Sie sind auf Seite 1von 11

Rethinking Marxism, 2015

Vol. 27, No. 3, 332342, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08935696.2015.1042701

The Party and Communist Solidarity

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

Jodi Dean
This essay, based on a talk given at the 2013 Rethinking Marxism International
Conference, defends the idea of the party by setting out the conditions that make
it necessary. Rather than imagining a national, mass-electoral party, it envisions
a solidary, militant, international organization. Against left realists who claim
that the party is an outmoded or fully saturated political form and that we are
relegated to momentary acts of resistance or small reforms that leave the capitalist
system intact, our conditions push us to rethink and renew that form of political
organization through which communists think collectively about political power, act
together in order to generate it, and inspire one another to use it for the collective
determination of the world we produce in common. Capitalism pushes us apart. Left
politics, instead of emphasizing difference, should assert and build commonality.
The party is a form for this assertion.
Key Words: Communism, Communist Party, The Left, Occupy, Politics

In this essay I defend the idea of the party by setting out the conditions that make it
necessary. I am not imagining a national, mass-electoral party but rather a solidary,
militant, international organization. Against left realists who claim that the party is
an outmoded or fully saturated political form and that we are relegated to
momentary acts of resistance or small reforms that leave the capitalist system intact,
I argue that our conditions push us to rethink and renew that form of political
organization through which communists think collectively about political power, act
together in order to generate it, and inspire one another to use it for the collective
determination of the world we produce in common. Capitalism pushes us apart. Left
politics should not do the same. Instead of emphasizing difference, it should assert
and build commonality. The party is a form for this assertion.
For over two decades, scholars associated with Rethinking Marxism have developed
new ways to think about economic activity, production, distribution, and accumulation. They have investigated multiple micropractices in a variety of domains,
expanding our sense of what is economically possible.1 Yet whom is the work for? I
do not mean this cynically. My point is not about getting tenure or rising in the
academy. In my experience, most of us doing radical, Marxist, and communist work
are disciplinarily marginal. I ask whom the work is for because it appears to me to be
for anyone who wants it, for anyone who wants to try something new. Creative
economic alternatives are rendered as choices for small groups, initiatives some
1. See, for example, Gibson-Graham (2006).
2015 Association for Economic and Social Analysis

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

CRAFTING COMMUNISM

333

might take. They are thereby depoliticized into lifestyle choices and are therefore
difficult to disentangle from a fetishization of the local that, in its repression of
commonality, is simply a lower-cost version of the 1 percents privatization,
personalization, and enclaving. There are good ideas on the Left. When they are
disconnected from organized militant politics, however, they become absorbed into
the flows of communicative capitalismin Mimmo Porcaros (2012, 94) words, into
an indeterminate mass of contradictory affirmations. They are not oppositional;
they do not provide an alternative. Without political power behind them, they are
just possibilities without possibility, just something else for consumers to choose.
Over the last thirty odd years (at least since 1989), a left realism has taken hold
of a certain northern, western, U.S.-European Left. At the site of a rethought
humanist, culturalist, and poststructuralist post-Marxism is the foreclosure of
revolution and the reduction of politics to critique, resignification, subversion,
reform, resistance, and work on the self. Underlying continued aspirations for
equality and real opposition to imperialism, racism, sexism, and homophobia is the
sense that our working class is privileged, included, complacent. Radical politics
involves other places, other subjects. Thus, during the same period that neoliberalism consolidated itself as a political-economic formation (or in Foucaults terms, a
governmentality), most activists and intellectuals associated with the Left rejected
not just specific Communist parties but the very idea of the party as a form for
radical political action.2
Although some of these rejections repeat arguments against centralism found
already in the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, as part of a councilist or
ultraleft political current, others situate themselves in a line of criticism prominent
in the late sixties and early seventies. Rightly frustrated with a system whose
components buttress rather than undermine capitalism, various voices on the Left
began to amplify one another as they targeted their critical energies on the
mediating institutions of capitalist society: family, union, party, university. Insofar
as these institutions made capitalism possiblethat is, secured for it an adequate
workforce and compliant citizenrytheir abolition made seeming sense as a
revolutionary goal. The party is but one of the institutions through which political
energies are co-opted into the maintenance of the status quoa critique leveled at
the Communist Party USA during the years of the Popular Front and also directed
toward the French Communist party in 1968, to give but two examples.
Now, in the second decade of the new millennium, the mediating institutions of
civil society have changed significantly. More people live alone than in any time in
U.S. history (Henderson 2014). Fewer U.S. children live in two-parent families
(Livingston 2014). Because of decades of antisexist and antihomophobic struggle,
even the mainstream accepts a wider array of living arrangements than were
permitted thirty years ago. Union membership in the United States is at its lowest
level in a century (Greenhouse 2013). Wages have correspondingly stagnated and
declined, decreasing the likelihood that blue-collar, service-sector, and minimumwage jobs can lead to a middle-class standard of living. Left political parties have
2. On neoliberal governmentality, see Foucault (2008). For an example of rejection of the party,
see Hardt and Negri (2000).

