cautioned against “bitter critiques of Bernie Sanders,” etc. and to “recall the destructive effects of sectarianism,” now is the time to push the preponderance of the “glitterati” and their electoralism off a cliff. Only in exposing the fallacies of their own privileged positions and beliefs can we truly “open even wider the doors of our movement,” as Townsend encouraged.

We turn to a June 2020 Left Voice article by Ahmed Kanna for instruction.[30] Titled “Vivek Chibber’s ABCs of Reformism: Reality Has Overtaken Social Democratic Illusions,” Kanna encouraged us to say “goodbye to all that,” what he referred to as “reformist and electoral illusions,” because “the rebellion has accomplished more in two weeks than have decades of slow, incremental electoralism.” Unfortunately, with regard to the possibility of a Trump coup come November and either the first or second scenarios, these “reformist and electoral illusions” increasingly become a politics of societal suicide. Marx referred to it as “that peculiar malady” of “parliamentary cretinism, which holds those infected by it fast in an imaginary world and robs them of all sense, all memory, and understanding of the rude external world.”[31]

Kanna’s article focuses primarily on Jacobin Magazine board chair and NYU sociologist Vivek Chibber who, in a 2017 article entitled “Our Road to Power,” said that when it comes to the possibility of revolution; “it seems entirely hallucinatory to think about socialism through this lens.”[32] Chibber continues this line of thinking in The ABCs of Capitalism, published by Jacobin in 2019, then again in a Verso Books interview from May 2020. He reiterated this in a February 2020 Jacobin article celebrating the late sociologist Erik Olin Wright, calling him “this era’s greatest class theorist” and who was “dedicated to deepening Marxist theory and socialist politics.”[33]

Chibber discussed Wright’s posthumously published book, How to Be an Anti-capitalist in the Twenty-First Century, in order to argue against the possibility of revolution yet again. In this particular book, Wright devoted only a few paragraphs to the subject. But if we go back to Wright’s 2010 book, Envisioning Real Utopias, he devoted an entire chapter and more to what he regarded as the relative impossibility of “ruptural transformation,” i.e. revolution.[34]

Today, we see Wright’s self-identified pessimism in these articles by Hedges, Isaac, Piven and Bhargava, as well as Chibber, all with increasingly deadly consequences. Whereas the rest simply assumed the potential for revolution away, at least Wright put forth elaborate arguments on what he regarded as its relative impossibility, more so than these other five individuals combined. In critiquing Wright’s arguments against the possibility of revolution, we can thus better understand the potential surrounding the November elections and beyond. What’s more, if Wright is actually as Chibber described him, exposing the incoherence and intentionally misleading arguments Wright advances against the possibility of revolution should help in a defense against any “cretinism” that exists today.

To start with, Wright bases his arguments against the possibility of revolution on a misrepresentation, if not intentionally simplistic caricature, of what Marx actually wrote. Using the phrase “Smash first, build second,” Wright claims this is what Marx advocated, saying this “revolutionary scenario for the transition to socialism is the iconic version.”[35] But when we look at what Marx actually wrote on revolution and the commune, for example, it is clear that this in no way conforms to Wright’s caricature.

After a critical examination of Wright’s definition of “ruptural transformation,” this article looks to the late Jewish philosopher Martin Buber as well as, to a lesser extent, the late Italian communist Mario Tronti’s readings of Marx on revolution and the commune. Buber advances an anti-fascist theory of the commune in revolution, while Tronti emphasizes the commune and revolutionary class struggle overall. Both are used to reexamine three different instances of Marx writing on this subject.

The first section looks to Marx’s report on the Paris Commune of 1871 for a more general introduction to his own views as well as both Buber and Tronti’s readings. The second section goes back to the more insurrectionary commune Marx discussed for Paris June of 1849 amidst a “bourgeois republic” similarly eroding toward dictatorship. The third looks at what Marx and Engels’ wrote for the central committee of The Communist League in a March 1850 address where they cover the role of the insurrectionary commune in preparation for and after an electoral victory by “petty-bourgeois democrats.”[36]

Throughout these writings, Marx advanced views and strategies that defy the constriction of Wright’s supposed “iconic version.” The actual Marx is then used to further examine the reasons Wright discussed “ruptural transformation” in the first place, what he regarded as the conditions for a successful revolution, as well as his discussion of potential counter arguments to his pessimism. Overall, this article asserts that Wright’s views are helpful because a critical examination of his arguments, especially when viewed through the lens of Marx on the insurrectionary commune, shows that even according to the pessimistic conditions Wright set forth, revolution has now become imminent.

It is unfortunate that so many of the left’s supposed leaders remain mired in pessimistic electoralism, siding with the fallacy of the rule of law, just like their intellectual ancestors did, falling to dictatorship and then fascism. This approach hardly seems advisable, rather dangerous, and will, in what seems highly probable, be rendered irrelevant by the death of electoral politics as a terrain of struggle. But in order to best avoid the further deleterious influence of this potentially suicidal myopia, it must be exposed for what it is. As such, let us heed the words of communist theorist Antonio Negri; to “start again from Marx,” which, in this case, means starting again from Marx on revolution and the insurrectionary commune.[37]

 

Erik Olin Wright on Ruptural Transformation

In Envisioning Real Utopias, Wright argued that “ruptural transformations envision creating new institutions of social empowerment through a sharp break within existing institutions and social structures.” The “central idea” of ruptural transformation, he went on to say, is that “through direct confrontation and political struggles it is possible to create a radical disjunction in institutional structures in which existing institutions are destroyed and new ones built in a fairly rapid way.”[38] The act of building new institutions necessitates a prior “radical disjunction” attained “through direct confrontation and political struggles,” but is this really a comprehensive definition of revolution? To start with, saying new institutions would need to be “built in a fairly rapid way” misses the important distinction between what is fundamentally new and what, rather, is rapidly being expanded, including as a systemic alternative.

If we compare Wright’s definition of revolution to the framework advanced in Organizing for Autonomy, for example, a recently published book collectively written by members of an organization called CounterPower, there are a number of important differences.[39] In this case, revolution is a process that alters our “society’s organizational patterns, structures, and processes,” through the expansion of “areas of autonomy.”[40] In this particular framework, “organs of counterpower” are “exemplified historically in the form of autonomous action committees, assemblies, and councils,” while being “simultaneously instruments of struggle against the imperialist world-system and embodiments of a communist alternative.”[41] The struggle for revolution is a process over time and space, for sure, and no doubt institutions of one sort or another will need to be created, but they will not be built from nothing. Expanding from these areas would be “territorial communes,” themselves grounded in social reproduction and toward an “insurrectionary rupture.”[42] As we will see below, this is much closer to what Marx had in mind when writing about the insurrectionary commune and revolution, far more so than Wright’s caricature.

A revolution, as Wright said, can no doubt be a “sharp break,” as in an occurrence over a period of time. But its relative briefness depends on a host of conditions and we cannot assume that it is a singular or relatively instantaneous act. The period itself can be very much protracted or, to put it as Marx did in 1849, it has an “ebb and flow.”[43] No matter the time-frame though, this cannot be equated to Wright’s characterization of “Smash first, build second.”

Wright goes on to say that “a revolution constitutes a decisive, encompassing victory of popular forces for social empowerment resulting in the rapid transformation of the structures of the state and the foundations of economic structures.” This raises further questions as to how one might understand what exactly would qualify as a “decisive, encompassing victory.”[44] One is left further wondering how the rapid creation of new institutions is different from the “rapid transformation of the structures,” especially when he also said that “existing institutions are destroyed.” Transforming existing structures and building new institutions are not the same thing, nor is it clear which existing institutions are to be destroyed at all. Perhaps, in Wright’s framework, these new institutions reproduce the capacity of proletarian and popular social groups who would then catalyze said destruction of some institutions and then the “rapid transformation of the structures.” Because he starts from Marx as a caricature of himself, what Wright offers us is opaque and less helpful than that which he intended to improve.

 

Marx on Revolution and the Paris Commune of 1871

In service to his arguments against ruptural transformation, Wright looks to the “anti-authoritarian socialist theory” of Martin Buber from his book, Paths in Utopia.[45] Unfortunately, here again, Wright advances a caricature, this time a transparent attempt to claim Buber would have agreed with him on “interstitial transformation” and not rupture.[46] Buber completed Paths in Utopia in the spring of 1945. He examined the relationship between communes, cooperatives, and revolution from utopian socialists of the early 19th century up through and including Proudhon, Bakunin, Marx, and Lenin. Analyzing Marx on the commune, Buber examined writings from 1844 up to his letter (and drafts) to Vera Zasulitch in 1881 on communes in Russia, their direct transition to communism, and that they, according to Marx, “must first of all eliminate the injurious influences which work upon it from all sides, and then secure for it the normal conditions of spontaneous development.”[47]

Though Buber read Marx on the Paris Commune of 1871, he does not discuss the more insurrectionary commune Marx described as part of what he hoped would be a revolution in France the summer of 1849. Nor does he analyze how Marx and Engels viewed the role of the commune in The Communist League, specifically in their March 1850 address. When it comes to many of Marx’s writings, Buber’s analysis lacks clarity and depth. However, given the fact that the full length of the chapter on Marx is just 19 pages of a small 139 page book, this should not be surprising.

