A Communist Life

Alberto Toscano in Sidecar: ‘The free person thinks least of all of death, and his wisdom is a meditation not on death but on life.’ Toni Negri, who died in Paris at the age of 90 on 16 December, turned this dictum of Spinoza into an ethical and political lodestar. The conclusion of the third and final instalment of his intellectual autobiography, Storia di un comunista, features a moving reflection on aging as a rejoicing in life and a paring down of action. Negri offers the overcoming of death – a resolutely atheist and collective idea of eternity – as the substance of his thought, politics, and life. He writes: ‘And yet the possibility of overcoming the presence of death is not a dream of youth, but a practice of old age; always keeping in mind that organizing life to overcome the presence of death is a duty of humanity, a duty as important as that of eliminating the exploitation and disease that are death’s cause.’

Drawing perhaps on the distant memory of his own youthful Catholic activism, Negri extracts the materialist and humanist kernel of the resurrection of the flesh against all the miserable cults of finitude and being-towards-death. Negri’s lifelong war on the palaces was founded on the conviction that power, potestas, is nourished by a hatred of bodies and fixed in the threefold fetish of patriarchy-property-sovereignty. Its apparatchiks and administrators love that empty syllogism ‘every man is mortal’, which, Negri contends, is at the root ‘of the hatred of humanity, of that hatred that every authority, every power produces in order to affirm and consolidate itself: power’s hatred for its subjects. Power is founded on the introduction of death as an everyday possibility into life – without the threat of death, the idea and practice of power could not obtain. Power is the continual effort to make death present for life.’More here.