The Communism of Love
May 22, Saturday, 12-3 PM EST.
To better enable an intimate educational experience, this seminar has limited space.
In The Communism of Love (AK Press, 2020), Richard Gilman-Opalsky explores love as an activity, aspiration, and power—yet it is a power that is often regarded as apolitical or anti-political, private, or ineffable. For example, in The Human Condition (1958), Hannah Arendt called love “the most powerful of all anti-political human forces,” and later (in 1962) she wrote a letter to James Baldwin warning him against thinking or speaking about love in relation to politics. In this seminar, Gilman-Opalsky argues against such tendencies and, following Baldwin instead of Arendt, urge us to think through the political and social dimensions of love. We will confront and consider the reality of love as an active communist relation in our lives.
This will require clearly defining both love and communism. Following Erich Fromm, Gilman-Opalsky defines love as an action, as something we do, not something like a commodity that we give or get. Specifically, we will think of love as our active participation in the becoming of our beloved. Following Karl Marx, we consider communism as a form of life, not as a form of government. Marx’s communist horizon—”from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”—can be found in miniature in the way we relate to our children or friends. You may find similar little islands of communism in different love relations with others, with partners, family, comrades, etc.
In this seminar, we undertake deep thinking about love and communism, about love as a practice that expresses a communist aspiration. However, we will not stick to the love relations of family, friends, or lovers. We will also consider the implications of the communism of love for uprisings and upheavals, for the ecstatic gatherings of social or political movements in the US and around the world. Even if we only scratch the surface, this seminar aims to generate epiphanies for all of its participants. You should leave the seminar with different understandings than the ones you began with!
Facilitator: Richard Gilman-Opalsky is Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is the author of six books, including The Communism of Love, Specters of Revolt, Precarious Communism and Spectacular Capitalism. He has lectured widely throughout the world and his work has been translated and published in Greek, Spanish, French, and German editions. In 2018-2019, Dr. Gilman-Opalsky was named University Scholar, the highest award for scholarship granted at all three campuses of University of Illinois. Dr. Gilman-Opalsky’s work explores the powers of everyday people, particularly those typically regarded as powerless. He challenges the idea that politics is solely the business of the professional political class, and highlights how impoverished and marginalized people participate in changing the world in the most important ways. Here is his university webpage.
- Are you aware of your own communist aspirations?
- Why do people today need a refuge from—or an alternative to—a life governed by money?
- How do race and racism, gender and sexism, sexuality and heterosexism, disability and ableism, and classism change the work that love must do in one community or another?
- Is the aspiration to love a universal communist aspiration? Why or why not?
- What are some of the specific obstacles facing our practices of love today?
- What are some of the specific obstacles facing a resurgence of communism today?
- What are the practical implications of seeing and understanding the communism of love?
- Why does any of this matter? For whom, and for what causes specifically?
Sources for the seminar:*
(1) Richard Gilman-Opalsky, The Communism of Love (AK Press, 2020);
(2) Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006);
(3) bell hooks, All about Love (Harper Perennial, 2000);
(4) Alexandra Kollontai, “Make Way for Winged Eros” in Selected Writings of Alexandra Kollontai (W. W. Norton, 1980).
*Note on sources: Seminar participants should acquire the above texts, but should only read them as interest and time dictate. Read them for pleasure, allowing pleasure to guide you. The more you read, the more prepared you will be for the seminar, but intense preparation is not necessary for a good experience in this seminar.
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