Communist Study: Introduction to Partisan Educational Theory

Derek R. Ford | Education | Theory | January 18th, 2018

This is the introductory chapter to Communist Study: Education for the Commons (2016), which argues that capitalism rests on a certain educational logic, and that political struggles looking to move beyond capitalism need to develop and practice oppositional modes of education .

While Margaret Thatcher tends to get the credit for saying that "there is no such thing as society," it was none other than Karl Marx who, in The Poverty of Philosophy, first-and for quite different reasons-contested that such a thing as society existed. For Marx the term society was too loose and static, too moralistic and jurisprudential; it wasn't dialectical or historical enough to account for the constantly changing state of things, for the complexity and dynamism of life. In its place, Marx proposed the concept of "social formation." [1] In the clear, careful, and patient manner that is characteristic of his work, Althusser spells out for us just what a social formation is, and why this concept is vital for Marx and for those of us who want to make a new world, a world that we deserve. In each social formation there exist multiple modes of production (at least two), one of which is always dominant, and others of which are either going out of or struggling to come into existence. A mode of production is, well, a way of producing things, an arrangement between the productive forces and the relations of production, between the objects and instruments of labor, on the one hand, and between those who relate to them and to each other, on the other.

Under the capitalist mode of production, the relations of production are inherently and unalterably relations of exploitation. There are those who work on the means of production and those who own the means of production, and the latter group appropriates what is produced, returning some to the worker in the form of wages and keeping the rest for themselves (and the landlord, the state, and the banker). There is always a struggle over how the value produced will be apportioned, what amount will return to the one who produced it and what amount will be taken by the owner; wages correspond to the level of class struggle at any given moment and in any given place. The relations of production under capitalism are therefore not of a technical or legal nature, but a social one. It is, then, the whole social and economic system that has to be overthrown: the working class has to have control over the productive forces and new relations of production have to be established.[2]

Althusser's presentation of social formations and modes of production is so appealing, for one, because of the way in which he makes clear that antagonistic modes of production co-exist along with as the capitalist mode of production. Thus, Althusser gives us a way to understand that the primary contradiction at the time of his writing was not necessarilywithin the capitalist mode of production but rather between the capitalist mode of production and the socialist mode of production, which in the early 1970s was a considerable portion of the globe.[3] For two, however, Althusser's formulation is appealing because of the way that it demonstrates the centrality of the social relations of production. Althusser states upfront that the relations of production aredeterminant in the reproduction of a social formation. [4] After all, that is why Althusser was interested in the ideological state apparatuses in the first place: they are "the number one object of the class struggle" because of their central role in the reproduction of the relations of production. [5]

The materialist method indicates that any new production relations and forces won't materialize out of thin air, which seems to me an important but fundamentally neglected insight when examining the history of the international communist movement. All too often socialist states are evaluated according to a checklist drawn up in the halls of academe by romantic, utopian intellectuals. But I digress. [6] The theory of immanence that is fundamental to the materialist method holds that it is only out of existing conditions that the future emerges, that we can glimpse alternative realities within the present, that hegemony is loosely stitched together, and composed of fabric and thread from the past. With the right alteration the whole thing can unravel. This is precisely why Althusser insists on the coexistence of multiple modes of production within any given social formation: multiple sets of production relations and forces can be blocked together, locked in struggles that are at times latent and at other times explosive. The question is how to locate and latch onto the germ of the future from within the present, at least that's the question for those of us who yearn for a different world.

That's also the question that motives this study. What I set out to do in this book is to locate antagonistic elements of subjectivity and modes of being that are immanent in the present, to understand these subjectivities in their necessary relationship to the mode of production, and to posit some ways that these elements can be seized upon by educators and political organizers. In this way, it's a political and intellectual book, and it's a deeply intimate one, too. This project embodies tensions that I have felt all of my life, tensions that Peter McLaren calls enfleshment, or "the mutually constitutive enfolding of social structure and desire… the dialectical relationship between the material organization of interiority and the cultural modes of materiality we inhabit subjectively." [7] This phrase, "the material organization of interiority" is a particularly profound one, for it so closely links politics to the subject, intimating two types of interiority: the interiority of the subject and the various forms of interiority that, together, we constantly construct (the domus, the collective, the classroom, etc.). [8] The co-intimacies are always experienced through the reigning mode of production, which is not external to social relations or to subjectivity itself.

