communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Against Happiness


The Happiness Industry by William Davies review – why capitalism has turned us into narcissists by Terry Eagleton

In our own time, the concept of happiness has moved from the private sphere to the public one. As William Davies reports in this fascinating study, a growing number of corporations employ chief happiness officers, while Google has a “jolly good fellow” to keep the company’s spirits up. Maybe the Bank of England should consider hiring a jester. Specialist happiness consultants advise those who have been forcibly displaced from their homes on how to move on emotionally. Two years ago, British Airways trialled a “happiness blanket”, which turns from red to blue as the passenger becomes more relaxed so that your level of contentment is visible to the flight attendants. A new drug, Wellbutrin, promises to alleviate major depressive symptoms occurring after the loss of a loved one. It is supposed to work so effectively that the American Psychiatric Association has ruled that to be unhappy for more than two weeks after the death of another human being can be considered a mental illness. Bereavement is a risk to one’s psychological well-being. . .

What Davies recognises is that capitalism has now in a sense incorporated its own critique. What the system used to regard with suspicion – feeling, friendship, creativity, moral responsibility – have all now been co-opted for the purpose of maximising profits. One commentator has even argued the case for giving products away free, so as to form a closer bond with the customer. Some employers have taken to representing pay increases they give to their staff as a gift, in the hope of extracting gratitude and thus greater effort from them. It seems that there is nothing that can’t be instrumentalised. Yet the whole point of happiness is that it is an end in itself, rather than a means to power, wealth and status. For a tradition of ethical thought from Aristotle and Aquinas to Hegel and Marx, human self-fulfilment springs from the practice of virtue, and this happens purely for its own sake. How to be happy is the chief issue that ethics addresses, but “Why be happy?” is not a question it can answer

Is mindfulness making us ill? by Dawn Foster

Mindfulness, the practice of sitting still and focusing on your breath and thoughts, has surged in popularity over the last few years, with a boom in apps, online courses, books and articles extolling its virtues. It can be done alone or with a guide (digital or human), and with so much hand-wringing about our frenetic, time-poor lifestyles and information overload, it seems to offer a wholesome solution: a quiet port in the storm and an opportunity for self-examination. The Headspace app, which offers 10-minute guided meditations on your smartphone, has more than three million users worldwide and is worth over £25m. Meanwhile, publishers have rushed to put out workbooks and guides to line the wellness shelves in bookshops.

Large organisations such as Google, Apple, Sony, Ikea, the Department of Health and Transport for London have adopted mindfulness or meditation as part of their employee packages, claiming it leads to a happier workforce, increased productivity and fewer sick days. But could such a one-size-fits-all solution backfire in unexpected ways?

Lesser Known Trolley Problem Variations


#Trolley Problem Memes

The Time Traveler

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards a worker. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits a different worker. The different worker is actually the first worker ten minutes from now.

The Cancer Caper

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. Three of them are cannibalistic serial killers. One of them is a brilliant cancer researcher. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one person. She is a brilliant cannibalistic serial killing cancer researcher who only kills lesser cancer researchers. 14% of these researchers are Nazi-sympathizers, and 25% don’t use turning signals when they drive. Speaking of which, in this world, Hitler is still alive, but he’s dying of cancer.

The Suicide Note

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards a worker. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits a different worker. The first worker has an intended suicide note in his back pocket but it’s in the handwriting of the second worker. The second worker wears a T-shirt that says PLEASE HITME WITH A TROLLEY, but the shirt is borrowed from the first worker.

The Ethics Teacher

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You are on your way to teach an ethics class and this accident will make you extremely late. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one person. This will make you slightly less late to your class.

The Latte

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards five workers. You’re in a nearby café, sipping on a latte, and don’t notice. The workers die.

The Dicks

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards two workers. They’re massive dicks. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one person. He’s an even bigger dick.

The Business Ethics Version

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards three workers. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits a teenager instead. At a minimum, the three workers’ families will receive a $20,000 insurance payoff each, and the families will no doubt sue the company, which in this scenario you represent. The trolley driver seemed to die instantly from a freak aneurism, so your company might not be faulted for negligence under the FELA and might come out okay. The teenager’s parents, on the other hand, make a total of $175,000 a year, and can afford a pretty decent lawyer.

The Real Stinker

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one worker instead. But get this: that one worker? It’s your fucking mom. Bet you weren’t expecting that shit, were you?

The Surrealist Version

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You have the ability to pull off your head and turn it into a Chinese lantern. Your head floats into the sky until it takes the place of the sun. You look down upon the planet. It is as small as the eye of a moth. The moth flies away.

The Meta-Ethical Problem

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards Immanuel Kant. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits Jeremy Bentham instead. Jeremy Bentham clutches the only existing copy of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Kant holds the only existing copy of Bentham’s The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Both of them are shouting at you that they have recently started to reconsider their ethical stances.

by Kyle York


Shit’s Going Down


Originally posted to It’s Going Down

This week brought another uprising against the police, after a police officer shot and killed a 23 year old man, Sylville K. Smith, in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee. The uprising, which saw right-wing Governor Scott Walker call-in the national guard to sit standby in case the riots escalated, happened against the backdrop of continued rampant police killings and the growing social degradation of poor and working people in the United States. This is the second time in two years that Walker has called in the National Guard to deal with protests against the police and the fourth alongside Ferguson and Baltimore in the US.

But these rebellions point to deeper tensions caused by the systems of domination inherent within industrial capitalism and white supremacy, which is policed and protected by this government. In the case of just Milwaukee, Niles Niemuth wrote:

Milwaukee has been devastated by decades of deindustrialization and financialization, which has produced the highest levels of inequality since the 1920s. The factories that provided decent wages and benefits for tens of thousands of workers have all but disappeared.

