communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Nanni Balestrini (1935-2019)

Nanni-Balestrini-Potere-Operaio-1969-alta-1200x900

Nanni Balestrini was born in Milan in 1935. Known both as an experimental writer of prose and verse and as a cultural and political activist, he played a leading role in avant-garde writing and publishing in the sixties. His involvement with the extra-parliamentary left in the seventies resulted in terrorism charges (of which he was subsequently acquitted) and a long period of self-imposed exile from Italy.

For a brief explosive period in the mid-1970s, the young and the unemployed of Italy’s cities joined the workers in an unexpectedly militant movement known simply as Autonomy (Autonomia). Its “politics of refusal” united its opponents behind draconian measures more severe than any seen since the war.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Legal Form: The Marxist Analysis of Law

The-Bauhaus-School-famously-explored-the-concepts-of-color-and-shape

Legal Form – This collection of documents contains texts that (a) are widely recognized as “canonical” within the Marxist tradition, (b) grapple with legal questions from a standpoint informed by Marxist methods, (c) scrutinize a specifically Marxist approach to law in the context of a particular debate, and/or (d) examine the historical conditions under which a given account of Marxism and law was initially discussed. Some are exceedingly well known; others remain unread, or are largely forgotten. Save for the most relevant or “authoritative” figures, we have generally endeavored to include no more than one text for each author.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gillian Rose (1947-1995)

rosegillian_photo-e6ada4c9e93c438d5c5580c5727d8287

The Melancholy Science An Introduction to the Thought of Theodor W. Adorno

Hegel Contra Sociology

Dialectic of Nihilism: Post-Structuralism and Law

Judaism and Modernity

Love’s Work

Mourning Becomes the Law: Philosophy And Representation

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit: A Reappraisal (ed. Browning)

Gillian Rose died on the evening of 9 December 1995 after a long and courageous struggle with cancer. The hour of her death coincided with the closing moments of a conference dedicated to her work at Warwick University. Although her rapidly deteriorating health prevented her from attending as planned, the conference was inspired by the presence of her work, above all by its questioning of the division between the political and theological faces of Hegelianism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Suffocation of the Young:

chabrier-2

A Report from Brooklyn on Schooling, Childhood and Mental Illness Today

 Juan Chabrier (Brooklyn Rail, 2019)

At some point during the workday, you may have considered that your role in creating a product or service somehow plays an important part in sustaining the world we live in, even if that world leaves much to be desired. As the Oakland teachers end their strike, quick on the heels of the Denver, Los Angeles county, and red-state revolts, we’re reminded that our daily work not only recreates a world of things but also one of relationships and experiences: in short, all that which determines who we are. As far as contemporary schooling is involved in the production of childhood—a modern process that is clearly in crisis—we have a sense of the great stakes involved as the wave of intransigent education-worker strikes rolls across this country.

Childhood appears today as something uncanny. Social commentators and psychologists draw us to narrow parts of its unsettling presence without offering a substantive pattern or underlying explanation. In the US, an astounding one in five children has an attention or learning disability while parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder rates are now at 1 in 40. What’s more, both of these statistics are thought to be an underestimation of the real prevalence.1 Anxiety and depression in youth are reaching alarming levels and steadily rising.2 Sexual activity amongst youth has decreased by over 20% since the 1980s, while new media make pornography more available to the young.3 Most distressingly, that some children decide to pick up weapons and massacre their peers has become an expected occurrence. As teenager Paige Curry commented after the Santa Fe shootings last year, “I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.”4

Parenthood, in turn, is occupied by guilt and worry, as an industry of advice columnists and child-experts provides a contradictory array of techniques, superstitions, and philosophies to navigate the contemporary situation. US birth and marriage rates across income levels are at historic lows in face of the perilous labyrinth of childhood and economic trepidation.5 Yet the “helicopter parent’s” worries and their accompanying gurus are more than just an automatic reaction. The recent intensification of parenting is but a reflection of prevailing social anxieties.

