Journal Articles

The History and Legacy of the International Working Men’s Association

The Birth of Internationalism
On 28 September 1864, St. Martin’s Hall, in the heart of London, was packed to overflowing with some two thousand workers. They had come to attend a meeting called by English trade union leaders and a small group of companions from the Continent. This meeting gave birth to the prototype of all the main organizations of the workers’ movement: the International Working Men’s Association. Quickly, the International aroused passions all over Europe. It made class solidarity a shared ideal and inspired large numbers of women and men to struggle for the most radical of goals: changing the world. Thanks to its activity, workers were able to gain a clearer understanding of the mechanisms of the capitalist mode of production, to become more aware of their own strength, and to develop new, more advanced forms of struggle for their rights.
When it was founded, the central driving force of the International was British trade unionism, the leaders of which were mainly interested in economic questions. They fought to improve the workers’ conditions, but without calling capitalism into question. Hence, they conceived the International primarily as an instrument to prevent the import of manpower from abroad in the event of strikes. Then there were the mutualists, long dominant in France. In keeping with the theories of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865), they opposed any working-class involvement in politics, and the strike as a weapon of struggle. The third group in importance were the communists, opposing the existing system of production and espousing the necessity of political action to overthrow it. At its founding, the ranks of the International also included numbers of workers inspired by utopian theories, and exiles having vaguely democratic ideas and cross-class conception who considered the International as an instrument for the issuing of general appeals for the liberation of oppressed peoples.
Securing the cohabitation of all these currents in the International, around a programme so distant from the approaches with which each had started out, was Karl Marx’s (1818–1883) great political accomplishment. His political talents enabled him to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable (Collins & Abramsky, 1965, p. 34). It was Marx who gave a clear purpose to the International, and who achieved a non-exclusionary, yet firmly working class-based, political programme that won it mass support beyond sectarianism. The political soul of its General Council was always Marx: he drafted all its main resolutions and prepared almost all its congress reports.
Nevertheless, despite the impression created by the Soviet Union’s propaganda and by the majority of the ideologically driven scholars who wrote on the International, this organization was much more than a single individual, even one as brilliant as Marx. The International was a vast social and political movement for the emancipation of the working classes; not, as it has often been written, the ‘creation of Marx’. It was made possible first of all by the labour movement’s struggles in the 1860s. One of its basic rules – and the fundamental distinction from previous labor organizations – was ‘that the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves’ (Engels & Marx, 2014, p. 265). The orthodox, dogmatic view of Marx’s role in the International, according to which he mechanically applied to the stage of history a political theory already forged in the confines of his study, is totally divorced from the historical reality. Marx was essential to the International, but also the International had a very positive impact on Marx (see Musto, 2018, pp. 171-239). Being directly involved in workers’ struggles, Marx was stimulated to develop and sometimes revise his ideas, to put old certainties up for discussion and ask himself new questions.

The Organizational Structure of the International
During its lifetime and in subsequent decades, the International was depicted as a vast, financially powerful organization. The size of its membership was always overestimated, whether because of imperfect knowledge or because some of its leaders exaggerated the real situation or because opponents were looking for a pretext to justify a brutal crackdown.
In reality, the membership figures were much lower. It has always been difficult to arrive at even approximate estimates, and that was true for its own leaders and those who studied it most closely. But the present state of research allows the hypothesis that, at its peak in 1871–1872, the tally reached more than 150,000: 50,000 in Britain, more than 30,000 in both France and Belgium, 6,000 in Switzerland, about 30,000 in Spain, 25,000 in Italy, more than 10,000 in Germany (but mostly members of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party), plus a few thousand each in a number of other European countries, 4,000 in the United States, and a few hundred in both Russia and Argentina.
In those times, when there was a dearth of effective working-class organizations apart from the English trade unions and the General Association of German Workers, such figures were certainly sizeable. It should also be borne in mind that, throughout its existence, the International was recognized as a legal organization only in Britain, Switzerland, Belgium, and the United States. In other countries where it had a solid presence (France, Spain, Italy), it was on the margins of legality for a number of years, and its members were subject to persecution. To join the International meant breaking the law in the 39 states of the German Confederation, and the few members in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were forced to operate in clandestine forms. On the other hand, the Association had a remarkable capacity to weld its components into a cohesive whole. Within a couple of years from its birth, it had succeeded in federating hundreds of workers’ societies. From the end of 1868, thanks to propaganda conducted by followers of Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), other societies were added in Spain, and after the Paris Commune sections sprang up also in Italy, Holland, Denmark, and Portugal. The development of the International was doubtless uneven: while it was growing in some countries, it was elsewhere remaining level or falling back under the blows of repression. Yet a strong sense of belonging prevailed among those who joined the International for even a short time. When the cycle of struggles in which they had taken part came to an end, and adversity and personal hardship forced them to take a distance, they retained the bonds of class solidarity and responded as best they could to the call for a rally, the words of a poster or the unfurling of the red flag of struggle, in the name of an organization that had sustained them in their hour of need (see Braunthal, 1966, p. 116).
Members of the International, however, comprised only a small part of the total workforce. In Paris they never numbered more than 10,000, and in other capital cities such as Rome, Vienna, or Berlin they were rare birds indeed. Another aspect is the character of the workers who joined the International: it was supposed to be the organization of wage-labourers, but very few actually became members. The main influx came from construction workers in England, textile workers in Belgium, and various types of artisans in France and Switzerland.
In Britain, with the sole exception of steelworkers, the International always had a sparse presence among the industrial proletariat (see Collins & Abramsky, 1965, p. 70; D’Hondt, 1968, p. 475) and nowhere did the latter ever form a majority. The other great limitation was the failure to draw in unskilled labour (see Collins & Abramsky, 1965, p. 289). The great majority of members of the International came from tailoring, clothing, shoemaking and cabinet-making – that is, from sectors of the working class that were then the best organized and the most class-conscious. Moreover, the International remained an organization of employed workers; the jobless never became part of it.
From an organizational point of view, despite the considerable autonomy granted to federations and local sections, the International always retained a locus of political leadership. Its General Council was the body that worked out a unifying synthesis of the various tendencies and issued guidelines for the organization as a whole. From October 1864 until August 1872, it met with great regularity, as many as 385 times. Its members debated a wide range of issues, such as: working conditions, the effects of new machinery, support for strikes, the role and importance of trade unions, the Irish question, various foreign policy matters, and, of course, how to build the society of the future. The General Council was also responsible for drafting the documents of the International: circulars, letters, and resolutions for current purposes; special manifestos, addresses, and appeals in particular circumstances (see Haupt, 1978, p. 78).

The Politics of the International
The lack of synchrony between the key organizational junctures and the main political events in the life of the International makes it difficult to reconstruct its history in chronological sequence. In terms of organization, the principal stages were: 1) the birth of the International (1864–1866), from its foundation to the First Congress; 2) the period of expansion (1866–1870); 3) the revolutionary surge and the repression following the Paris Commune (1871–1872); and 4) the split and crisis (1872–1877). In terms of its theoretical development, however, the principal stages were: 1) the initial debate among its various components and the laying of its own foundations (1864–1865); 2) the struggle for hegemony between collectivists and mutualists (1866–1869); and 3) the clash between centralists and autonomists (1870–1877).
In September 1866, the city of Geneva hosted the first congress of the International, with 60 delegates from Britain, France, Germany, and Switzerland. By then the Association could point to a very favourable balance-sheet of the two years since its foundation, having rallied to its banner more than one hundred trade unions and political organizations. Those taking part in the congress essentially divided into two blocs. The first, consisting of the British delegates, the few Germans and a majority of the Swiss, followed the directives of the General Council drawn up by Marx (who was not present in Geneva). The second, comprising the French delegates and some of the French-speaking Swiss, was made up of mutualists. At that time, in fact, moderate positions were prevalent in the International, and the mutualists, led by the Parisian Henri Tolain (1828–97), envisaged a society in which the worker would be at once producer, capitalist, and consumer. They regarded the granting of free credit as a decisive measure for the transformation of society; considered women’s labour to be objectionable from both an ethical and a social point of view; and opposed any interference by the state in work relations (including legislation to reduce the working day to eight hours) on the grounds that it would threaten the private relationship between workers and employers and strengthen the system currently in force. Basing themselves on resolutions prepared by Marx, the General Council leaders succeeded in marginalizing the numerically strong contingent of mutualists at the congress, and obtained votes in favour of state intervention.
From late 1866 on, strikes intensified in many countries and formed the core of a new and important wave of mobilizations. The first major struggle to be won with the International’s support was the Parisian bronze workers’ strike of the winter of 1867. Also successful in their outcome were the ironworkers’ strike of Marchienne, in Belgium, the long dispute in the Provençal mineral basin, and Geneva building workers’ strike. The scenario was the same in each of these events: workers in other countries raised funds in support of the strikers and agreed not to accept work that would have turned them into industrial mercenaries; as a result, the bosses were forced to compromise on many of the strikers’ demands. These advances were greatly favoured by the diffusion of newspapers that either sympathized with the ideas of the International, or were veritable organs of the General Council. They contributed to the development of class consciousness and the rapid circulation of news concerning the activity of the International.
Thus, for all the difficulties bound up with the diversity of nationalities, languages and political cultures, the International managed to achieve unity and coordination across a wide range of organizations and spontaneous struggles. Its greatest merit was to demonstrate the absolute need for class solidarity and international cooperation, moving decisively beyond the partial character of the initial objectives and strategies.
From 1867 on, strengthened by success in achieving these goals, by increased membership and by a more efficient organization, the International made advances all over Continental Europe. It was its breakthrough year in France in particular, where the bronze workers’ strike had the same knock-on effect that the London tailors’ strike had produced in England. But Britain was still the country where the International had its greatest presence. In the course of 1867, the affiliation of another dozen organizations took the membership to a good 50,000 – an impressive figure if we bear in mind that it was reached in just two years, and that the total unionized workforce was then roughly 800,000 (see Collins, 1968, p. 34).
This was the backdrop to the Lausanne congress of September 1867, where the International assembled with a new strength that had come from continuing broad-based expansion. There were 64 delegates from 6 countries (with one each from Belgium and Italy) attending this event and many of its most relevant debates were focused on Proudhonian themes (such as the cooperative movement and alternative uses of credit) dear to the strongly represented mutualists.
Right from the earliest days of the International, Proudhon’s ideas were hegemonic in France, French-speaking Switzerland, Wallonia, and the city of Brussels. His disciples, particularly Tolain and Ernest Édouard Fribourg *1834-1903), succeeded in making a mark with their positions on the founding meeting in 1864, the London Conference of 1865, and the Geneva and Lausanne Congresses. For four years the mutualists were the most moderate wing of the International. The British trade unions, which constituted the majority, did not share Marx’s anticapitalism, but nor did they have the same pull on the policies of the organization that the followers of Proudhon were able to exercise. Basing themselves on the theories of the French anarchist, the mutualists argued that the economic emancipation of the workers would be achieved through the founding of producer cooperatives and a central People’s Bank. Resolutely hostile to state intervention in any field, they opposed socialization of the land and the means of production as well as any use of the strike weapon. In 1868, for example, there were still many sections of the International that attached a negative, anti-economic value to this method of struggle. The Report of the Liège Section on Strikes was emblematic in this regard: ‘The strike is a struggle. It therefore increases the bubbling of hatred between the people and the bourgeoisie, separating ever further two classes that should merge and unite with each other’ (Maréchal, 1962, p. 268). The distance from the positions and theses of the General Council could scarcely have been greater.
The Brussels Congress, held in September 1868, with the participation of 99 delegates from France, Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Spain (one delegate), and Belgium (55 in total) , finally clipped the wings of the mutualists. The highpoint came when the assembly approved César De Paepe’s (1841–1890) proposal on the socialization of the means of production – a decisive step forward in defining the economic basis of socialism, no longer simply in the writings of particular intellectuals but in the programme of a great transnational organization. As regards the mines and transport, the congress declared:

1. That the quarries, collieries, and other mines, as well as the railways, ought in a normal state of society to belong to the community represented by the state, a state itself subject to the laws of justice.
2. That the quarries, collieries, and other mines, and Railways, be let by the state, not to companies of capitalists as at present, but to companies of working men bound by contract to guarantee to society the rational and scientific working of the railways, etc., at a price as nearly as possible approximate to the working expense. The same contract ought to reserve to the state the right to verify the accounts of the companies, so as to present the possibility of any reconstitution of monopolies. A second contract ought to guarantee the mutual right of each member of the companies in respect to his fellow workmen.
As to landed property, it was agreed that:

the economical development of modern society will create the social necessity of converting arable land into the common property of society, and of letting the soil on behalf of the state to agricultural companies under conditions analogous to those stated in regard to mines and railways.

And similar considerations were applied to the canals, roads and telegraphs: ‘Considering that the roads and other means of communication require a common social direction, the Congress thinks they ought to remain the common property of society’. Finally, some interesting points were made about the environment:

Considering that the abandonment of forests to private individuals causes the destruction of woods necessary for the conservation of springs, and, as a matter of course, of the good qualities of the soil, as well as the health and lives of the population, the Congress thinks that the forests ought to remain the property of society (see Marx, 2014c, p. 92).

In Brussels, then, the International made its first clear pronouncement on the socialization of the means of production by state authorities. This marked an important victory for the General Council and the first appearance of socialist principles in the political programme of a major workers’ organization.
In addition, the congress again discussed the question of war. A motion presented by Becker, which Marx later summarized in the published resolutions of the congress, stated:

The workers alone have an evident logical interest in finally abolishing all war, both economic and political, individual and national, because in the end they always have to pay with their blood and their labour for the settling of accounts between the belligerents, regardless of whether they are on the winning or losing side (Burgelin, Langfeldt, & Molnár, 1962a, p. 403).

The workers were called upon to treat every war ‘as a civil war’ (Burgelin, Langfeldt, & Molnár, 1962a, p. 403). De Paepe also suggested the use of the general strike (see De Paepe, 2014, pp. 230–1) – a proposal that Marx dismissed as ‘nonsense’ (Marx, 1988b, p. 101), but which actually tended to develop a class consciousness capable of going beyond merely economic struggles.
If the collectivist turn of the International began at the Brussels Congress, it was the Basel Congress held the next year that consolidated it and eradicated Proudhonism even in its French homeland. This time there were 78 delegates at the congress, drawn not only from France, Switzerland, Germany, Britain and Belgium, but also, a clear sign of expansion, from Spain, Italy, and Austria, plus a representative from the National Labor Union in the United States.
The resolutions of the Brussels Congress on landed property were reaffirmed, with 54 votes in favour, 4 against, and 13 abstentions. Eleven of the French delegates – including Eugène Varlin (1838–1871), later a prominent figure in the Paris Commune – even approved a new text which declared ‘that society has the right to abolish individual ownership of the land and to make it part of the community’ (Burgelin, Langfeldt, & Molnár, 1962b, p. 74); 10 abstained and 4 (including Tolain) voted against. After Basel, the International in France was no longer mutualist.
The Basel Congress was also of interest because Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876) took part in the proceedings as a delegate. Having failed to win the leadership of the League for Peace and Freedom, he had founded the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy in September 1868 in Geneva, and in December this had applied to join the International. The General Council initially turned down the request, on the grounds that the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy continued to be affiliated to another, parallel transnational structure, and that one of its objectives – ‘the equalization of classes’ (Bakunin, 1973, p. 174) – was radically different from a central pillar of the International, the abolition of classes. Shortly afterwards, however, the Alliance modified its programme and agreed to wind up its network of sections, many of which existed only in Bakunin’s imagination anyway (see Carr, 1961, p. 392). On 28 July 1869, the 104-member Geneva section was accordingly admitted to the International. Marx knew Bakunin well enough, but he had underestimated the consequences of this step. For the influence of the famous Russian revolutionary rapidly increased in a number of Swiss, Spanish, and French sections (as it did in Italian ones after the Paris Commune), and at the Basel Congress, thanks to his charisma and forceful style of argument, he already managed to affect the outcome of its deliberations. The vote on the right of inheritance, for example, was the first occasion on which the delegates rejected a proposal of the General Council (Marx, 2014b, pp. 163–165). Having finally defeated the mutualists and laid the spectre of Proudhon to rest, Marx now had to confront a much tougher rival, who formed a new tendency – collectivist anarchism – and sought to win control of the organization.

The International and the Paris Commune
The period from late Sixties to early Seventies was rich in social conflicts. Many workers who took part in protest actions decided to make contact with the International, whose reputation was spreading ever wider, and despite its limited resources the General Council never failed to respond with appeals for solidarity to its European sections and the organization of fund-raising.
Across Europe, the Association continued to increase the number of its members and to develop an efficient organizational structure. During this period, Bakunin’s ideas began to spread in a number of cities, especially in Southern Europe. More symbolically significant still, at least for the hopes it initially awakened, was its new mooring on the other side of the Atlantic, where immigrants who had arrived in recent years began to establish the first sections of the International in the United States. However, the organization suffered from two handicaps at birth that it would never overcome. Despite repeated exhortations from the General Council in London, it was unable either to cut across the nationalist character of its various affiliated groups or to draw in workers born in the ‘New World’. When the German, French, and Czech sections founded the Central Committee of the International for North America, in December 1870, it was unique in the history of the International in having only ‘foreign-born’ members. The most striking aspect of this anomaly was that the International in the United States never disposed of an English-language press organ. At the beginning of the 1870s, the International reached a total of 50 sections with a combined membership of 4,000, but this was still only a tiny proportion of the American industrial workforce of more than two million.
With this general background, the International made provisions for its fifth congress in September 1870. This was originally scheduled to be held in Paris, but repressive operations by the French government made the General Council opt instead for Mainz. Marx probably also thought that the greater number of German delegates close to his positions would help to stem the advance of the Bakuninists. But then the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war, on 19 July 1870, left no choice but to call off the congress.
The conflict at the heart of Europe meant that the top priority now was to help the workers’ movement express an independent position, far from the nationalist rhetoric of the time. In his First Address on the Franco–Prussian War, Marx called upon the French workers to drive out Charles Louis Bonaparte (1808–1873) and to obliterate the empire he had established eighteen years earlier. The German workers, for their part, were supposed to prevent the defeat of Bonaparte from turning into an attack on the French people:

in contrast to old society, with its economical miseries and its political delirium, a new society is springing up, whose international rule will be Peace, because its national ruler will be everywhere the same – Labour! The pioneer of that new society is the International Working Men’s Association (Marx, 2014a, p. 239).

Although Bakunin had urged the workers to turn patriotic war into revolutionary war (see Lehning, 1977, p. xvi.), the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association in London initially opted for silence (see Musto, 2014, pp. 30–36). It charged Marx with the task of writing a text in the name of the International, but he delayed its publication for complicated, deeply held reasons. Well aware of the real relationship of forces on the ground as well as the weaknesses of the Paris Commune, born in March 1871, he knew that it was doomed to defeat. He had even tried to warn the French working class back in September 1870, in his Second Address on the Franco–Prussian War:

Any attempt at upsetting the new government in the present crisis, when the enemy is almost knocking at the doors of Paris, would be a desperate folly. The French workmen […] must not allow themselves to be swayed by the national souvenirs of 1792 […]. They have not to recapitulate the past, but to build up the future. Let them calmly and resolutely improve the opportunities of republican liberty, for the work of their own class organization. It will gift them with fresh herculean powers for the regeneration of France, and our common task – the emancipation of labour. Upon their energies and wisdom hinges the fate of the republic (Marx, 1986, p. 269).

A fervid declaration hailing the victory of the Paris Commune would have risked creating false expectations among workers throughout Europe, eventually becoming a source of demoralization and distrust. Marx therefore decided to postpone delivery and stayed away from meetings of the General Council for several weeks. His grim forebodings soon proved all too well founded, and on 28 May, little more than two months after its proclamation, the Paris Commune was drowned in blood. Two days later, he reappeared at the General Council with a manuscript entitled The Civil War in France. It was read and unanimously approved, then published over the names of all the Council members. The document had a huge impact over the next few weeks, greater than any other document of the workers’ movement in the nineteenth century.
Despite Marx’s passionate defense, and despite the claims both of reactionary opponents and of dogmatic Marxists eager to glorify the International, it is out of the question that the General Council actually pushed for the Parisian insurrection.
After the defeat of the Paris Commune, the International was at the eye of the storm, held to blame for every act against the established order. ‘When the great conflagration took place at Chicago’, Marx mused with bitter irony, ‘the telegraph round the world announced it as the infernal deed of the International; and it is really wonderful that to its demoniacal agency has not been attributed the hurricane ravaging the West Indies’ (Institute of Marxism-Leninism, 1967, p. 461). Governments all over Europe sharpened their instruments of repression, fearing that other uprisings might follow the one in Paris. Adolphe Thiers (1797–1877) immediately outlawed the International and asked the British prime minister, William Ewart Gladstone (1809–1898), to follow his example; it was the first diplomatic exchange relating to a workers’ organization. Pope Pius IX (1792–1878) exerted similar pressure on the Swiss government, arguing that it would a serious mistake to continue tolerating ‘that International sect which would like to treat the whole of Europe as it treated Paris. Those gentlemen […] are to be feared, because they work on behalf of the eternal enemies of God and mankind’ (Institute of Marxism-Leninism, 1968, p. 460). Giuseppe Mazzini – who for a time had looked to the International with hope – had similar views and considered that principles of the International had become those of ‘denial of God, […] the fatherland, […] and all individual property’ (Mazzini, 1978, pp. 499–501).
Criticism of the Paris Commune even spread to sections of the workers’ movement. Following the publication of The Civil War in France, both the trade union leader George Odger (1813–1877) and the old Chartist Benjamin Lucraft (1809–1897) resigned from the International, bending under the pressure of the hostile press campaign. However, no trade union withdrew its support for the organization – which suggests once again that the failure of the International to grow in Britain was due mainly to political apathy in the working class (Collins & Abramsky, 1965, p. 222).
Despite the bloody denouement in Paris and the wave of calumny and government repression elsewhere in Europe, the International grew stronger and more widely known in the wake of the Commune. For capitalists and the middle classes it represented a great threat to the established order, whereas for workers it fuelled hopes for a world without injustice, exploitation and alienation. The labour movement had an enormous vitality and that was apparent everywhere. Newspapers linked to the International increased in both number and overall sales. The insurrection of Paris fortified the workers’ movement, impelling it to adopt more radical positions and to intensify its militancy. Once again, France showed that revolution was possible, clarifying its goal to be building a society different from that of capitalism, but also that, to achieve this, the workers would have to create durable and well-organized forms of political association. The next step to take then, as stated by Marx, was understanding that ‘the economic movement [of the working class] and its political action are indissolubly united’ (Marx & Engels, 2014b, p. 285). That led the International to push (at the London Conference of 1871) for the foundation of a key instrument of the modern workers’ movement: the political party.
The most important decision taken at the conference, for which it would be remembered later, was the approval of Édouard Vaillant’s (1840–1915) Resolution IX. The leader of the Blanquists – whose residual forces had joined the International after the end of the Commune – proposed that the organization should be transformed into a centralized, disciplined party, under the leadership of the General Council. Despite some differences, particularly over the Blanquist position that a tightly organized nucleus of militants was sufficient for the revolution, Marx did not hesitate to form an alliance with Vaillant’s group: not only to strengthen the opposition to Bakuninite anarchism within the International, but above all to create a broader consensus for the changes deemed necessary in the new phase of the class struggle. The resolution passed in London therefore stated:

that against this collective power of the propertied classes the working class cannot act, as a class, except by constituting itself into a political party, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties formed by the propertied classes; that this constitution of the working class into a political party is indispensable in order to ensure the triumph of the social revolution and its ultimate end – the abolition of classes; and that the combination of forces which the working class has already effected by its economic struggles ought at the same time to serve as a lever for its struggles against the political power of landlords and capitalists.