Two of these communes that Marx wrote about, ones in 1849 and 1871, along with the broader revolutionary class struggles they were a part of, were tremendously significant to Italian communist Mario Tronti. In his 1966 book, published in English for the first time in 2019 with the title Workers & Capital, Tronti referred to them as “two limit-models, between which are located an infinite, extraordinarily varied series” of “‘technical’ inventions” or “forms of struggle.”[48] Tronti further argued that when it came to Marx on the commune, “he was not making an empirical observation or still less a historical judgment, but drawing a simple political watchword.”[49] Together, Buber and Tronti provide a useful foundation for further examining Marx on revolution and the insurrectionary commune.

Wright asserted that Buber’s descriptive analysis of Proudhon on cooperatives was one in overall support when, in fact, it was not. Buber devoted a chapter to Marx’s writings on revolution and the commune, outlining a far more nuanced view than what Wright asserts as the “iconic version,” while making his position quite clear. The entire last chapter of Paths in Utopia, titled “In the Midst of Crisis,” is devoted to the anthropological and historical origins of the communal form as well as what Buber believed necessary for revolution. As he says in the Preface, it “sums up my own attitude.” What he argues does not conform to Proudhon’s formulations, nor Wright’s. Despite living through two world wars, the second of which was still raging on both fronts, leaving Germany for Jerusalem in 1938 to escape annihilation by the Nazis, Buber did not share Wright’s self-identified pessimism. He sought an understanding of the commune to ensure that fascism would never rise again, which required, then as now, a revolution and the direct transition to commune-ism.

When Buber wrote “I declare in favor of the rebirth of the commune,” he was using this term interchangeably with cooperatives.[50] He was not, however, thinking of them as businesses, like many tend to view cooperatives today. In the last chapter, Buber also uses the words “community” and “collectives” interchangeably with cooperatives and communes, arguing that their “realization…cannot occur once and for all time: always it must be the moment’s answer to the moment’s question, and nothing more.”[51] This did not mean he believed communes should only be formed during revolution as some sort of instantaneous or singular act, critiquing Bakunin on the subject in a separate chapter.

Buber goes on to say that the commune “need not be founded” in terms of some sort of legal incorporation. What, he argued, was most important was that “its members have a common relation to the centre overriding all other relations.” Communes emerged, he said, “whenever historical destiny had brought a group of men together in a common fold,” what he otherwise referred to as “a living togetherness, constantly renewing itself” that was based on “the immediacy of relationships.”[52]

Whereas he did not specifically delve into what would best meet these conditions, Tronti was quite clear what he thought was necessary, as was Marx; to be engaged in revolutionary class struggle.[53] When it came to the possibility of revolution and the direct transition to communism, the formation of communes was essential. In Buber’s words, “everything depends on whether they will be ready.”[54]

In this way, Buber discussed centralization versus decentralization during a revolutionary struggle, as well as thereafter. His support for centralization, both in the form of a revolutionary party and any ongoing role of the state, was a reluctant one, arguing that it should be allowed “only so much as is indispensable in the given conditions of time and place.” He believed centralization would be required unless revolutionary movements fostered the proliferation of “collectives into whose hands the control of the means of production is to pass.” Buber argued that communes must be immediately endowed with a degree of “economic and political autonomy—for they will of necessity be economic and political units at once.” But the degree of autonomy versus centralization must be determined over and over again “with the constant and tireless weighing and measuring of the right proportion between them.”[55]

He argued that Marx’s views on the commune fluctuated over the course of his life. Whenever pursuing their development came at the expense of revolutionary class struggle, Marx was highly critical. It would appear, at first glance, that Wright was correct in his reading of Marx, as Buber goes on to say that “Marx’s dialectical formulation leaves no doubt as to what the sequence of events actually is in his opinion: first the political act of social revolution will annihilate not merely the Class State, but the State as a power-formation altogether.” Moreover, Buber also wrote that Marx believed in “the reconstruction of society, only after the complete overthrow of the existing power,” that “whatever organizing activity preceded the Revolution was only organization for the struggle.”[56] Unlike Wright though, Buber understood the deeper relationship at the heart of Marx’s thinking.

When it came to the Paris Commune of 1871, Buber wrote that Marx regarded it as still “a pre-revolutionary process, one, moreover, whose nature consists in the formation of small, federable units of men’s work and life together, of communes and Co-operatives, in respect to which it is the sole task of the Revolution to set them free, to unite them and endow them with authority.”[57] A broader revolution was necessary, like he wrote to Vera Zesulich ten years later, in order to “eliminate the injurious influences which work upon it from all sides.”

Thus, communes would be considered part of the necessary “organization for the struggle,” at a theoretical level at least. Practically speaking, it all depends on the extent to which the communes were an integrated part of the broader revolutionary struggle. Absent this was, as Marx put it in early 1852, “seeking salvation behind society’s back” and would “necessarily come to grief.”[58]

Though Tronti quotes this same passage in support of Marx’s views, Buber elaborates that Marx was referring to communes, cooperatives, and any sort of communal form that was not directly engaged in revolutionary class struggle.[59] It was a criticism Marx aimed directly at people like Proudhon on cooperatives and his advocacy for things like a “people’s bank,” which was a much more radical politic than advocates of public banking today.[60] Marx’s criticism was proven by what followed, a president with aspirations of dictatorship seized power while the bank was years away, most certainly came “to grief” in late 1851, and another twenty years would elapse before the next Paris Commune.

This is not to say that Buber disagreed with Marx, or would have disagreed with Tronti thereafter, on whether or not communes were also “battle-organs of the revolution.”[61] Buber believed the proliferation of communal relations prior to a revolution was essential to ensure both the success of the revolution itself and it resulting in the establishment of communism directly thereafter. To further explain, Buber divides up Marx’s thinking into “the economic, social, and political,” going on to argue that for Marx “the political act of revolution remained the one thing worth striving for,” but could not make up his mind about the broader significance of communes.[62] It would seem though, in looking to Marx on the more insurrectionary commune in his Class Struggles of France 1848-1850, as well as he and Engels’ March 1850 address to The Communist League, his own analysis of the role of the commune was more supportive and nuanced than Buber seemed to understand.

Buber goes on to quote Marx, who said of revolution in his report on the Paris Commune of 1871 that “it has only to set free those elements of the new society which have already developed in the womb of the collapsing bourgeois society.” Buber argues that this assertion is directly in line with Marx’s views “in the Critique of Political Economy twelve years previously” regarding the inability for revolution until communes have sufficiently “gestated.” He goes on to argue that “it is nowhere hinted in the report of the General Council that the Paris Commune miscarried because the gestation had not been completed.” In his reading of Marx, what led to the demise of the commune was “but for this or that particular circumstance.”

Over this period of two months, communes had, in Buber’s words “become the cell-substance of the new society.” This term, “cell-substance,” encapsulates Buber’s views regarding the communal form, similar to Tronti’s assertion of it being a “political watchword.” The greater the extent to which communal relationships proliferated is the extent to which Buber believed decentralization and autonomy could be the foundation for the revolution itself, while ensuring the quickest transition to communism. As such, Buber argued: “When Marx says that the few functions ‘which will then remain for centralization’ should be handed over to communal officials, he means without a doubt: decentralize as many State functions as possible and chose those that must remain centralized into administrative functions, not, however, only after some post-revolutionary development lasting an indefinite time, but inside the revolutionary action itself.”[63]

The important distinction for Buber was that “in the sense of Marx’s definition of the commune—is not a ‘development’ spread out over several generations, but a coherent historical act, the act of smashing capitalism and placing the means of production in the hands of the proletariat.” Buber argued that communes were not “a mere cog in a great apparatus of revolution,” but “destined to outlast the upheaval as an independent unit equipped with the maximum of autonomy.”[64] Moreover, Buber understood that Marx did not argue that communal forms were to be created only in the act of revolution, as Wright asserts as vague new institutions in the “iconic version.” To the greatest extent possible, they must be organized or “gestated” prior to the revolution itself, at least in Buber’s reading of Marx. Though Buber used the word “smashing,” his comprehensive reading of Marx is inimical to Wright’s caricature.

Buber concludes the book with two sentences reaffirming his own position. “Just as I do not believe in Marx’s ‘gestation’ of the new form, so I do not believe either in Bakunin’s virgin-birth from the womb of Revolution. But I do believe in the meeting of idea and fate in the creative hour.”[65] How Wright then felt it appropriate to claim that Buber believed in an “incremental gestation” is mind boggling.[66] Perhaps he never finished the book. Unlike Tronti, Buber did not examine Marx’s analysis of the more insurrectionary commune from June of 1849. It is here where we uncover the role of the commune in getting us to the “creative hour” of an insurrectionary rupture.

 

Marx on the Insurrectionary Commune

Marx briefly described a “proletarian commune” in what would get published in book form as Class Struggles in France 1848-1850. In each of the four articles that made up this book, he reflected on what had taken place; describing events while emphasizing conflicting class dynamics. Marx wrote that the commune was made up of “constituent assemblies” that were simultaneously “military detachments of revolt.”[67] During this period, France went from “bourgeois republic” in February 1848 to dictatorship under Louis Bonaparte in December 1851. The report Marx wrote after 1851, titled The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, would go on to influence a generation of Marxists who sought to understand the rise of 20th century fascism. But in these four articles, Marx focused on issues of political strategy against what was a historical precursor to fascism, much more so than anywhere else in his writings.

