communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Nihilist Communism (2009)

A critique of optimism — the religious dogma that states there will be an ultimate triumph of good over evil — in the far left

Preface

You know it is a book if it weighs a quarter pound.

A book is dependent more on the quantity of its words than on quality of writing. Certainly, I have written better elsewhere but our book, this book, has a weight about it that goes beyond the writing – it has been assigned its own four ounces of reality, its half inch of spine width; Nihilist Communism is a true thing in the world of things, it has independent existence. Admittedly, the viability of this existence has been sustained amongst a very small readership, but nevertheless this book is real.

The phenomenon of books escaping from their authors is a curious matter and it is difficult to know how to respond to it; at one level we feel responsible for it, it is ours; at a different level entirely (the text is anti-copyright), it functions under its own power. I sense that my right to talk about it, alter it, frame it, is debatable. After all, there are live threads leading from the event of its initial publication which I might now cut with these comments here. It seems to me that there are more disconnections in the republishing of a book than there are continuities. At the least, there is the opportunity to modify and manipulate what went before.

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The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook (James Boggs, 1963)

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In 1963, drawing on his own experience as a factory worker and radical militant, James Boggs wrote this pamphlet. It addresses (among many things) the failures of the CIO, increasing automation, rising unemployment and the emergence of new social actors (‘the outsiders’) that he saw as a threat to capitalism.

James Boggs, born in Marion Junction, never dreamed of becoming President or a locomotive engineer. He grew up in a world where the white folks are gentlemen by day and Ku Klux Klanners at night. Marion Junction is in Dallas County where as late as 1963, although African-Americans made up over 57 percent of the total county population of 57,000, only 130 were registered voters. After graduating from Dunbar High School in Bessemer, Alabama, in 1937, Boggs took the first freight train north, bumming his way through the western part of the country, working in the hop fields of the state of Washington, cutting ice in Minnesota, and finally ending up in Detroit where he worked on WPA until the Second World War gave him a chance to enter the Chrysler auto plant. In 1963, drawing on his own experience as a factory worker and radical militant, he wrote these pages.

Boggs offers both a keen analysis of U.S. society and a passionate call for revolutionary struggle. He sees the growing trend toward automation, the decline of organized labor, the expansion of imperialism, and the deepening of racial strife as fundamentally rooted in the contradictions of U.S. capitalism. And he concludes that the only way forward is a new American revolution—one that, from his perspective writing in the 1960s, appeared to have already begun.  

See also: 

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Theses on the George Floyd Rebellion

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by SHEMON AND ARTUROJune 24, 2020 (Illwilleditions.com)

A print version is here.

* * * * *

“The working class in every country lives its own life, makes its own experiences, seeking always to create forms and realize values which originate directly from its organic opposition to official society.”

—CLR James, Grace Lee Boggs, and Cornelius Castoriadis, “Facing Reality”

1. The George Floyd Rebellion was a Black led multi-racial rebellion. This rebellion cannot be sociologically categorized as exclusively a Black rebellion. Rebels from all racialized groups fought the police, looted and burned property. This included Indigenous people, Latinx people, Asian people, and white people.

2. This uprising was not caused by outside agitators. Initial arrest data shows that most people were from the immediate areas of the rebellions. If there were people driving in from the ‘suburbs,’ this only reveals the sprawling geography of the American metropolis.

3. While many activists and organizers participated, the reality is that this rebellion was not organized by the small revolutionary left, neither by the so-called progressive NGOs. The rebellion was informal and organic, originating directly from working class black people’s frustration with bourgeois society, particularly the police.

4. Not only was the police-state caught off-guard by the scope and intensity of the rebellion, but civil society also hesitated and wavered in the face of this popular revolt, which quickly spread to every corner of the country and left the police afraid and in disarray.

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The original content of the communist program (Bordiga, 1958)

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By Amadeo Bordiga

The original content of the communist program is the obliteration of the individual as an economic subject, rights-holder, and agent of human history

Marxism and property

One topic that we have frequently found ourselves occupied with is that of the formula which in the communist program correctly counterposes the post-bourgeois historical era to the current one. To this topic was dedicated the old study in the first issue of Prometeo on “Property and Capital” [1]. We discussed, and at our last meeting in Turin [2] we returned to it with thoroughness, the most common propagandistic formula of pre-war socialism: the abolition of private property in the means of production (and of exchange). We use the parenthesis because this is how it is written in a fitting text by Engels.

The noun abolition has never been satisfactory. It reeks of a volitional act, and as such it is good for anarchists and (logically) for reformists. The adjective private raises the question of whether the relationship which we denote by the word ‘property’ should disappear in communist society, or only change its subject.

