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leberwurst proletariat

Month: March, 2016

Human Beings

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Human beings become individuals only through the process of history. He appears originally as a species-being [Gattungswesen], clan being, herd animal – although in no way whatever as a ζῶον πολιτιϰόν in the political sense. Exchange itself is a chief means of this individuation [Vereinzelung]. It makes the herd-like existence superfluous and dissolves it. Soon the matter [has] turned in such a way that as an individual he relates himself only to himself, while the means with which he posits himself as individual have become the making of his generality and commonness. In this community, the objective being of the individual as proprietor, say proprietor of land, is presupposed, and presupposed moreover under certain conditions which chain him to the community, or rather form a link in his chain. In bourgeois society, the worker e.g. stands there purely without objectivity, subjectively; but the thing which stands opposite him has now become the true community [Gemeinwesen], which he tries to make a meal of, and which makes a meal of him.

– Marx, Grundrisse

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Slavery and the History of Capitalism

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Peter James Hudson, BostonReview, March 2016

Unearthing the economy of bondage

A decade before his assassination at the hands of a nationalist in 1914, French socialist Jean Jaurès completed a historical work that radically changed the study of the French Revolution. Where others had focused on disputes over politics and political ideology, Jaurès’s four-volume Histoire socialiste de la Révolution française took as its subject the transformations wrought by an emergent capitalism, foregrounding irruptions within the French economy. Through a Marxist lens, Jaurès emphasized the conflict between the ancien régime and the newly empowered bourgeoisie and excavated from the archives of the revolution the struggles of French workers and peasants.

Though discounted by later scholars anxious to distance themselves from Jaurès’s Marxism, the Histoire socialiste was history “from below” avant la lettre. Its analytical concerns also anticipated those of a historical subfield—the history of capitalism—now taking off on this side of the Atlantic. An energetic startup within the U.S. historical profession, the history of capitalism has grown rapidly over the past few years and won media attention most academics only dream of. Its popularity was sparked in part by the 2008 financial crisis, which renewed doubt about capitalism’s promises, and it emerges in the long wake of the demise of identity politics and the cultural turn within U.S. scholarship. It looks beyond supposedly narrow, sectarian concerns with particular groups left out of mainstream history—women and workers, peasants and slaves, blacks and gays. Some scholars have indeed argued for the capacious, democratic, and inclusive capabilities of this new field; others have been at pains to demonstrate that it is not a recapitulation of social history centered on the white male worker or business history fetishizing the white male capitalist. Even so, its institutional and ideological biases often shine through in its favored subjects and its anointed practitioners.

Jaurès’s vision of economic questions as the primary engine of social and political change, his linking of capitalism with modernity, his casting of elites as historical actors—all these concerns resurface in recent histories of capitalism. But perhaps most striking about the field is the way it both rehashes and disavows the radical intellectual tradition to which Jaurès belongs, one that derives historical questions as much from political commitments as from academic concerns. Jaurès shared this tradition with black writers such as W. E. B. Du Bois and the Trinidadian theorist and historian C. L. R. James, who wrote from within what Cedric Robinson has called the “black radical tradition.” Their interest in capitalism’s history was not merely academic: it was an integral part of the modern project of emancipation. Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. How does scholarship suffer when it disowns the radical origins—and uses—of its inquiries?

The new history of capitalism’s disavowal of radical scholarship is clearest in its treatments of slavery, which, for more than a century, has been a principal concern of scholars within the radical tradition. Jaurès, for instance, drew a line connecting the profits from the slave trade to the growth of the industries and ideologies of capitalism.

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But we have to, so we do it real slow

by L.A. ONDA

In Los Angeles to be against Capital typically presents itself in a pro-work / worker position. The problem is never work itself, the nature of work or that work is waged but instead what is desired is extending a sphere of work that is unionized and bolstered with higher wages. Take for instance the CLEAN Carwash campaign, where carwash workers (whom are mostly immigrant men) have been unionized under the representation of United Steelworkers Local 675. Though this move one is that brings much needed betterment of working conditions and wages for these workers, what is ultimately not brought up is that the work of a car wash workers can and has already been automated. But of course the fading labour movement is not concerned with the overthrow of capitalism and abolition of work at all. That dream is a dream that has been lost along with the labour movement.

The expression of an anti-work position has either been minoritarian or unheard of. In a city where working conditions for immigrants can be well below the legal standards set forth by the State and the Federal Government, the push for more protections and rights within the workplace takes on precedence. An anti-work affect (rather than a bonafide position) among Mexican immigrants and / or Mexican-Americans is usually to be found in cultural forms and do not often take on explicit anti-political, or anti-capitalist forms. Whereas the playful and tongue-in-cheek cultural forms are plentiful, the other mentioned forms are few and far in between.