Marx argued that the left had to accept the revolutionary proletariat’s leadership, warned of the republic’s instability, and the dictatorial aspirations of its president. The proletariat won the revolution of February 1848 to create the republic itself. But by June of that year, after multiple betrayals by allies in the revolution, the working class had “no choice,” Marx wrote, but to launch an “insurrection.” It was a “tremendous insurrection in which the first great battle was joined between the two classes that split modern society.” He went on to say that “without chiefs and lacking a common plan,” the proletariat in Paris, despite being “without means and, for the most part, lacking weapons,” launched this insurrection. It was “for the preservation or annihilation of the bourgeois order” and though he called it an insurrection, it can hardly be considered a violent strategy for revolution when they were “lacking weapons” and “held in check” those that marched against them.[68]

Defeated with over 3,000 dead and tens of thousands forced into exile, this “bloody school” would inform the revolutionary proletarian strategy a year later.[69] Marx hoped another insurrection in June of 1849 would bring seizure to the economy. He wrote that “Public credit and private credit are the economic thermometer by which the intensity of a revolution can be measured. The more they fall, the more the fervor and generative power of the revolution rises.”[70] The French economy and its government were facing unprecedented levels of debt, just like we are today. In conditions such as these, it does not take violent street battles to suspend the “normal” functioning of the economy. Before the pandemic, protesters in Hong Kong showed the extent to which a popular uprising and their “be water” strategy can bring an economy to its knees, forcing it into technical recession.[71]

Marx hoped that an insurrection would take place June 1849, roughly one year after the initial proletarian insurrection. The revolutionary working class convinced their “petite bourgeois socialist” partners “to come out beyond the confines of the parliamentary struggle, in the event that its bill of impeachment was rejected.[72] Their “Red party” also tried to narrowly impeach a president on his way to becoming a dictator, as Democrats attempted in the US as well. The revolutionary proletariat was unable to convince the broader left to join them for this insurrection in Paris though. Instead, in Marx’s words, what transpired amounted to only a “street procession,” which was “a caricature, as ridiculous as it was vile, of June, 1848.”[73]

Marx argued that the “socialist clubs,” what had become “secret workers’ societies” after being forced underground, had become a “coalition of the whole working class.” Marx referred to them as “the gathering points, the conspiratorial seats of the revolutionary proletariat.” He went on, asking “what were they but a coalition of the whole working class against the whole bourgeois class, the formation of a workers’ state against the bourgeois state?” When it came to their role in the insurrection, he asked “were they not just so many constituent assemblies of the proletariat and just so many military detachments of revolt in fighting trim?”[74] Though he referred to it as insurrection, it was more a general or social strike.[75]

Marx called these “gathering points” in coalition “a proletarian commune” that “was already formed which would take its place beside the official government.”[76] Whereas his usage of the word “beside” raises questions as to what he regarded as the purported relationship between these assemblies and the state, he does not elaborate. What does remain clear though is that he in no way implies that the commune was somehow not “destined to outlast the upheaval,” as Buber argued. By affirming the revolutionary movement under the “political watchword,” as Tronti put it, Marx identifies the “proletarian commune” in contradistinction to the republic, also affirming the commune’s component parts, i.e. its “constituent assemblies.” If we use Buber’s analysis of Marx on the next Paris Commune, these assemblies become a similar “cell-substance,” while “beside” becomes a direct transition to communism “inside the revolutionary action itself.”

Marx did not write much about this “proletarian commune” in 1849 France, including what its specific role was to be in the insurrection though. When Tronti looked to Marx on this subject, he noted how “the battle did not take place” and its implications for subsequent struggles.[77] But Tronti only briefly wrote about this proletarian commune of 1849, citing the same passage as Buber regarding the need to “set free the elements of the new society” through revolution. Though Tronti also neglected to further delve into the elements of the commune in terms of it being made up of “constituent assemblies,” etc. he also referred to the 1849 and 1871 communes, along with the broader revolutionary movements surrounding them, as “two opposed and specific forms of the working-class struggle.”[78]

Given the ability to further utilize the commune as a “political watchword,” as well as to argue for a contemporary approach to communes as the “cell-substance,” the role of this commune should be viewed through the lens of social reproduction toward an insurrectionary rupture and the direct transition to commune-ism. In 2016, Silvia Federici wrote about the importance of reading Marx’s “analysis of capitalism politically, coming from a direct personal experience,” in order to establish “the foundation for a feminist theory centered on women’s struggle.[79] Federici noted his “undertheorization of domestic work,” of gender, and its “parallel here with the place of ‘race’ in Marx’s work.”[80] To transcend these limitations requires “a refocusing of political work on the issues, values, and relations attached to the reproduction of our lives and the life of the ecosystems in which we live.”[81] This would seem to also hold true for Marx’s analysis of the proletarian commune in the Class Struggles in France.

For theorists like Tithi Bhattacharya, Marx “failed to develop fully” the role of labor in capitalist society in terms of the “familial as well as communitarian work that goes on to sustain and reproduce the worker, or more specifically, her labor power, is naturalized into nonexistence.”[82] Clearly, if there would have been an insurrection, “familial as well as communitarian work” would be an enormous and vital undertaking. Those engaged in an insurrection would still have to eat, sleep, etc. The revolution would have had to be socially reproduced over time, but Marx rendered this unseen, while Tronti, at least when it came to his discussion of Marx on the subject of the commune, did not delve further.[83]

More so than anything else, it would seem, an insurrectionary commune grounded in social reproduction would foster that which Buber asserted was necessary for communal forms to “be ready.” Is it not precisely social reproduction where we most intimately, comradely feel that “living togetherness, constantly renewing itself” based upon “the immediacy of relationships” that Buber believed so essential?[84]

Turning to the social reproduction theory of Sophie Lewis, let us hope that this year “mark[s] the beginning of the end of class society.”[85] Especially given what Lewis refers to as the “riotous nationwide insurgency currently underway for Black lives,” this consideration of working toward “a general strike that gives rise to a giant archipelago of protest kitchens” seems highly appropriate. Lewis continues, positing that a strike may be what “in turn, leads to the overthrow of exploitation, and the founding of a million co-housing projects, co-ops, and communes.” For Marx on Paris in 1849, the commune itself was the force organizing toward a strike. It was composed of various forms of self-organization, but the commune was “cell-substance” and “political watchword,” not another social form alongside co-ops.

In “Six Steps to Abolish the Family,” theorist M.E. O’Brien argued for “permanent communes of collective social (re)production,” each where an “assembly square becomes a meeting space for democratic administration.”[86] Like Marx on the insurrectionary commune, except now social reproduction has been rendered seen. As such, Marx’s insurrectionary commune can now be centered for struggle. No doubt “permanent communes” cannot be established as defensive positions throughout the country in advance of a Trump coup. But this communal form as “idea,” at least in the sense Buber meant it, can proliferate rapidly in the months thereafter. Our “fate,” as he called it, is the social composition of our forces at inflection points of conjuncture we find ourselves in today. In “the meeting of idea and fate in the creative hour,” our passionate striving can become a revolutionary upsurge where communal forms can spread far and wide, potentially culminating in an insurrectionary rupture and the subsequent direct transition to commune-ism.

 

Marx, The Communist League, and a Biden/Harris Victory

Should Trump lose the election and Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s nominee, ascend the presidency, can we turn to Marx on the insurrectionary commune to inform our preparations even in this third scenario, including toward revolution? Would these preparations remain appropriate no matter which of the three possible scenarios come to fruition? In their “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League (March 1850),” Marx and Engels offered useful insight.

The Communist League was an international revolutionary party set up in 1847, precursor to the First International. In a footnote on the first page of their address, we are introduced to the League’s structure. “The basic group of the Communist League was the ‘commune’ (Gemeinde), consisting of between three and twenty members. A ‘district’ (kreis) was formed by between two and ten communes falling within a specified geographical area, its committee (Kreisbehorde) being an aggregate of the elected commune committees.”[87]

They were the basic units of what was to be “an independent organization of the workers’ party” that “must aim to make every one of its communes a centre and nucleus of workers’ associations in which the position and interests of the proletariat can be discussed free from bourgeois influence.”[88] Whereas the importance of articulating “the position and interests” would no doubt be vital, here again the critical role of social reproduction has been rendered unseen. In this address though, Marx and Engels were intent on positioning the League to be prepared for electoral victories on the part of the “democratic petty-bourgeois” parties; who “hope to bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms and to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable.”[89]

As the “centre and nucleus,” Marx and Engels argued that the communes “must work to ensure that the immediate revolutionary excitement is not suddenly suppressed after the victory. On the contrary, it must be sustained as long as possible.”[90] Given current conditions in the US, this would seem apt advice. Mutual aid as social reproduction can better ensure an uprising will maintain momentum through the upcoming elections and beyond. Grounding the left in communes, even if they were but the “idea” of communal forms in hopes of building the capacity for social reproduction seems vital. What though, more specifically, did Marx and Engels believe should occur in the event the “petty bourgeois democrats” achieve victory?

“Alongside the new official governments they must simultaneously establish their own revolutionary workers’ governments,” Marx and Engels said, “either in the form of local executive committees and councils or through workers’ clubs or committees.” Much like Marx had described the “socialist clubs” in France as “constituent assemblies” and “military detachments of revolt,” making up the insurrectionary commune, we now see them argue for a wider variety of forms of revolutionary self-organization as part of this coalition, a League of communes as unified “political watchword.”

The communes were to ensure “that the bourgeois-democratic governments not only immediately lose the support of the workers but find themselves from the very beginning supervised and threatened by authorities behind which stand the whole mass of the workers.”[91] This did not mean that Marx and Engels eschewed engagement in electoral contests, but they believed it was essential for the revolutionary left to form their own, as Buber called them, independent “battle organs of the revolution.”

