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May 28, 2013


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Not a good idea to use this kind of formulation: "It makes me wonder about COINTELPRO and disinformation operations."


a new party for the Left could potentially have the same effect that the foundation of Labour had for British society, is a throughly good idea. When the left is absent, grasroots right-wingers take action


This is an excellent theoretical refutation of the anarchistic anti-Party post. But what seems necessary in any argument for a Party in the U.S. context is a discussion of the structure of the American state and the problems posed by that structure for the activity of building a Party. If the purpose of such building is to inaugurate the transition to post-capitalist society *through* the state, then theorizing the practical activity of Party-building requires a discussion of the basic structural characteristics of the U.S. state, in particular the reality that third-parties are excluded in plurality voting systems with single-member legislative districts. In other words, what needs to be addressed is the counterargument that what should rather be strived for is the unification of the Left under a non-Party independent political organization like the DSA.


Hi Jodi—Maybe we can both tone it down a little. I’ll go first. If I could reboot, I’d begin with something that only appears way down at the bottom of my post, and in parentheses to boot:

“(Sidebar: If some party does come back, though, if you guys manage to get something off the ground—great! I’ll be at your marches, your gatherings, I’ll read your shit. Horizontals are always pretty okay with forming temporary alliances with verticals; anarchists are always at the anti-austerity demos, after all. It would be easier to be in the same cognitive and real space as you guys, though, if you could stop anarchist-bashing so as to be more appealing to liberals, okay?)”

It’s a small moment, too small to claim that the entire piece was motivated by a desire to come to an understanding with Partiers and Statists. I was no doubt much more motivated by my anger at the rhetorical treatment that the non- or anti-Party left has received in the wake of Occupy—just as you are angered at me for “[d]ismissing” the dedication, courage, or history of our militants. (I wasn’t doing that at all, by the way.) And not, mind, angry as an anarchist, as you identified me. I actually consider myself an autonomist Marxist, or some hybrid anarcho-Marxist, but, no matter what, you and I actually think with, refer back to, and identify with the same tradition. Differently, to be sure, but we’re playing with the same deck of cards. So, when I offered my critique of the new Party Left, I wasn’t doing it from a position of exteriority. I was doing it as a Marxist, concerned both to bring the communist horizon nearer and to patch up the needlessly antagonistic relationship between verticals and horizontals, Partiers and partiers.

I thus found it both sad and symptomatic when you wrote: “Who would want to eliminate or undermine left militants and leaders? It makes me wonder about COINTELPRO and disinformation operations.” I think, first off, that you are misreading of my point: I wasn’t talking about elimination but generalization, a positive massification. More importantly, it is worrisome that dissenting from a program is taken as playing for the other side. I know you meant it jokingly, and that you regret having written it. I can’t let the point go, though, because I think it exposes a fundamental problem with all of these calls-to-Party. Security culture is no doubt terribly important for left organizations, particularly in light of grand juries terrorizing anarchists in the northwest and the revelations about the extent of FBI and DHS surveillance of Occupy. But, like, in this case, there is nothing to secure. No Party, no mass collectivity—just a magazine and a manifesto and their authors, all engaged in totally legal, mostly harmless activities. We should recall that Lenin didn’t build the Party from the Cheka up. I read the impulse to do so, even as a merely rhetorical flourish, as a symptom of a felt lack: the lack of a mass constituency that would positively ground a Party, that would give material positivity to its possibility. Your joke is, of course, a small moment, but it serves as a synecdoche for the broader ways in which Party Marxists are attempting to constitute an organization through negation, through beating up on anarchists and horizontals. All of this negation is purely rhetorical, totally abstract, and utterly delinked from actual social movements. As a couple friends pointed out to me, without a constituent power at the bottom, all of this Party-talk is utopian normativity without effective reality. We might as well be reading Habermas.

