At Geocritique, we’re excited to host Arun Saldanha’s work-in-progress, “Some principles of geocommunism.” To be frank, it’s hard to know what to make of this piece, and this is a good thing. Part axiomatic, part manifesto, and entirely provocative, “Some principles of geocommunism” resists convention, while entreating its reader to critically re-evaluate the manifold socio-economic conditions of environmental crisis and to entertain the possibilities of a communism-to-come. Though we all have different ways than Arun of reading Marxism, poststructuralism, and the so-called nonhuman turn, we feel this piece will provoke responses relevant to the objectives of Geocritique. Arun emphasizes “Some principles of geocommunism” is a snapshot of his rapidly evolving theoretical framework, but its eclecticism means that discussing the gaps, weaknesses and ambivalence will be helpful to many people working on similar themes. Accordingly, at Geocritique we feel Arun’s piece calls for a mode of engagement that transcends fixations on sole authorship, and instead invites critical, reflective, and spirited conversation about what geocommunism might mean for 21st century environmental politics, and most importantly, how its principles might be put to work.
*Public commenting on “Some principles of geocommunism” will be open from July 23rd to August 13th.
Some principles of geocommunism
Concentration of CO2 has hit 400 ppm. The economic crisis has from the start been an opportunity for an entrenchment of the economic power of the global elite. Hiding their oxymoronic status, green capitalism, ethical consumerism and geo-engineering are convincing everyone ecological disaster can be averted. In the face of the apocalypse it predicts, science remains at worst corrupt and at best spineless, while the left remains hindered by humanist conceptions of political agency. Not the modern city or the nation-state, but the Anthropocene is now the horizon of revolutionary politics.
What follows are theoretical principles. Unlike in 1848 or 1917 there is no spectre of communism haunting any country. No concrete strategies to take over power can be formulated. A belief communism can be revived for the twenty-first century is nonetheless stirring in some academic and activist circles. An understanding that capitalism does not work is widespread. There is an appetite for revolution and experiment. And there is a historical resurgence of apocalyptic imaginations. These currents – anticapitalism, revolution, apocalypse – are now to be pushed to the point where their complicity with liberal democracy cedes to a properly communist project. The prefix geo is necessary to signal both a break with nineteenth- and twentieth-century communism, and that it is the Anthropocene itself that has inaugurated the desirability of a new mode of production.
Geocommunism consists in politicising science, denaturalising Marxism, minimising humanism, secularising eschatology, collectivising Stoicism and eternalising revolution.
1 Politicising science
1.1 The Anthropocene has to be posited as the material and theoretical ground of any concept of social justice. The combat for justice starts with four facts: 1) resources are per definition finite, 2) the earth system has been irrevocably altered by human production, 3) positive feedback loops under capital are accelerating severe perturbations to ecosystems, 4) humans are in the last instance evolutionary entities at risk of starvation, disease and brutality. Scientists predicting half of humanity will perish by 2100 are already proposing fascist responses to these four facts. This is why a prior consideration of deep time is essential for communist theorising.
1.2 Science and environmentalism have to be confronted with their ideological blindness to the true cause of climate change: the capitalist mode of production. Humans have always had drastic effects on ecosystems, even as hunter-gatherers, but agriculture then industrialisation were the key thresholds increasing the species’ footprint. Over the last two centuries the exponential increase in deforestation, resource extraction, greenhouse gas emissions and waste have to be blamed on one thing only: the unstoppable need of money to increase itself within a competitive environment. The already tangible effects of climate change indicate that the sixth massive extinction event in earth history could conceivably include the end of the human species. Not greed, not mastery of nature or Cartesian dualism, but the inhuman self-augmenting force of capital is the cause of so-called ecocide.
1.3 The Anthropocene will never be blessed with abundance for all, as both orthodox communists and green-liberal economists hope. Peak oil and the finitude of rare earths are only the most obvious indications that scarcity is the future’s objective imperative. Malthus has so far been overwhelmingly used to justify capitalist arrangements and bourgeois morality. But his pessimistic view of destructive positive feedback loops can be politicised into the opposite political direction once it is conceded selfish consumption amongst the rich and the middle-classes is the problem, never the multiplication of the poor. When scaled up to the entire planet Malthus prescribes not only general austerity, that is, the end of commodity fetishism, but global deindustrialisation, absolute economic equality and free basic services for all. Ecological footprints can be made benign by keeping minerals and fossil fuels in the ground. A global demographic transition follows automatically from equality. Abundance will be spiritual not material, of culture and pleasure not of goods.
