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The Platypus Review, № 54 — March 2013 (reformatted for reading; not for printing)

The Platypus Review, № 54 — March 2013 (reformatted for reading; not for printing)

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Published by Ross Wolfe
Issue #54 of the broadsheet newspaper publication of the Platypus Affiliated Society. March 2013 articles include: Traversing the heresies: An interview with Bruno Bosteels by Alec Niedenthal and Ross Wolfe; What is to be done with the actually existing Marxist left? An interview with Jodi Dean by Ross Wolfe; Remembrance of things past: An interview with Boris Groys by Ross Wolfe.
Issue #54 of the broadsheet newspaper publication of the Platypus Affiliated Society. March 2013 articles include: Traversing the heresies: An interview with Bruno Bosteels by Alec Niedenthal and Ross Wolfe; What is to be done with the actually existing Marxist left? An interview with Jodi Dean by Ross Wolfe; Remembrance of things past: An interview with Boris Groys by Ross Wolfe.

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Published by: Ross Wolfe on Mar 12, 2013
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Sunit Singh
Nathan L. Smith
Spencer A. LeonardPac PobricLaurie RojasJosh RomeBret SchneiderJames Vaughn
Jacob CayiaLucy ParkerEmmanuel Tellez
Edward Remus
Brian HioeNathan L. Smith
Ninad Pandit
1 Traversing the heresies
An interview with Bruno Bosteels
Alec Niedenthal and Ross Wolfe
2 What is to be done with the actually existingMarxist left?
An interview with Jodi Dean
Ross Wolfe
Remembrance of things past
An interview with Boris Groys
Ross Wolfe
Issue #54 / March 2013
Issue #54 | March 2013
Platypus Review
Platypus Review 
is funded by
The University o Chicago Student GovernmentDalhousie Student UnionLoyola University o ChicagoSchool o the Art Institute o Chicago Student GovernmentThe New SchoolNew York UniversityThe Platypus Aliated Society
Submission guidelines
Articles will typically range in length rom 750–4,500words, but longer pieces will be considered. Please sendarticle submissions and inquiries about this project to:
All submissions shouldconorm to the
Chicago Manual o Style
Statement of purpose
Taking stock o the universe o positions and goals thatconstitutes letist politics today, we are let with thedisquieting suspicion that a deep commonality underliesthe apparent variety: What exists today is built upon thedesiccated remains o what was once possible.In order to make sense o the present, we fnd itnecessary to disentangle the vast accumulation o posi-tions on the Let and to evaluate their saliency or thepossible reconstitution o emancipatory politics in thepresent. Doing this implies a reconsideration o what ismeant by the Let.Our task begins rom what we see as the generaldisenchantment with the present state o progressivepolitics. We eel that this disenchantment cannot be casto by sheer will, by simply “carrying on the fght,” butmust be addressed and itsel made an object o critique.Thus we begin with what immediately conronts us. 
Platypus Review 
is motivated by its sense that theLet is disoriented. We seek to be a orum among a va-riety o tendencies and approaches on the Let—not outo a concern with inclusion or its own sake, but ratherto provoke disagreement and to open shared goals assites o contestation. In this way, the recriminations andaccusations arising rom political disputes o the pastmay be harnessed to the project o clariying the objecto letist critique.
Platypus Review 
hopes to create and sustain aspace or interrogating and clariying positions and orien-tations currently represented on the Let, a space in whichquestions may be raised and discussions pursued thatwould not otherwise take place. As long as submissionsexhibit a genuine commitment to this project, all kinds ocontent will be considered or publication.