The city lost three-quarters of its industrial jobs between 1960 and the 2010. The disappearance of manufacturing employment had a particular impact on black male workers in the city. From 1970 to 2010, the employment rate for black men aged 16 to 64 in the metro Milwaukee region fell precipitously, from 73.4 percent to only 44.7 percent.

The city’s overall poverty rate in 2014 was 29 percent, nearly double the national rate. Children and youth aged 18 and under were the worst affected, with more than 42 percent growing up poor. More than 43 percent of the population in the Sherman Park neighborhood lives below the poverty line.

At the same time, despite continuous slumps in US productivity, the rich just keep getting richer. As Andre Damon wrote:

In 2015, the International Monetary Fund noted in its annual report that the decline of business investment is at the heart of the failure of the global economy to recover from the 2008 crisis, despite the flooding of financial markets with cheap credit.

Major corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars in cash, which they are not investing in production or research and development. Instead, they are using it to buy back stocks, increase dividends, and carry out mergers and acquisitions, all of which increase the payouts of Wall Street CEOs and shareholders.

As a result, stock markets around the world are at or near record highs, corporate profits are surging, and the wealth of the top 0.1 percent in the United States and internationally continues to soar at the expense of the working class.

But while it is becoming more and more clear that the only solution the elites have to continued immiseration and poverty that is endemic in capitalism is simply more repression and police, the very system of industrial resource extraction and production that is making a few elites so rich is also threatening all life on this planet. This summer, scientists have recorded the hottest months ever in June and July.

At the same time, the South was hit by disastrous floods that destroyed homes and left many homeless as Obama vacationed at Martha’s Vineyard and thousands were crammed together in shelters and curfews were put into place to stop people without food or water from looting. In many ways, all of these instances should be seen as signs of not only the kind of system we live under, but the trajectory it is hurling us towards. While the rich and powerful drink wine in tranquility, our homes are washed away, we work harder and harder for less and less, and an ever growing police presence watches our every move and taxes, harasses, and kills us without cause. Meanwhile in the background, the military is at the ready should a rebellion pop off.

But a rebellion is growing, and one that cannot be contained or smothered by either the police or the military, or the attempts of politicians, activist bureaucrats, or media pundits to stop people from fighting for and creating a world worth living in.

In that spirit, let’s get to the news. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Telling the Truth about Class (Tamás)


by G.M. Tamas

One of the central questions of social theory has been the relationship between class and knowledge, and this has also been a crucial question in the history of socialism. Differences between people – acting and knowing subjects – may inuence our view of the possibility of valid cognition. If there are irreconcilable discrepancies between people’s positions, going perhaps as far as incommensurability, then unied and rational knowledge resulting from a reasoned dialogue among persons is patently impossible. The Humean notion of ‘passions’, the Nietzschean notions of ‘resentment’ and ‘genealogy’, allude to the possible inuence of such an incommensurability upon our ability to discover truth.

Class may be regarded as a problem either in epistemology or in the philosophy of history, but I think that this separation is unwarranted, since if we separate epistemology and philosophy of history (which is parallel to other such separations characteristic of bourgeois society itself) we cannot possibly avoid the rigidly-posed conundrum known as relativism. In speak­ing about class (and truth, and class and truth) we are the heirs of two socialist intellectual traditions, profoundly at variance with one another, although often intertwined politically and emotionally. I hope to show that, up to a point, such fusion and confusion is inevitable.

All versions of socialist endeavour can and should be classied into two principal kinds, one inaugurated by Rousseau, the other by Marx. The two have opposite visions of the social subject in need of liberation, and these visions have determined everything from rareed epistemological posi­tions concerning language and consciousness to social and political attitudes concerning wealth, culture, equality, sexuality and much else. It must be said at the outset that many, perhaps most socialists who have sincerely believed they were Marxists, have in fact been Rousseauists. Freud has eloquently described resistances to psychoanalysis; intuitive resistance to Marxism is no less widespread, even among socialists. It is emotionally and intellectually difcult to be a Marxist since it goes against the grain of moral indignation which is, of course, the main reason people become socialists.

One of the greatest historians of the Left, E.P. Thompson, has synthe­sized what can be best said of class in the tradition of Rousseauian socialism which believes itself to be Marxian.1 The Making of the English Working Class is universally – and rightly – recognized to be a masterpiece. Its beauty, moral force and conceptual elegance originate in a few strikingly unusual articles of faith: (1) that the working class is a worthy cultural competitor of the ruling class; (2) that the Lebenswelt of the working class is socially and morally superior to that of its exploiters; (3) that regardless of the outcome of the class struggle, the autonomy and separateness of the working class is an intrinsic social value; (4) that the class itself is constituted by the autopoiesis of its rebellious political culture, including its re-interpretation of various tradi­tions, as well as by technology, wage labour, commodity production and the rest. Whereas Karl Marx and Marxism aim at the abolition of the proletariat, Thompson aims at the apotheosis and triumphant survival of the proletariat.

Thompson’s Rousseauian brand of Marxism triggered a sustained critique by Perry Anderson, one that is now half-forgotten but still extremely impor­tant. Although his terms are quite different from mine, Anderson sought to show that Thompson’s conviction that he was a Marxist was erroneous.2Thompson had participated in a number of movements and intellectual adventures inspired by Marxism, and his delity to radical socialism – under twentieth-century circumstances – meant loyalty to Marxism’s revolution­ary legacy. But Thompson had to ignore the Faustian-demonic encomium of capitalism inherent in Marx, and so he had to oppose ‘critical theory’, and then theory tout court.3 Anderson later described this decomposition of ‘Western Marxism’ – away from class to ‘the people’ – in conceptual terms,4 a diagnosis that has been proved right by events since.

Read the rest of this entry »

On the “woman question” (Dauvé)

Ghada Amer, Diagonals in Red, 2000

by Gilles Dauvé

If, as Marx wrote in 1844, taking a cue from Fourier, the relationship between the sexes enables us to judge humankind’s “whole level of development”, with this relationship we can also judge the level of development of the revolutionary movement. According to this criterion, past insurrections have done rather poorly, as they have usually let masculine domination prevail.