1.4 Capitalism’s delirious love for computers will have to come to an end. As Mao said, the human capacity for debating, inventing and assembling is more important than any technology. A Hippocratic oath regulating all science, design and engineering, not just medicine, will entail that every purely technological fix for mending catastrophe is exposed as serving narrow interests. The only fix capable of averting barbarism is a full-blown change in the mode of production. This change will certainly benefit from computers and satellite communication, but simultaneously give these entirely new functions.
1.5 Its potential to drastically change the course of terrestrial life means only one thing for science: it has to shed its juvenile belief in detached objectivity. Most present-day science is fundamentally skewed and dishonest by virtue of being literally bought and prescribed by corporate and geopolitical interests. The dedication of Hippocrates to rigour and serving the people was far more accomplished than the rat race for patents and fame we see today. Still, science, especially geology, is becoming increasingly aware of environmental injustices and the likelihood of catastrophe. But science has yet to become reflexive about its own maintenance of the economic inequalities which make it possible. Only in making justice and critical thinking part of their rational vocation are the sciences properly scientific, that is, at odds with money, common sense and dogma. For this conversations with Marxism and psychoanalysis are indispensable.
2 Denaturalising Marxism
2.1 Marx inherited the nature-culture split of German Idealism and Neoplatonic Christianity. While in Hegel the march of the human spirit progressively emancipates itself from nature, historical materialism conceives production and emancipation as necessarily involving nature, but its notion of nature still remains largely idealist (exterior, static, calculable), therefore ambiguous about the place of humans ‘within’ it. Through this Hegelian concept of nature Marxism has on the whole allowed bourgeois philosophy to formulate what evolutionary theory means to the moral and epistemological terrain. The implications for philosophy of Darwin (and Lyell) are at least equal to those of Kant, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. The disdain for biology among Marxists indicates they are not ready to think about ending the capitalist mode of production. They are not thinking about the question: how will ten billion humans live equitably on this planet?
2.2 Like Man and God, Nature has to be jettisoned categorically. The main connotations of the term – essence, what lies absolutely outside the human, obeying immutable laws, pure and sublime, encompassing everything, harmonious – are all ideological cement in capital’s destructive ecology. When used in environmentalism and Marxism, including the Frankfurt School and ecosocialism, the monolithic abstraction of the term prevents understanding the precise ways capital unleashes ecosystemic disaster and environmental injustice. Any casting of a realm of Nature outside the human prevents building a new mode of production generating equality from within the complexities of biophysical systems.
2.3 The scientificity of Marxism must be reinstated after the necessary attacks on positivism and realism. While empiricism has indeed been a bourgeois ideology there is nothing in the scientific method itself that blocks a communist stance, as Lenin and Engels argued. A minimal positivism has to be invented which retains the utopian universalism of Comte and the Vienna Circle. By subtracting the links positivism has had with nationalism (Brazil) and industrialism (Japan), the unification and diffusion of science is put at the service of egalitarian society. This full politicisation of science is the partial solution to the question what constitutes the legitimacy of revolutionary authority. The geocommunist vanguard leads social formations into another mode of production largely based on the trust its scientists gain amongst the people, who are educated to understand the collective movement towards equality, and who critique the vanguard where it does not act in the global interest.
2.4 Communism has to fully accept humans are vulnerable and unpredictable biophysical systems, albeit ones which can become conscious of their destiny as Kant and Hegel say. Communism has to embrace the ontological implications of complex systems and human evolution, now usually ideologically rightwing. Getting rid of its metaphysical concept of nature Marxism can start grafting its categories onto biological and physical concepts such as force, entropy, population, emergence, event, uncertainty, endosymbiosis, toxicity, threshold and bottleneck.
2.5 A fully materialist position has the same ontology subtending its politics and its science: the future of the Anthropocene requires thinking their claims to universality together. Deleuze and Guattari came closest to providing such an ontology, but they landed too close to anarchism. Their ontology, together with the failures of communist industrialisation and social engineering, constitute the starting point for conceiving geocommunist positivism.