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Ruth Wilson Gilmore in conversation with Paul Gilroy (2020)

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This conversation was recorded on 7th June 2020 – Soundcloud here

(see also: Ruth Wilson Gilmore Makes the Case for Abolition and Prisons and Class Warfare and Is Prison Necessary?)

Paul Gilroy: Well hello, I’m Paul Gilroy, I’m the Director of the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the study of Racism and Racialisation at University College, and today I’m going to be talking to Ruth Wilson Gilmore who is Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. Ruthie is a co-founder of the California Prison Moratorium Project and perhaps most importantly of all, of critical resistance, and she’s the author of the prize-winning book that will be very familiar to you, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. And Ruthie and I have been collaborating, editing, bringing together Stuart Hall’s writings on race which will be published – well I hope soon, given the situation we’re in. Maybe you should correct anything that I haven’t said about you Ruthie that you want to have said, and I want to make a point about Stuart – Stuart’s work.

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Mask Off: Crisis & Struggle in the Pandemic

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Cosmonaut.blog – Richard Hunsinger & Nathan Eisenberg give an in-depth analysis of the current crisis where economic breakdown, pandemic, and mass revolt collide into a historic conjuncture that will forever shape the trajectory of world events. June 2020. DOWNLOAD PDF

We are running out of places to keep the bodies. In Detroit, a hospital resorted to stacking up the dead on top of each other in a room usually used for sleep studies. In New York, the epicenter of the pandemic where, for a week in April, someone died of COVID-19 every 3 minutes, a fleet of refrigeration trucks is enabling interment in parking lots for overcrowded hospitals. The chair of New York’s City Council health committee, publicly stated that they were preparing contingency plans, per a 2016 “fatality surge” study, to dig mass graves in a public park. The resulting moral backlash prompted Mayor de Blasio to deny any such plans would be carried out, but he would go on to emphasize the necessity for mass graves on Hart Island, an old potter’s field in the Bronx long home to the unclaimed corpses of the indigent, which has quintupled its monthly intake of bodies. As is protocol, the excess demand for the work of burying bodies on the island is being met with the use of prison labor from Rikers Island, which itself has the highest infection rate in the world. The situation in private funeral homes is similarly dire. Dozens of corpses were recently found rotting in U-Hauls outside a funeral home in New York. In Ecuador, there are cases of bodies being wrapped in plastic and left on the sidewalk for days before strained hospitals can send an ambulance, prompting engineers in Colombia to come to their aid by developing hospital beds that transform into coffins. Mass graves are cropping up across the world, in Ukraine, in Iran, in Brazil. A man in Manaus, Brazil, interviewed by a Guardian reporter while watching his mother’s coffin be lowered into a trench alongside 20 others, despaired, “They were just dumped there like dogs. What are our lives worth now? Nothing.”

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How Do We Change America?

 

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by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (New Yorker,  June 8, 2020)

The national uprising in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd, a forty-six-year-old black man, by four Minneapolis police officers, has been met with shock, elation, concern, fear, and gestures of solidarity. Its sheer scale has been surprising. Across the United States, in cities large and small, streets have filled with young, multiracial crowds who have had enough. In the largest uprisings since the Los Angeles rebellion of 1992, anger and bitterness at racist and unrestrained police violence, abuse, and even murder have finally spilled over in every corner of the United States.

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To Protect and Serve Themselves: Police in US Politics since the 1960s

Police Death, Minneapolis, United States - 30 May 2020

by Stuart Schrader  – Public Culture (2019) 31 (3): 601–623 PDF

The police in the United States were once subject to control by political machines. The professionalization process freed police from this control, but it had an unexpected result. Professionalization meant that police answered primarily to themselves, which enabled them to become self-interested. This process transformed the police into a new type of authoritative political actor. This article examines the history and organizational sociology of the transformation of the police since the 1960s, investigating how, through groups like the International Association of Chiefs of Police, police have advocated on their own behalf and interacted with larger political and economic trends. Separate from their role in crime control, police have become entrepreneurial and resistant to fiscal austerity. This article offers a new characterization of the effects of the “war on crime” and “law and order” politics of the 1960s, while paying attention to the surprising Cold War roots of the political autonomy of police.

 

(see also: Origins of the Police by David Whitehouse; The End of Policing by Alex Vitale)

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Endnotes 5: The Passions and the Interests

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THE PASSIONS AND THE INTEREST (2020)

Endnotes.org.uk

We Unhappy Few

Error 

Contours of the World Commune

Revolutionary Motives

To Abolish the Family

The Passion of Communism

Life Against Nature

Notes from the Chemo Room

Black Revolutionaries in the United States

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Black Revolutionaries in the United States:

Communist Interventions  Vol. 2  (2016)

PDF  Mobi / ePub

Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good to all. Communism—the effort to give all men what they need and to ask of each the best they can contribute—this is the only way of human life… In the end communism will triumph. I want to help bring that day. 

