communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Month: March, 2018

For Moishe Postone

797StarnbgBarbaraMoisheHarold600pxw.jpg

Barbara Brick, Moishe Postone, Harold Marcuse, 1979, after Herbert Marcuse’s death

by Jacob Blumenfeld

I first encountered Moishe Postone‘s work on antisemitism in the early 2000s but it wasn’t until 2008-9, when the United States was in the grips of a financial crisis, that his thinking on Marx, capitalism, and value really began to hit home. I remember making zines out of his essay, “Critique and Historical Transformation“, and distributing them in New York City to students, activists, and friends, in the hopes of starting a more critical conversation on the crisis. The point was to go beyond superficial analyses of “crony capitalism” and to see the totality of capital as a self-mediating, crisis-prone dynamic of value which cannot simply be opposed to labor. Furthermore, Postone’s critical theory challenged those of us who became politicized in the ‘anti-globalization’ movement and the anti-war movements of the late 90s and early 00s.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

A Note upon the “Mystic Writing Pad” (Freud, 1925)

magic_slate_670

IF I DISTRUST my memory—neurotics, as we know, do so to a remarkable extent, but normal people have every reason for doing so as well–I am able to supplement and guarantee its working by making a note in writing. In that case the surface upon which this note is preserved, the pocket-book or sheet of paper, is as it were a materialized portion of my mnemic apparatus, the rest of which I carry about with me invisible. I have only to bear in mind the place where this “memory” has been deposited and I can then “reproduce” it at any time I like, with the certainty that it will have remained unaltered and so have escaped the possible distortions to which it might have been subjected in my actual memory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Red Seder

Picture1.png

Bdikas khomets (Search for leaven). Illustration from the first edition of Hagadah far gloybers un apikorsim (Passover story for believers and atheists). Kharkov, 1923.

Blessed is October, dictator of the proles, who produces, distributes, and consumes the earth’s harvest.

In Berlin 5777, a new communist Haggadah for a Red Passover Seder was brought forth into the world. It replaces the communist Haggadah of  Brooklyn, 5771. This new one is the first Red Haggadah since the Jewish Bolsheviks used them in the 1920s. I now offer it here for use (the Hebrew text came out backwards, unfortunately). The historical background text is below, but to do an actual seder, one must download the Haggadah and follow the steps. Love live October 5778!

Download the Haggadah for a RED SEDER: to read/ to print

Read the rest of this entry »

Umrisse der Weltcommune

kosmo

Von Freundinnen und Freunde der klassenlosen Gesellschaft, 2018 – Kosmoprolet #5

1. Nachdem die Möglichkeit einer anderen Welt lange Jahre fast nur noch in Botschaften aus dem lakandonischen Urwald oder von Leuten behauptet wurde, die darunter kaum mehr verstehen als die Einführung einer Finanzmarktsteuer, hat sich das Bild angesichts der schweren Weltmarktgewitter seit 2008 verändert. Entwürfe einer postkapitalistischen Gesellschaft entstehen seither zuhauf und schaffen es mit etwas Glück sogar auf die Bestsellerlisten. Auch Radikale denken wieder vermehrt darüber nach, wie es anders sein könnte. Allerdings gilt für alle derzeit diskutierten Alternativen, dass sie eher am Schreibtisch ausgebrütet als auf der Straße erfunden wurden. Von den Kämpfen der vergangenen Jahre – sei es der arabische Frühling, die Occupy-Bewegung oder das Aufbegehren gegen das neue Massenelend in Südeuropa – sind sie vor allem negativ geprägt. Weniger deshalb, weil diese Kämpfe auf ganzer Linie gescheitert sind. Weitgehend außerhalb der Produktion angesiedelt und auf die Realisierung »echter Demokratie« gepolt, haben sie die Frage nach einer anderen Gesellschaft nicht wirklich aufgeworfen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Der Prolet ist Ein Anderer. Klasse und Imaginäres Heute

cover-9783957573988

An ihren Begriffen sollt ihr sie erkennen. Dass Begriffe nicht einfach nur neutrale generalisierte Bezeichnungen von Dingen, Vorstellungsinhalten und Praktiken, oder reflektierter: von zuvor selbst erst gesetzten Differenzen sind, wie das der Commonsense oder die Wissenschaftstheorie annehmen, sondern potentiell immer auch politische »Kampfformeln« (Eric Voegelin), vermittels derer Sachverhalte und Verhältnisse zugespitzt und einer politischen Entscheidung zugetrieben werden, das hat die politische Rechte unserem Verständnis von Begriff hinzugefügt. Ein Virtuose dieser Form von Begriffsgebrauch war Carl Schmitt. Begriffe sortieren Gegenstandsfelder nicht nur, sondern richten sie aus; und sie werden selbst zu Kennmarken, nach denen sich – gut schmittianesk – Freund und Feind gruppieren. Dabei spielen weniger analytische Trennschärfe und Präzision der Begriffe eine Rolle als die affektive Ladung, die sie als Elemente von Sprache nolens volens immer aufweisen und die selbst in der kältesten Wissenschaftsprosa nie ganz neutralisiert werden kann. Das eigentlich poetische Moment jeder Theorie liegt in ihrer Nomenklatur, behauptet Giorgio Agamben irgendwo: in der Belehnung bestimmter Wörter (und eben gerade keiner anderen) mit Begriffsfunktion.