The social and economic contradictions of capitalism run through us, as do the contradictions between the capitalist mode of production and other, ascending or descending modes of production. We can feel exploitation in our interior, but we can also feel solidarity there, nudging its way in. We organize with our fellow workers and students because our material conditions force us to, because we need more, want something else, but also because organizing, in its best moments, can produce a sublime feeling of being-in-common. While we are shoulder to shoulder with others fighting against a common enemy we experience a mode of collectivity that capitalism can never capture, a form of subjectification that exceeds any already existing conceptual framework. Now, anyone who has done even a quick stint as an organizer knows that a lot of other feelings can be produced, too, feelings that can divide us, make us anxious, cynical, and paranoid. Yet this is nothing but another testament to the blocking together of multiple forms of social relations that are vying for dominance.

I was an organizer and a communist before entering the field of education, and one of the reasons that I was drawn to the field was because of the ways in which I also got these sublime feelings when reading and thinking about, and wrestling with, ideas with others. When I harken back, the best educational experiences for me have been indistinguishable from the best political experiences. The research that I have done over the past several years has given me some tools, concepts, problems, and frameworks with which to theorize these feelings that I've had with others and how they relate to the social formation. This theorization resulted in the formation of a pedagogical constellation, and this book is a journey through that constellation.

In astronomy, a constellation is a way of grouping areas of the celestial sphere. The first constellations were determined by farmers who were looking for additional indicators of the changing of seasons, and today they are determined by the International Astronomical Union. Constellations are a way of framing and grouping the sky. Tyson Lewis has suggested that we should think of educational philosophy and practice as a constellation. A pedagogical constellation, then, "does not collapse differences between concepts, nor does it simply valorize one conceptual model over the other. Rather, they hang precariously together, maintaining an absent center." [9] Lewis is careful to note that this constellation can't be purely subjective, but has to "have an objective and necessary dimension." [10] Whereas Lewis argues that this dimension is the "exacting imagination," I hold that it is the social relations of production that fills the spaces and connects the relations between concepts, and the communist program that motivates the assembling of the constellation in the first place.

The communist educational program was in many ways the topic of my first book, Marx, Capital, and Education: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Becoming , which I penned with my comrade and colleague Curry Malott. [11] We wrote that book in a fever, egged on by the need to locate critical education within the history of actually existing struggles against imperialism, exploitation, and oppression. This meant that we had to go back to Marx, and that we especially had to do some systematic and educational readings of the three volumes of Capital. Everywhere in education, in every other journal article or conference paper, we encountered this term "neoliberalism." That was good, we thought, because there can be no doubt that we, in the U.S., are in an intense struggle over accumulation by educational dispossession. So much of this trajectory of educational research, however, left us dissatisfied: the disconnection of neoliberalism from capitalism, the dismissal and demonization of the actually-existing workers' struggle (and the social formations it produced), the lack of any real systemic engagement with marxism, the emphasis on analysis at the expense of action, the reluctance to formulate a political program, silence on imperialist war, and an embrace of essentialist identity politics. We composed the book as an intervention into the field. We provided an antidote to the bland critiques of neoliberalism in education; we centered the law and logic of value, the dialectic, and negation; read the Ferguson protests through the lens of Capital and Harry Haywood-the self-proclaimed "Black Bolshevik"-and his theory of the oppressed Black nation within the U.S.; located neoliberalism as a strategy within the global class war; and pushed back against the idealistic and anti-communist critiques of actually-existing socialism.