1Issue #54 / March 2013
Traversing the heresies
An interview with BrunoBosteels
Alec Niedenthal and Ross Wolfe
Bruno Bosteels continues on page 3
On October 14, 2012, Alec Niedenthal and Ross Wolfe in-terviewed Bruno Bosteels, Professor of Romance Studiesat Cornell University and author of such books as
Badiouand Politics
Marx and Freud in Latin America
 (2012), and 
The Actuality o Communism
(2011). What fol-lows is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Alec Niedenthal
: It is well known that 1968 was a criti-cal moment or the Let in France, but the simultaneousevents in Mexico are not so well-known. What was atstake or you in making this connection more explicit?
Bruno Bosteels
: The events o 1968 were defnitelypivotal globally or the Let. The reason why 1968 inFrance was a key moment was because the so-calledtheories, what people now call “French theory” and thephilosophical elaborations and politics stemming romit, all share this interest in “the event.” Whereas Fou-cault, Derrida, Badiou, and Deleuze were once read asphilosophers o “dierence,” now it is common to readthem as philosophers o the event—that is, 1968. So, wemight ask, “Why is it an important moment or event inthe history o France or Mexico or other places where,in the same year, there were riots, uprisings, popularmovements, rebellions, and so on?” But also, “Whatdoes it mean to think about ‘the event’ philosophically?”The theoretical traditions that led to this pivotal momenthave a longer history in France than in other placeswhere one must search obscure sources to get to thesame theoretical problem. Within the French context,or institutional, historical, and genealogical reasons wehave a well-defned debate that can be summed up, aswhat Badiou himsel called “The last great philosophi-cal battle”: the battle between Althusser and Sartre,between structuralism and humanism, or betweenstructure and subject.
One can place these in dierentcontexts, but they are extreme versions o the debateon the transparency o the subject versus the opacity othe structure. What I thought was interesting was thatthe most intriguing theoretical (but also experimental,literary-essayistic, or autobiographical) writings toemerge rom 1968 are situated somewhere at the cross-paths: there is either a more idealist, Fichtean approachor a more materialist, Feuerbachian approach. Onepath, which is the path o someone like Bruno Bauer orMax Stirner, is to insist upon the subject’s capacity orsel-positing. The subject can, in a sense, almost posititsel into existence; it can posit its own presuppositionsalmost boundlessly. On the other hand there is the morematerialist school, which insists on the givenness oexternal actors that are not the result o the subject’sown positing, but instead precede the subject. Marx, intheir account, tries to hold these things together. It is inthat particular moment, when Marx seeks to articulateand overcome the idealist and materialist readings othe Hegelian notion o positing the presuppositions,that a certain logic and a certain history is productivelycombined.
: Marx captures the dierences between the moreFichtean Hegelians and the Feuerbachian Hegelians in
The Eighteenth Brumaire
, where he writes, “Men maketheir own history, but they do not make it as they please;they do not make it under sel-selected circumstances,but under circumstances existing already, given andtransmitted rom the past.”
: These two logics, which are still at play in trying tothink about the event, go back to this legacy o GermanIdealism. I am interested in seeing what happens whenthis encounter occurs (or again, in a sense, when thisencounter ails to occur) between the logic o capitaland the logic o political struggle. They clash preciselyat the point where the logic o capital is inconsistent,in the sense that it cannot, strictly speaking, claim tohave posited all its own presuppositions. Nor is thelogic o the subject here one o spontaneous reedomor autonomy. But, it is precisely just as the structureshows inherent moments o breakdown, where thesubject reveals itsel to be structurally dependent onwhat Sartre called “the practico-inert.” What came outo 1968 was, especially in the Althusserian and Lacani-an schools, an attempt to ormalize the inconsistencieso the structure. That is what we call post-structur-alism. This is then tied to a new theory o subjectivity.So all these ex-Althusserians—Rancière, Žižek, andalso Laclau—are, in act, trying to hold these two log-ics together. It is in the notion o “the event,” or whatAlthusser called “the encounter,” that these two logicsmeet. This is why 1968 is so important. It is why thearticulation o Althusser-Lacan or Althusser-Sartreis so important, and also explains what happened tothose Althusserians who paradoxically (and againstAlthusser) started to become interested in processeso subjectivity.
