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Category: communism

Onward Barbarians (Endnotes, 2020)

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An anti-government protester returns a tear gas canister to police during clashes in Santiago, Chile, on March 6, 2020. Esteban Felix / AP

by Endnotes, Dec 2020

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At the beginning of May 2020, hunger riots erupted in Santiago, Chile. Lockdowns had deprived men and women of their incomes to the point of near starvation. A large movement of self-organized community kitchens soon spread across the country. Later in the month, riots spread through Mexico in response to the police murder of Giovanni López — a construction worker who had been arrested for not wearing a mask — while thousands of despairing migrant workers broke the curfew in India. Some Amazon warehouse workers in the US and Germany had begun to strike in protest at poor COVID-19 safety protocols. (1) Yet these stirrings of workers’ struggle in the world’s largest retailer were quickly drowned out, at the end of May, by a mass movement of unprecedented size that swept across the US in revulsion at the live-streamed police murder of George Floyd. Largely initiated by black residents of Minneapolis, the uprising was quickly joined by Americans from every place, race and class. In the first riots and demos one could even spot a few supportive militiamen in a Querfront worthy of the age of QAnon. (2)

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Some Stories About Communization

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by Jasper Bernes, Nov 2020-Jan 2021, via Substack

(see also Planning and Anarchy (2020), and Belly of the Revolution (2018))

Part 1, Nov 26, 2020

I want to do a series of posts on the theory of “communization” as it has developed since 1968, because it seems to me there is a great deal more interest in the term and desire than there is comprehension. There are many reasons for the abuse the word has suffered, but foremost is that, in France, from whence it derives, “communization” never at first served to name a tendency or a coherent theory. It was simply a term of art that a loosely connected network of communist projects used to explain their vision of communist revolution.

Even as the term courant communisateur – communizing tendency, or communizer current–began to be applied to these groups retrospectively, many questioned and resisted the term, drawing attention to the way that it conflated advocates of communization, who can exist in the world here and now, with those who practice communization, that is with people who do not yet exist.

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The New Movement (Henri Simon, 1974)

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Dec 1970, Szczecin

Influential in its day and expressing the optimism of its times, this text describes the characteristics of the New Movement of class struggle of the 1960s and 70s and its relationship to the Old Movement. Published in English translation from the original French by Solidarity, London 1976.

by Henri Simon

1. The struggle against capitalist domination, which, in its various modern forms occurs in every country in the world, exhibits new tendencies, which are in complete contrast with what occurred before the beginning of the 20th century.

2. The common and essential feature of these tendencies, is the way in which those who struggle manage the totality of their affairs by themselves in all circumstances of their lives, in the field of action as well as thought.

3. The signs of what could be a radical transformation of social relationships are to be seen in the upheavals of capitalism itself in its crisis and its attempts to adapt itself. These signs can erupt in isolated explosions rapidly destroyed by the dominant interests or they can be traced through their slow progress and more or less stemmed by reforms.

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Marx on Social Reproduction

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by Paul Cammack (Historical Materialism, 2020)

Marx is generally reckoned to have had too little to say about what has come to be defined as ‘social reproduction’, largely as a consequence of too narrow a focus on industrial production, and a relative disregard for issues of gender. This paper argues in contrast that the approach he developed with Engels and in Capital, Volume 1, provides a powerful framework for its analysis. After an introductory discussion of recent literature on social reproduction the second section sets out Marx’s approach to the ‘production of life, both of one’s own in labour and of fresh life in procreation’. The third addresses his account of reproduction in Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 23. The fourth and fifth compare the relationship of the family to industry and exchange as depicted in Capital and in the present day respectively. The conclusion suggests some implications for theories of social reproduction.