Ein lange gültiges Schibboleth dieser Art war »Klasse«. Wer den Begriff benutzte, kam von links, wer sich über den Begriff stritt – und da gab und gibt es einiges zu streiten! –, der stand auf der Linken; und dass »Klasse« zuzeiten sich zu einem »neutralen« wissenschaftlichen Begriff zu verallgemeinern schien (wie in den 1970er Jahren in der westdeutschen Akademie), kann als Anzeichen einer linken Hegemonie in diesem Bereich und zu dieser Zeit gedeutet werden. Und viele von denen, die irgendwann ihren »Abschied vom Proletariat« genommen haben, spüren noch oft eine leichte Wehmut, wenn sie wenigstens an jene alten Illusionen zurückdenken, die im Begriff »Klasse« wie in wenigen anderen aufgespeichert sind.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Case Against a Basic Income

DRgTfOvVwAATtHu

A universal basic income would shore up the market. We need ideas that shrink it.

In her campaign memoir What Happened, Hillary Clinton wrote that the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) for all Americans “fascinated” her. Reflecting on her wholly uninspiring campaign, she explained that she wanted to include it in her platform but “couldn’t make the numbers work,” so she dropped the idea.

She had planned to call it “Alaska for America,” referring to the Alaska Permanent Fund. Established in 1982, that program gives each of the state’s citizens an annual dividend from oil revenues. The idea gained popularity in the mid-sixties, and Nixon almost implemented it nationwide. American researchers conducted large-scale experiments in New Jersey, and a Canadian study took place in Winnipeg during the mid-seventies. At the time, the proposal produced heated debates in continental Europe and North America, but the decades that followed led to a slow but steady decline in support. The conservative preference for the “workfare” and “activation” policies that characterized welfare reform in the nineties — led by a different Clinton — turned basic income into a utopian fantasy.

But as interest in UBI from one of the planet’s most powerful political figures attests, the last ten years have given new life to the idea. Indeed, it’s now on the agenda of many movements and governments. For Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght, two of UBI’s leading proponents, “the conjunction of growing inequality, a new wave of automation, and a more acute awareness of the ecological limits to growth has made it the object of unprecedented interest throughout the world.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Hegel and Freud

Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel_-_Dorotheenstädtischer_Friedhof_-_Berlin,_Germany_-_DSC00377

Mladen Dolar (2012)

Hegel and Freud have nothing in common, it would seem; there is everything to oppose them. On the one hand: the speculative philosopher of absolute spirit whose system encompassed every sphere of being – logic, nature, and spirit – and who is reputed to be the most obscure and difficult in the entire grand philosophical tradition; on the other hand: a man of medical formation, a therapist who in all his work took clinical practice as his guideline and only gradually extended some psychological insights into larger circles of culture, civilization, and history. On the one hand: not only a philosopher, but a philosopher par excellence, the paradigmatic example of a philosopher who managed to encapsulate in his system all the themes and achievements of the metaphysical tradition; on the other hand: a man of natural science who adamantly opposed philosophy as such and even saw attempts to turn psychoanalysis into a new philosophical current as one of his discipline’s greatest dangers. On the one hand: not only a German, but seemingly a German par excellence, a model of German spirit, or even the Prussian state philosopher, as the adage goes; on the other hand: a Jew who already in his young days experienced the pressure of anti-Semitism and eventually, despite his fame, lived his final days in exile, his books burned by a regime that was, ironically, evoking Hegel. And finally, on the one hand the philosopher who relied more than anyone else in the history of philosophy on the powers of reason, concepts, and knowledge; on the other hand someone who more than anyone else took his cue from something that inherently escapes those powers or presents their fissure – this fissure forms the very object of psychoanalysis, of entities such as the unconscious and the drives.

Read the rest of this entry »

Now

tumblr_p3v06et7uN1tvr0q1o1_1280

THE INVISIBLE COMMITTEE, NOW (2017)

Full book, translated into English by Robert Hurley.