Sending a manuscript off to press is rarely a satisfying thing, because as soon as you click "send" you've already thought of too many things to add, tweak, or test. And so writing a book or an article is less about completing something and more about starting something, opening new lines of inquiry or starting new political projects. Marx, Capital, and Education was no exception to this, and before it had manifested as a physical object we were both our pursuing new themes. Curry ended up writing History and Education, which confronts the deep-seated anti-communism in critical pedagogy and the academic Left more generally by expanding on the concept of the global class war, which we dedicated a chapter to in our book and which was begging for more analysis. As for me, I started contemplating a word that we had placed in Marx, Capital, and Education's subtitle: pedagogy. "Just what the hell is pedagogy?" I kept asking myself. I had read and written the word countless times, had gone through a graduate program in education, but I didn't have a grasp on what it meant.

After some digging, I came to realize that I wasn't alone. Sure, some scholars and researchers used "pedagogy" in a very clear sense: to them it was a method of teaching. But that seemed not only boring, but also definitely at odds with the critical tradition (critical pedagogy insists that it is not a method, but a practice). [12] As I started to take the claim seriously, though, I started to come around a bit to the position that pedagogy is a method. In the opening pages of History and Class Consciousness, Georg Lukàcs asks what orthodox Marxism is. He tells us that if all of Marx's theses were disproven, even then "every serious 'orthodox' Marxist would still be able to accept all such modern findings without reservation and hence dismiss all of Marx's theses in toto-without having to renounce his orthodoxy for a single moment." [13] This, Lukàcs says, is so because "orthodoxy refers exclusively to method," which for a marxist is dialectical materialism. And dialectical materialism is all about processes and relations, both of which imply constant change.[14] Indeed, the dialectic is what allowed Marx to study capital, which he defined as a social relation. Given this, it makes little sense to institute a binary between a method and a practice, as the marxist method is the practice of applying dialectical materialism to understand processes and relations.

In the spirit of the dialectic, the best educational theorists use pedagogy to name an educational relation. Paulo Freire, in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, wrote at length regarding the dialogic relationship between teacher and student, the hyphen between what he termed the teacher-student and the student-teacher. [15] A central axiom of the book is that the teacher and the student must relate as agents who are encountering each other and, through dialogue, naming their world. This axiom, however, can't be divorced from another, which is the commitment to ending oppression and exploitation, what Freire called the process of humanization. What makes the relationship educational is this second axiom, for education always needs an end. [16] This is exactly what McLaren means when he insists, "ideological paths chosen by teachers are the fundamental stuff of Freirean pedagogy." [17] McLaren has been hard at work over the last two decades to theorize the ideological paths that lead toward the ends of this pedagogy by fleshing out a revolutionary critical pedagogy, upon which Marx, Capital, and Education was built.[18]

The pedagogical relation, in this tradition, is about opening ourselves up to the possibility that things can be otherwise than they are, that a world without exploitation and oppression can exist, and that, through struggle, we can create that world. As Antonia Darder writes, the purpose of pedagogy is to "engage the world with its complexity and fullness in order to reveal the possibilities of new ways of constructing thought and action beyond the original state."[19] Pedagogy, for McLaren, "is the telling of the story of the 'something more' that can be dreamed only when domination and exploitation are named and challenged."[20] This is a pedagogy that seeks a way out of the present through the cultivation of imagination and the formation of dissidence and resistance. The relationship between the present and the future was an animating theme of Marx, Capital, and Education, and it is why the book insisted on the process of becoming. What I came to realize, however, was that I needed something more here. As an educational theorist, I felt it was my duty to think more carefully and experimentally about how pedagogy bridges the gap between what is and what can be, while respecting the gap and its uncertainty and figurality. How can pedagogy respect the gap's ambiguity while remaining faithful to the communist project?

