communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Brexit and other disasters: A public meeting with Tony Norfield

 

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The recent election of Donald Trump has sent shockwaves across the world. And while debates are still raging over the exact reasons that allowed Trump to win, the reactions to his victory show that very few people (maybe even among his supporters) expected him to win. In reality the signs that Trump stood a really good chance to emerge victorious in the US elections were there for those who cared to notice. But they were not confined to developments within the United States. Trump seems to ride the wave of a global trend towards authoritarian right-wing populism expressed in different countries such as Russia, Turkey, the Philippines, Hungary or Poland. But perhaps the “closest-to-home” expression of this tendency was the June 2016 referendum in the UK, in which a majority voted to leave the European Union.

The Brexit vote has also puzzled mainstream commentators, and this is no accident. From the perspective of the elites that have been managing the capitalist world (almost undisputed) in the last 30 years, the result was not only inexplicable but also tremendously destructive. For a large part of the capitalist class and its political representatives Brexit and its prospects (especially in relation to the City of London and its global significance) was nothing short of an economic disaster.

The UK had, after all, always enjoyed a special relation to the European Union, benefiting in many ways from its advantages without however carrying the burden of most of its structural problems. Away from the constraints of the monetary union, selective in its application of work and environmental regulations, the UK enjoyed what many saw an almost ideal relationship to the EU. Nonetheless, a majority opted to break away from this.

A number of questions immediately arise: what was the rationale behind the decision to hold the referendum, especially considering that most capitalists and politicians saw it clearly as a threat to their interests? How was it possible that the Leave vote won, when even those who represented it did not see it as a possibility? Does the overwhelming working class vote for Brexit represent a deepening of racist and anti-immigrant sentiments, or were there other considerations at stake? Finally, what could the future outside the EU look like for the UK, for its Finance sector, for Europe?

The Marxist economist Tony Norfield worked in the City’s dealing rooms for almost 20 years. Recently he published a book on the role of finance in the global economy (“The City: London and the Global Power of Finance, 2016). Since 5 years he has run a blog, Economics of Imperialism. 

[The meeting will be held in English]

Tuesday 6th December, 20.00

@ k*fetisch

wildenbuchstr. 86, 12045 Neukölln, Berlin

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Fuck work

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by James Livingston, aeon.co

Economists believe in full employment. Americans think that work builds character. But what if jobs aren’t working anymore?

Work means everything to us Americans. For centuries – since, say, 1650 – we’ve believed that it builds character (punctuality, initiative, honesty, self-discipline, and so forth). We’ve also believed that the market in labour, where we go to find work, has been relatively efficient in allocating opportunities and incomes. And we’ve believed that, even if it sucks, a job gives meaning, purpose and structure to our everyday lives – at any rate, we’re pretty sure that it gets us out of bed, pays the bills, makes us feel responsible, and keeps us away from daytime TV.

These beliefs are no longer plausible. In fact, they’ve become ridiculous, because there’s not enough work to go around, and what there is of it won’t pay the bills – unless of course you’ve landed a job as a drug dealer or a Wall Street banker, becoming a gangster either way. . . [continue]

LA Theses (endnotes)

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“in this society unity appears as accidental, separation as normal.”
—Marx, Theories of Surplus Value