Centralists vs. Autonomists: The Crisis of the International
Whereas the Geneva Congress of 1866 established the importance of trade unions, the London Conference of 1871 shifted the focus to the political party. For Marx, the self-emancipation of the working class required a long and arduous process – the polar opposite of the theories and practices in Sergei Nechaev’s (1847–1882) Catechism of a Revolutionary, whose advocacy of secret societies was condemned by the delegates in London (see Burgelin, Langfeldt, & Molnár, 1962b, p. 237; Marx, 1988a, p. 23) but enthusiastically supported by Bakunin.
Marx was probably surprised when signs of restlessness and even rebellion against the political line of the General Council began to appear in many countries. In a number of federations, the decisions taken in London were judged an unacceptable encroachment on local political autonomy. The opposition to the General Council was varied in character and sometimes had mainly personal motives; a strange alchemy held it together and made leadership of the International very difficult.
The final battle came at the Fifth Congress of the International that took place in The Hague, in September 1872, and that was attended by 65 delegates from a total of 14 countries. The most important decision taken at The Hague was to incorporate Resolution IX of the 1871 London Conference into the statutes of the Association, as a new article 7a. Whereas the Provisional Statutes of 1864 had stated that ‘the economic emancipation of the working class is the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means’ (Engels & Marx, 2014, p. 265), this insertion mirrored the new relationship of forces within the organization. Political struggle was now the necessary instrument for the transformation of society since: ‘the lords of land and the lords of capital will always use their political privileges for the defence and perpetuation of their economic monopolies, and for the enslavement of labour. The conquest of political power has therefore become the great duty of the working class’ (Engels & Marx, 2014, p. 268).
The International was now very different from how it had been at the time of its foundation: the radical-democratic components had walked out after being increasingly marginalized; the mutualists had been defeated and many converted; reformists no longer constituted the bulk of the organization (except in Britain); and anticapitalism had become the political line of the whole Association, as well as of recently formed tendencies such as the anarcho-collectivists. Moreover, although the years of the International had witnessed a degree of economic prosperity that in some cases made conditions less parlous, the workers understood that real change would come not through such palliatives but only through the end of human exploitation. They were also basing their struggles more and more on their own material needs, rather than the initiatives of particular groups to which they belonged.
The wider picture, too, was radically different. The unification of Germany in 1871 confirmed the onset of a new age in which the nation-state would be the central form of political, legal, and territorial identity; this placed a question mark over any supranational body that financed itself from membership dues in each individual country and required its members to surrender a sizeable share of their political leadership. At the same time, the growing differences between national movements and organizations made it extremely difficult for the General Council to produce a political synthesis capable of satisfying the demands of all. It is true that, right from the beginning, the International had been an agglomeration of trade unions and political associations far from easy to reconcile with one another, and that these had represented sensibilities and political tendencies more than organizations properly so called. By 1872, however, the various components of the Association – and workers’ struggles, more generally – had become much more clearly defined and structured. The legalization of the British trade unions had officially made them part of national political life; the Belgian Federation of the International was a ramified organization, with a central leadership capable of making significant, and autonomous, contributions to theory; Germany had two workers’ parties, the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany and the General Association of German Workers, each with representation in parliament; the French workers, from Lyons to Paris, had already tried ‘storming the heavens’; and the Spanish Federation had expanded to the point where it was on the verge of becoming a mass organization. Similar changes had occurred in other countries.
The initial configuration of the International had thus become outmoded, just as its original mission had come to an end. The task was no longer to prepare for and organize Europe-wide support for strikes, nor to call congresses on the usefulness of trade unions or the need to socialize the land and the means of production. Such themes were now part of the collective heritage of the organization as a whole. After the Paris Commune, the real challenge for the workers’ movement was a revolutionary one: how to organize in such a way as to end the capitalist mode of production and to overthrow the institutions of the bourgeois world. It was no longer a question of how to reform the existing society, but how to build a new one (see Jacques Freymond, 1962, p. x). For this new advance in the class struggle, Marx thought it indispensable to build working-class political parties in each country.
It was therefore decided that the General Council of the organization had to be transferred to New York and this resolution represented the end of the International.

Internationalism after the International
In later decades, the workers’ movement adopted a consistent socialist programme, expanded throughout Europe and then the rest of the world, and built new structures of supranational coordination. Apart from the continuity of names (the Second International from 1889–1916, the Third International from 1919–1943, or the Socialist International created in 1951), the various ‘Internationals’ of socialist politics have referred – although in very different ways – to the legacy of the so-called ‘First’ International. Thus, its revolutionary message proved extraordinarily fertile, producing results over time much greater than those achieved during its existence.
The International was the locus of some of the most famous debates of labour movement, such as that on Communism and Anarchy. The congresses of the International were also the place where, for the first time, a major transnational organization came to decisions about crucial issues, which had been discussed before its foundation, that subsequently became strategic points in the political program of socialist movements across the world. Among these are: the indispensable function of trade unions; the socialization of land and means of productions; the importance of participating in elections, and doing this through independent parties of the working class; and the conception of war as an inevitable product of the capitalist system.
An abyss separates the hopes of those times from the mistrust so characteristic of our own, the anti-systemic spirit and solidarity of the age of the International from the ideological subordination and individualism of a world reshaped by neoliberal competition and privatization.
The world of labor has suffered an epochal defeat, and the Left is still in the midst of deep crisis (see Musto, 2017). After decades of neoliberal policies, we have returned to an exploitative system, similar from many points of view to that of the nineteenth century. Labor market ‘reforms’ — a term now shed of its original progressive mean¬ing — have introduced more and more ‘flexibility’ with each passing year, creating deeper inequalities. Other major political and economic shifts have succeeded one another after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Among them, there have been the social changes generated by globalization, the ecological disasters produced by the present mode of production, the growing gulf between the wealthy exploitative few and the huge impoverished majority, one of the biggest economic crises of capitalism (the one erupted in 2008) in history, the blustery winds of war, racism and chauvinism, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a context such as this, class solidarity is all the more indispensable. It was Marx himself who emphasized that the confrontation between workers — including between local and migrant workers (who are moreover discriminated) — is an essential element of the domination of the ruling classes. New ways of organizing social conflict, political parties, and trade unions must certainly be invented, as we cannot reproduce schemes used 150 years ago. But the old lesson of the International that workers are defeated if they do not organize a common front of the exploited is still valid. Without that, our only horizon is a war between the poor and unbridled competition between individuals.
The barbarism of today’s world order imposes upon the contemporary workers’ movement the urgent need to reorganize itself on the basis of two key characteristics of the International: the multiplicity of its structure and radicalism in objectives. The aims of the organization founded in London in 1864 are today more timely than ever. To rise to the challenges of the present, however, the new International cannot evade the twin requirements of pluralism and anticapitalism.


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Undergraduate Courses

Sociological Theory

This course deals with the development of sociological theory from the major foundational thinkers of the 19th and early 20th century, through recent approaches informed by a variety of critical perspectives. Much of classical sociological theory was focussed upon growing awareness of society, as such, being the subject of profound change. Central questions addressed by its main authors were: “What is the nature of the society emerging in (and from) 19th century Europe?” and “What is its significance with respect to the development of humanity?” Difference of opinion and profound debate have been characteristic of sociological theory and have widely been recognized as contributing to its development. Since the last decades of the 20th century, the enduring debates have been compounded, without being entirely superseded, by new critical approaches that have sought new insights not only into the nature of society and social change, but of the ways in which knowledge in, and of, society are constructed.
The first part of the course will focus on the principal authors, texts and debates of the classical era of sociology. A wide range of thinkers helped establish the context for, built upon the insights of, filled the gaps between, and discerned alternatives to, the often conflicting ideas of the recognized giants of classical social theory (among others Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim and Max Weber).
The second part of the course will focus on the contributions and controversies that have followed from broad recognition of sociology as a distinct intellectual discipline, coupled with recurrent efforts to shed light on its most basic theoretical underpinnings. These additions to the corpus of classical sociological theory have extended its critical range and multiplied its analytical power and complexity.
A primary goal of this course is to illuminate the role of critical analysis in the expansion and deepening of social knowledge, insisting upon the need for every individual to become informed by confronting ideas in debate and then to arrive at a personal position through a critical evaluation of alternatives.

Undergraduate Courses

Political Sociology

Although discussions on the negative effects and consequences of capitalism have recently spread, ideas about how to concretely promote a more just and democratic socio-economic system have remained deficient or lack public support. Today it seems that there is no alternative political-economic model that represents an effective challenge to capitalism.
The aim of this course is to critically survey the progressive theories and emancipatory experiments proposed in the time period between the French Revolution (1789) and Russian Revolution (1917), in order to understand how they sought to construct social, economic and political alternatives to the capitalist system. Using the lens of political sociology, we will examine some of the most relevant political changes of the “long 19th Century” in their social and historical contexts. The Industrial Revolution, the birth of labour movement, the rise of class politics and the spread of democracy will be among the main themes addressed by this course.

The readings for this course were selected in order to enhance students’ understanding of concepts central to political sociology such as the nature of political power and theories of  social change. The main analytical focus of the course will concentrate on evaluating the adequacy of capitalism to address the challenges and opportunities of European societies in the 19th Century and identifying the main characteristics of the alternatives to capitalism proposed within the Socialist tradition. Finally, we will also assess the relevance of the alternatives proposed in the past for the fundamental and enduring social problems of our society today.


A atualidade do velho Marx

O trabalho de Karl Marx durante seus últimos anos de vida, entre 1881 e 1883, é uma das áreas menos desenvolvidas nos estudos marxistas.

Essa negligência é parcialmente devido ao fato de que as enfermidades de Marx em seus anos finais o impediram de sustentar sua atividade regular de redação – virtualmente não há trabalhos publicados do período.

Ausentes das obras que marcaram o trabalho anterior de Marx, desde seus primeiros escritos filosóficos até seus estudos posteriores de economia política, os biógrafos de Marx há muito consideram seus últimos anos como um capítulo menor, marcado pelo declínio da saúde e diminuição das capacidades intelectuais.

No entanto, há um crescente acumulo de pesquisas que sugere que esta não é a história completa e que os anos finais de Marx podem realmente ser uma mina de ouro cheia de novos insights sobre seu pensamento. Em grande parte contidos em cartas, cadernos e outros “rascunhos”, os últimos escritos de Marx retratam um homem que, longe das histórias de decadência, continuou a lutar com suas próprias ideias contra o capitalismo como um modo de produção global. Como sugerido por sua pesquisa tardia nas chamadas “sociedades primitivas”, a comuna agrária russa do século XIX e a “questão nacional” nas colônias europeias, os escritos de Marx do período na verdade revelam uma mente voltada para as implicações do mundo real e complexidades de seu próprio pensamento, particularmente no que se refere à expansão do capitalismo além das fronteiras europeias.

O pensamento tardio de Marx é o tema da publicação recentemente publicada de Marcello Musto, O velho Marx: uma biografia de seus últimos anos (1881-1883). Lá, Musto tece, magistralmente, ricos detalhes biográficos e um envolvimento sofisticado com a escrita madura, muitas vezes auto-questionadora de Marx.

O editor contribuinte de Jacobin, Nicolas Allen, conversou com Musto sobre as complexidades de estudar os últimos anos de vida de Marx e sobre por que algumas das dúvidas e apreensões tardias de Marx são de fato mais úteis para nós hoje do que algumas de suas primeiras afirmações mais confiantes.

NA: O “falecido Marx” sobre o qual você escreve, cobrindo aproximadamente os três anos finais de sua vida na década de 1880, é frequentemente tratado como uma reflexão tardia por marxistas e estudiosos de Marx. Além do fato de que Marx não publicou nenhuma obra importante em seus últimos anos, por que você acha que o período recebeu consideravelmente menos atenção?

MM: Todas as biografias intelectuais de Marx publicadas até hoje prestaram muito pouca atenção à última década de sua vida, normalmente dedicando não mais do que algumas páginas à sua atividade após a dissolução da International Working Men’s Association em 1872. Não por acaso, esses estudiosos quase sempre usam o título genérico “a última década” para essas partes (muito curtas) de seus livros. Embora esse interesse limitado seja compreensível para estudiosos como Franz Mehring (1846-1919), Karl Vorländer (1860-1928) e David Riazanov (1870-1938), que escreveram biografias de Marx entre duas guerras mundiais e só puderam se concentrar em um número limitado de manuscritos não publicados, para aqueles que vieram depois daquela época turbulenta, o assunto é mais complexo.

Dois dos escritos mais conhecidos de Marx – os Manuscritos Econômicos e Filosóficos de 1844 e A Ideologia Alemã (1845-46), ambos muito longe de estar concluídos – foram publicados em 1932 e começaram a circular apenas na segunda metade da década de 1940. À medida que a Segunda Guerra Mundial dava lugar a um sentimento de profunda angústia decorrente das barbáries do nazismo, em um clima em que filosofias como o existencialismo ganhavam popularidade, o tema da condição do indivíduo na sociedade ganhava grande destaque e criava condições perfeitas para um interesse crescente nas idéias filosóficas de Marx, como a alienação. As biografias de Marx publicadas neste período, assim como a maioria dos volumes acadêmicos, refletiram esse zeitgeist e deram peso indevido a seus escritos juvenis.

Muitos dos livros que pretendiam apresentar aos leitores o pensamento de Marx como um todo, nas décadas de 1960 e 1970, concentravam-se principalmente no período de 1843-48, quando Marx, na época da publicação do Manifesto do Partido Comunista (1848), tinha apenas 30 anos.

Nesse contexto, não foi apenas a última década da vida de Marx tratada como uma reflexão tardia, mas o próprio Capital foi relegado a uma posição secundária. O sociólogo liberal Raymond Aron descreveu perfeitamente essa atitude no livro D’une Sainte Famille à l’autre: Essais sur les marxismes imaginaires (1969), onde zombou dos marxistas parisienses que passaram superficialmente pelo Capital, sua obra-prima e fruto de muitos anos de trabalho, publicado em 1867, e permaneceu cativado pela obscuridade e incompletude dos Manuscritos Econômicos e Filosóficos de 1844.

Podemos dizer que o mito do “Jovem Marx” – alimentado também por Louis Althusser e por aqueles que argumentaram que a juventude de Marx não poderia ser considerada parte do marxismo – tem sido um dos principais mal-entendidos na história dos estudos marxistas. Marx não publicou nenhuma obra que considerasse “maior” na primeira metade da década de 1840. Por exemplo, deve-se ler as cartas e resoluções de Marx para a Working Men’s Association, se quisermos entender seu pensamento político, não os artigos de jornais de 1844 que apareceram no German-French Yearbook. E mesmo se analisarmos seus manuscritos incompletos, os Grundrisse (1857-58) ou as Teorias da mais-valia (1862-63), estes foram muito mais significativos para ele do que a crítica do neo-hegelianismo na Alemanha, “abandonado ao crítica mordaz aos ratos” em 1846. A tendência de enfatizar demais seus primeiros escritos não mudou muito desde a queda do Muro de Berlim. As biografias mais recentes – apesar da publicação de novos manuscritos pela Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), a edição histórico-crítica das obras completas de Marx e Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) – negligenciam esse período anterior.

Outra razão para esse descaso é a alta complexidade da maioria dos estudos realizados por Marx na fase final de sua vida. Escrever sobre o jovem estudante da esquerda hegeliana é muito mais fácil do que tentar superar o intrincado emaranhado de manuscritos em várias línguas e interesses intelectuais do início da década de 1880, e isso pode ter dificultado uma compreensão mais rigorosa dos importantes acúmulos alcançados por Marx. Pensando erroneamente que havia desistido de continuar seu trabalho e representar os últimos 10 anos de sua vida como “uma lenta agonia”, muitos biógrafos e estudiosos de Marx falharam em olhar mais profundamente para o que ele realmente fez durante aquele período.

NA: No recente filme Miss Marx, há uma cena após o funeral de Marx que mostra Friedrich Engels e Eleanor, a filha mais nova de Marx, vasculhando papéis e manuscritos do pai. Engels examina um artigo e faz uma observação sobre o interesse tardio de Marx em equações diferenciais e matemática. Os últimos anos de Karl Marx parecem dar a impressão de que, em seus últimos anos, o leque de interesses de Marx foi particularmente amplo. Havia algum fio condutor que sustentasse essa preocupação com tópicos tão diversos como antropologia, matemática, história antiga e gênero?

MM: Pouco antes de sua morte, Marx pediu a sua filha Eleanor que lembrasse a Engels de “fazer algo” com seus manuscritos inacabados. Como é bem sabido, durante os 12 anos em que sobreviveu, Engels empreendeu a hercúlea tarefa de enviar para imprimir os volumes II e III do Capital, nos quais seu amigo havia trabalhado continuamente de meados da década de 1860 a 1881, mas não havia concluído. Outros textos escritos pelo próprio Engels após a morte de Marx em 1883 estavam cumprindo indiretamente sua vontade e estavam estritamente relacionados às investigações que havia conduzido durante os últimos anos de sua vida. Por exemplo, Origens da Família, da Propriedade Privada e do Estado (1884) foi denominado por seu autor como “a execução de um legado”, inspirado nas pesquisas de Marx sobre antropologia, em particular nas passagens que copiou, em 1881, da Sociedade Antiga de Lewis Henry Morgan (1877) e pelos comentários que ele adicionou aos resumos deste livro.

Não há apenas um fio condutor nos últimos anos de pesquisa de Marx. Alguns de seus estudos surgiram de descobertas científicas recentes sobre as quais desejava se manter atualizado, ou de acontecimentos políticos que considerava significativos. Marx já havia aprendido antes que o nível geral de emancipação em uma sociedade dependia do nível de emancipação das mulheres, mas os estudos antropológicos realizados na década de 1880 lhe deram a oportunidade de analisar a opressão de gênero em maior profundidade. Marx gastou muito menos tempo com questões ecológicas do que nas duas décadas anteriores, mas, por outro lado, ele mergulhou mais uma vez em temas históricos. Entre o outono de 1879 e o verão de 1880, ele preencheu um caderno intitulado Notes on Indian History (664-1858), e entre o outono de 1881 e o inverno de 1882, ele trabalhou intensamente nos chamados Extratos cronológicos, uma linha do tempo anotada ano a ano de 550 páginas escritas com uma caligrafia ainda menor do que o normal. Estes incluíram resumos de eventos mundiais, desde o primeiro século A.C até a Guerra dos Trinta Anos em 1648, resumindo suas causas e características mais marcantes.

É possível que Marx quisesse testar se suas concepções eram bem fundamentadas à luz dos principais desenvolvimentos políticos, militares, econômicos e tecnológicos do passado. Em todo caso, é preciso ter em mente que, quando Marx empreendeu este trabalho, tinha plena consciência de que seu estado de saúde frágil o impedia de fazer uma última tentativa de concluir o volume II do Capital. Sua esperança era fazer todas as correções necessárias para preparar uma terceira edição revisada em alemão do volume I, mas, no final, ele não teve nem forças para fazer isso.

Eu não diria que a pesquisa que ele conduziu em seus últimos anos de vida foi mais ampla do que o normal. Talvez a amplitude de suas investigações seja mais evidente neste período porque não foram conduzidas em paralelo com a escrita de quaisquer livros ou manuscritos significativos. Mas as milhares de páginas escritas por Marx em oito línguas, desde que ele era um estudante universitário, de obras de filosofia, arte, história, religião, política, direito, literatura, história, economia política, relações internacionais, tecnologia, matemática, fisiologia, geologia, mineralogia, agronomia, antropologia, química e física, atestam sua fome perpétua por conhecimento em uma variedade muito grande de disciplinas. O que pode ser surpreendente é que Marx não foi capaz de abandonar esse hábito, mesmo quando sua força física diminuiu consideravelmente. Sua curiosidade intelectual, junto com seu espírito autocrítico, conquistou uma gestão mais focada e “criteriosa” de seu trabalho.

Mas essas idéias sobre “o que Marx deveria ter feito” são geralmente fruto do desejo distorcido daqueles que gostariam que ele fosse um indivíduo que não fizesse nada além de escrever O Capital – nem mesmo para se defender das controvérsias políticas em que foi envolvido. Mesmo se ele uma vez se definiu como “uma máquina, condenada a devorar livros e depois jogá-los, de forma modificada, no depósito da história”, Marx era um ser humano. Seu interesse pela matemática e pelo cálculo diferencial, por exemplo, começou como um estímulo intelectual em sua busca por um método de análise social, mas se tornou um espaço lúdico, um refúgio em momentos de grande dificuldade pessoal, “uma ocupação para manter a quietude da mente”, como costumava dizer a Engels.

NA: Os estudos dos últimos escritos de Marx mostram um interesse na pesquisa de sociedades não europeias. Ao reconhecer, como ele faz, que existem caminhos para o desenvolvimento diferentes do “modelo ocidental”, é justo dizer, como alguns afirmam, que se tratava de Marx virando uma nova página, ou seja, um Marx “não eurocêntrico”? Ou é mais correto dizer que essa foi a admissão de Marx de que sua obra nunca foi destinada a ser aplicada sem primeiro atender à realidade concreta de diferentes sociedades históricas?

A primeira e mais importante chave para compreender a ampla variedade de interesses geográficos na pesquisa de Marx, durante a última década de sua vida, está em seu plano para fornecer um relato mais amplo da dinâmica do modo de produção capitalista em escala global. A Inglaterra foi o principal campo de observação do Capital, volume I; após sua publicação, ele queria expandir as investigações socioeconômicas para os dois volumes do Capital que ainda estavam por escrever. Foi por essa razão que decidiu aprender russo em 1870 e, então, exigia constantemente livros e estatísticas sobre a Rússia e os Estados Unidos. Ele acreditava que a análise das transformações econômicas desses países teria sido muito útil para a compreensão das possíveis formas nas quais o capitalismo pode se desenvolver em diferentes períodos e contextos. Este elemento crucial é subestimado na literatura secundária sobre o tema, que está na moda hoje em dia, de “Marx e Eurocentrismo”.

Outra questão chave para a pesquisa de Marx em sociedades não europeias era se o capitalismo era um pré-requisito necessário para o nascimento da sociedade comunista e em que nível ela deveria se desenvolver internacionalmente. A concepção multilinear que Marx assumiu em seus últimos anos o levou a olhar mais atentamente para as especificidades históricas e os desníveis do desenvolvimento econômico e político em diferentes países e contextos sociais.

Marx tornou-se altamente cético quanto à transferência de categorias interpretativas entre contextos históricos e geográficos completamente diferentes e, como ele escreveu, também percebeu que “eventos de notável semelhança, ocorrendo em contextos históricos diferentes, levam a resultados totalmente díspares”. Essa abordagem certamente aumentou as dificuldades que ele enfrentou no curso já acidentado dos volumes inacabados do Capital e contribuiu para a lenta aceitação de que sua obra principal permaneceria incompleta. Mas certamente abriu novas esperanças revolucionárias.

Ao contrário do que alguns autores ingenuamente acreditam, Marx não descobriu repentinamente que tinha sido eurocêntrico e dedicou sua atenção a novos temas de estudo porque sentiu a necessidade de corrigir seus pontos de vista políticos. Ele sempre foi um “cidadão do mundo”, como costumava se chamar, e sempre tentou analisar as mudanças econômicas e sociais em suas implicações globais. Como já foi argumentado, como qualquer outro pensador do seu nível, Marx tinha consciência da superioridade da Europa moderna sobre os demais continentes do mundo, em termos de produção industrial e organização social, mas nunca considerou esse fato como necessário ou fator permanente. E, claro, ele sempre foi um inimigo feroz do colonialismo. Essas considerações são muito óbvias para quem leu Marx.

NA: Um dos capítulos centrais do seu livro trata da relação de Marx com a Rússia. Como você mostra, Marx travou um diálogo muito intenso com diferentes partes da esquerda russa, especificamente em torno da recepção do primeiro volume do Capital. Quais foram os principais pontos desses debates?

MM: Por muitos anos, Marx identificou a Rússia como um dos principais obstáculos à emancipação da classe trabalhadora. Ele enfatizou várias vezes que seu lento desenvolvimento econômico e seu regime político despótico ajudaram a fazer do império czarista o posto avançado da contra-revolução. Mas em seus últimos anos, ele começou a olhar de forma bem diferente para a Rússia.

Ele reconheceu algumas condições possíveis para uma grande transformação social após a abolição da servidão em 1861. A Rússia parecia mais propensa a produzir uma revolução do que a Grã-Bretanha, onde o capitalismo havia criado o número proporcionalmente maior de operários de fábrica no mundo, mas onde o movimento operário, desfrutando de melhores condições de vida em parte baseadas na exploração colonial, enfraqueceu e sofreu a influência negativa do reformismo sindical.

Os diálogos travados por Marx com os revolucionários russos foram com intelectuais e políticos. Na primeira metade da década de 1870, ele adquiriu familiaridade com a principal literatura crítica sobre a sociedade russa e dedicou atenção especial à obra do filósofo socialista Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1828-1889). Ele acreditava que um dado fenômeno social que havia alcançado um alto nível de desenvolvimento nas nações mais avançadas poderia se espalhar muito rapidamente entre os outros povos e subir de um nível inferior direto para outro superior, passando pelos momentos intermediários. Isso deu a Marx muito que pensar ao reconsiderar sua concepção materialista da história.

Por muito tempo, ele sabia que o esquema de progressão linear através dos modos de produção asiáticos, antigos, feudais e modernos da burguesia, que ele havia desenhado no prefácio de Uma contribuição para a crítica da economia política (1859), era completamente inadequado para uma compreensão do movimento da história, e que era realmente aconselhável evitar qualquer filosofia da história. Ele não conseguia mais conceber a sucessão de modos de produção no curso da história como uma sequência fixa de estágios predefinidos.

