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Category: communism

The Problem of Violence and the Radical Opposition (Marcuse, 1967)

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Herbert Marcuse: lecture delivered at the Free University of West Berlin in July 1967, published in The New Left and the 1960s: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse Vol. 3, ed. Kellner, 2004. See also Marcuse, Five Lectures: Psychoanalysis, Politics and Utopia (1970)


Today radical opposition can be considered only in a global framework. Taken as an isolated phenomenon its nature is falsified from the start. I shall discuss this opposition with you in the global context with emphasis on the United States. You know that I hold today’s student opposition to be a decisive factor of transformation: surely not, as I have been reproached, as an immediate revolutionary force, but as one of the strongest factors, one that can perhaps become a revolutionary force. Setting up connections between the student oppositions of various countries is therefore one of the most important strategic necessities of these years. There are scarcely any connections between the American and German student movements; the student opposition in the United States does not even possess an effective central organization. We must work for the establishment of such relations, and if in discussing the theme of this talk I mainly take the United States as an example, I do so in order to help prepare for the establishment of such relations. The student opposition in the United States is itself part of a larger opposition that is usually designated the “New Left.”

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Cured Quail Vol. 2

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As industrial culture grinds to a halt, what better time to reflect, in this hour of unprecedented catastrophe, unwieldy political ferment and social distance, on the backlog of damages inflicted by this society? The economy continues to demand reverence from lives barely tottering along while offering cultural consolation hardly worth the name.

Preorders are now open for Cured Quail Vol. 2. The more preorders we receive, the faster the printer cylinders rotate.

Cured Quail Volume 2 | Fall 2020 | 304 pages

Cured Quail also now has its own Facebook and Twitter pages. Be sure to follow!

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Three Agricultural Revolutions (Clegg & Lucas, 2020)

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By J. Clegg and R. Lucas (Endnotes) SAQ (2020)

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There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry anymore.  

— Adorno, Minima Moralia

Critique of Revolutionary Reason

It’s safe to say that there is today no particularly obvious consensus about what the overcoming of capitalism might look like. Surveying the field of imagined scenarios, we find everything from neo-social-democratic bids to gradually legislate capitalism away, to apocalyptic visions of social breakdown marked by the spontaneous redistribution of goods. Nor is there a simple, uncontentious definition of communism. It could in principle be anything from some classical Sparta’s helot-exploiting collectivism, to a recapitulation of hunter-gatherer lifestyles; from the perfected bureaucratic state, to federated worker’s councils; from Stanford Beer’s cybernetic visions, to a return to pastoral commons. Marx, of course, was famously reticent about giving the term any positive content, displacing its meaning instead onto the historical unfolding of the movement of the same name. He claimed to prefer “critical analysis of actual facts” to “writing recipes for the cookshops of the future” (Marx 1976: 99). And Marxists of various stripes have often appealed to that precedent in one way or another to justify a focus not on the speculative future, but on the “real” present. In Endnotes’s broadly “ultra-left” milieu, a passage from Marx’s German Ideology often functions as a kind of mantra: “communism is for us not a state of a airs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (Marx 1970: 56). READ PDF

David Graeber (1961-2020)

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David Graeber’s Collected Writings Linked Below

Hope in Common, 2009:

We seem to have reached an impasse. Capitalism as we know it appears to be coming apart. But as financial institutions stagger and crumble, there is no obvious alternative. Organized resistance appears scattered and incoherent; the global justice movement a shadow of its former self. There is good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism will no longer exist: for the simple reason that it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet. Faced with the prospect, the knee-jerk reaction — even of “progressives” — is, often, fear, to cling to capitalism because they simply can’t imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.