  1. We live in an era of long-unfolding social crisis, which is fundamentally the crisis of societies organized in a capitalist mode. Indeed, the employment relations that govern production and consumption in capitalist societies are breaking down. The result has been the reappearance of a structural condition that Marx called surplus capital alongside surplus population. Technological transformations continue to take place in spite of economic stagnation, giving rise to a situation in which there are too few jobs for too many people. Meanwhile, huge pools of money scour the earth for profits, leading to periodic expansions of bubbles that burst in massive blowouts. Rising job insecurity and inequality are symptoms of the increasing impossibility of this world as such.
  2. In the present moment, these contradictions, formerly contained within capitalist societies, are set to explode. The 2008 crisis was one manifestation of this. It gave rise to a global wave of struggles that is still unfolding today. In order to gain some control over a simmering crisis, states organized coordinated bailouts of financial and other firms. State debt rose to levels not seen since World War II. Bailouts of capitalists thus had to be accompanied by punishing austerity for workers, as states sought to manage their balance sheets while also recreating the conditions for accumulation. Yet these state actions have been only partially successful. Rich economies continue to grow ever more slowly even as they take on huge quantities of debt at every level. Poor economies are also faltering. We call this global situation the holding patternand assert that further economic turbulence is likely to issue in a capitalist crash landing.
  3. Workers fought defensive battles in the twentieth century as they still do today. But then, their defensive battles were part of an offensive struggle: workers sought to organize themselves into a labor movement, which was growing ever more powerful. This movement would sooner or later expropriate the expropriators in order to begin to build a society organized according to the needs and wants of workers themselves.
  4. However, the post-1970s crisis of capitalism, which for many should have spelled its end, led to a deep crisis of the labor movement itself. Its project is no longer adequate to the conditions workers face. Most fundamentally, this is because of the decline of the centrality of industrial work in the economy. With the onset of deindustrialization and the decline in the manufacturing share of employment (which was itself one of the fundamental causes of the expansion of surplus populations), the industrial worker could no longer be seen as the leading edge of the class. In addition, due to rising levels of greenhouse gases, it is apparent that the vast industrial apparatus is not only creating the conditions of a better future – it is also destroying them. Most fundamentally of all, work itself is no longer experienced as central to most people’s identities. For most people (although not everyone), it no longer seems as if work could be fulfilling if only it was managed collectively by workers rather than by bosses.
  5. At the same time, the decline of the workers’ identity revealed a multiplicity of other identities, organizing themselves in relation to struggles that had, until then, been more or less repressed. The resulting “new social movements” made it clear, in retrospect, to what extent the homogeneous working class was actually diverse in character. They have also established that revolution must involve more than the reorganization of the economy: it requires the abolition of gender, racial and national distinctions, and so on. But in the welter of emergent identities, each with their own sectional interests, it is unclear what exactly this revolution must be. For us, the surplus population is not a new revolutionary subject. Rather, it denotes a structural situation in which no fraction of the class can present itself as the revolutionary subject.
  6. Under these conditions, the unification of the proletariat is no longer possible. This might seem to be a pessimistic conclusion, but it has a converse implication that is more optimistic: today the problem of unification is a revolutionary problem. At the high points of contemporary movements, in occupied squares and factories, in strikes, riots and popular assemblies, proletarians discover not their power as the real producers of this society, but rather their separation along a multiplicity of identity-lines (employment status, gender, race, etc.). These are marked out and knitted together by the disintegrating integration of states and labor markets. We describe this problem as the composition problem: diverse proletarian fractions must unify but do not find a unity ready-made within the terms of this unraveling society.
  7. This is why we think it is so important to study the unfolding of struggles in detail. It is only in those struggles that the revolutionary horizon of the present is delineated. In the course of their struggles, proletarians periodically improvise solutions to the composition problem. They name a fictive unity, beyond the terms of capitalist society (most recently: the black bloc, real democracy, 99%, the movement for black lives, etc.), as a means of fighting against that society. While each of these improvised unities inevitably breaks down, their cumulative failures map out the separations that would have to be overcome by a communist movement in the chaotic uproar of a revolution against capital.
  8. This is what we mean when we say that class consciousness, today, can only be consciousness of capital. In the fight for their lives, proletarians must destroy that which separates them. In capitalism, that which separates them is also what unites them: the market is both their atomization and their interdependence. It is the consciousness of capital as our unity-in-separation that allows us to posit from within existing conditions – even if only as a photographic negative – humanity’s capacity for communism.

Endnotes, Los Angeles, December 2015

Trumped

 

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Insurgent Notes #14: Nov 2016, Special Post-Election Issue:

Editorial: We’re Tempted to Say We Told You So, But We Won’t

Anyone But by David Ranney

Dispatch From West Virginia by Michael Hough

Some Facts and Figures, and a Bit of Commentary to Go With It by RS

The Heavy Lifting of Class Struggle by S S and Michael Stauch


Internationalist Perspective:

 This is What Democracy Looks Like


It’s Not About NAFTA by Aaron Benanav


Not Us, Me by Jodi Dean


Why Do White Working-Class People Vote Against Their Interests? They Don’t. by Kirk Noden


“Global Trumpism” And The Revolt Against The Creditor Class by Mark Blyth


The Dangers of Anti-Trumpism by Cinzia Arruzza


Listening to Trump by Christian Parenti


Not a Revolution – Yet  by Mike Davis


What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class by Joan C. Williams


A Trump Boom?  by Michael Roberts


Fairfax County, USA by Matt Karp


A Time for Treason by The New Inquiry


How Trump Took Middle America by Gary Young


How America Got It So Wrong by Matt Taibbi


The Myth of the Rust Belt Revolt By Konstantin Kilibarda and Daria Roithmayr

The Young Mario Tronti

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A Living Unity in the Marxist: Introduction to Tronti’s Early Writings | Andrew Anastasi

These texts provide the reader with not only some of the ideas percolating in the mind of the young Tronti, but also a window into the prehistory of operaismo: the tumultuous debates within the Italian left of the 1950s over the meanings of Marxism.

Some Questions around Gramsci’s Marxism (1958) | Mario Tronti

Certainly we must assert the novelty, the originality, the autonomy of Marxism. But the novelty of Marxism against any other philosophy consists not in asking more of it as a philosophy; its originality consists in its offer of science to philosophy, or rather in its conceiving the proper philosophy only as science, as a “specific conception of a specific object.”

Between Dialectical Materialism and Philosophy of Praxis: Gramsci and Labriola (1959) | Mario Tronti

First one has all of Marx revolve around Hegel, then one removes Hegel from the center and says: see, Marx fails to rotate on his own. This is how the interpretation of a theory coincides with its liquidation. In fact precisely this misunderstanding has driven Marx’s thought to the margins of contemporary philosophical thought.

