“Lenin, Communists, and Immigration” is a crucial text in Balibar’s trajectory, as it demonstrates that the focal points of his research in the 1980s and 1990s, and continuing into the present – on nationalism, xenophobia, class identity, imperialism, the persistent racialization of immigrant populations, and the ways these phenomena sustain working-class divisions – did not come from a break in his thinking, but rather emerged from his long-term engagement with an open “knot” of questions within the Marxist problematic.
Lenin’s analysis forces us to consider immigration – the living and working conditions of immigrant workers – starting from the theory of imperialism, outside of which the contemporary forms of immigration remain unintelligible. The concrete knowledge of the causes and effects of immigration is, reciprocally, a guiding thread towards an understanding of imperialism.
If the figure of the worker can no longer be deduced from the forms of collective consciousness of a group (workers’ consciousness) otherwise objectively constituted – the working class – then it is necessary to build a new dispositif of investigation and analysis of the intellectual field of workers.
It was necessary to put in place a practice, capable of determining displacement and at least of alluding to an “offensive” move, beyond the necessarily defensive character of the resistance – why not buy a ship, put it at sea?