Marx também aproveitou a oportunidade para discutir com militantes de várias tendências revolucionárias na Rússia. Ele considerava o caráter realista da atividade política do populismo russo – que na época era um movimento da esquerda anticapitalista – porque não recorreu a floreios ultrarevolucionários sem sentido ou a generalizações contraproducentes. Marx avaliou a relevância das organizações socialistas existentes na Rússia por seu caráter pragmático, não por declaração de lealdade às suas próprias teorias. Na verdade, ele observou que muitas vezes aqueles que se diziam “marxistas” são os mais doutrinários. Sua exposição às teorias e à atividade política dos populistas russos – como os comunardos de Paris uma década antes – ajudou-o a ser mais flexível na análise da irrupção dos acontecimentos revolucionários e das forças subjetivas que os moldaram. Isso o aproximou de um verdadeiro internacionalismo em escala global.

O tema central dos diálogos e trocas que Marx teve com muitas figuras da esquerda russa foi a questão muito complexa do desenvolvimento do capitalismo, que teve implicações políticas e teóricas cruciais. A dificuldade dessa discussão também é evidenciada pela escolha final de Marx de não enviar uma carta perspicaz na qual ele havia criticado algumas interpretações errôneas do Capital para o jornal Otechestvennye Zapiski, ou para responder à “questão de vida e morte” de Vera Zasulich sobre o futuro do comuna rural (a obshchina) com apenas uma carta curta e cautelosa, e não com um texto mais longo que ele escreveu e reescreveu em três rascunhos preparatórios.

NA: A correspondência de Marx com a socialista russa Vera Zasulich é o assunto de muito interesse hoje. Lá, Marx sugeriu que a comuna rural russa poderia se apropriar dos últimos avanços da sociedade capitalista – tecnologia, em particular – sem ter que passar pelas convulsões sociais que foram tão destrutivas para o campesinato da Europa Ocidental. Você pode explicar com um pouco mais de detalhes o pensamento que inspirou essas conclusões de Marx?

MM: Por coincidência fortuita, a carta de Zasulich chegou a Marx, assim como seu interesse por formas arcaicas de comunidade, já aprofundado em 1879 pelo estudo da obra do sociólogo Maksim Kovalevsky, o levava a prestar mais atenção às descobertas mais recentes feitas por antropólogos de seu tempo. Teoria e prática o levaram ao mesmo lugar. Com base nas ideias sugeridas pelo antropólogo Morgan, ele escreveu que o capitalismo poderia ser substituído por uma forma superior de produção coletiva arcaica.

Esta declaração ambígua requer pelo menos dois esclarecimentos. Em primeiro lugar, graças ao que aprendera com Chernyshevsky, Marx argumentou que a Rússia não poderia repetir servilmente todos os estágios históricos da Inglaterra e de outros países da Europa Ocidental. Em princípio, a transformação socialista da obshchina poderia acontecer sem uma passagem necessária pelo capitalismo. Mas isso não significa que Marx mudou seu julgamento crítico da comuna rural na Rússia, ou que ele acreditava que os países onde o capitalismo ainda estava subdesenvolvido estavam mais próximos da revolução do que outros com um desenvolvimento produtivo mais avançado. Ele não se convenceu subitamente de que as comunas rurais arcaicas eram um alavanca à emancipação mais avançado para o indivíduo do que as relações sociais existentes no capitalismo.

Em segundo lugar, sua análise da possível transformação progressiva da obshchina não pretendia ser elevada a um modelo mais geral. Foi uma análise específica de uma determinada produção coletiva em um momento histórico preciso. Em outras palavras, Marx revelou a flexibilidade teórica e a falta de método que muitos marxistas depois dele não conseguiram demonstrar. No final da vida, Marx revelou uma abertura teórica cada vez maior, o que lhe permitiu considerar outros caminhos possíveis para o socialismo que ele nunca havia levado a sério ou antes considerado como inatingíveis.

A dúvida de Marx foi substituída pela convicção de que o capitalismo era um estágio inevitável para o desenvolvimento econômico em todos os países e condições históricas. O novo interesse que ressurge hoje pelas considerações que Marx nunca enviou a Zasulich, e por outras ideias semelhantes expressas mais claramente em seus últimos anos de vida, está em uma concepção de sociedade pós-capitalista que está distantes da equação do socialismo com as forças produtivas – uma concepção envolvendo nuances nacionalistas e simpatia pelo colonialismo, que se afirmou dentro da Segunda Internacional e dos partidos social-democratas. As ideias de Marx também diferem profundamente do suposto “método científico” de análise social preponderante na União Soviética e seus satélites.

NA: Mesmo que a luta pela saúde de Marx sejam bem conhecidas, ainda é doloroso ler o capítulo final de seu livro, onde você faz uma crônica de sua condição deteriorada. As biografias intelectuais de Marx apontam corretamente que uma apreciação completa de Marx precisa conectar sua vida e atividades políticas com seu pensamento; como Marx estava inativo devido a enfermidades? Como alguém que está escrevendo uma biografia intelectual, como você aborda esse período?

MM: Um dos melhores estudiosos de Marx de todos os tempos, Maximilien Rubel (1905-1996), autor do livro Karl Marx: essai de biographie intellectuelle (1957), argumentou que, para escrever sobre Marx, é preciso ser um pouco filósofo, um pouco historiador, um pouco economista e um pouco sociólogo ao mesmo tempo. Eu acrescentaria que, ao escrever a biografia de Marx, também se aprende muito sobre a medicina. Marx lidou durante toda a sua vida madura com uma série de questões de saúde. O mais longo deles foi uma infecção desagradável da pele que o acompanhou durante toda a redação do Capital e se manifestou em furúnculos graves e debilitantes em várias partes do corpo. Foi por essa razão que, quando Marx terminou sua magnum opus, ele escreveu: “Espero que a burguesia se lembre dos meus carbúnculos até o dia da morte!”

Os últimos dois anos de sua vida foram particularmente difíceis. Marx sofreu uma dor terrível pela perda de sua esposa e filha mais velha, e ele teve uma bronquite crônica que frequentemente evoluía para uma pleurisia severa. Lutou, em vão, para encontrar o clima que lhe proporcionasse as melhores condições para melhorar, e viajou, sozinho, pela Inglaterra, França e até Argélia, onde embarcou num longo período de complicado tratamento. O aspecto mais interessante dessa parte da biografia de Marx é a sagacidade, sempre acompanhada de auto-ironia, que ele demonstrou para lidar com a fragilidade de seu corpo. As cartas que escreveu às filhas e a Engels, quando sentiu que estava perto do fim, deixam mais evidente o seu lado mais íntimo. Elas revelam a importância do que ele chamou de “mundo microscópico”, começando com a paixão vital que sentia pelos netos. Elas incluem as considerações de um homem que passou por uma existência longa e intensa e passou a avaliar todos os aspectos da vida.

Os biógrafos devem relatar os sofrimentos da esfera privada, especialmente quando eles são relevantes para melhor compreender as dificuldades subjacentes à escrita de um livro, ou as razões pelas quais um manuscrito permaneceu inacabado. Mas também devem saber onde parar e evitar lançar um olhar indiscreto aos assuntos exclusivamente privados.

NA: Muito do pensamento tardio de Marx está contido em cartas e cadernos. Devemos conceder a esses escritos o mesmo status de seus escritos mais consagrados? Quando você argumenta que a escrita de Marx é “essencialmente incompleta”, você tem algo assim em mente?

MM: O Capital permaneceu inacabado por causa da pobreza opressora em que Marx viveu por duas décadas e por causa de seus constantes problemas de saúde ligados às preocupações diárias. Desnecessário dizer que a tarefa que ele se propôs – compreender o modo de produção capitalista em sua média ideal e descrever suas tendências gerais de desenvolvimento – era extraordinariamente difícil de realizar. Mas o Capital não foi o único projeto que permaneceu incompleto. A autocrítica impiedosa de Marx aumentou as dificuldades de mais de um de seus empreendimentos, e a grande quantidade de tempo que ele gastou em muitos projetos que queria publicar se deveu ao extremo rigor a que submeteu todo o seu pensamento.

Quando Marx era jovem, ele era conhecido entre seus amigos da universidade por sua meticulosidade. Há histórias que o retratam como alguém que se recusou a escrever uma frase se não pudesse provar de dez maneiras diferentes. É por isso que o jovem estudioso mais prolífico da esquerda hegeliana ainda publicou menos do que muitos dos outros. A crença de Marx de que suas informações eram insuficientes e seus julgamentos imaturos o impediram de publicar escritos que permaneceram na forma de fragmentos. Mas é também por isso que suas notas são extremamente úteis e devem ser consideradas parte integrante de sua obra. Muitos de seus trabalhos incessantes tiveram consequências teóricas extraordinárias para o futuro.

Isso não significa que seus textos incompletos possam receber o mesmo peso daqueles que foram publicados. Eu distinguiria cinco tipos de escritos: trabalhos publicados, seus manuscritos preparatórios, artigos jornalísticos, cartas e cadernos de trechos. Mas também devem ser feitas distinções dentro dessas categorias. Alguns dos textos publicados de Marx não devem ser considerados sua palavra final sobre algumas questões. Por exemplo, o Manifesto do Partido Comunista foi considerado por Engels e Marx como um documento histórico da juventude e não como o texto definitivo em que suas principais concepções políticas se manifestavam. Ou deve-se ter em mente que escritos de propaganda política e escritos científicos muitas vezes não são combináveis.

Infelizmente, esses tipos de erros são muito frequentes na literatura secundária sobre Marx. Isso sem falar na ausência da dimensão cronológica em muitas reconstruções de seu pensamento. Os textos da década de 1840 não podem ser citados indiscriminadamente ao lado dos das décadas de 1860 e 1870, pois não carregam o mesmo peso de conhecimento científico e experiência política. Alguns manuscritos foram escritos por Marx apenas para ele mesmo, enquanto outros eram materiais preparatórios para livros a serem publicados. Alguns foram revisados ​​e muitas vezes atualizados por Marx, enquanto outros foram abandonados por ele sem a possibilidade de atualizá-los (nesta categoria, há o volume III do Capital). Alguns artigos jornalísticos contêm considerações que podem ser consideradas uma conclusão das obras de Marx. Outros, porém, foram escritos rapidamente a fim de levantar dinheiro para pagar o aluguel. Algumas cartas incluem opiniões autênticas de Marx sobre as questões discutidas. Outros contêm apenas uma versão suavizada, porque se dirigiam a pessoas fora do círculo de Marx, com quem às vezes era necessário se expressar diplomaticamente.

Por todas essas razões, é claro que um bom conhecimento da vida de Marx é indispensável para uma compreensão correta de suas idéias. Finalmente, existem os mais de 200 cadernos contendo resumos (e às vezes comentários) de todos os livros mais importantes lidos por Marx durante o período de 1838 a 1882. Eles são essenciais para uma compreensão da gênese de sua teoria e de elementos que ele não foi capaz de desenvolver como gostaria.

As ideias concebidas por Marx durante os últimos anos de sua vida foram coletadas principalmente nesses cadernos. Certamente são muito difíceis de ler, mas nos dão acesso a um tesouro muito precioso: não apenas a pesquisa que Marx fez antes de sua morte, mas também as perguntas que ele se fez durante a vida. Algumas de suas dúvidas podem ser mais úteis para nós hoje do que algumas de suas certezas.


Celebremos al viejo Marx

Definidos con frecuencia como los años «finales», «últimos» o «tardíos», el período entre 1881 y 1883 es uno de los menos elaborados en los estudios sobre Marx. Esta desatención se debe en parte a que las enfermedades que afectaron a Marx durante sus últimos años no le permitieron sostener su ritmo de escritura regular.

De hecho, casi no existen obras publicadas durante el período. Sin más hitos de la magnitud de los que marcaron su obra anterior —desde los escritos filosóficos hasta estudio de la economía política—, durante mucho tiempo los biógrafos de Marx consideraron estos años finales como un capítulo menor marcado por una salud debilitada y unas capacidades intelectuales menguantes.

Sin embargo, existen nuevas investigaciones que sugieren que esta no es la última palabra y que los últimos años de Marx serían una mina de oro plagada de elementos que permiten revisar su pensamiento bajo nuevas perspectivas. Conservados en general en cartas, cuadernos y otras «marginalia», los últimos escritos de Marx nos presentan a un hombre que, lejos de los relatos comunes sobre su decadencia, siguió batiéndose hasta último momento con sus propias ideas sobre el capitalismo definido como un modo de producción mundial. Como sugieren sus investigaciones sobre las denominadas «sociedades primitivas», la comuna agraria rusa del siglo XIX y la «cuestión nacional» en las colonias europeas, los escritos de Marx del período testimonian un pensamiento que aborda sus propias complejidades y los problemas del mundo real, especialmente en lo que respecta a la expansión global del capitalismo más allá de las fronteras europeas.

El pensamiento tardío de Marx es el objeto del último libro publicado por Marcello Musto, titulado The Last Years of Karl Marx. Musto entrelaza con destreza la riqueza de los detalles biográficos y un abordaje sofisticado de los escritos de madurez de Marx, que no pocas veces ponen en cuestión las tesis que él mismo había sostenido en otro momento. Nicolas Allen entrevistó a Musto para Jacobin y conversaron sobre las complejidades que conlleva estudiar los últimos años de vida de Marx y los motivos por los cuales actualmente muchas de sus dudas y vacilaciones son más útiles que algunas de sus certezas.


NA: El «último Marx» sobre el que escribiste, es decir, ese período de su pensamiento que abarca los tres años previos a la muerte del autor, suele ser considerado por los marxistas y los académicos como un aditamento insustancial. Dejando de lado el hecho de que Marx no publicó ninguna obra importante durante sus últimos años, ¿por qué este período recibe tan poca atención?

MM: Todas las biografías intelectuales de Marx publicadas hasta la fecha prestan muy poca atención a su última década de vida. En general, toda la actividad posterior a la conclusión de la experiencia de la Asociación Internacional de Trabajadores en 1872 se resume en pocas páginas.  No es casualidad que estos académicos utilicen casi siempre el título genérico «La última década» para encabezar estas partes de sus libros, por cierto muy breves. Mientras que este interés limitado es comprensible en el caso de académicos como Franz Mehring (1846-1919),  Karl Vorländer (1860-1928) y David Ryazanov (1870-1938), que escribieron sus biografías de Marx entre las dos guerras mundiales y solo contaban con un número limitado de manuscritos inéditos, la cuestión es más compleja para los que vinieron después de aquellos años turbulentos.

1919),  Karl Vorländer (1860-1928) y David Ryazanov (1870-1938), que escribieron sus biografías de Marx entre las dos guerras mundiales y solo contaban con un número limitado de manuscritos inéditos, la cuestión es más compleja para los que vinieron después de aquellos años turbulentos.

Dos de los escritos más conocidos de Marx —los Manuscritos económicos y filosóficos de 1844 y La ideología alemana (1845-1846), ambos muy lejos de estar terminados— fueron publicados en 1932 y empezaron a circular solo durante la segunda mitad de los años 1940. La Segunda Guerra Mundial generó una sensación de angustia profunda, sobre todo a causa de las barbaridades del nazismo. En ese clima prosperaron ciertas filosofías, como el existencialismo, y el tema de la situación del individuo en la sociedad se volvió muy importante y generó las condiciones para que se desarrollara un interés cada vez mayor en las ideas propiamente filosóficas de Marx, como la alienación y el ser genérico. Las biografías de Marx publicadas durante el período, al igual que la mayoría de los estudios que surgieron en la academia, reflejaron este Zeitgeist y le otorgaron a estos escritos un peso exagerado. Muchos de los libros que decían presentarles a los lectores el pensamiento completo de Marx, en los años 1960 y 1970, se centraban en general sobre el período 1843-1848, es decir, llegaban hasta la publicación del Manifiesto del Partido Comunista (1848), cuando Marx tenía solo treinta años.

En este contexto, no solo la última década de la vida de Marx era tratada como un aditamento sin mucha importancia, sino que hasta El capital era relegado a una posición secundaria. El sociólogo liberal Raymond Aron definió con precisión esta actitud en el libro D’une Sainte Famille à l’autre. Essais sur les marxismes imaginaires (1969), en donde se burlaba de los marxistas parisinos que pasaban sin mirar por encima de El capital, su obra maestra y resultado de largos años de trabajo, publicada en 1867, cautivados como estaban por la oscuridad y la inconclusión de los Manuscritos económicos y filosóficos de 1844.

Podemos decir que el mito del «joven Marx» —alimentado también por Louis Althusser y por quienes argumentaban que la juventud de Marx no debía ser considerada como parte del marxismo— fue uno de los principales malentendidos en la historia de los estudios sobre Marx. Durante la primera mitad de los años 1840, Marx no publicó ninguna obra que considerara «importante». Por ejemplo, si queremos comprender su pensamiento político debemos leer los discursos y resoluciones que escribió para la Asociación Internacional de Trabajadores, no los artículos periodísticos de 1844 que aparecieron en los Anuarios francoalemanes. Aun si consideramos sus manuscritos incompletos, los Grundrisse (1857-1858) o las Teorías de la plusvalía (1862-1863), debemos tener en cuenta que eran mucho más significativos para él que la crítica del neohegelianismo en Alemania, abandonada a la inmisericorde «crítica de las ratas» en 1846.La tendencia a sobredimensionar los escritos de juventud no se modificó luego de la caída del Muro de Berlín. Las biografías más recientes —a pesar de la publicación de los nuevos manuscritos en la Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA²), la edición histórico-crítica de las obras completas de Marx y Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)— subestiman sus últimos escritos tanto como lo hicieron los autores del pasado.

Otro motivo de este descuido es la alta complejidad de la mayoría de los estudios emprendidos por Marx durante la fase final de su vida. Escribir sobre el joven estudiante de la izquierda hegeliana es mucho más fácil que lograr manejar la maraña de manuscritos multilingües y los intereses intelectuales de comienzos de los años 1880. Es probable que esto también haya dificultado una comprensión más rigurosa de las importantes conquistas teóricas que hizo Marx durante este período. Al pensar erróneamente que había abandonado completamente la idea de continuar su obra y representarse los últimos diez años de su vida como una «lenta agonía», demasiados biógrafos y académicos de Marx no logran examinar más profundamente lo que realmente hizo durante el período.


NA: En la película Miss Marx, estrenada hace poco, hay una escena que sigue inmediatamente al funeral de Marx en la que se muestra a Eleanor, su hija menor, y a Engels escudriñando documentos y manuscritos en el estudio del difunto. Luego de examinar uno en particular, Engels hace un comentario sobre el interés de Marx durante sus últimos años en las ecuaciones diferenciales y en las matemáticas. The Last Days of Karl Marx deja la impresión de que el espectro de intereses de Marx durante este período fue especialmente amplio. ¿Había un hilo conductor que mantenía unidas sus obsesiones en temas tan diversos como la antropología, las matemáticas, la historia antigua y las cuestiones de género?

MM: Poco tiempo antes de morir, Marx le pidió a su hija Eleanor que le recordará a Engels que debía «hacer algo» con sus manuscritos incompletos. Es sabido que, durante los doce años que vivió luego de la muerte de su amigo, Engels asumió la tarea hercúlea de imprimir los tomos II y III de El capital, en los cuales Marx trabajó sin descanso desde mediados de los años 1860 hasta 1881, aunque no logró terminarlos. Otros textos escritos por Engels, después de la muerte de Marx en 1883, cumplieron indirectamente su voluntad y tienen una íntima relación con las investigaciones que su amigo desarrolló durante los últimos años de su vida. Por ejemplo, El origen de la familia, de la propiedad privada y del Estado (1884) fue denominada por su autor como la«ejecución de un testamento» y al escribirlo Engels se inspiró en las investigaciones de Marx sobre antropología, especialmente en los pasajes que copió, en 1881, de La sociedad antigua (1877) de Henry Morgan (1818-1881) y en los comentarios que añadió a los resúmenes de este libro.

No existe un solo hilo conductor durante los últimos años de investigación de Marx. Algunos de sus estudios surgen simplemente de su voluntad de estar al día con los descubrimientos científicos de su época o de los acontecimientos políticos que consideraba significativos. Marx había aprendido tiempo atrás que el nivel general de emancipación de una sociedad dependía del nivel de emancipación de sus mujeres, pero los estudios antropológicos desarrollados en los años 1880 le dieron la oportunidad de analizar con más profundidad la opresión de género. En cuanto a las cuestiones ecológicas, Marx les dedicó mucho menos tiempo que durante las dos décadas anteriores, aunque se sumergió de nuevo en el estudio de la historia. Entre el otoño de 1879 y el verano de 1880, completó un cuaderno titulado Notas sobre historia india (664-1858) y, entre el otoño de 1881 y el invierno de 1882, trabajó intensamente en los denominados Extractos cronológicos, una línea de tiempo de 550 páginas comentada año por año con una letra todavía más pequeña que la usual. Aquí se incluían resúmenes de acontecimientos mundiales, desde el siglo I hasta la guerra de los Treinta Años de 1648, y se comentaban sus causas y sus rasgos sobresalientes.

Es posible que Marx quisiera probar que sus concepciones estaban bien fundamentadas a la luz de los desarrollos políticos, militares, económicos y tecnológicos más importantes del pasado. En cualquier caso, hay que tener en mente que, cuando Marx emprendió este trabajo, era completamente consciente de que su frágil estado de salud no le permitiría completar el tomo II de El capital. Su expectativa era realizar todas las correcciones necesarias para preparar una tercera edición revisada del tomo I en alemán, pero al final ni siquiera tuvo la fuerza para hacer esto.

Sin embargo, no diría que la investigación que desarrolló durante sus últimos años fue más amplia de lo normal. Tal vez la amplitud de sus investigaciones es más evidente en este período dado que no fueron desarrolladas en paralelo a la escritura de ningún libro ni manuscrito preliminar importantes. Pero las miles de páginas de fragmentos escritas por Marx en ocho lenguas desde que era un estudiante universitario, que abarcan trabajos de filosofía, arte, historia, religión, política, leyes, literatura, historia, economía política, relaciones internacionales, tecnología, matemáticas, fisiología, geología, mineralogía, agronomía, antropología, química y física, son testimonio de la inagotable sed de conocimiento con la que recorría una amplia variedad de disciplinas. Lo que tal vez es sorprendente es que Marx fue incapaz de abandonar este hábito aun cuando su fortaleza física menguó de manera considerable. Su curiosidad intelectual, junto a su espíritu autocrítico, triunfaron sobre lo que hubiese sido una gestión más centrada y «juiciosa» de su trabajo.

Pero las ideas sobre «lo que Marx debería haber hecho» responden en general al deseo un tanto perverso de aquellos a quienes les gustaría que Marx hubiese sido un tipo que no hubiese hecho nada más que escribir El capital, sin detenerse ni siquiera para defenderse de las controversias políticas en las cuales se involucró. Aun cuando él mismo se definió una vez como «una máquina condenada a devorar libros y, luego, devolverlos, bajo una nueva forma, al estercolero de la historia», Marx era un ser humano. Su interés en las matemáticas y en el cálculo diferencial, por ejemplo, comenzó como un estímulo intelectual mientras investigaba un método de análisis social, pero terminó siendo un espacio lúdico, un refugio en momentos de grandes dificultades personales, «una ocupación para mantener la mente tranquila», como solía decirle a Engels.


NA: Los estudios sobre los escritos tardíos de Marx tienden a concentrarse en la investigación de las sociedades no Europeas. ¿Es justo afirmar, como lo hace alguna gente, que al reconocer que hay vías de desarrollo distintas del «modelo occidental» Marx hace borrón y cuenta nueva y empieza una nueva historia, la del Marx «no eurocéntrico»? ¿O sería más adecuado decir que se trata del reconocimiento de Marx de que su trabajo nunca pretendió ser aplicado sin estudiar primero la realidad concreta de las diferentes sociedades históricas?

MM: El primer elemento, y el más importante, para comprender la amplitud geográfica de la investigación de Marx durante su última década de vida, radica en su plan de brindar una explicación más general de la dinámica del modo de producción capitalista a nivel mundial. Inglaterra había sido el principal terreno de observación del tomo I de El capital. Después de su publicación, deseaba expandir las investigaciones socioeconómicas en los dos tomos que todavía no habían escrito. Por este motivo decidió aprender ruso en 1870 y pedía constantemente que le mandaran libros de estadísticas de Rusia y de Estados Unidos. Consideraba que el análisis de las transformaciones económicas de estos países sería muy útil para comprender las formas en las cuales era posible que el capitalismo se desarrollara en distintos períodos y contextos. Este elemento fundamental es subestimado por la bibliografía secundaria sobre el tema —hoy de moda— de «Marx y el eurocentrismo».