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

334

DEAN

either collapsed or compromised. Max Elbaums (2002, 293) account of the new
communist movement of the seventies tells this story particularly well as it
documents the setbacks facing U.S. party builders at the time, with their inability
to regroup in the eighties and the broadly demobilizing effects of the end of state
socialism on activists who had been anchors of popular movements. The situation of
the university is less easy to summarize, although it is clear, first, that as political
commitment to public education (education as a recognized social good) has
declined, student debt has soared, and second, that education is a key front in
todays class war.
Our current conjuncture differs from that of the sixties and early seventies in that
individuals are now more likely to encounter state and market directly, without the
protections of mediating institutions. Instead of what liberalism renders as the force
of law, individuals encounter force as law, whether directly as police or directly as
market. Communicative capitalist ideology presents this immediacy as direct
conversations between individual and company, as entrepreneurialism, as flexible
contract-based work. It mystifies immediacy as personal responsibility, choice, DIY,
prosumption (the producer as consumer), and as the opportunity for creative
input.3 Privatization, offshoring, precarity, and the decline of unions have contributed to the loss of working-class jobs capable of sustaining a middle-class quality of
life. An effect has been the dismantling of the wide array of associations formerly
part of working-class culture. Not only is the working class not a revolutionary class,
in the United States it is barely conscious of itself as a classa result, paradoxically,
of the success of organized labor in fighting for collective bargaining and higher
wages.
U.S. culture is no longer mass culture. From personalized networked media to
eight-hundred-channel cable television to the proliferation of sub- and microcultural
consumption opportunities in the long tail of music, video, and writing available on
the Internet, communicative capitalist culture offers multiple and innumerable
possibilities for expression, increasingly few of which register to any significant
degree (Dean 2009). Our politics is likewise no longer mass politics. Mainstream
electoral politics focuses so exclusively on fundraising that the more poor people
support a policy the less likely their representatives are to support it (Hacker and
Pierson 2011, 111). Left politics has also shed the mass dimension of the twentieth
century. Configured through contemporary capitalisms push to customize, specify,
and individuate, left issue and identity politics reduces action to raising awareness in
the hope of generating an emotional response intense enough to inspire people to
find out more for themselves, get involved, and make their opinions known. The Left
has mimicked and repeated in its politics the fragmentation, localization, and
pluralization crucial to neoliberalisms dismantling of the welfare state. Even as
capital has consolidated its class power and pursued a long-term strategy hostile to
the rest of us, the Left has accepted and augmented its own dispersion into
singularized individuals. The few categories that make belonging explicit have
attempted at the same time to disavow collectivity: the consumer over the
producers, the taxpayer over the public.
3. For a discussion of communicative capitalist ideology see Dean (2002).