That’s why I said the New Newest Left is sad. Sure, there’s a flurry of activity—journals formed, conferences held—but it’s taking place without the material-affective charge of an actual mass movement. And when this Left gets sad it gets mean, and beats down the dedication, courage, and history of anarchists who have already been beaten down enough. But realize: if every horizontal, if every anarchist, if every autonomist vanished over night, you still wouldn’t have a Party, you would still lack an actual material base. A collectivity isn’t going to materialize once anarchists perform a disappearing act. After all, it is the materiality of the social that moves history, not the “will”—however optimistic—of a Party-to-be. The disorganizationist approach I vaguely sketched was, if nothing else, an attempt to keep close to the actual materiality of social worlds. I never, incidentally, said that potentials immanent to the social will necessarily emerge left, or anything like that—just that the social resists organization from outside or above, and that we need to develop a politics adequate to that fact.

There’s a lot more I could say to justify what I wrote. I’ll footnote it.* Just, you know, please: as you Party Marxists try getting something going, please do so through the cultivation of positivities—positive communities, positive organizations, positive affects—and less through the negativity of the Bad Anarchist Example. We will all see one another on the streets—right?—so we should try actually getting along.

*The post-Fordist thing: I marked out the centralization of capital through channels of profit; I was talking about production process, not distribution. New sensoriums of the political: what was Occupy but a mode of allowing the mass of people, excluded from the political by the dominant spatializations of parliamentary capitalism, to (quite literally) get in touch with the affectivity of democracy in their ordinaries. It’s hard for me to see mass self-activation as reparative of or functional for capital. (And, hey, maybe apologize to depressed people, addicts, and yogis.)


A pox on all houses of people who are obsessing about org structure when so very little is happening.

Here's what: most people who do the heavy movement lifting don't give a fuck about structure. If a vertical organization is doing good work, I'll join up. If a more Occupy-like thing is doing something I want to be a part of, I'll do that. There will be hierarchies on both sides -- but that's a separate question and there is already far too much talk about that. I don't give a fuck. It bores the shit out of me. I have seen sick organizations and healthy ones and it had nothing much to do with how they constituted themselves.

I can tell you this much: if the side you're on can't manage one fucking blog post without revisionist history, smears, and accusations -- before you even have a name for your fucking party or even one member -- no one wil want to work with you. They will regard you as dangerous and toxic and builders of nothing anyone wants, if, in fact, they see you as anything but one more cudgel for beating people into neoliberalism. They will do everything they can to destroy whatever fucked up shit you're making before it grows. It is amazing how much bad blood and ill will you and your Jacobin pals are creating on the way to your dream of uniting the left. Self-awareness is really not your tribe's strong suit.

Please, Jodi Dean, get a clue and tell your Jacobin buddies to do likewise. You may have powerful friends, but we really don't need another Democratic Party or another DSA. You need to win over radicals and you are really not doing that. Stop with this smeary shit or shut the fuck up.


Thanks for this post, Jodi.

Two things come to mind.

First, William Carrol's text "Hegemomy, Counter-Hegemony, Anti-Hegemony". ( http://www.socialiststudies.com/index.php/sss/article/view/27/25 ) It helps clarify some of the differences on a more abstract theoretical level that brings clarity to the different positions in this debate. Your position appears to me as aligning with the "counter-hegemony" perspective, while the anarchist positions tend to fit well into the "anti-hegemony" camp, ala Hardt/Negri, Richard Day, etc.)

And the second is a short selection from Carl Boggs' "Social Movements and Political Power", from 1986, where he writes both critically and supportive of the new social movements:

"The Marxist Left has typically asserted the political over the social, instrumental over the prefigurative, and modernizing over the democratic or communitarian realms. What the thematic of new movements introduces, as we have seen, is precisely the reverse side of this dualism. A truly radical strategy, however, would arrive at a synthesis of the two, creating a political framework in which vital linkages -- between divergent types and levels of movements, for example -- could occur in a more or less organic, non-Jacobin fashion. Such a strategy is unthinkable in the absence of a convergence between party and movements, institutions and community, parliament and local councils, electoral and direct-action politics" (p 78).

Hope that is helpful!


Dear Jodie,

You embarrass yourself by responding to one post critical of Jacobin and the accelerationists by ‘wondering’ whether “COINTELPRO and disinformation operations” are responsible for those criticisms. Unless the claim about COINTELPRO etc is a serious accusation, and you have some grounds for this beyond whatever polemical advantage you imagine it serves, then an apology would be in order.