On Marxism and Sociology (1959) | Mario Tronti

One absolutely cannot accept that there exists a researcher who offers material to the theorist, and then there is a theorist who re-elaborates it and produces theory. Rather, there is a continuous unity realized already within Marxism, and it lives precisely in the person of the Marxist.


is a member of the editorial collective of Viewpoint and a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Crisis and Critique

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CRISIS AND CRITIQUE: Critique Of Political Economy

Volume 3, issue 3, 16-11-2016 Edited by Frank Ruda &  Agon Hamza

It is 2016, and we are still living under capitalism. Yet, how does  contemporary capitalism function? How is it possible for a system, which declared its final victory in the beginning of the last decade of the previous century, to already face some of its most serious and profound crisis since the first decade, of the present century? The on-going crisis has reopened some of the (half) forgotten and prematurely answered & questions about the modes in which capitalism operates: the relation between the State and capital, the limits of capital, the forms of changes within capitalism, forms of domination and exploitation, social classes, et cetera . . .

Table of Contents

Introduction by Frank Ruda &  Agon Hamza PDF

A Marxian Critique of Neoclassical Economics’ Reliance on Shadows of Capital’s Constitutive Social Forms by Dennis Badeen & Patrick Murray PDF

Marx after Hegel: Capital as totality and the centrality of production by Riccardo Bellofiore PDF

Capital: A Critical Theory? by Jacques Bidet PDF

The Beast and the Universal: Hegel’s Critique of Political Economy by Ivan Boldyrev PDF

The “Capital ” after the MEGA: Discontinuities, Interruptions and New Beginnings by Michael Heinrich PDF

How to Read Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Campbell Jones PDF

Capital as Spirit  by Kojin Karatani PDF

Creativity vs. Unskilled Labour: Kant on Class Struggle by Ognian Kassabov PDF

How Not to Evaluate the Relevance of Marx’s Capital by Andrew Kliman PDF

The Critique of Political Economy and the ‘New Dialectic’: Marx, Hegel and the Problem of Christopher J. Arthur’s ‘Homology Thesis’ by Elena Louisa Lange PDF

The Economic Catastrophe as a Passionate Event by Frédéric Lordon PDF

Marx’s Destruction of the Inner World: from the Colonial Internalisation of the Psyche to the Critique of the Psychological Roots of Political Economy by David Pavón Cuéllar PDF

Radicalizing the Root: The Return of Philosophical Anthropology to the Critique of Political Economy by Jason Read PDF

Mapping the Abstract Essence of Concrete Existence: An Analysis of the Privative Form of Value, an Overdetermined Category by Frank Smecker PDF

Journeying on the Roads Not Taken: The Possessive Individual, the Commons and Marx by Massimiliano Tomba PDF

Economic crises, historical regression and social conflicts: an essay by Raquel Varela and Valério Arcary PDF

Capitalist Bulimia: Lacan on Marx and crisis by Fabio Vighi PDF

The ‘Ideal Total Capitalist’: On the State-Form in the Critique of Political Economy by Gavin Walker PDF

Phenomenology of Value: Badiou and Marx by Yuan Yao PDF

Can One Exit from The Capitalist Discourse Without Becoming a Saint? by Slavoj Žižek PDF

Interview with Moishe Postone: That Capital has limits does not mean that it will collapse by Agon Hamza & Frank Ruda PDF

Notes on Contributors PDF

Download the full edition PDF

Condition of the Working Class

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1845, Engels

The war of the poor against the rich will be the bloodiest ever waged. Even the union of a part of the bourgeoisie with the proletariat, even a general reform of the bourgeoisie, would not help matters. Besides, the change of heart of the bourgeoisie could only go as far as a lukewarm juste-milieu; the more determined, uniting with the workers, would only form a new Gironde, and succumb in the course of the mighty development. The prejudices of a whole class cannot be laid aside like an old coat: least of all, those of the stable, narrow, selfish English American bourgeoisie.

These are all inferences which may be drawn with the greatest certainty: conclusions, the premises for which are undeniable facts, partly of historical development, partly facts inherent in human nature. Prophecy is nowhere so easy as in England America, where all the component elements of society are clearly defined and sharply separated. The revolution must come; it is already too late to bring about a peaceful solution; but it can be made more gently than that prophesied in the foregoing pages. This depends, however, more upon the development of the proletariat than upon that of the bourgeoisie. In proportion, as the proletariat absorbs socialistic and communistic elements, will the revolution diminish in bloodshed, revenge, and savagery.

