The idea of communism (Tariq Ali) [2009]

ideas of communism

TA vill skärskåda våra föreställningar om den allenarådande kapitalismen, och den döda och begravda (eller?) kommunismen.

Capitalism appears more like a nervous disease these days than a triumphal, over-confident system generating unchallengeable ideologies to buttress and further its victories – democratism, free-marketism, human-rightsism – and to suggest to a passive world that the haves and have-mores have defeated the have-nots and the never-will-haves forever.

Hegel stagnerar:

On the intellectual front, Hegel, theorist of permanent mobility, strong proponent of the idea that everything moves, that history, itself the result of a clash of ideas, is never static (each idea producing its opposite) and that this dialectic, where past and present determine the future, is both inevitable, unpredictable and unstoppable, now accepted the end of history… A victorious Prussia had become the model state, the final resting place of the historical proces.

Ali berättar vidare hur flera av Hegels studenter ifrågasatte denna slutsats:

Ludwig Feuerbach began this process: refuting the notion hat ideas determined being, he insisted upon the opposite…

Som bekant utvecklade Marx denna materialism vidare, vi ska inte fastna vid detaljer idag. TA citerar ett brev från Communist League till Marx med anledning av att han inte skriver tillräckligt snabbt:

In case Citizen Marx does not write the Manifesto, the Central Committee requests the immediate return of the documents that were turned over to him by the Congress.


The Manifesto was a broad-sweep document, and many of its predictions were not borne out. For a start, capitalism expanded mightily but without reducing its heartlands – leave alone the colonized world – to a simplified class structure of workers versus the capitalists. Britain came closest to that prediction, but, in the rest of western Europe, the peasants and farmers continued to exist as an important social layer. And, as Marx recognized in his later work, even those who sold their labour power were themselves divided into better-paid workers, reserve armies of the unemployed and nomad workers… the notion that the proletariat was united for itself against its class enemy appears simplistic.

Ali menar att Marx för första gången i Pariskommunen ”sketched the contours of a proletarian state”. Även Eagleton (Why Marx was right) menar på att Marx efter Pariskommunens fall blev av uppfattningen att den föregående statsapparaten i sin struktur är repressiv och att en revolutionär regering inte bara kan besätta exempelvis militären, polisen, domstolar med ”sina” män och kvinnor och förvänta sig att dessa institutioner därmed plötsligt ska börja agera i folkets intresse.

Russia had ‘fallen’ because it had been the ‘weakest link’ in the chain of European imperialisms. The First World War had laid bare this vulnerability and the Bolsheviks had pressed home the advantage: Land, Bread and Peace were the three concrete aims…

Om fascism (som såå gärna buntas ihop med socialism):

Beneath the admiring gaze of Western politicians, including Winston Churchill, Mussolini established a ruthless capitalist dictatorship, providing Europe with its first experience of fascism. Portugal, Germany and Spain were to follow suit and in that order. Fascism was the punishment which capital inflicted on the working class for toying with the idea of revolution.

It is worth remembering that totalitarian capitalism that was embodied in fascism was defeated by a world war at the cost of over 50 million dead.

Sovjets kollaps:

The Soviet Union, with most of its leaders morally and politically exhausted, collapsed without any direct military pressure. The defeat in Afghanistan was costly, but not a determining factor in the disintegration. In China, the dismantling of the old system was more carefully organized with the reformist Communist leaders (who Mao Zedong had accurately described as ‘capitalist-roaders’) going down that same road but at their own pace and with the state firmly in control.

Om Stalinism:

This [the growing bureaucratization] and the great Russian chauvinism against the Georgians became major preoccupations. He realized that changes were needed and, in his last political testament, demanded that Stalin be removed from his position as General Secretary of the Party.

The party and state bureaucracy found in Stalin and his faction the ideal ally. A growing merger of party and state apparatuses would soon lead to the extermination of all the oppositionists. […] It is often forgotten in the West and in restorationist Russia that the first victims of Stalinism were Communist revolutionaries who protested against bureaucratic travesties of the revolutionary process. […] Thus, Stalinism could not and did not develop an ideology specific to itself but, rather, paid lip service to the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin while simultaneously ensuring their mummification. Stalin’s own writings were exclusively derivative in character.

