Man, as an objective sensuous being, is therefor a suffering being and because he feels his suffering he is a passionate being. Passion is man’s essential power vigorously striving to attain its object.
– Karl Marx 1844
Like so many similar groups scattered around the globe today, we begin with inquiry: “Is a communist revolution possible, and if so what form could it take?” We do not have strong positive guides to help answer this question. The revolutions of the past are better thought of as warning signals rather than guideposts. Why did the Bolshevik Revolution that began with such hope fail so spectacularly?
We began to publish Internationalist Perspective in 1986 with the original objective of defending the positions of the historical Communist Left. As we continued to develop the positions inherited from the Communist Left, we began to question many of those positions and the presuppositions that underlay them. We were gradually drawn into a closer readings of Marx influenced by new previously untranslated texts. This reading was both a theoretical turning point for us as well as a significant departure from “traditional Marxism” (see IP Reference Text). However, we should point out that while our current work is primarily theoretical and critical, we do not declare ourselves communists because we study social conditions and therefore understand the world; we study social conditions and seek to understand the world because we are communists.
We are above all passionate beings who feel the world and therefore suffer its injustice. We live in the space between what we are and what we know we could become, between melancholy and euphoria. We see a world suffering from material privation in the midst of abundance, a world that struggles in vain against a life of unbearable isolation and alienation. Everywhere we turn we see those who seek safety in a refugee camp we call humanity. Ours is a world of hyper-illusion, of a perverted reality, bathed in the hypnotic glow of digital imagery. Among these illusion, we are told and come to believe that we are sovereign individuals endowed with an autonomous power unique to each, yet we often feel trapped in drone-like existence where every thought and every gesture is regulated towards ends that are not our own.
Who are we? We are a small group of radicals who share the belief that the structure of the outer world—our objective existence—is expressed in our inner world and indeed, shapes our own subjectivity. We believe that this objective structure is neither natural nor inevitable and that our essential nature is neither fixed nor immutable. The social structure to which we refer is best described as capitalism. As Franz Kafka cogently described it, “Capitalism is a system of relationships, which go from inside to out, from outside to in, from above to below, and from below to above, everything is relative, everything is in chains. Capitalism is a condition both of the world and of the soul.” This totalizing structure is compelled by its very logic to ingest all in its path, to bring every social act of every individual into its metabolism. In the midst of mass poverty, social dislocation and decomposition, capitalism is choking the world in its feverish production of things we do not need and cannot consume, of things we do not want and cannot buy, and the earth too suffers this humiliation.
Capitalism is not a system of power held in place by a cabal of ‘cigar chomping capitalists in top hats’ as was once the popular image. It is more accurate to say that the manifest class divisions are the social expression of a system that is ruled by abstractions, reinforced every hour of every day by each individual who endlessly engages in buying, selling, producing and consuming. It is a system of compulsion. A compulsion, which comes of course from the physical presence of the police, the army, the courts, the schools and so on, but the real compulsion is the faceless, nameless abstraction of value production; production for profit, production for no purpose other than accumulation of capital in the form of money; a hunger than can never be satisfied. If left to pursue its own rapacious nature, capitalism will continue its path towards planetary destruction making life unsustainable
Historically the opposition to the destructive consequences of capitalism has taken three general forms. The first is to exit, to withdraw either physically or spiritually, to explore alternative forms of life; the second is to soften the worst expressions of abuse by mobilizing various interest groups to compel the political system to implement reforms, and the third is the revolutionary solution of overturning the foundations of the system. These three strategies are perhaps not mutually exclusive. Exit, however, has become a near impossibility, as it is increasingly difficult to find an existence outside of the system. What part of the earth today is not claimed as property? The retreat into a spiritual life or the tending of one’s own garden will have little effect on global warming, the threat of nuclear war or the next economic crisis. Reform, on the other hand, is, at its core, the demand for an ethical or moral guidance of an unethical and immoral system: like asking a holy man to oversee the administration of Hell. Capitalism not only does not give a fig for ethics, morality or real human needs, its very nature compels its insatiable drive for expansion. Capitalism is a system that is defined by its mode of labor exploitation. To lighten that load momentarily does not change its nature. Furthermore, the history of the 20th century has shown that capitalism is fully capable of absorbing most opposition into its own ideological mechanism of domination. Indeed, as Walter Benjamin pointed out, “The bourgeois apparatus of production… is capable of assimilating, indeed of propagating, an astonishing amount of revolutionary themes without ever seriously putting into question its own continued existence or that of the class, which owns it.” The effort to humanize and democratize capitalism is in fact among the most malignant mystifications available for the preservation of capitalism.
Our work up to this point has been the theoretical elaboration of the revolutionary position, to understand capitalism from the inside out and the outside in; to understand its structure, its dynamic, its tendency towards crisis, its ability to absorb its own opposition, all with the objective of its overcoming, not its reform. Our work includes ongoing dialogue with other groups and individuals with similar objectives, a work that we consider of primary importance if we are ever to break the isolation in which we find ourselves. We possess no program, no party-line, no strategies to mobilize the masses, or recruitment efforts; we are compelled however, as passionate beings, to seek the practical overcoming of capitalism in the daily struggles of people everywhere to reach towards what we could become.