Otro elemento clave de la investigación de Marx sobre las sociedades no europeas fue la intención de comprobar si el capitalismo era un prerrequisito para el nacimiento de una sociedad comunista y hasta qué punto era necesario que esta se desarrollara a nivel internacional. La concepción más bien multilineal, que Marx asumió durante sus últimos años, lo llevó a considerar con más atención las especificidades históricas y la desigualdad del desarrollo económico y político en distintos países y contextos sociales. Marx se volvió muy escéptico en cuanto a la transferencia de categorías interpretativas entre contextos históricos y geográficos completamente diferentes y, tal como escribió, también se dio cuenta de que «acontecimientos de una semejanza impactante, que se desarrollan en contextos históricos distintos, llevan a resultados totalmente dispares». Es evidente que este enfoque incrementó las dificultades que debería atravesar la de por sí turbulenta tarea de terminar los tomos incompletos de El capital y contribuyó a la lenta aceptación de que su obra más importante quedaría inconclusa. Pero también abrió nuevas expectativas revolucionarias.

Al contrario de lo que creen un poco ingenuamente algunos autores, Marx no descubrió de repente que había sido eurocéntrico para empezar, luego, a prestarle atención a nuevos temas de estudio, solo porque sentía la necesidad de corregir sus perspectivas políticas. Siempre fue un «ciudadano del mundo», como solía decir, y constantemente intentó analizar las consecuencias mundiales que tenían las transformaciones económicas y sociales. Como se dijo antes, al igual que cualquier otro pensador de esta categoría, Marx estaba al tanto de la superioridad de la Europa moderna sobre los otros continentes del mundo, en términos de producción industrial y organización social, pero nunca consideró que este hecho contingente fuese un factor necesario ni permanente. Y, por supuesto, fue siempre un férreo enemigo del colonialismo. Estas consideraciones deberían resultarle demasiado obvias a cualquiera que haya leído a Marx.


NA: Uno de los capítulos centrales de The Last Years of Karl Marx trata sobre las relaciones de Marx con Rusia. El libro prueba  que Marx sostuvo un diálogo muy intenso con distintas tendencias de la izquierda rusa, especialmente a propósito de su recepción del primer tomo de El capital. ¿Cuáles fueron los puntos más importantes que se plantearon en estos debates?

MM: Durante muchos años, Marx había identificado a Rusia como uno de los principales obstáculos a la emancipación de la clase obrera. En muchas oportunidades señaló que su lento desarrollo económico y su despótico régimen político habían ayudado a convertir al imperio zarista en el puesto más avanzado de la contrarrevolución  Pero en sus últimos años, empezó a mirar a Rusia de otra forma. Reconoció que, luego de la abolición de la servidumbre en 1861, existían condiciones para una gran transformación social. A los ojos de Marx, Rusia era más susceptible de producir una revolución que Gran Bretaña, donde el capitalismo había creado el número proporcionalmente más grande de trabajadores fabriles del mundo, pero donde también el movimiento obrero, que disfrutaba de mejores condiciones de vida en parte gracias a la explotación colonial, se había debilitado y había sufrido la influencia negativa del sindicalismo reformista.

Los diálogos que sostuvo Marx con los revolucionarios rusos eran a la vez intelectuales y políticos. Durante la primera mitad de los años 1870, se familiarizó con la principal literatura crítica sobre la sociedad rusa y le prestó especial atención al trabajo del filósofo socialista Nikolái Chernyshevski (1828-1889). Él creía que, si un fenómeno social determinado alcanzaba un nivel de desarrollo suficiente en los países más avanzados, podía expandirse velozmente en otros pueblos y elevarlos directamente desde un bajo nivel de desarrollo a uno más alto, salteándose los momentos intermedios. Todo esto le brindó a Marx muchos elementos para reconsiderar su concepción materialista de la historia. Durante mucho tiempo, había sido consciente de que el esquema del progreso lineal a lo largo de los modos de producción asiático, feudal y moderno burgués, que había esbozado en el prólogo a la Contribución a la crítica de la economía política (1859), era complemente inadecuado a la hora de comprender el movimiento de la historia y que, en efecto, era aconsejable mantenerse a distancia de cualquier filosofía de la historia. No podía concebir la sucesión de modos de producción en el curso de la historia como una secuencia fija de etapas predeterminadas.

Marx también aprovechó para discutir con los militantes de las distintas tendencias revolucionarias rusas. Tenía estima por la naturaleza sensata de las acciones políticas del populismo ruso —que en ese momento era un movimiento anticapitalista de izquierda—, especialmente porque no recurría a gestos ultrarrevolucionarios sin sentido ni a generalizaciones contraproducentes. Marx supo valorar la relevancia de las organizaciones socialistas existentes en Rusia por su carácter práctico y no por las declaraciones de lealtad que le hacían a sus propias teorías. De hecho, observó que, con frecuencia, los más dogmáticos eran aquellos que afirmaban ser «marxistas». Su exposición a las teorías y a la actividad política de los populistas rusos —como había sucedido una década atrás con los comuneros de París— lo ayudó a ser más flexible al analizar la irrupción de los acontecimientos revolucionarios y de las fuerzas subjetivas que les dieron forma. Esto lo acercó a un verdadero internacionalismo a escala global.

Los diálogos e intercambios que Marx mantuvo con muchas figuras de la izquierda rusa versaban principalmente sobre el complejo asunto del desarrollo del capitalismo, del que se seguían consecuencias teóricas y políticas cruciales. La dificultad de este debate quedó en evidencia en su decisión final de no enviar una carta muy esclarecedora, en la cual criticaba algunas malinterpretaciones de El capital, al periódico Otéchestvennye Zapiski, o en la respuesta corta y cautelosa a la cuestión «de vida o muerte» sobre el futuro de la comuna rural (la obshchina) que le planteó Vera Zasúlich (1849-1919), respuesta por la que optó en lugar de enviarle un texto más largo que había escrito y rescrito en tres borradores preliminares.


NA: La correspondencia de Marx con el socialista ruso Vera Zasúlich es objeto de mucha atención en la actualidad. En esas cartas, Marx sugiere que la comuna rural rusa sería capaz de apropiarse de los últimos avances de la sociedad capitalista —la tecnología, sobre todo— sin estar obligada a atravesar aquellos trastornos que resultaron tan dañinos para el campesinado de Europa Occidental. ¿Podrías exponer con un poco más de detalle el razonamiento que guio a Marx?

MM: Por una coincidencia fortuita, la carta de Zasúlich llegó a Marx justo cuando su interés en las formas comunales arcaicas, en las cuales había se había introducido en 1879 a través del estudio de la obra del sociólogo Maksim Kovalevsky (1851-1916), lo conducían a prestarles más atención a los descubrimientos más recientes de los antropólogos de la época. La teoría y la práctica lo llevaron al mismo lugar. Tomando algunas ideas sugeridas por el antropólogo Morgan, escribió que el capitalismo podía ser reemplazado por una forma de producción colectiva arcaica más elevada.

Esta afirmación ambigua exige al menos dos precisiones. En primer lugar, gracias a lo que había aprendido de Chernyshevski, Marx sostuvo que Rusia no podría repetir servilmente todas las etapas históricas de Inglaterra y de los otros países de Europa Occidental. En principio, la transformación socialista de la obshchina podía desarrollarse sin un tránsito necesario a través del capitalismo. Pero esto no significa que Marx haya cambiado su juicio crítico sobre la comuna rural en Rusia, ni que creyera que los países en donde el capitalismo estaba poco desarrollado estaban más cerca de la revolución que los que tenían un desarrollo productivo más avanzado. No se convenció de repente de que las comunas rurales arcaicas eran un lugar mucho más propicio para la emancipación individual que las relaciones sociales existentes bajo el capitalismo.

En segundo lugar, su análisis de la posible transformación progresiva de la obshchina no apuntaba a convertirse en un modelo general. Era el análisis específico de una producción colectiva particular en un momento histórico preciso. En otras palabras, Marx mostró contar con la flexibilidad teórica y la falta de esquematismo de la que carecieron muchos marxistas posteriores. Hacia el final de su vida, Marx reveló disponer de una apertura teórica todavía más amplia, que le permitió considerar otras vías posibles al socialismo que nunca antes había tomado en serio o que había considerado como imposibles.

Otros reemplazaron las dudas de Marx por la convicción de que el capitalismo era una etapa inevitable del desarrollo económico en todos los países y una condición histórica. El interés que vuelve a emerger en el presente por las observaciones que Marx nunca le envió a Zasúlich, y por otras ideas similares que expresó con más claridad durante sus últimos años de vida, radica en una concepción de la sociedad poscapitalista que se sitúa en el polo opuesto a la ecuación del socialismo y las fuerzas productivas, que no deja de tener tonalidades nacionalistas y cierta simpatía por el colonialismo y que se generalizó en el marco de la Segunda Internacional y en los partidos socialdemócratas. Las ideas de Marx también difieren profundamente del supuesto «método científico» de análisis social que fue preponderante en la Unión Soviética y sus satélites.


NA: Aunque las luchas de Marx contra sus problemas de salud son conocidas, sigue siendo doloroso leer el último capítulo de The Last Years of Karl Marx en el que se registra su agravamiento progresivo. Las biografías intelectuales de Marx señalan adecuadamente que un estudio completo debe conectar su pensamiento con su vida y con sus actividades políticas. Pero, ¿qué sucede con este último período, en el que Marx estaba bastante inactivo a causa de la enfermedad? Al momento de escribir una biografía intelectual, ¿cómo debe abordarse este período?

MM: Uno de los estudiosos más importantes de Marx, Maximilien Rubel (1905-1996), autor del libro Karl Marx: ensayo de biografía intelectual (1957), sostuvo que para escribir sobre Marx uno debe ser un poco filósofo, un poco historiador, un poco economista y un poco sociólogo al mismo tiempo. Agregaría que al escribir la biografía de Marx uno también aprende mucho de medicina. Marx tuvo que lidiar durante toda su vida madura con múltiples problemas de salud. El más duradero fue una molesta infección de la piel que lo acompañó durante toda la escritura de El capital y que se manifestó en abscesos y forúnculos graves y debilitantes en distintas partes de su cuerpo. Este fue el motivo por el que, al terminar su magnum opus, escribió: «¡Espero que la burguesía recuerde mis forúnculos hasta el día de su muerte!»

Los últimos dos años de su vida fueron especialmente difíciles. Marx sufrió muchísimo las pérdidas de su esposa y su hija mayor y tenía una bronquitis crónica que a veces llegaba a convertirse en pleuritis. Luchó en vano para encontrar un clima que le brindara las mejores condiciones para recuperarse, y viajó, solo, por Inglaterra, Francia e incluso Argelia, en donde emprendió un largo período de complejos tratamientos. El aspecto más interesante de esta parte de la biografía de Marx es la sagacidad, siempre acompañada de una especial disposición para la autoironía, con la que demostró enfrentar las flaquezas de su cuerpo. Las cartas que le escribió a sus hijas y a Engels, cuando sintió que el fin estaba cerca, evidencian su costado más íntimo. Revelan la importancia de lo que él llamaba «el mundo microscópico», comenzando por la pasión vital que tenía por sus nietos. Muestran las consideraciones de un hombre que atravesó una larga e intensa existencia y llegó a evaluarla en todos sus aspectos.

Los biógrafos deben relatar los sufrimientos de la esfera privada, especialmente cuando son relevantes para comprender mejor las dificultades que subyacen a la escritura de un libro, o los motivos por los cuales un manuscrito permaneció incompleto. Pero también deben saber dónde detenerse y evitar la profundización de una mirada indiscreta centrada exclusivamente en los asuntos privados.


NA: Una gran parte del pensamiento tardío de Marx está contenido en cartas y cuadernos. ¿Debemos atribuirles a estos escritos el mismo estatus que a las obras mejor logradas? Cuando afirmaste que la escritura de Marx es «esencialmente incompleta», ¿estabas pensando en algo así?

MM: El capital quedó incompleto debido a la agobiante pobreza en la que Marx vivió durante dos décadas y a sus constantes enfermedades, que no dejaban de estar vinculadas a aquellas preocupaciones cotidianas. No hace falta decir que el objetivo que se había planteado —entender la naturaleza general del modo de producción capitalista y describir sus tendencias generales de desarrollo— era extraordinariamente difícil de cumplir. Pero El capital no fue el único proyecto que quedó incompleto. La autocrítica impiadosa de Marx dificultaba todavía más sus proyectos y la enorme cantidad de tiempo que empeñaba en estos trabajos antes de publicarlos se debía al rigor extremo al que sometía a todo su pensamiento.

Cuando Marx era joven, era reconocido entre sus amigos de la universidad por su meticulosidad. Hay historias que lo pintan como alguien que se negaba a escribir una frase si no era capaz de demostrarla de diez formas distintas. Este fue el motivo por el que el prolífico estudiante de la izquierda hegeliana publicó, en fin, menos que muchos otros. La creencia de Marx de que su información era insuficiente y sus juicios inmaduros le impedía publicar escritos que tuvieran la forma de bosquejos o fragmentos. Pero este es también el motivo por el cual sus notas son muy útiles y deberían ser consideradas una parte integral de su obra. Muchos de estos esfuerzos incesantes tuvieron consecuencias teóricas extraordinarias en el futuro.

Esto no significa que sus textos incompletos tengan el mismo peso que los publicados. Distinguiría cinco tipos de escritos: obras publicadas, manuscritos preliminares, artículos periodísticos, cartas y cuadernos de extractos. Pero deben hacerse distinciones incluso al interior de estas categorías. Algunos de los textos publicados de Marx no deberían ser considerados como la última palabra sobre el tema del que tratan. Por ejemplo, el Manifiesto del Partido Comunista era considerado por Engels y por Marx como un documento de juventud y no como el texto definitivo que exponía sus principales concepciones políticas. También debemos recordar que los escritos de propaganda política y los científicos no siempre son compatibles.

Desafortunadamente, los errores de lectura que surgen de estas dificultades son muy frecuentes en la bibliografía secundaria sobre Marx. Esto por no mencionar la ausencia de cualquier dimensión cronológica que afecta a muchas reconstrucciones de su pensamiento. Los textos de los años 1840 no pueden ser citados de manera indiscriminada junto a los de las décadas de 1860 y 1870, dado que no tienen el mismo peso en cuanto a conocimiento científico ni a experiencia política. Algunos manuscritos fueron escritos por Marx para uso personal, mientras que otros eran efectivamente materiales preliminares para libros que serían publicados. Marx revisaba y actualizaba algunos con frecuencia, mientras que otros habían sido abandonados sin que existiera ninguna posibilidad de retomarlos (en esta categoría entra el tomo 3 de El capital). Algunos artículos periodísticos contienen reflexiones que deben ser consideradas como complementos de los libros de Marx. Otros, sin embargo, fueron escritos rápidamente para ganar algo dinero y pagar el alquiler. Algunas cartas presentan la verdadera perspectiva de Marx sobre los temas discutidos. Otras contienen una versión suavizada, porque estaban dirigidas a gente de fuera de su círculo, con la que a veces era necesario expresarse en términos diplomáticos.

Por todos estos motivos, está claro que comprender la vida de Marx es indispensable para entender adecuadamente sus ideas. Por último, existen alrededor de 200 cuadernos que contienen resúmenes (y muchas veces comentarios) de los libros más importantes que Marx leyó durante el largo período que abarca de 1838 a 1882. Son esenciales para entender la génesis de su teoría y esos elementos que fue incapaz de desarrollar con el detalle que hubiese deseado.

Lo que Marx pensó durante los últimos años de su vida se encuentra principalmente en estos cuadernos. Es cierto que son muy difíciles de leer, pero nos brindan acceso a un tesoro precioso: no solo las investigaciones que Marx logró terminar antes de morir, sino las preguntas que se planteaba. Algunas de sus dudas pueden llegar a ser más útiles hoy que algunas de sus certezas.


Jalan Terjal Komune Paris (Bagian II)

Perjuangan kolektif dan feminis
Kumone Paris lebih dari sekadar aksi-aksi yang disetujui oleh dewan legislatifnya.

Ia bahkan menata kembali ruang perkotaan, seperti nampak dalam keputusan untuk menghancurkan Pilar Vendôme, yang dianggap monumen barbarisme dan simbol perang. Komune Paris juga menerapkan kebijakan sekularisasi pada beberapa tempat ibadah dengan menyerahkannya kepada masyarakat.

Komune terus berjalan berkat tingkat partisipasi massa yang luar biasa dan semangat gotong-royong yang kuat. Dalam atmosfer penolakan terhadap otoritas, klub-klub revolusioner yang menjamur di hampir seluruh arrondisement memainkan peranan penting. Setidaknya ada 28 klub yang menyuguhkan salah satu contoh terbaik mobilisasi spontan. Dibuka setiap petang, klub-klub ini menawarkan ruang bagi para penduduk untuk bersua usai jam kerja dan leluasa mendiskusikan situasi sosial dan politik, memeriksa capaian wakil-wakil mereka, dan mengusulkan cara-cara alternatif untuk menyelesaikan masalah sehari-hari. Klub-klub ini adalah perkumpulan dengan struktur horizontal yang menopang pembentukan kedaulatan rakyat sekaligus menjadi corongnya. Klub-klub ini juga penciptaan ruang-ruang persaudaraan sejati di mana semua orang menjadi tuan bagi nasibnya sendiri.

Arah cita-cita emansipasi ini tidak memberikan tempat bagi diskriminasi berdasarkan status kebangsaan. Status kewargaan berlaku bagi siapapun yang berjuang bagi perkembangan Komune. Orang asing menikmati hak-hak sosial yang sama dengan orang Prancis. Prinsip kesetaraan ini terbukti dalam peranan penting 3.000 orang asing yang aktif dalam Komune. Leo Frankel, anggota Asosiasi Pekerja Internasional dari Hongaria, tak hanya terpilih untuk menduduki kursi di Dewan Komune, namun juga menjabat sebagai “menteri” perburuhan—salah satu posisi kunci. Demikian pula Jaroslaw Dombrowski dan Walery Wroblewski dari Polandia yang menempati posisi perwira tinggi di pucuk pimpinan Garda Nasional.

Meski belum mendapatkan hak untuk memilih ataupun untuk duduk di Dewan Komune, kaum perempuan punya peran penting dalam kritik-kritik terhadap tatanan sosial yang ada. Dalam banyak kasus, kaum perempuan mematahkan norma-norma masyarakat borjuis dan membentuk identitas baru yang berlawanan dengan nilai-nilai keluarga patriarkal; mereka keluar dari kekangan domestik untuk kemudian terlibat di ruang-ruang publik. Serikat Perempuan untuk Pertahanan Paris dan Perawatan Korban Luka–yang kelahirannya berhutang banyak pada anggota Internasional I bernama Elisabeth Dmitrieff–berperan penting menandai arena-arena strategis perjuangan sosial. Kaum perempuan berhasil menutup rumah-rumah bordil berlisensi, menggolkan penyetaraan guru laki-laki dan perempuan, melambungkan slogan “gaji setara untuk kerja setara”, menuntut hak-hak yang setara dalam pernikahan dan pengakuan atas serikat-serikat independen, serta mempromosikan dewan-dewan khusus perempuan dalam serikat-serikat pekerja.

Ketika situasi keamanan memburuk pada pertengahan Mei (pasukan kontra-revolusi [Versaillais] mulai berjejer di pintu-pintu masuk kota) perempuan mengangkat senjata dan mendirikan batalion. Banyak dari mereka yang gugur di barikade. Propaganda borjuis menjelek-jelekkan mereka, menjuluki para perempuan ini les pétroleuses (tukang bakar rumah), dan melayangkan tuduhan bahwa mereka bersiap membakar seisi kota dalam aksi-aksi perang jalanan.

Sentralisasi atau desentralisasi?
Demokrasi sejati yang hendak ditegakkan oleh kaum Komune adalah proyek ambisius nan sulit. Kedaulatan rakyat membutuhkan partisipasi warga sebesar-besarnya. Sejak Maret, komisi sentral, komite lokal, klub revolusioner, dan batalion menjamur di Paris, beriringan dengan dua lembaga inti yang tak kalah kompleks, yaitu Dewan Komune dan Komite Sentral Garda Nasional. Pihak yang terakhir disebut ini memegang kontrol militer dan seringkali bertindak sebagai penyeimbang kekuasaan Dewan Komune. Meski keterlibatan langsung warga adalah jaminan vital bagi perwujudan demokrasi, pelbagai otoritas yang terlibat menyulitkan proses pengambilan keputusan sampai-sampai pelaksanaan dekrit-dekrit yang telah dibuat pun menjadi berliku.

Masalah hubungan antara otoritas pusat dan badan-badan lokal juga memicu sejumlah kekacauan, yang kadang melumpuhkan kapasitas politik Komune. Keseimbangan antara kedua lembaga ini rusak pada masa darurat perang. Saat itu, di tengah ketidakefektifan pemerintahan dan ketidakdisiplinan Garda Nasional, Jules Miot mengusulkan pembentukan Komite Keselamatan Publik beranggotakan lima orang. Komite ini segaris dengan model kedikatoran Maximilien Robespierre pada 1793. Usulan Miot disetujui pada 1 Mei, dengan dukungan suara mayoritas 45 lawan 23. Langkah yang terbukti keblinger ini mengawali akhir dari eksperimen politik segar yang dihadirkan Komune.

Komune pun pecah menjadi dua blok yang berlawanan. Blok pertama, yang terdiri atas kaum neo-Jacobin dan Blanquis, condong pada konsentrasi kekuasaan. Mereka akhirnya menempatkan politik di atas perjuangan sosial. Blok kedua, yang antara lain diisi oleh mayoritas anggota International Working Men’s Association, memprioritaskan perjuangan sosial lebih di atas perjuangan politik. Bagi blok kedua, pemisahan kekuasaan adalah wajib hukumnya dan kemerdekaan politik tak boleh diganggu gugat. Dipimpin oleh Eugène Varlin, sosok yang tak kenal lelah, blok ini menolak mentah-mentah pendekatan otoriter dan tidak ikut ambil bagian dalam pemilihan anggota Komite Keselamatan Publik. Menurut mereka, sentralisasi kekuasaan di tangan segelintir orang jelas-jelas bertentangan dengan prinsip-prinsip pendirian Komune. Pasalnya, para wakil terpilih–yang asalnya dari rakyat–tidak berdaulat dan tidak memiliki hak untuk menyerahkan mandat kepada badan tertentu. Pada 21 Mei, ketika kelompok minoritas ini ikut ambil bagian lagi dalam sebuah sesi di Dewan Komune, upaya baru untuk merajut persatuan kembali muncul. Sayang, semuanya sudah terlambat.

Komune sebagai sinonim revolusi
Komune Paris akhirnya digilas habis oleh pasukan Versailles. Selama semaine sanglante, Minggu Berdarah antara 21 dan 28 Mei, sebanyak 17.000 hingga 25.000 warga Paris dibantai. Pertempuran terakhir pecah di dinding-dinding kuburan Père Lachaise. Penyair Arthur Rimbaud muda menggambarkan ibukota Prancis sebagai “kota yang berkabung, sekarat”.

Inilah pembantaian paling berdarah dalam sejarah Prancis. Hanya 6.000 orang yang berhasil kabur ke Inggris, Belgia dan Swiss. Jumlah tawanan mencapai 43.552 orang. Seratus orang di antaranya dijatuhi hukuman mati tak lama setelah diadili, sementara 13.500 lainnya dikirim ke penjara atau kamp kerja paksa, atau diasingkan ke wilayah terpencil seperti Kaledonia Baru. Beberapa dari mereka yang dibuang ke pengasingan bersolidaritas dengan tokoh-tokoh Aljazair usai revolusi anti-kolonial Mokrani. Revolusi ini pecah bersamaan dengan Komune dan sama-sama digilas pasukan Prancis.

Ketakutan akan Komune Paris semakin membuat negara menggencarkan represi terhadap gerakan sosialis di seluruh Eropa. Pers liberal dan konservatif, yang menutup mata atas kekerasan rezim Thiers, melayangkan tuduhan bahwa kaum Komune telah melakukan kejahatan luar biasa. Mereka sangat lega menyaksikan pulihnya “tatanan alamiah”, legalitas borjuis. Mereka juga sangat puas menyaksikan kemenangan “peradaban” terhadap anarki. Mereka yang berani melawan kelas penguasa beserta hak-hak istimewanya dihukum dan dijadikan contoh buruk. Para perempuan kembali diperlakukan sebagai makhluk rendahan. Kaum pekerja, dengan tangan-tangan yang kotor, kapalan, namun pernah berani memegang pemerintahan, diarak untuk kembali ke kedudukan semula. Bagi koran-koran ini, itulah kedudukan kaum pekerja yang semestinya.

Namun pergolakan di Paris terlanjur memasok energi besar bagi perjuangan kaum pekerja dan mendorong mereka melaju ke arah yang lebih radikal. Keesokan hari usai kekalahan, Eugène Pottier menuliskan sebuah lagu yang ditakdirkan menjadi ‘lagu kebangsaan’ gerakan kelas pekerja: “Kumpullah melawan / Dan [esok] Internasionale / Pastilah di dunia!”

