Communism of the Intellect, Communism of the Will

  • Peter Hallward
Keywords: communism, the will, Marx, Badiou


Posing the question of communism in terms of its 'idea' has at least two initial virtues. In the first place, it helps to distinguish communism from its reduction purely and simply to anti-capitalism. In the second place, emphasis on the idea of communism invites a certain amount of free or 'reckless' speculation, a reflection on communism as a project or possibility independent of the legacy of formerly existing communism. It rightly encourages us to dismiss as secondary the questions forever posed by the sceptical and the disillusioned, or those who want to inspect the full solution to a problem before they are willing to begin tackling the problem itself. We would do better, I think, to follow the example given by people like Robespierre, Toussaint L'Ouverture or John Brown: confronted with an indefensible institution like slavery, when the opportunity arose they resolved to work immediately and by all available means for its elimination. In each case the basic logic is as simple as could be: an idea, like the idea of communism, or equality, or justice, commands that we should strive to realise it without compromises or delay, before the means of such realisation have been recognised as feasible or legitimate, or even 'possible'. It is the deliberate striving towards realisation itself that will convert the impossible into the possible, and explode the parameters of the feasible. Understood as this sense, we might say that communism seeks to enable the conversion of work into will. Communism aims to complete the transition, via the struggle of collective self-emancipation, from a suffered necessity to autonomous self-determination. It is the deliberate effort, on a world-historical scale, to universalise the material conditions under which free voluntary action might prevail over involuntary labour or passivity. Or rather: communism is the project through which voluntary action seeks to universalise the conditions for voluntary action.


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How to Cite
Hallward P. Communism of the Intellect, Communism of the Will. FV [Internet]. 2016Mar.8 [cited 2021Dec.2];30(3). Available from: