communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Month: March, 2015


Notes from the Anthropocene #1:


On September 21, 2014, nearly 400,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March and Mobilization, winding their way from Central Park through Midtown Manhattan and ending with a block party celebration on the city’s mostly empty West Side (flooded during Sandy). Cleanly subdivided into six categories of political subjects—indigenous and environmental justice groups up front, a medieval combination of scientists and priests in the fifth, and finally “Here comes everybody! L.G.B.T.Q., N.Y.C. Boroughs, Community Groups, Neighborhoods, Cities, States, and more” in the sixth—the march called on the United Nations Climate Summit and governments around the world to steer a course towards appropriate “climate action” and “climate justice” on behalf of the groups neatly represented like meats and cheeses on a Hormel party tray. The following day, former anti-globalization and Occupy Wall Street activists, many on the payroll of this or that N.G.O., attempted a mass civil disobedience action on the blocks leading to the New York Stock Exchange. When the orchestrated non-violence of Flood Wall Street met the orchestrated non-brutality of the NYPD, ne’er an arrest occurred and the organizers called it all off, going home and turning the streets over to a few hundred unofficial protesters who were determined to be peacefully taken into custody.

As the United Nations met later that week to talk about talking about limiting global temperature rise to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) through a reduction in carbon emissions while simultaneously making economies, cities, and networks resilient, the People’s Climate Summit website released its own numbers: 400,000 people, 1,574 organizations, 50,000 college students, 5,200 articles, and 7 celebrity selfies. Homemade and mass-produced signs, puppets and inflatables, polar bear costumes and globes, thousands of buses whose bills were footed by non-profits and, a pony-tailed Leo DiCaprio parading around as the U.N.’s Messenger for Peace, with a special focus on climate change issues. A success, they say, in launching the climate justice movement, a success as quantifiable as the parts per million of the upper safety limit for the atmosphere. As the march quickly faded into most New Yorkers’ memories, as when a million of us marched against the war that happened anyway, a variety of non-questions circulated to try to cement the march’s legacy. Was it too radical? Not radical enough? Too little too late? A photo-op? A corporate greenwash with the help of the “non-profit industrial complex”? 1 Non-questions for a non-world. Simply put, the Climate March was a blast from the past, mobilizing a set of political techniques and priorities that have literally been left behind by reality, by the new common in which we find ourselves.

A new epoch is certainly at hand; one need only trace the fault lines from the glacial barricades of Kiev’s Maidan across the radioactive swamp left by Fukushima’s failing ice wall to the “Winter is Coming” graffiti of Istanbul’s Gezi commune. Everywhere this age speaks its exhaustion, in the massive human efforts to break through and in the falling of idols. The once coherent subject around which the world was ordered stands in ruin as a neurotic information node whose closest relationship is with a cellphone or iPad. The claims to mastery over the world are being literally washed away by rising seas, while terminal diagnoses of our civilization proliferate as quickly as fantasies of the end (see the Walking Dead’s Terminus). As Brad Evans and Julien Reid describe it in their book Resilient Life, “We are living out the final scenes of the liberal nightmare in all its catastrophic permutations,” an epoch that is sensed just as much in the collapse of the Western Antarctic ice sheet2 and the bamboo barricades of Hong Kong as in the desertification of the Amazon rainforest and the death vows of the Lakota in the face of the KeystoneXL pipeline.3 Some people say the world is ending, but we say it is just a way of life, a certain order of things.

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lauffeuer - The atrocities of Odessa on May 2, 2014 [german with engl. 
subtitles] (documentation)

A film examining the arson attack on Odessa's Trade Unions House at the 
start of the civil war in Ukraine and the role played by 
ultranationalism, the police and politics in post-Soviet space.
The documentary takes a look at a key event in the conflict and 
documents a city torn apart as a result of this tragedy.

a film produced by


[Немецкий с субтитрами на русском языке]


Фильм компании leftvision о поджоге Дома
профсоюзов в Одессе в начале
гражданской войны в Украине, о роли
ультранационалистов, милиции и
политики в постсоветском пространстве,
а также попытка критичного
представления ситуации.  [Немецкий с субтитрами на русском языке] /

Производство компании leftvision. Фильм
Ульриха Хайдена и Марко Бенсона

Оператор: Бианка Демези и др. / Музыка и
сведение: Оливер Эберхард / Перевод:
Юлиус Жуковски, Ульрих Хайден и др. /
Иллюстрации: Карлотта Фрайер /
Графический дизайн: Ça ira!