Read the rest of this entry »

We Need a New State Debate (Part Two) — Chris O’Kane

The second part of Chris O’Kane’s critical reevaluation of Marxist state theories and debates.

via We Need a New State Debate (Part Two) — Chris O’Kane — Legal Form

The State Derivation Debate [1]

The so-called second generation of Frankfurt critical theorists, Jürgen Habermas and Claus Offe, had formulated social-democratic theories of the state. They had argued that capitalism’s crisis tendencies had been overcome and that the working class had been integrated into contemporary society. All struggles were thus political struggles over the state’s management of economic relations, and social democracy represented the road to human fulfilment.

Johannes Agnoli had critiqued Habermas and Offe’s theories. For Agnoli the state was the political form of capitalist reproduction, not something to be understood as separate from economic relations. Keynesianism, moreover, had not overcome class struggle, but rather “statified” it by incorporating the working class into a vast bureaucracy. All struggles should thus be outside of and against the state in order to abolish it outright, and with it the whole of capitalist society.

Read the rest of this entry »

Basic Banalities (Vaneigem, 1962)

AVT_Raoul-Vaneigem_7357

Basic Banalities

Raoul Vaneigem

Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962)

Translated by Ken Knabb

1

BUREAUCRATIC CAPITALISM has found its legitimation in Marx. I am not referring here to orthodox Marxism’s dubious merit of having reinforced the neocapitalist structures whose present reorganization is an implicit homage to Soviet totalitarianism; I am stressing the extent to which crude versions of Marx’s most profound analyses of alienation have become generally recognized in the most commonplace realities — realities which, stripped of their magical veil and materialized in each gesture, have become the sole substance of the daily lives of an increasing number of people. In a word, bureaucratic capitalism contains the tangible reality of alienation; it has brought it home to everybody far more successfully than Marx could ever have hoped to do, it has banalized it as the reduction of material poverty has been accompanied by a spreading mediocrity of existence. As poverty has been reduced in terms of survival, it has become more profound in terms of our way of life — this is at least one widespread feeling that exonerates Marx from all the interpretations a degenerate Bolshevism has made of him. The “theory” of peaceful coexistence has accelerated this awareness and revealed, to those who were still confused, that exploiters can get along quite well with each other despite their spectacular divergences.

Read the rest of this entry »

We Need a New State Debate (Part One) — Chris O’Kane

The first part of Chris O’Kane’s critical reevaluation of Marxist state theories and debates.

via We Need a New State Debate (Part One) — Chris O’Kane — Legal Form

We live in tumultuous times. Depending on whom you ask or even what day you happen to ask them, socialism is back, but so is fascism; neoliberalism is in crisis, but authoritarian neoliberalism is also on the rise. A range of scholars and public intellectuals have sought to understand such developments, using these and other concepts in various ways. These concepts have likewise come to play important animating roles in electoral campaigns, political parties, social movements, protests, marches, and spontaneous strikes. Yet these theories, articles, policy proposals, and political activities pass all too quickly over an issue that has been at the heart of debates over socialist theory and practice in previous eras of upheaval: the state.

Read the rest of this entry »

What is Trump?

the-republican-club-30x45-final

Dylan Riley

New Left Review 114, Nov-Dec 2018

[Read as PDF]