One critical post, and not only is this a sign for you that the time of the Leninist Party has come, but proof of some vast conspiracy to stop people from joining! Oh dear. Mind you, I don’t think you have any evidence for the COINTELPRO quip, I’m just holding open the possibility that you’re capable of debate and not just an advertising agency for the cult of Lenin.
Characterising criticisms of Leninist "ideas" about organisation as attempts to disorganise all forms of organisation is not an argument, btw.

In any event, demands for "Left Unity" have been as routine a demand from Trotskyists, over the decades they've combined and split among themselves, as have their efforts been directed toward creating divisions within movements for the purposes of enhancing their recruiting. Nothing new about these latest calls for "Left Unity," except that it seems more determined to exclude questions about gender, sexuality and race than I recall seeing before.

all the best,
Angela Mitropoulos

Jodi Dean

Angela -- yeah, I regret the COINTELPRO line and am kicking myself for letting my rhetoric get out of hand (as I've said on FB and Twitter several times. The rest of your remark seems off-base. Maybe you didn't have a chance to read the essay to which I am responding? The author explicitly makes a call to disorganize. And, since I talk about the gender and race point, I'm not sure where you are coming from with that.

Jodi Dean

Occupy the Crisis: thanks for the links. I would add that I disagree with the claim that in our current setting it makes sense to put the anarchists on the side of anti-hegemony. Rather, they reinforce and are part of the current hegemony of individualism, difference, localism, anti-centrism, etc.

Jodi Dean


I don't share your view of 'disconnection from social movements.' In fact, it seems to me be the opposite: our situation is one of emerging and increasing activity and the debates in this milieu are part of the movement, affecting its shape and direction. To be clear, I don't mean that any one particular essay or exchange or position shapes the movement. Rather, the multiplicity of engagements become the terrain on which the common sense of the movement is expressed. So, where you see no actual mass movement I see Madison, WI, Egypt, Athens, Spain, Montreal, Occupy, Chicago teachers, UK-Uncut, the new surgical strikes being used to organize fast food workers, anti-foreclosure actions, the campaign against Stop and Frisk, protests against the Tar Sands project, the Keystone pipeline, fracking, the students at Cooper Union, activists in the Philippines fighting on behalf of political prisoners, activists in Boston organizing adjuncts and fighting fare increases on the T, etc. I see a lot of movement, but movement that lacks the force it could have were to be legible as a common struggle.

Unfortunately, the dominant position of the Lefts since 1989 is that fragmentation is good and/or necessary. This is a barrier to struggling in common, with a common name. The thrill of Occupy was not positive affect for its own sake. The positive affect arose as a crowd effect, from struggling in common, from being a "we" again divided against the one percent.

Jodi Dean

Matthew -- I take your point regarding the US electoral system. What I have in mind, though, isn't primarily a national donor-based electoral party but something more along the lines of the CPUSA in the 1930s, but less centralized (or, a more dynamic and responsive relation between cells and centers).

Jodi Dean

Dada --yes. We should blame ourselves for the Tea Party. If the left had been stronger, the Tea Party would not have happened.

Louis -- yep.


"One way to discern an "idea whose time has come" is by the strength of the urge to evict it."

By this logic, capitalism and genetically modified foods are ideas whose time has come. Do you guys ever argue with evidence? But even if we accept your logic, it seems to me that anarchism is taking much more heat than your beloved No Subway Masturbators Nor Filthy Anarchists super org, which is even gaining purchase with the New York Times/MSNBC/WaPo set.

Maybe you should rely on facts, once in a while. I am glad you are walking back your idiotic, disgusting and extremely revealing Cointel remarks. But it's unfortunate that you still think the main item of business for building your Party is not to prove the viability of doing so, by perhaps revealing the means by which to proactively do it. Instead you think you merely have to keep tediously insisting on the non-viability of everything else, particularly anarchism. If you think anarchists are in your way, just wait until you get around to banks, big business and their servants in the Democratic Party. Why so much hand-wringing over anarchists. and not the toxic waste dump of contemporary liberalism? Can you truly not see any bigger fish to fry?