: What is interesting is that the debates o 1968were largely ramed by two intellectual fgures whoseown political outlook was ormed prior to 1968, namelyLacan and Althusser. Could you expand upon the lega-cies and interpretations o Lacanianism and Althusseri-anism in relation to 1968?
: It is interesting, o course, that those are the twoschools that are retrospectively posited as the dominantschools. The school that was more established was ocourse Althusser’s; it is not accurate to say that Laca-nianism was well-established as a school o thoughtin wider circles beyond clinical psychoanalytic work.Nevertheless, by then, Lacan may well have stood as amore sophisticated thinker o the subject than Sartre.But what is ironic is that both Althusser and Lacan weresurpassed by 1968 and their ollowers; perhaps morethoroughly in the case o Lacan than in the case o Al-thusser. Both Lacan and Althusser ailed to perceive anypolitical novelty or any event at all in 1968. It is ratherthe old, so-called “humanist” Sartre who was capableo being in the right places at the right time, as werethe Situationists, who occupy a very interesting positionbetween these two extremes. This is why the Althusse-rians had to frst move through a moment o erociouslycritiquing Althusser, both in Rancière’s
 Althusser’s Les-son
and in Badiou’s
On Ideology 
.When we go back now, we can o course see thatthere are elements o this interest in subjectivity pres-ent in Althusser or in Lacan, but that is an insight thatcomes rom outside those traditions. Žižek comes tothis insight out o a very interesting parallel develop-ment: anti-Frankurt School (because a FrankurtSchool-style philosophy strangely enough was theintellectual orthodoxy in Slovenia), and pro-Althusser(because he was considered heterodox). Treading thatsame path a decade later, trying to articulate Althusserand Lacan, the encounter between Žižek and Badiouwas almost bound to happen.The question is then: How does one articulate thecapacity or making history and the inertia o the cir-cumstances that are not chosen but presupposed? Evenin Badiou’s work there has been an oscillation; he eitheremphasizes the aspect o structural constraint or hepushes more toward a belie in humanity’s capacity towill what he calls “the communist hypothesis,” which isbeyond or outside o history. So the ahistorical, radicalpolitical letism in Badiou also alternates with the insis-tence or politics to be articulated within a given, histori-cal situation. Whenever there is a certain leaning towardthe Let he will take a turn toward the Right, or viceversa. In the 1990s, when most o this was still beingworked out in isolation, he was discovered in English, ata moment when he was supposedly no longer workingalong dialectical lines, but in a more ormalist, math-ematical tradition. Politically, this expressed itsel in hisbelie that one needed to untie politics completely romhistory. Anything even reeking o objectivity was actually just a subjective condition o truth. Since then, he hasgone back to insisting that his work is still an attempt tocontinue the materialist dialectic, or a certain dialecti-cal and materialist orm o thinking, against any sort oletist radicalism. I am interested in those oscillations,and how they repeat themselves in history both withinMarx’s own work, within the history o Marxism, andover between those two traditions, breaking down bothand making caricature impossible. A similar debate alsotook place in Mexico with José Revueltas, typically con-sidered a kind o Sartrean humanist-existentialist writerand theorist, versus a very strong tendency o Althusse-rianism on the Mexican let.
Ross Wolfe
Much o this French theory centers on astruggle between structure and subject and the ideathat events do not necessarily happen autonomously.The question you seem to be asking is, How do we un-derstand the given circumstances that are not o ourown making, but in which historical action takes place?Is it possible or a political subject to intervene in his-tory?
In a recent, highly philosophical book on Marx,Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval propose that there aretwo major logics in Marx that are at loggerheads: Thereis the logic o capital, which is a logic o systematic con-straints and turnover, and there is the logic o struggle.