The League did not count on electoral outcomes being the means for establishing communism. They encouraged the League to run candidates, but when it came to elections, more important was that “from the very moment of victory,” by which they meant of the “democratic petty bourgeois” candidates, that “workers’ suspicion must be directed no longer against the defeated reactionary party but against their former ally, against the party which intends to exploit the common victory for itself.”[92] They believed the “democratic petty bourgeois” were on the verge of electoral victories against feudalism and the counterrevolutionary absolutist state. The Communist League had a role to play, but it was not an electoral path to socialism.

Marx and Engels went on to warn comrades. “As soon as the new governments have established themselves, their struggle against the workers will begin.” This too seems apt advice in case Biden wins and Trump leaves office. “If the workers are to be able to forcibly oppose the democratic petty bourgeois,” they said, “it is essential above all for them to be independently organized and centralized in clubs.”[93] When it came to the June 1849 insurrectionary commune in France, the socialist clubs were the very foundation for what Marx referred to as the overarching “proletarian commune” itself. These were the “constituent assemblies,” the “conspiratorial seats.” When it came to The Communist League in 1850, these clubs were to emerge from the local communes themselves, to rapidly expand a revolutionary movement upon conclusion of an electoral cycle. No matter what will transpire as a result of the November elections, for Marx, the insurrectionary commune was critical for situations where a republic was degenerating from class dictatorship to a dictatorship of one, as well as in situations where “bourgeois republics” remained more stable.

This is a far cry from where much of the left is today. Looking to the recently launched Movement for a People’s Party (MPP), the initial press release lays out their purported strategy; “organizing local hubs across the country that will form the building blocks of state parties and get ballot access.” From these “hubs,” the MPP “will run for Congress in 2022 and for the Presidency in 2024.”[94] Here is to hoping third party politics will prove viable, but probability is not on their side. It is difficult to feel inspired by this when we cannot even be certain any 2022 or 2024 elections in the US will take place at all, or be even more compromised than the 2020 elections, making this yet another approach that has great potential to be but a candle in a hurricane. Though the future is obviously unwritten, the MPP’s strategy seems to rest on what Marx meant by “parliamentary cretinism,” which is most unfortunate. Only time will tell though.

 

Examining Ruptural Strategies

Now that we have looked to Marx on revolution and the commune, we can turn back to Wright’s discussion of the relative impossibility of “ruptural transformations.” In his 2010 book, Envisioning Real Utopias, Wright described four reasons why the possibility was worth examining. Dissecting these arguments helps clarify why revolution, including in defense against the fascist threat, is necessary, imperative, probable, and even, according to Wright himself, imminent today.

Wright’s first reason for discussing revolution was because young people were often interested in it. He figured that “existing structures of power, privilege, and inequality seem so malevolent and so damaging to aspirations for human flourishing that the idea of simply smashing them and creating something new and better can be appealing.”[95] The false narrative of “smashing” aside, our world today seems far worse than the one he must have been envisioning. Revolution has become wildly “appealing” to a great many, at least a version of it in the event Trump attempts to undermine the results of the election. As the reformist left’s “parliamentary cretinism” is crushed under the weight of a darkening reality, an insurrectionary commune can emerge and with it, a much more commune-ist politics of revolution.

When it comes to capitalism more broadly, Marxist political economists like John Smith, as well as neo-Keynesians like Nouriel Roubini, and many more from either school of thought argue that this will likely be a prolonged depression.[96] Our present circumstances, it would seem, would certainly qualify as “malevolent and so damaging to aspirations.” So as a fascist threat to “human flourishing” barrels toward us with escalating violence, without the working classes and popular social groups preparing systems of social reproduction for a potentially protracted revolutionary struggle, we risk far more than a malevolence to “aspirations.” Wright’s first reason for discussing revolution was certainly correct, as it is highly appealing today, but he was not arguing toward our preparedness for revolutionary struggle, nor preparedness against the threat of a fascist seizure of power.

His second argument was “that a clear understanding of the logic and limits of a ruptural strategy of social transformation can help clarify alternative strategies.”[97] Wright wanted to discuss it because “young people” and to outline an alternative to the “iconic version.” But a “clear understanding” is difficult when one does not start from what Marx actually thought of revolution and, instead, merely begins from a contrived caricature and popular misconception of potentially propagandistic origin. In each of the first two possible scenarios, we would likely witness the final death of a supposed republic, one now on life support. If that occurs, “alternative strategies” will fall dead, atop the corpse of the republic itself.

Out of pandemic and now increasingly in support of a passionate uprising, many are building the necessary systems of social reproduction. To “clarify” what Wright called “alternative strategies” would be highly unhelpful insofar as it distracts popular forces away from what would also help us be more prepared for the battles to come. Organizing self-defense forces, solidarity kitchens, and everything else that is required to repel fascist assaults, reproduce a revolutionary upsurge, ensure collective care, and much more; all depend on further implementation of “ruptural strategies,” not the examination of its alternatives.

Wright’s third reason for engaging on the subject was that “more limited forms of rupture in particular institutional settings may be possible, and there are aspects of the ruptural strategy – such as its emphasis on sharp confrontation with dominant classes and the state – which can certainly be important under specific circumstances.”[98] How can a rupture, as he defined it above, even be a rupture when it is in “more limited form?” Wright is not clear on this, but one must assume this “more limited form” is not the “iconic version,” nor does it achieve what he previously asserted was one of the necessary conditions for ruptural transformation in the first place, namely, a “decisive, encompassing victory.”

When he refers to “sharp confrontation with dominant classes and the state,” it appears he is writing about strategy or tactics. One would not argue against the appropriateness of “sharp confrontation,” whether or not one is seeking rupture or its “more limited forms.” However, Wright said that a ruptural transformation also “constitutes a decisive, encompassing victory,” that results in “the rapid transformation of the structures of the state and the foundations of economic structures.” But he now asserts that rupture or revolution can also occur “under specific circumstances” when said circumstances are limited to “particular institutional settings.”

Can it be the case that “this era’s greatest class theorist,” as Chibber called him, could not even distinguish between various battles within an overarching war, class war and otherwise? Marx wrote that the June 1848 proletarian insurrection was “the first great battle” in a war that is still being waged. Would it make sense if we were to simply refer to battles as “more limited forms” of war? Does it not make far more sense to define victories in “particular institutional settings” as victories in specific battles within a broader war? We would not refer to “more limited forms” of revolution, but victories in battles within a war for revolution and the establishment of commune-ism. In asserting that revolutions or ruptures can also occur in “more limited forms,” Wright eliminates any distinction between particular battles and the broader war, simultaneously eliminating any coherence within his definition of ruptural transformation itself.

“Finally,” he says, “even if systemic ruptural strategies for social empowerment in developed capitalist countries are not plausible at the beginning of the twenty-first century, no one has a crystal ball which tells what the future holds.” This seems highly appropriate given that conditions have substantially changed since he advanced these arguments against the possibility of ruptural transformation. After all, he himself admits that “The idea of ruptural strategy still needs to be part of our strategic thinking about social transformation since such strategies may become more relevant in some places at some point in the future.”[99]

Before getting to the discussion of this “strategic thinking,” it is important to point out that now we are faced with an additional complication. Wright uses a new phrase here, “systemic ruptural strategies.” Since he already advanced the notion of “more limited forms” of rupture, which, by his own earlier definition, seems nonsensical, is he now implying that there is such a thing as a non-systemic rupture too? Is a non-systemic rupture different from its supposed “more limited forms,” and if “ruptural transformation” or revolution is not systemic, how can it actually be a revolution or rupture at all? It is as though Wright unnecessarily attempts to square both a circle and a triangle, all to argue against the possibility of revolution. One is forced to wonder if it was incoherence or obfuscation, why someone “dedicated to deepening Marxist theory” did not base his analysis on, or even a critique of, Marx himself.

 

On Wright’s Conditions for Revolution

Wright then seeks to examine “under what conditions is it plausible to imagine that there could be broad popular support for a ruptural strategy against capitalism in advanced capitalist countries?”[100] He puts forth three such conditions as a response. Though each condition contain elements of incoherence, all three of his conditions are now achievable.

“First, I assume that in developed capitalist countries with functioning liberal democratic institutions, a ruptural strategy for socialism would have to work in significant ways through ordinary democratic processes of the capitalist state.” This first condition is a contradiction. What exactly does “work in significant ways” actually mean in this case when it comes to the state and revolution? If said “ruptural strategy” comes about “through ordinary democratic processes of the capitalist state,” then it would not be a revolution or rupture, as he initially defined it.

If we were to witness the death of the “democratic republic,” as well as its re-manifestation as a fascist state, there would no longer be any “functioning liberal democratic institutions.” Does this mean that, based upon Wrights conditions, a revolution against fascism is impossible? What does this mean in terms of the struggle for Black liberation, for instance, given that these supposedly democratic institutions have never actually functioned as such? Are we thus forced to put our hopes in the continuation of the republic, perhaps like we discussed above; even by the military who “saves” us if Trump loses and refuses to leave?

Thankfully, Wright goes on to clarify. “My assumption is simply that if a ruptural strategy of transformation is at all feasible, it will not take the form of a violent insurrectionary assault and overthrow of the state by extra-parliamentary means in the model of classical revolutions.”[101] It would thereby appear to be the case that the achievement of ruptural transformation itself does not, in fact, “have to work in significant ways through the ordinary democratic processes of the capitalist state” if there are no “democratic processes” and/or as long as the revolution is not achieved through “a violent insurrectionary assault and overthrow of the state.”

