Badiou and Bosteels: Non-Party Simpletons

One of curious features of the self-described leaders of the renewal of communism is a type of non-party communism. It appears in the collection of contributions called The Idea of Communism, published by Verso in 2010 and arising from a conference in London. Alain Badiou and Bruno Bosteels, among others, seem drawn to this curious idea, even suggesting that a ‘communist party’ or a ‘communist state’ are oxymorons. As might be expected, Stalin’s piece called ‘Non-Party Simpletons’ comes to mind:

Non-party progressivism has become the fashion. Such is the nature of the [European] intellectual—he must have a fashion.

What is non-partyism?

Non-partyism glosses over the antagonism of interests, it shuts its eyes to their struggle.

Every class has its own party, with a special programme and a special complexion. Parties direct the struggle of classes. Without parties there would be not a struggle but chaos, absence of clarity and confusion of interests. But non-partyism abhors clarity and definiteness, it prefers nebulousness and absence of programme.

Glossing over of class antagonisms, hushing up of the class struggle, absence of a definite complexion, hostility to all programme, gravitation towards chaos and the confusion of interests—such is non-partyism.

What is the aim of non-partyism?

To unite the ununitable, to bring about the impossible.

To unite bourgeois and proletarians in an alliance, to erect a bridge between the landlords and the peasants, to haul a wagon with the aid of a swan, a crab and a pike—this is what non-partyism aims at.

Non-partyism realises that it is incapable of uniting the ununitable and therefore says with a sigh:

“If ‘ifs’ and ‘ans’

Were pots and pans. . . .”

But “ifs” and “ans” are not pots and pans and so non-partyism is always left in the cart, always remains the simpleton.

Non-partyism is like a man without a head on his shoulders, or—rather—like a man with a turnip instead of a head.

(Collected Works, volume 2, pp. 235-36)


3 thoughts on “Badiou and Bosteels: Non-Party Simpletons

  1. Perhaps the previous commenter is not aware that the Khmer Rouge was later on actually supported by the West, not least by Margaret Thatcher. Likely he is also not aware that this regime was ended by the invasion of the Vietnamese People’s Army, aided by the Soviet Union.

    Otherwise it’s fascinating how Stalin got this one right. The bizarre feats this kind of communism-as-idea thinking can lead to can be clearly seen in Zizek’s stance on Ukraine, that the Maidan crowd will somehow defeat austerity or something close to that.

    Probably the idea of communism-as-idea is the majority view among radical left people today and based on a deep-seated, internalised fear to be associated with the Soviet Union. They’ve swallowed Reagan’s Evil Empire line whole and seek to protect the mythical, virginal idea from those bad boy Russkies.

    I don’t know what it would take to change this. It would be on a generational scale at the very least.

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