lauffeuer plakat-1

Lauffeuer - Eine Tragödie zerreißt Odessa zu Beginn des Ukrainischen 
Bürgerkrieges. [Dokumentation]

Ein Film über die Brandangriffe auf das Gewerk-schaftshaus in Odessa zu 
Beginn des ukrainischen Bürgerkrieges, die Rolle von Ultranationalen, 
der Polizei und Politik im Post-sowjetischen Raum.
Dies ist eine Dokumentation über ein Schlüsselereignis des ukrainischen 
Bürgerkrieges und eine Stadt die dadurch zerrissen wurde.  (deutsch)  (german with engl. Subtitles)  [Немецкий с субтитрами на русском языке]

Ein Film von von Ulrich Heyden & Marco Benson produziert von

I ❤️ Kant

Kant Is an Idiot’ Spray-Painted on Philosopher’s Russian Home

The home of 18th-century German enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant, located in what is now the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, is in ruins and has become a hot spot for drinking and debauchery among local youths, news site Novy Kaliningrad reported.

Someone recently spray-painted a Russian phrase translatable as “Kant is an idiot” on the red-brick building’s facade. The apparent insult is accompanied by a drawing of a flower and a heart, apparently from the same can of spray paint.

imageA Novy Kaliningrad reporter who visited the site found a fire burning in the grass nearby, saying it could have spread to the home had it remained unextinguished.

Regional authorities announced last year that they were seeking a caretaker for the home, which has been declared a cultural landmark. Alas, the home’s condition remains dismal.

Russians have been known to take very seriously the philosophies of Kant, who is perhaps most famous for his “Critique of Pure Reason.” In 2013, an argument about the philosopher between two men in line at a grocery store in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don ended when one of the men shot the other with rubber bullets.

The Moscow Times Mar. 18 2015


(definitely a c.i.s. action)



EZB, Frankfurt, 18.3.15image image image image

Negation of the Diaspora


Brooklyn Rail, Mar 5th, 2015

Clowders of cats wander the streets of Tel Aviv like stranger kings to whom all must pay their respect. Lying under chairs, sitting on top of cars, relaxing in cafes, they settle on other people’s property without regard for anyone or anything. A friend tells me a story: When the British ruled over Palestine, there was a massive rat infestation. To solve the problem, they introduced cats all over the country. One population was displaced, and another took its place. This story, like most narratives that circulate about Israel, is false. There were always cats here, and they come not from some mistaken British policy, but from the ecology of the region itself. Yet its falseness contains a moment of truth: no origins are given here, nothing is taken for granted as a fact of history—everything is contested terrain.

Here’s another example. Sitting in a café in the hip Florentin district of Tel Aviv, I ask a few leftist friends about the war in Gaza last summer. “Horrible, unnecessary,” they say. “Some people just cannot believe that not every war is absolutely essential for the survival of the country, that some are rather functional to maintain the occupation.” Tell me about the anti-war protests. “We were attacked, called traitors, no one from the left parties would officially endorse the protests either.” None except the Jewish-Arab Marxist party, Hadash, which has only a few seats in the Knesset. Not even Meretz would support the protestors.

On a different night in a different bar with different Israelis, I ask the same questions about the summer war. “Horrible, unnecessary,” one woman answers. “Some people just cannot believe that we are constantly under attack, that these wars are necessary for our survival.” She tells me about the tunnels that Hamas built, the rockets, the sirens, the bomb shelters. The “hippies” who protested at Rabin Square enraged her. “Fools” she says, “but they have the right to be stupid.”

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Harvey versus Marx on Capitalism’s crises Part 1: Getting Marx Wrong

By Andrew Kliman (first published in the New Left Project)

Karl Marx’s law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit is indispensable for explaining the Great Recession, and understanding how to prevent major economic crises in the future.

David Harvey, a well-known Marxist geographer, recently published a draft paper (Harvey 2014) that vigorously criticises Karl Marx’s ‘law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit’ (LTFRP), its place within Marx’s theory of capitalist economic crisis, and its relevance to the Great Recession and the recession’s prolonged aftermath. The law says that the rate of profit tends to fall because of labour-saving technological progress under capitalism. By lowering costs of production, technological innovations tend to keep products’ prices from rising, and this makes it difficult for companies’ profits to increase as rapidly as the amount of capital they invested to produce their products.