Science without politics is empty: under the generalised Hippocratic oath, and firmly against the situation of the last centuries, the only reason to subsidise research is to challenge inherited knowledge and bring lasting global equality. Critical scientific thinking includes dealing with those moments where science contradicts current political beliefs (there can be no party line in science). Politics without science is blind: revolutionary planning decisions bump into demographic and ecosystemic limits if they are not informed by rigorous research and debate. Science and politics together, however, are nothing without philosophy distinguishing them. A fully materialist position requires that philosophy is not an exchange of ideas amongst the few but affects all the spaces to be transformed into a communist mode of production.
3 Minimal humanism
3.1 Hegemonic Western humanism believes firmly in the progress of knowledge, technology and colonisation. The implications for the rest of life have been an afterthought. The ecology of global capitalism has for some four centuries been intrinsically racist, making white populations live longer and better at the expense of the toil and suffering of others. Humanitarian campaigns after ‘natural’ disasters in the South (the 2010 Haiti earthquake), disasters which will become routine if capitalism goes on as it does, are the clearest example of the continuing racist hypocrisy underneath Western humanism. For the truly rational humanist response to such disasters is to prevent them, to change the economic structure making brown and black populations die in disproportionately large numbers where extreme weather, drought or earthquakes strike. As activists point out, places suffering most from climate change have contributed least to carbon emissions. The Anthropocene is in itself a racist biopolitical reality.
3.2 Geocommunism follows in the footsteps of the antihumanist tendency in French structuralism. Not man, but impersonal systems, ideologies, the earth itself, are the object of truth practices. The true sciences of the human – that is, Marxism and psychoanalysis as reformulated after Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Foucault and Althusser – are structuralist and deal with pattern and rupture at the level of abstract virtual structures. Clearly consumer capitalism thrives on humanist themes like wholesomeness, pity and personality. However, structuralism ultimately retains of humanism the incapability to think the human as self-destructive terrestrial force, because it too continues thinking within a pre-Darwinian, idealist ontological framework.
3.3 Humanism becomes reactionary when it decries the inauthenticity of technology or urban society. Critiques of alienation, the rape of Gaia and so on are often crypto-fascist. What should be critiqued instead is how both technological optimism and many celebrations of place are complicit with the capitalist system, and how they obscure the socio-ecological exploitations they are based on. Psychoanalysis is central to combating the New Age and touristic platitudes of place and community. Desire is per definition alienating, enigmatic and violent. Human instincts are not simply about self-preservation, as can be seen in commodity fetishism and the many neuroses and psychoses of capitalism. Psychoanalysis is also important for examining the proliferation of fears under the Anthropocene and for debunking the fantasies behind geo-engineering and similar autistic capitalist solutions to climate change. Minimal humanism derives from psychoanalysis a definition of truth that is not objectivist but cryptic, interpersonal, retroactive and subversive.
3.4 Humanisms are conceivable which develop and celebrate human capacities as aberrant and vulnerable not central to the physical universe. Geocommunism retains three minimal tenets of the Greco-Roman and Renaissance humanist legacy: universality, secularism and optimism.
The latent universality of the human species – all humans think and speak – is an empirical truism. It is as an animal capable of choosing a just future that humanity is a site of universality. Though populations are extremely unevenly related to the Anthropocene and almost all imaginations of human unity on ‘spaceship Earth’ are implicitly racist, the Anthropocene does raise the unprecedented question of who will take responsibility for ensuring the conditions of survival of all other humans henceforth. The hope for (bio)diversity, community, rights to indigenous way of life, and specifically feminine values cannot withstand the universalising onslaught of capital, and has to be replaced by a combative project for global environmental justice.
Such militant humanism is strengthened through debate about the meaning of man, woman and evil in the universe amongst all the philosophical and cosmological traditions capable of such debate: monotheistic, Central-African, Meso-American, Hindu, Chinese, etc. This debate aims not at ecumenical respect for diversity of viewpoints but the rigorous development of a world after capitalist destruction.
3.5 Renaissance humanism emerged together with mathematical physics and anticlericalism, an insistence on scientific reasoning indispensable for geocommunist universalism. Literacy and intellectual pursuits have to be defended against current obsessions with indigeneity and corporeality: nonmodern cosmologies should hekp to displace capitalist subjectivity, not provide another New Age genre. An unabashed bibliophilia is essential to abort the increasingly dogmatic screen-mediated stupidity working so well for global capital. Knowledge production has to be decoupled from profit, war, gadgetry and all its racist and masculinist limitations.
