Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

Communism equals soviet power plus

I may have been a bit disingenuous when I tweeted the above; I don’t “get” the turn to communist logistics in the sense of finding it an appealing position, but I do have a theory about why other people do. Of course, very few people would say that they were interested in communist logistics: they’d be more likely to say they were interested in something like figuring out the economics of communism. This seems like a sensible, even vital, thing to study, if you think that communism is fundamentally an economic system. This is exactly the problem, though: there’s no such thing as the economics of communism, because communism isn’t an economic system, on the contrary, communism depends on the abolition of the economy. The creation of a distinct sphere of the economy is a central part of the genesis of capitalism, and the maintenance of this separation is central to the reproduction of capitalism. In communism, the production and distribution of goods wouldn’t be a distinct sphere of special importance, but embedded in the overall organization of society.

Just to be clear, my objection isn’t to trying to imagine what a communist society would be like, just to the idea that one particular area of imagination is a mark of particular political seriousness. We don’t for example, know what communist recipes would be like, and I think that’s an interesting area to think about: would they be vegetarian, or vegan, or how else might they be shaped by the reconfiguration of the manifestly oppressive capitalist relation to nature? Would communist recipes be more individualised and idiosyncratic as people would have more free time in which to treat food preparation as a creative activity, or would they be more massified and technologised as a result of the greater scale of communist collectivity? Or would, as Iain Banks suggested, these kinds of practical questions become a matter of whim and fashion after the removal of artificial scarcity? Speculation about communism from any particular angle will fairly quickly bring up these larger-scale questions about the organisation of communism; it’s a mistake to think that these questions will only come up when one thinks from the angle of the “economy” (or, rather, as there is no communist economy, from the angle of logistics). To think that this angle is the only one which marks one’s speculation as serious is to reinforce a distinctively capitalist way of thinking.

What got me thinking about this recently was the accelerationist manifesto, and it’s this mawkish assumption of a tone of seriousness which makes me uneasy about accelerationism despite some broad agreement with its general concerns. We’re supposed to be impressed by codewords of political seriousness like “organization” and “economy,” and of philosophical seriousness like “universalism” and “reason,” but accelerationism seems to be marked by a lack of interest in engaging with the long tradition of criticisms of these ideas: as for instance in this attempt to respond to a criticism of the apparent individualism of the idea of “self-mastery” by pointing out that accelerationists talk of “collective self-mastery,” so can’t be individualist. That isn’t a serious response: the question that needs to be addressed is whether self-mastery can be collective, or if, on the contrary, the concept of mastery is bound up with an individualist conception of agency. I don’t see how anything interesting can come from a return to enlightenment concepts which doesn’t patiently work through these criticisms; and the fact that the criticisms that get ignored here are often from women and people of color contributes to the impression that accelerationism’s theorybro form of posturing seriousness is matched by the reactionary vapidity of its content.