A pedagogical constellation

The pedagogical constellation constructed in the following pages is animated by these concerns. I demonstrate some ways that pedagogy can help materialize social relations and activate subjectivities that are not just antagonistic to capital, but conducive to the communist project. When I write about the communist project I mean something particular and something general, something old, something new, and something unknown. After the overthrow and dissolution of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc in 1989-1991, communism fell into disrepute. The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and global economic crisis of 2007-2008, however, turned the tide, and history restarted. Communism reappeared once again as a Left sign. In response, a "new communism" has emerged as a pole to be struggled over. There are multiple takes on this new communism, from Alain Badiou's notion of communism as an Idea, an abstract truth procedure that synthesizes history, politics, and the subject, to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Spinozist communism as the absolute democracy of singularities.[21] Jodi Dean's take is that we mustn't equate communism with democracy. We live in the age of democracy, and so to organize around "radical" or "absolute" democracy implies an extension of the system as it is, signals that through inclusion democracy can be radically transformed. [22] While it is true, as Alex Means notes, that Lenin and Marx sometimes used the term "proletarian democracy" to describe communism, the situation today is considerably different.[23] Not only do the masses in capitalist countries today have access to the mechanisms of democracy, but democracy defines the contemporary moment. One could argue that we should struggle over the meaning of democracy, but this, I hold, is not only a dead end pragmatically (for it only reaffirms democracy's hegemony), but is incorrect politically. Democracy necessitates inclusion and participation and fails to name the exclusions and divisions that make politics possible.[24] Democracy names a commons; communism names a commons against.

Not all of the cartographers that travel with me to chart this communist constellation fit within the communist tradition, and in fact some of my co-thinkers have made explicit breaks from the communist movement. While I don't let them off the hook so easily, neither do I attempt to force them neatly into the communist project. There is a resulting tension that runs through the book, a tension that I hope readers find both productive and troubling. I'm familiar with the rash of Marxist/post-al debates that dominated so much of academia during 1990s. To be quite honest, I'm not especially interested in them, or in rehearsing the arguments, or in drawing up some sort of balance sheet on the matter. It's not so much that the categories and stakes of these debates aren't significant (they certainly are), but that the debates became so narrowed and debilitated, so narrowing and debilitating. They are, if I may say so, played out. My position is that we shouldn't allow ideological disagreements to prevent us from communicating with, or culling insights from, one another. It's not to say that ideological unity and clarity aren't important, but that this unity is always the result of struggle and practice, not a priori literary battles. So I chose my co-thinkers in this book because they have helped me conceptualize the relations that pedagogy can engender, how these relations relate to the varying kinds of social relations of production, and how we can link the educational relation to the struggle for a new social formation.

Foundational to this project is the idea that subjectivity is historical and material, that subjectivity changes, and that these changes have a relationship to production relations. The predominant form of the subject today, it appears, is the individual. Dean thus writes that "our political problem differs in a fundamental way from that of communists at the beginning of the twentieth century-we have to organize individuals; they had to organize masses." [25] This book begins with an inquiry into the individualized state of subjectivity today. The first chapter brings Judith Butler's theory of normative and performative constitution of the subject into the field of capital. I elaborate the social, juridical, and economic conditions of industrial capital accumulation and, reading Butler with Marx, I argue that the norms through which the subject comes to be constituted as an individual in the modern era are fundamentally connected with modern capitalism. In other words, the subjectivity of the individual is required for capitalist accumulation in the industrial era. The individual, however, is just one way in which subjectivity is produced under capitalism, for capitalism atomizes people at the same time as it concentrates them in space, alienating people from each other while developing sophisticated means of transportation and communication. These contradictions of capital are contradictions that are played out on the field of the subject, which both acts on and reacts to the mode of production. As a result, when I move to an examination of recent transformations that have taken place in capitalism, the move away from the industrial era, I pay special attention to the interaction between subjects and the means of production, although I also bring the economic contradictions of capitalism-overaccumulation and the falling rate of profit-into play.

