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Transition: End of the Debate

Joshua Clover

Pages 539 - 550


While the terms ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ have often been used interchangeably, Marx offers multiple formulations that clarify their relation. His schematic account sets them as distinct but linked moments on a historical trajectory, with the lower stage of socialism retaining primary bourgeois suppositions but opening onto the higher stage of communism. This model of transition oriented revolutionary thought in the Marxist tradition for at least a century, from 1875 onward. In the present, however, the link between the two stages appears broken, not by ideological differences but for material reasons. These material reasons have to do with changes in class composition at a global level that are driven by capital’s declining capacity to absorb labor into the productive process, which undermines the anticapitalist capacities of a working class once thought able to seize the means of production. Consequently the debate no longer concerns the nature of the transition but how to proceed in its absence. This abandonment of transition as a revolutionary axiom is presented both by socialists and communists. The social forms of socialism and communism no longer appear as continuous but as opposed.

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