communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Mattick and Council Communism in Miserable Times: Critique Between Defeat and Crisis

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A reading list by A New Institute for Social Research, 2021

See also: Theses on the Council Concept

A few accounts of the emergence of the tendency

New theory, new practice

Against and beyond the old movements

The critique of organization

From depression to fascist war

Mattick’s critical theory vs. postwar society

The Economic Foundations of Council Society (Canne-Meijer, 1948)

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1954, Henk Canne Meijer and Gé Hoogland

by Henk Canne-Meijer

Originally published in Dutch in Radencommunisme, 1948, as part of the Dutch and German communist left’s debate about the period of transition from capitalism to communism. The text later appeared in pamphlet form in 1972, from which this translation was made. – via marxists.org. See also: The Dutch and German Communist Left (1900-1968) by Philippe Bourrinet

Preface

Only about a year ago we accomplished a new, a fourth, edition of the study by the Dutch prewar Group of International Communists, which first appeared in 1931: The Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution.

As this G.I.C. published a second edition in 1935, it wrote in a preface: “At present the politico-economic ideal of the masses, of either socialist and communist or of catholic, christian or of neutral workers, envisages the State as the big, general caretaker of their interests. The practical implication is that the masses are orientated towards state capitalism, even if they are not conscious of it.“

The preface payed attention to the fact that this situation had its origins in a truth of experience from the period that lies behind us; that the conditions of struggle are completely different in the forthcoming period; that henceforth the self-determination of the masses, born from the necessities of the struggle, becomes the guiding principle of the new ordering of social life.

Under these circumstances the “Fundamental Principles” became a theoretical writing against old state socialist conceptions in the first place.

How these necessities of the struggle and, accordingly, the new experiences have articulated themselves was the problem that occupied Jan Appel, Henk Canne Meijer and B.A. Sijes in this study of 1946, as former members of the G.I.C. (who had fused with the Communistenbond Spartacus). At present, parties and parliaments lose significance and interest. Be it with clarity, or in part still confused, the workers generate waves of strikes and enterprise occupations throughout the whole of Europe.

November 1972
Spartacusbond and Uitgeverij De Vlam

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Onward Barbarians (Endnotes, 2020)

Image:

An anti-government protester returns a tear gas canister to police during clashes in Santiago, Chile, on March 6, 2020. Esteban Felix / AP

by Endnotes, Dec 2020

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At the beginning of May 2020, hunger riots erupted in Santiago, Chile. Lockdowns had deprived men and women of their incomes to the point of near starvation. A large movement of self-organized community kitchens soon spread across the country. Later in the month, riots spread through Mexico in response to the police murder of Giovanni López — a construction worker who had been arrested for not wearing a mask — while thousands of despairing migrant workers broke the curfew in India. Some Amazon warehouse workers in the US and Germany had begun to strike in protest at poor COVID-19 safety protocols. (1) Yet these stirrings of workers’ struggle in the world’s largest retailer were quickly drowned out, at the end of May, by a mass movement of unprecedented size that swept across the US in revulsion at the live-streamed police murder of George Floyd. Largely initiated by black residents of Minneapolis, the uprising was quickly joined by Americans from every place, race and class. In the first riots and demos one could even spot a few supportive militiamen in a Querfront worthy of the age of QAnon. (2)

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A Guide to Value-Form Theory

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via reification of persons and personification of things (2021)

It’s winter in the middle of a global pandemic. You have time on your hands and you like to read. Maybe you’ve stumbled across Heinrich twitter and want to know what the hell is going on? Maybe you’ve read Michael Heinrich’s Introduction to all 3 volumes of Capital or you listen to (and patronize) Reel Abstractions, but you still want to read more value-form theory (at least until Science of Value comes out?)

This blog post will introduce you to other important contributions and contributors to value-form theory. I have tried my best to include free links to all of the readings. If the reading does not have a link, you may be able to find it somewhere else for free online. I am also happy to take suggestions for what to add. I wrote this quick and off the top of my head. 

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The Big Takeover

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by Jarrod Shanahan, Hard Crackers, Jan 7th, 2021

On January 6th a determined mob from across the United States descended on Washington, D.C. They rumbled with police, overturned barricades, breached the perimeter of the United States Capitol, and smashed their way into the building itself – all while both houses were in session. Inside, the insurgents played cat and mouse with police and federal agents, gleefully traipsing the evacuated halls of Congress and the Senate, and marauded through the offices of high-level politicians, who escaped a direct confrontation by a matter of minutes. The scene at the Capitol was replicated in miniature across the US, with large crowds menacing state houses in Washington state, Georgia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and others. But nothing compared to the spectacle playing out in the nation’s capital.