Debates around the politics of Trump and other new-right leaders have led to an explosion of historical analogizing, with the experience of the 1930s looming large. According to much of this commentary, Trump—not to mention Orbán, Kaczynski, Modi, Duterte, Erdoğan—is an authoritarian figure justifiably compared to those of the fascist era. The proponents of this view span the political spectrum, from neoconservative right and liberal mainstream to anarchist insurrectionary. The typical rhetorical device they deploy is to advance and protect the identification of Trump with fascism by way of nominal disclaimers of it. Thus for Timothy Snyder, a Cold War liberal, ‘There are differences’—yet: ‘Trump has made his debt to fascism clear from the beginning. From his initial linkage of immigrants to sexual violence to his continued identification of journalists as “enemies” . . . he has given us every clue we need.’ For Snyder’s Yale colleague, Jason Stanley, ‘I’m not arguing that Trump is a fascist leader, in the sense that he’s ruling as a fascist’—but: ‘as far as his rhetorical strategy goes, it’s very fascist.’ For their fellow liberal Richard Evans, at Cambridge: ‘It’s not the same’—however: ‘Trump is a 21st-century would-be dictator who uses the unprecedented power of social media and the Internet to spread conspiracy theories’—‘worryingly reminiscent of the fascists of the 1920s and 1930s.’¹

Read the rest of this entry »

Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture (Jameson, 1979)

by FREDRIC JAMESON

The theory of mass culture-or mass audience culture, commercial culture, “popular” culture, the culture industry, as it is variously known-has always tended to define its object against so-called high culture without reflecting on the objective status of this opposition. As so often, positions in this field reduce themselves to two mirror-images, and are essentially staged in terms of value. Thus the familiar motif of elitism argues for the priority of mass culture on the grounds of the sheer numbers of people exposed to it; the pursuit of high or hermetic culture is then stigmatized as a status hobby of small groups of intellectuals. As its anti-intellectual thrust suggests, this essentially negative position has little theoretical content but clearly responds to a deeply rooted conviction in American radicalism and articulates a widely based sense that high culture is an establishment phenomenon, irredeemably tainted by its association with institutions, in particular with the university. The value invoked is therefore a social one: it would be preferable to deal with tv programs, The Godfather, or Jaws, rather than with Wallace Stevens or Henry James, because the former clearly speak a cultural language meaningful to far wider strata of the population than what is socially represented by intellectuals. Radicals are however also intellectuals, so that this position has suspicious overtones of the guilt trip; meanwhile it overlooks the anti-social and critical, negative (although generally not revolutionary) stance of much of the most important forms of modem art; finally, it offers no method for reading even those cultural objects it valorizes and has had little of interest to say about their content.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Party of Autonomy?

operaismo

by Steve Wright (2005)

In loving memory of Ivan Conabere (1963-2002)—‘Uno di noi’

Autonomia operaia is a party, from the phenomenal, organisational and structural point of view—Judge Pietro Calogero (La Repubblica 1979: 120).

If only!—Mario Dalmaviva, Luciano Ferrari Bravo, Toni Negri, Oreste Scalzone, Emilio Vesce, Lauso Zagato (1979: 23).

This chapter seeks to explore, in a critical manner, the debate over the party-form played out within and around the groups of Autonomia Operaia during the late seventies, when that area of revolutionary politics was briefly the dominant force within the Italian far left. Having assumed a leading role during the initial stages of 1977’s ‘strange movement of strange students’ (Lerner, Manconi & Sinibaldi 1978), Italian autonomists finally found a mass audience for their debate around the meaning and purpose of political organisation. This was to be a many-sided discussion while it lasted, conducted not only between the various ‘micro-fractions’ (Scalzone 1978) that together claimed the label of Autonomia organizzata, but also with a range of critics ‘outside and on its borders’ (Martignoni & Morandini 1977).

Read the rest of this entry »

Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society (Dahrendorf, 1959)

fiat_hot_autumn__69

Ralf Dahrendorf (1959)

The concept of class has never remained a harmless concept for very long. Particularly when applied to human beings and their social conditions it has invariably displayed a peculiar explosiveness. The logician runs no risk in distinguishing “classes” of judgments or categories; the biologist need not worry about “classifying” the organisms with which he is concernedbut if the sociologist uses the concept of class he not only must carefully explain in which of its many meanings he wants it to be understood, but also must expect objections that are dictated less by scientific insight than by political prejudice. As Lipset and Bendix have stated: “Discussions of different theories of class are often academic substitutes for a real conflict over political orientations” (55, p. 150).

