Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Friday The 13th: Smug Slasher Movie For The Academic Left Elite

One hundred pounds (Stirling) will buy you this latest reassuring (as a simulated substitute for serious activism) consumer product:

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

"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 Badiou)

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

The booking for this conference is now closed - it is full.

Logan Hall
Institute of Education,
University of London
20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL

Envious or resentful plebs can watch a free audio/video link from here:

Elvin Hall
Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL


Friday March 13
Registration opens at 11.30am
2pm Costas Douzinas Welcome
Alain Badiou, Introductory remarks
Michael Hardt "The Production of the Common"
Bruno Bosteels "The Leftist Hypothesis: Communism in the Age of Terror"
Peter Hallward "Communism of the Intellect, Communism of the Will"
Jean-Luc Nancy will be present throughout the conference and will intervene in the discussions.
6 pm End

Saturday March 14
Registration opens at 8.30am
10am Alessandro Russo "Did the Cultural Revolution End Communism?"
Alberto Toscano "Communist Power / Communist Knowledge"
Toni Negri "Communisme: reflexions sur le concept et la pratique"
1pm Lunch
3pm Terry Eagleton "Communism: Lear or Gonzalo?"
Jacques Ranciere "Communists without Communism?"
Alain Badiou "Communism: a generic name"
6pm End
Drinks Reception – Jeffery Hall

Sunday March 15
10am Slavoj Zizek "To begin from the beginning over and over again"
Gianni Vattimo "Weak Communism?"
Judith Balso "Communism: a hypothesis for philosophy, an impossible name for politics?"
Concluding Debate
2pm End


Such as I.T. , Clare, and the SOAS Student Union in Britain are of course right to express reservations about the underlying organizational culture within elite academic practice that automatically assumes that an important (chronically urgent and largely late) conference on communism should also attract an important price (hopefully participants were wise enough to pay for their registrations via subprime cheques or credit cards, default now being a principle. They weren't?). So SOAS has organized a 'competing' conference on Internet for Activists on Saturday, 14th.

What is to be done. Indeed.


Solomon's Mindfield said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Solomon's Mindfield said...

Hey, just a quick correction-i did not set up our internet to 'compete' with the communism one. It was purely coincidental. See the posts on my blog.

Further to our meetings with the organisers of the communism one I truly believe that because the rapidly snowballing conference is understaffed it was simply an oversight not to make an 'each according to their means' offer obvious.

Myself and a few campaigners will be helping on the registration desk so please come and say hello. I have bright red short sticky up hair (at the mo!).

Speak soon...

Also, please feel free to pop in to our other conference:,

Beckett said...

Thanks for that clarification, and for all the links.