These recent transformations have to do with the incorporation of subjectivity into capitalism as an element of fixed capital-what Marx labeled the "general intellect"-and the increasing importance of subjectivity and sociality in the production and realization of value. Following Maurizio Lazzarato I define the contemporary phase of capitalism as the "immaterial era." The immaterial era of capitalism, I claim, follows from the industrial era, and it represents a transformation within the capitalist mode of production, not a new mode of production. I caution against fetishizing immaterial production, a charge I level against Hardt and Negri, who recognize the corporeality of immaterial production but still harp on its "infinite reproducibility." This isn't just an esoteric distinction, for recognizing the inherently material nature of immaterial production directs our attention to the necessity of seizing the state and other forms of power. Power is not everywhere and nowhere. The bourgeoisie takes up specific spaces-they have names and addresses. After articulating what I mean by immaterial production as a transformation within the capitalist mode of production in the second chapter, I show how as the mode of production transitions into the immaterial era the norms that render the subject an individual become challenged. Here I return to Butler to show that instead of sovereign, autonomous, and atomized, in immaterial production we begin to experience ourselves and each other as dependent, opaque, and relational. Butler's conception of the subject becomes rooted as part of the capitalist mode of production, providing a material basis for her conception. While I agree with Dean that the individual is a dominant form of subjectivity today, I take issue with its prevalence, contending instead that it is constantly being challenged, both in the realm of production and in the "everyday."

Butler gives us a rich theorization of subject constitution and contemporary subject formation. Her descriptions of the ways in which we are unendingly and irretrievably bound up with each other, the ways that we are permanently dependent on each other and, as a result, forever other to ourselves, powerfully illustrate the commonness that communism is about. These attributes of contemporary subjectivity both correspond with and trouble the capitalist mode of production. Maybe they signal the emergence of an ascendant mode of production. But there is a primary contradiction within contemporary subject formation and between it and operations of capital: while a new commonness is being forged through the productive networks of society, society is increasingly polarized along lines of class and identity. Communist pedagogy, in turn, has to offer theorizations of commonness that are rooted in the material realities of everyday life. Moreover, the rule of private property bears a particular relationship to the political form of democracy, and taken together capitalism and democracy have a definite educational logic. The rest of the book gets at this knot by turning to the concept of study, which I figure as not just an alternative educational logic, but an oppositional educational logic, as a way of forging not just commonness, but commonness against.

In the third chapter I begin developing the concept of study, the central pedagogical concept in this book's constellation. The philosopher who has most richly developed study is Lewis, who takes Agamben's notion of potentiality and positions it against biocapitalism and its educational logic: the logic of learning. Biocapitalism is a form of capitalism that doesn't use up labor-power so much as it continually reinvests in it, remaking it over and over again. This reinvestment takes place through lifelong learning, in which we continually remake ourselves to fit the ever-changing demands of global capitalism. "Learning is," as Lewis formulates it at one point, "the putting to work of potentiality in the name of self-actualization and economic viability… Learning has thus become a biotechnology for managing and measuring the nebulous force, power, or will of potentiality." [26] Potentiality, of course, is only good for capital if it is actualized. Otherwise it is wasted potential. Agamben provides Lewis with another notion of potentiality, a potentiality not to be, and Lewis develops his theory of studying on this notion.

Whereas learning is always directed by predetermined and measurable ends, studying is about pure means, about exploring, wandering, getting lost in thought, forgetting what one knows so that one can discover that the world exists otherwise than the way that one knows it. Studying is, I think, the educational equivalent of flirting. When flirting with another, I and that other sway between "we can, we cannot." Each gesture, touch, or phrase proposes potential as it withdraws into impotential. We are neither committed nor un-committed to each other; we are not not-committed. Like flirting, studying is a contradictory feeling of exhilaration and dismay, anxiety and excitement, the pleasure of exploration and the pain of the unfamiliar. Studying can't be graded or measured; it is concerned only with use and not with exchange. Studying isn't only a wandering about, however, it's also a fleeing from, a stateless state of fugitivity, as Stefano Harney and Fred Moten put it. Harney and Moten more radically politicize studying by linking it to the undercommons, the label that they give to the spaces and relations that resist capitalist enclosures. In the undercommons we study together, bonded by our mutual indebtedness, or what Butler would call our mutual and inescapable dependency.