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ANTI-WORK / ANTI-CAPITALIST : AN INTRODUCTION

My first encounter with an explicit anti-work position came from Chican@ friends who I had met in 2001 who were heavily-influenced by the French Marxist theorist Guy Debord and the Situationist International. In 1953, a young Guy Debord painted on a wall on the Rue de Seine « NE TRAVAILLEZ JAMAIS » (tr. Never Work). A statement that was difficult for me to understand conceptually at the time but which I immediately gravitated towards. Hitherto, all the anarchist literature I had read on work concerned themselves with how wage labor was theft of our time & of our labor power and that the solution was not the abolition of work per se but worker self-management. [Think of all the nostalgia that some Left-Anarchists have for the revolution lost by the anarcho-syndicalists during the Spanish Civil War.]

Growing up in a Mexican household where what was prized was the opportunity to find well-paying work and as well as reverence of a hearty work ethic, this was a scandalous position. Though the starting point for Guy Debord opposition to a world of work was not a beatnik, bohemian lifestyle refusal common to the 1950s but rather a rejection of the bleariness of life under capitalism and part of a whole project to overthrow The Spectacle and make life a joyous affair once again.

The critique of work can be found elsewhere throughout history including Paul Lafargue’s “The Right to be Lazy”(1883) written by Karl Marx’s son-in-law, in the notorious post-left Anarchist Bob Black’s “The Abolition of Work”(1985) and Gille Dauve’s “Eclipse & Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement” (1970) where he clarifies what the abolition of work could mean and says “what we want is the abolition of work as an activity separate from the rest of life.” He later would explain that the issue at hand is not that we do or not do things, but that under capitalism what we do is often made confused by wage labor. We assume only those things paid a wage have value and that only those things which are productive are necessary to human life.

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The Coming Desert

red mars

by MIKE DAVIS

Kropotkin, Mars and the Pulse of Asia

Anthropogenic climate change is usually portrayed as a recent discovery, with a genealogy that extends no further backwards than Charles Keeling sampling atmospheric gases from his station near the summit of Mauna Loa in the 1960s, or, at the very most, Svante Arrhenius’s legendary 1896 paper on carbon emissions and the planetary greenhouse. In fact, the deleterious climatic consequences of economic growth, especially the influence of deforestation and plantation agriculture on atmospheric moisture levels, were widely noted, and often exaggerated, from the Enlightenment until the late nineteenth century. The irony of Victorian science, however, was that while human influence on climate, whether as a result of land clearance or industrial pollution, was widely acknowledged, and sometimes envisioned as an approaching doomsday for the big cities (see John Ruskin’s hallucinatory rant, ‘The Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century’), few if any major thinkers discerned a pattern of natural climate variability in ancient or modern history. The Lyellian world-view, canonized by Darwin in The Origin of Species, supplanted biblical catastrophism with a vision of slow geological and environmental evolution through deep time. Despite the discovery of the Ice Age(s) by the Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz in the late 1830s, the contemporary scientific bias was against environmental perturbations, whether periodic or progressive, on historical time-scales. Climate change, like evolution, was measured in eons, not centuries.

Oddly, it required the ‘discovery’ of a supposed dying civilization on Mars to finally ignite interest in the idea, first proposed by the anarchist geographer Kropotkin in the late 1870s, that the 14,000 years since the Glacial Maximum constituted an epoch of on-going and catastrophic desiccation of the continental interiors. This theory—we might call it the ‘old climatic interpretation of history’—was highly influential in the early twentieth century, but waned quickly with the advent of dynamic meteorology in the 1940s, with its emphasis on self-adjusting physical equilibrium. [1] What many fervently believed to be a key to world history was found and then lost, discrediting its discoverers almost as completely as the eminent astronomers who had seen (and in some cases, claimed to have photographed) canals on the Red Planet. Although the controversy primarily involved German and English-speaking geographers and orientalists, the original thesis—postglacial aridification as the driver of Eurasian history—was formulated inside Tsardom’s école des hautes études: St Petersburg’s notorious Peter-and-Paul Fortress where the young Prince Piotr Kropotkin, along with other celebrated Russian intellectuals, was held as a political prisoner.

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Come With Us If You Want to Live

Among the apocalyptic libertarians of Silicon Valley

By

“Just by a quick show of hands, has anyone heard of a D.A.O. or an agent before?” asked Jonathan Mohan. He was in his mid-twenties and wore a beige Bitcoin T-shirt. As if to scratch my head, I halfway raised my right arm. A dozen others raced up past mine.