– W.E.B. Du Bois

No person in the United States can deny that Black liberation remains a pressing issue today. The unrest in Baltimore, Ferguson, etc. underscores the persistent social ills in the USA that Blacks have been unable to escape. The task of attempting to address these grievances within a revolutionary tradition is also—however less well-known—not a new phenomenon. Radical groupings within the USA have grappled with how to emancipate American Blacks from their oppression even prior to the Russian Revolution, although the Bolsheviks’ attempt to export revolution around the globe unquestionably accelerated these efforts. It is this history which we present in the current volume, through primary sources.

 – compiled by the Communist Research Cluster (2016)

(See also Vol. 1: European Socialism and Communism and Vol. 3: Revolutionary Feminism)

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In Defense of Looting (2014)

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Minneapolis 2020

by Vicky Osterweil (The New Inquiry)

For most of America’s history, one of the most righteous anti-white supremacist tactics available was looting.

As protests in Ferguson continued unabated one week after the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., zones of Twitter and the left media predominantly sympathetic to the protesters began angrily criticizing looters. Some claimed that white protesters were the ones doing all of the looting and property destruction, while others worried about the stereotypical and damaging media representation that would emerge. It also seems that there were as many protesters (if not more) in the streets of Ferguson working to prevent looting as there were people going about it. While I disagree with this tactic, I understand that they acted out of care for the struggle, and I want to honor all the brave and inspiring actions they’ve taken over the last weeks.

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We Demand Nothing (2009)

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Minneapolis 2020

by J. Kaspar (‘Fire to the Prisons’ # 7, Autumn 2009) PDF read / print

“I do not demand any right, therefore I need not recognize any either.”
– M. Stirner

On the night of August 8th, 2009, hundreds of inmates at the California Institution for Men in Chino rioted for 11 hours, causing “significant and extensive” damage to the medium-security prison. Two hundred and fifty prisoners were injured, with fifty-five admitted to the hospital.

On Mayday 2009, three blocks of San Francisco’s luxury shopping district were wrecked by a roving mob, leaving glass strewn throughout the sidewalk for the shopkeepers, police and journalists to gawk at the next morning.

On the early morning of April 10th, 2009, nineteen individuals took over and locked down an empty university building the size of a city-block on 5th avenue in Manhattan, draping banners and reading communiqués off the roof. Police and university officials responded by sending helicopters, swat teams, and hundreds of officers to break in and arrest them all.

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Albert Memmi (1920-2020)

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I am ill at ease in my own land and I know of no other. My culture is borrowed and I speak my mother tongue haltingly. I have neither religious beliefs nor tradition, and am ashamed of whatever particle of them has survived deep within me. . . . I am a Tunisian but of French culture. . . . I am a Tunisian but Jewish, which means that I am politically and socially an outcast. I speak the language of the country with a particular accent and emotionally I have nothing in common with Moslems. I am a Jew who has broken with the Jewish religion and the ghetto, is ignorant of Jewish culture and detests the middle-class because it is phony. I am poor but desperately anxious not to be poor, and at the same time I refuse to take the necessary steps to avoid poverty.


Works by Albert Memmi:

The Pillar of Salt (1953)

Portrait of a Jew (1962)

The Colonizer and the Colonized (1965)

Negritude and Judeity (1968)

The Impossible Life of Frantz Fanon (1973)

Racism (2000)

Decolonization and the Decolonized (2006)

Journal of French and Francophone philosophy (2011)

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Value Isn’t Everything (2018)

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by John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett (Monthly Review) 2018

The rapid advances in Marxian ecology in the last two decades have given rise to extensive debates within the left, reflecting competing conceptions of theory and practice in an age of planetary ecological and social crisis. One key area of dispute is associated with the attempt by a growing number of radical environmental thinkers to deconstruct the labor theory of value in order to bring everything in existence within a single commodity logic, replicating in many ways the attempts of liberal environmentalists to promote the notion of “natural capital,” and to impute commodity prices to “ecosystem services.”1 For many in Green circles, Karl Marx and a long tradition of Marxian theorists are to be faulted for not directly incorporating the expenditure of physical work/energy by extra-human nature into the theory of value.

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Expropriation of the Expropriators

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by Jacob Blumenfeld APRIL 30, 2020  Legal Form – Marxist Analysis of law

Throughout his work, Marx is very clear about how to overcome capitalism. [1] There is, in fact, one simple trick, although it is not easy, and how one goes about doing it determines everything. I am not referring to the self-emancipation of the working class or the self-abolition of the proletariat. These classic revolutionary formulas name the agent of revolution (the working class or the proletariat) and the aim of revolution (emancipated from wage-labour or abolished as a class), but they do not describe the content of revolution. Instead, I want to talk about a single phrase that Marx repeats at key points in his work, something more banal, more concrete. That is, the expropriation of the expropriators. At the end of the first volume of Capital, while describing the historical tendency of capitalist accumulation, Marx writes:

The centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated. [2]

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The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations

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What felt impossible has become thinkable. The spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change as a civilization.