Komune Paris menunjukkan bahwa perjuangan pekerja haruslah bercita-cita membangun masyarakat yang betuk-betul berbeda dengan kapitalisme. Bahkan jika masa-masa indah (Le Temps des cerises)* tak datang dua kali bagi para protagonisnya, Komune Paris menjadi wujud dari gagasan perubahan sosio-politik beserta penerapan praktisnya. Ia menjadi sinonim konsep revolusi itu sendiri, dengan pengalaman ontologis dari kelas pekerja. Dalam Perang Sipil di Prancis (1871), Karl Marx mengatakan bahwa “garda depan kaum proletar modern” ini telah berhasil “melekatkan kaum pekerja sedunia pada Prancis”. Komune Paris mengubah kesadaran kaum pekerja dan persepsi kolektif mereka. 150 tahun telah berlalu, namun bendera merah Komune terus berkibar dan mengingatkan kita bahwa dunia alternatif selalu mungkin tercipta. Vive la Commune!

*Mengutip judul tulisan seorang pelaku Komune bernama Jean-Baptiste Clément


Robert Ware, Marx and Philosophy. Review of Books

There has been a gaping hole in studies of Karl Marx leaving out the last few years before his death in March 1883.

Despite the recent revival of Marx studies, this ‘forgotten chapter’ of his life has remained in the shadows, until now with Marcello Musto’s informative and well-crafted book, The Last Years of Karl Marx. (This English edition is an excellent translation, by Patrick Camiller, ‘with new sections and some changes’ (xii) from the widely translated Italian original of 2016.)

Musto’s book is an intellectual biography that fills gaps in Marx’s thinking, prompting new ideas, appreciation and understanding of Marx in his late life, while also casting light on important parts of his earlier work. Marx was not, as is often thought, a great man who withered away because of ill health and family deaths, but a genius who could not stop pursuing old ideas, sometimes in unchartered territory, in spite of those troubles. The book is about an ‘unknown Marx’ but also about an enriched and more fully understood Marx, whose lifelong intellectual work was, as Marx said, in the pursuit of ‘struggle’. (9) Musto does admit that his own work has ‘limitations’ because of the ‘complexity’ of Marx’s work in his final years.

Materials that have lately become available are used to advantage by Musto, but mostly he has used what has long been available to us all. There is no excuse for the neglect of this critical period in Marx’s research and thinking. (Musto does note, however, that ‘these new materials definitively refute the idea that he was mainly driven by a new philosophy of history, or that he had obsessive recourse to the dialectical method’ (151, n86).)

In The Last Years, we learn about Marx’s opposition to Eurocentrism, racism, rigid theorizing, economic determinism and historical schemas. Marx had a lively and intense way of thinking about the material world and diverse societies. As Musto observes, ‘[t]he critical spirit with which Marx composed his Capital reveals just how distant he was from the dogmatic author […] that many presented to the world.’ (93) What can seem a kaleidoscope of thoughts comes from a constancy of thinking about human diversity, as we can see in this investigation of Marx’s late researches into the richness of science and the development of foreign countries.

The interest of Marx’s late intellectual life is heightened by Musto’s clear and sympathetic portrayal of the troubles and turmoil of Marx’s last years, including death and illness in the family. ‘The last period of Marx’s labours was certainly difficult, and often tortuous, but it was also very important theoretically.’ (137, n73) We hear about Marx’s desk and his study filled with books, notebooks and manuscripts; about his walks and visitors; and about his demeanor and personality (cf. 11-19). These interwoven observations of a personal biography provide a backdrop to the account of Marx’s intellectual vitality and depth.

Musto sets out to show that ‘Marx thought the study of new political conflicts, new themes, and geographical areas to be fundamental for his ongoing critique of the capitalist system. It enabled him to open up to national specificities and to consider the possibility of an approach to communism different from the one he had previously developed’ (5).

For Marx, the study of society was a science, an historical science. His ‘unquenched intellectual curiosity’ led him to extensive studies of chemistry, physics, physiology and geology (23), as well as his continuing investigations of political economy. But it was his interest in the social sciences that drove him to study the ways and developments of sciences generally. The perceived success in the nineteenth century of the natural sciences spurred on his investigation of the material world of society through political economy and history, following his materialist conception of history.

As Musto observes, Marx ‘escaped the trap of economic determinism’ and ‘did not share the rigid schemas suggesting an inescapable sequence of stages in human history. Marx spurned any rigid linking of social changes to economic transformations alone.’ (32f) Ideas from British, or even European capitalism, were also not to be simply transferred to India, Russia or elsewhere.

Musto is firm, but perhaps too cautious, in remarks against the strong currents that reject Marx’s nineteenth century materialist and scientific aspirations, apparently on the basis of pre-nineteenth century conceptions. What is shown is that Marx was strongly focussed on the material conditions, especially in production, for individual freedom and collective agency that drove the struggle for change. He studied the data about the economic conditions that provide ‘[s]cientific insight into the inevitable disintegration […] of the prevailing social order’ (37), as Marx said in correspondence in 1881.

Musto has many interesting observations in ‘New Research Horizons’ (ch. 1) about Marx’s prodigious work during his last years. He was thinking about international orgnizations and about a variety of countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany. There are also attacks on ‘panacea-mongers’ (39) and ‘stupidities such as a minimum wage fixed by law’ (45). There was familiar rhetoric right to the end.

His well-known and little understood interest in Russia was a central topic in his last years and is rightly given an important chapter in Musto’s study. We learn a lot about Russia in the late nineteenth century and about what Russian socialists were then thinking. Some of that thinking was misled by what became canonical, and allegedly, ‘Marxist’ thinking about Marx’s materialist conception of history. Marx, according to Musto, does not depict a methodology or schema or system – these were alien to Marx.

The canonical, so-called, ‘theory’ came from over-extending the use – not by Marx nor by Engels, but by others – of the ‘guiding thread’ that Marx mentioned in reflections on his work, which had been focussed on Europe. The guiding thread was a schema of progressive epochs with their distinctive structures of the base, the relations and politics. Marx was explicit about the five stages – Asiatic, ancient, feudal, modern bourgeois capitalism and then communism – while also being clear especially about the structure of bourgeois capitalist societies.

Marx regarded himself as engaging in a scientific analysis of Europe, and especially England, up to the mid-nineteenth century. He did not always say, but he was frequently explicit, that he was writing about Europe and not producing a system that would apply to all history and all societies. Marx’s materialist conception of history was not a theory, but an approach to history through material beings in the material conditions of their society. Not even the guiding thread for the studies of Europe was a theory but simply, and importantly, a suggested direction for those investigations.

In his last years, Marx looked at the literature on Russia in terms of his scientific investigation. This was not a shift to something like anthropology or journalism or just simple reading. Throughout his life he pursued scientific studies with a materialist conception of history and whatever guiding thread might fit the new material. There were not changes in Marx’s work, except for the change of application to other societies using the same materialist conception of history and perhaps different guiding threads.

There were those who agreed generally about Marx’s account and then supposed a small change in the canonical ‘theory’ with its path of history in five stages. At least three variations can be considered. One change is that the penultimate stage of capitalism could be greatly sped up, shortened and thus less damaging, because of lessons from developed capitalism elsewhere. This was probably Lenin’s view about Russia. Russia’s early phases of capitalism, in Lenin’s view, could be sped up to late capitalism and then early socialism.

Another change that has been contemplated is that a whole stage could be passed over and thus totally avoided. This might be thought of as a Maoist position about China jumping from agricultural feudalism to early socialism, avoiding altogether the intervening stage of capitalism. Stages can be sped up or completely eliminated.

A third change that can be contemplated is a change in the path itself. It appears, following Musto, that this was something that Marx contemplated. Some societies, Marx thought, may take the different path from collectivist economies (as in Russia) to modern collectivist production on a large scale.

The question from Vera Zasulich in 1881 that prompted this thinking engaged Marx in a variety of thoughts worked on in the multiple drafts of a letter of reply, as Musto relates in detail. Marx considered the possibility of a society with people’s communes (the obshchina) moving to a society with socialist or communist structures. Such possibilities would clearly also depend on the people’s relations and ideas. The very concepts of class, association and struggle would probably have to be adjusted to the times and conditions. Russia would not advance in the image of England, in the way that Marx seemed to have thought that Germany would.

This is a richer materialist conception of history in a way that is true to nineteenth-century (as well as, modern) scientific ways, not using Hegel’s (or other philosophers’) schemas, but instead collecting data and developing ideas. There may be some inevitability, but not rigid thinking. Like a true scientist, Marx constantly had doubts, not because he wanted certainty, but because he pursued clarity and depth of understanding.

Musto’s book is a valuable resource about Marx and his thinking in the early 1880s. But we also learn, in the course of this study, more about Marx’s earlier and most read work. Moreover, as Musto concludes, ‘[t]hose who look through Marx’s writings […] today […] cannot but be fascinated by the capacity of his socio-economic analyses to explain the world. Nor can they fail to be impressed by the message that radiates incessantly from the whole of his work: organize the struggle’ (125).


Jalan Terjal Komune Paris (Bagian I)

Kaum borjuis Prancis telah lama meraih kemenangan. Sejak revolusi 1789, mereka adalah kelompok yang meraup kekayaan, sementara kelas pekerja secara terus-terusan harus menanggung beban krisis.

Namun, proklamasi Republik Ketiga membuka horison baru dan menawarkan kesempatan perubahan. Setelah mengalami kekalahan perang di Sedan, Napoleon III ditawan Prusia pada 4 September 1870. Januari tahun berikutnya, setelah empat bulan Paris dikepung, Prancis menyerah kepada Otto van Bismarck. Sang Kanselir Prusia memaksakan pokok-pokok kesepakatan yang memberatkan sebagai syarat gencatan senjata. Pemilihan umum digelar dan Adolphe Thiers terpilih sebagai pemangku kekuasaan eksekutif, dengan dukungan kelompok-kelompok besar seperti Legitimist dan Orleanist.

Paris memanas. Kelompok-kelompok republikan radikal dan sosialis menjamur. Pemerintahan sayap kanan yang akan memelihara ketidakadilan sosial menghantui negeri. Namun, naiknya pemerintahan yang hanya akan menambah beban perang pada kaum tak berpunya dan melucuti penduduk ibukota ini justru memicu revolusi baru pada 18 Maret. Thiers dan pasukannya terpaksa minggat ke Versailles.

Perjuangan dan Pemerintahan

Untuk mengamankan legitimasi demokratik, para pemberontak Paris segera mengadakan pemilihan umum. Pada 26 Maret, mayoritas penduduk Prancis (190.000 suara melawan 40.000) menyetujui tujuan-tujuan pemberontakan, dan 70 dari 85 perwakilan terpilih mendeklarasikan dukungan kepada revolusi. Sebanyak 15 anggota representatif moderat dari parti des maires, kelompok yang terdiri atas beberapa mantan kepala arrondissements, segera mengundurkan diri dan tidak bergabung dengan dewan Komune, disusul empat orang dari kubu Radikal. Sebanyak 66 sisanya—yang tidak mudah dibedakan karena afiliasi politik ganda—mewakili spektrum posisi yang luas. Di antara mereka ada sekitar 20 orang dari kelompok republikan neo-Jacobin (termasuk Charles Delescluze dan Félix Pyat yang tersohor), selusin pengikut Auguste Blanqui, 17 anggota Asosiasi Kaum Pekerja Internasional (baik pendukung Pierre-Joseph Proudhon maupun Karl Marx, yang seringkali saling bersitegang), dan beberapa kubu independen. Mayoritas pemimpin Komune adalah kaum buruh atau representasi kelas pekerja, 14 di antaranya berasal dari Garda Nasional. Faktanya, komite sentral Garda Nasional-lah yang mempercayakan kekuasaan di tangan Komune—awal dari rangkaian ketidaksepakatan dan konflik antara kedua lembaga.

Pada 28 Maret, sejumlah besar penduduk berkumpul di sekitar Hôtel de Ville untuk berpesta merayakan dewan perwakilan baru, yang kini secara resmi bernama Komune Paris. Meski berumur tak lebih dari 72 hari, Komune Paris merupakan peristiwa politik terpenting dalam sejarah gerakan buruh abad ke-19, memantik harapan rakyat yang sudah kelelahan digerus beban hidup selama berbulan-bulan. Komite-komite dan kelompok-kelompok baru bermunculan di berbagai pemukiman untuk memberikan dukungan kepada Komune. Tiap-tiap sudut ibukota menggulirkan berbagai inisiatif solidaritas dan merencanakan pembangunan dunia baru. Montmartre berubah menjadi “benteng kebebasan”. Salah satu sentimen yang menyebar luas adalah hasrat untuk berbagi dengan orang lain. Sosok-sosok militan seperti Louise Michel menjadi teladan bagi spirit  ini (Victor Hugo menulis Michel “melakukan apa yang telah dilakoni orang-orang hebat zaman lampau. […] Ia memuliakan mereka yang remuk dan terhempas”.

Namun, ruh Komune tidak datang dari sosok pemimpin atau figur-figur karismatik alih-alih dari sisi kolektivitas yang terang benderang. Perempuan dan laki-laki berkumpul secara sukarela untuk mengerjakan proyek pembebasan untuk semua. Pemerintahan mandiri tak lagi dianggap utopia belaka. Emansipasi diri dipandang sebagai tugas yang esensial.

Transformasi Kekuatan Politik

Dua dari dekrit darurat pertama untuk memangkas kemiskinan akut parah adalah pemberhentian sewa hunian (disebutkan bahwa “properti juga harus berkorban”) dan penjualan barang di bawah 20 franc di pegadaian. Sembilan komisi kolegial juga dibentuk untuk menggantikan kementerian perang, keuangan, keamanan umum, pendidikan, penghidupan, perburuhan dan perdagangan, hubungan internasional dan pelayanan publik. Tidak lama berselang, muncul delegasi yang dipilih untuk mengepalai masing-masing kementerian.

Pada 19 April, tiga hari setelah pemilihan umum lanjutan untuk mengisi 31 kursi kosong, Komune mengadopsi Deklarasi Rakyat Prancis yang menyatakan “jaminan mutlak bagi kebebasan individu, kemerdekaan berkeyakinan dan kemerdekaan kerja” dan juga “intervensi permanen warga dalam urusan-urusan komunal”. Konflik antara Paris dan Versailles dianggap “tidak dapat diselesaikan lewat kompromi-kompromi ilusif”; rakyat punya hak dan “kewajiban untuk melawan dan menang!” Yang lebih signifikan lagi daripada teks ini—yang sebenarnya merupakan sintesis ambigu untuk menghindari ketegangan-ketegangan antar berbagai tendensi politik—adalah aksi-aksi konkret yang melaluinya orang-orang Komune memperjuangkan transformasi total kekuasaan politik. Pembaharuan-pembaharuan yang bukan hanya menyasar cara kerja administrasi politik, tapi juga hakikatnya. Komune membuka kesempatan agar wakil-wakil terpilih bisa ditarik kembali. Komune juga memungkinkan agar tindakan para wakil rakyat ini dikontrol lewat mandat yang mengikat (meski hal ini tidak serta merta mengatasi permasalahan kompleks representasi politik). Para pejabat, yang juga tunduk pada kontrol permanen dan bisa ditarik dari jabatan, tidak asal ditunjuk seperti di masa lalu, tetapi dipilih lewat kontes terbuka atau pemungutan suara. Tujuannya adalah mencegah transformasi ruang publik menjadi domain para politisi profesional. Keputusan-keputusan terkait kebijakan yang diambil tidak diserahkan pada sekelompok kecil fungsionaris dan teknisi, tetapi harus diputuskan oleh rakyat. Tentara dan polisi tidak lagi menjadi institusi yang terpisah dari masyarakat. Pemisahan negara dengan gereja juga menjadi syarat mutlak.

Namun visi perubahan politik Komune tidak terbatas pada hal-hal tersebut: ia menyasar akar yang lebih dalam. Transfer kekuasaan ke tangan rakyat diperlukan untuk secara drastis mereduksi birokrasi. Ranah sosial harus diutamakan di atas ranah politik—sebagaimana diterapkan oleh Henri de Saint-Simon—sehingga politik tidak lagi menjadi suatu fungsi spesialis alih-alih semakin terintegrasi ke dalam aktivitas masyarakat sipil. Dengan demikian, ranah sosial mengambil kembali fungsi-fungsi yang sebelumnya dialihkan kepada negara. Menggulingkan sistem kekuasaan berbasis kelas tidaklah cukup; sistem itu sendiri haruslah diakhiri juga. Semua ini akan menggenapkan visi Komune tentang republik sebagai persekutuan orang-orang merdeka, asosiasi yang sejatinya demokratik dan mempromosikan emansipasi semua komponennya. Hasilnya adalah pemerintahan mandiri para produsen/pekerja.

Memprioritaskan Perubahan-Perubahan Sosial

Komune berpendirian bahwa perubahan-perubahan sosial lebih krusial daripada perubahan politik. Perubahan-perubahan sosial ini adalah alasan keberadaan Komune, tolok ukur kesetiaan Komune pada prinsip-prinsip pendiriannya, dan unsur kunci yang membedakannya dari revolusi-revolusi sebelumnya pada 1789 dan 1848. Komune menelurkan lebih dari satu kebijakan dengan implikasi kelas yang terang. Tenggat waktu pembayaran utang, misalnya, ditunda tiga tahun tanpa tambahan bunga. Penggusuran karena kegagalan membayar sewa ditunda. Sebuah dekrit mengizinkan tempat tinggal kosong agar digunakan oleh mereka yang tak punya tempat tinggal. Ada rencana-rencana untuk memperpendek jam kerja (dari yang tadinya 10 jam menjadi 8 jam nantinya), praktik yang menjamur seperti pemberlakuan denda pada buruh sebagai upaya memotong upah dilarang dan diancam dengan sanksi, dan upah minimum dipatok pada level yang terhormat. Sebisa mungkin pasokan makanan ditambah dan diberi harga yang rendah. Kerja malam di pabrik-pabrik roti dilarang, dan sejumlah toko daging dibuka di kota. Berbagai bentuk bantuan sosial ditambahkan pada lapisan-lapisan masyarakat yang rentan—misalnya, bank makanan bagi perempuan dan anak-anak terlantar. Ada pula diskusi-diskusi seputar cara mengakhiri diskriminasi antara anak yang sah secara hukum dan yang tidak.

Semua anggota Komune percaya bahwa pendidikan adalah unsur penting bagi emansipasi individu dan perubahan sosial-politik. Sekolah digratiskan dan diwajibkan bagi perempuan dan laki-laki. Pelajaran agama digantikan oleh pendidikan sekuler, rasional, dan ilmiah. Komisi-komisi khusus diangkat dan halaman-halaman koran menampilkan argumen-argumen kuat yang mendukung investasi untuk pendidikan perempuan. Agar sungguh-sungguh menjadi “layanan publik”, pendidikan harus menawarkan peluang setara bagi “anak-anak dari kedua jenis kelamin”. Selain itu, “pembedaan orang berdasarkan ras, kebangsaan, agama atau posisi sosial” harus dilarang. Beberapa inisiatif praktis di awal mengiringi kemajuan-kemajuan di atas kertas. Ribuan anak buruh dari berbagai arrondissement menghadiri sekolah untuk pertama kalinya dan menerima bahan ajar secara gratis.

Komune juga mengadopsi kebijakan-kebijakan berkarakter sosialis. Ia mengeluarkan dektrit bahwa bengkel-bengkel peninggalan para bos yang melarikan diri harus diserahkan pada asosiasi-asosiasi kooperatif para pekerja. Teater dan museum—dibuka untuk semua tanpa tarif—dikolektivisasi dan diletakkan di bawah manajemen Federasi Seniman Paris, yang dipimpin oleh pelukis dan sosok militan Gustave Courbet. Sekitar tiga ratus pemahat, arsitek, tukang cetak dan pelukis (di antaranya Édouard Manet) terlibat dalam kelompok ini—contoh yang diikuti oleh dunia opera dengan pendirian federasi serupa.

Semua aksi dan inisiatif ini dimulai dalam kurun waktu yang menakjubkan, hanya 54 hari di Paris yang masih oleng akibat efek perang dengan Prussia. Komune hanya mampu mengerjakan agendanya antara 29 Maret dan 21 Mei, di tengah perjuangan heroik melawan serangan-serangan dari Versailles yang juga banyak menyedot tenaga dan uang. Karena Komune tidak memiliki alat untuk memaksakan kebijakan-kebiajaknnya, banyak dari dekrit yang telah dirilis tidak diterapkan secara seragam di sekujur Paris. Namun demikian, dekrit-dekrit ini menunjukkan hasrat ambisius untuk menata kembali masyarakat dan menunjukkan jalan pada kemungkinan perubahan.


Arkayan Ganguly, Social Identities. Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture

The essays collected in the book The Marx Revival: Key Concepts and New Interpretations, edited by Marcello Musto, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020, comprehensively inclusive in its compass, offer the readers an invaluable array of theoretically rich tools to dispel the miasma, invoked globally after 1989, around Marx and his ideas.