3.6 What has to be retained from humanism is finally quite simply the conviction humans are worth their salvation. The fashionable nihilism that fantasises the universe comes to its unintended fruition with the demise of civilisation or consciousness is but a narcissistic fascination with one’s own lyrical description of the decadent end, lacking courage to do much about it. Politically such aestheticism implies either the formation of fascistoid groupuscules or mass suicide. Geocommunism has to face and explain its pessimism about the near future, but optimistically affirms its longterm objectives as feasible.
4 Secular eschatology
4.1 Philosophy of history has to be revived after the necessary demystifications of its whiteness, masculinity and linear progressivism. The Anthropocene forces upon us a fundamental rethinking of the question whether there is a direction and purpose to the universe, the question of teleology. Philosophy has rarely considered human extinction, delegating the topic to religion. Was the destructibility of man’s home part of God’s plan? Is intelligent life mere accident? Or is there an ubiquitous tendency towards selforganisation which came to an apex in the geniuses of quantum physics? Geocommunism resists all vitalism and holds that the physical universe is absolutely devoid of prior purpose. But no intrinsic direction does not mean no direction at all. All organisms actively transform their environments. A minimal humanism holds that humans are exceptionally adept at imbuing environments with purpose. The material existence of humans propels them to create their destiny, which means they can also quite easily prepare for unmentionable evil and their own extinction.
4.2 Hegel foresaw a metaphysical, non-chronological end of history, the pinnacle of his idealist system when the collective human spirit completely understands itself, freed from natural and cultural contingencies, and contributes in full consciousness to the commonwealth whose laws and values it has itself created. This end-point is no static transcendent mystical goal but already exists wherever spirit makes real progress towards universality, changing together with the historical trajectory towards it. Hegel’s teleology is a call to history-making. It inspired generation after generation to contemplate an inexorable direction in world history towards emancipation. Geocommunism shares the pessimism of the late Kant: it is more probable that capital and war will put an end to history together with human life itself. But this final cataclysmic possibility also means the maturation of the conditions of possibility for an end of history in the Hegelian sense. While humans possess an ineradicable propensity to evil, and communism does not have any objective intrinsic necessity, the challenge is to make the future demonstrate communism had been necessary all along.
4.3 Geocommunism reformulates the notion of teleology on the level of politics, not life or history: teleology as self-fulfilling political prophecy. The goal of human existence is posited as universal justice, but it is utterly contingent on the collective responsibility and working towards it. Hegel and Kant might have understood our planetary crisis as a strange unexpected confirmation of the final possibility of moral universalisation and the becoming conscious of spirit, albeit via its exteriority, nature. With much of the future of the biosphere in its hands it is indeed as if the human evolved for the sole purpose of deciding about the planet’s development. However, it is not spirit or judgment in general but always particular powerful institutions and groups that decide. Reinventing teleology is understanding the power relations within the species, the weight of the movement towards universal emancipation weighing in on every ecological decision. Future catastrophe will remember today’s selfish and stupid decisions.
4.4 Marxist theory has had its messianic, shamanic and other quasi-religious moments, but its Enlightenment background makes it ignorant about extinction. The End is becoming a polemical and cinematic focus more than it was during the Cold War. This is creating few big ideas on the left. Geocommunism will take full advantage of the contradictions within the alarmist affects and narratives that will certainly proliferate in the society of the spectacle. Terror about the world coming to an end is already used for pushing capital and war. If followed up with reason and a sense of justice, however, fear leads to embracing a different economy: how on earth could capitalism honestly propose any solution to the crises it causes?
4.5 Apocalypse (revelation) is becoming a secularised concept. It is a central critical concept in geocommunism, formulated through science and politics though inescapably inspired by various eschatological traditions (Christian, Hindu, Aztec, Tupi). Secularising the concept means that what is revealed in the end-times is the unspeakable horror of human, not divine, agency. The Anthropocene is the possibility – the option – of a minority of selfish humans ordering the gradual extinction of the human species as a whole and many other species with it. Understanding the socio-ecological tendencies towards such annihilation automatically reveals communism as the only pathway to retain the biosphere’s carrying capacity for the human species.
