13/2/14

Rethinking Spontaneity: Re-reading Luxemburg through Gramsci & Benjamin

Walter Benjamin
✆ Cornelie Statius
Alex Levant  |  The relationship between spontaneity and conscious control has been central to the question of political organization since the beginning of the international workers’ movement. Many of the old debates between Anarchists and Marxists, and within Marxism itself, had to do with the issue of how to best formulate this relationship. Those debates have a renewed significance in light of the recent shift away from traditional party and state-focused approaches toward more decentralized methods of resistance to capitalism.1

Prompted by the bankruptcy of social democracy and a general suspicion of centralized control, this shift has been accompanied by a celebration of people’s spontaneity. In response, some commentators have re-asserted the continued centrality of the state, as well as the limits of spontaneous resistance.2 But what does spontaneity mean? When we celebrate spontaneity and espouse suspicion toward centralized co-ordination, what are we celebrating? Conversely, when we point out the insufficiency of