[PDF of book, 18MB]

W.E.B. Du Bois (Collected Works)

du

One might divide those interested in Socialism into two distinct camps: On the one hand, those farsighted thinkers who are seeking to determine from the facts of modern industrial organization just what the outcome is going to be; on the other hand, those who suffer from the present industrial situation and who are anxious that, whatever the broad outcome may be, at any rate the present suffering which they know so well shall be stopped.

It is this second class of social thinkers who are interested particularly in the Negro problem. They are saying that the plight of 10,000,000 human beings in the United States, predominantly of the working class, is so evil that it calls for much attention in any program of future social reform. This paper, however, is addressed not to this class, but rather to the class of theoretical Socialists; and its thesis is: In the Negro problem, as it presents itself in the United States, theoretical Socialism of the twentieth century meets a critical dilemma.

Read the rest of this entry »

Kojève

115128913_o

Alexander Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (1930s)

In other words, the bourgeois Worker presupposes–and conditions–an Entsagung, an Abnegation of human existence. Man transcends himself, surpasses himself, projects himself far away from himself by projecting himself onto the idea of private property, of Capital, which–while being the Property-owner’s own product–becomes independent of him and enslaves him just as the Master enslaved the Slave; with this difference, however, that the enslavement is now conscious and freely accepted by the Worker. (We see, by the way, that for Hegel, as for Marx, the central phenomenon of the bourgeois World is not the enslavement of the working man, of the poor bourgeois, by the rich bourgeois, but the enslavement of both by Capital.) However that may be, bourgeois existence presupposes, engenders, and nourishes Abnegation. Now it is precisely this Abnegation that reflects itself in the dualistic Christian ideology, while providing it with a new, specific, nonpagan content. It is the same Christian dualism that is found again in bourgeois existence: the opposition between the “legal Person,” the private Property-owner; and the man of flesh and blood; the existence of an ideal, transcendent World, represented in reality by Money, Capital, to which Man is supposed to devote his Actions, to sacrifice his sensual, biological Desires.


 

See also: The Black Circle: The Life of Alexander Kojève by Jeff Love (2018)

Apocalypse and Ecology (1988)

11382213_web1_11382213-af30f831c50d4b6a822601a92ef086e8

by Eric Zencey

On the evening of October 22, 1844, a quiet and selective exodus took place in New England. Fifty thousand citizens left their homes for the last time, pulled out of doors and away from their neighbors as smoothly as a sharper’s hand draws an ace from a deck of cards. Here an entire family left their farm, its fields tangled from a summer of neglect; there, in a small town, a wheelwright or a cooper or a smith marshalled his children and wife toward the door, gave a moment’s pause at the bolt, then left the door ajar. No doubt in some homes only a few felt the im pulse: we can imagine an elder son standing alone at the door, wearing the sort of rude and handmade gown that all fifty thousand had been directed to sew in preparation, his purpose delayed for a moment by pity for those he could not convince. Then he moved on to join the others, the believers who gathered on a hilltop outside of town.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anxiety and Politics (Franz Neumann, 1957)

franz-l.-neumann-political-science-1946

Franz Neumann (1957)

Anxiety is, or ought to be, a central problem of the sciences. Anxiety impairs the freedom of decision, indeed it may make such freedom impossible—only a fearless man (or woman, ed.) can decide freely. The discussion of the problem of anxiety should be open to all the disciplines, not reserved to any one of them, for the great concern of science is the analysis and application of the concept of human freedom. My task today is to discuss the problem of anxiety in politics, a task which is confronted with many obstacles. In contrast to the traditional disciplines, the science of politics has no method of its own—it has, in the last analysis, only a focus, namely the dialectical relation between domination and freedom. In other words the science of politics revolves solely around a problem and uses all kinds of methods to attack this problem. However, with this approach the political scientist runs the danger of dilettantism, a danger which he can avoid only by being conscious of his limitations and by giving hearing to authorities from other disciplines. Thus this contribution will often consist merely in a synthesis of the results of research or perhaps in a felicitous hypothesis. [READ PDF]

Critical Theory and the Critique of Anti-Imperialism

99671536

by Marcel Stoetzler (2018)

[in Best, Beverley; Werner Bonefeld; Chris O’Kane (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory, vol. 3, 1467-1486.]

