“Hold high the banner of the Communist International!” Anyone who grew up in the Soviet Union remembers this call, repeated ad naseum. Does this call mean anything at all today?
Today’s situation is usually sketched out in poetic descriptions of the opposition “multitudes vs. Empire” or even in gleeful Lacanian Leninism from Slovenia. While such intellectual radicalizations may briefly inflame narrow circles of international activists, such local flash-fires are quickly snuffed out, as neo-conservatism and fundamentalism make their explosive appearance. In this sense, the legacy of the Marxist International – though still appealing and even sexy – seems compromised. Historically, it was a response to the global expansion of capitalism and its seizure of new market territories. Its answer: solidarity between the disenfranchised, be they workers, peasants, or intellectuals, regardless of ethnic, religious, or national location. As such, the International dislocates traditional conceptions of community and resistance. Both now/here and no/where, its utopia is clearly messianic but at the same time – as a philosophy of practical solidarity – it demands tangible results. One of these results is the current process of globalization, which actually rests upon universal movements like the International. This movement is in danger of being forgotten.
Bart de Baer
It seems crucial to understand these, and it will be unavoidable, since they remain to be as a potentiality. They may lead to a critical awareness, a possibility to think the future. What seems important to me too is the roots of the Communist roots, the strands of thinking it comes forth from, so that it doesn’t become an isolated image but a multiplicity.
Critic, curator, psychoanalyst // Petersburg
It is important to address a variety of globalization’s roots. In my opinion, the “romantic” boundlessness of capitalization played a far greater role in globalization than the Communist Manifesto. Notwithstanding the tangible historical connection between the International and the transnational corporations, they actually belong to different orders. It is not advisable to mix up an economic order with a political program, all the more since the political program has been discredited, while one might say that the economic order has been given the “green light” in terms of ideology. Any radicalization should not have the effect of eroding this thought, but should also not tarry in the utopia of its activity of resisting the state’s ideological apparatus. In my view, it is important to develop a poly-ethical position rather than the desire to influence a multitude of millions, in symmetry to the desires of the controlling bureaucrats, who serve the transnational corporations.
Editor, critic, curator // Moscow
How to cope with the Communist and Soviet legacies is one of the key questions of today. The provincialization of the Russian context is connected to the following: while it is possible to speak to the world through the language of Marxism-Leninism, it is impossible to communicate with the world in rhetoric that promises “the return to the civilized family of nations” or extols “the former greatness of Russia”. Indeed, globalization-processes in the contemporary sense did actually arise during the expansion of capitalism during the 19th century, and the Communist worker’s movement really was a part of these processes. By the same token, Marxian theory was really the most adequate theory for describing these processes; it also represented the most authoritative theory for emancipation. It was Soviet Russia’s participation in the Communist project that made her one of the preceding century’s key subjects of history, located in the epicenter of the world’s social processes. Our “thinking class” has not yet been able to suggest a new understanding of the Soviet experience, adequate to the present: one can see this as an intellectual defeat. We either reproduce the birth of the rhetoric of exposure or dethroning from the Cold War, or undertake the aesthetic styling of several external attributes or ideologemes of “Soviet culture” or “Communism”. If we fail to gain a stereoscopic view – both analytical or critical and animate or alive – we will not be able to build our contemporary identity, finding our voice in the contemporary dialogue of globalization.
Historian, activist // Moscow
The Communist International came about as a product of all previous practices of emancipatory movements. Coming a long way from the romanticism of the French Revolution and the utopian constructions of Saint-Simon, the Manifesto of 1848 crystallizes the idea that solidarity and “globality” are the main conditions for victory. Much in the same way, the Leninist Comintern was a synthesis of the qualitative development of the Social Democratic tradition and its proletarian organization, its class politics, but it also broke with these traditions radically in the name of the “Party of World Revolution”. It seems to me that as we pass into a new historical situation, it becomes necessary to formulate and make sense of the key moments of continuity and discontinuity, if we are to build a new international. This will only be possible through theoretical work, but even more importantly, through the analysis of contemporary capitalism and the ongoing class struggle.
Philosopher, critic // Moscow
I do not think that the concrete, historical form of international solidarity can be revived in a situation whose conditions have changed so fundamentally. The same goes for what is known as capitalism in contemporary Russia. If we superimpose any conventional raster – even a Marxian one – we understand very little of what actually makes up the uniqueness of the situation as it has come about here.
Artist, critic // Moscow
An appeal to Communist roots of globalization is practically impossible, since the grounds for such an appeal – the Communist International – do not in fact exist. Naturally, this does not change the following historical fact: Western European Social Democracy initiated the first global project. The Third (Communist) International was formed as this project was already in a state of decline; as we know, Stalin disbanded it in 1943 in favor of opening a second front. At the same time, contemporary globalization – overcoming national boundaries and striving to unify all markets – is a great danger. It is necessary to withstand this process, not through the obvious return to an ideology of national exclusion (or locality), but through some alternative view of globalization. Regrettably, the ideas of class solidarity in defense of the weak or solidarity as freedom do not enjoy any support from the masses. The right of force rules almost everywhere, be it in Russia openly or more secretively in the USA. Intellectuals (most of all in Russia) use their own force without feeling any “false” pangs of conscience; in this way, they legitimize the right of the stronger overall.
