In communist political theory, communization ("communisation" in British English) is the process of abolishing ownership of the means of production, which, in societies dominated by the capitalist mode of production, are owned by individual capitalists, states, or other collective bodies. In some versions of communist theory, communization is understood as the transfer of ownership from private capitalist hands to the collective hands of producers, whether in the form of co-operative enterprises or communes, or through the mediation of a state or federation of workers' councils on a local, national, or global scale. In other programs, such as those of some left communists (e.g. Gilles Dauvé), autonomists (e.g. Mario Tronti), and libertarian communists (e.g.Peter Kropotkin), communization means the abolition of property itself along with any state-like institutions claiming to represent a given subset of humanity. In these accounts humanity as a whole, directly or indirectly, would take over the task of the production of goods for use (and not for exchange). People would then have free access to those goods rather than exchanging labor for money, and distribution would take place according to the maxim "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

The term communization was not used by Marx and Engels, but it was employed in the above sense by early Marxists.[1] Communization in this sense is equivalent to the establishment of the "higher phase" of communist society described by Marx in Critique of the Gotha Program. In State and Revolution Lenin referred to the lower phase, organized around the principle "To each according to his contribution", as "socialism", with the higher phase as "complete communism", or "full communism" as Stalin will later put it. Thus both Lenin and Stalin gave grounds for thinking of communization not as a transition from capitalism to communism, but as a transition from socialism to communism, a transition that would take place after the working class had seized power, and which may last a long time (in the 1930s Stalin conceived of "full communism" as still a long way off[2]). Thus the interval between the two transitions came to be seen as a necessary "period of transition" between the workers' revolution and communism.

It appears that within so-called "communist" regimes the demand for "communization" was associated with an impatience with the "period of transition" and a desire to break with the remaining capitalist forms (e.g. money, wage labor) still in place in those regimes.[3] Those pushing for a move toward "communizing" in this sense were typically denounced as "ultra-left", with their suggestions dismissed as impractical and utopian, but they were able to point to the historical examples of the Paris Commune and the Spanish Revolution, where more radical measures of popular collectivization had been taken than in the Russian and Chinese revolutions, as well as to the German Revolution of 1918–19 and the Italian councils movement of 1919-1920 in which the historic "left communist" tendencies had been formed.

The association of the term communization with a self-identified "ultra-left" was cemented in France in the 1970s, where it came to describe not a transition to a higher phase of communism but a vision of communist revolution itself. Thus the 1975 Pamphlet A World Without Money states: “insurrection and communisation are intimately linked. There would not be first a period of insurrection and then later, thanks to this insurrection, the transformation of social reality. The insurrectional process derives its force from communisation itself.”[4] This vision was opposed to the statism and vanguardism of the Leninist conception of revolution, but it also identified the perceived failure of the Russian and Chinese revolutions (carried out on the Leninist politico-military model) with the insufficiency of measures taken to abolish capitalist social relations (e.g. lack of direct collectivization, persistence of monetary relations). It also reversed the supposed "pragmatism" of the Leninist focus on the state, arguing that the final goal of the "withering away of the state" could hardly be advanced by the seizure of state power and the establishment of a "revolutionary" bureaucracy, but that the most practical means to achieve this goal would rather be the abolition of the capitalist relations (money, capital, wages) on which state power depends. Thus La Banquise writes: "one can foresee that a movement of communisation that destroys the State, undermines the social base of the enemy, and spreads under the effect of the irresistible appeal arousing the birth of new social relations between men, will bond together the revolutionary camp far better than any power which, while waiting to conquer the world before communising it, would behave no differently than... a State." [5]

Within this 1970s French tendency "communization" thus came to represent the absence of a period of transition and a conception of revolution as the application of communist measures throughout the economy and society.[6] The term is still used in this sense in France today and has spread into English usage as a result of the translation of texts by Gilles Dauvé and Théorie Comuniste, two key figures in this tendency. But in the late 1990s a close but not identical sense of "communization" was developed by the French post-situationist group Tiqqun. In keeping with their ultra-left predecessors, Tiqqun's predilection for the term seems to be its emphasis on communism as an immediate process rather than a far-off goal, but for Tiqqun it is no longer synonymous with "the revolution" considered as an historical event, but rather becomes identifiable with all sorts of activities – from squatting and setting up communes to simply "sharing" – that would typically be understood as "pre-revolutionary".[7] From an ultra-left perspective such a politics of "dropping-out" or, as Tiqqun put it, "desertion" — setting up spaces and practices that are held to partially autonomous from capitalism — is typically dismissed as either naive or reactionary.[8] Due to the popularity of the Tiqqun-related works Call and The Coming Insurrection in US anarchist circles it tended to be this latter sense of "communization" that was employed in US anarchist and "insurrectionist" communiques, notably within the Californian student movement of 2009-2010.[9]


  1. ^ e.g. William Morris "The Policy of Abstention" (1887) and E. Belfort Bax "Et Impera" (1888)
  2. ^ See e.g. Stalin’s “Economic Problems of Socialism of the U.S.S.R.” (1939)
  3. ^ e.g. some Chinese Ultra-Left tendencies during the so-called "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution."
  4. ^ "A World Without Money" by Les amis de 4 millions de jeunes travailleurs. (quoted passage not included in this English extract)
  5. ^ "The Story of Our Origins"La Banquise No. 2 (1983)
  6. ^ For an historical account see: Endnotes "Bring Out Your Dead", Endnotes no. 1 (2008). Although they do not use the term a very similar conception can be found in the early works of Antonio Negri, e.g. the chapter ‘Communism and Transition’ in his Marx Beyond Marx (1978), as well as in the 1980s works of the insurrectionist anarchist Alfredo M. Bonanno.
  7. ^ "As we apprehend it, the process of instituting communism can only take the form of a collection of acts of communisation, of making common such-and-such space, such-and-such machine, such-and-such knowledge. That is to say, the elaboration of the mode of sharing that attaches to them. Insurrection itself is just an accelerator, a decisive moment in this process." Anonymous, Call
  8. ^ For a critique of Tiqqun from an ultra-left perspective, as well as a description of the opposition between the two sense of "communization" see "Reflexions Around Call" Letters Journal #3. See also Dauvé and Nesic, "Un Appel et une Invite".
  9. ^ See e.g. "After the Fall: Communiqués from Occupied California"

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