Communism stands, in principle, above the breach between bourgeoisie and proletariat, recognises only its historic significance for the present, but not its justification for the future: wishes, indeed, to bridge over this chasm, to do away with all class antagonisms. Hence it recognises as justified, so long as the struggle exists, the exasperation of the proletariat towards its oppressors as a necessity, as the most important lever for a labour movement just beginning; but it goes beyond this exasperation, because Communism is a question of humanity and not of the workers alone. Besides, it does not occur to any Communist to wish to revenge himself upon individuals, or to believe that, in general, the single bourgeois can act otherwise, under existing circumstances, than he does act.

English American Socialism, i.e., Communism, rests directly upon the irresponsibility of the individual. Thus the more the English American workers absorb communistic ideas, the more superfluous becomes their present bitterness, which, should it continue so violent as at present, could accomplish nothing; and the more their action against the bourgeoisie will lose its savage cruelty. If, indeed, it were possible to make the whole proletariat communistic before the war breaks out, the end would be very peaceful; but that is no longer possible, the time has gone by. Meanwhile, I think that before the outbreak of open, declared war of the poor against the rich, there will be enough intelligent comprehension of the social question among the proletariat, to enable the communistic party, with the help of events, to conquer the brutal element of the revolution and prevent a “Ninth Thermidor.”

Proletarier aller Länder, bekämpft euch!

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Anmerkungen zur Flüchtlingskrise

Freundinnen und Freunde der klassenlosen Gesellschaft, Sept 2016

1. Im Herbst letzten Jahres schien es, als würden wir Zeugen einer politischen Zäsur. Die Massenbewegung flüchtender Menschen zeigte der Festung Europa ihre Grenzen auf. Allerdings hatte dies jenseits der wörtlichen Bedeutung wenig mit einer Bewegung gemein, geschweige denn mit einer erwachenden »Multitude«, die auf die Grundfesten der herrschenden Ordnung zielen würde. Die Geflüchteten forderten zunächst nichts außer dem Recht auf Anwesenheit, das sie temporär bereits durchgesetzt hatten; mit ihrer Raumeinnahme schufen sie kurzerhand Fakten. Obwohl es vor allem die »Willkommenskultur« war, die das staatliche Versagen durch praktische Hilfe auffing, wurde der Zusammenbruch des Grenzregimes von der radikalen Linken begrüßt und teilweise als »Selbstermächtigung« und »Autonomie der Migration« gefeiert.

Andere witterten hinter Angela Merkels zeitweiliger Politik der Grenzöffnung einen Masterplan des Kapitals, den Arbeitsmarkt durch billige und willige Neuankömmlinge aufzufrischen. Manche Linke sehen darin eher eine Bedrohung und sind spätestens nach den Übergriffen in der Silvesternacht in Köln auf einen Abschottungskurs eingeschwenkt. Angesichts des Deals mit der Türkei und geplanter Internierungslager in Libyen scheinen inzwischen beide Deutungen fragwürdig. Kurzzeitig überrumpelt, sind die Herrschenden wieder am Zug, und ihr Interesse an billigen Arbeitskräften scheint begrenzt. Vielmehr zeugt das Geschehen von den Herkunftsländern bis nach Europa von einem erdrückenden globalen Überschuss an Arbeitskraft, den wir Surplus-Proletariat nennen. Durch ihn wird die Klasse der Lohnabhängigen in immer stärkere Konkurrenz gesetzt; er wirkt als Treibsatz von Abstiegsangst, Chauvinismus, Spaltung. Die handliche Losung Das Problem heißt Rassismus geht daran vorbei.

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Revolutionary Hangover

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I

History does not pamper the proletariat. Now, when under the undivided rule of counter-revolutionary violence the open performance of the broad mass became almost impossible, when revolutionary work again has been driven underground, the participation of the proletarian Social-Democratic deputies in the State Duma is the last strong ‘legal’ post of class struggle, the Duma tribune – the last tribune, in which it is possible to more or less openly proclaim the slogans of this struggle. And then it appears that even this last legal representation of the proletariat by far does not stand at the height of its tasks, that the Social-Democratic faction very often makes mistakes, that the Duma tribune is insufficiently used for the systematic upholding of the principles of class struggle, for revolutionary critique of all bourgeois parties and their counter-revolutionary games, for political enlightenment of the labouring mass, but frequently is an arena of indecisive action and vacillation on the side of the proletarian deputies, vacillation, excluding a sustained political line and sometimes directly contradictory to the demands of proletarian politics. If one evaluates similar facts ‘on the surface’, not delving deeper in their background, then one can call the present condition of the Duma representation of Social Democracy quite sad. But to say only this would be to observe a truth, undoubtedly, cheaper, than fruitful.

However, no less incandescent (нечален) in its symptomatic significance is also that result, which the weakness of our Duma representation call forth among the ranks of the party in the form of a current, proclaiming openly or secretly the recall of the Social-Democratic faction as the sole exit from the sad situation. The activity of the faction in the third Duma proved its unfitness as a weapon of class struggle – consequently, one needs to recall the faction. So reason some Russian comrades, taking, evidently, this stirring simplicity and direct political reasoning for truly revolutionary decisiveness and solidity in putting the question. For better or for worse, revolutionary proletarian politics does not boil down to such simplified method of thought, – it must be based, in the given case, as also always, first of all on the deeper analysis of objective conditions of struggle of the proletariat and on the dissection of those dialectical inter-relations, in which lies also the true source of difficulties, experienced by Social Democracy, and the true road for the exit from these difficulties.