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The State of the Pandemic (Toscano, 2020)

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by Alberto Toscano, Historical Materialism 28.4 (2020) 3–23

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The Covid-19 pandemic has further intensified a crisis in the functions and the perception of the state. It has also revealed underlying contradictions in both mainstream and radical ideologies of the state. A desire for the state as guarantor of public welfare vies with fear of the state’s hypertrophic capacities for surveillance and control. Following a brief exploration of the intimate modern connection between plagues and the state, the article tries to map some of the ways in which the state has been at stake in political and theoretical commentaries on the pandemic. Is an epidemiological politics from below, beyond the plague state, possible? Can recent emergency measures be seen as incomplete or inverted anticipations of a communist use of the state of exception? Or is the primacy of the political we are currently experiencing a mere fetish, indissociable from the rule of capital?

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Some Stories About Communization

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by Jasper Bernes, Nov 2020-Jan 2021, via Substack

(see also Planning and Anarchy (2020), and Belly of the Revolution (2018))

Part 1, Nov 26, 2020

I want to do a series of posts on the theory of “communization” as it has developed since 1968, because it seems to me there is a great deal more interest in the term and desire than there is comprehension. There are many reasons for the abuse the word has suffered, but foremost is that, in France, from whence it derives, “communization” never at first served to name a tendency or a coherent theory. It was simply a term of art that a loosely connected network of communist projects used to explain their vision of communist revolution.

Even as the term courant communisateur – communizing tendency, or communizer current–began to be applied to these groups retrospectively, many questioned and resisted the term, drawing attention to the way that it conflated advocates of communization, who can exist in the world here and now, with those who practice communization, that is with people who do not yet exist.

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The New Movement (Henri Simon, 1974)

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Dec 1970, Szczecin

Influential in its day and expressing the optimism of its times, this text describes the characteristics of the New Movement of class struggle of the 1960s and 70s and its relationship to the Old Movement. Published in English translation from the original French by Solidarity, London 1976.

by Henri Simon

1. The struggle against capitalist domination, which, in its various modern forms occurs in every country in the world, exhibits new tendencies, which are in complete contrast with what occurred before the beginning of the 20th century.

2. The common and essential feature of these tendencies, is the way in which those who struggle manage the totality of their affairs by themselves in all circumstances of their lives, in the field of action as well as thought.

3. The signs of what could be a radical transformation of social relationships are to be seen in the upheavals of capitalism itself in its crisis and its attempts to adapt itself. These signs can erupt in isolated explosions rapidly destroyed by the dominant interests or they can be traced through their slow progress and more or less stemmed by reforms.

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The Masque of the Red Death (Poe, 1842)

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by Edgar Allen Poe (1842)

The red death had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal — the madness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress, and termination of the disease, were incidents of half an hour.

But Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his crenellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.

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Marx on Social Reproduction

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by Paul Cammack (Historical Materialism, 2020)

Marx is generally reckoned to have had too little to say about what has come to be defined as ‘social reproduction’, largely as a consequence of too narrow a focus on industrial production, and a relative disregard for issues of gender. This paper argues in contrast that the approach he developed with Engels and in Capital, Volume 1, provides a powerful framework for its analysis. After an introductory discussion of recent literature on social reproduction the second section sets out Marx’s approach to the ‘production of life, both of one’s own in labour and of fresh life in procreation’. The third addresses his account of reproduction in Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 23. The fourth and fifth compare the relationship of the family to industry and exchange as depicted in Capital and in the present day respectively. The conclusion suggests some implications for theories of social reproduction.