What Marx advocated was not a “violent insurrectionary assault,” at least not when it came to June of 1849. It was a general or social strike with the intent to force the economic system into seizure as a critical piece of a broader revolutionary movement. It is unclear whether or not what Marx meant by insurrection in this case would constitute an “overthrow of the state” as Wright framed it. But the insurrectionary commune would certainly qualify as “extra-parliamentary means.” This would not, however, be considered an “assault” either. If anything, it would, first and foremost, entail defensive positioning to protect an insurrection in the streets along with its associated communal forms.

To catalyze what would have essentially been the bursting of a debt bubble, though whose origin differs from what we conventionally think of as debt bubbles today, the resultant burst could be similarly effectual toward a revolution as insurrectionary rupture for the subsequent direct transition to commune-ism.[102] We have been witnessing a federal government, including the Federal Reserve, desperately attempt to revive the economy by constructing a towering mountain of public and corporate debt with little success, except when it comes to elevating stock prices.[103] This is to ask, especially one in preparation for the elections in November and beyond, how long could the contemporary US economy be able to withstand a massive strike? The answer is; not as long as people could perpetuate one, if grounded in the necessary commune-ized systems of social reproduction that is.

As for his second assumption, Wright says “that given the necessity of working through the institutions of representative democracy, broad popular support is a necessary if not sufficient condition for a plausible ruptural strategy.” After reasserting the fallacious “necessity” he outlined in his first assumption, he reaffirms that “broad popular support” is required for revolution, which it is not, while also asserting that when there is this “broad popular support” for a revolution, a revolution will occur. But this support will never entirely be a “sufficient condition.” No matter how much popular support for revolution may exist, it is an act over time and space against threatening enemies who must be defeated, one way or another. Otherwise, similar “circumstances,” as Buber called them, will undermine our own efforts like Paris 1871.

Wright said revolution could be otherwise achieved by “a well-organized political force” that was “able to ‘seize the time’ and take advantage of a severely weakened state.” But because “this has not resulted in a subsequent trajectory of broad democratic social empowerment,” he says, “broad popular support” would thus be required.[104] How does this relate to the insurrection Marx argued for in 1849 against what would degenerate into a lesson for those who sought to understand fascism early in the next century?

The “Red party” did not go down the insurrectionary path, as he had hoped, and would later be on the verge of gaining a majority in parliament. To thwart their success, the ruling “party of Order,” led at the time by Alexis de Tocqueville, would dissolve parliament, empowering president Louis Bonaparte who declared himself emperor and attacked the left December 1851. When Marx was first writing about the June 1849 insurrection, parliament had yet to be dissolved. The “party of the red republic,” as Marx also called it, was still in the minority.

What Marx called the “middle classes,” including the “petite bourgeois socialists” and the now landed peasantry, still believed the new republic could be an effective terrain of struggle. Those that argued against the insurrection of 1849 would increasingly ally behind the revolutionary proletariat thereafter, but the insurrectionary commune was largely abandoned in favor of an electoral strategy. Unfortunately, their electoral strategy hinged on elections that were never held, which should serve an important lesson to those looking to 2022 or 2024 already.

Marx did not think highly of those who continued to put their hope in the republic, saying they were, as noted above, “infected” with “parliamentary cretinism.”[105] As Tronti put it of Marx and this insurrectionary commune; “What he valued above everything else was that the working class heroically and self-sacrificing took the initiative in making world history.”[106] After the broader left failed to back the June 1849 insurrection, Marx’s disdain was clear. In his reading of Marx from this time period, Tronti argued that “Social democracy had lost its political autonomy forever: henceforth it would be either a function of capital or a crude, conscious, instrument of workers’ power.”[107]

In 1851, the “Red party” was about to secure a majority in parliament with “popular support,” though it is unclear if it would have met Wright’s criteria for support that is “broad.” At this point, an insurrection like the one Marx hoped for in June 1849 could have achieved both Wright’s first and second condition. In fact, according to Wright, a revolution would have been more than just possible. According to the sufficiency he asserted in his second condition, technically, if that support was “broad,” revolution would have been imminent.

What would it actually mean to “‘seize the time’ and take advantage of a severely weakened state” though? Would this accurately describe what Marx advocated for the “proletarian commune” in 1849? If Trump attempted some form of coup, or if he won the election and it was clear that the future of the republic was similarly dire, would not these scenarios also entail a “severely weakened state?” Though the state would not necessarily be weakened in terms of its capacity for violent repression, though perhaps it would be if the military was divided on loyalty to fascism or the constitution, its validity in the eyes of the majority of the public would no doubt be “severely weakened.” For Wright’s first two conditions, revolution would be possible as long as there was “broad popular support” or, in the absence of said support, as long as revolution was not achieved by the seizure of a “weakened state” through violent means.

Third, he says “that a necessary condition for broad, sustainable popular support is that socialism (however this is defined) will be in the all-things considered material interests of most people.”[108] In comparison to the other two conditions, he devotes most of his attention to this one in particular. In order for a revolution to be successful, he argues, it cannot result in a worsening of material conditions for most people, that is, in terms of what they would otherwise enjoy absent the rupture. Wright was not optimistic that this condition could be met at some point in the future though. He saw the response to the Great Recession as further evidence of the ability of capitalism to effectively mitigate against crisis, but conditions have fundamentally changed. Unfortunately, this view still predominates, much like it did in failed reformist attempts against Hitler.

The US economy entered a technical recession in February 2020, but the first signs of a looming crisis occurred as early as August 2019 in the form of a liquidity crisis on Wall Street.[109] As such, the pandemic is by far not singularly responsible, despite the corporate media’s best attempts to rewrite the past.[110] Rapidly expanding the tools that had been utilized during the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve has already more than doubled what it spent during The Great Recession.[111] Reversing course, as it tried to do back in the summer of 2018 when its quantitative tightening nearly blew up the global economy, starting with the Global South, could unravel capitalism far further today.[112]

The re-acceleration of quantitative easing includes swap arrangements with other central banks, allowing them to throw debt atop more debt in an attempt to keep the crisis trigger points from 2018 from coming back with a vengeance.[113] With the University of Chicago estimating that 42% of jobs lost due to pandemic will be permanent, a figure the Economic Policy Institute puts at 54%, it is only a matter of time before consumer debt bursts as well.[114] Even in the third scenario, given the questionable ability of neo-Keynesian approaches, or those now under the label of Modern Monetary Theory, to address the underlying causes of capitalist crisis, not to mention the likelihood that Biden/Harris would continue the usual Democratic austerity politics, the threat of fascism will continue to grow as a result of their failures.

Today, Wright’s third condition for ruptural transformation does not seem all that difficult to achieve. Triggered by pandemic, the US economy and global capitalism in general are still on a path toward further degeneration into crisis. At this point, a revolution rooted in communes capable of social reproduction would most certainly not worsen the conditions people are faced with at present. In fact, we are in desperate need of communes and they are already emerging in nascent form. Though it clearly remains to be seen whether or not communal forms will evolve into forms of self-organization that gain “broad popular support,” there is tremendous imbued potentiality.

 

On the Potential for Revolution

Wright acknowledges that there may be “a number of possible responses to” what he said was his “generally pessimistic view of the possibility of a ruptural strategy.”[115] Critiquing his exposition of possible disagreements proves useful in further arguing how and why revolution has become possible in the decade since he wrote the book, no matter which of the three scenarios come to fruition.

“First, and most simply,” he says, “it may be that the transition trough would not be deep and prolonged.” By “transition trough,” he is referring to worsened material conditions. If a ruptural transformation did not result in worse conditions upon which its “broad popular support” rests, that the “transition trough” was not “deep and prolonged,” that the “upturn occurred relatively quickly,” revolution could be successful.[116]

He then counters this response, saying “but historical experience of patterns of disinvestment in the face of even mild state-initiated threats to capital suggests that the disruption would more likely be quite severe.”[117] Aside from the fact that one must question the extent to which the notion of “state-initiated threats” is relevant any longer, certainly not in the first two scenarios, we can no longer assume that said “disruption” would actually be worse than the future of capitalism for most people otherwise. Furthermore, the communal forms taking shape today are those that, in one way or another, can mitigate against a “deep and prolonged” period of this so-called “transition trough.”

These include mutual aid efforts, people’s assemblies, tenant councils, workers’ councils, autonomous zones like the short-lived Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) in Seattle, what Portland PDX calls Neighborhood Action Collectives, and more. Looking back to Tronti on Marx, as well as Marx and Engels in their March 1850 address, all of this would be referred to as the commune, a “political watchword” codifying the battle organs of revolution. For Buber, these various revolutionary forms of self-organization were the “cell-substance” of communism. Similar to Haymarket martyr and anarchist Albert Parsons, these battle organs are each “an autonomous commune in the process of incubation.”[118] So the extent to which these forms of revolutionary self-organization can proliferate is the extent to which they can mitigate the negative impact of a “transition trough” that is “deep and prolonged.”

Secondly, Wright believed average material conditions for people would remain steady or keep rising modestly, but this has proven incorrect. “If developed capitalism were to enter a prolonged period of endemic crisis with long-term prospects of deterioration,” he said, “then the likely transition out of capitalism might not look so bad.” Presently, the “long-term prospects” of capitalism look like crisis and decay, with its path toward stabilization nothing more than further monopolization and austerity. This, Wright adds, “is what Marx in part believed: In the long term capitalism undermines its own conditions for profitable accumulation with a resulting intensification of crisis tendencies.”[119] When writing in 2010, Wright had not yet come across what he believed to be “a compelling theory” of when, why, and how said “intensification” was to occur though.[120] Nevertheless, it is occurring and there is no turning back.