There is no need for anarchists and statists to be at odds with each other at this point. Anarchists are not going to join you, but they are also not going to go away, either. So why so much worry? At this stage in struggle, anarchists and statists can complement each other as they have in the past and as they do in other countries at present. So maybe at this early stage in the game there is still time to put the conflict you are bent on having with anarchists to bed, especially since I sincerely believe you are not winning.


"disagree with the claim that in our current setting it makes sense to put the anarchists on the side of anti-hegemony. Rather, they reinforce and are part of the current hegemony of individualism, difference, localism, anti-centrism, etc."

Where do liberals fit on the anti-hegemony spectrum? Or the Democrats you and your comrades always find grounds for supporting. What was it this time? Oh yeah, for all his faults Obama exposes the systemic problems and not just partisan differences. Plus he's not a right-wing nutjob. Those people are crazy!!!

See, this is where your horrible bad faith shows: In your willingness to make common cause with people who drone children, purge immigrants, deny reproductive freedom to teens, perpetuate drug wars, pursue austerity....you name it. There is apparently nothing toxic liberalism can do that you and your friends can't momentarily overlook. But some obscure academic writes a criticism of Jacobin's subway masturbating piece and the least you accuse him of is being on the side of hegemony. What does this say about you to other radicals, statist and non, or even to genuinely principled liberals? Certainly nothing good. At best, you simply look like a fool.

Jodi Dean

Rancid -- It doesn't seem to me like you are interested in discussion, but I will respond this time in good faith. I would put liberals, Democrats, and Republics all on the side of hegemony. I am not defending liberalism or Obama.


"It doesn't seem to me like you are interested in discussion, but I will respond this time in good faith. I would put liberals, Democrats, and Republics all on the side of hegemony. I am not defending liberalism or Obama."

I'm very interested in discussion. Just because I obviously don't like you doesn't mean we can't have a meeting of minds. I think it's in your interest to defend your emphasis on anarchism as opposed to say liberalism.

I'm glad you see liberals on the side of hegemony, but it seems your Jacobin friends would beg to differ and do, constantly. I think it's fair to guess, also, that your relationships with hegemony supporting liberals are better than your relationships with anarchists and that when you speak about them or to them, you are good deal more respectful. That you entertain the viability of tactical alliances with them and, in fact, make such tactical alliance. Why is that?

Jodi Dean

Actually, many of my good friends are anarchists.


"Actually, many of my good friends are anarchists."

That's mighty kind of you, considering all the work they do for hegemony.

That doesn't answer my question, but I think careful readers have all they need to make a judgment about you.




I wasn't suggesting you should regret your remarks about COINTELPRO. I was suggesting you might like to apologise for them. Of course you regret making them because it's a foolish and nasty claim to make; but an apology would indicate a willingness to genuinely address some of the arguments being made here. The main one being that Schmittian demands for "Left Unity" are not invitations to those who agree with such an aim to join. No one would have a problem with this. What is objectionable are the insistent attempts to found "something like a Party" through polemic with strawmen. As the Jacobin piece did, and as you do in the post above.

Secondly, there is nothing "off-base" about pointing out that it is a routine Trotskyist methodology to ferment division (as per the above) while demanding everyone gather under the banner of "Left Unity" on *their* terms, lest they be accused of being neoliberal spies for capitalism. This blockhead methodology is routine practice among Trotskyists, and demands for "Left Unity" have been made at least fifteen times by various Trotskyist organisations that I can recall.

Nor is it "off-base" to note the particular intransigence of Leninists to questions about race & gender. I have no idea why anyone would characterise such issues as "identity politics" or particularism. Analytically, this is nonsense. More importantly, while there are still too many manarchists about, the protocols of anarchist circles do not tend to enforce involvement in and support of politics determined overwhelmingly by straight, white men. The methodologies of Leninism oblige centralism, hence James is accused by Cannon of being a "disorganiser" (individualist, etc) for not acceding to the authority of a self-selected and overwhelmingly white 'vanguard.'