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

CRAFTING COMMUNISM

335

Commenting on a text he wrote with Flix Guattari in the mideighties, Antonio


Negri notes that the new organization of capitalist production in the late seventies
produced a subjectivity locked in an insuperable contradiction, for social
cooperation was more and more violently in opposition to the structures of capitalist
control (Guattari and Negri 2010, 104). He observes as well that even as he and
Guattari recognized the importance of new technologies in networked communication, they didnt push their analysis far enough, and they should have detected new
possibilities for rebellion. I would add that they should have identified new forms of
capture and subjection (see Andrejevic 2007). Social media resolves and displaces the
contradiction between social cooperation and capitalist control. Interacting through
personalized, ubiquitous media, we leave traces that can be archived, searched, sold
to advertisers, and turned over to security forces. We can connect with others, share
our hopes and dreams, and reinforce capitalist control with the same clicks and links,
likes and shares. We can be networked revolutionaries, courageously forwarding
videos to all our friends. We can work on-demand from home. Our mediated sociality
affirms the structures of capitalist control more deeply and completely than the
institutions of civil society ever didespecially under circumstances that amplify
injunctions to individuality.
Rather than the mythic rugged individualism of American frontier ideology,
individuality is an economic element of communicative capitalism. Getting a job, a
contract, or an opportunity requires that one demonstrate that one is uniquely
qualified in what one knows to be a dense and competitive field (Lane 2011). As the
market for middle-class jobs contracts, one has to stand out from the pack, show that
one is both a team player and capable of thinking outside the box, creative yet one
of us. This entrepreneurial relation to self (as well as to others whom we see in the
idea of social entrepreneurs) enhances the likelihood of education-related debt as
well as credit card debt accrued in order to look the part, to project the appearance
of success, and to support work done for free (internships, volunteering). Capitalisms
contradictions are interiorized in the form of the unique individual who is one of a
multitude of singularities.
Mainstream culture describes the structural effects of this amplified competition,
which underlies the injunction to uniqueness, as the winner-take-all or winner-takemost character of the new economy, as the 80/20 rule, or (inversely) as the long tail.
The basic idea is that any system characterized by free choice and preferential
attachment will generate extreme inequality. Moreover, the larger the system, the
larger the inequality (the lottery is a good example: the bigger it is, the less the
likelihood of any one ticket to have the winning number). The stimulation of the
production of uniqueness, of individualities, produces the field in which the individual
dissolves so that a one, a winner, can emerge to claim the prize or get the job.4 And
even as there is a long tailthat is, a vast majority of losers (those who are much
closer to each other than they are to the one)communicative capitalism produces
these losers not as a mass but as a multitude of singularities, each holding on to its
difference as its most valuable attribute despite its fundamental devaluation with
respect to the system.
4. See my discussion in The Communist Horizon (Dean 2012).

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

336

DEAN

The genius of the slogan We are the 99 percent is that it grasps this basic fact,
names it, and occupies it. The 99 percent is an idea that recognizes the winner-takeall character of contemporary capitalism and makes it a crime, a wrong. In the face
of dispersion, it asserts collectivity. Rather than the continuation of a left politics
premised on cultivating a wide variety of issues and perspectives and then building
affinities between them, Occupy asserted the economic division between the 99
percent and the 1 percent as the basis for a new movement.5
Although the amplified individualism of communicative capitalism is a change from
a society of mediating institutions, it isnt new. Marx and Engels (1994, 142) note
already in The German Ideology that competition isolates individuals, not only
bourgeois but even more the proletarians, despite the fact that it brings them
together. It takes a long time before these individuals can unite. Rosa Luxemburg
(1999) similarly observes that the problem of social democracy in Russia was the
atomized condition of the proletariat. Bourgeois society hadnt instilled in the
working class the rudiments of political solidarity. It hadnt provided the working
class the proper raw materialthat is, the institutions, capacities, and expectations
that would enable workers to combine politically. Our conditions are also atomized,
but differently. Ours is atomization as personalization, the atomization of the mobile,
singular, and uncollected. In some ways we have a surplus of raw materials for
organization: rights to free speech and assembly, communication technologies, a
modicum of literacy. The cost of the overproduction of the means of communication
has been a foreclosure of solidarity in the sense that too many of us seem to think
that solidarity is neither desirable nor necessary. In the United States, we cling to
individualism even as our ongoing proletarianization solidifies the gap between the 1
percent and the rest of us. We have individuality without political subjectivity (which
can only ever be collective).
In 2008, the Left failed. There was a major crisis of capitalism inviting urgent
response, but the Left was a no-show. The consequence has been more than bank
bailouts and austerity. Its been the rise of the extreme Right as the most visible
opponent of neoliberal governmental policies. The same crisis continues to deepen
such that in the United States, UK, and EU there is now both a new normal of
intensifying inequality and a fundamental uncertainty as to the terms and conditions
of this new normal. We dont know what this new condition that exceeds the
political-economic settlements of welfare state and neoliberal state will be like, but
this nonknowledge, this openness, is the opportunity for action, the space where we
can push for one future over another if we have the collective political will to do so.
Is our setting one that can only produce ongoing cuts and austerity? Rising
immiseration, reactive protest, and intensified police violence? Or can there be a
collective steering of a world we create, use, and inhabit in common?
The crumbling of capitalist realismthat is, the conviction that there is no
alternativehas enabled ever more of us to see capitalism as a system of production
through exploitation for the benefit of the few. But then what? It now seems that its
easier to imagine the end of capitalism than it is an organized Left. Left realists insist
that collectivity is undesirable and impossible. Its undesirable because it excludes
5. See my essay, Claiming Division, Naming a Wrong (Dean 2011).

