Even ten years ago, to find revolutionary texts was not so easy. One was lucky if one lived in a city whose bookstores carried radical books. More likely, people discovered only those texts that were circulated among friends or at punk shows, xeroxed and distributed. It was possible, of course, to join a militant organization, to satisfy one’s hunger in that way. But for those who did not feel drawn to any such organization – its particular histories, its sectarian perspectives – there was no option. In any case, texts from the more obscure, heterodox communist currents were very difficult to find.
Today, we face the opposite problem. Over the past decade, many revolutionary texts have been put online. The difficulty, now, is less in getting one’s hands on whatever material than in selecting from materials that are widely available. Here is one of our goals in curating the Communist Interventions series: not to create a revolutionary canon, but rather, to provide a workable entry point into revolutionary traditions, a “science of navigation” for sailing in stormy seas. But then, we curated these texts not only or even primarily for the lone reader, studying revolutionary theory in solitude. Our main purpose has been to generate readers for use in reading groups.
These groups are appearing in many cities. Indeed, today, communism is being discussed not only by the hold-over sects of a bygone era, but also by new, spontaneously emergent collectivities. It may be premature to say so, but it now seems possible to speak of the first embers that might lead to the re-emergence of communism as a “burning issue” of our times. Key in that regard have been the social struggles taking place since 2011: many of us participated in these struggles and were changed by them. We now have questions about such struggles and seek some preliminary answers by critically examining the revolutionary traditions of the past. The Communist Interventions series aims to aid those with similar questions.
However, we caution our fellow travelers: true answers to the revolutionary questions of our times will not be located in these curated selections of texts. The past is, of its nature, past. New times have always called forth new revolutionary perspectives, with their own orientations and their own vocabularies. Still, we notice that in moments of upheaval, those familiar with the old theories possess a certain power, whether it is that of intervention, or merely circumspection. We do not wish to decry this power, but rather to share it out, freely: to weaken the role of leaders by strengthening the role of that mass of individuals – organized formally, informally, or not at all – who are oriented towards the possibility of a revolutionary rupture.
For our advice on setting up reading groups see here.