Tuesday, February 14, 2006


The urge to say something (perhaps on the back of doing very little) persists. So, I'll attempt, again, to begin, again, to articulate what it means to me to be a communist. I'll try to do this without recourse to jargon or, perhaps, I'll use jargon smuggled in from post-structuralism or post-modernism or literary theory or theology or sociology and see whether that will help me better articulate my confusions than can the fossilised language of the (ultra-) left.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Why am I not in the SWP?

I am aware that my very brief thoughts on Friday about voting do not even begin to count as a critique of Democracy. I will endeavour to share coherent thoughts on the subject soon. As is so often the way, however, my interest has been piqued by another, although not entirely unconnected, subject ...

FDTW ask: "Why Aren't We In The SWP?" (the "we" here being the "ultra left") and reprints the introduction for a talk being given next week (FDTW don't give details as to where) which they say will "serve as a taster for what we will be talking about on this blog in the coming few weeks."

They say: "I'm hoping to ask the same questions with respect to lefty politics. Is it all as rubbish and useless and (the ultimate situationisty putdown) boring as the ultra-left says? Are elections and propagandising and marches and demos to be rejected on principle? Or is it rather the ultra-left position that is posturing bullshit, of no use in any real situation?"

I hope FDTW print the rest of their talk. They seem to be asking (some of) the right questions, but I fear that compromise/involvement/leftism ("elections and propagandising and marches and demos") versus purity/passivity/ultra-leftism could well parody the latter and banalise the former.

The ultraleft (not a term I care for) critique of leftism (also unhelpful, if unlikely to be bettered without recourse to ugly neologisms) arose as a critique of the kind of activities the Left has always engaged in, not as a form of political withdrawal. But FDTW probably have in mind those groups which we might characterise as being the official ultraleft (ICC and CWO) who do seem to have made a virtue of carping.

Whilst I would suggest the political thinking of the official ultraleft is moribund, I do not believe that leftism (and I'm increasingly aware that "leftism" requires a definition from me soon) is the answer.

Communists shouldn't be retreating back to the left, but what does it mean to be a communist nowadays anyway?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

From Despair To Where

The excellent philosophical/political blog Charlotte Street brings my attention to Stuart and Dave's communist blog From Despair To Where. FDTW's interesting Welcome references Debord and Brecht, the SPGB and No War But The Class War, Marx and Bill Hicks, and for those names alone seems worth keeping an eye.

From Despair To Where is kind enough to list Timid Maximalist in its blogroll - I hope they manage to post a little more often, and more consistantly, than I have managed.

The authors say: "The trouble is, we think we might have taken Marx's advice to "doubt everything" a bit literally, and gone a bit potty. So the blog is also an attempt to figure out a road from political despair to … where? We're not at all sure." I'm looking forward to reading more because I too am trying to figure out something of the same.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Passivity or Involvement

An election looms (in the UK). The election, the vote, democracy: political involvement. We are urged to vote, to give voice to our political preferences. We are urged to remember the brave struggle waged to secure the vote. We are urged to view politics as a vital process for us to enage in and with.

Much of the "Left" will still, despite its war-mongering, advise a vote for Labour. A commentator such as the (sci-fi) writer Ken Macleod will, because of unease on the "Left" about the record of Blair's government, talk openly of his fear that "This country is sleepwalking towards a Tory government": now is not the time to undermine Labour, he is saying.

Is this a coherent view? Should the Labour government be supported by "progressive" people?

Anarchists and the ultra-left have always opposed voting and, perhaps, I should rehearse some of the reasons why here (I will do in a later post). But there is a wider critique of democracy itself that, I think, is worth explaining. This critique needs to be articulated on at least two levels: a critique of Democracy (democracy as the essential political face of capitalism - I've capitalised the word Democracy, here, to make this distinction clearer); and a critique of democracy as the embodiment of the politics of the individual, as (inherently) an anti-communistic practice.

Before this, however, it is perhaps worth asking more simple questions. Putting to one side our critique (of Democracy or of wider democratic practices), can we really be comfortable voting for any party that supports the war on Iraq? No? Then all the main parties are out. The Greens, Respect? This is what is left of the Left and it is risible. (Why the Left has disintegrated is something else I will return to.) The SPGB (the only party with a truly anti-capitalist programme)? Well, here we need to articulate more clearly an anti-electoral stance.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Back soon ...

Two blogs (Charlotte Street and Inveresk Street Ingrate), and a number of correspondents, have asked why Timid Maximalist has, after barely beginning, fallen into silence. Overwork and an indulgent sense of futility are no doubt partially to blame. Laziness too. Expect more soon ...

Friday, November 05, 2004


So, another (anti-)political blog. Welcome. I've sketched some outlines of my outlook over the last week, declaring myself against the Left, against the farce of the Presidential election and against the (leftist) political economy of the film The Corporation. The links at the side of the blog continue to give shape to that sketch by indicating the kind of thinking with which I feel most comfortable allying myself. One of the sites I link to is called for communism and John Gray's site defines communism as "a society without money, without a state, without property and without social classes ... the by-word for this society is 'from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs'". Whilst I see communism far more as process than as destination, that "theory and struggle are a critique of economy and politics" is certainly something I wholly agree with.

Definitions raise as many questions as they answer. As a provisional gesture they defer certain sets of questions but encourage others. Some of those questions may be time-honoured (what is the difference between communism and anarchism? what is council communism? are you a Stalinist!? what do you think about a/b/c event? why do(n't) you advocate this/that?), but those questions (questions that one might call 'programmatic') interest me less - because their answers tend to the hubristic or emptily declarative - than more personal (more timid) questions about my own relationship to revolutionary/communist/critical thinking and whether, regardless of my own fidelity to it, that thinking - or the body of writing that I might claim as a tradition - is, in truth, moribund. What (I want to ask) is the use (and the use for me, here, now and in England) of '(world) revolutionary' politics in non-revolutionary (or post-revolutionary) times? What does it mean to have or hold views that seem to have little practical application?

I want to articulate/discover a path away from maximalist sneering ('we' have the answer, 'you' are wrong; world revolution - good, everthing else - bad), as against absurd avowals for chaos, uprisings, upheavals as it is against the quietism of pacifism or the disingenuousness of democracy, and for/towards a more humble, less masculinist, more open, way of thinking/writing against capitalism and for communism.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Corporation

The Corporation is the latest left-wing, activist documentary, after anti-Bush Fahrenheit 9/11 and anti-McDonalds Super Size Me, that can be seen at many cinemas. And it has much to recommend it. However, it has an obvious and glaring blind spot: it takes a form of capitalist business (admittedly a dominant form) and sees in it all the problems that arise from a structure of society (capitalism) that it refuses (fears?) to name.

The film's dominant narrative conceit is that corporations are legal persons that are psychotic: "It is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism." Whilst this is an intriguing if legalist and ultimately meaningless accusation within a compelling (if overlong and rather scattergun) documentary, it underscores the ultimately reactionary nature of the political economy of the film.

It is not any particular form of capitalist institution that should draw our ire, however interesting a brief history of it might be, but rather our attention should be directed to the form of society within which such institutions can thrive. If we do not have a critique of capitalism then all we have is an indignant, uncomprehending howl that understands a particularity without any understanding of the wider context in which it makes its appearance.