John Peter Nilson
One shouldn’t forget that communism had an imperialistic approach. The vision was a united world – under the same banner. On the other hand, globalization today also has a totalitarian vision. The question is if communism can make us see the shortcomings of capitalistic globalization in the same way as globalization can make us see the dogmatism of communism? I think one can use a Marxist model to understand the possibilities and problems of today’s globalization. But to fully understand it, one also needs a post-colonial appeal, including the former Soviet empire itself.
In our globalized world, labor and production have become more separated from where the actual consumption is taken place, something that has created an intricate and complicated relation between national states and multinational companies. Communism’s vision to give the means of production to the workers is very problematic in such a global reality, since the production chain is divided into a complex situation of different economical, political, ideological, cultural, religious local parts. Communist revolution might be of importance in local situations, but it has to give up its practical politics in a global sense.
Curator, critic // Petersburg
Communism and globalism are two myths, one of which died before our very eyes as the other was born. It is not so important to search for the new myth’s roots in the old; instead, we need to develop a critical relationship to generalization, to the way the socio-economic order breaks into cultural praxis.
Artist // Stuttgart-Moscow
I’d rather argue for continuity. Capitalism is so ugly that no single drop of criticism can be too little. However, no strategic form can be eternal. At the time, the International was a very attractive and promising strategic direction since the connections between national states were evident. [The worker’s movements] were acting in similar ways within their own countries and it made sense to co-ordinate action internationally. The contemporary global world is different. Today, the division between the rich and poor within national states are no longer decisive. The whole world is divided into two: the places where capital is concentrated (the centers) and the places where there is no capital (the peripheries). There is a difference of interest between those who have no access to profit in the places where capital is concentrated and those poor in places where there is no capital. Furthermore, these latter places of no capital are highly differentiated. Still, the borders of the nation state cannot limit the field of action. Nowadays, one can already observe organized groups doing things elsewhere, in this or that region, pursuing particular aims and outcomes in completely other places. This looks more poly-national, if one still prefers to stick to a notion of nation rather than community.
Critic, media activist // Moscow
It is enough to skim through the cross-referenced links on the IndyMedia list to understand the force and size of international solidarity. If capitalism is global, then resistance is international. On the other hand, we Russians have been excluded from this intellectual laboratory and its inspiring activity.
…We have yet to understand the meaning and content of Soviet Internationalism – we are all living on its shards. To global/international humanity, the defeat of the Soviet state became a wound or trauma, which continues to obscure its view of its own past. This can be compared to a blind spot in the field of vision. Please note that I am not saying that the society of the future should be built upon a Soviet model. However, first, we need to consider the Soviet experience. Personally, I think that it is a great historical challenge that we all face – namely, to understand, focus and examine this experience, in order to bring some clarity to the matter. Why did the Soviet empire crumble and fall? The answer is important for them as well as us. This is the local context, which we need to connect to the context of globality.
Artist, curator, critic // Moscow
It seems to me that the question is not quite correct. Globalism is an objective state in capitalism’s development, which by now has extended its interests to all portions of the globe. This process does not have any Communist roots. One might say that it makes sense to know the situation of globalization as the Communist Manifesto describes it, but only as the first chapter of something that is still going on today.
Artist, curator, critic // Kaliningrad
For me, the appeal to such roots is not important. Instead, I see a number of principles, one of which consists in a serious reconfiguration of all relationship-systems, a change that has taken place within the last years. We have long since passed the transnational stage of capitalism’s expansion, the stage that influenced the birth of the Communist Manifesto. In examining all of the contemporary system’s components, it is impossible to find anything that corresponds to the historical conditions of the Communist International and its functioning. Since the multi-national model of capitalism is being replaced with its virtual variant, the strategy of conquering new markets and subjugating Third World countries has been exchanged for the subjugation of consciousness. The ideology of “the alien other (i.e. of foreign birth)” has passed the stage of “knowledge as the other”. Now, it is in the process of becoming “biology as the other” before our very eyes.
Today, the idea of the commune as such is not important. The only thing that plays a crucial role is individual choice as the only basis and only real criterion of its activity… On the other hand, I don’t understand why is it necessary to keep raising the brilliant dead, even if their ideas had a powerful impact. Obviously, any relatively complex system of axioms will eventually generate a question that its axioms cannot answer. For this reason, I see no reason for reanimating the International in its Communist essence. But to set some kind of marker nevertheless, I find more and more reason to call today’s phase the Rhizomatic International, a phenomenon whose ideological and technological characteristics are adequate to our time.
Artist, critic // Moscow
As the 1990s have shown, the essence of the contemporary situation is that capitalism is not able to cope with globalization. At the beginning of a new decade, very little has changed in this regard. Capitalism cannot cope with globalization, because it (i.e. globalization) does not originate in reason, but in political partitioning and greed. Only Communism, in its appeal to reason, can fulfill true globalization in the interest of all nations.