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The council communists between the New Deal and fascism (Bonacchi, 1976)

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A history by Gabriella M. Bonacchi of council communist efforts in the US in the 1930s. Published in Telos #30, Winter 1976

In recent years growing interest in the problems of the 1930s has brought to light aspects of the labor movement that had been relegated to oblivion by traditional historiography. This is especially true for the council communists who in an America upset by the Great Depression sought to renew a political project that had been crushed in Europe. While there have already been numerous studies of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the harsh and violent context of American factories prior to WW II, there has not yet been any thorough investigation of the convergence of the remnants of the IWW and the council communists.

Generally speaking the progressive loss of influence of those defined as “the most dangerous subversives ever raised on sacred American soil” over the American proletariat after WW I, goes back to the incongruence of their strategic “lack of organisation” with the changes imposed on American capital and labor by the real winners of the war: the key auto, steel and rubber industries.

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Class and Capital (Paul Mattick Jr., 2002)

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by Paul Mattick Jr. Download PDF 

[originally published in The Culmination of Capital: Essays on Volume III of Marx’s Capital ed. Martha Campbell and Geert Reuten, 2002; republished as Chapter 9 in Paul Mattick Jr.’s Theory as Critique, Brill 2018]


The concept of class has never remained a harmless concept for very long.

Ralf Dahrendorf

Dahrendorf gave a common view dramatic form when he wrote, ‘Marx post­poned the systematic presentation of his theory of class until death took the pen from his hand. The irony has often been noted that the last (52nd) chapter of the last (third) volume of Capital, which bears the title “The Classes”, has remained unfinished. After a little more than one page the text ends with the lapidary remark of its editor, Engels: “Here the manuscript breaks off”’. Unfortunately, the colourful picture this suggests, of the pen dropping from the hand of the dying Marx as he was on the point of completing his masterwork, isn’t ours to keep: the draft containing this chapter was completed, as is fairly well known, before Marx turned to the preparation of Volume I for publication. Nev­ertheless, some have taken Marx’s delay in returning to the chapter – until it was too late – as an admission in actu of failure, attesting to a basic flaw in his theory. Engels’s explanation is less dramatic: Marx liked to leave conclusions ‘for the final editing, shortly before printing, when the latest historical events would supply him, with unfailing regularity, with illustrations of his theoretical arguments, as topical as anyone could desire’. Reopening the question of the relation of Marx’s final page and a half to the rest of Capital, I wish to explore what Marx’s willingness to leave the matter in so sketchy a state might indicate about the nature, or even the existence, of a Marxian theory of class. [Read PDF]


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How it Might Should be Done

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by Idris Robinson, July 2020

The following is a transcript of a talk delivered in Seattle on July 20, 2020, lightly-edited by the author for readability. A video recording produced by Red May is online here. (Taken from Illwilleditions.org)

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I want to begin with a shout-out to what happened here last night, and to the working class of the city of Seattle, to the rebels of the city of Seattle: I really liked what I saw, that’s why I’m here, you know, to feel that vibe. I would also like to send my solidarity to comrades in Greece. It was they who allowed me to experience insurrection for the first time in 2008. The lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I had there have been so valuable this time around, even though we are in a much different social context. Moreover, a comrade was recently killed at the hands of the police there. To the fallen comrade, Vasillis Maggos, I want to say: rest in power.

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Postone and Class Theory

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by A New Institute for Social Research (2019)

Moishe Postone’s most famous work in the Anglophone world, Time, Labor, and Social Domination, is hampered by the fact that it is written against a straw man — “traditional Marxism.” The effort to prove that traditional Marxism has a superficial understanding of capitalism, and thus that the USSR only made superficial changes and remained essentially capitalist, leads him to the curious argumentative strategy of attempting to sift out only what is ‘essential’ in Marx’s theory. Yet as Postone himself continually asserts, Marx’s categories are historically specific and refer to the actually-existing capitalist social totality. This perverted totality is constituted by a real metaphysics, an essential movement and its forms of appearance, but that doesn’t make the forms of appearance ‘inessential’ in the sense of being dispensable — as every student of Hegel knows, essence must appear. What sense does it make then to claim that the commodity (a thing produced by and for exchange) is essential, but exchange is not? That proletarian labor is essential, but class is not? It makes sense only to the extent that Postone has redefined property, class, and exchange in a superficial manner in order to declare them inessential.