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Beyond Reification: Reclaiming Marx’s Concept of the Fetish Character of the Commodity (Pepperell 2018)

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by Nicole Pepperell, Contradictions Vol. 2 number 2 (2018)

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György Lukács’s influential interpretation of commodity fetishism as “reification” shapes many contemporary critiques of the apparently objective and impersonal form taken by capitalist social relations. Such critiques seek to debunk the false veil of objectivity that results from fetishism, revealing the real character of the social relations underneath. This line of criticism, however, often attributes totalising power to capitalism, which undermines its own critical standpoint. I argue that the solution to this dilemma lies in understanding the fetish not as an ideological veil that needs to be debunked, but instead as a novel form of social interdependence that is genuinely – not illusorily – impersonal. This impersonal form is generated by a diverse array of disparate social practices whose interaction yields this unanticipated and unintended result. Within this framework, the diversity of the underlying social practices offers a practical potential basis for constituting new forms of social interdependence that lack not only the semblance, but also the reality of capitalism’s oppressive objectivity. READ PDF

See also by Pepperell:

Third World Politics in Sixties West Germany (Slobodian 2012)

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It is often asserted that West German New Leftists “discovered the Third World” in the pivotal decade of the 1960s. Quinn Slobodian upsets that storyline by beginning with individuals from the Third World themselves: students from Africa, Asia, and Latin America who arrived on West German campuses in large numbers in the early 1960s. They were the first to mobilize German youth in protest against acts of state violence and injustice perpetrated beyond Europe and North America. The activism of the foreign students served as a model for West German students, catalyzing social movements and influencing modes of opposition to the Vietnam War. In turn, the West Germans offered the international students solidarity and safe spaces for their dissident engagements. This collaboration helped the West German students to develop a more nuanced, empathetic understanding of the Third World, not just as a site of suffering, poverty, and violence, but also as the home of politicized individuals with the capacity and will to speak in their own names. READ PDF

A Short History of the European Working Class (Abendroth, 1972)

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by Wolfgand Abendroth

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Table of Contents:
Foreword
1. The Beginnings up to the Defeat of 1848
2. The First International
3. Working-Class Parties and Trade Unions
4. The Second International up to the First World War
5. The Working-Class Movement between the Russian Revolution and the Victory of Fascism
6. The Working-Class Movement in the Period of Fascism
7. The Working-Class Movement after the Second World War
Postscript, 1971

The History of the Rifle (Engels, 1860)

Written between the end of October 1860 and the first half of January 1861. First published in The Volunteer Journal, for Lancashire and Cheshire, Nos. 9, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, November 3 and 17, December 8, 15 and 29, 1860, January 5, 12 and 19, 1861; reprinted in the collection Essays Addressed to Volunteers, London-Manchester, 1861. MECW 18: 433-459.

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The rifle is a German invention, dating as far back as the close of the fifteenth century. The first rifles were made with apparently no other object than to facilitate the loading of the arm with an almost tight-fitting bullet. To this end, the grooves were made straight, without any spiral turning, and merely served to diminish the friction of the bullet in the bore. The bullet itself was surrounded by a piece of greased woollen or linen cloth (the plaster), and was thus hammered down without too much difficulty. These rifles, primitive as they were, must have given far better results than the smooth-bore small arms of the period, with their bullets of considerably smaller diameter than the bore. Later on, the character of the arm was totally altered by the spiral turn given to the grooves, which transformed the bore of the barrel into a sort of female screw; the bullet, by the tight-fitting plaster, being made to follow the grooves, took the spiral turn as well, and thus retained a spiral rotation round its line of flight. It was soon found that this mode of fixing the rotation of the bullet vastly increased both the range and accuracy of the arm, and thus the spiral grooves very soon superseded the straight ones. This, then, was the kind of rifle which remained in general use for more than two hundred years. If we except hair-triggers and more carefully worked sights, it scarcely underwent any improvement up to 1828.

Marxism and Mediation (Gunn, 1987)

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Richard Gunn, Common Sense No. 2 (July 1987)

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In both Hegelian and Marxist thought, the concept of mediation figures as a central dialectical category. That the category does theoretical, and revolutionary, work is clear. What is less clear, to myself at any rate, is what might be termed the conceptual geography of the category itself. It is this conceptual geography which, as a preliminary to further discussion, the present paper attempts to clarify. A more pretentious title for what follows might be ‘Prolegomena to a Reading of Marx’.

To mediate is to bring about a relation by means of a relating (an “intermediate”) term. A mediation is the relating term itself. To count as a mediation, a relating term must be more than a mere catalyst or external condition (however necessary) of the relation: rather, it must itself be the relation. It must constitute it, in the way that for example – and the example is offered merely heuristically – a rope linking two climbers is constitutive of the relation in which they stand.

If a mediation is, thus, the relation which it establishes, it does not follow that just any relation counts as a mediating term. A mediated relation is distinct from a relation for which, to render it intelligible or accurately describe it, no reference to a relating term need be made – for example, a relation of juxtaposition. A relation of this kind is an immediate relation (which, for its part, may be catalysed or necessitated in this or that way).