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

CRAFTING COMMUNISM

337

possibilities, effaces difference, and enforces discipline. Its impossible because we


are so individuated, so singularized in our needs and ambitions, that we cant ever
come together; coming together, we are told, is itself an illusion, a myth some use to
manipulate others into fighting for their interests. Thus, today, amid the uncertainties of late neoliberalism, even when we are fully conscious of our own exploitation
and the deep inequity of the system in which we find ourselves, we either dont feel
like we can do anything about it or we find ourselves participating in individuated,
localized, or communicatively mediated activities without momentum, duration, or a
capacity for political memory. People are immiserated and proletarianized and
practically confront this immiseration and proletarianization alone.
We have to keep in mind, though, that isolation, immiseration, and political
disorganization also characterized the early decades of radical socialist movement.
Marx, Engels, and Luxemburg all emphasize how competition means that workers
tend to remain isolated, to lack solidarity, and to take a long time uniting. Left
realists one-sidedly emphasize the objective dimension of our capitalist setting,
failing to acknowledge the subjective dimension always part of the Marxist tradition.
There are nonetheless significant differences between our time and that of the
early years of revolutionary socialism. Rather than a period of working-class advance,
ours is one of defeat. In our extreme capitalist setting, the rollback of the
achievements of organized political struggle means austerity and privatization
particularly privatization accompanied by increases in brutality and exemption, as
practices formerly under public authority are turned over to personal power and the
market. For us, authoritarianism is less that of centralized state power than it is of
power decentralized, dispersed, and extended via private contracts, interbank and
interagency cooperation, and the extensive network of treaties, agreements, and
provisions enabling capital flow and global trade. National states act as the police
force protecting the global capitalist class. So we encounter the fragmentation,
dissolution, and decomposition of some elements of the state and the concentration
and intermeshing of other elements of states and markets, as with finance, security,
and media. Capital as a class has worked to smash the bureaucratic state machine for
us, to convince us that it is useless, even as it strengthens parts of that machine for
its own ends.
We confront an uneven mix of centralizing and decentralizing forces in various
combinations of state use of the market and market reliance on the state. The states
operation as an instrument of class rule is tempered less by concessions forced on it
by working-class struggle than it was forty years ago (although the social-democratic
class compromise was itself not without political cost). Capital, resurgent, has
reclaimed a great deal of ground, but that doesnt erase the fact of the prior
struggles. Indeed, our situation is particularly difficult because there has been a time
in which basics such as housing, education, health, food, and work were understood
and treated as rights. Unfortunately, now is not that time.
Although the Left failed in 2008, new possibilities emerged as academics and
activists turned again to the idea of communism. These possibilities have been
amplified by the new cycle of struggles weve seen in Wisconsin, Canada, Egypt,
Spain, Greece, Turkey, and with the Occupy movement. Part of the new appeal of the
idea of communism is that communism is the one word we have that bodes no