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Letters of Insurgents (Fredy Perlman, 1976)

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Letters of Insurgents by Fredy Perlman

Black and Red Press, Detroit, 1976

Reading PDFPrint PDFEPUB – Standalone HTML

Audio book / mp3 / AK Press

But what happened to you, Sophia? What have you done to your memory? How can you refer to the resistance by mentioning, in one and the same sentence, the “thousands of working people fighting and dying to free their city” and the “approach of the liberation armies”? If we fought to free the city, then we lost; the “liberation army” destroyed the city’s freedom. But if we fought to free the city, why did we — thousands of us in the streets, as you say — cheer and dance when the tanks and soldiers of the “liberation army” marched into the already liberated city? If we fought to liberate the city, why didn’t we turn our guns on the new occupiers? Why didn’t we shoot the commanders, fraternize with the soldiers and begin building our free city? It’s the same, familiar and distorted picture. We were pure; we fought for freedom. They were despotic; they fought to enslave us. This picture is false. I was one of those thousands. I shot to avenge and to kill. So did the people alongside me on the barricades. I learned that I had helped to “free the city” only after I met Luisa. And then I “remembered” having done that. But it’s not true. I didn’t for a moment believe that I and the people with whom I built barricades were going to create a new social activity, invent new modes of transportation, dream up new ways to relate to each other, to our activity, to our environment. I knew that gangsters, cops and soldiers had always governed in the past and I didn’t think anything I did would keep them from governing in the future. I didn’t relate any of that to my activity on the barricades. While I shot and while hundreds like me were killed, we cleared the streets for the “victorious liberation army.” I didn’t help clear their path intentionally; I wouldn’t ever have risked my life to do that. Yet among the thousands you say were “freeing their city,” there were some who did actually risk their lives in order to clear the path for the new occupiers. Perhaps they thought they’d be praised and rewarded by the new masters. Perhaps they were in fact rewarded. I had met some of them in the resistance organization. I suspect they couldn’t have fought hard and couldn’t have taken great risks since the dead can’t enjoy their rewards. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe like the noblest of slaves they risked everything, hoping that if they died the new masters would at least decorate their graves.

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Die Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen: Max Horkheimer im Interview mit Helmut Gumnior (1970)

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»In einer wirklich freiheitlichen Gesinnung bleibt jener Begriff des Unendlichen als Bewußtsein der Endgültigkeit des irdischen Geschehens und der unabänderlichen Verlassenheit des Menschen erhalten und bewahrt die Gesellschaft vor einem blöden Optimismus, vor dem Aufspreizen ihres eigenen Wissens als einer neuen Religion.«

Diesen Satz schrieb Max Horkheimer vor 35 Jahren im amerikanischen Exil. Er war damals seit über einem Jahr in New York. Noch galt er zu der Zeit als Marxist, als Begründer einer Theorie, die gesellschaftliches Wirken als Produktionsprozeß zu begreifen versuchte, die Philosophie als Kampf und nicht als weltferne Spekulation verstand, die von einer Revolution eine heile Welt, den vernünftigen Zustand der Gesellschaft erwartete.

H.G.: Herr Horkheimer, wie kommt ein Marxist, ein Revolutionär dazu, einen solchen Satz zu schreiben?

MAX HORKHEIMER: Es stimmt, ich war Marxist, ich war Revolutionär. Ich habe nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg begonnen, mich mit Marx zu beschäftigen, weil die Gefahr des Nationalismus offenkundig war. Ich glaubte, nur durch eine Revolution könnte der Nationalsozialismus beseitigt werden und zwar durch eine marxistische Revolution. Mein Marxismus, mein Revolutionärsein war eine Antwort auf die Herrschaft des Totalitären von rechts. Ich hatte aber schon damals Zweifel, ob die von Marx verlangte Solidarität des Proletariats schließlich zu einer richtigen Gesellschaft führen würde.

