The Guardian's Comment is Free presents the idea of communism to its readers with an edited extract entitled "Reclaim the common in communism" from Michael Hardt's chapter in The Idea of Communism. The book, edited by Slavoj Zizek and Costas Douzinas, is a collection of writings by leading radical intellectuals to reimagine communism for the 21st century.
Hardt examines the concept of the common in relation to communism, arguing that the
notion of the common can help us understand what communism means - or what it could mean. Marx argues in his early writings against any conception of communism that involves abolishing private property only to make goods the property of the community. Instead communism properly conceived is the abolition not only of private property but of property as such. It is difficult, though, for us to imagine our world and ourselves outside of property relations. "Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided," he writes, "that an object is only ours when we have it." What would it mean for something to be ours when we do not possess it? What would it mean to regard ourselves and our world not as property? Has private property made us so stupid that we cannot see that? Marx tries to grasp communism, rather awkwardly and romantically, in terms of the creation of a new way of seeing, a new hearing, a new thinking, a new loving - in short, the production of a new humanity.
Marx here is searching here for the common, or, really a form of biopolitical production put in the hands of the common. The open access and sharing that characterise use of the common are outside of and inimical to property relations. We have been made so stupid that we can only recognise the world as private or public. We have become blind to the common. Communism should be defined not only by the abolition of property but also by the affirmation of the common - the affirmation of open and autonomous production of subjectivity, social relations, and the forms of life; the self-governed continuous creation of new humanity. In the most synthetic terms, what private property is to capitalism and what state property is to socialism, the common is to communism.
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