In striking contrast were the views advanced by the third and dominant theoretical school. Trotsky’s study of the Soviet Union was started during his Turkish exile… remains peerless to this very day.

Accordingly, [Stalinism] came to be characterized by: (a) an iron monolithism on every level of the Party, the state and the international Communist movement; (b) ‘socialism in one country’ – a theoretical justification of autarchy which turned the writings of Marx and Lenin on their head with catastrophic consequences; and (c) the abandonment of internationalism and the global utilization of Communist parties as frontier guards of the ‘socialist homeland’… rather than as vanguards of particular revolutions. This was formalized by the dissolution of the Communist International in 1943.

Ali beskriver hur ”Väst” var tvungna att överlåta Östeuropa till sovjetisk kontroll för att kunna rädda kapitalismen i Italien, Grekland, Frankrike, m.fl. Skälen till oron var att eliterna i dessa länder (även i Östeuropa) hade destabiliserats och i vissa fall störtats på grund av sitt samarbete med fascisterna. Således handlade Yalta och Potsdam om respektive supermakts inflytelsesfärer. TA tar upp Jugoslavien som det land där inflytandet var 50-50, vilket Tito utnyttjade för att gå en självständig väg.

The Marshall Plan revived capitalism in western Europe despite Washington’s awareness of the potential dangers in this process. Rebuilding German capitalism meant reviving the old pre-War rivals of American capital. It was the existence of the USSR that propelled capital to act against its own competitive instincts.

TA nämner även Tjeckoslovakien i ett särskilt sammanhang, som det enda land i Östeuropa med en mer avancerad ekonomi än USSR självt. Men den stalinistiska schablonen var färdigutvecklad och skulle bara tillämpas på alla medlemsländer, med resultatet enligt TA att allt hopp om demokratisk socialism släcktes. Han citerar Sartre:

Czechoslovakia could have been the first power to accomplish a successful transition from an advanced capitalist economy to a socialist economy…


…Mao’s forces made their own revolution in the face of Stalin’s open scepticism and minuscule material aid from Moscow. […] The fact that Mao never attempted to organize a new International revealed the extent of his dependence on a number of crucial ideological formulae of Stalinism. Both the Yugoslav and Chinese Communists had made their revolutions by beaking in practice with Moscow. The failure to break with Stalinism in theory was to create a tragic disjuncture in the revolution at the very moment of its success.

Om sina resor till Sovjet 1985-87:

I was convinced that the changes would lead to the transformation of the country from a social dictatorship to a social democracy and, indeed, the model for many reformers was mid-century Scandinavia. I was completely wrong. Invisible social forces (invisible, at least, to me) were already in motion. A strong layer within the Soviet bureaucracy was hellbent on a total restoration of capitalism.

Huvudet på spiken när det gäller po-mo:

For many educated in the spirit of postmodernism, there is no such thing as a proper narrative – only fragments, all of which are of equal value. Surely this most recent phase of global capitalism, rampant and turbocharged, that has transformed politics, culture, sexuality and the economy, is a striking example of a strong narrative requiring a robust intellectual response – not wishful thinking illustrated by vignettes from various cultures.

TA:s röst manar till tålamod och gediget arbete:

We have to take a long view of the historical process. The transition from feudalism to capitalism took centuries. Why did we imagine that the transition to socialism, that required a far more radical transformation since the threat to bourgeois society from socialism is far greater than that ever posed by capital to the landed aristocracy, would be swifter? The earlier transition was also the result of violent clashes: the Dutch revolts of the sixteenth century that came to fruition after over half a century of violent struggle; followed by the English revolution of the seventeenth century; the US War of independence and the French revolution in the eighteenth; the movements for German and Italian unification and the defeat of the Shogunate in Japan in the nineteenth. All these produced periods of dictatorships: Cromwell, Robespierre and Napoleon. Democracy, in any meaningful sense, came much later, 500 years later, when women were granted the vote after the First World War and the children and grandchildren of slaves in the United States were still fighting for the right to be registered in order to vote in the 1960s.

churl = man (periodvis ”icke-livegen man” och ”gemene man”)
gerontocracy = gubbstyre
tectonics = tektonik; strukturgeologisk subdisciplin som studerar jordskorpan

~ av bookplanet på november 11, 2012.


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