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Insurgent Notes #13 (Oct 2016)

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Insurgent Notes No. 13 presents an array of articles reflecting the rising curve of revolt and political turmoil in the United States and abroad. We begin with our editorial “President Trump?” on the current, fast-evolving situation of the strangest political year in the United States since 1968. We follow with Michael Hough’s historically rich article on the evolution of labor racketeering trials in the United States, culminating in the little-noticed conviction and sentencing of a Philadelphia Ironworkers’ president in 2015. John Garvey’s “Notes on a Future Politics (Part One)” offers a detailed account of the forces, over several decades, which have converged in the Trump phenomenon. Jarrod Shanahan recounts the recent revolt in the commissary at the notorious Riker’s Island prison in New York City this past summer. Following on this, and presenting a larger historical perspective, culminating in the organizing for a nationwide prison strike, Amiri Barksdale traces a history of little-known prison revolts in recent years, as well as those by immigrant detainees. For an international perspective, our Southeast Asian correspondent Art Meen’s “Strike Wave and Worker Victories in Cambodia” offers a concise overview of a militant working class in motion in struggles largely off the radar in the west. For historical perspective, Mitch Abidor writes up his recent interviews with 40-odd veterans, from across the political spectrum, of the May―June general strike in France in 1968, followed by two critical comments. Last but not least, Jason Rhodes discusses Ashwin Desai’s remarkable book Reading for Revolution.

Editorial: President Trump?

Twenty-First Century Trade Union Conspiracy Trial

Michael Hough

Notes on a Future Politics—Part 1

John Garvey

Checking Out

Jarrod Shanahan

Convict and Immigrant Detainee Struggles Converge in Strike Wave

Amiri Barksdale

Strike Wave and Worker Victories in Cambodia

Art Meen

May ’68 Revisited (and Two Replies)

Mitch Abidor

Review: Ashwin Desai, Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island

Jason Rhodes

Brexit means… what? Hapless ideology and practical consequences

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Auf­heben № 24
November 2016

A number of left groups and individuals campaigned for the UK to leave the European Union. Aufheben argue that the Brexit campaign, and the referendum itself, its results and its implementation, have been one with a victory of the ruling class against us. The implementation of Brexit will negatively affect solidarity among workers and radical protesters, setting back our strength and potentials to overturn capitalism. Many people in the radical left were blinded by the ideological forms of our capitalist relations, the reification of our human interactions, to the point of accepting a victory of the far right with acquiescence, or even collaborating with it.

The EU mi­grants’ or­deal and the lim­its of dir­ect ac­tion

We be­gin this art­icle with a case dealt with by Brighton Solfed (SF) and CASE Cent­ral so­cial center — the story of an EU mi­grant in Brighton.

At the end of 2015, L., a Span­ish hos­pit­al­ity work­er, sought help from SF. She had worked in a res­taur­ant for more than a year but, as soon as she fell ill, her em­ploy­er sacked her with a flimsy ex­cuse, in or­der to avoid pay­ing Stat­utory Sick Pay (SSP). Re­ceiv­ing SSP would have been this work­er’s right un­der both do­mest­ic and European Uni­on (EU) le­gis­la­tion. However, the em­ploy­er in­sisted that she left her job vol­un­tar­ily, and re­fused to re-em­ploy here.

One then claimed a sick­ness be­ne­fit, Em­ploy­ment and Sup­port Al­low­ance (ESA). As an EU work­er, she should have been en­titled to equal rights un­der EU le­gis­la­tion, and to ESA. However, the state re­fused the be­ne­fit: they said that, due [to] a “gap” between the end of her job and her claim, she was no longer a “work­er” when she claimed ESA. A be­ne­fits ad­vice group helped with an ap­peal, but the state re­fused to re­con­sider. L. was in a des­per­ate situ­ation, with no money and far from her fam­ily, and was temp­ted to move back to Spain. This would amount to eco­nom­ic de­port­a­tion — not im­posed through phys­ic­al force, but through ex­treme hard­ship.

Back in [the] 1970s the UK’s mem­ber­ship of the European Com­mon Mar­ket was op­posed by left-wing mil­it­ants, as the Com­mon Mar­ket was seen as a neo­lib­er­al club de­signed to pre­vent the ad­vance of so­cial­ism, or just the im­ple­ment­a­tion of Keyne­sian policies.

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Class / segmentation / racialization (TC)

All identities gives themselves an imaginary genealogy which is both efficacious and real by way of its reconstruction.

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Originally published by Théorie Communiste, a French communization group, here.

