“…imperialism negates itself after laying the foundation for communism, and communism will eventually negate itself because of its internal contradictions, and then we will move to an even higher state.
So of course there will be contradictions in the future. But some contradictions are antagonistic and some contradictions are not antagonistic.”-Huey P. Newton
“First, I rejected their materialistic interpretation of history. Communism, avowedly secularistic and materialistic, has no place for God. Humans are not and have never been one-dimensional, class-based, economic creatures…
…What I’m saying to you this morning is communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis.”-Martin Luther King Jr.
What I’m trying to introduce is a system of ideas that is simultaneously old and new, worded in such a way that it may drive a system of actions that are old, but continually renewing.
I chose the name “Communionism” to evoke a sense of community, interconnectedness, and interaction between people and between other forces and entities made manifest in the material world.
I chose the name as an assertion of their ongoing relevance in revolutionary movements and world- building.
I chose the name to communicate a sense of sharing, mutual aid, giving of ourselves, reverent consumption and creation, remembrance of those who have passed on and will pass on including ourselves.
I chose the name as a call to recontextualize everything that came before, and a call to process it in such a way to sustain new life.
I chose the name to establish a thematic link with Communism and the hope many of us had in its promises of liberation and decolonization and equality, but also as a refusal to be enclosed within its theoretical parameters.
I chose the name to establish a thematic link with Christendom and the hope many of us had in a New Heaven and a New Earth, in divine love for the oppressed, and divine wrath for the oppressor, but also as a refusal to be enclosed within its theological parameters.
More than anything else, I chose the name and decided to write this piece because I needed to be both free from all oppressions and connected to unconditional love and support wherever I can find it, including from within myself. My hope is that the name attracts people who need the same.
Words don’t just communicate ideas and ideology, the act of writing and reading is an act of entrance into the conceptual world the words are trying to build, the story they’re trying to tell. Interaction with your surroundings within that conceptual world is to make that world manifest. But a world held together through deception, mistaken notions, violence, and expansion is a cancerous growth on our shared environment. Don’t mistake the longevity of something for its viability or health. A fever that rises and falls has served its purpose, but a longstanding fever is indicative of deeper, undiagnosed trouble in the rest of the body. We should learn to recognize times when the survival of something is a sign that something is terribly wrong. Ideas and ideologies aren’t just systems of concepts to be debated, they’re systems of rationalization for certain feelings and actions.
The truth of what I write isn’t merely in how I organize propositions, but in what I inspire and reinforce in those enthused by its contents. My worst fear is for any of my lofty, plausible-sounding words to become a delivery system for yet another cancerous growth. My more reasonable fear is that what I write will fail in making our worlds into safer, more hospitable places. To prevent these fears from coming to fruition, my request to the reader would be to look for every opportunity to dispel this framework altogether or come with your own corrections and edits, ready and willing to respond to other people’s rejection or their own edits, additions, and subtractions. Please reboot and remake and relaunch this story of mine. Release special editions. Make fan edits. Write fanfiction. Write crossovers. Adapt to other genres and mediums. Roleplay. Or simply go on about why another story altogether is superior.
Building on my own past work in “Historical Animism,” “Dialectical Animism,” as well as building on and drawing inspiration from “Black Radical Ecology,” “Sick Woman Theory,” “Anarchic Black Radicalism (Anarkata)”, “Consciencism,” “Intercommunalism,” “King Philosophy,” “Rainbow Coalitionism,” The Galaxy Far, Far Away, The DC Comics Multiverse, and “Fourth Worldism,” in addition to Alex Knight’s and Rowland Robinson’s decolonial critiques of Marxism, I’ve found it necessary to further articulate, coalesce, crystalize, and rationalize a tendency I hope to see more of, and in doing resolve unspoken, suppressed contradictions housed in other movements.
What I’m going to describe isn’t new. It’s not an ideal to work up to in the future, nor is it merely something from the past that I’m “reviving.” This is important to establish now because a fundamental feature of what I’m calling “Communionism” is in how we interact with the past, with history, the departed.
We are not the present at war with the past.
We are not the future at war with the past or present.
Nor are we the past at war with the present or future.
We are a present at war with another present.
Understanding this is important in how we interact with “the past,” particularly in how we interact with the dead. “The past” is can be one of at least two things: that which is currently and sometimes rightfully left to itself to languish because of its corrosive nature, or that which is disembodied that we choose to carry with us in one way or another, keeping it alive.
One of the primary contentions of “Sick Woman Theory” by Johanna Hedva:
“ … maintains that the body and mind are sensitive and reactive to regimes of oppression — particularly our current regime of neoliberal, white-supremacist, imperial-capitalist, cis-hetero-patriarchy. It is that all of our bodies and minds carry the historical trauma of this, that it is the world itself that is making and keeping us sick.”