Economy rests on a pair of fictions, therefore, that of society and that of the individual. Destituting it involves situating this false antinomy and bringing to light that which it means to cover up. What these fictions have in common is making us see entities, closed units and their relations, whereas what there is in fact are ties. Society presents itself as the superior entity that aggregates all the individual entities. Since Hobbes and the frontispiece of Leviathan, it’s always the same image: the great body of the sovereign, composed of all the minuscule, homogenized, serialized bodies of his subjects. The operation which the social fiction depends on consists in trampling on everything that forms the situated existence of each singular human being, in wiping out the ties that constitute us, in denying the assemblages we enter into, and then forcing the depleted atoms thus obtained into a completely fictitious, spectral association known as the “social bond.” So that to think of oneself as a social being is always to apprehend oneself from the exterior, to relate to oneself as an abstraction. It’s the peculiar mark of the economic perception of the world to grasp nothing except externally.

READ: (color) ||  PRINT: (Color) (BW)

Negation (Freud, 1925)

sopranos.0.0

THE manner in which our patients bring forward their associations during the work of analysis gives us an opportunity for making some interesting observations. ‘Now you’ll think I mean to say something insulting, but really I’ve no such intention.’ We realize that this is a rejection, by projection, of an idea that has just come up. Or: ‘You ask who this person in the dream can be. It’s not my mother.’ We emend this to: ‘So it is his mother.’ In our interpretation, we take the liberty of disregarding the negation and of picking out the subject‑matter alone of the association. It is as though the patient had said: ‘It’s true that my mother came into my mind as I thought of this person, but I don’t feel inclined to let the association count.”[1]

Read the rest of this entry »

Estrangement and Cognition

92f87a070bc515faa3fde4af8d2c61d2

by Darko Suvin

1. Science Fiction As Fiction (Estrangement)

1.1. The importance of science fiction (SF) in our time is on the increase. First, there are strong indications that its popularity in the leading industrial nations (United States, USSR, United Kingdom, Japan) has risen sharply over the last 100 years, despite all the local and short-range fluctuations. SF has particularly affected such key strata or groups of modern society as college graduates, young writers, and the avant-garde of general readers appreciative of new sets of values. This is a significant cultural effect which goes beyond any merely quantitative census. Second, if one takes as the minimal generic difference of SF the presence of a narrative novum (the dramatis personae and/or their context) significantly different from what is the norm in “naturalistic” or empiricist fiction, it will be found that SF has an interesting and close kinship with other literary subgenres that flourished at different times and places of literary history: the classical and medieval “fortunate island” story, the “fabulous voyage” story from antiquity on, the Renaissance and Baroque “utopia” and “planetary novel,” the Enlightenment “state [political] novel,” the modern “anticipation” and “anti-utopia.” Moreover, although SF shares with myth, fantasy, fairy tale, and pastoral an opposition to naturalistic or empiricist literary genres, it differs very significantly in approach and social function from such adjoining non-naturalistic or metaempirical genres. Both these complementary aspects, the sociological and the methodological, are being vigorously debated by writers and critics in several countries, evidence of lively interest in a genre that should undergo scholarly discussion too.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Singular Pursuit of Comrade Bezos

1_MXlznTFU7CcPwE0ZqQP-tA.png

by Malcolm Harris

It was explicitly and deliberately a ratchet, designed to effect a one-way passage from scarcity to plenty by way of stepping up output each year, every year, year after year. Nothing else mattered: not profit, not the rate of industrial accidents, not the effect of the factories on the land or the air. The planned economy measured its success in terms of the amount of physical things it produced.

— Francis Spufford, Red Plenty

But isn’t a business’s goal to turn a profit? Not at Amazon, at least in the traditional sense. Jeff Bezos knows that operating cash flow gives the company the money it needs to invest in all the things that keep it ahead of its competitors, and recover from flops like the Fire Phone. Up and to the right.

— Recode, “Amazon’s Epic 20-Year Run as a Public Company, Explained in Five Charts

From a financial point of view, Amazon doesn’t behave much like a successful 21st-century company. Amazon has not bought back its own stock since 2012. Amazon has never offered its shareholders a dividend. Unlike its peers Google, Apple, and Facebook, Amazon does not hoard cash. It has only recently started to record small, predictable profits. Instead, whenever it has resources, Amazon invests in capacity, which results in growth at a ridiculous clip. When the company found itself with $13.8 billion lying around, it bought a grocery chain for $13.7 billion. As the Recode story referenced above summarizes in one of the graphs: “It took Amazon 18 years as a public company to catch Walmart in market cap, but only two more years to double it.” More than a profit-seeking corporation, Amazon is behaving like a planned economy.

Read the rest of this entry »