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

338

DEAN

compromise with capital and that also asserts a powerful alternative. Linked to class
struggle, the smashing of the bourgeois state, and the abolition of capitalists as a
class, communism is more than social-democratic compromise, poststructuralist
pluralization, and anarchist insurrection. Instead of a politics thought primarily in
terms of resistance, playful and momentary aesthetic disruptions, the immediate
specificity of local projects, and struggles for hegemony within a democratic milieu,
the horizon of communism impresses on us the necessity of eliminating capitalism and
creating global practices and institutions of egalitarian cooperation. It turns us away
from lifestyle changes, general inclusion, and momentary calls for awareness and
toward militant opposition, tight organizational forms, and coordinated strategies for
securing the peoples control of the means of production. In contrast with anarchisms
insistence on individuality, communism prioritizes solidarity.
For Marx, proletariat names capitalisms self-creation of what destroys it. This
what that destroys capitalism is a collective subject, a force no longer dispersed in
individual and local acts of smashing, sabotage, and disruption but concentrated in
solidarity. But how does this collective subject abolish capitalism? It cant be through
destruction alone. The normal operation of the capitalist system is characterized by
uncertainty and instability, a series of periods of moderate activity, prosperity,
over-production, crisis and stagnation (Marx 2008, 275). Contemporary capitalism
has refined its capacity for wealth destruction: over $34 trillion of market value was
lost in the financial crisis of 2008. In the course of the recession that followed, the
rich got richer and the poor got poorer: the top 1 percent captured 121 percent of the
income gains made between 2009 and 2011 (Kavoussi 2013). Not only was the 1
percent better able to weather the crisis than the rest of us but it was also able to
increase its share.
According to Marx, the capitalist cycle of creative destruction is brought to an end
by the proletariat, but not by the working class organized as workersthey are
already organized as workers in the factory, which enables them to become conscious
of their material conditions and the need to combine into unions. The abolition of
capitalism depends on the organization of the class as a party, a solidary political
association that cuts across workplace, sector, region, and nation. The working class,
as a class, is implicated in the success or stability of capitalism; capitalism configures
its struggles with the bourgeoisie. The party, however, takes as its horizon
capitalisms superseding by communism. The party is necessary because class struggle
is not simply economic struggle; its political struggle.
Consider the famous passage from The German Ideology: We call communism the
real movement which abolishes the present state of affairs (Marx and Engels 1994,
120). How should we understand this? Not as immediate insurrection or as
prefiguration but rather as the expansion of voluntary cooperation. I say this because
Marx explains that the conditions of this movement [we call communism] result from
premises now in existence. The premises he is discussing involve the multiplication
of productive force through the cooperation of different individuals as this
cooperation is determined by the division of labor and not as an effect of peoples
own united power. Abolishing determination by the division of labor is a matter of
self-conscious collective action wherein cooperation is not forcedis not out of our
controlbut is instead willed commonly. Cooperation and concentration become

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

CRAFTING COMMUNISM

339

self-conscious and willed rather than unconscious and determined. As the movement
that abolishes the present state of affairs, communism expands voluntary
cooperation.
In capitalist society this expansion of voluntary as opposed to compulsory
cooperation happens through the party. An organization premised on solidarity, the
party holds open a political space for the production of a common political will, a will
irreducible to the capitalist conditions in which the majority of people find
themselves forced to sell their labor power. Where work is obligatory and
determined, membership in the party is voluntary, the willed formation of united
power. Among its members, the party replaces competition with solidarity.
That class struggle is political means that it exceeds the affirmation of people as
workers with particular interests and extends to the critical assessment of this
position as itself the result of inequality and exploitation. Differently put, the
working class is a subject of capitalism. It is constrained within a field or discourse
configured by and for capitalists as a class; it gets its position from within this field.
So it might refuse and resist, sabotage and strike, but all these actions are still
confined within a field given by capital, configured for its interests and on its behalf.
To be another kind of subjectthe subject of another field, discourse, or politics
requires a break or twist, a shift to another field, the field of the party.6
The party is more than an outgrowth or extension of labor unions (this much at
least should be uncontroversial, given the importance of the peasantry in Communist
parties as well as the wide variety of groups founded by Communist parties). The
party is a form for abolishing capitalism and ushering in communism; it occupies the
place of division, holding it open for a new collective political subject (for classical
Marxism this was the proletariat; in The Communist Horizon I argue for the people
as the rest of usin each instance, though, subjectification is a possibility,
not an empirical given). At different points over the past hundred years, the party
has attempted to abolish capitalism and usher in communism in various ways: by
the revolutionary seizure of the state, participation in parliamentary processes, the
training of cadres, and the education of the masses in order to be prepared when
the time comes. The Communist party has never been an organization for simply
achieving a set of economic reforms aimed at restraining capitalisms extremes and
providing workers with welfare guarantees. That this is the case is clear when we
note the justified sense of betrayal voiced by communists when their parties have
compromised and retreated. They feel betrayed because the party gave way on
communist desire.
The party is necessary because the people are split. We are split by the way we are
givenpositionedwithin capitalism. We are situated within a field that tells us who
we are and what we can be, that establishes the matrix of our desire (ieks
6. Alain Badiou (2009, 8) has something like this in mind in Theory of the Subject when he notes
the internal split in the working class between its true political identity and its latent
corruption by bourgeois or imperialist ideas and practices. He writes, The practical (historical)
working class is always the contradictory unity of itself as proletariat and of its specific
bourgeois inversion This unity of opposites is determined by the general bourgeois space
(9). Also, The bourgeoisie makes a subject the subjective effect of their force lies in the
divided people (42).

