“The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer, he comes as the subduer of the Antichrist. Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.”
—Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”
JMP’s The Communist Necessity is a fine example of what we can call agitational literature. Cast as both a polemic against fragmentary post-Cold War political practice and as what the author whimsically calls a “prolegomena to any future radical theory,” the book’s primary rallying cry is for a new return to a scientific revolutionary theory that can bring communism into being. In other words, it’s a work of creative destruction as well as an almost literal call to arms. After marking down some preliminary evaluations of the book, I want to use the book to pose questions about the value of historical interpretation as practiced professionally and its potential alliance with historical theory and the practice of historical materialism. Primarily, I want to ask professional history writing the same questions Althusser posed to philosophy in Lenin and Philosophy: in the wake and now the shadow of the new science of history, what is the role of historical narrative writing in the communist project? First, however, we need to establish the book’s precise relationship to history in order to orient the remarks concerning that grand, dusty discipline.