The title of the question this essay will be answering is, what does the revival of communism look like in the relevant literature and why this revival has argued to be necessary.
Social movements such as the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the Arab Spring added fuel to the fire of the “incompatibility of the people and capitalism” (Dean, 2012, p 232). These protests exposed the current forms of social domination, as Hardt an Negri puts it, such domination is specific to the ways of the neoliberal governance which extended the modes of capitalist exploitation (2017, p 77). Hence there exist the debate for a fair an equal distribution of wealth, of which some scholars (Bosteels, 2011; Dean, 2014; Dean, 2012; Badiou, 2010 and Zizek, 2010) have argued, can be achieved through this new idea of communism. This new idea of communism therefore presents on the subsequent debate to the nature of its revival and why this revival is deemed to be necessary.
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Thus, this essay contends the argument that due to the failure of equality in democracies, this new communist horizon seeks to promote a global radical egalitarian society. This new communism, as a hypothesis (Badiou, 2010, p 115) and as a horizon (Dean, 2012, p. 11) brings to light new challenges and criticisms for neoliberal capitalist democracies. This argument will be achieved through the following aims. First, the existence of the inequality problems that leads to the debates on a communist revival. Secondly, the nature of this revival as viewed by relevant scholars and the necessity for this revival of communism. In the course of this essay, literature from Hardt and Negri will be dealt with on the commons, which will be explored as a means of resuscitating this new communist idea (Zizek, 2010, p 53 – 54).
Problems of Inequality
This section highlights the problems of democracies that fuelled the need for this communist revival.
The problem of inequality in democracies are obvious facts by now. There exists this relationship between modern liberal democracies and de facto socioeconomic inequality (Fukuyama, 2011, p 79). On the onset liberal democracies were concerned with political inequality, however little attention was paid to economic equality (Fukuyama, 2011, p 80). Pickett and Wilkinson (2009) present data mostly base on cross-country analysis, purposing that high levels of inequality are correlated with social ills such as low social trust. This low social trust between the rich and the poor in highly stratified societies, have serious effects such as social conflicts. These conflicts are driven by minorities who are poorer than the rest of the society. For example, the case of the African Americans in the US or Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands or France (Fukuyama, 2011, p 84).
Inequalities also leads to reduced economic growth particularly in developing nations. Barro (1997) argues that this is due to the fact that access to credit may be highly unequal because only the oligarchic few are favoured thereby limiting the possibilities for entrepreneurship. Alternatively, demand for high quality public services may be low since the rich will not want to tax themselves for the benefit of others on something that they can afford to pay privately (Fukuyama, 2010, p 84).
However, there are arguments that inequalities are not a problem of democracies and that efforts to remedy this will be more damaging. One argument is that single time-point measurements of income inequality such as civil coefficient are less important because a great deal of inequality is due to life-course effects and that overtime, people will accumulate skills which will therefore allow for the accumulations of wealth (Fukuyama, 2010, p 85). Additionally, what is more important is that society allows an individual to reap the fruits of his or her labour.
Still, many transitional democracies have been stalled or threatened by the existence of large inequalities. In Latin-America, populist regimes such as that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela have undermined democratic institutions, in the name of a greater social equality. As in the Middle East including the Hamas in Palestine and Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have gained adherents because they are seen providing social services to the poor more than these liberal democracies (Fukuyama, 2010, p 88).
Nonetheless, as Fukuyama (2010, p 90), argues, one question left is whether deep structural inequalities of this sort can ever be solved through democratic means alone. Which brings this essay to the revival of communism as a means of solving inequalities and exclusions.
Communist Revival and its Necessity
This section will first explore the nature of the new communist discourse. Secondly, the notion of ‘the commons’ will be explored and lastly, the necessity for this communist revival will be explore as well.
According to Jonathan Dean, this communist idea seeks to bring into existence a renewed appetite for radical emancipatory politics engendered by amongst others (2014, p 234) and a means to rise class consciousness and collective action as argued by Badiou (2010, p115). It is important to note that Zizek explains this new communist idea is generated by a set of social antagonisms and not to be thought of in a Hegelian Marxist way (2010, p 52). Dean refutes the USSR picture of communism painted by the US. Dean argues that the communism was not all bad as it made major strides towards economic security an equality (Ramsey, 2013, p 9). Hence this new communist horizon aims for a global egalitarian movement.
Despite shared consensus on the nature of this communist revival, there exist disagreements between these communist scholars. Badiou (2010) argues that this idea of communism is not to be reduced to “self-identified” communism as a qualifier for a kind politics (such as a communist party), rather this new communism designates a generic capacity for radical egalitarian resistance, a regulative ideal (2008, p 99). Fortunately for Badiou, the 2010-’12 Uprsisings in the MENA countries represents this generic communist egalitarian resistance. Although these uprisings did not necessarily form under the umbrella of a communist regime, Dean (2013) expresses that Badiou unashamedly gave accounts of such ‘global popular uprisings’ that are against the ‘regression’ of democracy and its ‘unlimited power of a financial and imperial Oligarchy’ in his book “The Rebirth of History” (Badiou, 2012, p 108). Dean (2012) and Zizek (2012) on the other hand, disagrees with Badiou’s refusal of a communist party. They both argue that, rather than a political resistance, a communist party will intensify the specificity to abolish capitalism in such capitalist parliamentary setting we have today, and to also create global practices and institutions of egalitarian cooperation. More specifically, it impresses upon away from general inclusions as Dean (2012) argues and invokes for monetary calls on broad awareness towards a militant opposition which places the people over the economy in such a way that we produce and reproduce ourselves (p 12).
This new communism is affiliated with the notion of a Common. It is an affirmation of an open and autonomous form of self-governance as defined by Hardt (2010, p 144). For decades the Western liberal democracies have argue that private property brings about freedom, justice and development (Negri and Hardt, 2017, p 85). Nowadays, it is quite the opposite, properties are now obstacles to economic life due to the unjust structures, social hierarchies and inequalities (Hardt an Negri, 2017, p 85). The commons therefore are not a kind of property rather, they are non-property, and as Elinor Ostrom argues, that the common is what we as a people share. It is a social structure and a social technology for sharing. Additionally, the commons should not be mistaken for Social laws as the commons are not tertium genus but beni comuni as they seek to eradicate the presence of exclusion (Hardt and Negri, p 100).
Zizek argues that it is not enough to remain faithful to this communist hypothesis rather, capitalist antagonisms have to be identified to justify the necessity of a communist revival (2010, p 52). Zizek identifies the reference of exclusion as a justification for this communist revival (2010, p. 54). Predominantly, the liberal notion deals with exclusion but in a different way which focuses on inclusions as ‘minority voice’. The spectrum of political choices is narrowed down rather than being expanded in ways that may accommodate different views (Tormey, 2015, p 56). Jodi Dean expresses further necessity of this communist revival as she views it as the “clearest name” for a militant collective movement to abolish capitalism, domination and class exploitation (Ramsey, 2013, p 13). Zizek (2010, p. 211) argues that this revival of communism is necessary to abolish the state of things. In other words, inequalities and exclusions are constructs that have been created and can therefore be deconstructed via this communist idea.
As a result of inequalities and the problem of exclusion in capitalist liberal democracies, the revival of communism is an end result. This communist revival does not necessarily want to put an end to democracy, rather it seeks to address the problems of inequalities and to radicalise egalitarianism.