Certain currents within communist thought have emphasized a return to the party form as a model of organization for communist struggle. This essay takes the basic historical materialist position that this demand must be evaluated not according to normative claims about the party’s desirability as a political form but according to its possibility within the concrete situation of potentially revolutionary classes. We inquire into the political economy of revolutionary struggle rather than abstracted political theory—particularly the circumstance that afforded the party form in the twentieth century, the possibility for a specific fraction of labor to stand in place of the proletariat as a whole and to stage its organization from within the material structure of the current labor processes, implementing a program for the seizure of state power and productive means. Finding the conditions that previously made the party form possible to be absent in the postindustrial capitalist core, we assess the political-economic data pointing toward whether such conditions might be present in emerging economies and thus whether these regions might be more conducive to such organizational forms. The available data persuade us against this likelihood and suggest that the kinds of gains available historically to such party formations are no longer on the table—and thus that communist struggle will emerge from transformed conditions, not from any sense of an ideal organizational model based on material conditions that no longer exist.

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