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

340

DEAN

definition of ideology), but that represses the truth of this field in class struggle.7 The
party asserts this truth: it speaks from the position of this truth and offers another
field of possibilities, a discourse for another subject (iek 2002, 1879). In contrast
and in opposition to capitalist desire, the party opens up a terrain for the desire of
another subjecta collective, political subject. The party doesnt know everything;
it provides a form for the knowledge we gain through experience and that we analyze
from the perspective of the communist horizon.
This is rather abstract and probably pretty unsatisfying to people who want to know
what the kind of party I have in mind will look like, how it will be organized, and how
such organization could in any way be adequate to our circumstances, given the way
global capitalism is organized as a global financial system. Leo Panitch and Sam
Gindin (2013) are helpful here, as they make explicit the inextricably political
dimension of our current tasks: we cant change the world without taking political
power. All we can do is pursue small experiments, the left version of the 1 percents
gating themselves off. We cant take political power if we lack political form. For the
most part, our problem is less one of organizational details than it is solidary political
will. As the will emerges, people will figure out the structure in light of the
challenges we face: expanding militant pressure in ways that inspire and educate
cadres while at the same time straining the resources of the state and breaking the
confidence of the financial sector; abolishing private property and the capitalist
banking system while advancing international coordination in an uneven environment; increasing popular support and developing a program for addressing common
concerns over the environment, health, transportation, communication, food,
housing, and education. A five- or ten-year plan for getting from here to there could
be helpful. An alliance of the radical Left or, better, a new Communist party could
grow out of the concentrated forces of already existing groups, from militants skilled
at direct action to artists adept with symbols and slogans to parties experienced at
organizing to issue groups knowledgeable about specific areas of concern. Such a
concentration would provide people who want to be engaged in radical politics but
who arent sure what to do with a place to go, a place to start.
At a minimal level, if we are to have a chance of taking power, of reformatting the
basic conditions under which we live and work, we have to share a name in common
as a fundamental marker of division. If not, our names will be given to us by capital,
which will seek to fragment and distract us. In the movements of the last few years,
weve seen recognitions of the power and the need for a name in common as a marker
of divisionOccupy is a clear example, yet across the spectrum of the Left, people
disavow it.
In addition to needing a name in common, we need to know whom we can trust,
and we need to extend the bonds of trust beyond local ties and small networks. An
absence of solidarity may be the biggest challenge right now insofar as without
solidarity a common will cannot emerge. Defeat, betrayal, and fear as well as
ongoing patterns of sexism, racism, and homophobia have made us deeply suspicious.
One way a party helps deal with this is by explicit criteria for membership and by
expectations for its members. Another way is through a cellular structure that
7. See my discussion in Zizeks Politics (Dean 2006).