When faced with this undisputable fact, most radical thought rarely rises up to the challenge. (1)

In the past, anarchism did not treat this issue as a specific one: emancipating the human species would emancipate women as well as men. Lately, since the 1970s and the growth of a feminist movement,  many anarchist groups have come to regard women as an important (and long overlooked) oppressed category which must be added to the list of major potentially revolutionary categories.

As for the Marxists, they often start with the perfectly valid assumption that the “woman question” part can only be solved via the “proletarian” whole, and with the equally valid necessity of differentiating between bourgeois women and proletarian women, but they end up dissolving the woman question in the class question. The trouble is, without this part, the whole does not exist. (2)

Unlike most anarchists and Marxists, we think women’s emancipation is not a mere consequence of general human emancipation: it is one of its indispensable key components.

Read the rest of this entry »

How sickly seem all growing things

writings of chris wright

Capital Cycle_01

The Total Capital-Consumption Cycle

This is kind of my take on the total capital-consumption cycle as I see it relating to race, class and gender. I’m not enamored of images and picture thinking in general, but sometimes they are productive.  This was inspired by reading Roswitha Scholz on value-dissociation.

The Abolition of Labor

Communism is nothing if it is not the entering of all of humanity into the realm of freedom, of freely disposed time to do or not do as one pleases.  This does not eliminate the realm of necessity, but reduces it to a subordinate, non-determinate position in the relation of between it and freedom.  This is impossible if the majority of time of a human life are spent doing work for an alien power, as a slave, a serf, a worker, a taxed peasant, regardless of whether that alien power is a lord or a master or the abstraction of capital.  Only when necessary labor by human beings is reduced to a minimum of human time and the work freely chosen engages the mental, physical, and emotional faculties of a person can we reasonably imagine actual freedom for all of humanity, as opposed to the abstract freedom of exchange and democracy.  It is also the unity in difference of the realm of necessity and the realm of freedom, rather than merely the victory of one aspect over the other (the fantasy of Utopian Socialism) or the enforced domination of one over the other (society of direct domination) or the collapsing of one into the other (capitalism) . . .[continue]

“Use-Value” and “Useful” in Capital

What kind of labor contributes to valorization? Is it the kind of labor that produces a commodity as a material thing, as is seemingly implied in the first chapters of Capital? This is, after all, what many critics of Marx argue, that he has a self-contradictory notion of value and labor in this section. However, before Marx completed Volume 1, we know that in his notebooks published as Theories of Surplus-Value, Marx has a famous and under-appreciated discussion of what makes labor valorizing in his discussion of the labor of a clown. Marx’s humor and fine sense of irony, much like Hegel’s, is rarely appreciated, so the joke is generally missed (as are all the jokes in Capital, especially in footnotes, as Nichole Pepperell has brilliantly written on in her dissertation and her excellent Uncomfortable Science blog.) Marx distinguishes between two ways in which the clown might labor. In the first, the clown sells his labor to a family and then goes about his clowning for them. This is explicitly not capitalist labor or value-producing, this is just a service. However, if the clown is employed by a capital(ist), is payed a wage because he/she sells his/her labor as a commodity, and has his/her clown services (the product of his/her labor) sold as a commodity to customers, we have entered the realm of the value-form, of value-producing labor, The product of labor need not be a material thing, but can be a service, a material relation if you will, because what determines the validity of the labor is its usefulness for the capital as a commodity it can sell and its usefulness for the consumer, in this case, enjoyment or entertainment…[continue]

What’s the deal with Marx’s Capital?

Capital is, as its subtitle says, a critique of political economy and this has several implications.  Firstly, Marx is not trying to explain capital or capitalist society as a rational, coherent, consistent system.  Secondly, he is not abstracting from capital’s actual functioning in order to produce a model.  Finally, he is not trying to provide a more accurate theory that fixes the limitations of classical political economy associated with Smith, Ricardo, Petty, Quesnay, etc.  As a critique of political economy, Marx produced a book that treats even classical political economy as a necessarily failed attempt to provide a rational, consistent, coherent account of a system and a society that in his view is fundamentally irrational, inconsistent and incoherent.  Marxists, generally a confused lot more interested in the workers’ movement than in the critique of political economy, take Marx’s work to be a proof of the necessary collapse of capital and a critique of capital by labor.  In that story, capital and the capitalist class are evil and labor and the working class are good.  Capital ends up being a book about the good guys and the bad guys in the class struggle.  However, this point of view has a lot of problems, not the least of which is that Marx’s own notion of life beyond capital, beyond class society, is a life not determined by labor, but determined by freely disposable time.  Marx’s critique of political economy is therefore a critique of all of its elements, of capital and labor, of money and the means of production… [continue]

Read the rest of this entry »

From the Frankfurt School to Value-Form Analysis (Reichelt)


The preoccupation with problems of capital-analysis began relatively early. We wanted to know in the first place what ‘reification’ (Verdinglichung) really is. At that time in the mid-sixties we systematically plagued Horkheimer with these things. We wanted to know how they are interpreted in the framework of the Frankfurt Theory since the Frankfurt Theory built explicitly on them – and discovered after all, that after three sentences long silences set in, and that basically there was very little to learn from these theoreticians. Finally, we decided to think these questions through ourselves and – this can now be said in the present company – had to conclude that the omission of these moments itself had to be conceived as to a certain extent symptomatic with regard to the critique of this ‘Critical Theory’. This becomes evident when one pursues it further, if one may extrapolate, with Habermas. One could perhaps put forward the thesis that the Habermasian theory, which after all arose in a close connection with the Frankfurt theory, is to be designated as dialectical theory which can only develop dialectical theory formally, since it falls back to the standpoint of the bourgeois subject.

