Théorie Communiste

Théorie Communiste

Théorie Communiste is arguably one of the most influential journals amongst the ultra-left. The journal is the work of a Marseilles-based group. It was first published in 1977, before that, members of TC were formerly associated with councilist groups, including, among others, the journals 'Cahiers du Communisme de Conseils', based in Marseilles, and 'Intervention Communiste'.


Jul 5 2016 22:15

tres bon, merci!

Nymphalis Antiopa
Jul 6 2016 05:26
Let’s just return to the role of “Theorie Communiste”. The journal has provided for several years, particularly in France, the essential for what constitutes a suggestion box, or , to use the communising microcosm, the metaphor of the toolbox. As their collective name suggests, the activity of the founder members of this circle consists in essentially formulating what they think in the form of “theory.” As a result, their “practice” was always reduced to a minimum, even in more favorable situations than the one we are experiencing today. But when people get used to not confronting the real world, to lose interest in confrontations that appear without their knowledge, sometimes almost right under their nose, their thoughts end up going round and round in circles in the straitjacket of ideology. “Theorie Communiste” has also come to “theorize” this also. It takes up a lot of the ideas of the Marxist-Leninist philosopher and structuralist Althusser, including that of “theoretical practice”.

More broadly, it is the ensemble of the theses of “Theorie Communiste” which pose enormous problems. For decades, our followers of “theoretical practice” were impervious, indifferent or even hostile to almost all ideas, concepts, struggles, etc., that had arisen in the wake of May 68 and went beyond the rigid framework of their orthodox Marxist Scrabble. Especially when they touched one of the pillars of their doctrine, namely the alleged contradiction between “productive forces” and “relations of production” and the revolutionary role they attributed to the proletarians of mass industry, privileged carriers of communization dressed in the colors of industrialism and, even if not explicitly, also those of statism. ...For them it’s a taken-for-granted notion which largely explains their hostility towards previous opposition to nuclear power, including towards its revolutionary fractions. Since nuclear power in France, more than elsewhere in Europe, comes out of reasons of state. It is this which also explains their recent hostility to opposition to biotechnology. Thus, in Number 17 of their revue, the author of “About Riesel” uses as a pretext their rejection of the reductionism of “The Encyclopedia of Nuisances” to spit on the opposition as a whole. Without even taking into account the criticisms already made of this reductionism, even within this movement of opposition (they were presented, among others, by myself in “Industrial society – myth or reality”). The author even rejoiced in the disappearance of the last smallholding peasants, treated without the slightest nuance as followers of the counter-revolution, as Marx presented them in a caricaturial manner at the time of the “Communist Manifesto”. This is the apology for the capitalist juggernaut, led by the European Commission, the French state and agrarians that “Theorie Communiste” presents here in the colors of communization.

I already pointed out the following in “Reflections…” – to the great displeasure of communisateurs: their alleged critiques do not supersede, as a general rule, the orthodox Marxist conception of the state inherited from Saint-Simonian technocracy: the disappearance of classes and the State means that “government by men” is replaced by (gradually, in relation to the industrialisation process) “the administration of things,” “things” created and distributed almost limitlessly, without which the world of capital would not be able to be superseded. In other words, chucked out through the door, the state comes back in through the window in the form of the administrative apparatus of coercion and “men” treated as “things” in the name of the discipline and hierarchy needed to maintain and keep big industry turning. Which is what Engels spoke about with his customary brutality in his theses directed against Bakunin....

The term “communisation” was first used, and then rightly long forgotten, by a follower of Robert Owen’s hierarchically-organised utopian communism. As an idea it was already there in Marx’s famous phrase, “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.” But it only really needed saying once. To make it THE idea of the moment indicates a lack of ideas and of practical experiment that could help create and develop ideas and subversive projects, a lack of will to really move in this “real movement”. It becomes largely something to win over other would-be theorists, and a political-type representation for oneself.

How could such abstract notions of theory come to have been taken up by some still rebellious youth searching for ideas to avoid their own? 25 – 30 years ago this verbiage would have been laughed at. But the eradication of communities of struggle and solidarity that still had some power to contest dominant normality 30 years ago has created a world which encourages the development of critical “ideas” which have lost almost all solid basis in the reality of contestation. Thought adrift without an anchor, in the global sea of troubles.

The increase in the power of the illusory warmth of religion in a world of uncontested runaway cold commodification is symptomatic of this desire for easy “one answer” explanations, the security blanket of those scared of making mistakes. The same goes for this notion of some all-embracing “theory” which covers a critique of everything above everything – incapable of making progress or of encouraging others to make progress against this world because it avoids anything concrete, or at least fits analysis of specifics into a long previously developed set of safely established ideas.

