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.