The rejection of ‘anti-imperialism’ marks one of the most visible and significant differences between ‘Frankfurt School’ Critical Theory and most other tendencies of the Marxist left. The dispute on the meaning and relevance of ‘imperialism’ and ‘anti-imperialism’ is implicated in related discussions on the critique of nation and state, colonialism and post-coloniality, racism and race, and antisemitism. ‘Frankfurt School’ Critical Theory deliberately aims to formulate a critique of the capitalist mode of production that includes the phenomena typically addressed as ‘imperialism’ without recourse to the concept of ‘anti-imperialism’. It takes the perspective that ‘imperialism’ is an intrinsic aspect of the capitalist mode of production rather than an object in its own right that is to be distinguished from the latter and to be fought ‘as such’: the concept of ‘anti-imperialism’ presupposes the reification and fetishization of ‘imperialism’.

Read the rest of this entry »

Contradictions of the Welfare State

Germany Easter march in Frankfurt A protesters hold a sign that has a Hartz IV German dole is lik

by Claus Offe (1984)

Now, capitalist societies are defined by the fact that in them – on the basis of an unequal distribution of property resulting from precapitalist ‘primitive accumulation’ – the organizational principle of the exchange (of equivalents) is universal. This principle of exchange, which also includes the commodification of labour power, becomes dominant because it is freed from normative and political-coercive restraints. To be sure, a society organized by means of exchange relationships can never be organized solely through exchange relations but, rather, requires ‘flanking subsystems’: even in a purely competitive-capitalist social system, individuals must be socialized in normative structures, while the established rules of social intercourse must be sanctioned by sovereign power. A society based on market exchange cannot function without the family system and the legal system.

If the dominant organizational principle of the social processes of every capitalist society is that of exchange, a theory of the crises of capitalist society can identify those processes which challenge the dominance of this central principle. This, in turn, can be done in two ways.

  1. The theory of historical materialism attempts to show that processes organized and formed through exchange lead to results that cannot be dealt with by the exchange process itself. Economic crisis theories in a narrow sense, such as the theorem of the historical tendency of the rate of profit to fall, reconstruct the processes of self-negation of the exchange principle that potentially result in the revolutionary transformation of the entire ideological and political ‘superstructure’.
  2. As an alternative to this approach, a theory of the system crises of capitalist societies would examine crisis-prone developments not in the exchange sphere itself (i. e., in the form of an economic crisis theory); rather, it would concentrate on the relationship between the three fundamental organizational principles of society as a whole. Not the self-negation of the exchange principle but its restriction and questioning by the other two organizational principles would serve as the criterion of crisis processes.

PDF of Book

Industrial Relations, Trade Unions and Social Conflict in German Capitalism

German metal workers union IG Metall protest in Mannheim

by Ulrich Brinkmann and Oliver Nachtwey, 2013

Times have been changing. German capitalism, the former “sick man of Europe” in the late 1990s recovered from the financial crisis after 2008 very well. Indeed, the German labour market performed better than most of its European counterparts and during spring 2012 it reached the lowest level of unemployment since German reunification. The German press as well as significant parts of the leading political discourse are bursting with pride about a new German “labour market wonder”. During the first months in 2012 there have been a lot of debates on the specific macroeconomic configuration of the European monetary union with Germany as the current high-performer regarding labour market and export performance. Certainly: the fact that – though highly productive – the German export industry does not face a monetary revaluation plays an important role (Cesarotto/Stirati 2010; Lehndorff 2012). It profits from the common currency and the implications of the restraints for national monetary responses to exchange, credit and trust crises. But – and this is essential to the argument provided in this text – there is an underlying mechanism that complementarily supports this configuration from the industrial relations level.

