Radical Cobblers

Cde Vallejo wonders when top twitter communist Laurie Penny will deign to acknowledge her existence

In her latest any-old-last-minute-shit-will-do Indy article, Liberal Democrat voter, ethical personal brand builder, nazi-hacker liker, and former Workers’ Girder non-columnist Laurie Penny (Brighton College, Oxford, Harvard) saw fit to bestow this wee nugget upon us:

“In a capitalist world, smoking is a little sub-economy of communism. You share cigarettes, matches, lighters, papers. When strangers come up to you in the street and ask you for a cigarette, you give them one, because you understand.”

That’s right – nailed it! Here are a few other things that are a little bit communism.

When you offer to make your cleaner a cup of darjeeling – that’s a bit communism.

When you let the au-pair eat in the same room as you – that’s a little bit communism too.

When you don’t know anyone working class – that’s a little bit communism. Beyond the barriers that separate us.

When Kate Winslet wins an oscar and thanks other people – that’s a little bit communism.

When Kate marries a cameraman – COMMUNISM!

When Kate divorces a cameraman – REVANCHISM!

Letting strangers share your taxi – that’s communism coming out your ears.

When Rachel Khoo shows you how to make a bun on telly – that’s a bit communism.

When you tip a waiter (doesn’t matter where) – that’s a bit communism.

But if you’re with “the rents” in Kenya, or someplace that might as well be the moon, unless you’re Kenyan, it’s one bit more communism. Not only one bit more communism, it’s a bit colonial-communism, the bestest communism ever.

Emptying your tray into the bin and slotting it into the little rack thing – McDonald’s is a bit communism. Official.

When Beyonce urges comrades to #StayStrong in the face of assaults by liberals, lifestylists and haters by proclaiming that the “best revenge is your paper” – that is loads communism.

Letting someone shine your shoes in the street as a sign of respect – awfully communism.

Bringing shoeshiners back will be part of the Proletarian Democracy manifesto. They are well good for the word on the street.


Meanwhile in 1937 Barcelona:

“Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivised; even the bootblacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black.”

See? Orwell sez Shoeshiners is a bit communism. And if Eric said it, it’s Fact.

At the risk of being denounced for making arbitrary declarations on behalf of the class, shoes in general are progressive. Itinerant shoe-menders travelled from town to town spreading the good old cause, so of course the new Proletarian Democracy slogan has to be:


But we digress.

You cannot have communism in capitalist society. You cannot have an economy in communism. Do fags just produce themselves? Is that how it works for Laura and her tarot card reader and off-grid entrepreneur Alexander McQueen begowned mates? Others existing to produce things for them to share out? Is that it? Is it bollocks.

Comrade Vallejo photo by Vientoviolento.


About proletariandemocracy

Proper Space Communism With Extreme Predge.
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10 Responses to Radical Cobblers

  1. womensfightback17 says:

    This is an excellent critique of Laurie Penny’s non-politics disguised as a very funny article. Love it.

  2. oak says:

    this is better than the time swampy went on have i got news for you.

  3. Next time you want to hang an entire article off a throwaway paragraph, you might want to make sure the point you’re making is a bit better. Once you strip away the oh-so-interesting-and-original point that Penny’s a bit posh, which is definitely a fascinating insight that no-one has ever come up with before, all you’re left with is the observation that you can’t have communism in capitalist society. That’s true, of course, but it’s also the case that you can’t have communism at all unless it’s to emerge out of existing society, so I think it’s legitimate enough to look for tendencies within this world that point towards a rupture with it. Communism will certainly have to involve the destruction or total transformation of all institutions that exist in this society, but if you think that’s all it is, then we’re left with an idealist abstraction, rather than the real movement. Are wildcat strikes an expression of the tendency towards communism? How about groups of workers getting together – often during a smoke break, as it happens – to grumble together about work conditions? If you’d say yes to the first one, but not the second, then where do you think strikes come from? And if communists are legitimately allowed to approve of expressions of conflict with the existing order of things, why not examples of the kind of solidarity and mutual aid that the new world will have to be based on? When Kropotkin banged on about lifeboats, was he just another posh idiot as well?
    Smoking isn’t full communism, but then that’s never existed; if we’re interested in talking about things that do exist, then libraries are expressions of the tendency towards communism, and families are simultaneously sites of horrific patriarchal repression and expressions of some features that would be absolutely vital to a communist society, and making cups of tea for the people you work with, partly to be nice and partly cos it’s a decent excuse for skiving off work for a few minutes, that definitely is double-plus communism with bells on. If you deny that, and reduce “communism” to some futuristic paradise that cannot be admitted to have any similarity to anything that exists for fear of tainting its purity, then it’s just another corpse in the mouth.

    • Thanks for the comments. But you sound like trouble tbh. Who sent you? Acción Proletaria?

    • Luther Pissett says:

      yeah but she also said

      “Precarity is opportunity. Fuck social mobility. Fuck security. Fuck money. Fuck rising above your class rather than with it.Fuck marriage, mortgage, monogamy, and every other small, ugly ambition we were bullied into pursuing.”

      while being an old girl of 10k/year private school brighton college. i guess if her crappy writing and willingness to be the Official Representative Of The Left in major media is an attempt to hobble the actual left then she’s doing a decent job of rising with her class.

  4. mikenreich says:

    Her comment about ‘communism’ inside of capitalism is definitely taken straight out of David Graeber’s ‘Debt’, where he talks about communism as a social relation independent of the prevailing economic relations

    • Luther Pissett says:

      nah, this is an old saw among certain sections of the autonomist left, with (i think) one of the first main expressions in negri & hardt’s empire where they saw a potential path for the development of communism as something that will be born “within” capitalism. that’s probably where graeber gets it from. i think his idea of communism is bollocks for what its worth, and it recalls those utopian dreamers from the big russian cities who’d go out to the peasant countryside and see all this stuff as evidence that there was some natural transhistorical tendency to communism among these people.

      in any case, this has absolutely nothing to do with giving a mate a fag.

  5. Tim says:

    If a stranger walks up and asks me for a cigarette, I’ll give him one if I have it – but only because (and if) I want to. That’s called kindness, or even perhaps a low (and not entirely healthy) form of charity. It’s not communism. Communism is some lefty know-it-all (ahem, Penny) telling me I may only have so many cigarettes, confiscating whatever extras I may accumulate, and giving them to the people they’ve decided deserve more. Big, big, big difference.

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