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Theory of Crisis and the Problem of Constitution (Marramao, 1975)

 

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by Giacomo Marramao – Telos No. 26, Winter 1975-76

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It is still widely held that the theory of the crisis and collapse of the capitalist system is inherited from the positivist deformation of the “Marxism of the Second International,” and that it thus implies ideological support for reformist politics. Ten years ago, Raniero Panzieri wrote: “As a matter of fact, Marxist thought since Marx has recognized the appearance of a ‘turn’ in the system with the development of monopoly capitalism and of imperialism around the 1870s (which today appears to us as a transitional period in relation to the ‘turn’ that began in the 1930s and is now being completed). But the analysis and description of the phase following that turn was immediately framed in terms of laws that such a phase tended to overcome. Thus, it was interpreted as a ‘final phase’.”[1] And, in a note, he added: “The mythology of the ‘last stage’ of capitalism exists with differing, even opposite, ideological functions both in Lenin and in Kautsky: in Lenin, to ‘legitimize’ the breakdown of the system at the less advanced points of its development; in Kautsky, to sanction the reformist postponement of revolutionary action until the ‘correct time.’ Since the 1917 revolution failed to consolidate itself with revolutions in more advanced countries, it fell back on objectives immediately realizable within Russia’s level of development. This would-be explanation of the possible presence of capitalist social relations in planning (a shortcoming remaining in the whole development of Leninist thought) will later facilitate the repetition, whether in the factories or in total social production, of capitalist forms behind the ideological screen of identifying socialism with planning and the possibility of ‘socialism in one country’.”[2]

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Crowned Plague

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by Phil Neel (Brooklyn Rail, Field Notes, July 2020)

(see also: Prelude to a Hot American Summer, Normality is Death)

The Saint of Crowns

In spring the winter weight of snow trickles off the stone steps of the basilica in small, shimmering rivulets, a microcosm of the many streams glittering through the foothills of the unyielding Dolomites, or maybe more a mirror of the intricate alpine network of alte vie and vie ferrate, narrow, high walking and climbing paths hewn into the mountains during the first world war when other routes were made impassable by mines. The winter rarely clears quickly through these foothills where Fèltre and its basilica lie, the town’s most famous rendition given by a few lines from an anonymous Roman author: “Feltria, condemned to the rigor of eternal snows / from me too, who henceforth will scarcely approach you, farewell!”1 The words are often attributed to Caesar himself, though of course this might be apocryphal. But the apocryphal is also somehow natural to this place: the basilica which contains the relics of Saint Corona, whose historical reality is itself an open question.2

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The Flatness of Blackness: Afro-Pessimism and the Erasure of Anti-Colonial Thought

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by Kevin Ochieng Okoth | January 16, 2020

Originally published in Salvage, this piece by Kevin Ochieng Okoth, offers a sustained critique of American ‘Afro-pessimism’, noting, in particular, how it erases experiences, including political experiences, of African people living in Africa.

 

I. Pop-Hegelianism 

When the term Afro-pessimism began appearing in books, journal articles and, curiously, on activist social media, I was (presumably along with others familiar with the scholarship on African history and politics) slightly perplexed. For decades, ‘Afro-pessimism’ had referred to the unrelentingly negative coverage of Africa in Western news media, especially in terms of its tendency toward arrested development. This discourse, loosely united by an emphasis on the hopelessness of the African continent – and exemplified by the scandalous 2000 Economist headline describing Africa as ‘The Hopeless Continent’ – provided the rationale for the imperialist economic policies of the 1970s’ and 80s’ structural adjustment programmes. Today, it bolsters neo-colonial relations between the Global North and Africa, and is often conjured up as the go-to argument to justify the entirely unnecessary and counterproductive presence of the development industry and its practitioners on the continent. 

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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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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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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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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, 2014)

[Read the book: In Defense of Looting, 2020]

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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