Precisely that, however, is already implicitly criticised, I would suggest, in Marx’s form-analysis, i.e. in the value-form analysis, money-form analysis and in the dialectical presentation of the categories of political economy. This implies that something like ‘dialectical theory’ as method extracted from these contents cannot be explicated. This, however, has always been the thesis of the Frankfurt theory. When one for example reads the writings of Alfred Schmidt, it is striking that he says that the dialectical method cannot be explicated in isolation from the contents. When one ties him down, however: Tell us, why don’t you, what is so special about these contents, show us the dialectical method with these contents themselves, e.g. with certain dialectical transitions in Capital: normally he gives it a miss, or at least to date that has been the case. He was not in the position to develop the dialectical method in Capital himself. To date, no one (1) in Frankfurt has tried this, as far as I can see. To Habermas, these matters are totally alien, today more than ever, one would have to say. (2)

Read the rest of this entry »

Zwischen Eigentor und Aufstand: Ultras in den gegenwärtigen Revolten

Al Ahly Soccer Fans Celebrate After Port Said Football Massacre Defendants Sentenced To Death

In the last cycle of struggles, a new force entered onstage: organized football fans took part in unrest across the globe, from the Greek uprising of 2008 to the social movements in Portugal, Occupy in Spain and protests in Israel during 2011/12, from the Gezi Park revolt in Istanbul in the summer of 2013 to the riots in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014. And even the biggest football haters can’t ignore the fact that the ultra groups of North Africa played a significant part in the so-called Arab Spring. An observer goes so far as to claim that the ultras “played a key role in overturning the ‘barricades of fear’ (…) Their appeal to disillusioned teenagers is enormous. We’re talking about the second or third largest citizens movement of Egypt, with tens of thousands of members.” The following text attempts to explain how this often, at best, completely apolitical or rather commercially-dependent actor could arise, and how to judge their effects in the class struggle. For if it’s true that we are currently on the threshold of a new era, then parts of this milieu will surely play a role in the coming revolts. Nothing is further from our minds than ascribing a central role to the Ultra-movement, whether in the current or coming insurrections. Focusing on a supposedly more revolutionary type according to one’s political stripe, be it the mass worker, part-timer, woman or immigrant, has always been just as questionable as the insistence on a predetermined location for revolt. All areas of social life that bring together wage-earners can develop into zones of struggle, regardless of whether these are neighborhoods, soup kitchens, factories, or even football stadiums…[translated excerpt from “Ultras in the Contemporary Revolts” by Kosmoprolet, 2015]

Read the rest of this entry »

Chuang #1: Dead Generations


In this first issue we outline our basic conceptual framework and illustrate the current state of class conflict in China. We also include translated reports and interviews with the proletarians engaged in these struggles, pairing our theory with primary sources drawn from class dynamics that might otherwise remain abstract.Though taking the futureless present as our starting point, our first issue is also in a way performing burial rites for the dead generations who have populated the collapse of the communist horizon in East Asia. This issue therefore begins with a long-form article on the socialist era, “Sorghum and Steel: The Socialist Developmental Regime and the Forging of China,” the first in a three-part series aiming to narrate a new economic history of China (the next two parts will be included in subsequent issues), before moving on to a pair of analytic articles on contemporary urban and rural struggles, as well as original translations and interviews with individuals engaged in them.

Print copies available from AK Press and HK Reader.

Read the rest of this entry »

Passing for Politics


by Asad Haider

Today’s politics of identity — the epoch of trigger warnings, microaggressions, and privilege-checking — was already the subject of debate in a 1964 exchange between Amiri Baraka, then still known as LeRoi Jones, and Philip Roth. It began with Roth’s negative review of Jones’s The Dutchman, along with James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie, in The New York Review of Books. The Dutchman had presented a theatrical allegory of the failures of liberal integrationism, and the seductive treachery of the white world. Roth’s dismissive review displays no real understanding of the political critique at work in the play; nevertheless, the line that became the real point of contention contains a kernel of insight. This was Roth’s speculation that Baraka, then Jones, wrote The Dutchman for a white audience, “not so that they should be moved to pity or to fear, but to humiliation and self-hatred.” Jones retorted in a vicious letter that, “The main rot in the minds of ‘academic’ liberals like yourself, is that you take your own distortion of the world to be somehow more profound than the cracker’s.”

Roth’s The Human Stain, written during the reign of our first “first black president” (you have to wonder if Toni Morrison regrets saying that), illuminates the distance between 1964 and 2016. Here Roth presents a biography that moves from the personal costs of segregation to the contradictions of liberal multiculturalism. Coleman Silk, a light-skinned black professor of classics — like Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which provoked the trigger warning debate at Columbia — spends a lifetime passing for white. Yet in ’90s America it is not the black identity which destroys his life and reputation, but the somehow ontologically irrefutable accusation of anti-black racism.

Read the rest of this entry »

The 1980 Elections: Reaffirming the Marxist Theory of the State

lom-3Line of March Vol. 1, No. 3, October-November 1980.

The great spectacular of bourgeois politics–the quadrennial ritual of the ballot box by which U.S. imperialism’s chief executive is designated–is at this moment approaching its grand finale.

For almost a year the attention of the masses has been directed toward the reassuringly familiar stage business of a presidential election, the very terminology of which (trial balloons, dark horses, hats in the ring, balanced tickets, running-mates, etc.) is strongly suggestive of its obligations to the work of circuses. Faithful to the scripts of yesteryear, the 1980 election is playing out its appointed hour upon the stage with a reenactment of those time-honored rites which serve to impart an image of stability and historical continuity to the rule of U.S. capital.

It is not mere poetic license which has led the bourgeoisie’s own commentators to describe this process as a pageant. That is the essence of this ballet which begins with the endless rounds of declared and undeclared candidacies, continues with the sweep of the nominating primaries played out against shifting backdrops which range from the snows of New Hampshire to the ghettoes of Chicago, reaches a crescendo with the three-ring circuses called political conventions, and concludes with the high drama of public counting of ballots on the nation’s television screens.