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Irrational Expectations

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by Geoff Mann (Viewpoint, April 2020, PDF)

However much upheaval the global COVID-19 pandemic has generated, a great deal more is coming. The economic disaster is already the object of frantic analysis, much of which tells us we can expect a bottom that matches or exceeds the Great Depression of the 1930s, at least as measured by conventional economic indicators like GDP, unemployment, and bankruptcies. This narrative provides the backbeat to the competing attempts to organize our attention during the passage through present and future trials.

While we are endlessly reminded that “we are all in this together”—a blatant act of false solidarity—many have also pointed out that we were never “all in this together” before the pandemic, we are not now, and it is quite possible we will emerge from this even less together than we were. At least in terms of wealth and income inequality, the prospects do not look good. The relatively well-off will weather the lockdown more comfortably and without the threat of eviction, debt default, and hunger, and they will return to better-paid and stable work more quickly.

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The shape of the world system in the thirteenth century (Abu-Lughod, 1987)

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by Janet Abu-Lughod (1987) PDF

BY the middle of the thirteenth century the Occident (Western Europe) and the Orient (as far as China) were linked together through a system of trade and, to a much lesser extent, production that had begun to form into what might be termed a “world system” rather than a set of imperial systems. Not unlike today, the nodes that were linked together were central places and port cities, rather than whole countries. The geographic nexus of this system was the Muslim heartland through which items of exchange had to move, either overland across the great so-called silk route or primarily via the sea, transiting the region from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and then beyond, via either the Arab/Persian Gulf or the Red Sea.

By then, goods originating in the Middle and Far East were being sold in European fairs, and Europe was exporting in exchange raw materials, metals, and woolen textiles. Such trade was being conducted by merchants from highly diverse regions, speaking quite different languages and in touch with one another not only physically but by written instruments. “Capitalistic” institutions were well established in the sense that: (1) there existed conventional ways for credit to be extended and then paid off; (2) there were developed techniques for pooling capital and risks and for sharing profits and losses; and (3) production for export had begun to reorganize the way goods were produced and exchanged in the domestic economies of East and West. Significantly, this development was considerably more advanced in China and the Arab world than it was in Europe.

source: Studies in Comparative International Development volume 22, pages 3–25 (1987)

Pandemic: the explosion point of the capitalist relation?

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by Antithesi (April 18, 2020)

The growth of production has been entirely verified until now as the realization of political economy: the growth of poverty, which has invaded and laid waste to the very fabric of life… In the society of the over-developed economy, everything has entered the sphere of economic goods, even spring water and the air of towns, that is to say, everything has become the economic ill, that “complete denial of man”…

Guy Debord, The sick planet

The outbreak of the pandemic and its spread all over the world is the most recent expression of what Debord has identified half a century ago as the “economic ill”. Capital is not only a class relation of exploitation and domination but also a relation of alienation of society from nature in which both the producers of social wealth and non-human nature as an autonomous productive force are transformed into objects that are dominated and plundered by it. The continuously expanding process of the subsumption of nature under capital is conflictual and contradictory. The consequences of this subsumption emerge as phenomena like global warming, the infestation of farmland with superweeds, the slowdown of agricultural productivity and, today, the coronavirus pandemic.

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Political Economy for the End of Times: Gareth Dale on Capitalism and Climate Breakdown

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The Ecologist

 A three-part interview on capitalism and climate breakdown from the podcast Political Economy for the End Times. Listen to the full interview with Political Economy for the End Times.

Part I

Javier Moreno Zacares (JMZ) from Political Economy for the End of Times: I wanted to start this interview by exploring the broad question of the relationship between capitalism and the environment.

I think that a good entry point is the conceptual distinction that you draw between ‘capitalist time’ and ‘ecological time’. Can you explain what these two temporalities are and how they relate to one another? 

Gareth Dale (GD): Human beings relate to various systems through different temporalities. That is, the different rhythms of time and the different ways in which humans relate to time. In my essay for The Ecologist  that you are referring to, I look at three of those: geological time, ecological time, and capitalist time. All social systems are ways of organizing behaviour and time.

Under capitalism, the aim is to increase profit and save time. This accounts for some of its central dynamics: The systematic disciplining of labour and the segregation of labour from the rest of human experience, which enables labour-time to be marked out and measured. The continual acceleration of labour-processes through technical and social change. The fetishism of technology, which has a key role in displacing labour and decreasing the circulation time of capital. And also, of course, the systematic degradation of the natural environment. In a sense, capitalism eats time, and in the process erases nature.

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