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Beyond Reification: Reclaiming Marx’s Concept of the Fetish Character of the Commodity (Pepperell 2018)

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by Nicole Pepperell, Contradictions Vol. 2 number 2 (2018)

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György Lukács’s influential interpretation of commodity fetishism as “reification” shapes many contemporary critiques of the apparently objective and impersonal form taken by capitalist social relations. Such critiques seek to debunk the false veil of objectivity that results from fetishism, revealing the real character of the social relations underneath. This line of criticism, however, often attributes totalising power to capitalism, which undermines its own critical standpoint. I argue that the solution to this dilemma lies in understanding the fetish not as an ideological veil that needs to be debunked, but instead as a novel form of social interdependence that is genuinely – not illusorily – impersonal. This impersonal form is generated by a diverse array of disparate social practices whose interaction yields this unanticipated and unintended result. Within this framework, the diversity of the underlying social practices offers a practical potential basis for constituting new forms of social interdependence that lack not only the semblance, but also the reality of capitalism’s oppressive objectivity. READ PDF

See also by Pepperell:

Third World Politics in Sixties West Germany (Slobodian 2012)

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It is often asserted that West German New Leftists “discovered the Third World” in the pivotal decade of the 1960s. Quinn Slobodian upsets that storyline by beginning with individuals from the Third World themselves: students from Africa, Asia, and Latin America who arrived on West German campuses in large numbers in the early 1960s. They were the first to mobilize German youth in protest against acts of state violence and injustice perpetrated beyond Europe and North America. The activism of the foreign students served as a model for West German students, catalyzing social movements and influencing modes of opposition to the Vietnam War. In turn, the West Germans offered the international students solidarity and safe spaces for their dissident engagements. This collaboration helped the West German students to develop a more nuanced, empathetic understanding of the Third World, not just as a site of suffering, poverty, and violence, but also as the home of politicized individuals with the capacity and will to speak in their own names. READ PDF

The History of the Rifle (Engels, 1860)

Written between the end of October 1860 and the first half of January 1861. First published in The Volunteer Journal, for Lancashire and Cheshire, Nos. 9, 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, November 3 and 17, December 8, 15 and 29, 1860, January 5, 12 and 19, 1861; reprinted in the collection Essays Addressed to Volunteers, London-Manchester, 1861. MECW 18: 433-459.

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The rifle is a German invention, dating as far back as the close of the fifteenth century. The first rifles were made with apparently no other object than to facilitate the loading of the arm with an almost tight-fitting bullet. To this end, the grooves were made straight, without any spiral turning, and merely served to diminish the friction of the bullet in the bore. The bullet itself was surrounded by a piece of greased woollen or linen cloth (the plaster), and was thus hammered down without too much difficulty. These rifles, primitive as they were, must have given far better results than the smooth-bore small arms of the period, with their bullets of considerably smaller diameter than the bore. Later on, the character of the arm was totally altered by the spiral turn given to the grooves, which transformed the bore of the barrel into a sort of female screw; the bullet, by the tight-fitting plaster, being made to follow the grooves, took the spiral turn as well, and thus retained a spiral rotation round its line of flight. It was soon found that this mode of fixing the rotation of the bullet vastly increased both the range and accuracy of the arm, and thus the spiral grooves very soon superseded the straight ones. This, then, was the kind of rifle which remained in general use for more than two hundred years. If we except hair-triggers and more carefully worked sights, it scarcely underwent any improvement up to 1828.

Marxism and Mediation (Gunn, 1987)

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Richard Gunn, Common Sense No. 2 (July 1987)

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In both Hegelian and Marxist thought, the concept of mediation figures as a central dialectical category. That the category does theoretical, and revolutionary, work is clear. What is less clear, to myself at any rate, is what might be termed the conceptual geography of the category itself. It is this conceptual geography which, as a preliminary to further discussion, the present paper attempts to clarify. A more pretentious title for what follows might be ‘Prolegomena to a Reading of Marx’.

To mediate is to bring about a relation by means of a relating (an “intermediate”) term. A mediation is the relating term itself. To count as a mediation, a relating term must be more than a mere catalyst or external condition (however necessary) of the relation: rather, it must itself be the relation. It must constitute it, in the way that for example – and the example is offered merely heuristically – a rope linking two climbers is constitutive of the relation in which they stand.

If a mediation is, thus, the relation which it establishes, it does not follow that just any relation counts as a mediating term. A mediated relation is distinct from a relation for which, to render it intelligible or accurately describe it, no reference to a relating term need be made – for example, a relation of juxtaposition. A relation of this kind is an immediate relation (which, for its part, may be catalysed or necessitated in this or that way).