To further develop the concept of study, how studying can be in opposition to capital, and how educators can enact study, I turn to the thought of Jean-François Lyotard in chapters four, five, and six. While Lyotard's work has ignited more than a few debates in education and in critical theory, these debates have focused almost exclusively on his short book, The Postmodern Condition, a book that Lyotard refers to as "an occasional one," as nothing more than a "report." [27] The almost exclusive focus on this book in education has drawn our attention away from the rich body of Lyotard's work, which is rife with educational lessons. In chapter five I connect The Postmodern Condition to Lyotard's larger philosophical endeavors, revealing why a focus on that particular book has created misunderstandings in educational thought. The connecting point here is Lyotard's writing on "the system," which for Lyotard is the economic system of capitalism and the political system of liberal democracy. Lyotard helps us see how certain forms of difference and alterity can circulate quite productively within capitalism, including postmodernism itself. While many have noted that today capitalism thrives on difference and individuality, they have missed the mark: difference and individuality-alterity-have to first be brought to signification, have to be made public. There are very real limits to what signified subjectivities and beliefs can be accommodated within capitalism, of course, that Lyotard and some of his followers haven't appreciated because of their political commitments. But the central insight is that, like the demand for actualization, capital demands that the subject be made public, express itself.

While the demand for actualization represses the potentiality not to be, the demand for publicity represses the subject's secret life. The subject's internal alterity, a "no-man's land" where we can meet ourselves and others, is the place from where thought comes. The secret is, by definition, incommunicable, but this in no way prevents it from being a common region. The alterity that I am after here is not about individualized difference but about solidarity, forms of togetherness that capital can't capture, forms of collectivity that perpetually resist. The secret is a region, then, that we can't exactly know, that we can only encounter: it's a place of study. The political thrust behind the demand for constant communication and for endless articulation is at the heart of the democratic project, and a critique of democracy is the subject of the fifth chapter. Lyotard's problem is not with expression itself, but rather when the general-or public-life seeks to take hold of the secret life. Democracy, by compelling the subject to babble endlessly, by fashioning subjects that compel themselves and others to communicate, inaugurates what Lyotard calls terror. This is a terror to which pedagogy, as something that necessarily involves communication, is susceptible. I spend part of this chapter demonstrating how complicit critical pedagogy and its critics have been in this terror.

There is an irreducible antagonism between democracy and the secret, for the former requires transparency, dialogue and deliberation, and visibility, while the latter is opaque, mute, and concealed. And there is crucial link between democracy and capitalism, for the latter has an insatiable appetite for anything that can be input into its circuits of value production and realization. It is not just that the neoliberals have succeeded in equating democracy with capitalism; there is actually an intimate relationship between the two. The secret, which stands in opposition to both democracy and capital, breaks free from this nexus. Democracy is about learning; communism is about studying.

An attentiveness to and orientation toward the secret, which is always already present within and between us, can help open us up to the event, to the revolutionary rupture within the existing dominant order of things and subjects. The secret is a rearguard, always operating outside of and against democracy and the logic of exchange-value. One question for politics is how we can embrace the secret life and mobilize it as part of a vanguard project against capital. Such an embrace, I suggest, can help us realize not just what we want out of politics, but to where we are and what we have that we want to keep. In the sixth chapter I continue my conversation with Lyotard to offer a method of education, a way of attending to the secret, accommodating alterity, and cultivating receptivity toward the new without abandoning history and materialism; a way of thinking through the relationship between learning and studying. Developing what I call a figural education, I present an educational mode of engagement that has three heterogeneous and synchronous processes: reading, seeing, and blindness. This is a process of opening the world beyond how it appears to us, and of opening ourselves to a world that we can't conceptually understand.

