In the two decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall, global capitalism became entrenched in its modern, neoliberal form. Its triumph was so complete that the word “capitalism” itself fell out of use in the absence of credible political alternatives. But with the outbreak of financial crisis and global recession in the twenty-first century, capitalism is once again up for discussion. The status quo can no longer be taken for granted.
As Eric Hobsbawm argues in his acute and elegant introduction to this modern edition, in such times The Communist Manifesto emerges as a work of great prescience and power despite being written over a century and a half ago. He highlights Marx and Engels’s enduring insights into the capitalist system: its devastating impact on all aspects of human existence; its susceptibility to enormous convulsions and crises; and its fundamental weakness.
A day after what would have been Daniel Bensaïd's 69th birthday, we publish this interview with Chilean director Carmen Castillo, whose film We Are Alive draws continuities from his writing and activism to contemporary struggle across two continents. Here she recounts her meetings with Bensaïd as a young activist and her experience making the film.
Daniel Bensaïd in 2008.
Carmen Castillo was born in Chile, and worked for the Allende government before entering the clandestine resistance together with her partner Miguel Enriquez after the Pinochet coup of 11 September 1973. Arrested and then expelled from her homeland (after an international campaign for her release), she recounted her tragic history in two books and then her 2007 film Calle Santa Fe.
The director continues to be haunted by a number of questions. How can we pass on the memory of the defeated without suffocating it with nostalgia or bitterness? What can we do today to keep loyal to the ideas of friends, loved ones and comrades who are no longer of this world – a world that they were so passionate about changing? How can we hope, now that we know that nothing is written in advance (as some of us used to believe)?
Castillo’s next film, We Are Alive, comes to French cinemas on 29 April. Making use of the thought of philosopher Daniel Bensaïd, Castillo portrays the daily struggles of all those across two continents who throw themselves into the ‘joyous passion’ of struggle – despite everything, and however ignored they are by the big media cartels.
Marxist geographer David Harvey recently spoke with il manifesto about the contradictions inherent in capitalism, the possibilities for its undoing and where Syriza and Podemos fit within its opposition.
At 79 years of age and fresh from publishing a new book (Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, Oxford University Press), David Harvey is still reading social change with one eye on Marx and another on the social movements.
After Greece’s agreement with the European Union – with the aid programme being extended in exchange for the continuation of structural reforms – the new government has arrived at an impasse. The hopes of those seeking an end to austerity have not even lasted a month. Stathis Kouvelakis, member of the Syriza central committee and reader in political theory at King’s College London comments on these developments in the interview below.
What is the symbolic importance of Syriza’s victory?
Syriza’s victory represents a historic turning point. It is the first time in European electoral history that a party of the radical Left – that is, to the left of social democracy – has won the elections and entered government.
Up till now, the only times that parties from this political family exercised governmental roles they were part of wider coalitions, and even that was in very particular circumstances. This unprecedented success undoubtedly marks a turning point, one that is all the more important in that Europe is in the grip of a social and economic crisis that has led to growing political turmoil.
Some have noted that in the countries of Northern and Central Europe far-Right forces and the radicalised Right are the ones benefiting from this. Conversely, in the peripheral countries, which have been subjected to the harshest austerity policies, it is instead the forces of the radical Left that seem to be raising their head. We see this in Greece but also in Spain and Ireland.