Forty or fifty of us were in a glass-walled coworking space at 23rd Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan, at a Meetup for a technology called Ethereum. Invented by a nineteen-year-old Russian Canadian named Vitalik Buterin, and still unreleased and under development on the day of the Meetup, in February 2014, Ethereum is intended to decentralize control of the Internet and anything connected to it, redistributing real-world power accordingly. Mohan was a volunteer for the project.

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“Effectively, what a D.A.O. is — or a distributed autonomous organization, or an agent, as I like to call it — is sort of this Snow Crash futuristic idea, and funnily enough only a year or two away,” he said. An agent, in computer science, is a program that performs tasks without user input; in Neal Stephenson’s science-fiction novel Snow Crash, humans interact with one another and with intelligent agents within the more-than-virtual-reality Metaverse. “Imagine if you wrote some program that could render a service, and it generated enough of a profit that it could cover its own costs. It could perpetuate indefinitely . . . because it’s just the code running itself.”

“How much Skynet risk is there?” a young man asked Mohan, using sci-fi shorthand: Could a few lines of open-source code, meant to augment human autonomy by obviating opaque institutions like Goldman Sachs and the federal government, metastasize into a malign machine intelligence, like Skynet in The Terminator? That movie was released thirty years ago, Snow Crash more than twenty; for decades, cyberpunks, cypherpunks, extropians, transhumanists, and singularitarians have imagined a world made out of code, one in which politics is an engineering problem and every person is a master of atoms and bits. The promise is a future in which we become more than human. The threat is a future without us.

“So you’re going to go from one D.A.O. to ten D.A.O.’s to one hundred D.A.O.’s to ten thousand D.A.O.’s,” Mohan replied. “Then, just based off of profit maximization, they’re going to start merging and acquiring one another.

“But I don’t know if we’d ever get to Skynet,” he said. “Maybe in all our code we can say, ‘If Skynet then exit.’ ”

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i love myself

They wanna say it’s a war outside, bomb in the street
Gun in the hood, mob of police
Rock on the corner with a line for the fiend
And a bottle full of lean and a model on the scheme uh
These days of frustration keep y’all on tuck and rotation (Come to the front)
I duck these cold faces, post up fi-fie-fo-fum basis
Dreams of reality’s peace
Blow steam in the face of the beast
Sky could fall down, wind could cry now
Look at me motherfucker I smile

Cheap Words

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by George Packer

Amazon is a global superstore, like Walmart. It’s also a hardware manufacturer, like Apple, and a utility, like Con Edison, and a video distributor, like Netflix, and a book publisher, like Random House, and a production studio, like Paramount, and a literary magazine, like The Paris Review, and a grocery deliverer, like FreshDirect, and someday it might be a package service, like U.P.S. Its founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, also owns a major newspaper, the Washington Post. All these streams and tributaries make Amazon something radically new in the history of American business. Sam Walton wanted merely to be the world’s biggest retailer. After Apple launched the iPod, Steve Jobs didn’t sign up pop stars for recording contracts. A.T. & T. doesn’t build transmission towers and rent them to smaller phone companies, the way Amazon Web Services provides server infrastructure for startups (not to mention the C.I.A.). Amazon’s identity and goals are never clear and always fluid, which makes the company destabilizing and intimidating.

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The End of History

 

Weltgeschichte ist Weltgericht” (“World History is a tribunal that judges the World”). History is what judges people, their actions and their opinions, and lastly their philosophical opinions as well. To be sure, History is, if you please, a long “discussion” between people. But this real historical “discussion” is something quite different from a philosophic dialogue or discussion. The “discussion” is carried out not with verbal arguments, but with clubs and swords or cannon on the one hand, and with sickles and hammers or machines on the other. If one wants to speak of a “dialectical method” used by History, one must make clear that one is talking about methods of war and of work. This real, or better, active, historical dialectic is what is reflected in the history of philosophy. And if Hegelian Science is dialectical or synthetical, it is only because it describes that real dialectic in its totality, as well as the series of consecutive philosophies which corresponds to that dialectical reality. Now, by the way, reality is dialectical only because it implies a negative or negating element: namely, the active negation of the given, the negation which is at the foundation of every bloody fight and of all so-called “physical” work.

– Kojeve

Anti-Committee

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Individuals in their capacity as burghers in this state are private persons whose end is their own interest. This end is mediated through the universal which thus appears as a means to its realisation. Consequently, individuals can attain their ends only in so far as they themselves determine their knowing, willing, and acting in a universal way and make themselves links in this chain of social connections. In these circumstances, the interest of the Idea – an interest of which these members of civil society are as such unconscious – lies in the process whereby their singularity and their natural condition are raised, as a result of the necessities imposed by nature as well as of arbitrary needs, to formal freedom and formal universality of knowing and willing – the process whereby their particularity is educated up to subjectivity.

Hegel’s Philosophy of Right § 187