Thirdly, let me repeat the point: The Leninist definition of organisation is not exhaustive of possible forms of organisation. You are welcome to make an argument as to why organisations geared toward attaining hegemony are important - for my part,I disagree, strongly, and I'm pretty sure we've had those arguments before. I will add that I think the important leap around questions of organisation are not electoral, but infrastructural. http://s0metim3s.com/2012/12/28/infrastructure/

Are you a member of "something like a Party," and if so, which one?



Hi again Jodi,

I think your description in "The Anarchist Moment" of anarchism as a "vanishing mediator" that on the one hand made Occupy possible, and yet is also responsible for the movement's demobilization and dispersion, is a much more fruitful way of thinking about current anarchist and autonomist movements, than to simply and one-sidedly disregard them as part of hegemony. (For what it's worth, neither Boggs nor Carroll wholeheartedly dismiss anti-hegemonic movements. Instead, they recognize those movements strengths as well as their weaknesses, and seek to overcome the latter).

For those who haven't read that text, here is the selection that I am referring to:

"Occupy Wall Street began as a left politics for a neoliberal age, an age that haschampioned individuality and excluded collectivity. The anarchist moment was a ‘“vanishingmediator’” between a politics focused on individual preferences and one oriented toward a collective will.

It couldn’t persist – —its basic tenets undermined large-scale collectiveorganization – —but it was crucial, even necessary, to igniting a new anti-capitalist movement inthe U.S. Anarchism appealed to individuals (not classes or identity categories), bringing themtogether as a collectivity of those whose work, homes, and futures are threatened by predatorycapitalism. This bringing -together happened as specific outdoor urban places were claimed asexplicitly common and political spaces. Prior designations as public or private ceased to matter (for a time). People became visible as not-belonging to the very urban and public spaces theyoccupied. In the context of the changes in U.S. capitalism that shifted industry off-shore,increased the role of computerization and automation in factories, amplified the role of communication technologies, accelerated growth of low-wage, low-skill service sectors jobs, andattempted to compensate for wage reductions by expanding credit, the anarchist moment of Occupy mobilized not a proletariat bound to the factory but the
proletarianized extended throughout unequal, uneven cities.

It demonstrated the resurgence of a left political will to insist,disrupt, take, and create.Anarchist emphases on individual autonomy appealed to people who had grown up under neoliberalism, who had been taught to celebrate their own uniqueness, and who had foundthemselves stuck, losing, and increasingly desperate.

The individual was supposed to be able tomake a difference, to control its own destiny, yet capitalism made that impossible. Prior toOccupy, the left had spent decades bemoaning its lack of ideas, its fragmentation, incapacity, anddemise. Even worse, it had treated collective political will as the problem rather than solution.

Once the New Left delegitimized the old one, it turned speaking for another into the crime of representation; it made political focus on class conflict into the crime of exclusion; it renderedcondemnation as the crime of dogmatism; and, it construed rejection of capitalism as the crimeof utopianism such that failures to concede that ‘“there is no alternative’” were tantamount tototalitarian advocacy of genocidal adventurism.The anarchist moment broke through this impasse: it valorized individuals and in sodoing turned left incapacity into an opportunity. At the same time, because its power came fromthe multiple, dispersed, and divergent fragments it brought together under Occupy, the anarchistinspiration of the movement couldn’t persist but would have to conduce to another politics, theclass struggle also part of the movement from its inception. Differently put, anarchism wasimportant as a ‘“vanishing mediator’” that could usher in a politics even if its own termsundermined it. It incited people toward collectivity and political will, although the politics itoffered eschewed bringing them together in a concrete political form."

( http://www.academia.edu/2309787/After_the_anarchist_moment )

Jodi Dean

Occupy the Crisis -- glad you think that piece is helpful. The thing is, I don't think the analysis there is in contrast to what I said above about hegemony but relies on it, especially when we recognize that hegemony is uneven, inclusive of contradiction, and in-process. My basic concept of communicative capitalism, moreover, conceives of all our networked communicative practices as contributing to (intensifying, strengthening, expanding)communicative capitalism. For the sake of discussion here, and not wanting to take an academic sidetrack, I stayed with your language of hegemony. Usually, though, I use the concept of ideology (understood in terms of what we do even when we know better; it's a practical and material concept of ideology I get from Zizek and explore in my book Zizek's Politics). I bring this up now because I think the strength of Occupy was cutting a hole in the dominant ideology that let class struggle appear more strongly and directly than it has in the US in a long time (it's somewhat awkward for me to make the same point with the language of hegemony.