4.6 Secular eschatology is from the start formulated in the name of all humans, and therefore vast swaths of the biosphere. Communist borrowings from religion – chiefly Judaism and Christianity, occasionally indigenous cosmologies – are understandable in a situation where big ideas are needed, but this can thwart the universalism needed for the Anthropocene, which is as colourless as capital and will soon no longer be dominated by the European Union and the United States. Religion’s model of redemption is anthropocentric and operates through spirit(s), while real salvation will happen through material practices. The long day of judgement will consist not so much of punishing past sins as rendering the evils of increasing greenhouse gases, racism, war, patriarchy, landfills, acidification, etc. progressively impossible.
5 Stoic collectivism
5.1 Stoicism is a philosophical system particular to European Antiquity but geocommunism assumes it is a universal cultural tendency. Forerunners of minimal non-anthropocentric humanism, both the Stoics and the Epicureans theorise virtue in the name of the cosmic order. Ethics derives from physics, somehow. For Asian philosophies too, becoming properly human means cultivating the whole universe’s tendencies towards accord and generativity. However necessary, Kant’s absolutely human morality flounders where biophysical crisis forces it to substantiate itself. If the most accomplished moralists (Roman Stoic and Confucian) use virtue ultimately to stabilise empire, communist virtue is expressly revolutionary. Today Stoicism consists in committing to the long-term dismantling of the capitalist mode of production, precisely because it is crazily violating every aspect of ethics and physics. Because climate change is evil incarnated, virtue can only be geocommunist.
5.2 Stoicism is not grim but cheerful about the innate duty towards life. It teaches us how to die: without regretting missed opportunities to creatively contribute to the collective future. Socrates was jolly till the end (more so than Jesus). Stoicism does not prohibit enjoyment, only the neurotic and paranoid kinds, underanalysed by Epicureans. The Anthropocene commands a new valuation of the various ascetic traditions, ushering in general indignation about possession and accumulation, something Christianity failed to achieve. True lasting pleasure is derived from developing ‘the simple life’, one centred on benevolence, reason, health and feeling at home with strangers and constant biophysical peril (cosmopolitanism). Unlike deep ecology and Marxist humanism, Stoicism joins a movement of universalisation out from the zone of human comfort. It consists of the self-disciplining reinforcement of an obscure yet certain destiny of justice, given to it by the rest of the earth. Stoicism’s concern is not the flourishing of individuality nor the warmth of community or holistic ecosystem, but the constant rising up to the challenge that the next day may be one’s last.
5.3 Its friendliness to science does not mean geocommunism is naturalist or reductionist. It refuses to define a lost originary human nature, true use-value or ‘real needs’. Human social formations respond to drives (sex, hunger, vocalisation, excretion, fear, stupor) found in other animals, but these drives are contradictory. Racism, addiction and greedy calculation thrive on instinct, and will resurface in future communist society. But irrational generosity and miscegenation are equally instinctual. Asceticism includes the becoming conscious of an animal’s propensities to selfishness and self-destructive violence. As Buddhism teaches, relinquishing the habituation to ego and property is self-liberation before it is sacrifice. Human biology is fully capable of pushing generosity away from its hypocritical pious modes towards a lasting collectivist horizon.
5.4 Geocommunism is a very-long-term project to bring everyone to the same level not of the current Global North’s middle-classes, but the South’s proletariat. Everyday resilience in slums, refugee camps and so-called failed states (Congo) shows how maximal value can be obtained from minimal supply of resources and services. The global wealth gap is to be crossed the other way, therefore, which will initially consist of huge sacrifices for the North. Another theological concept, sacrifice is to become secularised, de-nationalised and de-individualised. The eventual result is that all humans have the material comfort, cultural opportunities and environmental footprint slightly above the average Cuban household today.
Expropriation and collectivisation occur systematically through state institutions and science-based planning and debate. The rich (first the rich countries collectively, then the rich in every country) understand they are not only giving back what was never theirs but securing the survival of future generations. Given the momentum of avarice and cynicism under capitalism, coercion in this massive expropriation project seems unavoidable. Learning Stoicism, however, the rich will understand a sacrificial attitude follows both logically and affectively from impending doom. They will understand that the sacrifice of financial power and overconsumption under the Anthropocene illuminates the human propensity to saintliness more than any moment in history.
