It’s a weird time to be a communist. Just a few years removed from the bicentennial of Marx’s birth, and nearly three decades since the end of the Soviet Union, we (I’ll show my cards, here) aren’t supposed to exist anymore. At least, not outside the frothing nightmares of right-wing commentators who warn of the creeping threat of socialism in the highest reaches of government, media and the academy. Of course, anyone who has spent even a small amount of time in these spaces can tell you they aren’t exactly crawling with people reading The Communist Manifesto rather than social media. However, to throw the reactionaries an undeserved bone, there are now, in the United States, more people politically identifying with “the left” than there have been in quite some time. To take that bone back, this diverse group of people is not embodied in – as someone once told me in absolute earnestness – the figure of Hillary Clinton.

The truth is that all that was supposed to be over and done with. That’s what Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” was all about. In the wake of Soviet collapse, liberal democracy had won. There were no more battles left to fight, no giants to slay. America was top dog in a world that it had to simply go about keeping in order. Communism was a failed experiment, and no serious person would ever take up its mantle again. But history didn’t stop in 1991; it kept going. People kept being born into this New World and we called them millennials. Now, one of those millennials has come along to write, as his book’s subtitle puts it, “history since the end of history.”

The title of the book is Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit and it is by Malcolm Harris. This title comes not from our present state of things, but from a sign seen during the Occupy Wall Street protests of the last decade. Shit was, indeed, fucked up and bullshit, then. Over the course of this collection of essays – the earliest coming from 2010 and the most recent from last year – Harris charts the many ways in which things have only gotten worse since. The essays are organized not chronologically, but by subject. Headers like “Gender and Sex,” “Wages,” “Millennials” and yes, “Marx” cluster pieces with similar concerns together and showcase how Harris’s writing and thinking has developed over the last 10 years.

Harris’s previous book, Kids These Days, was hailed as the first great book about millennials that was actually written by a millennial. That text took a broad and lucid survey of the material forces – student debt, stagnant wages etc. – contended with by that generation whose oldest members are now almost 40, and explained them in explicitly Marxian terms. It’s hard to blame critics for being so shocked by the relation between the book’s subject and author – millennials are, in the minds of the public, a perpetual 21 year old, privileged and complacent, how, then, could they write a highly developed sociological text? – that they failed to hail it as a much-needed Marxist corrective to the discourse of generational difference. In the “Millennials” section of Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit, Harris includes essays that were, for the most part, incorporated into that first book. Recontextualized, it becomes clear that the struggles facing millennials are only a part of a larger material struggle.

The way Harris tells that story throughout Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit – making connections across theory, culture and history – is to follow his instincts wherever they take him and stake a claim for Marxist analysis, taking to heart Marx’s call for a “ruthless criticism of everything existing.” Harris takes stock of his personal experiences in Occupy (faking a Radiohead concert, getting arrested and going to court because of Tweets), delves into the government agency that investigates wage theft (the most commonly committed and expensive property crime in the U.S.) and muses on how the CIA’s crimes against humanity might move from leftist meme to actionable public opinion (more, and better, political art) in a way that is both matter-of-fact and, yes, ruthless.

Marxism itself isn’t even exempt from this criticism. In “Lego Marx” (which can be read here), Harris turns his analytic framework in on itself, wading through the smoke-and-mirror debates over gender, race, and culture that often embroil the left in conflict with itself. You’ll either roll your eyes or nod your head sagely at his solution to these debates: more, and better, Marxism. Solidarity. Communism. It’s the kind of work that should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves on “the left” – whatever that means.

The “Art and TV” section is probably the weakest of the bunch, not because Harris isn’t an able critic – he is – but because an essay on TV anti-heroes from 2011 reads like it’s from, well, 2011. One of the perils of writing on the internet is that the internet keeps moving faster. It’s difficult to make anything that will last longer than the people want to click on it. Elsewhere, the pieces can be too short to develop the necessary depth. Publications have a bigger need for quick-hits than they do for 4000 plus word reportage on young doctors training to be abortionists. Another hazard of internet writing that Harris, in fact, exposes in a heavily researched and reported piece is on the wages of freelance writers (spoiler: they are paid very little). It’s one of the best essays in the collection.

In a recent Reddit AMA, Harris confessed to growing up in a liberal Democrat household. However, he was not radicalized by parental indoctrination, but the American Black Power tradition. This gives Harris a too-often unique view among contemporary white thinkers and writers on the left. As he outlines in essays on the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement and the history of the KKK, for Black people (and Indigenous people and women and etc.) the business of radicalism has always been one of imminent life or death. Even actions like sit-ins, which are seen as exemplary non-violent tactics today, were viewed as violent provocations at the time. And while the Civil Rights movement was by-and-large committed to non-violence, a huge variety of tactics fit under that umbrella. There was lively debate over whether when the Klan, or the FBI, came to call, radicals ought to be armed.

This is a difference of both historical and contemporary import between liberals and communists, those two groups so often lumped into one by your average reactionary dullard. For the latter, violence is all around us, it is the necessary fact that underlies the entire existing order. To enact violence in return, then, is not an extremist tactic, but a necessity of self-defense, a righteous act, even. For the former, violence of any kind is bad – except for that enacted by the police, the military, or the government when it wants to starve – I mean – impose economic sanctions on unruly nations. It isn’t by accident that the “end of history” was brought about by using these tactics primarily against “communists” at home and abroad.

All this is a little vague, though. That isn’t the fault of Harris, who elucidates the stakes admirably. It’s probably neither wise nor useful to publish detailed revolutionary tactics in a book with a blurb from The New Yorker on the back cover. But then, as Lenin put it: What is to be done? For Harris, the answer is, in part, his book. It’s not nothing to write from an unabashedly communist position at a time when that isn’t supposed to be a thing, but it’s also not enough. In his wide-ranging writing over the last decade, Harris shows that every area of life is ripe for leftist thinking, criticism, and organizing – all things he himself has been doing while writing these pieces. He also shows that this thinking is not brand new (an important lesson for the young) or past its expiration date (an important lesson for the old), but that it needs to be perpetually evolving, criticizing itself even as it criticizes the sorry world after the end of history.

Marx famously compared communism to a specter, haunting the capitalist world. As Marx observed in 1848, all the powers of that world have entered into an “unholy alliance to exorcise this specter.” In our time, they made the mistake of thinking themselves always and eternally victorious. But as Harris puts it at the end of his book: “the struggle continues.” This book is an invitation to that struggle. In the midst of the most acute global crisis to face humanity in decades, many of us are not ready to give up the ghost.

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