 They apply Hegelian logic to the way that capitalismposits its own presuppositions, claiming that somethingthat enables capitalism is in act already the product ocapitalism, logically i not historically. There is this kindo spiraling movement in which it seems the logic ocapital is unbreakable and that human subjects are onlybearers o these unctions coming out o the immanentlogic o capital’s own sel-positing. On the other hand,there is what Dardot and Laval call the historical logicor a logic o class struggle that is contingent, workingupon the gaps or moments o breakdown within theeconomic logic o capital itsel. They claim that it allcomes down to the question o whether Marx himsel(they deal ar less with Marxism) was able to reconcilethe logic o struggle and the logic o capitalism. Theybelieve that “communism” is almost like an imaginarykind o glue that (even though it is impossible) pretendsthat these two things can be held together. One othe interesting things about Dardot and Laval’s philo-sophical reconstruction o the French debate over thecompeting logics in Marx is their return to the legacyo Hegel and the Young Hegelians. They see two major
2Issue #54 / March 2013
On October 13th, 2012, Ross Wole o the Platypus Afli-ated Society interviewed Jodi Dean, Proessor o PoliticalScience at Hobart and William Smith College and author o 
The Communist Horizon (Verso: New York, 2012)
. Whatollows is an edited transcript o their conversation.
Ross Wolfe
: Your new book,
The Communist Horizon
,builds upon a body o literature that has accumulatedaround the concept o “communism” over the last de-cade. What is the signicance o this renewed emphasison communism?
Jodi Dean
: The shit towards communism puts letistthought into a distinct political horizon. It is no longer asort o touchy-eely, identity issue-based, and ragment-ed emphasis on each person’s unique specicity. It isno longer a generic, attitudinal liestyle, preoccupationwith “awareness” or the spontaneous, and momentaryreduction o politics to the minuteness o the everyday.Communism returns politics to grand, revolutionarypossibilities—to projects o political power. And thatchange is absolutely, crucially enormous, even i ortyyears out o date.
: Where does your own work on “the communisthorizon” t in relation to the work o other major letisttheorists on the subject?
: My writing intersects Žižek as well as Hardt andNegri, with alliance to (and inspiration rom) BrunoBosteels. I get the account o communication as theundamental aspect o economic change rom Hardt andNegri. It is rom them I get the account o contemporarycapitalism and its political economy. I also disagree withthem because they get rid o the notion o antagonismand that is the problem. Their diagnosis o inormatiza-tion and communicative subsumption in capitalism isright, but they’re too positive about it, without providingthe orce that negativity carries in critique. I get thecritical aspect rom Žižek.On the importance o the party, Žižek says, “a politicswithout the Party is a politics without politics.” I ullyagree with that. Also, Bosteels and I have talked aboutthe similarity between Žižek’s account o the party in the“Aterword” to
Revolution at the Gates
and Alain Badiou’saccount in
Theory o the Subject
. The party is an associa-tion rooted in delity to an event. It holds open the spaceor this delity. The implication is that the party is notrightly understood in terms o its program or doctrine,but rather in terms o holding open the space or thesubject aithul to the event, in this case, the event o1917. This is where there is a similarity or resonance interms o thinking about communism.
: In your book, you write: “The problem o the Lethasn’t been our adherence to a Marxist critique ocapitalism. It’s that we have lost sight o the communisthorizon” (
The Communist Horizon
, 6). What does “com-munism” provide that is missing rom the Marxist cri-tique o capitalism?
: Communism provides a positive moment: It issomething that makes you do more than criticize andconstantly subject everything to a ruthless critique. Itprovides a purpose and a direction or that sort o nega-tivity to have a positivity in mind. Letist intellectuals inparticular oten get lost in critique. We etishize critique.We
it, in the psychoanalytic sense, but the ques-tion is: What to do with the critique or how to use it tomove orward—to galvanize and organize the masses?What communism provides is an orientation or critique.That is what Marx had, too. Yet, when Marxism movedso strongly into the academy that critique becameviewed as benecial or its own sake, it lost the orienta-tion to a politics that would be willing to take power.