The political question, of course, is how to conduct that negotiation. For pedagogy, the question is: on what criteria does the negotiation process between learning and studying pivot? When and on what basis should repression take place? When should studying itself be suspended? These are questions that haven't been answered by the new communists. Neglecting or refusing to answer these questions can leave education and politics permanently disoriented, a state that is altogether favorable to capitalism and imperialism. We have to develop such criteria, and in the seventh chapter I present some evidence in support of this injunction. I refer to three key battles that have left important marks on the Left: China in 1989, Hungary in 1956, and Libya in 2011. The struggles within each of these countries were presented as "the people" versus "the state," as "rebels" versus a "dictatorship," and the each state's repressive measures were (almost) universally condemned. Indeed, for Agamben the Chinese state's response to the Tiananmen Square protests represents the ultimate assault on whatever singularity. If we actually examine what took place in Tiananmen and elsewhere, however, if we look at the events themselves and-perhaps more importantly-at the social forces involved in the conflicts, then we draw a different conclusion. Although each is obviously unique, I demonstrate that in each instance the state moved to repress not a revolution but a counterrevolution. Such repression wasn't ideal, but that's the whole point: history and reality are never ideal.

This move to history is meant to counter what I call the new orthodoxy of the new communism, an orthodoxy that, in the last instance, frames the discussion. Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Žižek make this clear on page two of their introduction to The Idea of Communism: "The left which aligned itself with 'actually existing socialism' has disappeared or turned into a historical curiosity." [28] Dean militates against this by insisting on the continuity of communism as a horizon that has never disappeared and her asserting "communism succeeded." [29] Further, she writes about the necessity of repression and "the bloody violence of revolution." [30] Yet she doesn't engage the historical and existing global communist struggle. There are good philosophical reasons for such abstractions, and politically they prevent the immobilization that can result from debates about particular policies in particular social formations at particular moments in time. Returning to some key moments like I do in this chapter, however, provides nuance to discussions around repression, exclusion, division, and value production, nuance that has interestingly been relatively absent from the new communist discussions. It injects some old communism into the new communism.

Imperialism wears many masks; it transcends space, time, and identity. Its forces and agents are highly organized, centralized, and conscious. How many revolutions have been crushed under the weight of its reaction? How many revolutions have been aborted or turned back by its police, its military, its propaganda, and its agent provocateurs? The ruthlessness and savagery of imperialism renders organization itself a political principle for communists. As such, in the eighth chapter I move to an examination of the Party-form, which I submit is, at base, a pedagogical project. I argue that a foundational task of the Party is to orchestrate the educational process, to navigate the communist pedagogical constellation developed in the book. Revolutions are by definition radically uncertain and unpredictable events. All scripts are thrown out the window as dynamics rapidly shift about. In the midst of this uncertainty, the forces of capital have, historically, been quite well prepared. Without tight, disciplined organization, revolutionary moments result in restoration (a return to before) or counterrevolution. To prepare for revolution, the Party studies the mass movement, learns its lessons, teaches what it doesn't know, and produces us as new, collective subjects. Capital thrives on diversity, complexification, and difference. All sorts of oppositional movements can be coopted, absorbed within the game of profit maximization. When the limits to what capital can accommodate are tested, then repression is unleashed. Studying forges a commonness against that, if organized, can weather that repression, becoming a true political force. The following pages propose a series of educational concepts, frameworks, and modes of engagement that, taken together, form a partisan educational theory: a theory of communist study.


[1] Louis Althusser, On the reproduction of capitalism: Ideology and ideological state apparatuses , trans. G.M. Goshgarian (London and New York: Verso, 1995/2014).

