On the Idea of Communism – Conference 13th,14th & 15th March 2009

“It’s just the simple thing that’s hard, so hard to do.”(B.Brecht)

The year of 1990 stands for the triple defeat of the Left: the
retreat of the social-democratic Welfare State politics in the
developed First World, the disintegration of the Soviet-style Socialist
states in the industrialized Second World, and the retreat of
emancipatory movements in the Third World. A certain epoch was thereby
over, the epoch which began with the October Revolution and was
characterized by the Party-State form of organization. Does this mean
that the time of radical emancipatory politics is over?

In recent years, there are multiple signs which indicate the need
for a new beginning. The utopia of the 1990, the Fukuyamaist “end of
history” (liberal-democratic capitalist as the finally found natural
social order) died twice in the first decade of the XXIst century.
While the 9/11 attacks signaled its political death, the financial
crisis of 2008 signals its economic death.  In these new conditions,
the task is not only to reflect on new strategies, but to radically
rethink the most basic coordinates of emancipatory politics. One should
go well beyond the rejection of the Party-State Left in its “Stalinist”
form – a common place today -, and extend this rejection to the entire
field of the “democratic Left” as the strategy to reform the system
from within its representative-democratic state form. Much more than
the debacle of the Really-Existing Socialism, the defeat of 1990 was
the final defeat of this “democratic Left.”   This defeat raises the
question: is “Communism” still the name to be used to designate the
horizon of radical emancipatory projects? In spite of their theoretical
differences, the participants share the thesis that one should remain
faithful to the name “Communism”: this name is potent to serve as the
Idea which guides our activity, as well as the instrument which enables
us to expose the catastrophes of the XXth century politics, those of
the Left included.

The symposium will not deal with practico-political questions of how
to analyze the latest economic, political, and military troubles, or
how to organize a new political movement. More radical questioning is
needed today – this is a meeting of philosophers who will deal with
Communism as a philosophical concept, advocating a precise and strong
thesis: from Plato onwards, Communism is the only political Idea worthy
of a philosopher.

“The communist hypothesis remains the good one, I do not see any
other. If we have to abandon this hypothesis, then it is no longer
worth doing anything at all in the field of collective action. Without
the horizon of communism, without this Idea, there is nothing in the
historical and political becoming of any interest to a philosopher. Let
everyone bother about his own affairs, and let us stop talking about
it. In this case, the rat-man is right, as is, by the way, the case
with some ex-communists who are either avid of their rents or who lost
courage. However, to hold on to the Idea, to the existence of this
hypothesis, does not mean that we should retain its first form of
presentation which was centered on property and State. In fact, what is
imposed on us as a task, even as a philosophical obligation, is to help
a new mode of existence of the hypothesis to deploy itself.” (Alain

Judith Balso, Alain Badiou, Bruno Bosteels,
Terry Eagleton, Peter Hallward, Michael Hardt, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques
Ranciere, Alessandro Russo, Alberto Toscano, Gianni Vattimo, Wang Hui,
Slavoj Zizek

Cost for all three days:  Standard = £100         Birkbeck Staff and all Students = £45

Public booking form  for Standard –  £100  and  Non-Birkbeck students – £45
Birkbeck booking form (login required) for Birkbeck Staff and Students  – £45

To pay by cheque please click here for a form.

Friday 13th March         Room B33   Birkbeck Main Building
Saturday 14th March     Room B34   Birkbeck Main Building
Sunday 15th March       Room B34   Birkbeck Main Building

There will be an overflow room on each day with a video/audio link. Bookings will be taken on a first come first served basis.

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