: Though he may have been its most celebrated in-terlocutor, one o Marx’s most enduring contributions torevolutionary thought arguably consists in his sustainedpolemic against rival theories o communism (those oCabet, Dézamy, Weitling, Fourier, Proudhon) that ex-isted during his time. So would you say that Marx’s criti-cal intervention into the history o communist discourseis irreducible? Or is this legacy o immanent critique oother letists dispensable?
: I don’t think this legacy is dispensable. It justshouldn’t be a etish-object, right? It shouldn’t be somekind o “all or nothing.” My riend James Martel has atrilogy o books on Walter Benjamin. In the rst o these,
Textual Conspiracies
, he criticizes what he calls “idolatry,”using Benjamin’s discussion o Baudelaire. James is ananarchist, and we disagree there, but his critique o idola-try as a mode o let attachment is really good. So as toyour question, it doesn’t need to be one thing or the other.
: More broadly, what is the relationship betweenMarxism and communism? Does one have priority overthe other?
: I think they have to go together.
: Is it still possible to imagine the creation o a com-munist society with a pre- or post-Marxist lens?
: Communism without Marxism can become weirdprimitivism. Some o the anarchist approaches to sus-confict. There won’t be
confict, but there’ll bedierent kinds o confict, and we will need the state insome orm in order to abolish capitalism, in order totake things and redistribute them.
: Besides sovereignty, the other component in yourreormulation o “the dictatorship o the proletariat” as“the sovereignty o the people” is “the people.” Follow-ing Hardt and Negri and Badiou, you distance yourselrom the classical Marxist notion, elaborated by Lukács,o the proletariat as the “subject” o communism orhistory. Instead, you “oer the notion o ‘the people asthe rest o us,’ the people as a divided and divisive orce,as an alternative to some o the other names or thesubject o communism—proletariat, multitude, part-o-no-part” (18–19). How does this amendment to thetraditional concept o the “subject” o communism orhistory help to improve Marx’s theory, or at least bringit up to date?
: One o the ways it brings Marx’s theory up to dateis really pragmatic. When you’re talking to a bunch opeople today, almost no one says that he’s a membero “the proletariat.” They may say they’re part o “thepeople.” (This, even though Marx and Lenin are veryclear that “the proletariat” is not an empirical catego-ry). The term “proletarianization” is still accurate anduseul, however, so I think it’s important to keep thatconcept and think o “the people” as “the
people.” For olks in the US, “proletariat” suggestsactory labor too strongly. There are many people whodon’t eel like they’re proletarians, even as they mightrecognize their existence as proletarianized, especiallytoday because we’ve lost so many manuacturing jobs.There are so many precarious workers, ragile workers,so many non-workers—widespread unemployment,people who are underemployed. It’s hard or those olksto think o themselves as “the proletariat.” The senseo “the people” as a divided group better encompassesour own time. Frankly, I also think it includes more othe “reserve army” o the unemployed, the
Lumpen- proletariat
that classical communism had mistakenlyabandoned.Now I don’t mean this in any way as a rejection othe category o the worker. Recognizing “the people” asa revolutionary subject also brings communist theoryup to date, because in Russia and in China there werediscussions o alliances between the proletariat and thepeasantry, both as segments o the revolutionary peo-ple. There was a realization in Russia and China that thecategory o the “the proletariat” risked being too narrowand exclusive and wouldn’t account or a huge segmento the people. Both Lenin and Mao had ideas o “thepeople” as a revolutionary grouping and both used thislanguage. Lukács is very clear in his book
Lenin: A Study in the Unity o His Thought
how Lenin evolved the notiono “the people” to give it this revolutionary, divided, anddivisive sense. So there are good Marxist reasons tomake this rhetorical move in emphasizing “the people”rather than “the proletariat.” They recognized the utilityo a militant account o “the people,” not as a totality orunity, but as a divided group. 