Translated from the French by LNFC (updates by Charnel)

There has al­ways been seg­ment­a­tion with­in labor power. We must take it, then, as an ob­ject­ive de­term­in­a­tion of labor power un­der cap­it­al that nat­ur­ally leads to a di­vi­sion of labor. Here we have noth­ing more than a di­vide between a ho­mo­gen­eous ma­ter­i­al and a simple quant­it­at­ive grad­a­tion of the value of labor power. (Both simple and com­plex work un­der­go a kind of os­mos­is with­in the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, from the gen­er­al­ized con­straint of sur­plus labor to spe­cial­ized labor un­der co­oper­at­ive man­age­ment, etc.). However, this seg­ment­a­tion would not be so if it were not but a qual­it­at­ive di­vide with­in an oth­er­wise ho­mo­gen­eous ma­ter­i­al. Two pro­cesses in­ter­vene as they weave to­geth­er: On the one hand the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion is glob­al, cap­able of ap­pro­pri­at­ing and des­troy­ing all oth­er modes of pro­duc­tion while con­serving for it­self the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of those it has re­defined. On the oth­er hand the value of labor power rep­res­ents a mor­al, cul­tur­al, and his­tor­ic­al com­pon­ent. Since cap­it­al­ist ex­ploit­a­tion is uni­ver­sal — i.e., be­cause cap­it­al can take over oth­er modes of pro­duc­tion or make them co­ex­ist along­side it, ex­ploit labor power to­geth­er with those oth­er modes or de­tach them from their former ex­ist­en­tial con­di­tions — cap­it­al­ism is thus an his­tor­ic­al con­struc­tion that brings about the co­ex­ist­ence of all the dif­fer­ent strata of his­tory in a single mo­ment. Seg­ment­a­tion is not merely “ma­nip­u­la­tion.” It ex­ists as the vol­un­tary activ­ity of the cap­it­al­ist class and its pro­fes­sion­al ideo­logues, which forms and an­im­ates an ob­ject­ive pro­cess, a struc­tur­al de­term­in­a­tion of the mode of pro­duc­tion.

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Needless Necessity: Sameness and Dynamic in Capitalist Society

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Marcel Stoetzler, Bangor University, UK (via Fast Capitalism)

In capitalist modernity, all that is fluid is frozen fast, and vice versa. Everything is at the same time solid and not. We need to do something. One must always produce.[1] But then, one must always produce the same. Production is always reproduction, no more, no less, albeit on an extended scale. Capitalist society is a treadmill:[2] “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that,” as the Red Queen asserted.[3] Society (re-)produces itself, using humans as its principal agents, as ever new and ever the same. Humans (re-)produce society as ever the same by making a fresh start every morning when the alarm bell tolls: a new morning promises gold – the matter of eternity – every single day anew. My consciousness is split on this matter: it tells me, on the one hand, that I have places to go (hooray!), I have some inner growing to do, but at the same time, I am proudly identical to myself (disregarding some metabolism-related corporeal change that one tries to keep separate from one’s sense of selfhood). I who took out the student loan yesterday will have to pay up tomorrow, although the intervening time – not least ‘the student experience’, as they say – will have made me a whole new person (with places to go, hooray!). Growing up, experience – going-beyond-and-through: ex-per-ire – or not, contracts are to be fulfilled. This is a rule society will enforce.

This article explores the dialectic of a twofold compulsion characteristic of modern bourgeois society: on the one hand the dynamism grounded in the compulsion to expand production, to never stand still, relax and enjoy, always to increase the labors of self-preservation, on the other hand the static, sameness and identity that are produced by the ‘real-abstracting’ processes equally central to the capitalist mode of production, the locking down of humans in their identities, including those of sex and race. The article examines these matters through the prism of Adorno’s late essay on the concepts of ‘static and dynamic’ that is taken as a vantage point for a reading of ‘The concept of enlightenment’ in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. The last part of the essay argues that capitalist society’s needless necessities impose themselves on society through abstracting practices in everyday life but also produce an equally contradictory set of social movements that have now opened up a fragile prospect for the revolutionary overcoming of capitalist society. The key point of the argument is that Horkheimer and Adorno’s unique emphasis on the critique of ‘the economic’ beyond that of ‘the economy’ is crucial to this radical perspective.

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Theses on Trump

by Phil Sandifer (eruditorumpress.com)

“Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.” – Terrance Dicks, 1977

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Let us accept that categorization is pointless, and that any attempt at it will eventually collapse under the basic fact that he is contradictory and in his own way even contains multitudes. He is what he is, in his own way as deific as that makes him sound. He does not have immediate political analogues in 1930s Germany or 40s BCE Rome any more than he does in 1650s Britain or 2013 Australia. Similarities abound, but every case is unique. That’s what Great Man Theory means.

It is not even useful to call him liberal or conservative. He is right-wing, but only in the sense that he poses an existential threat to the left. On the whole, however, he is not particularly ideological. He is an aesthetic wedded to a perversion. In the end, most people are, and virtually all politicians. Still, one has to start somewhere.