With my own “Dialectical Animism” I can incorporate these observations about the world, the body, and historical trauma into an analysis that takes into account a spiritual dimension:
“… Our Gods and Ancestors are colonized entities as well. Entities under occupation as well. Whether it be our own Souls, the Souls of our ancestors, our Gods, our sacred spaces, times, order, or supernatural resources. We’re all denied a voice in our destiny, but our gods and ancestors are denied a voice in the destiny of what they produced as well. They too are cut off from their human families in the process of colonization. Modernity is a world order premised on this cut-off between the Colonized Divine and Material produce.”
To understand Modernity, we have to understand anti-Blackness, I understand anti-Blackness as “the ongoing Black African social death that forms the bedrock of Modernity.” To undermine that social death is to undermine the coherence of Modernity itself, not just in terms of replacing certain intellectual propositions, but in replacing value systems, societal structures, economies, aesthetics, and our very emotional makeup. Anarchic Black Radicalism elaborates:
“Blackness is apocalyptic: our very skin a sign of the apocalypse that is coming for Western modernity. Whiteness fears and dreads this apocalypse perhaps even more than the prospects of an ecological Armageddon, more than the environmental disaster it finds itself still the privileged subject of. For Blackness heralds the end of the white as a privileged subject entirely. Blackness is the fertile ground on which the world stands, and when we rise, so too will the world built upon us crumble.”
Johanna Hedva ended “Sick Woman Theory” with:
“The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care for yourself. To take on the historically feminized and therefore invisible practice of nursing, nurturing, caring. To take seriously each other’s vulnerability and fragility and precarity, and to support it, honor it, empower it. To protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care.
Because, once we are all ill and confined to the bed, sharing our stories of therapies and comforts, forming support groups, bearing witness to each other’s tales of trauma, prioritizing the care and love of our sick, pained, expensive, sensitive, fantastic bodies, and there is no one left to go to work, perhaps then, finally, capitalism will screech to its much-needed, long-overdue, and motherf**king glorious halt.”
The ambition of Communionism is to extend this politics of care to the disembodied. I say “disembodied” to emphasize their place in a continuum of ability, disability, and disembodied. I also say “disembodied” to represent their place in a community and a refusal to allow the process of bodily death to result in their social death (Social Death = Natal Alienation + Systemic Violence + General Humiliation). Saying “disembodied” is a refusal to engage in the natal alienation of our own and refusal to submit to natal alienation from our disembodied kin. Colonized peoples know this as “Ancestor Veneration” or “Ancestor Communion.” In this, we are all brought into and fighting in the present.
Part of this process includes listening to and sharing the stories and ideas of the disembodied, but also in holding them accountable for the harm their actions, words and ideas caused. Hold them accountable for the worlds created and destroyed when their ideas were made manifest, and hopefully allow the good they inspired to beat out the harms inspired. If I helped you become a doctor, hopefully, that’ll also inspire you to heal the wound of the person I stabbed. Another part of this process is in paying attention to the ideas and stories we’re prioritizing and using to contextualize other stories, paying attention to center the most vulnerable. There are different degrees of vulnerability even among the dead.
To those who are unconvinced that anything of our relatives and family remains safe in our DNA and their legacies, I can attest to the therapeutic value of such practices and the importance of the kind of character built and maintained through their maintenance when done through this lens. Making manifest through every possible intersection the politics of care toward ourselves and those relatively less able than us.
The ambition of Communionism is that together we can build dynamic Fourth World solidarity and community among and between the socially dead and the disembodied. And together, Eat The Living so that one day, the living who consign us to languish won’t be more than legend.
Building and systematizing new, better theoretical frameworks requires us to seek after and listen to the most marginal of the disembodied we can imagine, allow that to expand our imaginations, and seek after and listen to even more. Going back and fetching it over and over again. Imagine, if you will if the Maoist “mass line” included our ancestors. Such is the wisdom of “Sankofa”:
“Sankofa is not romantic revival but is about us thinking through and with our people/ancestors about what exactly we are nurturing and developing and striving to bring to/apply within our present conditions as we journey toward freedom.”
Of course, doing this requires us to abandon a purely materialistic framework. In its place, I turn to lessons gleaned from Black Radical Ecology, which builds from many sources including the work of Alice Walker and her understanding that “while the Earth is enslaved, none of us is free.”
The Earth, as a whole, is enslaved. But more than enslaved, is socially dead in modernity, and that modernity is making her sick. The Earth is a sick, enslaved, working mother and should be organized with as such.
The Earth isn’t a singular entity, she’s a super-organism in both the material and divine realms made up of many parts. You could say she’s a single goddess in innumerable persons. This is important to recognize so we don’t collapse the Multiverse into a single “Earth” in the name of simplicity or “unity.” “Earth” is many. Many different persons that have birthed many different Indigenous peoples. Through Historical Animism, we kind find her many stories and names and children. For a people to be Indigenous is to be created through communion with the Earth to maintain it is to maintain that communion.