Angela -- the infrastructure discussions are interesting. I've seen some of the work of Transit out of Singapore. It doesn't seem to me to be all or nothing, though (as in either party or infrastructure, rather party is a form of political structure).

CPUSA was active in anti-racist struggle, organizing share-croppers, the unemployed, so-called unskilled labor, throughout the first half of the twentieth century. CPUSA was active in de-segregation. Some of the most recognized African American literary and music figures (Richard Wright, Paul Robeson) were members of the Communist Party. The commitment and deep engagement in anti-racist struggle extended from the time the party was small and cell structured through it popular front days and beyond. Scholarly literature on the CP well documents how the party became a vehicle for women out of the domestic sphere in a context with the dominant society was trying to keep them in it. If we go outside the US context, then we see CPs actively involved in anti-nationalist and anti-colonialist struggle.

With regard to my own engagement in something like a party, my options are pretty limited living in a small town in central NY (esp. as a single mom with two kids and full time job -- going to regular meetings in a city during the week would require more time away from home than I can spare). I was very close to joining the SEP, but ultimately realized that the one sticking point was that it was too Trotskyist for me (I was surprised to talk to members who thought that there was nothing to be learned from anyone after Trotsky). I am very involved with an art-activist collective in Brooklyn.


So much about the most negative comments is symptomatic. It would be great if someone could do a rhetorical analysis of the key gestures: pleonasm, repetition, litotes, etc. Rich stuff.

I don't get the animus toward the idea of something like a party. We need one. What's the alternative? Triage? A bunch of Simon Critchleys having radical picnics? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/opinion/sunday/the-trauma-of-the-pink-shirt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I do get the animus toward the old Trotskyist party model. It' exhausting. It's a boy's club. its language is dumb. It is fetishistically obsessed with the Russian Revolution.

I'm not seeing a lot of "every cook can govern" energy on the left these days. We need to change that. A lot of labor coverage these days takes the perspective of a "just out of the Ivies UNITE HERE organizer." That's problematic.

The rage at Jacobin, which is part of this broader conversation, derives, I think, from the ugly mutation of some valid early critiques into unproductive resentment--sadness, in a Spinozan sense, no? Snark is powerful, and under the right circumstances, ethical, but at a certain point, it's just sad. It keeps people from finding creative potentials of mutual engagement. But, like Marx in "On the Jewish Question," the hatred of "sadness" points to a submerged desire for a broad transformative project, I think. Otherwise, why not just say: you want a party, I don't, I respect your autonomy, you respect mine.

The fact remains that any project that is top-down, exclusive, and unclear on the terms of its hospitality to all comers cannot be the center of a revived Left. The US Left has had exactly one utopian political formation--SNCC in the early 1960s. That's what we should learn from and emulate.

As a pedantic historian, I also should point out that the CPUSA was good on race in some ways, not so good in others. A lot of the most important anti-racist initiatives came from the anti-Stalinist left. The Third Period was a golden age of African American and immigrant radicalism and avant-garde art; the Popular Front closed off a lot of these possibilities.

Some artists, like Lloyd Brown, remained faithful, and wrote amazing works about prison, race, and Party life; others, like Wright, left the Party full of bitterness. Bill Mullen and William Maxwell and James Smethurst are good on that. A lot of the race consciousness stuff was nutty, too: I think a young Eugene Genovese or George Rawick was kicked out of the party for ostensibly not wanting to dance with African American women, when the real case was that he was a gawky teenager who didn't know how to dance at all. And by the 1960s, it was stalwart Party folks like Harry Bridges who really screwed over African American dockworkers in "modernization" agreements with the shipping companies. So, we should treat both the Communist and the left anti-Stalinist traditions as parts of a "useable past" but, as the saying used to go, without guarantees.

Anyways: you rock Jodi Dean. I hope the purveyors of ugly affect take their shtick elsewhere.