Germany is the main exception in Europe in terms of social conflict, too. Since 2010, Europe has experienced a wave of mass-, and even general strikes: France, Greece and Portugal were centres of social conflict. Germany, however, remained calm, despite a sharp economic downturn and in spite of a cuts program by the government. Yet there were different historical experiences, too: In post-war Germany big and occasionally spectacular strike movements repeatedly took place – i.e. in 1956/57 for continued payment of wages in case of illness (sick pay), the unauthorized strikes 1969 et seq. or the major strike in 1984 for the 35-hours-week. But still, compared to international standards Germany is considered a “low-strike country” (Dribbusch 2007).

This article focuses the main developments of the German industrial relations, that contributed to the recent developments of the German economy in general, and the labour market in particular. We are starting with further factors that should be taken into consideration when debating the low level of social conflict in Germany. In general, German capital has gained new strength while trade unions have been forced onto the defensive since the 1990s. Furthermore, the changing forms of corporatist integration and the reconstruction of the German production and employment model have played a significant role in weakening trade union power resources. [READ PDF]

Bolsonaro’s Brazil

zrop4l6cq5fdipefgmqk

by Perry Anderson (Feb 2019)

I: Lula/Dilma

The teratology of the contemporary political imagination – plentiful enough: Trump, Le Pen, Salvini, Orbán, Kaczyński, ogres galore – has acquired a new monster. Rising above the ruck, the president-elect of Brazil has extolled his country’s most notorious torturer; declared that its military dictatorship should have shot thirty thousand opponents; told a congresswoman she was too ugly to merit raping; announced he would rather a son killed in a car accident than gay; declared open season on the Amazon rainforest; not least, on the day after his election, promised followers to rid the land of red riff-raff. Yet for Sérgio Moro, his incoming justice minister saluted worldwide as an epitome of judicial independence and integrity, Jair Bolsonaro is a ‘moderate’.

To all appearances, the verdict of the polls last October was unambiguous: after governing the country for 14 years, the Workers’ Party (PT) has been comprehensively repudiated and its survival may now be in doubt. Lula, the most popular ruler in Brazilian history, has been incarcerated by Moro and awaits further jail sentences. His successor, evicted from office midway through her second term, is a virtual outcast, reduced to a humiliating fourth place in a local Senate race. How has this reversal come about? To what extent was it contingent or at some point a foregone conclusion? What explains the radicalism of the upshot? By comparison with the scale of the upheaval through which Brazil has lived in the last five years, and the gravity of its possible outcome, the histrionics over Brexit in this country and the conniptions over Trump in America are close to much ado about nothing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Authority and the Family (Horkheimer, 1936)

the-white-ribbon-still

by Max Horkheimer (1936)

THE history of mankind has been divided into periods in very varying ways. The manner in which periodization has been carried out has not depended exclusively on the object, any more than other concept formations have; the current state of knowledge and the concerns of the knower have also played a part. Today the division into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modern times is still widely used. It originated in literary studies and was applied in the seventeenth century to history generally. It expresses the conviction, formed in the Renaissance and consolidated in the Enlightenment, that the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the fifteenth century was a dark era for mankind, a sort of hibernation of culture, and was to be understood only as a period of transition. In contemporary scholarship this particular periodization is considered highly unsatisfactory. One reason is that the “Middle Ages” were in fact a time of important progress even from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, since they saw decisive advances in civilization and produced revolutionary technical inventions. A further reason is that the usual criteria for making the fifteenth century a dividing point are partly indefensible, partly applicable in a meaningful way only to limited areas of world history.  [READ PDF]