Whether this process was among the underlying causes of the Great Recession is a matter of great political importance. At issue is whether policies intended to make capitalism work better—replacement of neoliberalism with statist capitalism, financial regulation, reduced inequality, policies that favor production over finance, and so on—can succeed in preventing major economic crises in the future. The theory of crisis rooted in the LTFRP suggests that such policies cannot ultimately be successful, because they leave intact the drive to maximize profit and the link between technological progress and falling profitability, which are part and parcel of every form of capitalism.

Harvey’s chief complaint is that the LTFRP and the theory of crisis based on it are mono-causal: it ignores other causes of crisis as well as counteracting factors, and its current proponents typically present it in a way that ‘exclude[s] consideration of other possibilities’. I will argue that this is just a strawman.

The real issue is not that anyone has advocated a mono-causal theory, but that Harvey is campaigning for what we might call an apousa-causal theory, one in which the LTFRP plays no role at all (apousa is Greek for ‘absent’). He is the one who is trying to exclude something from consideration. In light of his emphasis on capitalism’s ‘maelstrom of conflicting forces’ and its ‘multiple contradictions and crisis tendencies’, one might expect that he would urge us to consider all potential causes of crisis, excluding nothing. However, Harvey is not merely suggesting that other potential causes of crisis be considered alongside the LTFRP. He seems determined to consign it and the theory of crisis based on it to the dustbin of history. A large part of his paper is devoted to questioning whether the LTFRP is a genuine law, whether Marx really subscribed to it in the end, whether there is good evidence that the rate of profit fell, and whether it fell for the reason the law says it tends to fall. I will respond to all this as well.

Two other aspects of Harvey’s paper will also be discussed:

  1. Harvey claims that the growth of the global labour force since the 1980s suggests that the LTFRP has not been operative. I will show that this claim is based on an elementary misunderstanding of the law.
  2. Harvey claims that Marx argued that ‘if wages are too low[,] then lack of effective demand will pose a problem’. I will show that this contradicts his own recent interpretation of Marx’s text, (Harvey 2012) and argue that he got it right the first time.

Let me note that his attitude to the LTFRP is neither surprising nor unique. Although he writes that the theory of crisis based on Marx’s law ‘holds an iconic position within the Marxist imaginary’, in fact nothing has been more reviled. In academia as well as the political realm, other Marxists and leftists have regularly denounced the supposed dogmatism of the theory and its supporters, and they have tried to exclude the theory from further consideration. For example, in their History of Marxian Economics, professors M. C. Howard and J. E. King (1992, p. xiii) wrote that the LTFRP ‘has done much damage to the intellectual credentials of Marxian political economy’, while Kshama Sawant’s organisation, Committee for a Workers’ International, recently suspended two ‘dogmatists’ from membership. It is particularly objectionable that efforts to exclude a potential explanation from consideration are presented as opposition to dogmatism, and that this spin is so often accepted.

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Mario Tronti: I am defeated


Under the soles of his shoes, you can still recognise the dirt of history. “This is all that remains. A mix of straw and shit by which we delude ourselves into erecting cathedrals to the worker’s dream.” Here’s a man, I say to myself, imbued with a consistency that bursts through in a total melancholy. It’s Mario Tronti, the most celebrated of the theorists of Operaismo. He has only recently finished writing a book on this subject: the origins of his thought, how it has changed and what it is today. I don’t know who will publish it (I would guess a decent publisher). I read a profound sense of despair. Like a chronicle of defeat articulated through the long agony of a past that has not yet passed at all, that refuses to die, but is no longer wanted.

“It’s the others who keep you going”, he says ironically. When life, if only, demands other trials, other choices. Perhaps it is for this reason – to find an escape – that he has distracted himself with Tai Chi: “the gestures of this oriental martial art reveal, in their slowness, a secret harmony. Everything is concentrated on respiration. I did it for a bit. With curiosity and attention. But in the end I realised I wasn’t good enough. Out of place. The orient requires a mindset that can create empty space [il vuoto]. I live in a house full of the things I’ve accumulated over time.

How did your interest in Tai Chi start?
Thanks to my daughter who loves and practices oriental culture. She would have wanted to become a nun, so she chose the same profound consistency in this world that I’ve only touched.

And how have you taken this decision of hers?
With the respect that is required whenever approaching what concerns those close to you.

Is there an element of unpredictability with children?
Always: with individuals, just like with history.

Did you expect that the story – I mean yours – would end this way?
I always expect the best. Then come the knocks. Coming up against facts without an airbag can do you damage. I was a communist, marxist, operaista. Some things end. Some things last. I have learnt and applied the lesson of political realism: you can’t ignore the facts.