What is the purpose of this elaborate extravaganza? Marxists have long noted that insofar as its stated purpose is concerned–determining the question of political power in modern society–it is no more than a charade, a political sleight of hand in which the more things seem to change, the more do they remain the same. But Marxists do not deserve any special credit for making such an observation. One hardly has to be a Marxist to grasp the fact that bourgeois elections do not, in any way, impinge upon or alter questions of power. The general cynicism among the masses toward politics and politicians–a cynicism which runs far deeper than can be measured solely by noting the large numbers of people who do not bother to vote in elections–is itself proof that the futility and corruption of bourgeois politics has become a part of U.S. folklore.

But because bourgeois elections are a charade and do not alter the fundamental relations of power and property does not at all signify that they are without meaning or political significance. And those among the communists who content themselves with merely denouncing the bourgeoisie’s electoral process without undertaking to explain the actual political content of each election can hardly be said to be offering vanguard leadership to the working class.

Read the rest of this entry »

The End of All Things (Kant, 1794)


It is a common expression, used chiefly in pious language, to speak of a person who is dying as going out of time into eternity

This expression would in fact say nothing if eternity is understood here to mean a time proceeding to infinity; for then the person would indeed never get outside time but would always progress only from one time into another. Thus what must be meant is an end of all time along with the person’s uninterrupted duration; but this duration (considering its existence as a magnitude) as a magnitude (duratio Noumenon) wholly incomparable with time, of which we are obviously able to form no concept (except a merely negative one). This thought has something horrifying about it because it leads us as it were to the edge of an abyss: for anyone who sinks into it no return is possible (“But in that earnest place/ Him who holds nothing back! Eternity holds fast in its strong arms.” Haller); and yet there is something attractive there too: for one cannot cease turning his terrified gaze back to it again and again (nequeunt expleri corda tuendoVirgil). It is frighteningly sublime partly because it is obscure, for the imagination works harder in darkness than it does in bright light. Yet in the end it must also be woven in a wondrous way into universal human reason, because it is encountered among all reasoning peoples at all times, clothed in one way or another. – Now when we pursue the transition from time into eternity (whether or not this idea, considered theoretically as extending cognition, has objective reality), as reason does in a moral regard, then we come up against the end of all things as temporal beings and as objects of possible experience – which end, however, in the moral order of ends, is at the same time the beginning of a duration of just those same beings as supersensible, and consequently as not standing under conditions of time; thus that duration and its state will be capable of no determination of its nature other than a moral one.

Days are as it were the children of time, because the following day, with what it contains, is an offspring of the previous one. Now just as the last child of its parents is called the youngest child, so the German language likes to call the last day (the point in time which closes all time) the youngest day. The last day thus still belongs to time, for on it something or other  happens (and not to eternity, where nothing happens any more, because that would belong to the progress of time): namely, the settling of accounts for human beings, based on their conduct in their whole lifetime. It is a judgment day; thus the judgment of grace or damnation by the world’s judge is therefore the real end of all things in time, and at the same time the beginning of the (blessed or cursed) eternity, in which the lot that has fallen to each remains just as it was in the moment of its pronouncement (of the sentence). Thus the last day also contains in itself simultaneously the  last judgment. – Now if among the  last things there should yet be counted the end of the world as it appears in its present shape, namely the falling of the stars from heaven, considered as a vault, and the collapse of this heaven itself (or its disappearance, as a scroll when it is rolled up),  both being consumed in flames, with the creation of a new earth and a new heaven as the seat of the blessed and of hell as that of the damned, then that judgment day would obviously not be the last day; instead, different days would follow upon it, one after another. Yet since the idea of an end of all things takes its origin from reasonings not about the  physical but rather about the moral course of things in the world, and is occasioned only by it, while the latter alone can be referred to the supersensible (which is to be understood only morally) – and it is the same with the idea of eternity – so consequently the representation of those last things which are supposed to come  after the last day are to be regarded only as a way of making sensible this latter together with its moral consequences, which are otherwise not theoretically comprehensible to us.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Going Down

In the last two weeks, we first saw violent clashes with fascists and white nationalists which rocked the west coast and shut down an attempted rally by the Traditionalist Worker Party, and now we are seeing sustained activity against the police. Helping kick things off has been two extremely high-profile police shootings of African-American men that went viral in less than 24 hours. The first was that of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the second is that of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Despite these cases receiving the most press and outrage due to their videos being shared across the internet, in the week before and after both shootings (which occurred only a day apart from each other), 28 people were also killed by police in the short month of July. Currently, over 580 people have been killed by law enforcement officers in 2016, averaging over 3 people per day.

As news and anger over the shootings has spread, organic and self-organized protests, rebellions, freeway shutdowns, and violent confrontations with the police has also begun to grow, starting in Louisiana and then growing to cities in Minnesota, California, New York, Colorado, Alabama and everywhere else. It seems that the eruptions, riots, and blockades of the summer and fall of December 2014, following the Ferguson Insurrection and the wave of indignation and mobilization that spread after Darren Wilson was found not guilty as were the police that killed Eric Garner in New York, has not been forgotten. More people are joining the fight and the protests and demonstrations are continuing. Also, the rhythm and time between eruptions is growing less and less apart and there is a remembrance and building of confidence around disruptive tactics. Despite this positive aspect of the last week, still a sea of politicians lie in waiting ready to put a wet blanket on the fires of revolt.

This latest round of outrage is marked by the fact that the “Democratic Socialist” candidate, Bernie Sanders has now officially dropped out of the race and backed Hillary Clinton, leading to a massive backlash and disappointment with the entire political circus. It is a good thing that many people aren’t hoping for a candidate to represent them; we can only hope that instead we put faith and hope in ourselves to change our conditions and build revolutionary alternatives. Interestingly enough, with all of these events taking place so close to election time, this cycle of struggle hasn’t (yet) been sucked back into the political sphere or subsumed by the Democratic Party. Let’s help it to stay that way.

