Socialist transformation is de-ruling undermining re-ruling: the mode of ruling conception as the abstract political compass of communising (Marx200 – Berlin, 3-6 May 2018)

The Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung deliberation.


1) Marx was not a Marxist: he tried to be a scientist. In organisational work and in producing knowledge he tried to practise scientific communist reason. Perversely, Marxists have significantly under-conceptualised the political dimension of human living. As Colletti noted, “[t]he development of political theory has been extraordinarily weak in Marxism […] the political movement inspired by Marxism has been virtually innocent of political theory. The absurdity and danger of this situation are manifest”. Little has improved during the last half-century, especially in the most abstract analysis.

2) Societal transition that is socialist (so ending commodification, thereby entering Marx’s lower phase of communism) is unique in aiming to create a classless society, one without systematic exploitation and other oppressions. The process focuses on ruling – and anti-ruling. Marxist under-conceptualisation can be rectified to an extent by building on the ruling class concept, and by developing a suggestion made by Marx in his Paris writings. Just as a scientific understanding of economic life requires the mode of production concept, that of political life needs the mode of ruling concept. This improves upon Mouzelis’ mode of domination concept, as demonstrated, in part, by Therborn’s account of subjugation and qualification. The latter forms the basis of a typology of sub-modes of ruling, identified by applying the Aristotelian conception of powers and susceptibilities found in critical realism. This frees analysis from both an unwarranted focus on power and also the constrictions of frameworks such as hegemony/domination, consent/force, consensus/legitimacy/force, false/true consciousness.

3) The principal political practical imperative is control – control of access to valued entities, and, partly because of this, control over the quality of relations. This helps explain the secondary significance of possession and ownership. Human political history is a management struggle, the management of control. This is no less true of nascent post-capitalist society. Control is achieved by exercising political forces (powers and susceptibilities) organised within the mode of ruling. The continual capitalising of people’s lives is opposed by their communising, the anti-force. Communising, in political terms, is developing anti-ruling at the expense of ruling, with the former harbouring a dynamic of re-ruling and de-ruling, and de-ruling itself hosting a dynamic of co-governing (associating with others) and self-governing (self-discipline). Freedom is lived less as freedom-from, emancipation, and more as freedom-to, liberation. De-ruling is the only political process and form with the capacity to realise, through communising, the universal class for-itself. As each of these necessary dynamics marks a phase in the prospective history of communising, they provide a meta-strategic framework, analytically prior to positioning and manoeuvring, more abstract than matters of class–party–state. This political compass is lacking in both the Bolsheviks’ 1919 programme and the Groep van Internationale Communisten’s 1930 analysis.

4) If systematic exploitation and other oppressions can be ended, the hitherto content of ruling, that is governing-over, then politics is reduced to co-governing and self-governing, namely to contested participation in deciding, implementing, monitoring, revising, and back to deciding. The mode of anti-ruling is used to sublate both itself and the mode of ruling to yield, residually, the mode of governing. The complete communising of the political dimension of human living is its sublation as the governing aspect of integral living. The universal class for-itself fully comes into being, and the integral is its form, and so the form of communist society. This is the living of integral civilisation (Goikhbarg; Gramsci). Exercising scientific communist reason shows that politics and political theory is a practical and epistemic narrow realisation of governing and governing theory, this an aspect of integral living and integral theory. In being anti-ruling, scientific communists are anti-political; it makes them integral, not political.


The arguments used start here:



In point 3, I said that the requisite focus on de-ruling “is lacking in both the Bolsheviks’ 1919 programme and the Groep van Internationale Communisten’s 1930 analysis”. I should have added to these the Fourth International’s Transitional Programme of 1938. (Incidently, it’s full title, rarely cited, is much more informative: The Death Agony of Capitalism & the Tasks of the Fourth International: the Mobilisation of the Masses around Transitional Demands to Prepare the Conquest of Power.)

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