A June 2019 survey by Pew Research Center found 42% support for socialism, while the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation October 2019 poll showed 70% support for socialism among millennials and 35% for communism.[121] Whereas this may not count as the “broad popular support” Wright said was necessary, even the International Monetary Fund is not exactly optimistic about the future stability of capitalism at this point.[122] If either of the first two possible scenarios for the upcoming elections take place, these figures would likely become far higher.

The revolutionary left could be in a position to counter an attempted fascist seizure of power or similarly turn any post-Trump re-election beyond mass civil disobedience and upsurge toward an insurrectionary rupture. Similarly, absent a mass uprising rooted in commune-ized systems of social reproduction, a Biden/Harris White House will likely prove to be but a friendlier mask on the face of oppression. As Malcolm X said in his famous 1964 speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” white liberals are the foxes to Trump and his death cult as wolves.[123] As such, the more we solidify our battle organs, as Marx and Engels said, “against the party which intends to exploit the common victory for itself,” the greater the potential that even the third scenario can result in eventual revolution. At least according to Wright’s first two conditions, revolution would remain possible.

“Third,” Wright continued, “actors may be motivated for a transition to socialism by values other than material interests, and it is not necessarily the case that with respect to these other values a sharp transition trough would exist.” This is all to say that people may be more willing to endure harsh conditions in struggle for something about which they care deeply. “For example,” he goes on to say, “it is certainly possible that with respect to the values of democratic participation and community solidarity the very process of rupture and transition enhances their realization.”[124] A person’s belief in and commitment to these “values” can help alleviate the deleterious impact of material deprivation, supporting the social reproduction of one’s passionate capacity for revolutionary struggle.

Wright adds one final thought. “Thus, if these values constituted a robust and powerful source of motivation for people, then it is possible that support for the socialist project over the course of even a prolonged trough in material conditions could be sustained.”[125] As long as the “socialist project” furthers “values of democratic participation and community solidarity” within “the very process of rupture,” it can maintain “broad popular support” over the course of a longer period of time than otherwise. The proliferation of communes as forms of counterpower would be a diverse expression of these “values,” processes furthering their realization, and would also be the means of social reproduction, including toward self-defense in the face of a violent, attempted fascist seizure of power, and beyond.

Wright offers up a counter-argument. He argues that whereas “motivations other than material interests are profoundly important for the struggle for human emancipation,” he was not hopeful with regard to its potential. As such, he said “there is little historical evidence that over an extended period these motivations could neutralize the effects of a sharp economic decline accompanying a project of radical transformation of capitalism.”[126] When it comes to the “sharp economic decline,” what we have been witnessing the world over, it is not actually “accompanying a project of radical transformation of capitalism,” at least not in the manner Wright meant. Capitalism is in decline due to systemic factors beyond the pandemic and not the direct result of any specific “project” today.

In this passage, Wright also elaborates on the relationship between these “values” and “material interests” or “material conditions.” Essentially, he is arguing that these “values” themselves, by acting as “motivations,” affectively and effectively “neutralize the effects of a sharp economic decline,” at least on a temporary basis. Thus revolution is possible as long as the strategies to mitigate against material deprivation remain both affective in the sense of feelings of affinity toward communal relations as well as effective in terms of those communal relations being capable of social reproduction for the revolutionary movement itself.

To what extent would the existence of communes like those M.E. O’Brien articulated, for example, mitigate against the effects of said “transition trough” of “material conditions,” especially if said period was “extended,” as Wright feared? Based upon the conditions he set forth, if the formation and self-governance of these communes was a “process” that, insofar as values of “democratic participation and community solidarity” were concerned, it “enhances their realization,” they would meet this qualification without question. Moreover, in regard to the ability of communal forms and revolutionary movements to enhance the realization of these values, this capacity does not exist in a societal vacuum.

The ability of communes to enhance the realization of these values also increases relative to how manifestly the forces of fascism act toward the destruction of the institutions representing those values, how obvious fascist propaganda has become, etc. Being on the front lines from the beginning, advancing a praxis rooted in the establishment of forms of revolutionary self-organization or counterpower can, with regard to Jeffrey Isaac’s assertion of defending the election in the streets, increasingly become the forms of self-organization for the uprising itself and toward an outcome far beyond Piven’s insistence on another “Orange Revolution.” Just like Marx said; liberals, progressives, and those still advocating an electoral path to socialism, i.e. “the various middle strata of bourgeois society,” will “rapidly get over their illusions and disappointments,” we hope, and realize the necessity of communism before it is too late.[127]

All three scenarios, though the first two more than the third, would only further what Marx referred to as “tossing all the sections of the exploiting class at one throw to the apex of the state, and thus tearing from them their deceptive mask.”[128] Preparations to best ensure that communes, both as “political watchword” and “cell-substance,” can be rapidly expanded, grounded in social reproduction through a governing assembly to ensure any upsurge is more capable of sustaining and coordinating itself, can take hold across the country toward the kind of insurrectionary rupture Marx discussed for France June 1849. But can communes become both affective and effective in mitigating against the deprivation most assuredly part of any revolutionary struggle?

In making his argument about values as potentially mitigating against the deleterious impact of material conditions, Wright positioned himself within a much older Marxist debate. Although Wright self-identified as a Structuralist or Analytical Marxist, his assertion of the role of “values of democratic participation and community solidarity” renders his theoretical framework inimical to historian Perry Anderson, another great thinker in this school of Marxist thought. In Anderson’s 1980 book, Arguments within English Marxism, he responds to another Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson, on revolutionary consciousness and human agency. Anderson’s position can most easily be summed up when he writes about what he calls the “irreducible material compulsions of scarcity.”[129] Put simply, he would reject Wright’s assertion of the potential role of “values” in mitigating against the impact of the “transition trough.”

Though E. P. Thompson’s own approach to how the revolutionary subject is constituted and reconstituted through struggle is important and requires a much longer examination, when it comes to the relationship between what Wright referred to as “values” and material conditions, Agnes Heller offers far greater insight. Heller, a Hungarian Marxist and, like Tronti, deeply influenced by Georg Lukacs, put forth a comprehensive approach in her 1979 book, A Theory of Feelings. She called it a “phenomenology of feeling,” an affective Marxist analysis of the role feelings and emotions play in revolutionary consciousness, especially the relationship between material conditions and the experience of pain and suffering. Though not “values” specifically, she argued that, for example, “disgust can also be stronger than hunger.”[130] In 2007, she further addressed the subject through an examination of trauma, which she defined as “being confronted by an overwhelming force which threatens the subject with annihilation, with being depersonalized, isolated or rendered helpless, totally controlled by a power s/he does not understand.”[131] As “collective trauma experiences become widespread,” the greater the capacity to unite with others and, going back to her earlier and more Marxist work, the greater the potential to succeed in revolutionary struggle.[132] Clearly, there is a potentially “overwhelming force which threatens” all of us “with annihilation,” though not equally. The closer we get to a potential Trump coup, the broader the experience of a fascist “political ontology of threat” that seeks our annihilation.[133]

Returning to Wright, if the “values” were to actually be “a robust and powerful source of motivation” mitigating against the deleterious impact of material conditions, then people would have to feel a certain way about those “values.” That “motivation” must be one that catalyzes definitive action, i.e. revolutionary struggle. But that definitive action as revolutionary struggle must include the means of mitigating against the deleterious impact of material conditions because, eventually, hunger will win out over even the most intense feelings of disgust. This necessitates the commune, especially its insurrectionary and socially reproductive variant, so that people can feel affective ties in a form that effectively mitigates against the precarity of struggle, both in terms of material deprivation and otherwise.

To put it another way, in her 2001 book, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, University of Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum quotes Proust, saying; “The hope of being comforted gives him the courage to suffer.”[134] In the first scenario, Protect the Results expects us to struggle and suffer for what, a republic in name only and a Biden/Harris White House that will be but foxes to Trump’s death cult of wolves? What sort of comfort will that bring? What sort of courage does that inspire? It is no wonder that strategy has failed many times before.

Will the myopia and pessimism of the usual non-profit industrial complex strategies fare any better in terms of inspiring hope and courage? Is it not “the entire inner noble substance of communism,” as Zetkin argued, through the proliferation of commune-ized systems of social reproduction, communes as both watchword and cell-substance, that is most capable of inspiring hope and courage today? It is through insurrectionary communes that we will feel those affective ties, the “immediacy of relationships,” as Buber said, and through revolutionary struggle, as Marx and Tronti asserted, that allow us to experience our lives potentially beyond the reach of the systems of oppression that seek our annihilation. Even if that experience, that feeling, is but a few fleeting moments of imperfect comfort, this is what we must bring in order to best ensure victory.

There is widespread recognition that the upcoming elections will witness a broader fascist seizure of power in the form of a coup, with the threat growing by the day. With it, the “deceptive mask” grows more obvious, while the seeds of revolution sprout in communities throughout the country. We must move beyond the liberal myopia of “color revolutions” and all the rest of what the “glitterati” offer us, articulating plans for how to escalate a revolutionary upsurge, so that we may build toward the “creative hour” of an insurrectionary rupture for the direct transition to communism.