: How does your category o “the people as the resto us” work to address the problem o revolutionaryconsciousness? What would something like “alse con-sciousness” look like in this model?
: This is where Žižek is very helpul. In Žižek’s account,ideology is not a matter o what we know but what we do.So “alse consciousness” isn’t the problem. The problemis what you’re
, and how your actions repeat. We all
capitalism is a system that exploits the many orthe benet o the very ew, and yet we continue in it. It’snot like we are deluded about it. Our contemporary prob-lem is not that we are unaware that capitalism is unjustand wrecking the lives o billions. The problem is thatwe either don’t have the will to get out, or aren’t quitesure how to do so. It’s not a matter o changing people’sminds. It’s about changing their actions.
: I would like to go over your rejection o democracyin the name o communism. This may just be tactical,given the political vocabulary today. Taking a broaderhistorical purview, however, didn’t Marx and others viewcommunism as simply a higher realization o the demo-cratic principle?
: That is because they didn’t live in democracies.They were struggling or democracy. They didn’t haveuniversal surage, democratic governments, and soon. So it makes sense that they thought they were orthat. Maybe not toward the end o his lie, but Marx orthe most part believed that once there was a workers’party and universal surage you could possibly installan elected version o something like communism. Thatseems likely in some o his writings. But that view isridiculous. The bourgeoisie is not going to give up with-out a ght. That is why I think Lenin is so much better.In “
Let-Wing” Communism: An Inantile Disorder 
Leninargues that democracy
is the highest orm o bourgeoisgovernment—it is a vehicle or bourgeois rule.We need to ask ourselves: What is the attachmentto democracy? What does that mean in let-wing dis-cussions these days? I think it’s a ailure o will, andeven an attachment to the orm o our subjection. Whydo we keep arguing in terms o democracy when welive in a democracy that is the source o unbelievableinequality and capitalist exploitation? Why are we soattached to this? It makes no sense. O course, it’snot like we should have a system where nobody votes.The most undamental things—namely, control overthe economy—should be or the common, in the nameo the common, and by the common (without beingdetermined by something like voting). It should beknown that there is no private property. Everything weown and produce is or the common good, and that isnot up or grabs, it is a
or the possibility odemocracy. It shouldn’t itsel be
to democracy,the same way that any kind o revolutionary momentor transition to communism can’t be understood as ademocratic move. I we can get twenty percent o thepeople, we could do it. But it’s not democratic. Eightypercent o people don’t care. Badiou is brilliant whenhe asks, “Why are people so intrigued by the so-called‘independent voters?’ Why are people without a politi-cal opinion even allowed to decide, when they don’teven care?”
: Like Bosteels, you object to Badiou’s treatment ocommunism as a quasi-Platonic “eternal political idea”(37). What is at stake in this objection? I communistpolitics arose historically, what were the historical con-ditions that rst made it possible?
: In a very banal Marxist sense, what makes commu-nism possible has to do with the level o developmento orces o production under capitalism. And then thequestion is, as always: Is communism yet possible? Isthe act that we haven’t achieved it yet a sign that it hasnot yet been possible, in terms o the level o develop-ment o orces o production? Or have we just lacked thepolitical will?
: Insoar as communism can thus be seen as boundup with the historical emergence and continued devel-opment o capital, what role does capital play in historyin determining what you call “the communist horizon”?Does the image o communism vary rom age to agedepending on the social conditions that are present? Iso, how?
: There would be things that vary and things thatdon’t vary. The image o communism would also varywith respect to the specicities o the relations o pro-duction in dierent societies. The image o communismor Mao was not the same as the image o communismor Lenin. So there are all sorts o ways that one couldparse this and contextualize it with rich historical detail.But even some o the abstractions about communismare helpul. My avorite o Marx’s denitions o commu-nism is “From each according to ability, to each accord-ing to need.”