To cite two such instances, Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed that the era of ‘Common Marketization’ of the world, be it in politics, economics or ideology, has led to the ‘End of History’, leaving Marx confined to academic interest delinked from living reality. Similarly, Richard Rorty dismissed Marx and Engels with undisguised contempt calling their thoughts a ‘lucridious flop’ much like ‘what evangelical Christians call “becoming a New Being in Christ Jesus”’. The object of this systematically sponsored onslaught is simply to brush off as dead and barren what is living and profoundly fertile in Marx. What is encouraging, as against this, riding the upturn of interest in Marx especially since the Great Financial Crisis (2007-2008), the book seeks to make sense of Marx in the light of theoretical advances made in the last few decades, in particular. It is with this object in mind that it offers clarity in 22 short chapters surrounding ideas such as proletariat, class struggle, capital and value, communism, gender equality, to name but a few, and how they can be grasped in both theory and practice.
The discussion of the book would broadly follow seriatim the order in which the contributions have been arranged. To begin at the beginning.
The book opens with the study on the broad conceptual frameworks of socio-political systems supplemented by Marx’s critical thoughts. Michael R. Krätke’s chapter Capitalism, the focal point of Marx’s life-long theoretical engagement, argues that capitalist production is not just the subversive ‘rule of capital’ by the ‘law of value’ where the majority suffers from ‘soaring inequalities’ and ‘insecurities’. Ironically, capitalist production is the mirror holding unbiased images of the motion of its peculiarly contrasting features in their historical development. On one hand, through the creation of ‘abstract and concrete labour’, of fetishism of commodities, and exploitation of the working class, capitalism advances a ‘bewitched and distorted world’, and, on the other, through its capitalist vanguards, driven by private interest in the accumulation of wealth, it upholds the ‘universal and impersonal bondage’ of capital in-itself. On what is a contrasting topic, Marcello Musto in Communism justly affirms that Marx never considered communism to be an alternate specific moment to capitalism but a socio-historical progress arising from it. Marx initially understood communism in terms of ‘Hegelian dialectics’. As he progressed into Capital, he altered his theory radically. Communism as the abolition of private property and wealth, and of ‘surplus labour time’ is replaced largely by the concepts of ‘free time’ and ‘real human wealth development’ for all. Consequently, the workers as ‘freely associated’ and part of a ‘common labour force’ would, overcoming the divisiveness imposed on them by the production relations based on wage system, assume the responsibility ‘to walk by [themselves]’. Acknowledging the specific needs of individuals, Musto’s chapter concludes with Marx’s radical determination of rights in a communist society which ‘would have to be unequal rather than equal’! Ellen Meisksins Wood in Democracy addresses how economic domination, previously exercised by political authority, underwent a radical change with capitalism’s appropriation of the new ‘science of economics’, granting all individuals equal political status independent of their economic locations. This shifts the conflict-zone from the political arena to the ‘workplace’. Marx, while emphatically appreciating these liberties and rights, addressed the ‘formal’ nature of the state to prevent any political deprivation. Consequently, capital constructed a new economic space, abstracted from the political, to carry out exploitation. In laying bare this duality, the essay reminds us of the continued economic deprivation liberal democracy under capitalism practices even today.
The next part of the book deals with Marx’s concept of agency. For Marx, agency is not only individualistic but also collectively constituted, which the following four chapters unfold. Marcel van der Linden in Proletariat exposes the ambiguity in Marx’s classification of the term. As Marx never answered the question ‘what is a class’, this left an open interpretive space only conceivable by what he kept out of it: the ‘chattel slaves’ and the ‘lumpenproletariat’. Interpolating on the basis of historical instances and logical extrapolation, Linden argues, Marx’s concept of the proletariat is not holistic. He, therefore, proposes a more inclusive one based on all forms of commodified labour producing value, embracing varied categories of working people. Alex Callinicos’s chapter Class Struggle maintains that the historical conditions of social change are not developed solely by class struggle itself. Yet when the situations emerge, these struggles play the ‘executive role[s]’. Thus, changes are ‘effected’ through them, though they are not the ‘motor[s]’ of social change as the popular reading of Communist Manifesto would seem to suggest. In his deeper understanding of the Capitalist order, Callinicos places class struggle outside its apparent manifestation, that is inside the composition of ‘relative surplus value’. To extract more ‘surplus value’ the capitalists expand the working time or hours. Such expansions of time reach a critical point, when the workers, past their endurance, organize collective resistance, leading to political upheavals demanding a shorter ‘working day’. This in turn, compels the capitalists to invest in advanced technologies aimed at extracting higher productivities which would fetch more ‘relative surplus value’ within a given ‘working day’. What results from the tussle is, first, that there arises a significant change in the ‘organic’ composition of capital.  With increased investment in technology, the wage labourers, the only source of value, are pushed out of employment in increasing numbers and their compound effects give rise to ‘fall in the rate of profit’. Secondly, with the compulsion of ‘relative surplus value’ continual investments in the means of production keep altering the productive forces resulting in contradictions with the ‘relations of production’, which is also another way of conceiving class struggle. These discrepancies disrupt social relations and build conditions for radical social changes, when other contributing factors are aligned. At the same time, this struggle is not limited only to the economic sphere but flows into the political as well, generating new categories of knowledge and consciousness. Peter Hudis in Political Organization draws on Marx’s thoughts on consciousness, which cannot be ‘brought’ to the working class from outside; it must evolve from within as a ‘self-moving object’. This unified ‘self’ aspiring to ‘historical objectives’ is what, according to Hudis, Marx meant by ‘organization’. ‘Party’ as a political entity would emerge from this ‘organization’, which as its historically evolving political organ will address similar objectives. Consequently, ‘Party’ for Marx, claims Hudis, is ‘of’ the proletariat and not ‘for’ it, much unlike the idea of the party as a niche intellectually superior group as envisaged by Ferdinand Lassalle, and later, following him, Vladimir Lenin. Nevertheless, what remains unaddressed in Hudis is, as one may argue, some urgent and relevant questions: can the identity of the members of the working class be reduced solely to their being ‘wage labourers’? Will not the diverse kinds of overlapping social identities call into doubt the viability of such a monolithic construction of class and unified ‘self’?  The insights these three chapters above offer are assimilated in Michael Löwy’s chapter Revolution. He substantiates how Marx changed his theoretical views on the subject from, initially, reposing his faith only in the ‘philosopher’s brain’ as being ‘active’ and the masses being ‘passive’ to, later, recognizing the latter as being equally active. So for Marx, the revolution was not only a seizure of state power, but also a synthesis of the material circumstances with an ongoing self-emancipation in a ‘revolutionary praxis’, which, Löwy holds, is not a single historic instance, but a permanent condition for a continued dialectical enlightenment.
Ricardo Antunes in Work construes work as ‘conscious human activity’ creating social life. Work under capitalism, however, is increasingly transformed into a mere instrument of subsistence as ‘alienated wage labour’. In production, labour’s expenditure ‘in a special form and with a definite aim’ producing ‘use values’ – concrete labour – is subdued to its general index of producing ‘exchange values’ and valorizing capital – abstract labour. Insofar as work takes the form of ‘non-reflective’ abstract alienated labour, it objectifies human relations as ‘fetishzied’ commodity relations. To return to work as ‘self-determining activity’ it is thus imperative to overcome ‘abstract’ by conscious ‘concrete labour’. Moishe Postone’s chapter Capital and Temporality dwells on this phenomenon. With the subsumption of work, every productive activity must take the ‘commodity form’, characterized by a peculiarly dual determinacy of ‘abstract’ and ‘concrete’ labour, which is a specific historical form unique to capitalism. Following Marx, Postone concludes that ‘value’, which is only produced by ‘abstract labour’, is the dominant form of wealth in capitalism. The substance of ‘value’ is a ‘self-mediating norm’ which is ‘socially necessary labour time’. With the dominant wealth form being principally labour time, there develops not only the supremacy of the ‘temporal form of wealth’ but also a ‘social domination’ governed by time. Interrogating value and its ramifications, Postone then constructs a ‘treadmill’ like ‘effect’ in capitalism: a rise in the ‘material wealth’ but no long-term increase in total value, as the temporary ‘higher levels’ of value produced per unit time, that is productivity, are continually ‘generalized’, and become the ‘base’ norm – however keeping the aggregate value always the same . In Technology and Science Amy E. Wendling looks at technology and science under capitalism, growing not independently, but along the norms of value and productivity. The contradictions in such a trajectory of development show up as the inverse relationship between ‘machinery’ and ‘labourers’ by ‘deskilling’ the labourers short of total annihilation, which at least corrodes their ‘political’ bargaining power and capabilities. The combination of technological development and ‘treadmill effect’, leading to the rise in material wealth, but no long term increase in value, causes ecological havoc. John Bellamy Foster in Ecology returns to value and not to sensuous nature being the dominant form of wealth. The value that comes from labour-power is treated as an internal cost to capital while the cost of material nature remains external to it, a ‘free gift’, thoughtlessly squandered, giving rise to a ‘metabolic rift’. After Capital III, Foster looks forward to the man in a future society, chary of despoliation, who arguably will be engaged in rational metabolic appropriation of nature.
Heather A. Brown and Kevin B. Anderson in Gender Equality and Nationalism and Ethnicity respectively decode capital’s influence on these social categories. With mechanized industry, Brown points out, physical deficit as an impediment is overcome; the labour market, now indifferent to gender frontiers, expands at a dizzying pace. This makes pre-existing family relations – between women and men – both vulnerable and prone to change, not so much for mechanization per se as for ‘similar needs and wants’. Such a shift in the gender structure of labour empowers women as possible revolutionary subjects. This expansion of capital indifferent to social frontiers and possibly equipping different social agents as revolutionary subjects explains why, as Anderson notes, Marx lent support to the national and ethnic struggles in Poland, Ireland and the Northern cause in the American Civil War for their possible revolutionary potentials.
Pietro Basso in Migration, and Sandro Mezzadra and Ranabir Samaddar in Colonialism trace the emergence of the ‘world market’ together with the gradually expanding scope of ‘primitive accumulation’. World scale conquests and the enslavement of populations led to their ‘forced migration’ into slavery, exodus, or mass unemployment of almost entire populations. The imposition of the rule of capital by extra-economic violence and ‘brute force’ created a new ‘geographical expanse’ and the ‘reserve army of workers’, which are the two fundamental pre-requisites of capital taking the final form, world market.
Capital expanding geographically and class being ‘riven’ with ‘gender’, ‘race’ and ‘national identities’, our engagement with Marx under rapid historical changes lays on us the duty of ‘reformulating’ the ‘Internationalist’ nature of the proletariat by discovering diverse revolutionary subjects. Thus, it is only fit to ask, should we not include along with the proletariat those individuals and social groups from various sections of society and colonial subjects as new potential forms of the revolutionary bloc?
All such elements are systematically articulated within the parameters of a capitalist state, whose nature Bob Jessop’s chapter State analyzes. In applying the theoretical insights derived from Marx, he identifies three accounts of the state – viz. as the ‘instrument of class rule’, as the ‘autonomous authority’ competently tackling class conflicts, and as the ‘alienated form’ of political organization based on the ‘specific separation-in-unity’ of the economic and political relations. Expanding the notion of ‘separation-in-unity’, he then decrypts the ‘formal adequacy’ – political equalities contra economic inequalities – of the state. The capitalist state formation, for him, is located along the line of separation between the ‘civil sphere’ dominated by bourgeois ‘self-interest’ and its ‘illusory reflection’ as ‘common interest’ in the ‘public sphere’. This is where the politics of power masquerades as undifferentiated public interest. This formation explains how and why the social relations of servitude may well continue without the dominant class commanding political supremacy, thereby removing ‘class’ itself from being an ‘immediate’ organizing force. The upshot of this is, the modalities of class conflicts remain not only economic but also become politically specific, to overcome the juxtaposition held within the political integration of the state. This conception of the state is crucial for the ‘world market’ that Seongjin Jeong and Benno Teschke elaborate in chapters Globalization and War and International Relations respectively. Drawing upon Marx’s insights pertinent to a globalized world, Jeong offers his views on how value finally peaks in terms of the vertical integration of inter-state matrix. In conformity to capitalism’s claims, the chapter looks into the consequences of the international norm of ‘socially necessary labour time’ that allow the expropriation of  ‘surplus labour time’ by the high-productivity countries from those characterized by low-productivity, which, as he persuasively argues, is ‘zero-sum’ and not the Ricardian positive-sum game. Teschke improves upon Jeong’s model. He points to ‘war’, a ‘horizontal geopolitical conflict’, as another vector of the modern inter-state matrix. Studying the historical developments and the emerging tendencies of ‘world market’, he asserts that the theory of ‘historical materialism’ needs revision in these two axes of horizontal and vertical paths to grasp properly what uneven progress in production, mediated temporally, would really amount to. In this connection, he claims for his hypothesis with regard to states and their agencies a high degree of applicability.
Gilbert Achcar in Religion captures Marx’s ‘materialist’ conception that is not delinked from his ‘political attitude’ towards it. The former co-relates ‘credit’ and ‘faith’, and ‘alienation of labour’ and ‘religious alienation’ converging into ‘mystification’ of human relations, which so long as religion in itself is determined by the ‘historical changes in production’ will remain similar to the process whereby capital fetishizes human relations. As a timely warning though, Achcar maintains that any ‘defence of freedom’ can come to naught if the ‘freedom of religion’ is attacked when religion becomes a ‘component of the fight for political freedom in general’. This aporia Marx believed can be resolved only with education and ‘emancipatory fight’ by the workers’ party.
Robin Small and Isabelle Garo in their chapters Education and Art respectively, uphold ‘real human development’. Small’s chapter builds on Marx’s substantive commitment to education as a means to build ‘personality and human development’ to overstep the incompleteness which division of labour and ‘vocational specialization’ conspire to impose. In a similar vein, Garo argues, though art is socio-historically determined, it cannot be wholly ‘alienated’ from the artist. This allows art to escape the entire loci of ‘abstract labour’ and ‘law of value’, thus opening a possibility of ‘dialectical human sense development’ between artist and aesthete.
Finally, Immanuel Wallerstein chronicles some really shaping historic experiences influenced by the Moor; and here naturally he alludes to the paradigmatic shifts – from the days of the ‘German Social-Democratic Party’, through the ‘Russian Revolution’, the ‘Cold War’, the ‘World Revolution’ of 1968, the collapse of existing socialism, the rise of the Chinese Communist Party, right up to the Great Financial Crisis (2007-2008). Subsequently, without being named, Marxism did by no means part company with the new generations affianced to many forms of ‘global justice movement’ embodied in ‘World Social Forum’, ‘left-of-centre’ political parties, and the criticisms of mainstream policies since 2008-2009. With this hope, he expects Marxism of tomorrow to engage with Marx ‘carefully’ and ‘critically’. However, conspicuously missing in his chapter is the deserved focus on how Marx, subsequent to the discovery of Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and Grundrisse, sent shockwaves in the 1930s and 1960s, respectively, compelling powerful debates both within and outside of academia.
Overall, the book appreciably enriches our understanding of Marx’s conceptual paradigm, making it a valuable core text for academicians, enthusiasts, activists, and even the Sociology Departments of Universities. We, however, conclude with two critical remarks: To start with, the Marxian categories extensively analyzed here have been restricted primarily to a socio-political reading; thus their immense economic and philosophical significance has been either undervalued or ignored. If the financial crisis of 2008 is one of the reasons for Marx’s revival – even Francis Fukuyama admitting that ‘certain things Karl Marx said are turning out to be true’ (2018) – then we may well ask whether the meaning of financial capital, including market derivatives, can be grasped through his theory of value and the falling rate of profit? This having been said, we may then ask if, in view of the unreflective exploitation of natural resources, would it not make sense only if we widened the framework of the falling rate of profit? If such is the case, then to put a compelling limit on the heedless exploitation of nature’s warehouse, what is urgently called for is a reconstruction of our economic ontology that can effectively tackle the ever-growing clash between advanced economies and their rising rivals. Next, taking off from the second comment, to conceptualize such a reconstruction through Marx’s thoughts, does it remain restricted only to the far-reaching reconstruction of economic systems? Despite recurrent economic melt-downs since 1989, the fetishism of “productivity” continues to hold sway over the historical processes globally. This “productivity” is sustained by the two “living negation[s]” of capitalism – exploitation of youthful human labour and the previously mentioned inward invasion of nature. The question then remains; do these concerns also not extend to the much larger issue of the reconstitution of class consciousness in and for itself? At this point way of concluding query, by, a further thought suggests itself. Will Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA2) – the Nachlass of 15,000 pages of notes – not prove to be a watershed in interpreting the Key Concepts? With another world stagnation looming large, we must muster courage for – no, not a short-lived but – a sustained Revival!

Journal Articles

Για τη Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ

Tον Αύγουστο του 1893, όταν το Προεδρείο προσκάλεσε τη Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ να μιλήσει σε μια σύνοδο του Συνεδρίου της Ζυρίχης της Δεύτερης Διεθνούς, η Ρόζα βάδισε με θάρρος ανάμεσα στο πλήθος των εκλεγμένων αντιπροσώπων και των ακτιβιστών που συνωθούνταν στην κεντρική αίθουσα.

Ήταν μια από τις λίγες παρούσες γυναίκες, στο άνθος της νεότητάς της, λεπτοκαμωμένη, και με μια παραμόρφωση του ισχίου που την υποχρέωνε να κουτσαίνει ήδη από την ηλικία των πέντε ετών. H πρώτη εντύπωση που έδωσε σε όσους την έβλεπαν για πρώτη φορά ήταν αυτή ενός πραγματικά αδύναμου πλάσματος. Όμως, στη συνέχεια, καθώς μιλούσε όρθια σε μια καρέκλα ώστε να ακούγεται καλύτερα, γοήτευσε πολύ γρήγορα όλο το ακροατήριο με τη δεξιότητα της σκέψης και την πρωτοτυπία των θέσεών της.

Το πολωνικό εθνικό ζήτημα
Κατά την άποψή της, το κεντρικό αίτημα του πολωνικού εργατικού κινήματος δεν θα έπρεπε να είναι ένα ανεξάρτητο πολωνικό κράτος, όπως υποστήριζαν όλοι πριν απ’ αυτήν. H Πολωνία βρισκόταν ακόμα υπό τριμερή κυριαρχία, μοιρασμένη μεταξύ της Γερμανικής, της Αυστρο-ουγγρικής και της Ρωσικής Αυτοκρατορίας. Η επανένωσή της φαινόταν δύσκολο εγχείρημα και οι εργάτες θα έπρεπε να κατευθύνουν τις φιλοδοξίες τους σε στόχους που θα γεννούσαν πρακτικούς αγώνες στο όνομα συγκεκριμένων αναγκών.

Κινούμενη σε μια γραμμή επιχειρηματολογίας που θα ανέπτυσσε στα χρόνια που θα ακολουθούσαν, επιτέθηκε σ’ αυτούς που εστίαζαν στα εθνικά θέματα και προειδοποίησε για τον κίνδυνο να χρησιμοποιηθεί η ρητορική του πατριωτισμού προκειμένου να υποτιμηθεί η ταξική πάλη και να απωθηθεί το κοινωνικό ζήτημα από το προσκήνιο. Δεν υπήρχε κανένας λόγος σε όλες τις μορφές καταπίεσης που υφίστατο το προλεταριάτο να προσθέσουμε την
«υπαγωγή στην πολωνική εθνικότητα». Για την αποφυγή αυτής της παγίδας, η Λούξεμπουργκ έθεσε ως στόχο την ανάπτυξη αυτοδιοικούμενων περιοχών, και την ενίσχυση της πολιτιστικής αυτονομίας, η οποία μετά την εδραίωση ενός σοσιαλιστικού τρόπου παραγωγής θα λειτουργούσε ως ανάχωμα απέναντι σε κάθε αναβίωση σωβινισμού και νέων μορφών διακρίσεων. H στόχευση αυτών των συλλογισμών ήταν η διάκριση μεταξύ του εθνικού ζητήματος και αυτού του εθνικού κράτους.

Κόντρα στο ρεύμα
Η παρέμβαση στο Συνέδριο της Ζυρίχης σηματοδότησε τη συνολική διανοητική βιογραφία μιας γυναίκας που γενικά αναγνωρίζεούται ως μια από τις σημαντικότερες εκπροσώπους του σοσιαλισμού του 20 αιώνα. Η Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ, που γεννήθηκε πριν από 150 χρόνια, στις 5 Μαρτίου του 1871 στο Zamość της υπό τσαρική κατοχή Πολωνίας, έζησε ολόκληρη τη ζωή της στα άκρα, αναμετρούμενη με διάφορες αντιξοότητες, και κολυμπώντας πάντα κόντρα στο ρεύμα. Εβραϊκής καταγωγής, υποφέροντας από μια σωματική αναπηρία από μικρή ηλικία, μετοίκισε στη Γερμανία σε ηλικία 27 ετών και κατόρθωσε να αποκτήσει εκεί τη γερμανική υπηκοότητα μέσω ενός εικονικού γάμου. Καθώς ήταν ασυμβίβαστα υπέρ της ειρήνης με το ξέσπασμα του Πρώτου Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου, φυλακίστηκε αρκετές φορές για τις ιδέες της. Υπήρξε παθιασμένη αντίπαλος του ιμπεριαλισμού στη διάρκεια μιας νέας και βίαιης αποικιακής επέκτασης. Αγωνίστηκε εναντίον της θανατικής ποινής στην καρδιά της βαρβαρότητας. Και, ας μην ξεχνάμε ποτέ ότι ήταν μια γυναίκα που έζησε σε κόσμους που κατοικούνταν σχεδόν αποκλειστικά από άντρες. Συχνά ήταν η μοναδική γυναικεία παρουσία τόσο στο Συνέδριο του Πανεπιστημίου της Ζυρίχης, όπου απέκτησε ένα διδακτορικό τίτλο το 1897 με μια διατριβή για τη Βιομηχανική Ανάπτυξη της Πολωνίας, όσο και στην ηγεσία της Γερμανικής Σοσιαλδημοκρατίας. Το Κόμμα την όρισε ως την πρώτη γυναίκα που δίδαξε στην κομματική σχολή κεντρικών στελεχών – εργασία στην οποία απασχολήθηκε από το 1907 ως το 1914, ενώ στο ίδιο διάστημα δημοσίευσε τη Συσσώρευση του κεφαλαίου (1913) και εργάστηκε πάνω σ’ ένα ανολοκλήρωτο σχέδιο μιας Εισαγωγής στην Πολιτική Οικονομία (1925).

Οι δυσκολίες αυτές συμπληρώθηκαν από το ανεξάρτητο πνεύμα της και την αυτονομία της – ένα προτέρημα που συχνά οδηγεί σε δυσκολίες, ακόμα και σε αριστερά κόμματα. Δίνοντας δείγματα μιας ζωηρής ευστροφίας, είχε την ικανότητα να αναπτύσσει νέες ιδέες και να τις υπερασπίζεται με παρρησία, και μάλιστα με μια αφοπλιστική ειλικρίνεια, μπροστά σε μορφές όπως ο Αύγουστος Μπέμπελ και ο Καρλ Κάουτσκι (o οποίος είχε το καθοριστικό πλεονέκτημα της άμεσης επαφής με τον Ένγκελς). Στόχος της δεν ήταν να επαναλαμβάνει κάθε φορά τα λόγια του Μαρξ, αλλά να τα ερμηνεύσει ιστορικά, και να τα αναπτύσσει περαιτέρω, όταν κάτι τέτοιο είναι αναγκαίο. Γι’ αυτήν, η ελευθερία να διατυπώνει την άποψή της και να εκφράζει τις κριτικές της θέσεις στο εσωτερικό του κόμματος ήταν ένα αναπαλλοτρίωτο δικαίωμα. Το κόμμα όφειλε να είναι ένας χώρος όπου θα μπορούσαν να συνυπάρξουν διαφορετικές απόψεις, στον βαθμό που τα μέλη του συμμερίζονταν τις θεμελιώδεις αρχές του.

Κόμμα, απεργία, επανάσταση
Η Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ ξεπέρασε με επιτυχία τα πάμπολλα εμπόδια που αντιμετώπισε, και στη διάρκεια της σφοδρής αντιπαράθεσης μετά τη ρεφορμιστική στροφή του Έντουαρντ Μπερνστάιν αναδείχτηκε σε μια αναγνωρίσι- μη μορφή της πιο εξέχουσας οργάνωσης του ευρωπαϊκού εργατικού κινήματος. Ενώ ο Μπερνστάιν στο περίφημο κείμενό του Οι προϋποθέσεις του σοσιαλισμού και τα καθήκοντα της Σοσιαλδημοκρατίας (1897-99) είχε καλέσει το κόμμα να κόψει τις γέφυρες με το παρελθόν του και να μεταστραφεί σε μια δύναμη σταδιακών αλλαγών, η Λούξεμπουργκ στο Κοινωνική μεταρρύθμιση ή επανάσταση; (1898-99) επέμενε ότι στη διάρκεια κάθε ιστορικής περιόδου «το έργο των μεταρρυθμίσεων συνεχίζεται μόνο στην  κατεύθυνση  που  ορίστηκε  από  την ώθηση της  τελευταίας  επανάστασης». Αυτοί  που  επιδιώκουν  «στο  κοτέτσι του αστικού κοινοβουλευτισμού» τις αλλαγές που θα καθιστούσε εφικτές η επαναστατική κατάκτηση της πολιτικής εξουσίας, δεν επιλέγουν «έναν πιο ήσυχο, ασφαλέστερο και βραδύτερο δρόμο για τον ίδιο στόχο», αλλά μάλλον
«ένα διαφορετικό στόχο». Έχουν αποδεχτεί τον αστικό κόσμο και την ιδεολογία του.

Το ζήτημα δεν ήταν η βελτίωση του υπάρχοντος κοινωνικού καθεστώτος, αλλά η οικοδόμηση ενός τελείως διαφορετικού. Ο ρόλος των εργατικών συν- δικάτων – τα οποία μπορούσαν να αποσπάσουν από τα αφεντικά μόνο κά- ποιες ευνοϊκότερες συνθήκες στο πλαίσιο του καπιταλιστικού τρόπου παραγωγής – και η Ρώσικη Επανάσταση του 1905 αποτέλεσε το έναυσμα για κάποιες σκέψεις σχετικά με τα πιθανά υποκείμενα και τις δράσεις που θα μπορούσαν να παραγάγουν ένα ριζικό μετασχηματισμό της κοινωνίας. Στο βιβλίο Μαζική απεργία, κόμμα και Συνδικάτα (1906), που ανέλυε τα κύρια γεγονότα σε μεγάλες εκτάσεις της Ρωσικής Αυτοκρατορίας, η Λούξεμπουργκ υπογράμμισε τον κρίσιμο ρόλο των ευρύτατων και σε μεγάλο βαθμό ανοργάνωτων στρωμάτων του προλεταριάτου. Στην οπτική της, οι πραγματικοί πρωταγωνιστές της ιστορίας ήταν οι μάζες. Στη Ρωσία, «το στοιχείο του αυθορμητισμού» – μια έννοια που οδήγησε πολλούς στο να την κατηγορήσουν ότι υπερεκτίμησε την ταξική συνείδηση των μαζών – ήταν κρίσιμο και κατά συνέπεια, ο ρόλος του κόμματος δεν θα έπρεπε να είναι να προετοιμάσει τη μαζική απεργία, αλλά «να τοποθετηθεί επικεφαλής του κινήματος συνολικά».

Για τη Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ, η μαζική απεργία ήταν «o ζωντανός σφυγμός της επανάστασης», και ταυτόχρονα, «o ισχυρότερος κινητήριος τροχός της». Ήταν ο πραγματικός «τρόπος κίνησης των προλεταριακών μαζών, η εκπληκτική μορφή του προλεταριακού αγώνα στην επανάσταση». Δεν ήταν μια απλή απομονωμένη δράση αλλά η σύνοψη μιας μακράς περιόδου ταξικών αγώνων. Επιπλέον, δεν θα έπρεπε να παραγνωρίζεται το γεγονός ότι «στη δίνη της επαναστατικής περιόδου», το προλεταριάτο μετασχηματιζόταν κατά ένα τέτοιο τρόπο ώστε ακόμα και το υψηλότερο αγαθό, η ζωή – για να μην μιλήσουμε για την υλική ευημερία – είχε μικρή αξία σε σύγκριση με τα ιδεώδη του αγώνα». Οι μαζικές απεργίες της Ρωσίας έδειξαν πώς σε μια τέτοια περίοδο, η «αδιάκοπη αμφίδρομη δράση των πολιτικών και οικονομικών αγώνων» ήταν τέτοια ώστε το πέρασμα από τη μια μορφή αγώνων στην άλλη ήταν άμεσα εφικτό.

