‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’
— Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party
Theses on the Party
by Dave Eden
I would like to thank comrades for inviting me to speak at this meeting and the comradely attitude it displays. My core point is that ideological groupings such as small Leninist parties are next to useless. Rather communists should attempt to organise around the real antagonism in the everyday conditions of capitalism and completely rethink what we mean by the word ‘party’. In short the communist party is not a formal organisation, but a faction of the working class, a series of relationships amongst people, an archipelago of efforts – which seeks to create the conditions of its own abolition/realisation (aufheben?) in a general proletarian insurrection.
1. The possibility of communism arises from the antagonisms within capitalism. Marx and Engels write:
“Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from premises now in existence” (Marx and Engels, 1973: 56-7).
What are these premises? Both the way that the development of capitalism calls into being ways of cooperation that may go beyond capitalism, and also how capitalism produces the possibility of the proletariat.
2. What is the proletariat? In capitalism the main experience of workers as workers is as variable capital. Capital purchases labour-power puts it to work, either to produce commodities that have objectified in them more value, or in forms of work that reproduce capitalist society and syphon off-certain amounts of value. The emancipatiory communist claim is that the condition of workers is one with ‘radical chains’(Marx, 1992: 256). Meaning that the experience of exploitation creates an antagonism that points the way to a totally different society – communism. What is this antagonism we should ask? Marx’s answer is that it is the experience of alienation
3. The proletariat is not ahistorical, capitalism is a dynamic system, driven mostly by the resistance against it, which constantly revolutionises the organisation of labour and society (Tronti, 1964). This means the composition of the working class, who works, how they work, what the nature of daily life seems to be, is radically different in different periods of capitalism. This means specific organisational forms can only be relevant to certain material compositions of capital. Forms of self-organisation arise out of specific compositions of the proletariat.
4. The possibility of communism is the self-emancipation of the working class. What is the relation of revolutionaries to this? Marx and Engels argue that communists ‘do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties’ and differ from other workers in only two ways: 1) they are internationalists 2) in specific struggles they ‘represent the interests of the movement as a whole’. This is expressed in an interventionist militancy and a theoretical clarity (Marx, 1993: 79-80).
5. What is the interesting of the movement of the whole? It is the ability of the working class to become ‘a class for itself’: to act autonomously against capitalist society. What might this look like: the circulation of experiences amongst the class, the development of open and popular forms of self-organisation, the overcoming of illusions and ideologies of capitalism and creating an understanding ,in a real way, of the world it creates and must destroy. These developments can only happen in the very tumult of the struggle.
6. The working class doesn’t come to be a class in itself by being won to sterile and ahistorical ideologies like that anarchism, Leninism or whatever. Ideological groups are just gangs and rackets(Camatte, 1995, The Invisible Committee, 2009).
7. The changing compositions of Australian capital need to be addressed. Communists should investigate the popular condition. How does capital function today, and where in the everyday are there forms of antagonism, rebellion and dissatisfaction that we can work to expand and circulate?
8. Thus revolutionaries should leave ideological groups to attempt a series of efforts. These efforts could include attempts in distinct specific spaces – especially but not limited to spaces of work – to try to work how to emphasise and encourage the everyday dissatisfactions in actual eruptions; and the creation of spaces of open discussion and theoretical clarification to help develop of self-understanding. Workplace collectives, reading groups, forums, open newspapers, neighbourhood groups, solidarity networks, collectives around producing needs, and so on.
9. In this sense the communist party is not an organisation, but rather that section of society that in the context of struggle starts to articulate opposition against the operation of capital. It is an archipelago of efforts. The party is the coming together of people in struggle. To build the party is to contribute the health of the circulation of experiences, the level of discussion within the class, and loving relations amongst proletarians.
Dave Eden (Click to email Dave)