In partial praise of a positivist (O’Neill, 1995)

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The work of Otto Neurath

by John O’Neill (Radical Philosophy, 1995)

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From the Frankfurt School the story has emerged that positivism is a conservative doctrine necessarily committed to existing social institutions and to a technocratic conception of politics. Even the most scientistic orthodox Marxist is unlikely to announce that she is a positivist. Such is the disrepute into which positivism has fallen that to accept the title of positivist would amount to an admission that one’s position was untenable. The picture of positivism that informs its use as a term of academic abuse is a caricature. Positivist philosophy was much more heterogeneous than recent thumbnail versions allow, and many of the doctrines ascribed to it were explicitly rejected by many of its proponents.  Neurath himself was unhappy with the term for the very reason that it suggested a systematic set of doctrines incompatible with the methodological pluralism he defended, although ‘not being a pedant’ he was willing to ‘bear it’.

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Rosa Luxemburg’s Global Class Analysis (van der Linden, 2016)

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by Marcel van der Linden, Historical Materialism 24.1 (2016) 135–159

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How did Rosa Luxemburg, in her The Accumulation of Capital and other writings, analyse the development of the working class and other subordinate classes under capitalism, and how did she view the relationship between these classes and those living in ‘natural economic societies’? Following primary sources closely, the present essay reconstructs and evaluates Luxemburg’s class analysis of global society. It is shown that Luxemburg pioneered a truly global concept of solidarity from below, including the most oppressed – women and colonised peoples.

See also:

The Anarchist Banker (Pessoa, 1922)

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O Banqueiro Anarquista, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (PDF)

We had just finished having supper. Opposite me sat my friend, the banker—a well-known capitalist and tycoon—absent-mindedly smoking his cigar. The conversation had been gradually petering out for some time and now lay defunct between us. I tried to revive it with an idea that had just surfaced in my mind. Smiling, I turned to him and said, “I know what I’ve been meaning to ask you. Someone told me a few days ago that you used to be an anarchist.

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Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience (Biehl & Staudenmaier, 1995)

By Janet Biehl & Peter Staudenmaier (1995)

AK Press / PDF

The reappearance of fascism in many western countries threatens all the freedoms the left movements have managed to gain over the last half century. Equally disconcerting is the attempt by fascist ideologists and political groups to use ecology in the service of social reaction. This effort is not without long historical roots in Germany, both in its nineteenth-century romanticism and in the Third Reich in the present century. In order to preserve the liberatory aspects of ecology, the authors, as social ecologists, explore the German experience of fascism and derive from it historical lessons about the political use of ecology. Comprised of two essays—”Fascist Ideology: The Green Wing of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents” and “Ecology and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-Right,”—Ecofascism examines aspects of German fascism, past and present, in order to draw essential lessons from them for ecology movements both in Germany and elsewhere.

Table of Contents:

Introduction

Fascist Ecology: The “Green Wing” of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents
by Peter Staudenmaier

The Roots of the Blood and Soil Mystique
The Youth Movement and the Weimar Era
Nature in National Socialist Ideology
Blood and Soil as Official Doctrine
Implementing the Ecofascist Program
Fascist Ecology in Context

Ecology’ and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-right
by Janet Biehl

Neofascist ‘Ecology’
National Revolutionaries
The Freedom German Workers Party
The Republicans
The National Democratic Party
The German People’s Union
Anthroposophy and the World League for the Protection of Life
Rudolf Bahro: Völkisch Spirituality
Liberating the ‘Brown Parts’
Social Darwinist ‘Ecology’: Herbert Gruhl
A Social Ecology of Freedom

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Catastrophism, disaster management and sustainable submission (Riesel and Semprun, 2008)

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In this book first published in 2008, Jaime Semprun and René Riesel examine the attempt by predominantly First World governments and NGOs to utilize the specter of an environmental apocalypse as an alibi to save “industrial civilization” by imposing a rationed form of “survival”, justified by a terroristic propaganda campaign based on fear, enforced by an expansion of the state’s coercive powers, and facilitated by the mass conformism and resignation that “industrial society” has induced in the population by creating an “anxiogenic environment” of “insecurity and generalized instability”; “[f]or the fears proclaimed by the experts … are in reality nothing but orders”.

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