Κομμουνισμός σημαίνει ελευθερία και δημοκρατία
Σχετικά με το ζήτημα των οργανωτικών μορφών, και ειδικότερα, τον ρόλο του κόμματος, η Λούξεμπουργκ ενεπλάκη σε μια άλλη έντονη αντιπαράθεση εκείνη την εποχή, αυτή τη φορά, με τον Λένιν. Στο έργο του Ένα βήμα μπροστά, δύο βήματα πίσω (1904), ο ηγέτης των μπολσεβίκων υπερασπίστηκε τις θέσεις του Δευτέρου Συνεδρίου του Ρώσικου Σοσιαλδημοκρατικού Εργατικού Kόμματος, προτάσσοντας μια αντίληψη του κόμματος ως ενός συμπαγούς πυρήνα επαγγελματιών επαναστατών, μιας πρωτοπορίας που έχει  ως καθήκον να καθοδηγεί τις μάζες. Από την άλλη πλευρά, η Λούξεμπουργκ στο Οργανωτικά ζητήματα της Ρωσικής Σοσιαλδημοκρατίας (1904), υποστήριξε ότι ένα εξαιρετικά συγκεντρωτικό κόμμα δημιουργούσε μια πολύ επικίνδυνη δυναμική «τυφλής υπακοής στην κεντρική εξουσία». To κόμμα δεν θα πρέπει να καταπνίγει,  αλλά  αντίθετα,  να  αναπτύσσει την εμπλοκή της κοινωνίας, ώστε να εξασφαλίζεται «η σωστή ιστορική αξιολόγηση των μορφών πάλης». Ο Μαρξ έγραψε κάποτε ότι «ένα βήμα πραγματικού κινήματος είναι σημαντικότερο από δεκάδες  προγράμματα». Και η Λούξεμπουργκ προεξέτεινε αυτή τη ρήση στον ισχυρισμό ότι «τα λάθη που διαπράττει ένα πραγματικά επαναστατικό εργατικό κίνημα είναι απείρως πιο γόνιμα  και  πολύτιμα από το αλάθητο της καλύτερης από όλες τις πιθανές κεντρικές επιτροπές».

H σύγκρουση αυτή απέκτησε ακόμα μεγαλύτερη σημασία μετά τη σοβιετική επανάσταση του 1917, στην οποία η Λούξεμπουργκ παρείχε την άνευ όρων υποστήριξή της. Ανήσυχη από τα γεγονότα που εξελίσσονταν στη Ρωσία (αρχίζοντας από τους τρόπους αντιμετώπισης της αγροτικής μεταρρύθμισης), ήταν η πρώτη από το κομμουνιστικό στρατόπεδο που παρατήρησε ότι «μια παρατεταμένη κατάσταση συναγερμού» θα ασκούσε μια «εκφυλιστική επιρροή στην κοινωνία». Στο δημοσιευμένο μετά θάνατον κείμενό της Η Ρώσικη Επανάσταση (1922 [1918]), υπογράμμιζε ότι η ιστορική αποστολή του προλεταριάτου, με την κατάκτηση της πολιτικής εξουσίας, ήταν «η δημιουργία μιας σοσιαλιστικής δημοκρατίας που θα αντικαθιστούσε την αστική δημο- κρατία – και όχι η κατάργηση της δημοκρατίας συνολικά». Ο κομμουνισμός σήμαινε «την πιο ενεργή, απεριόριστη συμμετοχή των λαϊκών μαζών, την απεριόριστη δημοκρατία», που δεν προσβλέπει στην καθοδήγησή της από τους αλάθητους ηγέτες. Οι πραγματικά διαφορετικοί πολιτικοί και κοινωνικοί ορίζοντες θα ανοίγονταν μέσω μιας τέτοιας σύνθετης διαδικασίας αυτού του τύπου, και όχι μέσω του περιορισμού της ελευθερίας «μόνο στους υποστηρικτές της Κυβέρνησης, μόνο στα μέλη ενός κόμματος».

H Λούξεμπουργκ ήταν απόλυτα πεπεισμένη ότι «ο σοσιαλισμός από τη φύση του, δεν μπορεί να εκχωρηθεί από τα πάνω», θα πρέπει να επεκτείνει τη δημοκρατία, και όχι να τη συρρικνώσει. Έγραφε ότι «το αρνητικό, τo τσάκισμα μπορεί να είναι αντικείμενο ενός διατάγματος. Αυτό όμως δεν ισχύει για το θετικό, το χτίσιμο». Γι’ αυτές τις «νέες περιοχές», μόνο «η εμπειρία» θα «ήταν σε θέση να διορθώνει και να ανοίγει νέους δρόμους». Η Ένωση των Σπαρτακιστών, που ιδρύθηκε το 1914 μετά από μια διάσπαση του SPD και που αργότερα εξελίχθηκε στο Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα της Γερμανίας (KPD), δήλωνε ρητά ότι δεν θα αναλάβει «ποτέ την κυβερνητική εξουσία παρά μόνον αποκρινόμενη στη σαφή και αναμφισβήτητη θέληση της μεγάλης πλειοψηφίας των προλεταριακών μαζών όλης της Γερμανίας».

Παρ’ όλον ότι έκαναν αντίθετες πολιτικές επιλογές, τόσο οι Σοσιαλδημοκράτες, όσο και οι Μπολσεβίκοι λαθεμένα αντιλαμβάνονταν τρόπο τη δημοκρατία και την επανάσταση ως δυο εναλλακτικές διαδικασίες. Αντίθετα, για τη Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ, ο πυρήνας της πολιτικής θεωρίας ήταν μια αξεδιάλυτη ενότητα αυτών των δυο. Η παρακαταθήκη της αφυδατώθηκε και από τις δυο πλευρές: Οι σοσιαλδημοκράτες, συνένοχοι στη στυγνή δολοφονία της σε ηλικία 47 ετών, από τα χέρια δεξιών παραστρατιωτικών, την πολέμησαν ανεπιφύλακτα όλα αυτά τα χρόνια, για τους επαναστατικούς τόνους της σκέψης της, ενώ οι σταλινικοί απέφυγαν με κάθε τρόπο να διαδώσουν τις ιδέες της, εξ αιτίας του κριτικού και ασυμβίβαστου χαρακτήρα τους.

Κατά του μιλιταρισμού, του πολέμου και του ιμπεριαλισμού
To άλλο κρίσιμο σημείο των πολιτικών πεποιθήσεων και του ακτιβισμού της Λούξεμπουργκ ήταν η διπλή της αντίθεση απέναντι στον πόλεμο και οι κινητοποιήσεις της κατά του μιλιταρισμού. Εδώ αποδείχτηκε ικανή να επικαιροποιήσει τη θεωρητική προσέγγιση της Αριστεράς, και να κερδίσει την υπο-στήριξη κάποιων οξυδερκών αποφάσεων των Συνεδρίων της Δεύτερης Διεθνούς, οι οποίες, παρ’ ότι απαξιωμένες, αποτελούσαν ένα αγκάθι στα πλευρά των υποστηρικτών του Πρώτου Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου. Σύμφωνα με την ανάλυσή της, η λειτουργία των στρατών, η ατέρμων ανανέωση του εξοπλι- σμού τους και η επαναλαμβανόμενη έκρηξη πολέμων δεν θα έπρεπε να κα- τανοούνται μόνο με τους κλασικούς όρους της πολιτικής σκέψης του δέκατου ένατου αιώνα. Αντίθετα, συνδέονται στενά με τις δυνάμεις που επιδιώκουν την καταστολή των εργατικών αγώνων και χρησιμοποιούνται ως χρήσιμα εργαλεία από τα αντιδραστικά συμφέροντα με σκοπό να διαιρέσουν την εργατική τάξη.

Εκτός αυτού, αντιστοιχούσαν σ’ ένα συγκεκριμένο οικονομικό στόχο της εποχής. Ο καπιταλισμός χρειαζόταν τον ιμπεριαλισμό και τον πό- λεμο, ακόμα και σε ειρηνικές εποχές, προκειμένου να αυξήσει την παραγωγή, όπως επίσης και για να κατακτήσει τις νέες αγορές που πρωτοεμφανίζονταν στην αποικιακή περιφέρεια έξω από την Ευρώπη. Όπως έγραψε στη Συσσώρευση του κεφαλαίου, «η πολιτική βία δεν είναι τίποτα άλλο από ένα όχημα για την οικονομική διαδικασία» – μια κρίση που συνοδεύτηκε από μια από τις πιο αμφιλεγόμενες θέσεις του βιβλίου, σύμφωνα με την οποία η ανα- νέωση των εξοπλισμών ήταν απαραίτητη για την παραγωγική επέκταση του καπιταλισμού.

H εικόνα αυτή απείχε πολύ από τα αισιόδοξα ρεφορμιστικά σενάρια, και για να τη συνοψίσει, η Λούξεμπουργκ χρησιμοποίησε μια διατύπωση που θα αντηχούσε ευρέως στη διάρκεια του εικοστού αιώνα: «σοσιαλισμός ή βαρβαρότητα». Εξήγησε ότι ο δεύτερος όρος θα μπορούσε να αποφευχθεί μόνο μέσω της συνειδητοποιημένης μαζικής πάλης, και εφ’ όσον ο αντιμιλιταρι- σμός απαιτούσε ένα υψηλό επίπεδο πολιτικής συνείδησης,  ήταν  μια  από τους μεγαλύτερους υπέρμαχους της γενικής απεργίας κατά του πολέμου – ένα όπλο που πολλοί άλλοι, του Μαρξ συμπεριλαμβανομένου, υποτίμησαν. Υποστήριξε ότι απέναντι στα νέα πολεμικά σενάρια θα έπρεπε να αντιταχθεί το ζήτημα της εθνικής άμυνας και ότι το σύνθημα «πόλεμος στον πόλεμο!» θα έπρεπε να καταστεί «ο ακρογωνιαίος λίθος της πολιτικής της εργατικής τάξης». Όπως έγραψε στην Κρίση της Σοσιαλδημοκρατίας (1916), γνωστή επίσης ως The Junius Pamphlet, η Δεύτερη Διεθνής κατέρρευσε γιατί απέτυχε «να οργανώσει μια κοινή τακτική και δράση του προλεταριάτου σε όλες τις χώρες». Από τότε και στο εξής, ο «κύριος στόχος» του προλεταριάτου θα έπρεπε επο- μένως να είναι «ο αγώνας κατά του ιμπεριαλισμού και η αποτροπή των πολέμων σε καιρούς ειρήνης όπως και σε καιρούς πολέμου».

Χωρίς να χάσει την τρυφερότητά της
Ένας πολίτης του κόσμου με το όραμα «αυτού που έρχεται», η Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ έλεγε ότι αισθανόταν σαν στο σπίτι της «παντού στον κόσμο, όπου υπάρχουν σύννεφα και πουλιά, και ανθρώπινα δάκρυα». Παθιαζόταν με τη βοτανική και αγαπούσε τα ζώα, και όπως μπορούμε να δούμε από τις επιστολές της, ήταν μια γυναίκα με ευαισθησίες, που τα είχε καλά με τον εαυτό της, παρά τις πικρές εμπειρίες που της επιφύλαξε η ζωή της. Για τη συνιδρύτρια της Ένωσης των Σπαρτακιστών, η πάλη των τάξεων δεν ήταν απλά ένα ζήτημα αύξησης των μισθών. Δεν φιλοδόξησε ποτέ να είναι μια απλή επίγονος και ο σοσιαλισμός της δεν ήταν ποτέ οικονομιστικός. Βουτηγμένη στα δράματα της εποχής της, επιδίωξε να επικαιροποιήσει τον μαρξισμό, χωρίς να θέσει υπό αμφισβήτηση τα θεμέλιά του. Οι προσπάθειές της σ’ αυτή την κατεύθυνση αποτελούν μια σταθερή προειδοποίηση για την Αριστερά ότι δεν θα πρέπει να περιορίσει την πολιτική της δραστηριότητα σε ήπια καταπραϋντικά, παραιτούμενη από την προσπάθεια να αλλάξει την υπάρχουσα κατά- σταση πραγμάτων. Ο τρόπος που έζησε, το γεγονός ότι κατόρθωσε να παντρέψει τη θεωρητική επεξεργασία με την κοινωνική δράση, προσφέρουν ένα εξαιρετικό διαχρονικό μάθημα στη νέα γενιά των αγωνιστών που επέλεξαν να συνεχίσουν τους αγώνες στους οποίους αυτή είχε δώσει.


Πορεία κόντρα στο ρεύμα

Συμπληρώθηκαν φέτος 150 χρόνια από τη γέννηση της Ρόζας Λούξεμπουργκ. Στην προσωπικότητα και στη δράση της αναφέρεται το ακόλουθο άρθρο του Μαρτσέλο Μούστο, καθηγητή Πολιτικής Θεωρίας και Κοινωνιολογίας στο York University του Τορόντο.

Οταν, τον Αύγουστο του 1893, στο συνέδριο της Δεύτερης Διεθνούς στη Ζυρίχη, από το προεδρείο του σώματος αναφέρθηκε το όνομά της, η Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ άνοιξε χωρίς χρονοτριβή ένα διάδρομο μεταξύ του κοινού των αντιπροσώπων και των αγωνιστών, που βρίσκονταν στην κατάμεστη αίθουσα. Ηταν ακόμη νεότατη, με μικροσκοπική κορμοστασιά, και με μια παραμόρφωση στον γοφό, που την υποχρέωνε να κουτσαίνει ήδη από την ηλικία των πέντε ετών.

Στους παρόντες, η εμφάνισή της θα μπορούσε να δημιουργήσει την εντύπωση ότι βρίσκονταν μπροστά σε ένα ευάλωτο πρόσωπο. Τους κατέπληξε όμως όλους όταν, αφού ανέβηκε σε μια καρέκλα για να ακούγεται καλύτερα, κατόρθωσε να τραβήξει την προσοχή ολόκληρου του ακροατηρίου, που εντυπωσιάστηκε από τη ρητορική της δεινότητα και από την πρωτοτυπία των θέσεών της. […] Γεννημένη στις 5 Μαρτίου 1871, στην κατεχόμενη από την τσαρική Ρωσία Πολωνία, η Ρόζα Λούξεμπουργκ διέθεσε την ύπαρξή της στον αγώνα με τρόπο οριακό, παλεύοντας ενάντια σε πολυάριθμες αντιξοότητες, βαδίζοντας πάντοτε κόντρα στο ρεύμα και πληρώνοντας η ίδια προσωπικά το τίμημα. Πέθανε στις 15 Ιανουαρίου 1919, δολοφονημένη από παρακρατικούς της Δεξιάς.

Με εβραϊκές ρίζες, στην ηλικία των 26 ετών εγκαταστάθηκε στη Γερμανία. Πεισμένη ειρηνίστρια στον καιρό του Α’ Παγκόσμιου Πολέμου, φυλακίστηκε κάμποσες φορές για τις ιδέες της. Ηταν φλογερή εχθρός του ιμπεριαλισμού σε μια περίοδο νέας και βίαιης αποικιακής του εξάπλωσης. Υπήρξε κυρίως μια γυναίκα και έζησε σε κόσμους που κατοικούνταν σχεδόν αποκλειστικά από άνδρες. Ηταν συχνά η μοναδική γυναικεία παρουσία τόσο στο Πανεπιστήμιο της Ζυρίχης, όπου πήρε τον διδακτορικό της τίτλο το 1897, όσο και μεταξύ των ηγετών του Γερμανικού Σοσιαλδημοκρατικού Κόμματος, όπου θα γίνει η πρώτη γυναίκα που θα διδάξει στην κεντρική σχολή εκπαίδευσης των στελεχών. Σε αυτές τις δυσκολίες θα προστεθούν το ανεξάρτητο πνεύμα της και η αυτονομία της –μια αρετή που συχνά τιμωρούνταν ακόμη και στα κόμματα της Αριστεράς. Η Λούξεμπουργκ είχε την ικανότητα να επεξεργάζεται νέες ιδέες και να τις υπερασπίζεται με σθένος ενώπιον προσωπικοτήτων μεγάλου διαμετρήματος, όπως ο Μπέμπελ ή ο Κάουτσκι, που είχαν το προνόμιο να διαμορφώσουν τη σκέψη τους μέσω της άμεσης επαφής με τον Ενγκελς.

Σκοπός της δεν ήταν να επαναλαμβάνει τα λόγια του Μαρξ, αλλά να τα ερμηνεύει ιστορικά. Κατόρθωσε να ξεπεράσει τα πολλά εμπόδια που συνάντησε και, στην περίοδο της ρεφορμιστικής στροφής του Εντουαρντ Μπερνστάιν και της ζωηρής συζήτησης που ακολούθησε, έγινε γνωστή στην κυριότερη οργάνωση του ευρωπαϊκού εργατικού κινήματος. Ενώ με το περίφημο έργο του «Οι προϋποθέσεις του σοσιαλισμού και τα καθήκοντα της σοσιαλδημοκρατίας» ο Μπερνστάιν καλούσε το κόμμα να κόψει τις γέφυρες με το παρελθόν και να μετατραπεί σε μια μεταρρυθμιστική δύναμη, με το κείμενό της «Μεταρρύθμιση ή επανάσταση;» η Λούξεμπουργκ απάντησε αποφασιστικά ότι, σε κάθε ιστορική περίοδο, «η προσπάθεια για μεταρρυθμίσεις γίνεται μόνο στην κατεύθυνση που υπαγορεύει η τελευταία επανάσταση». Οσοι θεωρούσαν ότι με τον αστικό κοινοβουλευτισμό θα μπορούσαν να πετύχουν τις ίδιες αλλαγές, που καθιστά δυνατές η επαναστατική κατάκτηση της πολιτικής εξουσίας, δεν είχαν επιλέξει μια «πιο ήρεμη, γαλήνια και αργή οδό προς τον ίδιο σκοπό, αλλά έναν διαφορετικό σκοπό».

Σύμφωνα με τη Λούξεμπουργκ, ο σοσιαλισμός θα έπρεπε να επεκτείνει τη δημοκρατία και όχι να την περιορίζει. Ετσι, το 1904, πρωταγωνίστησε σε μιαν άλλη σκληρή σύγκρουση, αυτή τη φορά με τον Λένιν, για τις μορφές πολιτικής οργάνωσης. Ο μπολσεβίκος ηγέτης αντιλαμβανόταν το κόμμα ως ένα συμπαγή πυρήνα επαγγελματιών επαναστατών, ως μια πρωτοπορία που όφειλε να καθοδηγεί τις μάζες. Η Λούξεμπουργκ αντέτεινε ότι ένα εξαιρετικά συγκεντρωτικό κόμμα γεννούσε μιαν επικίνδυνη δυναμική: «την τυφλή υπακοή των αγωνιστών στην κεντρική ηγεσία».

Το κόμμα όφειλε να αναπτύσσει την κοινωνική συμμετοχή και όχι να την καταπνίγει. Ο Μαρξ είχε γράψει ότι «κάθε βήμα του πραγματικού κινήματος ήταν πιο σημαντικό από μια ντουζίνα προγράμματα». Η Λούξεμπουργκ προέκτεινε αυτό το αξίωμα και υποστήριζε ότι «τα εσφαλμένα βήματα που πραγματοποιεί ένα υπαρκτό εργατικό κίνημα είναι, στο ιστορικό πεδίο, ασύγκριτα γονιμότερα και πολυτιμότερα από το αλάθητο της καλύτερης Κεντρικής Επιτροπής».

Αυτή η πολεμική απέκτησε ακόμη μεγαλύτερη σημασία μετά τη σοβιετική επανάσταση, στην οποία η Λούξεμπουργκ προσέφερε αμέριστη στήριξη. Ανήσυχη για την πορεία των γεγονότων στη Ρωσία (με αφετηρία τους τρόπους με τους οποίους άρχισαν να αντιμετωπίζουν τη γεωργική μεταρρύθμιση), η Λούξεμπουργκ ήταν η πρώτη στο κομμουνιστικό στρατόπεδο που παρατήρησε ότι ένα «καθεστώς παρατεταμένης κατάστασης πολιορκίας» θα ασκούσε «μιαν εκφυλιστική επίδραση στην κοινωνία». Τόνισε ξανά ότι η ιστορική αποστολή του «προλεταριάτου που έφτασε στην εξουσία» ήταν «να δημιουργήσει μια σοσιαλιστική δημοκρατία στη θέση της αστικής δημοκρατίας και όχι να καταστρέψει κάθε μορφή δημοκρατίας». Γι’ αυτήν κομμουνισμός σήμαινε μια «πιο ενεργητική και ελεύθερη συμμετοχή των λαϊκών μαζών σε μια δημοκρατία χωρίς όρια». Ενας αληθινά διαφορετικός κοινωνικός και πολιτικός ορίζοντας θα ανοιγόταν μόνο μέσα από αυτή την περίπλοκη διαδικασία και όχι αν η άσκηση της ελευθερίας επιφυλασσόταν «μόνο στους οπαδούς της κυβέρνησης και στα μέλη ενός μοναδικού κόμματος».

Παρόλο που εφάρμοζαν αντιτιθέμενες πολιτικές επιλογές, σοσιαλδημοκράτες και μπολσεβίκοι είχαν, και οι μεν και οι δε, αντιληφθεί εσφαλμένα τη δημοκρατία και την επανάσταση σαν δυο εναλλακτικές μεταξύ τους διαδικασίες. Αντίθετα, ο πυρήνας της πολιτικής θεωρίας της Λούξεμπουργκ επικεντρωνόταν στην ακατάλυτη ενότητά τους. Το άλλο θεμέλιο της στράτευσής της ήταν το διπλό μέτωπο: αντίθεση στον πόλεμο και αντιμιλιταριστική κινητοποίηση.

Σε αυτά τα θέματα η Λούξεμπουργκ εκσυγχρόνισε τις θεωρητικές αποσκευές της Αριστεράς και συνέβαλε στο να εγκριθούν διορατικές αποφάσεις στα συνέδρια της Δεύτερης Διεθνούς. Ο ρόλος των στρατών, ο συνεχής επανεξοπλισμός και η επανάληψη των πολέμων δεν έπρεπε να αναλύονται μόνο με τις έννοιες του 19ου αιώνα. Επρόκειτο για εργαλεία που υπηρετούσαν τα συμφέροντα των αντιδραστικών δυνάμεων και που παρήγαγαν διαιρέσεις στο προλεταριάτο, αλλά αυτά ανταποκρίνονταν και σε μια συγκεκριμένη σκοπιμότητα.

Ο καπιταλισμός χρειαζόταν τον πόλεμο, ακόμη και σε εποχή ειρήνης, για να αυξάνει την παραγωγή καθώς και για να κατακτά νέες αγορές στις εξω-ευρωπαϊκές αποικιακές περιφέρειες. Η μάχη εναντίον αυτής της βαρβαρότητας θα μπορούσε να κερδηθεί μόνο χάρη στη συνειδητή πάλη των μαζών και, καθώς η αντίθεση στον μιλιταρισμό απαιτούσε μιαν ισχυρή πολιτική συνείδηση, η Λούξεμπουργκ ήταν μεταξύ των πιο πεισμένων υποστηρικτών της γενικής απεργίας εναντίον του πολέμου. Για την ιδρύτρια της Ενωσης του Σπάρτακου η ταξική πάλη δεν εξαντλούνταν με την αύξηση του μισθού. Η Λούξεμπουργκ δεν ήθελε να είναι μια απλή επίγονος και ο σοσιαλισμός της δεν ήταν ποτέ οικονομίστικος. Βυθισμένη μέσα στα δράματα του καιρού της, προσπάθησε να ανανεώσει τον μαρξισμό χωρίς να αμφισβητήσει τα θεμέλιά του και η προσπάθειά της μιλάει ακόμη και σήμερα στις νέες γενιές.


A alternativa possível da Comuna de Paris

Os burgueses sempre tinham conseguido tudo. Desde a revolução de 1789, tinham sido os únicos que tinham enriquecido com os tempos de prosperidade, enquanto que a classe trabalhadora tinha tido que suportar regularmente o custo das crises.

A proclamação da Terceira República abriu novos cenários e ofereceu a oportunidade de inverter este rumo. Napoleão III tinha sido derrotado e capturado pelos alemães, em Sedán, a 4 de setembro de 1870. Em janeiro do ano seguinte, Paris, que tinha estado sitiada durante mais de quatro meses, rendia-se, o que obrigou os franceses a aceitar as condições impostas por Otto von Bismarck.

Assinou-se um armistício que permitiu a celebração de eleições e a posterior nomeação de Adolphe Thiers como chefe do poder executivo, com o apoio de uma ampla maioria legitimista e orleanista. Na capital, contudo, diferentemente do resto do país, a conjunção progressista-republicano obteve sucesso com uma maioria esmagadora e o descontentamento popular foi mais generalizado do que noutros lugares. A perspetiva de um executivo que deixasse imutáveis todas as injustiçs sociais, que queria desarmar a cidade e estava disposto a fazer recair o preço da guerra sobre os mais desfavorecidos, despoletou a rebelião. A 18 de março estalou uma nova revolução; Thiers e o seu exército tiveram que refugiar-se em Versailles.