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

CRAFTING COMMUNISM

341

ensures that each person is connected to a known group of others to whom she or he
is accountable. And still another way is to acknowledge different skills and expertise
by delegating taskswe dont each need to know what every other person is doing.
Trusting others skills and knowledge is essential if we are to form ourselves into a
political force capable of addressing global capital. This suggests the utility of
working groups in multiple locales and issue areasgroups with enough autonomy to
be responsive and enough direction to carry out a common purpose, which itself
would have to be hashed out and to which all would have to be committed.
I have suggested a name in common and some basic structural components
involving a membership organized in cells, the delegation of tasks, and the following
of a common purpose. The idea behind this rudimentary sketch is that the party is a
political form of commitment, a solidarity that requires of members a willingness to
put aside endless self-assertion and to admit that pulling together is more important
than insisting on ones own uniqueness.
To conclude, here are questions that the party form forces us to answer:
1. How do we imagine the world? Are we doomed to continue down a path
determined for us? Do we take refuge in a left realist view that tells us the time
is not right? Do we conform to communicative capitalisms promise that another
world is possible through a cool new app? Or do we embrace uncertainty and do
the impossible, with recourse not to pure voluntarism but to the recognition of
the ultimately open character of the world in which we participate?
2. How do we imagine politics? Do we take for granted the political systems we have
and position ourselves within them, repeating time and again the small moments
of rebellion that let us sleep at night?
3. What do we want? Do we want an end to exploitation, the abolition of private
property, a system of shared responsibility for production and distribution? Or
have the last thirty years sunk in too deep, filling us with doubt and making us
suspect that, yes, its true, there is no alternative to capitalism, lets just make it
not so bad for people like us?
4. What is the relation between means and ends? What is the relation between the
actions we design, the events in which we participate, the texts we write and
circulate, and the world we want to bring into being? What is the plan, the end
game, the relation between actions over space and time?
5. Do we dare to avow power, to enact a political association that does not imagine
itself as the whole of community or as idealized friendship but that instead rests
on fighting side by side for an emancipated and egalitarian political, economic,
and social formation?

References
Andrejevic, M. 2007. iSpy: Surveillance and power in the interactive era. Kansas City:
University Press of Kansas.
Badiou, A. 2009. Theory of the subject. Trans. B. Bosteels. London: Continuum.
Dean, J. 2002. Publicitys secret. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
. 2006. ieks politics. New York: Routledge.

Downloaded by [32.212.72.187] at 18:36 12 December 2015

342

DEAN

. 2009. Democracy and other neoliberal fantasies. Durham, N.C.: Duke


University Press.
. 2011. Claiming division, naming a wrong. Theory & Event 14 (4S). http://
muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/theory_and_event/v01
4/14.4S.dean01.html.
. 2012. The communist horizon. London: Verso.
Elbaum, M. 2002. Revolution in the air. London: Verso.
Foucault, M. 2008. The birth of biopolitics. Trans. G. Burchell. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan.
Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2006. A postcapitalist politics. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press.
Greenhouse, S. 2013. Share of the work force in a union falls to a 97-year low, 11.3%.
New York Times, 23 January. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/business/
union-membership-drops-despite-job-growth.html?_r=0#.
Guattari, F., and A. Negri. 2010. New lines of alliance, new spaces of liberty. New
York: Autonomedia.
Hacker, J. S., and P. Pierson. 2011. Winner-take-all politics. New York: Simon and
Schuster.
Hardt, M., and A. Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Henderson, T. 2014. More Americans living alone, census says. Washington Post, 28
September. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/more-americans-living-alonecensus-says/2014/09/28/67e1d02e-473a-11e4-b72e-d60a9229cc10_story.html.
Kavoussi, B. 2013. Top one percent captured 121 percent of all income gains during
recoverys first year: Study. Huffington Post, 12 February. http://www.huffington
post.com/2013/02/12/top-one-percent-income-gains_n_2670455.html.
Lane, C. M. 2011. A company of one. Ithaca, N.Y.: ILR Press.
Livingston, G. 2014. Less than half of U.S. kids today live in a traditional family.
Fact Tank, 22 December. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/22/
less-than-half-of-u-s-kids-today-live-in-a-traditional-family/.
Luxemburg, R. 1999. Organizational questions of the Russian social democracy.
Marxist Internet Archive. http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1904/
questions-rsd/.
Marx, K. 2008. Capital. Abr. ed. Ed. D. McLellan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Marx, K., and F. Engels. 1994. The German ideology. Pt. 1. In Selected writings, ed.
L. H. Simon, 10256. New York: Hackett.
Panitch, L., and S. Gindin. 2013. The making of global capitalism. London: Verso.
Porcaro, M. 2012. Occupy Lenin. Socialist Register, no. 49: 8497.
iek, S. 2002. Revolution at the gates. London: Verso.