5.5 Nation-states dissolve into a global federation of dense cities counting one to ten million and governed by the principle of subsidiarity. Large wilderness areas between these cities are left uninhabited, starting with today’s fragile ecosystems. All energy comes from renewables, all waste is recycled. Agriculture is done within and close to urban areas, manufacturing is a steel. Labour exists only for the common good: three days of work a week suffice, retirement can be taken at forty. Housing, health care, education, arts, sports, transport are free. So are electricity and water, but they are severely limited compared to today. Medicine no longer aims at prolonging some lives desperately while letting others barely start: seventy years of creative living will be quite enough. Things are made to last decades or centuries. Computers, whose cyclical obsoleteness and ubiquity is now ideologically central to capitalism, will be clunky non-portable affairs. Exchange is encouraged insofar as it brings durables to those who can be more creative tinkering with them than previous owners. Television is no longer watched in households. Cars, air travel, red meat, exotic fruits, psychoactive drugs and jewellery are luxuries everyone has access to on an occasional basis, through a system marked by fairness and generosity instead of competition and kinship. Contest and individual projects don’t disappear under Stoic collectivism, but merit and talent have a universalising not individualising impetus. One gains social recognition for his or her dedication to establishing humanity’s peculiar place in the cosmos, which can be done in countless ways.
5.6 Markets will continue existing as crucial places for the exchange of ideas and news as much as goods. The thorniest problem preventing generalised Stoicism and a communist mode of production is money. Money intrinsically creates a system of, and a desire for, quantification, accumulation and ego, even before capitalism. With banks abolished, money will be reduced to its most basic functions before being superseded by barter and gifts.
5.7 The benefits of geocommunism are so obvious that the few putting career before leisure and self before other, nostalgic for the old days of class and nation, are social misfits. Geocommunism requires no propaganda or censorship as such: its direct justification is the history of capital and war deranging the earth.
6 Eternal revolution
6.1 Many mistakes have been made in communist politics but it has far from exhausted possible ways of strategising struggle. Geocommunism gathers momentum by seeking the most universal – that is, planetarily imaginative – elements from past revolutionary sequences. The goal of radically redefining the relationship between government and people, country and city, intellectual and manual labour, work and pleasure, and man and woman in the late 1960s has to be back on the agenda. Radical movements and moments have to be analysed as unfinished potentials insofar as their global material context was not fully in view: anticolonial struggles over land from Mexico to India and Palestine; the French, Haitian, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Cuban Revolutions, and recent leftward turns in Latin America; the Paris and Shanghai Communes; the popular overthrow of totalitarian communism and apartheid; anticapitalist movements first concentrated at Seattle; and, most importantly, the transnational efforts at revolution in 1848, 1968 and 2011.
These political subjectifications did not take into full account the imbrications of capital in the ecosystems which are to provide food, water, housing and energy for the masses of humanity. This omission has been pointed out in ecosocialism and third world and indigenous activism, but geocommunism, qua communism, goes further, and calls for the institution of new modes of production globally, not the restitution of local lifeworlds or the rights of Mother Earth (the Cochabamba Protocol). Capitalism feeds off deep animal desires and fossilised solar energy hence is absolutely not ‘at war with nature’. Even if Kantian radical evil means no perfect planetary justice is achievable, the psychotic destructiveness of capital can be stamped out.
6.2 Against a current dominance in the revolutionary left of anarchism and direct democracy, Lenin’s prescription of a group of professional revolutionaries taking leadership in reorganising society still holds true. However, Lenin’s scientism made him blind to the fact that the economic and bureaucratic structures communism inherits from capitalism themselves tend towards exploitation and environmental degradation. The aim is not only take-over of power but the dismantling of the industrial and military complex. Hence geocommunist revolution is at once political, economic and cultural. Revolution becomes a way of life yet prevents itself from tipping over into chaos. The ever-growing successes of the new communist modes of production, of peace-keeping and of disaster relief, not ideology per se, are what will convince the masses of the revolution’s justice and feasibility. Science will aid the war over information unlike it did for Lenin, as it is already telling the world the objective reasons why geocommunism is necessary. If bourgeois media attempt to discredit us, we point at climate scenarios.