The ambition of Communionism is for the Earth herself to be liberated from landlords, private ownership, state control, from slaver gods and slaver theologies. Not make her enslavement more sustainable, as an eco-fascist, but to end it altogether through an ongoing process of going back and caring for and fighting for our Mother, a kind of filial piety, if you will.
It’s not just about Humanity nor is it about centering Humanity. It’s not simply a matter of having the “right” theological views or ecological opinions, but listening to the ecology, letting that shape our theory and praxis. And to let her artificial sickness mobilize us to action. Imagine, if you will if the Maoist “mass line” included listening to the Earth. Imagine if the politics of care extended to the Earth and her material needs, taking care of her body as well. Further on in the previously linked Sankofa article:
“Now, an emphasis on the material plane is not because of a belief that therein is the only or most important factor of life. Even Marx and Engels, limited as they were in many ways, did not assert this, and instead emphasized that materialist analysis was important for understanding what the “primary” determining factor for the development of societal history is. This is to say, in other words, that the material is the key arena upon which societal/historical domination and struggle is played out. Dig deep and one will find that the etymology of the word “material” is the Latin materia from which we get “matter.” Materia, furthermore, is from the Latin mater, which means “source, origin, mother.” I call our attention to these etymological roots of ‘materialism’ because it helps us bring our revolutionary analytical concerns about what terrain of our lives is the primary factor in societal/historical transformation back to the Mater, the source, the origin, the mother — the earth. This is important for the Sankofic model. To have a materialism which emphasizes the planet as a ‘source’ comes from a position that is well established in Africanist tradition.”
This can be called a kind of “Materialism,” but I’d much prefer the term “Matrialism.” To distinguish from frameworks that don’t recognize the Souls housed in the Earth. To distinguish from frameworks that understand colonization as purely material, and not essentially “Matrial.” Coloniality is a social order that continually robs of this understanding both theoretical and practical even while we ostensibly fight against “colonialism” or for “Indigenous” rights, but only within the confines of colonial world-building. Part of this world-building is the tendency to detached, unilateral control over “things.”
The ambition of Communionism is to liberate the non-human, the objects, the theoretical afterthoughts, to liberate the means of production and the products from this kind of disconnected dictatorship, as they are all aspects of ourselves as well. We are workers, products, and means of production. More than control, we need compassion, identification, and enfranchisement. As they are also products, children of the Earth. Not just means, but ends into themselves.
Historical Matrialism would be to storify the Earth. To listen to the Earth and let what we hear inform how we contextualize the rest.
Dialectical Matrialism would be to non-violently create from the dynamic tension between us and the Earth. To resolve non-antagonistic contradictions between us. And in doing, bring our sagas to a full circle, rather than to an end of a line.
Modernity would have us think the fundamental contention is between the present and the past, or the future and the past. But I’ve found the present and the future can be just as oppressive, if not more so, than the past could ever dream to be. And it’s those aspects of the past that need to be given life and relevance in the present, our present, the liberatory present, the revolutionary present, not as a means, but as an end unto itself. How we fight, how we survive, how we live here and now is who we are. The means is the end, and we’re creating the “future” in all of our blindspots and means to bring about some justified “end.”
The future is nothing more than the world in which we’ll be disembodied. All throughout our embodied lives, we needed care; in this, the past and the present is also the future. In the communities we build, our disembodied futures are also our present.
Ask yourself, in the world in which we’ll all eventually be disembodied:
Who are we taking care of? And how?
Who are we leaving to languish? And how?
Who is being held accountable for the decisions to leave some behind? And how?
Whatever your answer, that will be the ambition of your Communionism.
We will live, fight, love, die, be remembered, with the hope that what we do might someday prove to be the cure for our mother’s cancer. If not, then I can’t say it wasn’t an honor fighting alongside you and with all my friends and family both embodied and disembodied. Onward to a higher synthesis, one way or another:
“Anarkata asks us to dream of Black possibilities that have not yet been imagined. From the end of the world comes new ways of being, new ways of living, new visions of freedom…”
I ask you to imagine how we might survive together, but also live and thrive together, without relation to anti-Blackness or White Supremacy.
The ambition of Communionism is to find a way to exist without the roof (White Supremacy) or the bedrock (anti-Blackness) of The Master’s house, not merely to change the private or public owner(s) unless the house itself is included as a part of the community. The master’s conceptual tools wouldn’t allow this. The master’s tools wouldn’t allow us to overthrow the master and then refuse to be a master to the house. An unmastered house is no longer The Master’s House.
To the rest, I ask you to dream with me of possibilities within and between all colors, of The Rainbow before, during, or after “The Flood”, and all it can represent this time around.
I chose the name “Communionism” to remember our bodies, our blood, our lives, our deaths, our resurrections, the worlds that have died, the worlds that need to die, the worlds that live, the worlds that need to live again, the worlds yet to be, and the dream of harmonious, creative, dynamic tension between all our worlds.
I chose the name and I chose to write this piece to help us begin to understand what we must do in remembrance of all of them.