Either of the first two scenarios can be experienced by enough of the population as a horrific threat against “democratic participation and community solidarity” or, in fact, life itself, such that they are compelled to join and commit to a mass uprising. Either of the first two scenarios unequivocally mean an escalation of the systematic murder of Black people by police, which, given the ongoing uprising, would almost certainly result in an escalation of the movement for Black lives. Death, whether by police on the streets, pandemic in an ICE concentration camp, or climate catastrophe, would certainly impede one’s ability to engage in “democratic participation and community solidarity.” Elie Mystal was probably correct when he argued in The Nation that “a majority of white people were always going to value their own comfort over justice for Black people,” but will that change as the violence of fascism threatens to engulf and annihilate us all?[135]

Will enough people risk hunger, their material well-being, out of disgust or some other motivation in order to defeat fascism, despite what is presented to us as the underlying strategy being an alliance with the military to put Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into power? Given how precarious most people’s lives have become as a result of the pandemic and capitalist crisis already, it is hard to see how revolution could worsen anyone’s material well-being, except as a result of imprisonment or death. If people rise up to “protect the results” in the first scenario, or a broader movement picks up in response to Trump’s coup attempt, by advancing a praxis of the insurrectionary commune, we will be better positioned to establish, among other things, that “giant archipelago of protest kitchens” Lewis posited. It would seem then, in order to be prepared, we must further investigate how to socially reproduce vast systems of insurrectionary communes, including for their rapid expansion in support of a revolutionary upsurge over the course of a relatively short period of time.

 