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The Free Machine

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by Rob Lucas / New Left Review / July-August 2016

Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism is an ambitious book, spanning economic history and theory, the trajectory of socialism, diagnosis of the crisis-prone present and a strategic vision for the future. [1]It is also an unusual one, treating topics typically ceded to left antiquarians with a free spirit that aims to build a grandiose historical-theoretical construction out of insights from Mises and Marx, Luxemburg and Hayek, Preobrazhensky and Gorz. And a best-seller—a notable feat for a work that covers such ground; due in part, perhaps, to Mason’s high visibility as economics editor at the BBCand Channel 4. Born in Lancashire in 1960, the son of a lorry driver and a primary school headmistress, Mason claims to have become ‘a Marxist at 16, a Trotskyist at 19’. He studied music and politics at Sheffield, starting an academic career in music in the early 1980s before switching to journalism. By the time of the late-90s dot.com bubble he was deputy editor of Computer Weekly, then joined BBC Newsnight as business editor, his first broadcast discussing the economic fallout of the 11 September attacks. In 2013 he moved to Channel 4. In these posts he has become a household name in Britain, known for his ruffled pieces-to-camera from the frontline of global uprisings. But he has straddled the range of media from TV and radio to newspaper columns, blogs, with a prominent Twitter and Facebook presence, and a novel set in China’s Wild West. This year he went freelance to engage with the ‘space opening up where the left of social democracy meets the radical left, green and autonomist politics’, unbeholden to the constraints of mainstream media, and has been a prominent commentator on the UK’s successive crises. Mason’s political positions have been oddly ambidextrous: supportive of Corbyn, Occupy and student protests—yet also seeming to call for an upgrade of UK nuclear weapons against the threat of Russian submarines and for the bombing of Assad. If there is a systematic explanation for such eclecticism, he has not yet offered it.

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Hegel and Capitalism

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Hegel and Capitalism (ed) Andrew Buchwalter
State University of New York Press, Albany, 2015. 256pp

Reviewed by Christopher Araujo in Marx & Philosophy Review of Books 

Negri once paid ‘homage’ to Hegel by calling upon Marxists to ‘liberate our praxis’ from an ‘ideology that desires the exploitation of man,’ yet speaks of the ‘hope of liberation’ (2011, 44). But even if his treatment of civil society does not cut as deeply as Marx’s critique of capitalism, conferring upon Hegel the title of official ‘philosopher of the bourgeois and capitalist organization of labor’ is a caricature (ibid., 37). Before we bury the ‘dead dog’ Marx himself tried to resuscitate, Marxists should pause to consult the more measured criticisms and nuanced appraisals of Hegel’s economics in the Buchwalter-edited Hegel and Capitalism. Within the confines of this review, I cannot do justice to the diversity of views expressed there, but I hope to highlight themes relevant to Marxist readers not yet ready to cast Hegel onto the dustbin of history.

Hegel’s relationship to capitalism is contested throughout the text. The opinions range from Michael J. Thompson ─ who argues that capitalism represents a ‘deficient modernity’ and individuals have no ‘obligation’ to reaffirm its irrationality (128-9) ─ to Richard Dien Winfield ─ who criticizes those that read Hegel as having problematized the ‘ethical standing of economic relations’ and drawn ‘modernity under suspicion’ (133, 143). However, most of the authors are in agreement that, while Hegel afforded a certain justification to the market as a sphere in which subjectivity is first raised into universality, he rejected the pure particularity of unbridled capitalism. His political philosophy envisions some sort of ‘determinate negation of capitalism’ ─ although, as Nathan Ross notes, this turns upon comprehending the precise meaning of the claim that the ‘state is the sublation of civil society’ (165). Nicholas Mowad goes so far as to suggest that if ‘Hegel felt capitalism to be severely flawed, yet still legitimate’ in a modified form, then he must not have been ‘fully aware of the critique of capitalism contained in his work’ (71). Perhaps, as Michalis Skomvoulis questions, Lukács was right: ‘frightened’ by his critique, Hegel ‘retreated’ (23).

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They’re Made Out of Meat

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by Terry Bisson

“They’re made out of meat.”

“Meat?”

“Meat. They’re made out of meat.”

“Meat?”

“There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.”

“That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?”

“They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.”

“So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.”

They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.”

“That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.”

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Rèpublique Absurd

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Rècit of the Spring 2016 French Uprising  by Asja Crise

The following account, necessarily incomplete and perhaps also imprecise in places, will attempt to describe the recent struggles in France as they developed over the course of four months, from late February to the middle of June. It is based both on translations of material at the time and first-hand experiences. These struggles understood themselves as challenging not only the “labor law [loi du travail]” handed down by the Socialist government of Manuel Valls and François Hollande, but also—as one key slogan had it—“against its world,” that is, the conditions that have made it possible but that are also left wide open in the slogan. Is this world the capitalist one? The “neoliberal” one? That of E.U.-imposed austerity? Or just that of a routinely treacherous Socialist government? And then there is the more radical, let’s say constructive, slogan that circulated among younger demonstrators, borrowed from the title of the Parisian hip-hop group PNL’s hit the previous summer: le monde ou rien, the world or nothing. While I will proceed more or less chronologically, there are a couple of points to make here at the beginning. I choose to start with a short account of the November 13th attacks aftermath and the context of the state of emergency, leading up to the beginning of mobilizations in late February and March, spearheaded by highschoolers. This account moreover will focus on the Paris metropolitan area, where I was living, with minimal reference to other cities.