[2] Althusser makes this point for the social democrats, who hold that mere technical and legal changes within the capitalist totality will usher in socialism-a critique that is just as important today as it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

[3] Thus, the contradiction was between the capitalist and the imperialist camp, the latter of which contained the socialist states and the anti-colonial states that emerged during the socialist and national liberation struggles of the 20th century.

[4] Louis Althusser, On the reproduction of capitalism, 21.

[5] Ibid., 161. In light of just this, it is quite remarkable that the founding theorists of critical pedagogy dismissed Althusser as an economic determinist and as a theorist who strips agency from the subject. See, for example, Henry Giroux, Ideology, culture, and the process of schooling (Philadelphia and London: Temple University Press and Falmer Press, 1981).

[6] For a brilliant and careful argument about this idealism, see Curry Malott, History and education: Engaging the global class war (New York: Peter Lang, 2016).

[7] Peter McLaren, Schooling as ritual performance: Toward a political economy of educational symbols and gestures (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1986/1999), 273-274.

[8] For more on this latter type of interiotiy, see Peter Sloterdijk, The world interior of capital, trans. Wieland Hoban (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005/2013), Spheres I: Bubbles: Microsphereology, trans. Weiland Hoban (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 1998/2011); and Derek R. Ford, "The air conditions of philosophy of education: Toward a microsphereology of the classroom," in In E. Duarte (Ed.), Philosophy of education 2015 (Urbana: Philosophy of Education Society, 2016).

[9] Tyson E. Lewis, "Mapping the constellation of educational Marxism(s)," Educational Philosophy and Theory 44: no. s1: 112.

[10] Ibid., 113.

[11] Curry S. Malott and Derek R. Ford, Marx, capital, and education: Towards a critical pedagogy of becoming (New York: Peter Lang, 2015).

[12] Henry Giroux, On critical pedagogy (New York and London: Continuum, 2011), 155.

[13] Georg Lukàcs, History and class consciousness: Studies in Marxist dialectics , trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1968/1971), 1. Marx's theses, of course, have on the whole only been repeatedly validated.

[14] See, for example, parts I and II of Bertell Ollman, Dialectical investigations (New York and London: Routledge, 1993).

[15] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York and London: Continuum, 1970/2011).

[16] This is one of the primary ways that Gert Biesta distinguishes education from learning. See Gert J.J. Biesta, Beyond learning: Democratic education for a human future (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2006); and Good education in an age of measurement: Ethics, politics, democracy (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2010).

[17] Peter McLaren, Life in schools: An introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of education , 6th ed. (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2015), 241.

[18] Ibid.; Capitalists & conquerors: A critical pedagogy against empire (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005); Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the pedagogy of revolution (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000); Pedagogy of insurrection: From resurrection to revolution (New York: Peter Lang, 2015).

[19] Antonia Darder, A dissident voice: Essays on culture, pedagogy, and power (New York: Peter Lang, 2011), 207.

[20] Peter McLaren, Life in schools, 196.

[21] Alain Badiou, The communist hypothesis, trans. David Macey and Steve Corcoran (London and New York: Verso, 2010); Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2000).

[22] Jodi Dean, The communist horizon (London and New York: Verso, 2012).

[23] Alex J. Means, "Educational commons and the new radical democratic imaginary," Critical Studies in Education 55, no. 2: 132.

[24] This is why Hardt and Negri "smash the state on page 361 only to resurrect it on page 380." David Harvey, Rebel cities: From the right to the city to the urban revolution (London and New York: Verso, 2012), 152.

[25] Jodi Dean, The communist horizon, 196.

[26] Tyson E. Lewis, On study: Giorgio Agamben and educational potentiality (London and New York: Routledge, 2013), 5.

[27] Jean-François Lyotard, The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1979/1984), xxv.

[28] Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Žižek, "Introduction: The idea of communism," in Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Žižek (Eds), The idea of communism (London and New York: Verso, 2010), viii.

[29] Jodi Dean, The communist horizon, 58.

[30] Ibid.