Rosa Luxemburg’s Global Class Analysis (van der Linden, 2016)

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by Marcel van der Linden, Historical Materialism 24.1 (2016) 135–159

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How did Rosa Luxemburg, in her The Accumulation of Capital and other writings, analyse the development of the working class and other subordinate classes under capitalism, and how did she view the relationship between these classes and those living in ‘natural economic societies’? Following primary sources closely, the present essay reconstructs and evaluates Luxemburg’s class analysis of global society. It is shown that Luxemburg pioneered a truly global concept of solidarity from below, including the most oppressed – women and colonised peoples.

See also:

Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience (Biehl & Staudenmaier, 1995)

By Janet Biehl & Peter Staudenmaier (1995)

AK Press / PDF

The reappearance of fascism in many western countries threatens all the freedoms the left movements have managed to gain over the last half century. Equally disconcerting is the attempt by fascist ideologists and political groups to use ecology in the service of social reaction. This effort is not without long historical roots in Germany, both in its nineteenth-century romanticism and in the Third Reich in the present century. In order to preserve the liberatory aspects of ecology, the authors, as social ecologists, explore the German experience of fascism and derive from it historical lessons about the political use of ecology. Comprised of two essays—”Fascist Ideology: The Green Wing of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents” and “Ecology and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-Right,”—Ecofascism examines aspects of German fascism, past and present, in order to draw essential lessons from them for ecology movements both in Germany and elsewhere.

Table of Contents:

Introduction

Fascist Ecology: The “Green Wing” of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents
by Peter Staudenmaier

The Roots of the Blood and Soil Mystique
The Youth Movement and the Weimar Era
Nature in National Socialist Ideology
Blood and Soil as Official Doctrine
Implementing the Ecofascist Program
Fascist Ecology in Context

Ecology’ and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-right
by Janet Biehl

Neofascist ‘Ecology’
National Revolutionaries
The Freedom German Workers Party
The Republicans
The National Democratic Party
The German People’s Union
Anthroposophy and the World League for the Protection of Life
Rudolf Bahro: Völkisch Spirituality
Liberating the ‘Brown Parts’
Social Darwinist ‘Ecology’: Herbert Gruhl
A Social Ecology of Freedom

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The End of Utopia (Marcuse, 1967)

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Herbert Marcuse, lecture at FU West Berlin 1967, published in Five Lectures

Today any form of the concrete world, of human life, any transformation of the technical and natural environment is a possibility, and the locus of this possibility is historical. Today we have the capacity to turn the world into hell, and we are well on the way to doing so. We also have the capacity to turn it into the opposite of hell. This would mean the end of utopia, that is, the refutation of those ideas and theories that use the concept of utopia to denounce certain socio-historical possibilities. It can also be understood as the “end of history” in the very precise sense that the new possibilities for a human society and its environment can no longer be thought of as continuations of the old, nor even as existing in the same historical continuum with them. Rather, they presuppose a break with the historical continuum; they presuppose the qualitative difference between a free society and societies that are still unfree, which, according to Marx, makes all previous history only the prehistory of mankind.

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From the commodity to the spectacle: Debord’s Marx (Russell, 2019)

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by Eric-John Russell, Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image eds. Osborne, Alliez, Russel (2019)

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Published a century after Marx’s Capital, Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle was described upon its release as ‘the Capital of the new generation’ (Le Nouvel Observateur). However, the book’s content has almost never been seriously examined alongside the dialectical logic of the social forms of value systematically ordered within Marx’s Capital. Despite Debord’s description of the modern spectacle as a development of the commodity-capitalist economy, discussions on Debord’s debt to Marx customarily emphasize those early writings in which Marx enunciates the critique of alienation without having yet traversed the works of classical political economy. And for good reason, as his archival notes can verify. A preliminary glance at The Society of the Spectacle elicits the impression that the ‘ruthless criticism of all that exists’ first enunciated by Marx in his early twenties continued to reverberate a century later. The book resounds with both implicit and explicit reference to the phenomenon of social alienation or estrangement described by Marx in the 1844 Manuscripts. READ PDF

Serfdom in a Free Society (Mattick, 1946)

by Paul MattickWestern Socialist, Boston, USA, September 1946

The Road to Serfdom. By Friedrich A. Hayek, University of Chicago Press, 1944 (250 pp.; $2.75).