Moreover, this round of demonstrations has taken place alongside a chorus of violent attacks on police (as well as widespread vandalism) which have occurred throughout the United States, including a deadly shooting by a former military man in Dallas, Texas. Despite the media and police waging a counter-insurgency campaign against the Black Lives Matter movement (which is overall an attack on anyone that acts or is critical of white supremacy and the police in the US), this wave of action shows no sign of slowing down. In short, in-spite of the media and everyone in power telling people its time to go home, people aren’t listening.

At the same time, we’re also seeing more and more far-Right groups coming out to the demonstrations in an attempt to support the police: ranging from Neo-Nazis, armed Trump supporters, to militia types. Again, the “threat” of black insurgency is driving many of the Right to organize themselves to protect the established social order. The government in some instances is also using this moment to push back on some of the “gains” made by the BLM movement in the last two years; for instance in North Carolina police now do not have to share footage from their body cameras with the public.

Lastly, some Black Lives Matter groups continue to pull an anti-anarchist line, and use language such as “white outsiders” which parrots the statements of police as a way of breaking the fighting spirit of those involved in demonstrations, especially those that would use force to defend themselves. “Leaders” within the movement also continue to act as a means to destabilize any attempt to generalize the revolt. For instance in Atlanta, BLM protest leaders met with police and city officials and agreed to a “cooling off period,” in exchange for a public forum with the police on relations with the community. In short, “protest leaders” and police worked together against the protests, ending them before they continued to become even more disruptive. We need to think critically about this reality and push back against liberal and managerial elements which seek to defang resistance movements while at the same time building relationships with the base of those that make up these social struggles.

We also have to think about the fact that some within the Left are now talking about physically abolishing the police along with mass incarceration and prisons. While its great that these staples are now being taken seriously by some, we also have to remind people that this is only going to happen when people take control over territory, land, and communities in a revolutionary struggle with the established order. We can’t abolish the foot soldiers of white supremacy and capitalism while leaving this systems intact. Moreover, there has to be a conversation about what are we doing and why? Are we taking action as part of a revolutionary push to change the world and destroy a system of power, or are we simply trying to get the attention of the media, the police, or the government to create small changes?

Read the rest of this entry »

From Welcome to Farewell: Germany, the refugee crisis and the global surplus proletariat


by Felix Baum

In the summer of 2015, almost overnight, Angela Merkel transmuted in international public perception from a brutal whip of austerity policies, relentlessly squeezing already impoverished populations in the crisis-ridden South of the European Union, to the last defender of the humanist values Europe likes to take pride in. Having been regularly portrayed with a Hitler moustache in countries like Greece, she now reemerged as St. Angela, protector of the refugees. While Eastern European countries were busily erecting fences to stem the tide of unwanted intruders, and while the French state declared it sufficient to take in a mere 24,000 Syrians over the next two years, the head of the German government refused to give in to calls within her own party to limit the number of refugees, which was approaching one million (and eventually surpassed that figure by the end of the year). And just as the German hawkishness in dealing with the economic crisis of the Euro zone—seemingly irrational as it only deepened the recession—made observers resort to trivial psychology (was it maybe an exaggerated fear of inflation, deeply engraved in the German mentality, that drove those policies?), the willingness with which the German state, spurred on by its leader’s now famous We can manage!, opened its doors while almost everyone else did the exact opposite, left smart journalists wondering if Merkel’s biography (East German = victim of a Communist dictatorship = empathy for the persecuted) might provide a clue.

More critical observers, of course, suggested other readings. Some Marxists detected an “imperialist offensive” behind the German state’s seeming humanitarianism, welcoming Syrians to gain more influence on the war ravaging their home country while at the same time pushing for “a European solution” to the refugee crisis which, given Germany’s hegemony on the continent, could only turn out to be a solution in Germany’s very own best interest.1 Others focused more on the domestic situation, arguing that refugees are indeed most welcome in Germany, namely as fresh meat on the labor market at a time when many manufacturers are complaining about growing shortages of workers. In some cases, this line of interpretation feeds into a kind of left-wing nationalism that openly advocates “protecting” German workers from undue competition by foreigners. One prominent example is Sahra Wagenknecht, a high-ranking (and formerly Stalinist) politician of the parliamentary Left Party, who attacked Merkel’s policy as a “total failure of the state” and came out in favor of limiting the influx of refugees as the “population’s willingness to take them in has limits.” This earned her not only praise from the new right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD), but also a brown chocolate cake thrown in her face by leftist activists at a recent party conference.

Flashmob gegen Männergewalt, Köln 2016

Regardless of their political implications, both readings contain a grain of truth but ultimately seem questionable. It is true that the right to asylum, far from being an immaculate expression of humanism, has always just as much served as an instrument of power politics. (According to a recent study, of the 233,000 refugees the U.S. accepted between 1956 and 1968, a mere 1,000 did not come from “communist” countries, to name but one example.)2 And it is equally true that for capitalists, however much they claim that the ultimate goal of all their altruistic strivings is to provide jobs, full employment is simply a nightmare, as it strengthens workers’ bargaining position. Indeed, over the last nine months, representatives of German business have successfully pushed for lowering the barriers for asylum-seekers to enter the labor market. Still, both readings tend to underestimate to what extent politics, rather than following a consistent strategy, amounts to a hectic and highly contradictory muddling-through against the backdrop of growing global chaos. And what is more: if refugees are so beneficial for German capital and the imperial ambitions of its state, how is it that more recently the state-proclaimed “welcome culture” of summer 2015 has given way to very determined efforts to reinforce Fortress Europe?