However, one can also get very properlyspecic on how something like “equality” would mani-est under communism, just as Marx criticizes equalityas a bourgeois notion, particularly i it’s going to be lim-ited to certain abstract rights.
: As in his
Critique o the Gotha Program
: Right. Both notions are there in that text. You haveboth the critique o a certain orm o equality and anoth-er image o equality. So what would be better than theabstract question o “How does it change?” Questionsthat are much more historically specic.
: How does the communist horizon appear underthe aegis o what you call “communicative capitalism”(a term that encompasses both Fordist and neoliberalcapitalism)? Is this any dierent rom how it appearedunder previous phases o capitalism—monopoly capital-ism, classical liberalism, or mercantilism?
: There is something about the communicative “com-mon” that makes things dierent. In communicativecapitalism, we see a mode o subsumption and expro-priation o the social substance that goes beyond thecommodity orm, and also beyond the labor theory ovalue. We see this in the way that Google and Facebookseize our relationships directly—without having to com-modiy any kind o social substance—and search themor their own purposes. There is something about theway that communicative networks exceed the commod-ity orm that is important or the critique o capitalismand in terms o how communism might unold or whatit can be.
: Discussing the predominant picture o socialismand the USSR urnished by Western historiography, younote that, “there is not yet a credible and establishedbody o historical literature on communism, socialism,or the Soviet Union. Most o the histories we have wereproduced in the context o a hegemonic anticommu-nism” (33). Beyond repairing communism’s poor publicimage by correcting tendentious accounts o its history,is there a need or a Marxist history o historical Marx-ism itsel?
: What I would really like to see, in terms o my owninterests, is a history (or maybe a political science)that provides a Marxist approach to learning rom theSoviet experience. What are the positive things thatcan be taken rom Soviet history? There have been allsorts o great models and dierent ways o approach-ing the question o the workers’ control o the economy,particularly the Yugoslav experience, and we need tohave positive histories and reassessments o these. Iam really much more interested in what we can learnor building a better party, or modeling dierent states,and or putting together a positive vision that is politi-cally relevant.
: Toward the end o your book, you introduce thegure o Lenin in connection with your concept o theparty. This takes place within the context o a discus-sion o the Occupy movement in 2011-12. Counteringthe common conception o political parties as inherentlyauthoritarian and unrepresentative, you maintain that“the party is a vehicle or maintaining a specic gap odesire, the collective desire or collectivity” (207). Whatwould you say is the relevance o Lenin today, in light oOccupy? Does Occupy invalidate or perhaps complicateLeninist conceptions o party and organization?
: In the book I emphasize that with Occupy WallStreet, the olks who were sleeping in the parks
avanguard. Even i their larger movement didn’t like touse the term “vanguard,” they acted like a vanguard.Their activities also helped galvanize people and or-ganize resistance. So to that extent, they were actingsomewhat like Lenin, even though they might have es-chewed describing themselves that way.
: Since the party you propose is patterned aterLenin’s notion o a vanguard party, how would you ap-proach existing political organizations that still lay claimto this legacy—who maintain, moreover, that they alonehold the “little red thread” o continuity connecting themwith October 1917? What is to be done with the actuallyexisting Marxist let?
: There has been a debate, by either the InternationalSocialist Organization or some other website, aboutwhether the sectarian parties should try to orm onebig party or exist as a kind o united ront. And there are
What is to be done withthe actually existingMarxist left?
An interview with Jodi Dean
Ross Wolfe
tainability seem to have in mind something positivelyprehistoric in their rejection o anything that could be acity—even medieval cities, which didn’t require everyoneto live in a subsistence mode o existence. Marxismrecognizes that important things happened with indus-trialization, and communism comes out o—or has to be
out o—a particular kind o capitalist develop-ment.
: Oppositely, what is Marxism without communismas its goal, as with Bernstein or Kautsky? Or, as withBadiou, without the revolutionary implementation o thestate as its means?