6.3 The temporality of revolution is well known: it is one of urgency about the problems at hand; patience in mobilisation; retroactive constitution of sudden breakthroughs (the revolutionary sequences as such) which are remembered and repeated without nostalgia; anticipation of defeat with a realist not theological hope in salvation; eternity of the principles of justice, trust and equality. There is a geocommunist use of utopianism, especially in planning, but science and informed public debate always take priority. The spatiality of revolution is more daunting to fathom. How can communism ever be victorious over the immense thickness of global capitalism, especially now that the consensus is that communism is dead and buried? What is certain is that capital is too good at ignoring or reabsorbing local creativities like Occupy for believing experimentation without some kind of charismatic centralisation can change the overall system.
The Anthropocene calls for a Geocommunist International consisting of national and city chapters whose autonomy is initially strictly limited by the simplicity and pragmatism of the objectives. Revolution unfolds as a densifying network of sites connected not merely through a clear internationalist perspective but the concomitant scientific investigation of how the geographies of governance and production are to be transformed. Exactly how and where capitalist governments can be first successfully disassembled – that is, instigating further successes without provoking more militarised anticommunism – can be ascertained only once the Geocommunist International has commenced its war of position. It has to be a spectre haunting much of the earth before it can become of flesh and blood.
6.4 The models of self-constitutive, non-spontaneous, permanent revolution in Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky and Mao have to be reimagined in light of far-reaching financialisation and the demands the earth puts on what is possible in the very long term. These models remain voluntarist to the extent that the objectives of revolution are defined politically, in terms of the usurpation of particular institutional regimes of labour and distribution that inherit the anthropo- and Eurocentric growth imperative. Geocommunist revolution imagines itself from the start at the scale of the planet. It attempts to think production on geological timescales (hydrocarbons, water and nitrogen cycles, polar methane, gene mutation, uranium, ozone, plastics). Its political strategies are immediately economic, deriving from science and from ordinary people’s resilience a continuously reformulated programme to adapt production to changing biophysical conditions. The revolution is therefore not just permanent, but eternal, as these conditions will always change and already bear the mark of human stupidity.
6.5 Collectively monitored and centralised institutions will be necessary for deindustrialisation, science and education, resource management and eventually demonetarisation. Gradually the state intervenes only when and where there is crisis. Gradually ownership becomes irrelevant. As the earth enters an era without environmental injustice, anthropogenic climate change and cascading extinction, the state withers away. It is impossible to foresee the form of the federations of cities under global geocommunism – in particular, how knowledge, decision-making and production will interlock – but we know a state based on repression and war is doomed.
6.6 Communism is the end of class, race and nation as we have known them. There will be no more North and South, no more resource wars or militarised borders, no more growth, backwardness, underdevelopment, not even a steady-state economy. It is the biosphere itself which demands an economic system actively blocking the emergence of disparities and segregations. Though there will be a massive meltdown of global processes, first and foremost in finance, the geocommunist mode of production is much more than simply slowing-down, downscaling and localising, because resource disparities can in the medium-term only be dealt with using the speeds and know-how of global networks. Geocommunism aims at sustainability, but by working through a chaotic biospheric undergrowth which itself undermines all forms of sustainability. What is sustained is no longer trade and profit but the movement beyond the Anthropocene towards justice, the elimination of racist vulnerabilities, the shedding of absurdity.
6.7 ‘Take care that in my enthusiasm I don’t deceive both myself and you, and that I don’t go off like a bee leaving my sting behind’ (Phaedo 91c).
Send suggestions and criticisms to Arun Saldanha, .
Some essential books
Adorno & Horkheimer Dialectic of Enlightenment
Althusser For Marx
Badiou Saint Paul
Braudel Civilization and Capitalism
Comte General View of Positivism
Darwin Descent of Man
Deleuze & Guattari Thousand Plateaus
Erasmus Handbook for the Christian Soldier
Fanon Wretched of the Earth
Freud Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Hegel Philosophy of History
IPPC Assessment Reports
Kant Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone
Lenin State and Revolution
Luxemburg Reform or Revolution
Malthus Principle of Population
Marcus Aurelius Meditations
Marx & Engels Communist Manifesto
Nietzsche Genealogy of Morals
Prigogine & Stengers Order out of Chaos
Rousseau Discourse on Inequality
Seneca On the Shortness of Life