Precarious Communism by Richard Gilman-Opalsky ****

Reading dates: 05 – 17 May 2014

We read Precarious Communinism for our Dialectical Materialism bookgroup. The discussion was lively but, at times felt as if we read four different books. Perhaps this is always the case with reading groups. I really liked Gilman-Opalsky’s work. If anything, it is inspiring, informative, wide ranging (perhaps a little too much) and full of really interesting references. I never heard of Kristeva’s Revolt, She Said and now I have a copy.

The book is predicated on a Situationist détournement of Marx’s Communist Manifesto. This is the only aspect of the book that does not work for me. I did not see a détournement, nor know how détourning a classic text can be defferent from re-reading, or reading á la letter — like Lacan did with Freud, subverting him. Gilman-Opalsky explains this methodology in the introduction and then it somehow evaporates.

Yet, the work is a solid critique of capitalism (especially of what work does to us), a call to personal responsibility through an ethics of the precarious communist, who is many unorganised things but who seeks dignity, autonomy and human association. They key, he writes at the close of this short book, is in the unwinding after work, in the uncoiling of a potentially threatening force of unrest in search of a different, more human, logos.

A precarious communist also knows in her most meaningful lived experiences — perhaps in love, in tragedy, in playing with a young child, in the creative moments of art or recreation, in the euphoria of musical bliss, in the awe of visual vistas, and of human intimacy — that the logic of capital is absent there, for such experiences have a different logos altogether. (p. 74)