De luta e de governo

Os insurgentes decidiram realizar imediatamente eleições livres para garantir a legitimidade democrática da insurreição. A 26 de março, uma esmagadora maioria (190.000 contra 40.000 votos) aprovou as razões da revolta e 70 dos 85 membros eleitos declararam-se a favor da revolução. Os 15 representantes moderados do chamado Parti de Maires (partido dos presidentes de Câmara), grupo formado por ex-presidentes de alguns bairros, demitiram-se imediatamente e não se incorporaram no conselho da Comuna. Pouco depois foram seguidos por quatro radicais.

Os 66 membros restantes, que nem sempre facilmente distinguíveis devido a filiações políticas duplicadas, representavam posições muito variadas. Entre eles havia duas dezenas de republicanos neo-jacobinos (incluindo os influentes Charles Delescluze e Felix Pyat), uma dezena de prosélitos de Auguste Blanqui, 17 membros da Associação Internacional de Trabalhadores (incluindo os mutualistas seguidores de Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, que estavam frequentemente em desacordo com os coletivistas ligados a Karl Marx) e um par de independentes. A maioria dos membros da Comuna eram trabalhadores ou representantes reconhecidos da classe trabalhadora. Entre eles, 14 eram provenientes da Guarda Nacional. Foi precisamente o comité central desta que depositou o poder nas mãos da Comuna, ainda que este ato tenha sido o início de uma longa série de contradições e conflitos entre as duas entidades.

A 28 de março, uma grande massa de cidadãos reuniu-se perto do Hôtel de Ville e celebrou alegremente a inauguração da nova assembleia que oficialmente tomou o nome de Comuna de Paris. Ainda que apenas tenha durado 72 dias, foi o evento político mais importante da história do movimento operário do século XIX. A Comuna fez reviver a esperança de uma população esgotada por meses de penúrias. Nos bairros surgiram comités e grupos de apoio. Em cada canto da metrópole multiplicaram-se iniciativas de solidariedade e planos para a construção de um mundo novo. Montmartre passou a chamar-se “a cidadela da liberdade”. Um dos sentimentos predominantes foi o desejo de partilhar. Militantes como Louise Michel deram o exemplo com o seu espírito de abnegação. Victor Hugo escreveu sobre ela: “Fizeste o que fazem as grandes almas loucas. Deste glória aos que estão esmagados e subjugados”. Contudo, a Comuna não viveu devido ao impulso de um dirigente ou de um punhado de figuras carismáticas. De facto, a sua principal característica foi a sua dimensão claramente coletiva.

Mulheres e homens ofereceram-se como voluntários para um projeto de libertação comum. A autogestão deixou de ser considerada uma utopia. A auto-emancipação tornou-se algo essencial.

A transformação do poder político

Entre os primeiros decretos de emergência proclamados para travar a pobreza galopante estava o congelamento das rendas (era considerado justo que “a propriedade fizesse a sua parte de sacrifício”) e a suspensão de venda de objetos que tivessem um valor inferior a 20 francos que estavam nas casas de penhores. Também se criaram nove comissões colegiais para substituir os ministérios existentes: guerra, finanças, segurança, educação, subsistência, justiça, trabalho e comércio, relações externas e serviços públicos. Posteriormente nomeou-se um delegado para gerir cada uma delas.

A 19 de abril, três dias depois das eleições pariciais depois das quais foi possível substituir os 31 lugares que ficaram livres quase de imediato, a Comuna redigiu a Declaração ao Povo Francês, na qual se assegurava “a garantia absoluta da liberdade individual, da liberdade de consciência e da liberdade de trabalho” e “a intervenção permanente da cidadania nos assuntos comuns”. Afirmava-se que o conflito entre Paris e Versailles “não podia terminar com compromissos ilusórios” e que o povo tinha “o dever de lutar e vencer”. Muito mais significativos do que o conteúdo deste texto, síntese algo ambígua para evitar tensões entre as distintas tendências políticas, foi através de atos concretos que os militantes da Comuna lutaram por uma transformação total do poder político.

Iniciaram uma série de reformas que tinham como objetivo mudar profundamente não apenas forma de administrar a política mas também a sua própria natureza. A democracia direta da Comuna previa a revogação dos mandatos mandatos dos representantes eleitos e o controlo do seu trabalho através de mandatos vinculativos (medida insuficiente para resolver a complexa questão da representação política). Os magistrados e outros cargos públicos, também sujeitos a controlo permanente e à possibilidade de revogação de mandato, não seriam nomeados arbitrariamente, como no passado, mas mediante concurso aberto ou eleições transparentes. Havia que impedir a profissionalização da esfera pública. As decisões políticas não deviam estar nas mãos de pequenos grupos de funcionários e técnicos mas ser tomadas pelo povo. Os exércitos e as forças policiais já não seriam instituições separadas do corpo da sociedade. A separação entre Estado e Igreja era uma necessidade indispensável.

Porém, a mudança política não se esgotava na adoção destas medidas. Devia ir muito mais à raiz. A burocracia tinha de ser reduzida drasticamente, transferindo o exercício do poder para as mãos do povo. O âmbito social tinha que prevalecer sobre o político e este último – como já tinha argumentado Henri de Saint-Simon – deixaria de existir como função especializada, já que seria assimilado progressivamente pelas atividades da sociedade civil. O corpo social recuperaria assim as funções que tinham sido transferidas para o Estado. Derrubar a dominação de classe existente não era suficiente; havia que extinguir toda a dominação de classe. Tudo isto teria permitido a realização do plano desenhado pelos Communards: uma república constituída pela união de associações livres verdadeiramente democráticas que se converteriam em impulsionadoras da emancipação de todos os seus componentes. Era o auto-governo dos produtores.

A prioridade das reformas sociais

A Comuna acreditava que as reformas sociais eram até mais relevantes que as transformações na ordem política. Representavam a sua razão de ser, o termómetro através do qual se devia medir a fidelidade aos princípios com que tinha sido criada, o elemento de diferenciação definitivo face às revoluções que a haviam precedido em 1789 e 1848.

A Comuna ratificou várias medidas com uma clara conotação de classe. Os prazos para pagamento de dívidas foram adiados três anos, sem pagamento de juros. Suspenderam-se os desalojamentos por falta de pagamento de rendas e adotaram-se medidas para que as casas desocupadas fossem requisitadas em benefício das pessoas sem domicílio. Fizeram-se projetos para limitar a duração da jornada laboral (das dez horas iniciais às oito previstas no futuro), proibiu-se a prática generalizada de impor multas arbitrárias com o único propósito de reduzir os salários. Decretaram-se salários mínimos decentes. Adotou-se a proibição da acumulação de múltiplos postos de trabalho e estabeleceu-se um limite máximo para os salários dos cargos públicos. Fez-se todo o possível para aumentar o abastecimento de alimentos e reduzir os seus preços. Proibiu-se o trabalho noturno nas padarias e abriram-se alguns talhos municipais. Implementaram-se diversas medidas de assistência social para os mais vulneráveis, incluindo a entrega de alimentos a mulheres e a crianças abandonadas e aprovou-se o fim da discriminação entre crianças legítimas e naturais.

Todos os communards acreditavam que a educação era um fator indispensável para a libertação dos indivíduos, estando sinceramente convictos de que representava o requisito prévio de qualquer mudança social e política séria e duradoura. Assim, animaram múltiplos e relevantes debates em torno das propostas de reforma do sistema educativo. A escola seria obrigatória e gratuita para todos, meninos e meninas. O ensino religioso seria substituído pelo ensino laico, inspirado no pensamento racional e científico e os custos do culto já não recairiam no imposto estatal. Nas comissões especialmente criadas e na imprensa produziram-se numerosas tomadas de posição destacando quão fundamental era a decisão de investir na educação feminina. Para se converter verdadeiramente num “serviço público”, a escola tinha que oferecer as mesmas oportunidades às “crianças de ambos os sexos”. Por último, deveria proibir “as distinções de raça, nacionalidade, fé ou posição social”.

Os avanços de caráter teórico foram acompanhados das primeiras iniciativas práticas e, em mais de um distrito, milhares de crianças da classe trabalhadora receberam material didático gratuito e entraram, pela primeira vez, num edifício escolar.

A Comuna também legislou medidas de carácter socialista. Decidiu-se que as oficianas abandonadas pelos proprietários que tinham fugido da cidade, aos quais se garantia uma indemnização no seu regresso, seriam entregues a associações cooperativas de trabalhadores. Os teatros e museus – que estariam abertos a todos e seriam gratuitos – foram coletivizados e a sua direção confiada a quem tinha aderido à “Federação dos Artistas de Paris”, presidida pelo pintor e militante incansável Gustave Courbet. Nela participavam cerca de 300 escultores, arquitetos, litógrafos e pintores (entre os quais também Édouard Manet). Seguiu-se a esta iniciativa o nascimento da “Federação Artística” que agrupou os atores e o mundo da ópera.

Todas estas ações e medidas foram levadas a cabo surpreendentemente em apenas 54 dias, numa cidade ainda atormentada pelos efeito da guerra franco-prussiana. A Comuna só pôde funcionar entre 29 de março e 21 de maio e, para além disso, no meio de uma resistência heroica aos ataques de Versailles, com uma defesa que requeria um grande gasto de energia humana e de recursos económicos. Para além disso, a Comuna não tinha nenhum meio de coerção, muitas das decisões tomadas não se aplicaram de maneira uniforme no amplo território da cidade. Contudo, constituíram uma tentativa notável de reforma social e mostraram o caminho de uma possível transformação.

Um luta coletiva e feminista

A Comuna foi muito mais do que as medidas aprovadas pela sua assembleia legislativa. Aspirou mesmo a alterar substancialmente o espaço urbano, como o demonstra a decisão de demolir a Coluna Vendôme, considerada um monumento à barbárie e símbolo repreensível da guerra, e secularizar alguns locais de culto, destinando o seu uso à comunidade.

A Comuna viveu graças a uma extraordinária participação massiva e um sólido espírito de ajuda mútua. Neste levantamento contra a autoridade desempenharam um papel destacado os clubes revolucionários que surgiram com incrível rapidez em quase todos os distritos. Foram estabelecidos 28 e representaram um dos exemplos mais importantes da mobilização espontânea que acompanhou a Comuna. Abertos todas as noites, ofereceram à cidadania a oportunidade de reunir-se, depois do trabalho, para discutir livremente a situação social e política, verificar o que que tinham conseguido fazer os seus representantes e sugerir alternativas para a solução dos problemas quotidianos. Tratavam-se de associações horizontais que favoreciam a formação e expressão da soberania popular mas também espaços de sororidade e de fraternidade. Eram espaços onde todos podiam respirar a embriagante possibilidade de se tornarem donos do seu próprio destino.

Nesta via de emancipação não existia discriminação nacional. O título de cidadão da Comuna estava garantido a todos os que trabalhavam para o seu desenvolvimento e os estrangeiros tinham garantidos os mesmos direitos social que os franceses. Prova deste princípio de igualdade foi o papel predominante que assumiram vários estrangeiros (uns três mil no total). O húngaro, membro da Associação Internacional de Trabalhadores, Léo Frankel, não apenas foi um dos funcionários eleitos da Comuna mas também o responsável pela comissão de trabalho, um dos “ministérios” mais importantes de Paris. Os polacos Jaroslaw Dombrowski e Walery Wroblewski, foram nomeados generais da Guarda Nacional e desempenharam um papel igualmente importante.

Neste contexto, as mulheres, ainda privadas do direito ao voto e consequentemente também de se sentar entre os representantes do Conselho da Comuna, desempenharam um papel fundamental na crítica da ordem social existente. Transgrediram as normas da sociedade burguesa e afirmaram a sua nova identidade em oposição aos valores da família patriarcal. Saíram da dimensão privada e ocuparam-se da esfera pública. Formaram a “União de Mulheres pela Defesa de Paris e para o Cuidado aos Feridos” (nascida graças à incessante atividade de Élisabeth Dmitrieff, militante da Associação Internacional de Trabalhadores) e desempenharam um papel central na identificação de batalhas sociais estratégicas. Conseguiram o encerramento dos bordéis, conseguiram igualdade salarial com os professores homens, cunharam o lema “trabalho igual, salário igual”, reclamaram igualdade de direitos no matrimónio, exigiram o reconhecimento das uniões livres, promoveram a criação de câmaras sindicais exclusivamente femininas.

Quando, em meados de maio, a situação militar piorou, quando as tropas de Versailles chegaram às portas de Paris, as mulheres pegaram em armas e formaram até o seu próprio batalhão. Muitas deram o seu último suspiro nas barricadas. A propaganda burguesa converteu-as em objeto dos ataques mais desapiedados, acusando-as de ter incendiado a cidade durante os confrontos e atribuindo-lhe o nome depreciativo les pétroleuses.

Centralizar ou descentralizar?

A Comuna queria estabelecer uma autêntica democracia. Era um projeto ambicioso e difícil. A soberania popular a que aspiravam os revolucionários implicava a participação do maior número possível de cidadãos.

Em finais de março surgiram em Paris uma miríade de comissões centrais, sub-comités de bairro, clubes revolucionários e batalhões de soldados que flanqueavam o duopólio já complexo composto pelo Conselho da Comuna e pelo Comité Central da Guarda Nacional. Este último, de facto, tinha conservado o controlo do poder militar, operando amiúde como um verdadeiro contrapoder do primeiro. Se o compromisso direto de uma grande parte da população constituía uma garantia democrática vital, a multiplicidade de autoridades no terreno complicava o processo de tomada de decisões e tornava tortuosa a aplicação dos decretos.

O problema da relação entre a autoridade central e os organismos locais produziu vários curto-circuitos, o que resultou numa situação caótica e muitas vezes paralisante. O já precário equilíbrio entrou em colapso quando, face à emergência da guerra, à indisciplina presente nas fileiras da Guarda nacional e a uma crescente ineficácia da ação governamental, Jules Miot propôs a criação de um Comité de Salvação Pública de cinco membros – uma solução inspirada no modelo ditatorial de Maximilien Robespierre de 1793. A medida foi aprovada a um de maio por 45 votos a favor e 23 contra. Foi um erro dramático que decretou o princípio do fim de uma experiência política inédita e dividiu a Comuna em dois blocos opostos. Ao primeiro pertenciam os neo-jacobinos e blanquistas, partidários da concentração do poder e, em última instância, da primazia da dimensão política sobre a social. O segundo incluía a maioria dos membros da AIT para os quais o âmbito social era mais importante do que o político. Consideravam necessária a separação de poderes e acreditavam que a república nunca devia por em causa as liberdades políticas. Coordenados pelo infatigável Eugène Varlin, tornaram pública a sua clara rejeição das derivas autoritárias e não participaram na eleição do Comité de Salvação Pública. Para eles, o poder centralizado nas mãos de um punhado de indivíduos contradizia os postulados da Comuna. Os eleitos não eram detentores de soberania – esta pertencia ao povo – e portanto não tinham direito de aliená-la. A 21 de maio, quando a minoria participou novamente numa sessão do Conselho da Comuna, fez-se uma nova tentativa de reestabelecer a unidade no seu seio. Mas já era demasiado tarde.

A Comuna, sinónimo de revolução

A Comuna de Paris foi reprimida com violência brutal pelos exércitos de Versailles. Durante a chamada “semana sangrenta” (de 21 a 28 de maio) foram mortos entre 17.000 e 25.000 cidadãos. Os últimos confrontos tiveram lugar junto aos muros do cemitério de Père-Lachaise. O jovem Arthur Rimbaud descreveu a capital francesa como uma “cidade dolorosa, quase morta”. Foi o massacre mais violento da história de França. Apenas 6.000 comunnards conseguiram escapar e refugiar-se no exílio na Inglaterra, Bélgica e Suíça. Foram feitos 43.522 prisioneros. Uma centena deles foram condenados à morte depois de julgamentos sumaríssimos dos Conselhos de Guerra, enquanto outros 13.500 foram enviados para a prisão, condenados a trabalhos forçados ou deportados (em boa parte especialmente na remota Nova Caledónia). Alguns deles solidarizaram-se e compartilharam a mesma sorte que os insurgentes argelinos que tinham liderado a revolta anti-colonial de Mokrani, que aconteceu ao mesmo tempo que a Comuna e que também foi esmagada violentamente pelas tropas francesas.

O espetro da Comuna intensificou a repressão anti-socialista em toda a Europa. Justificando a violência estatal sem precedentes exercida por Thiers, a imprensa conservadora e liberal acusou os communards dos piores crimes e expressou grande alívio pela restauração da “ordem natural” e da legalidade burguesa, assim como satisfação pelo triunfo da “civilização” sobre a “anarquia”.

Aqueles que se tinham atrevido a questionar a autoridade e a atacar os privilégios da classe dominante foram castigados de maneira exemplar. As mulheres voltaram a ser consideradas seres inferiores e os trabalhadores, com as suas mãos sujas e cheias de calos, que se tinham atrevido a pensar que podiam governar, foram devolvidos aos lugares que lhe eram destinados na sociedade.

Contudo, a revolução parisiense deu força às lutas dos trabalhadores e empurrou-as para posições mais radicais. No seguimento da sua derrota, Eugène Pottier escreveu uma canção destinada a converter-se na mais famosa do movimento operário. Os seus dizem “Groupons-nous, et demain, L’Internationale sera le genre humain!” Paris tinha demonstrado que era necessário perseguir o objetivo de construir uma sociedade radicalmente diferente da capitalista. A partir desse momento, ainda que “o tempo das cerejas” nunca tenha chegado para os seus protagonistas (segundo o título da célebre canção composta pelo communard Jean Baptiste Clément), a Comuna encarnou a ideia abstrata e a transformação concreta ao mesmo tempo. Converteu-se em sinónimo do próprio conceito de revolução, foi uma experiência ontológica da classe trabalhadora. Em “A Guerra Civil em França”, Marx afirmou que esta “vanguarda do proletariado moderno” conseguiu “aproximar os trabalhadores de todo o mundo à França”. A Comuna de Paris mudou a consciência dos trabalhadores e a sua perceção coletiva. Depois de 150 anos, a sua bandeira vermelha continua desfraldada e recorda-nos que é sempre possível uma alternativa. Vive la Commune!


Strength to Struggle

The bourgeois of France had always come away with everything. Since the revolution of 1789, they had been the only ones to grow rich in periods of prosperity, while the working class had regularly borne the brunt of crises. But the defeat of Napoleon III during the Franco-Prussian War offered an opportunity for a change of course. The prospect of a conservative government that would leave social injustices intact, heaping the burden of the war on the least well-off, triggered a new revolution on 18 March. Adolphe Thiers and his army had little choice but to decamp to Versailles.

To secure democratic legitimacy, the insurgents decided to hold free elections at once. On 26 March, an overwhelming majority of Parisians (190,000 votes against 40,000) approved the motivation for the revolt, and 70 of the 85 elected representatives declared their support for the revolution. On 28 March a large number of citizens gathered in the vicinity of the Hôtel de Ville for festivities celebrating the new assembly, which now officially took the name of the Paris Commune. Although it would survive for no more than 72 days, it was the most important political event in the history of the nineteenth-century workers’ movement, rekindling hope among a population exhausted by months of hardship. Committees and groups sprang up in the popular quarters to lend support to the Commune, and every corner of the metropolis hosted initiatives to express solidarity and to plan the construction of a new world. One of the most widespread sentiments was a desire to share with others. It was not the impetus of a leader or a handful of charismatic figures that gave life to the Commune; its hallmark was its clearly collective dimension. Women and men came together voluntarily to pursue a common project of liberation. Self-government was not seen as a utopia. Self-emancipation was thought of as the essential task.

Two of the first emergency decrees to stem the rampant poverty were a freeze on rent payments and on the selling of items valued below 20 francs in pawn shops. Nine collegial commissions were also supposed to replace the ministries for war, finance, general security, education, subsistence, labour and trade, foreign relations and public service.

On 19 April, three days after further elections to fill 31 seats that became almost immediately vacant, the Commune adopted a Declaration to the French People that contained an “absolute guarantee of individual liberty, freedom of conscience and freedom of labour” as well as “the permanent intervention of citizens in communal affairs”. The conflict between Paris and Versailles, it affirmed, “cannot be ended through illusory compromises”; the people had a right and “obligation to fight and to win!” Even more significant than this text were the concrete actions through which the Communards fought for a total transformation of political power. A set of reforms addressed not only the modalities but the very nature of political administration. The Commune provided for the recall of elected representatives and for control over their actions by means of binding mandates (though this was by no means enough to settle the complex issue of political representation). Magistracies and other public offices were also subject to permanent control and possible recall. The clear aim was to prevent the public sphere from becoming the domain of professional politicians. Policy decisions were not left up to small groups of functionaries, but had to be taken by the people. Armies and police forces would no longer be institutions set apart from the body of society. The separation between state and church was also a sine qua non.

But the vision of political change was not confined to such measures: it went more deeply to the roots. The transfer of power into the hands of the people was needed to drastically reduce bureaucracy. The social sphere should take precedence over the political – as Henri de Saint-Simon had already maintained – so that politics would no longer be a specialized function but become progressively integrated into the activity of civil society. The social body would thus take back functions that had been transferred to the state. To overthrow the existing system of class rule was not sufficient; there had to be an end to class rule as such. All this would have fulfilled the Commune’s vision of the republic as a union of free, truly democratic associations promoting the emancipation of all its components. It would have added up to self-government of the producers.

The Commune held that social reforms were even more crucial than political change. They were the reason for its existence, the barometer of its loyalty to its founding principles, and the key element differentiating it from the previous revolutions.  The Commune passed more than one measure with clear class connotations. Deadlines for debt repayments were postponed by three years. Evictions for non-payment of rent were suspended, and a decree allowed vacant accommodation to be requisitioned for people without a roof over their heads. There were plans to shorten the working day, the widespread practice of imposing specious fines on workers simply as a wage-cutting measure was outlawed on pain of sanctions, and minimum wages were set at a respectable level. As much as possible was done to increase food supplies and to lower prices. Social assistance of various kinds was extended to weaker sections of the population – for example, food banks for abandoned women and children – and discussions were held on how to end the discrimination between legitimate and illegitimate children.

All the Communards sincerely believed that education was an essential factor for individual emancipation and any serious social and political change. School attendance was to become free and compulsory for girls and boys alike, with religiously inspired instruction giving way to secular teaching along rational, scientific lines.  Specially appointed commissions and the pages of the press featured many compelling arguments for investment in female education. To become a genuine “public service”, education had to offer equal opportunities to “children of both sexes”. Moreover, “distinctions on grounds of race, nationality, religion or social position” should be prohibited. Early practical initiatives accompanied such advances in theory, and in more than one arrondissement thousands of working-class children entered school buildings for the first time and received classroom material free of charge.

The Commune also adopted measures of a socialist character. It decreed that workshops abandoned by employers who had fled the city, with guarantees of compensation on their return, should be handed over to cooperative associations of workers. Theatres and museums – open for all without charge – were collectivized.

The Commune was much more than the actions approved by its legislative assembly. It even aspired to redraw urban space, as demonstrated by the decision to demolish the Vendôme Column, considered a monument to barbarism and a reprehensible symbol of war, and to secularize certain places of worship by handing them over for use by the community. There was no place for national discrimination and foreigners enjoyed the same social rights as French people.

Women played an essential role in the critique of the social order. In many cases, they transgressed the norms of bourgeois society and asserted a new identity in opposition to the values of the patriarchal family, moving beyond domestic privacy to engage with the public sphere. The “Women’s Union” was centrally involved in identifying strategic social battles. Women achieved the closure of licensed brothels, won parity for female and male teachers, coined the slogan “equal pay for equal work”, demanded equal rights within marriage and the recognition of free unions, and promoted exclusively female chambers in labour unions. When the military situation worsened in mid-May, with the Versaillais at the gates of Paris, women took up arms and formed a battalion of their own. Many would breathe their last on the barricades.

The Paris Commune was brutally crushed by the armies of Versailles. During the semaine sanglante, the week of blood-letting between 21 and 28 May, a total of 17,000 to 25,000 citizens were slaughtered. A young Arthur Rimbaud described the French capital as “a mournful, almost dead city”. It was the bloodiest massacre in the history of France. The number of prisoners taken was 43,522. One hundred of these received death sentences, following summary trials before courts martial, and another 13,500 were sent to prison or forced labour, or deported to remote areas such as New Caledonia. Passing over the unprecedented violence of the Thiers state, the conservative and liberal press expressed great relief at the restoration of the “natural order”.

And yet, the insurrection in Paris gave strength to workers’ struggles and pushed them in more radical directions. Paris had shown that the aim had to be one of building a society radically different from capitalism. The Commune embodied the idea of social-political change and its practical application. It became synonymous with the very concept of revolution, with an ontological experience of the working class. The Paris Commune changed the consciousness of workers and their collective perception. At a distance of 150 years, its red flag continues to flutter and to remind us that an alternative is always possible.