Hi Jodi,
That still sounds contradictory to me.
In your text you argue that anarchism and autonomism made a new round of class struggle possible, yet couldn't fulfill the aspirations of collective (class) struggle and emancipation.
Yet here you argue that those movements are simply part of hegemony (or "ideology", as you prefer to call it).
If you take that second position, then it seems to me, you end up neglecting the aspects of anarchism and autonomism that made Occupy, and that particular wave of class struggle, possible.
This is why I thought of the Carroll and Boggs texts, and their recognition of the importance of struggles in "civil society" (to simplify).
But now I am wondering if my association was off. Maybe you weren't praising this aspect at all. Were you making a different argument, namely, that anarchism/autonomism brought together individuals, yet couldn't forge them into a (sustainable) collective (class) struggle? If that's the case, I would agree that anarchism/autonomism, don't manage that task, and probably can't. Yet, I wouldn't agree with your perception that the only strength of those movements is their capacity to mobilize individuals towards collective action. The focus on the sphere of reproduction, prefiguration, democratic organisation, etc. are strengths of those movements as well.
Now it seems to me that you would simply *replace* the collective practices of anarchist/autonomist projects in "civil society" with a collective (Party) project. I think this would be a huge mistake and result in failure, not because large-scale organization isn't necessary. It is. But because *that project* can't develop without the necessary struggles in "civil society".
I was maybe too optimistic: I thought you were arguing for an expanded strategy of engagement, but maybe you were rather advocating for a strategy purely situated on the terrain of the state?

Jodi Dean


"Were you making a different argument, namely, that anarchism/autonomism brought together individuals, yet couldn't forge them into a (sustainable) collective (class) struggle?" yes -- the individualist message of the anarchists was attractive to people who have lived through forty years of neoliberalism; it encouraged struggle without rejecting the dominant culture's emphasis on unique individuality. So, this element of the anarchist message was crucial to the success of Occupy. Yet it was one of the problems that prevented the movement from scaling. I should add the obvious point that no socialist or communist groups were able to step in and solve the problem --whether because they weren't there, were to weak, had too much of a negative reputation because of their past efforts to try to co-opt, etc.

The primary characteristic of the 'new social movements' coming out of 68 was targeting civil society. For the last 40 years, this has been the left. They look for social change and some have been very successful, specially gay rights. These struggle have also been fully compatible with capitalism and content with refusing political power. The result has been the intensification of capital and the political absence of the left.

Jodi Dean

Thanks, Sadbillionare. I've been reading Robin D.G. Kelly, Michael Denning, a terrific book edited by Michael E. Brown and others, Mark Solomon, and Erik Duffie. I am trying to gather the material to put together a mini-archive (write a short piece) that will be for historians, primarily activists and left theory people who characterize communists (sometimes Leninists specifically) as completely blind to sex and race. I will definitely take a look at the folks you recommend. thanks again!


I'd throw into the mix Stan Weir's Singlejack Solidarity and CLR James's great preface to Mariners Renegades Castaways, written from prison on Ellis Island, for the anti-Stalinist stuff. Kate Weigand's Red Feminism. Martha Biondi To Stand and Fight. Lloyd Brown's Iron CIty--the finest African American CP/prison novel. Robin Kelley's many essays on black communism; especially "It Ain't Ethiopia But It'll Do"... http://www.smu.ca/academic/arts/history/faculty/HistorySaintMarysUniversity.html

and by all means check out the work of my old friend John Munro http://www.smu.ca/academic/arts/history/faculty/HistorySaintMarysUniversity.html who knows this stuff better than anybody. Also a supremely nice person who would undoubtedly be thrilled to talk about this important--crucial, really--work of rescuing the history of 20th century organized leftism from the taint of race/gender blindness.


I don't like the idea that "structure is irrelevant to movement-building." What have the movements really done to reverse the brutal destruction of the USA's public sector?

I think the struggle to build a party is an exciting movement unto itself, and there are millions of people who don't give a damn about demonstration-type politics who will sign right up for a political candidate.

The struggle to build a party, is the struggle for the political existence of the Left itself! How can that NOT be exciting??


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