: Marxism without communism loses its radical goaland direction. That is what the problem with “socialism”is. Let me say a little more about this: I wasn’t sure atthe beginning about “communism.” In the United States,it made sense rom the 1990s through the rst hal othe last decade to think in terms o socialism. For us,socialism would be an amazing achievement, giventhe hideous trend o neoliberalism. However, I becamemore avorable to communism ater reading the cri-tiques o European social democracy, and I recognizedit was a sellout to capitalism that sacriced Marxism’srevolutionary edge and, in act, had betrayed the revolu-tion. O course, I eared that the same could be said orparties claiming to be “communist,” such as the ItalianCommunist Party, which has co-opted and betrayedrevolutionary Marxism just as much as some o thesocial-democratic parties o Europe. But in the contem-porary political and intellectual turn, “communism” isimportant because it says “Look, we’re not sanguine.We think social-democracy sold out, that socialism isaccommodationist. That approach has to be rejected.”Another reason or “communism” comes rom theAmerican context. No other word symbolizes anti-cap-italism like communism. And that’s reason enough toclaim it, hold onto it, and organize around it.I disagree with Badiou on his rejection o the stateand o the party, which is tantamount to a rejection opower, and results in a bizarre condemnation o com-munism as some weird mental attitude. His book,
TheCommunist Hypothesis
, ends up promoting communismas the contemplation o this Ideal Form. We have tothink in terms o a state and o a party. We need to pushourselves to imagine dierent orms and modes o orga-nization and realize them dierently. We can’t think thatevery possibility has been used up.
: On the subject o the state, you propose a stateguided by “the sovereignty o the people” rather than“the dictatorship o the proletariat.” Can you explain thereasoning behind this terminological shit?
: There are a couple o reasons I argue or “the sover-eignty o the people” instead o “the dictatorship o theproletariat.” The reason I moved to “sovereignty” rom“dictatorship” is not simply because “dictatorship” has abad reputation or that it’s a dicult political position toorganize people around (though these are good reasons,too). It is because “dictatorship” connotes a provisionalorm, whereas “sovereignty o the people” lets us knowthat we must always be collectively governing ourselves.We have to always be steering ourselves, always mindulo a struggle against those who would attempt to op-press, exploit, or expropriate us.
: Does your notion o “the sovereignty o the people”allow or Lenin’s (and Engels’) doctrine o “the witheringaway o the state”?
: No, I don’t think so. I am not sure i it makes senseor us. What makes sense or us is to think o dier-ent modes o power that we continue to exert overourselves. Here is how I would put it: I am interested inthe dierent modes and dierent ways in which we canbe sel-sovereign. For Lenin, there is a lot o “wither-ing away,” which means that with everyone getting newskills and being able to do the same things bureaucrati-cally, the state apparatus will become unnecessary. Insome ways I think that is right. We might think o thattoday in terms o various distributive orms o govern-ment or governance, but overall the language o “with-ering away” doesn’t capture how we would continuallyneed orms through which to steer or govern ourselvesin complex societies.
: Insoar as Marx, Engels, and Lenin characterizedthe modern state as expressing the domination o oneclass over all others, doesn’t the continued existence othe state suggest that classes continue to exist? Doesthis imply that a classless society is impossible?
: It depends on how we understand the state andhow we understand classes. I want to deend an ideao communism against a bunch o the common-sensecriticisms that are given, the kind raised by democratsand progressives. They tend to criticize it along the ol-lowing lines: “Oh, you communists think that you’ll getto an end o history where there’s no more politics, andeverything is just wonderul, touchy-eely unity.” Laclaualso has a version o this critique. The reason they havethat criticism owes to the language o the witheringaway o the state, as i we could have orms o humansociality that would be completely without violence oroppression. We shouldn’t be utopians in the sense thatwe believe in a classless society there will be no more
 Jodi Dean continues on page 4

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