And the facts today are indicative of a great crisis?
Great and long. It concerns all of us a little, at many diverse levels. It’s lasted at least seven years and still nobody is able to tell us how to get out of it. We’re living in a time without epoch.

What does it mean?
It is our time, however it lacks an epoch: this period that has arisen and will continue into the future. History has become small, the daily report has prevalence: gossip, complaints, platitudes.

So the epoch is time hastened with thought?
Not just that. It is the time that leaps forward. It occurs when things happen that visibly transform our living world.

Nostalgia for revolutions?
No, if anything the twentieth century was the century of revolutions. But not only that. Where are the grand ideas, the great literature, the grand politics or the great art? I don’t seen anything like what the first half of the twentieth century produced.

When did the explosion of creativity end?
In the 60s.

Your golden years?
That’s the irony of history. There was a great twentieth century, and a small twentieth century built out of an awareness that it is no longer able to reflect on itself.

Is this a farewell to the idea of progress?
These days Progressivism is the thing furthest from myself. I reject the idea that whatever is new is always better and more advanced than what was there before.

It was one of the inviolable creeds of Marxism.
It was the false security of thinking that the defeat was only an episode. Because meanwhile, we thought, history was on our side.

And now?
We saw how it went, didn’t we?

Do you feel like you’ve been defeated, or you’ve failed?
I am defeated, not a victor. The victories are never final. But we have lost – not a battle – but the war of the twentieth century.

And who has triumphed?
Capitalism. But without class struggle, without an adversary, it has lost its vitality. It has become something of a monstrosity.

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If Syriza is the answer, then the question was wrong

by Cognord, Mar 5, 2014

Predictions are often problematic. The complexity of the issues, the variety of important factors, and the unpredictability of social subjects forbid such attempts, and usually discredit those who make them. This realization, however, has ended up opening a space in which people feel free to say anything at all, with few consequences. This is what happened lately with Syriza: the left found a long awaited rallying-point to proclaim the “last chance to end austerity,” while the right warned against irresponsible “radicalism.” Both were, once again, wrong.


It was remarkable, though not really surprising, that hardly any of the willing supporters of Syriza took the time to examine its expressed economic program. Repeating a few key phrases was enough to render Syriza the hope for the future of Greece (and Europe, for that matter), while any detailed analysis of Syriza’s proposed remedies was postponed to an indefinite moment in the future.1It was as if the left thought it impoliteto present Syriza as a social-democratic party with progressive sensitivities, treating a close look at its expressed program as unnecessary—if not intrusive.

The present age prefers the appearance to the essence, as was said a long time ago, and the greatest illusion is defended as vigorously as possible. Syriza came to represent something almost sacred for today’s disoriented left, and the rules for talking about Syriza’s past, present, and future were set from the beginning: it is a sympathetic and small Marxist party, far from the dogmatism of the Stalinist KKE; a bearer of the hopes of the tormented Greek people to catch a breath outside of the suffocating grasp of austerity; an honest fighter which will do its best to alleviate the worst effects of the crisis. If anyone criticized Syriza, they were surely ultra-left inhabitants of the ivory tower. Evoking the need to be “painfully realistic” and down to earth, Syriza’s supporters paradoxically scorned any actual attempt to be realistic. It seems as if no contradiction was allowed to spoil this common-sensical approach. Apart from the actual facts, that is.

In essence, and taking the best-case scenario, Syriza was merely proposing a Keynesian model of dealing with the crisis. For people like Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz, this is as radical as it gets. Building a straw man of German-led invariance, Keynesian policies came to represent an oasis in the desert of neoliberalism. But what gives credit to all these pro-Keynesian writers (i.e. their hostility towards neoliberalism) masks certain easily-forgotten historical realities about social-democracy: its starting point is to urge capital to understand labor both as a cost and an investment; it prefers to see workers as both consumers and partners; it rejects the necessity of confronting the totality of social relations, insisting instead that the solution for the problems that capitalist social relations create lies within capitalism itself. On the bottom line, its goal is to liberate the potentials which neoliberal hard-headedness has undermined, promising that it is in a better position to manage capital. What it fails to realize is a very simple fact: Keynesianism already tried to save capitalism, and it ended in failure. Why this is considered such an offensive thing to say, is hard to understand.

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House of Capital

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 4.21.36 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 4.22.09 PM  Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 4.22.12 PMScreen Shot 2015-02-28 at 4.22.42 PM