Read the rest of this entry »

Frantz Fanon, Philosopher of the Barricades

by Peter Hudis

A series of recent exchanges between activists in the Black Lives Matter movement and those turning out to hear Bernie Sanders’s populist critique of corporate power have brought to the fore a persistent contradiction of U.S. society —the relation between race and class. It is significant that around the country tens of thousands of largely white youth are coming out to hear Sanders’s attack on the plutocracy that has turned the U.S. into one of the most class-divided societies on earth. Clearly, some of the same sentiments that gave birth to the Occupy Movement are behind the surge of interest in Sanders’s candidacy. Yet it is no less significant that Black Lives Matter, and others, have challenged his campaign for largely overlooking issues of race and racism—at the very moment when a powerful movement has emerged from people of color who are besieged by persistent police abuse and a criminal justice system that has made it clear that, insofar as it is concerned, black lives do not matter.

What are we to make of this debate, and how will it play out? Will anti-racist activists and those seeking to counter corporate power through the electoral process proceed on separate paths? Will their differences be papered over for the sake of a superficial harmony, or will this debate become an opportunity to think through the very real contradictions facing U.S. social movements when it comes to grasping how race and racism play a central role in shaping the nature of class and social relations in the United States and elsewhere?

It may be too early to answer these questions, but it is timely to re-examine the work of Frantz Fanon in light of them. As one of the foremost theorists of race and racism of the past century, his ideas are returning to the forefront of discussion; in large part because of the way in which the increasingly class-polarized nature of contemporary capitalism is inseparable from an ongoing assault against people of color and immigrants, not only in the U.S. but in Europe as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Marxism and White Skin Privilege


By Chris Wright

I. Introduction

Marxism, in both the authoritarian (“Orthodox”) tradition and in the libertarian tradition, has had a few noticeable Achilles’ Heels, which have had drastic consequences. Gender and race top the list. Here, I mostly intend to focus on race, although at least passing comments on gender will be unavoidable.

In the United States, race has played a central role in the derailing of even a broadly ‘socialist’ class-consciousness, much less a revolutionary communist consciousness. On that, I am in full agreement with the editors of Race Traitor (RT). We agree that ‘racism’ is a term that has been de-clawed by a purely psychological understanding as ‘prejudice’, rather than as a category of oppression, and hence power and privilege. The main feature of racism in the U.S. is ‘white supremacy’ or white-skin privilege or what some call ‘whiteness’ (and I think the terms represent some political differences). We agree that race does not exist in any sense biologically, but is purely socially constructed1. We agree that race privilege entails more than a simple ‘social control formation’, a la Theodore Allen, foisted upon working class people from the outside, but that ‘white’ workers participate in the production and defense of whiteness/white-skin privilege. We agree that ‘anti-racism’ in the forms we know it has major problems, since it focuses on ‘racists’ or racist groups, rather than racism; also, anti-racism tends to reify race as biology. We agree that ‘whiteness studies’ (and its parents, multiculturalism and post-structuralism) has been predominantly liberal and little more than a new academic field for generating new career tracks. We do not seek to study, understand (and certainly not ‘validate’) the white race except in so far as we seek to destroy it, and as I hope every Marxist knows, the destruction of oppression requires the destruction of the power of the oppressor and the infrastructure and apparatus that sustain and systematically reproduce that power. In other words, we will not finish with race until we have finished off the white race. We agree that we can destroy the white race, in so far as the white race exists as nothing other than a social relation granting special privilege and engendering oppression (and in my opinion, a form of class collaboration.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Vogelfrei: Migration, deportations, capital and its state

Greece Migrants

by Antithesi

This text aims at contributing to the analysis and critique of the politics of the EU and the Greek state on the control and biopolitical management of migration from a proletarian standpoint. The great increase of the migration movement towards the European Union during the last two years, which was mainly caused by the intensification of the military conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has been confronted on the one hand with an intensification of border policing up to the point of its militarization and on the other hand with the formation of a new political and legal framework through the agreement between EU and Turkey on the 18th of March of 2016 which negates basic principles of the international asylum law. Our interest in the issue of migration as a form of the international mobility of labour, as a form of permanent primitive accumulation and as a form of autonomous proletarian activity is not academic. On the contrary, we seek to equip ourselves with theoretical instruments which may be proven useful for the development of common struggles of local and immigrant proletarians, as an integral part of the class antagonistic movement against capital and its state.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Guide to Swearing in Yiddish


Shtup (SHTUHP) – To have sex with. The connotation is the “four-letter word” kind. Generally most of the words on this list that start with “sh” are going to have the emphasis on that syllable.

Shmuck (SHMUCK) – Penis. All of them. Every last one of these following terms. I’ll let you know when we’ve reached the end of the cavalcade of dicks.

Putz (PUHTZ) – “”

Schmeckel (SHMEH-cull) – “”

Schlong (SH-long) – “”

Schvantz (SH-vontz) – “”

Petzl (PET-zull) – “”


Fakakta (fuh-COCK-tah) – “Fucked up” (hey, look, we’ve exited the magical forest of dongs!). This is my personal favorite term on this list. Goes very well with the modifier “all,” as in, “the Senate’s filibustering procedure is all fakakta.”

Alta Kaka (AL-ta COCK-ah) – Literally, “old shit.” Weirdly, not hugely derogatory in common usage (typically used to refer to senior citizens in general), but that’s Yiddish for you; even the words we don’t intend to be offensive have that soupcon of a linguistic middle finger to them.

Read the rest of this entry »

A to Z of communisation (Gilles Dauvé)

(This “A to Z” is the third part of Everything Must Go! Abolish Value, published by Little Black Cart Books, Berkeley, California, in 2015.  The first two parts were written by Bruno Astarian: Crisis Activity & Communisation, and Value & its Abolition)


“Some people will find our propositions insane or naïve. We do not expect to convince everyone. If such a thing were possible, it would be very disturbing. We would rather have readers who have to rub their eyes before granting credence to our positions.”