  1. Chauncey Devega, “Trump’s death cult finally says it: Time to kill the “useless eaters” for capitalism,” Salon, March 27th, 2020. https://www.salon.com/2020/03/27/trumps-death-cult-finally-says-it-time-to-kill-the-useless-eaters-for-capitalism/
  2. Morgan Chalfant, “Trump says he would put down riots on election night ‘very quickly’,” The Hill, September 11th, 2020. https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/516020-trump-says-he-would-put-down-riots-on-election-night-very-quickly
  3. Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Sonali Kolhatkar, Juliet Schor, “Open Letter: Dump Trump, Then Battle Biden,” Common Dreams, September 23rd, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/09/23/open-letter-dump-trump-then-battle-biden
  4. Anonymous, “What Would a Contested Election Look Like?” It’s Going Down, September 17th, 2020. https://itsgoingdown.org/what-would-a-contested-election-look-like/
  5. Alex Kotch, “GOP’s Strategy for 2020 Election Looks Like an All-Out Assault on Voting Rights,” Truthout, September 19th, 2020. https://truthout.org/articles/gops-strategy-for-2020-election-looks-like-an-all-out-assault-on-voting-rights/ & David Armiak, “GOP-Aligned Groups Use Discredited Ideas to Promote Fear of Mail-in Voting,” Truthout, September 6th, 2020. https://truthout.org/articles/gop-aligned-groups-use-discredited-ideas-to-promote-fear-of-mail-in-voting/
  6. Miles Mogulescu, “Roger Stone Coaches Trump on How to Stage an Election Coup,” Common Dreams, September 15th, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/09/15/roger-stone-coaches-trump-how-stage-election-coup & David Smith, “Most Democrats fear Trump could reject election defeat, poll shows,” The Guardian, September 2nd, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/02/democrats-fear-trump-reject-election-defeat-poll
  7. Amanda Marcotte, “Right-wing talk about “sedition” and the Insurrection Act has one purpose: Stealing the election,” Salon, September 17th, 2020. https://www.salon.com/2020/09/17/right-wing-talk-about-sedition-and-the-insurrection-act-has-one-purpose-stealing-the-election/
  8. Daniel Gutierrez, “Seizing the Times: Five Theses on Militant Development,” Viewpoint Magazine, September 21st, 2020. https://www.viewpointmag.com/2020/09/21/seizing-the-times-five-theses-on-militant-development/
  9. Anonymous, “The Swarm Approach to Warfare: An Introduction for Frontliners, Ill Will Editions, September 6th, 2020. https://illwilleditions.com/the-swarm-approach-to-warfare-an-introduction-for-frontliners/
  10. Benjamin Fearnow, “Pelosi Calls Out Trump Admin Over Portland Unrest: ‘We Live in a Democracy, Not a Banana Republic,’” Newsweek, July 19th, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/pelosi-calls-out-trump-admin-over-portland-unrest-we-live-democracy-not-banana-republic-1518902
  11. Jake Johnson, “The Price of Failure Is Just Too Great to Imagine’: In DNC Speech, Sanders Urges Popular Front to Defeat Donald Trump,” Common Dreams, August 18th, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/08/18/price-failure-just-too-great-imagine-dnc-speech-sanders-urges-popular-front-defeat
  12. Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League (March 1850),” in Karl Marx, The Revolutions of 1848, Political Writings: Volume 1, edited and introduced by David Fernbach, (New York: Penguin Books, 1993). P. 325.
  13. Christopher D. Cook, “New People’s Party Rises Amid Grim Election Options,” The Progressive, August 31st, 2020. https://progressive.org/dispatches/peoples-party-rises-amid-election-cook-200831/
  14. Eleanor Finley, “The New Municipal Movements,” Roar Magazine, Issue 6, Summer 2017. https://roarmag.org/magazine/new-municipal-movements/
  15. Chris Hedges, “Onward Christian Fascists,” Truthdig, December 30th, 2020. https://www.truthdig.com/articles/onward-christian-fascists/
  16. Ibid, “America’s Death March,”Scheerpost, August 10th, 2020. https://scheerpost.com/2020/08/10/chris-hedges-americas-death-march/
  17. Jeffrey Isaac, “We Must Be Prepared to Nonviolently Defend a Democratic Election in the Streets,” Common Dreams, August 22, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/08/22/we-must-be-prepared-nonviolently-defend-democratic-election-streets
  18. John Nagl and Paul Yingling, “‘…All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic’: An Open Letter to Gen. Milley,” Defense One, August 11th, 2020. https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2020/08/all-enemies-foreign-and-domestic-open-letter-gen-milley/167625/
  19. Frances Fox Piven and Deepak Bhargava, “What If Trump Won’t Leave?” The Intercept, August 11th, 2020. https://theintercept.com/2020/08/11/trump-november-2020-election/
  20. Mark Ames, “The Hero of the Orange Revolution Poisons Ukraine,” The Nation, March 1st, 2010. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/hero-orange-revolution-poisons-ukraine/
  21. Andrew J. Bacevich, “The Military’s Role in a Contested Election,” The Nation, September 17th, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/military-contested-election-trump/
  22. Ryan Thomas and Emily Phelps, “Responding to Trump, “Protect the Results” Announces Coalition Has Grown to Over 100 Diverse Groups Ahead of Possible Contested Election,” Common Dreams, September 24th, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2020/09/24/responding-trump-protect-results-announces-coalition-has-grown-over-100-diverse
  23. Ryan Thomas, “TODAY: 600 ‘Nobody Is Above the Law’ Rallies to Impeach Trump,” Common Dreams, December 17th, 2019. https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2019/12/17/today-600-nobody-above-law-rallies-impeach-trump
  24. Ibid, “Response To Trump Tweet: America Must Be Prepared For Trump To Contest Valid Election Results,” Stand Up America, September 17th, 2020. https://www.standupamerica.com/press-releases/trump-tweet-america-prepared-trump-contest-valid-election-results/
  25. Sarah Lazare and Adam Johnson, “Democratic Leaders’ Shamefully Tepid Response to Trump’s Threat of Military Crackdown on Protests,” In These Times, June 2nd, 2020. https://inthesetimes.com/article/pelosis-shamefully-tepid-response-to-trumps-threat-to-unleash-the-military
  26. Coco Smyth, “Burning and Looting: A New Rebellion or a Reactionary Conspiracy?” Left Voice, June 7th, 2020. https://www.leftvoice.org/burning-and-looting-a-new-rebellion-or-a-reactionary-conspiracy & Matthew Lyons, “Cooptation as ruling class strategy,” Three Way Fight, June 23rd, 2020. https://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2020/06/cooptation-as-ruling-class-strategy.html & Kites Editorial Collective, “Defund, Abolish…but what about Overthrow?” Kites Journal, July 27th, 2020. https://kites-journal.org/2020/07/27/defund-abolish-but-what-about-overthrow/
  27. Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France, (New York: International Publishers, 1964). P. 54.
  28. Ibid, 99.
  29. Chris Townsend, “Letter to the Socialists, Old and New,” Regeneration Magazine, July 27th, 2020. https://regenerationmag.org/letter-to-the-socialists-old-and-new/
  30. Ahmed Kanna, “Vivek Chibber’s ABCs of Reformism: Reality Has Overtaken Social Democratic Illusions,” Left Voice, June 10th, 2019. https://www.leftvoice.org/vivek-chibbers-abcs-of-reformism-reality-has-overtaken-social-democratic-illusions
  31. Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, (New York: International Publishers, 2004). P. 91.
  32. Vivek Chibber, “Our Road to Power,” Jacobin Magazine, December 5th, 2017. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/12/our-road-to-power
  33. Ibid, “How to Be a Socialist in the Twenty-First Century,” Jacobin Magazine, February 19th, 2020. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/02/how-to-be-a-socialist-in-the-twenty-first-century
  34. Erik Olin Wright, Envisioning Real Utopias, (New York: Verso Press, 2010).
  35. Wright, 303.
  36. Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League (March 1850),” in Karl Marx, The Revolutions of 1848, Political Writings: Volume 1, 322.
  37. Antonio Negri, “Starting Again from Marx,” trans. Arianna Bove, Radical Philosophy, Issue 2.03, December 2018. https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/starting-again-from-marx
  38. Wright, 303.
  39. It is important to note there that the author of this article is a member of CounterPower. It should also be noted that whereas concepts from Organizing for Autonomy are utilized here, the full article itself should not be misconstrued as representative of the overall politics argued in the book, nor of the organization in general. As such, any remonstrance should be directly solely at the author.
  40. CounterPower, Organizing for Autonomy, (Brooklyn: Common Notions: 2020). P. 21 & 192-194.
  41. Ibid, 143-144.
  42. Ibid, 109-111, 181 & 195-197.
  43. Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 91.
  44. Wright, 303.
  45. It is important to reference here both a personal criticism of Buber as well as that of the role of what he described in the epilogue of his book, the “full cooperative,” as it has been practiced historically. Ari Davis, “Martin Buber’s Paths in Utopia. The Kibbutz: an experiment that didn’t fail?” in Peace News, Issue 2446, March-June 2002. https://www.peacenews.info/node/3979/martin-bubers-paths-utopia-kibbutz-experiment-didnt-fail
  46. Wright, 328-329.
  47. Martin Buber, Paths in Utopia, (New York: Collier Books, 1988). P. 93.
  48. Mario Tronti, Workers & Capital, (New York: Verso Press, 2019). P. 198.
  49. Ibid, 197.
  50. Buber, 136.
  51. Ibid, 134.
  52. Ibid, 135.
  53. Tronti, 197.
  54. Buber, 137.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Ibid, 82
  57. Ibid, 88.
  58. Ibid, 84.
  59. Tronti, 193. & Buber, 84.
  60. Marx, Class Struggles in France, 134.
  61. Buber, 95.
  62. Ibid, 96.
  63. Ibid, 94.
  64. Ibid, 95.
  65. Ibid, 138.
  66. Wright, 329.
  67. Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 99.
  68. Ibid, 56.
  69. Ibid, 98-99.
  70. Ibid, 46.
  71. Vitalist International, “Summer in Smoke: Report from the World’s Biggest Black Block,” Chuang, December 8th, 2019. http://chuangcn.org/2019/12/summer-in-smoke/ & Staff, “Hong Kong confirms economy fell into recession amid protests, trade war,” Reuters, November 14th, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-economy-gdp-preview/hong-kong-confirms-economy-fell-into-recession-amid-protests-trade-war-idUSKBN1XO31S
  72. Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 98-99.
  73. Ibid, 93.
  74. Ibid, 83.
  75. CounterPower, Organizing for Autonomy, 196.
  76. Marx, Class Struggles in France, 99.
  77. Tronti, 191-194.
  78. Ibid, 198.
  79. Silvia Federici, “Capital and Gender” in Reading ‘Capital’ Today, eds Ingo Schmidt and Carlo Fanelli, (New York: Verso Press, 2016). P. 80.
  80. Ibid, 90.
  81. Ibid, 94.
  82. Tithi Bhattacharya, “Introduction: Mapping social (re)production theory,” in Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression, ed. Tithi Bhattacharya (London: Pluto Press, 2017), P. 2.
  83. Tronti, 191-192.
  84. Roar Collective, “ROAR Roundtable: A feminist response to the pandemic,” Roar Magazine, August 19th, 2020.
  85. Sophie Lewis, “Covid-19 Is Straining the Concept of the Family. Let’s Break It.” The Nation, June 3rd, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/society/family-covid-care-marriage/
  86. Michelle O’Brien, “Six Steps to Abolish the Family,” Commune Magazine, December 30th, 2019. https://communemag.com/six-steps-to-abolish-the-family/
  87. Marx and Engels, “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League (March 1850),” in Karl Marx, The Revolutions of 1848, 319
  88. Ibid, 324.
  89. Ibid, 323.
  90. Ibid, 325.
  91. Ibid, 326.
  92. Ibid.
  93. Ibid, 327.
  94. Movement for a People’s Party, “The People’s Convention Draws More than 400,000 Views. Attendees Cast Historic Vote to Build a Major New Political Party Free of Corporate Money and Influence,” Common Dreams, August 31st, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2020/08/31/peoples-convention-draws-more-400000-views-attendees-cast-historic-vote-build
  95. Wright, 308.
  96. John Smith, “Why coronavirus could spark a capitalist supernova,” OpenDemocracy, March 31st, 2020. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/why-coronavirus-could-spark-capitalist-supernova/ & Nouriel Roubini, “Revisiting the White Swans of 2020,” Project Syndicate, June 29th, 2020. https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/global-tail-risks-remain-a-threat-in-2020-by-nouriel-roubini-2020-07
  97. Wright, 308.
  98. Ibid.
  99. Wright, 309.
  100. Ibid.
  101. Ibid.
  102. Michael Roberts, “The debt dilemma,” Next Recession, May 10th, 2020. https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2020/05/10/the-debt-dilemma/
  103. Pam Martens and Russ Martens, “Wall Street Veterans Call Out the Fed for Creating a Dangerous Stock Market Bubble,” Wall Street on Parade, June 18th, 2020. https://wallstreetonparade.com/2020/06/wall-street-veterans-call-out-the-fed-for-creating-a-dangerous-stock-market-bubble/
  104. Wright, 310-311.
  105. Marx, The 18th Brumaire, 91.
  106. Tronti, 195.
  107. Ibid, 194.
  108. Wright, 311.
  109. Howard Schneider, “U.S. economy entered recession in February, business cycle arbiter says,” Reuters, June 8th, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-recession/its-official-u-s-economy-entered-recession-in-february-idUSKBN23F28L? & Pam Martens and Russ Martens, “Evidence Suggests U.S. Financial Crisis Started on August 14, 2019,” Wall Street on Parade, May 14th, 2020. https://wallstreetonparade.com/2020/05/evidence-suggests-u-s-financial-crisis-started-on-august-14-2019/
  110. Pam Martens and Russ Martens, “New York Times Rewrites the Timeline of the Fed’s Wall Street Bailouts, Giving Banks a Free Pass,” Wall Street on Parade, July 28th, 2020. https://wallstreetonparade.com/2020/07/new-york-times-rewrites-the-timeline-of-the-feds-wall-street-bailouts-giving-banks-a-free-pass/
  111. Ibid, “U.S. Debt Crisis Comes into View as Fed’s Balance Sheet Explodes Past $7 Trillion,” Wall Street on Parade, May 29th, 2020. https://wallstreetonparade.com/2020/05/u-s-debt-crisis-comes-into-view-as-feds-balance-sheet-explodes-past-7-trillion/
  112. Cormac Mullen and Eric Lam, “Quantitative Tightening Is Roiling Markets,” Bloomberg, June 27th, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-27/on-the-qt-markets-are-being-roiled-by-quantitative-tightening & Satyajit Das, “We May Be Facing a Textbook Emerging-Market Crisis,” Bloomberg, September 3rd, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-09-03/we-may-be-facing-a-textbook-emerging-market-crisis & Michael Roberts, “Deficits, debt and deflation after the pandemic,” Next Recession, June 29th, 2020. https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2020/06/29/deficits-debt-and-deflation-after-the-pandemic/
  113. Rich Miller, “Fed Takes on Role of World’s Central Bank by Pumping Out Dollars,” Bloomberg, March 31st, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-31/fed-takes-on-role-of-world-s-central-bank-by-pumping-out-dollars & Ben Eisen, “Turkey Crisis Puts Spotlight on Emerging Market’s Foreign-Currency Debt,” Wall Street Journal, August 14th, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/turkey-crisis-puts-spotlight-on-emerging-markets-foreign-currency-debt-1534248002
  114. Kenneth Rapoza, “Some 42% Of Jobs Lost In Pandemic Are Gone For Good,” Forbes, May 15th, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2020/05/15/some-42-of-jobs-lost-in-pandemic-are-gone-for-good/ & Eoin Higgings, “Analysis Warns 11% of Those Unemployed Due to Pandemic Have ‘Zero Chance’ of Getting Job Back,” Common Dreams, June 29th, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/06/29/analysis-warns-11-those-unemployed-due-pandemic-have-zero-chance-getting-job-back
  115. Wright, 318.
  116. Ibid, 319.
  117. Ibid, 320.
  118. Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984). P. 72-73.
  119. Wright, 319.
  120. Ibid, 320.
  121. Hannah, Hartig, “Stark partisan divisions in Americans’ views of ‘socialism,’ ‘capitalism,’” Pew Research Center, June 25th, 2019. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/25/stark-partisan-divisions-in-americans-views-of-socialism-capitalism/ & Victims of Communism Memorial Fund, “US Attitudes Toward Socialism, Communism, and Collectivism,” 2019 Annual Pool: https://victimsofcommunism.org/annual-poll/2019-annual-poll/
  122. Larry Elliot, “Global economy will take $12tn hit from coronavirus, says IMF,” The Guardian, June 24th, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/24/global-economy-will-take-12tn-hit-from-coronavirus-says-imf
  123. Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” American RadioWorks, April, 12, 1964. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/mx.html
  124. Ibid.
  125. Ibid.
  126. Ibid.
  127. Marx, Class Struggles in France, 54.
  128. Ibid.
  129. Perry Anderson, Arguments within English Marxism, (London, NLB & Verso Press, 1980). P. 25.
  130. Agnes Heller, A Theory of Feelings, (The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1979). P. 35.
  131. Ibid, “The Shame of Trauma, The Trauma of Shame,” in Trauma, History, Philosophy, eds. Matthew Sharpe, Murray Noonan, and Jason Freddi, (UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007). P. 105.
  132. Ibid, 116-117.
  133. Brian Massumi, “The Future Birth of the Affective Fact: The Political Ontology of Threat,” in Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth eds. The Affect Theory Reader, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010). P. 52-70.
  134. Martha Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001). P. 175-176.
  135. Elie Mystal, “The Inevitable Whitelash Against Racial Justice Has Started,” The Nation, August 31st, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/blake-white-people-backlash/

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