The Partial Truths of Communism We Ought to Include in the Politics of the Future

As you may know, the anarchists were eventually excluded from the Inter­national in the 19th century—Mikhail Bakunin lost the fight to Karl Marx, and the latter became the de facto intellectual and political leader of the European radicalized workers. Unlike Bakunin, Marx thought it necessary to seize real political power, i.e. to keep the state intact during the first steps towards an anticipated classless and stateless society. Utopian socialist ideals such as those of Char­les Fourier (one of the great pre-Marxist socialist thinkers, 1772-1837, also credited with coining the word “feminism”) were sidelined to only be found in small “intentional communities”—attempts at rebooting soc­iety based on utopian standards, which always collapse and/or go sour after a while.

The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications. 

Real communism, Marx and Engels agreed with Bakunin, would exist only when the state had dissolved. But to begin with, there would be need for an interim dictatorship of the proletariat.[i] This idea of using state power to trans­form society stuck with the revol­u­tion­ary com­munist move­ments and came to define communism and “real socialism” in the 20th cen­tury.

That is why communism, unlike anarchism and Fourierism, became a serious political force, centered in the Soviet Union—the only coun­try of a non-ethnic and non-geographic denomination in the world, a society founded within the imaginary space of world-centric humanism.

Libertarian socialism nev­er materialized beyond small parliamentary representations here and there, and anarchism or lib­er­tarian Marxism hardly excised any political power anywhere: These have exist­ed almost entire­ly in the intellectual realm. As mentioned in Appendix A, the major wiel­ders of power have all been authori­tarian com­munists—follow­ing in the foot­steps of Lenin’s coup d’état in Russia.

The real leftwing political challenge to Marxism and Marxism-Leninism came from social democracy in the tradition of the philosopher Edu­ard Bern­stein (1850-1932) and perhaps the French socialist leader Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), who sought a peaceful transition to socialism by demo­cratic means and reforms. Whereas social democracy (and socialist parlia­ment­ary reformism) gained wide followership, it has in prac­tice gra­v­i­tated to­wards social liberalism—and in late modernity, towards green social lib­er­alism; i.e. towards the attractor point of modern society. In real­ity, then, social-democratic countries have largely developed along similar lines as other capitalist welfare democracies.

The underlying principle of communism is more radical: to act­ively and deliberately transform the fundamental structures of soc­iety by shoc­king them with planned strategic actions thought to be in line with the attractors that society’s inherent dynamics point towards. “Norm­al” soc­iety, “capitalist” society, “bourgeois” society—is simply viewed as eth­i­cally unacceptable. It’s just not good enough; it’s inhumane.

This—everything—everyday life with all its hierarchies, limitations and banality, is simply not enough. The communist demands more. The com­m­unist mind, its kernel of truth, grows from this solemn vengefulness aga­inst the injustices and insufficiencies of everyday life and from the deter­min­ation that comes with it: a moral determination to transform all of society; to act for the sake of the weak and the exploited; to act with the willingness to risk everything—one’s own life, one’s lifetime of commit­ment, and even perhaps being wrong—to make the decisive move that breaks the bound­aries of normal life and lets us come out on the other side. An honest sense of hope, a sincere and embodied sense of tragedy—and enough tempered righteous anger to remedy at least some of that tragedy.

That’s the dangerous dream of communism. It has little to do with drab concrete housing blocks, or polluting Trabant cars, or secret KGB agents, or nuclear warheads, or military marches, or mad dictators, or any of the things we usually associate with communism. We can even detach it from any specific vision about who owns the factories or how the eco­nomy is governed.

Real communism, then, in this deeper sense, simply connects to the det­er­mination to do what it takes to bring about a post-capitalist society. By definition, a communist society is that which dialectically flows from, and transcends, capitalist society and in which everyday life is governed and coordinated by another logic than economic capital. This logic must be less cruel and more rational, more in line with human needs and higher stages of inner development. It is a holistic, human­ized version of mod­ernity. Communism, in this deeper and generalized sense, is holis­tic post-­capi­tal­ism—plus the mor­ally driven determ­ination to achi­eve it.

The communists of the 19th and 20th centuries were wrong about a num­ber of issues concerning the dynamics and attractors of modern so­cieties and their economies. And this led to some terrible mis­takes, the worst of which was trying to force institutions into being with­out corr­es­­ponding develop­ments of psy­chology, behavior and culture (see this article on why communism failed); leading to jamm­ed information feedback processes, which in turn led to a fail­ing society, and ultimately to Gulag, surveill­ance, terror and coll­apse.

But some core aspects of communism were not in themselves false, only premature and out-of-context. Thereby I am not saying that bad con­sequen­c­es should be excused on account of good intentions. I am saying that par­tial truths should not be discarded on account of guilt-by-association.

What, then, are the communist truths shared by political metamod­ern­ism? One such aspect is the uncompromising moral determination to change the nat­ure of everyday life. Another is that there is in­deed some­thing that comes after capitalist relations, and that one can align one­self with such an emergence because it rhymes with discernable stages of techno­logical and societal development. A third aspect is that there should be a collect­ively intelligent form of governance based upon a more radical and deeper form of demo­cracy than representative party politics. A fourth one is that there should be a world-centric party (or meta-party) that takes on a transnation­al and even tran­scendental role of trans­forming soc­iety from a global perspec­tive, and that there should be some kind of van­guard who develops and spreads a shared theo­retical and organizational basis for such work. And a fifth, and last one, is that such a process-oriented party should rely upon the dialectics inhe­rent to society in order to guide its development and to gain power.

The Nordic ideology is, obviously, not communism. It may be revol­u­tion­ary, developmental and dialectical—but it is strictly non-violent. It works with other attractor points and it has other goals altogether. It sha­res the solemn vengefulness of communism, its tem­pered indignation: the grit, fire and guts to change a society that simply isn’t good enough, to achi­eve a higher stage of development, and to serve a deeper equ­ality.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.

[i]. This is a posi­tion Marx at least partly revised after the 1871 Paris Commune, when “communard” workers revolted in Paris and held the city for two months before being beaten back.