Accounts of the different phases of the struggle typically break down like this, as the movement mutates from month to month: March is the month of high school mobilization (picking up from last year’s movement against a different version of the law, this one proposed by Emmanuel Macron, the Economics minister), while April saw the occupation of République by the so-called Nuit Debout movement and May was the month of strikes and blockades, as the key French labor union, the CGT—traditionally aligned with the French Communist Party—found itself forced to enter the fray, in part from pressure from its own restive rank-and-file. Throughout this sequence, we encounter the notorious casseur (“wrecker”) who is an entirely ambiguous figure within the movement (that’s the point). The hooded proletarian—high school student? radicalized union rank-and-file? youth from the suburban housing projects, eager to fight the police? “anarchist” or “autonomist” militants?—is targeted and denounced by all the respectable actors of the movement, from Socialist ministers to the CGT leadership, and even by voices on the “revolutionary” Left. At the same time, the figure operates as a unifying point of identification for the movement itself: “we are all casseurs” was a chant often heard in demonstrations, in particular during pitched battles with police.  . . [read more]

Dead Dogs Never Die: Hegel and Marx

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Revista Opinião Filosófica would like to announce the release of its latest issue, vol. 7, no. 1: ‘Dead Dogs Never Die: Hegel and Marx’ 

The volume’s thematic is centered on the unwavering relation between Hegel and Marx. Guest edited by Eric-John Russell and Frank Engster, this multilingual and international collection brings together the work of leading scholars in the field. As an extract from the editorial describes:

“As a whole, the following volume incontrovertibly captures the passage between two generations of scholars in the investigative field of the Hegel-Marx relation. With focus on both the methodological and substantive affinity between Hegel and Marx, we find here a collection that from varied direction attempts to uncover an internal relation between Hegel’s philosophy and Marx’s critique of the capitalist mode production. […] These essays validate the fertility of evermore posing the riddle of why it is that to stare into Hegelian philosophy is to unrelentingly hold fast, knowingly or not, to the problems of capitalist society. For this, the dead dogs refuse to die so long as their object remains intimately connected to our own tumultuous situation.”

While the individual contributions are listed below, the volume in its entirety can be accessed here: http://abavaresco.com.br/wp/?edicoes=vol-7-no1-dead-dogs-never-die-hegel-and-marx.

The Perilous Lure of the Underground Railroad

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by 

The crate arrived, via overland express, one spring evening in 1849. Three feet long, two feet wide, and two and a half feet deep, it had been packed the previous morning in Richmond, Virginia, then carried by horse cart to the local office of the Adams Express Company. From there, it was taken to the railroad depot, loaded onto a train, and, on reaching the Potomac, transferred to a steamer, where, despite its label—this side up with care—it was placed upside down until a tired passenger tipped it over and used it as a seat. After arriving in the nation’s capital, it was loaded onto a wagon, dumped out at the train station, loaded onto a luggage car, sent on to Philadelphia, unloaded onto another wagon, and, finally, delivered to 31 North Fifth Street. The person to whom the box had been shipped, James Miller McKim, was waiting there to receive it. When he opened it, out scrambled a man named Henry Brown: five feet eight inches tall, two hundred pounds, and, as far as anyone knows, the first person in United States history to liberate himself from slavery by, as he later wrote, “getting myself conveyed as dry goods to a free state.”

McKim, a white abolitionist with the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, had by then been working for the Underground Railroad for more than a decade, and he was awed by the courage and drama of Brown’s escape, and of others like it. In an article he wrote some years later, he predicted that future generations of Americans would come to share his emotions:

Now deemed unworthy of the notice of any, save fanatical abolitionists, these acts of sublime heroism, of lofty self-sacrifice, of patient martyrdom, these beautiful Providences, these hair-breadth escapes and terrible dangers, will yet become the themes of the popular literature of this nation, and will excite the admiration, the reverence and the indignation of the generations yet to come.

It did not take long for McKim’s prediction to come true. The Underground Railroad entered our collective imagination in the eighteen-forties, and it has since been a mainstay of both national history and local lore. But in the past decade or so it has surged into “the popular literature of this nation”—and the popular everything else, too. This year alone has seen the publication of two major Railroad novels, including Oprah’s first book-club selection in more than a year, Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” (Doubleday). On TV, the WGN America network aired the first season of “Underground,” which follows the fates of a group of slaves, known as the Macon Seven, who flee a Georgia plantation.

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