Crisis and the “Critical Communism” of Antonio Labriola

The Great Depression of 1873-1895 was a testing moment for both capitalism and Marxism: the survival of the former soon engendered, with the explosion of the Bernstein-Debatte, the crisis of the latter. Within this context we will read Antonio Labriola’s writings on historical materialism. What is at stake in these readings is the possibility to imagine a “critical communism” (as Labriola called it) capable of adapting its strategies to the protean transformations of capital. “Critical,” here, will be understood as the antithesis to any reification of Marxism — the “terracotta bust of Marx that Turati sells for 10 liras, and the police stupidly confiscates” discussed by Labriola in an epistolary exchange with Engels.