A World Without Money: Communism, 1975

 AUTONOMY                       BLUE COLLAR                    CLASS                       DAILY LIFE

ECOLOGY                      FAMILY                             GIOTTO                              HABITAT     

INSURRECTION                   JAILBREAK                       KARL  (MARX)                   LABOUR    

MONEY               NON-ECONOMY          OBFUSCATION                POLITICS               QUERY  

REVOLUTION               SEX             TIME  (IS OF THE ESSENCE)                       UNLABELLED

VALUE                        WORK          XENOPHILIA                      YESTERDAY                      ZOMIAS


In 2012, radical Oakland occupiers made it clear that “no permission would be asked, no demands would be made, no negotiation with the police and city administration” : nobody or no body had the power to grant them anything relevant, so there was no point in bargaining with wannabe representatives.

Participatory decision-making implies a communal capacity often called “self-empowerment”. Autonomy is inclusive. As participants share an equal stake in the creation of a different world, the most important thing in their lives becomes their relation to others, and this interdependence extends far beyond the circle of relatives and friends.

In a different time and place, some people have stressed the spontaneity of many recent Chinese strikes, demonstrations, protests, street blockades and riots. Other observers have emphasized the careful planning that takes place beforehand. Yet organization and spontaneity are two sides of the same coin. A self-initiated work-stoppage needs previous secret talks and meetings, and its continuity needs durable independent information channels (such as a mutual help hotline) and decision-making structures.

However, the ideology of autonomy is one of the up-to-date nostrums. Autonomy is acting by oneself:  it says nothing about what this individual or collective self actually does. In the ebbs and flows of social battles, most occupations and strikes meet the limit of one company, one neighbourhood, one town, one city. Workplace, neighbourhood, kinship, etc., create a potential community of struggle which by its own strength alone can certainly self-manage an occupation, a strike, even community life for a while… but it is not enough to break the log jam.

How does a community of struggle create more than its struggle ? Can it go beyond rituals of social partnership ? How does solidarity not become an end in itself ? When can collective will wield its transformative power?

Unlike a book divided into chapters which gradually make their point from beginning to end, this A to Z is more like a dictionary in which each entry is to be read in relation to all the others. It is by accident that autonomy begins with the first letter of the alphabet. But it is no accident that self-activity should be a starting point. Autonomy is a necessary condition of the whole A to Z of communisation. It does not encapsulate the whole process.

Occupational Hazards. The Rise & Limitation of Occupy Oakland, CAL Press, 2012

New Strikes in China,

Eli Friedman, Insurgency Trap. Labor Politics in Post-socialist China, Cornell U.P., 2014

A Contribution to the Critique of Political Autonomy, troploin site, 2008


Read the rest of this entry »


Karl Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann, 18 May 1874

Dear Kugelmann

I have received everything: your letters (including some friendly notes from your dear wife and Fränzchen), the ‘Meyer’ [1] (police-socialist, faiseur, [2] literary scribbler), the cuttings from the Frankfurter, etc, and finally a letter from Madame Tenge.

I am very grateful for your, your family’s and Madame Tenge’s friendly interest in my progress. But you do me an injustice if you ascribe my failure to write to any other cause than an uncertain state of health, which continually interrupts my work, then goads me on to make up for the time lost by neglecting all other duties (letters included), and finally puts a man out of humour and makes him disinclined for activity.

After my return from Harrogate I had an attack of carbuncles, then my headaches returned, insomnia, etc, so that I had to spend from the middle of April to 5 May at Ramsgate (seaside). Since then I have been feeling much better, but am far from being quite well. My specialist (Dr Gumpert [3] of Manchester) insists upon my going to Karlsbad and would like to make me travel there as soon as possible, but I must finally complete the French translation which has come to a full stop, and, apart from that, I should much prefer it if I could meet you there.

In the meantime, while I was unable to write, I worked through a lot of important new material for the second volume. But I cannot start on its final working out until the French edition is completed and my health fully restored.

So I have by no means yet decided how I shall spend the summer.

The progress of the German labour movement (ditto in Austria) is wholly satisfactory. In France the absence of a theoretical foundation and of practical common sense is very evident. In England at the moment only the rural labour movement shows any advance; the industrial workers have first of all to get rid of their present leaders. When I denounced them at the Hague Congress I knew that I was letting myself in for unpopularity, slander, etc, but such consequences have always been a matter of indifference to me. Here and there people are beginning to see that in making that denunciation I was only doing my duty.

In the United States our Party has to fight against great difficulties, partly economic, partly political, but it is making headway. The greatest obstacle there is the professional politicians, who immediately try to falsify every new movement and change it into a new ‘company-promoting business’.

Notwithstanding all diplomatic moves, a new war is inevitable au peu plus tôt, au peu plus tard, [4] and before the ending of this there will hardly be violent popular movements anywhere, or, at the most, they will remain local and unimportant.

The visit of the Russian emperor is giving the London police a great deal to do and the government here will be glad to get rid of the man as soon as possible. As a precautionary measure they requisitioned forty police (mouchards), with the notorious police commissioner Plocke at their head (Ali Baba and the forty thieves), from the French government, to watch the Poles and Russians here (during the tsar’s stay). The so-called amnesty petition of the London Poles is the work of the Russian embassy; in answer to it the Poles here issued an appeal, written and signed by Wróblewski, [5] which is addressed to the English and which has been distributed in large numbers at the Sunday meetings in Hyde Park. The English press (with very few exceptions) is obsequious – the tsar is after all ‘our guest’ – but for all that the real feeling against Russia is incomparably more hostile than it has been since the Crimean War, and the entry of a Russian princess into the royal family [6] has aroused rather than disarmed suspicion. The facts – the arbitrary abrogation of the decisions concerning the Black Sea in the Paris Treaty, the conquests and trickeries in Central Asia, etc, irritate John Bull, and Disraeli has no chance of remaining at the helm for any length of time if he continues Gladstone’s unctuous foreign policy.

With my warmest greetings to your dear family and Madame Tenge.


Read the rest of this entry »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,212 other followers