The last few years, in contrast to the period from – roughly – the mid-80s onwards – have exploded with struggles which have a richness of lessons, lessons which such “theory” is incapable of unravelling because it never wants to dirty its hands with anything precise. Sure, without a development of practical theory, without a development of a recognition of the immensity of our tasks, a conscious revolution against the forces of unconsciousness can never succeed. And this has been the genuine desire that loses its way in seeking a simplistic catch-all “key” to the cave of consciousness, but which tends to develop the practically impotent role of “Theoretician”. Above all, the serious repression of the proletariat as practically subversive subject over the years from the mid-80s onwards has reduced such notions as “proletarian subjectivity” to mere phrases within an objectivist notion of theory to which all can adhere abstractly, on the level of verbiage. In the 1960s Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, which also wanted to be a new Das Kapital explaining everything, at least had the merit of having been developed from experimental practical-critical activity, in and against a period of utter complacency. The fact that post-68 it remained far too definitive for far too many people was indicative of its weakness in trying to express this total critique without having to renew it experimentally. It too ended up as some form of absolute for pro-situs, just as now “communisation” theory seems to function for its followers (and the theorists who promote it seem to have no qualms about inspiring uninspiring imitators). But at least there is stuff in Society of the Spectacle that can be used and developed in the current endgame of commodification that has some originality (though only by looking at and attacking very precise current symptoms of alienation). Not so of the dreary verbiage of Roland Simon etc. Its determinism reads like some perfect set of ideas existing outside of the risk of struggle and making mistakes, like some all-knowing God on high telling people that the struggles of all previous epochs were doomed to failure just as the current struggles are inevitably going to win. Because the Theorist Knows Best. The dominant anti-historical conception of time that wants to freeze all sense of becoming – of losing oneself to find oneself – is also reflected in this frozen notion of “theory”. The need to analyse past struggles whose mistakes and weaknesses have to be corrected, and whose strengths have to be re-lived, in the present and then re-corrected by making new mistakes, is a process completely bypassed by such anti-historical “perfect” notions of historical struggle. In reality though, the path to a critique of the totality cannot look to One Big Theory as the shortcut to understanding the totality: comprehension of this constantly shifting totality develops from an attack on the particular without fetishising it. There is no leap into an Answer-To-Everything which can provide you with some false sense of security like a materialist Bible, no Road to Damascus of conversion to the shining light of some fixed truth. Insofar as ideas can influence events and choices it’s not through some “perfect” Grand Idea considered as a possession. What in fact happens beyond the ideological distortions of this superior notion of “theory” is a constant process relative to time, place and the dialectic of independent initiatives and the dominant social forces. Such a process also incorporates more general critiques of, say, the law of value, the spectacle, commodity fetishism, reification, the separation of men and women, art and sceince (the notion of their realization and suppression), etc. etc. but does so within a movement that both connects particulars with the totality considered as something that changes and continues to be discovered and re-discovered, and not as something finished to be handed down from on high by theoreticians who consider themselves and their “consciousness” as above and detached from the particulars of the movement of history, its advances and retreats. Rosa Luxembourg’s “The worst mistakes of the masses are far more useful than the very best correct lines of the very best of Central Committees” could be altered to read “The worst mistakes of individuals making practical-theoretical decisions without the automatic support of their collectivity are far more useful than the very best correct lines of the very best of pure “theories” political groups and milieus the hierarchy is entrenched, solidified and petrified into definitive roles, unless it is fundamentally challenged – ie broken with, rather than reformed. The Theoreticianist role unavoidably tends towards a competitive political mentality in the intellectual projects that the Theoreticianist involves him/herself in. It builds a political character creating a hierarchy where the top is occupied by the Grand Master of Theory, with the admiring adherents, invariably complicit, placed just below; the masses in struggle who are neutral for the moment but are conceived as needing the correct theory for their struggles to be won are placed in the middle; and those who have different interpretations are conceived of as dangerous rivals and placed at the bottom, criticised, ridiculed, rubbished or ignored. Such political comportment cannot be made acceptable: part of the aim of projects attacking this world should be to incite breaks with such normal behaviour; to, as far as possible, make such business-type relations impossible. Because if you don’t, it’s not that much of a change for one amongst such a group to take a more lucrative career path to the summit of the state.“.

- communisation does not move in mysterious ways - a critique of TC, Sic and communisation theory after a significant Theoretician of this tendency (Woland) became, for a short while, a junior minister in Syriza's government in Greece.

Jul 6 2016 18:48

thanks for the contribution nymphalis antiopa. just a quick suggestion--it would be much more readable and easier to follow if you could edit to include the paragraph breaks included in the original.


Jul 6 2016 18:23
jesuithitsquad wrote:

i was unaware of the tptg--syriza involvement. not to reopen old wounds but it does bring to mind a phrase involving glass houses

Woland was involved in Blaumachen and Sic, not TPTG

Jul 6 2016 18:46

Ah thanks, I misunderstood apparently. Will edit to reflect.