Full Employment in a Free Society. By William H. Beveridge. W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1945. (429pp; $3,75).

Both these books are dedicated to the “socialists of all parties.” Hayek wants to discourage them, Beveridge tries to offer encouragement. Both writers speak in the name of science and deal with the reality of, and the need for, capitalistic planning. But what appears to Hayek as the road to serfdom seems to Beveridge the highway to a free society.

Russia and Germany prove to Hayek that socialism does not lead to freedom. The most important guaranty of freedom, he maintains, is a system of private property. Planning and freedom cannot go together. Without a labor market and an industrial reserve army, for example, discipline can be maintained only by corporal punishment, for which reason socialism implies slave-labor. The “collective freedom” of which the planners speak is, in Hayek’s opinion, “but the unlimited freedom of the planner to do with society what he pleases.”

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Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966): Collected Works

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“The position that an epoch occupies in the historical process can be determined more strikingly from an analysis of its inconspicuous surface-level expressions than from that epoch’s judgments about itself. Since these judgments are expressions of the tendencies of a particular era, they do not offer conclusive testimony about its overall constitution. The surface-level expressions, however, by virtue of their unconscious nature, provide unmediated access to the fundamental substance of the state of things. Conversely, knowledge of this state of things depends on the interpretation of these surface-level expressions. The fundamental substance of an epoch and its unheeded impulses illuminate each other reciprocally.” – Kracauer, The Mass Ornament, 1927

By Siegfried Kracauer:

The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (1922-1931)

The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany (1930)

From Caligari to Hitler A Psychological History of the German Film (1947)

Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (1960)

The Pasts Threshold: Essays on Photography (1927-1951)

Siegfried_Kracauer’s_American Writings: Essays on Film and Popular Culture (1941-1961)

History-The Last Things Before the Last (1969)

On Siegfried Kracauer:

Koch, Introduction to Siegfried Kracauer (2000)

Gilloch, Siegfried Kracauer: Our companion in misfortune (2015)

Hansen, Cinema and experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno (2012)

Craver, Reluctant Skeptic: Siegfried Kracauer and the Crises of Weimar Culture (2017)

Reeh, Ornaments of the Metropolis_ Siegfried Kracauer and Modern Urban Culture (2005

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Ockman, Between Ornament and Monument: Siegfried Kracauer and the Architectural Implications of the Mass Ornament

Forrest, The Politics of Imagination: Benjamin, Kracauer, Kluge, 2015

The Principles of Communism (Engels, 1847)

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by Friedrich Engels

Written: October-November 1847;
First Published: 1914, Eduard Bernstein in the German Social Democratic Party’s Vorwärts!
Translated: Paul Sweezy
MECW 6: 341-357

— 1 —
What is Communism?

Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat.

— 2 —
What is the proletariat?

The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition. The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century.[1]

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On The Impotence of Revolutionary Groups (Moss, 1939)

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by Sam Moss (Living Marxism, 1939) PDF

I.

The difference between the radical organizations and the broad masses appears as a difference of objectives. The former apparently seek to overthrow capitalism; the masses seek only to maintain their living standards within capitalism. The revolutionary groups agitate for the abolition of private property; the people, called the masses, either own bits of private property, or hope some day to own them. The communist-minded struggle for the eradication of the profit system; the masses, capitalist minded, speak of the bosses’ right to a “fair profit.” As long as a relatively large majority of the American working class maintain the living conditions to which they are accustomed, and have the leisure to follow their pursuits, such as baseball and movies, they are generally well content, and they are grateful to the system that makes these things possible. The radical, who opposes this system and thereby jeopardizes their position within it, is far more dangerous to them than the bosses who pay them, and they do not hesitate to make a martyr of him. As long as the system satisfies their basic needs in the accustomed manner, they are well satisfied with it and whatever evils they behold in society, they attribute to “unfair bosses,” “bad administrators” or other individuals.

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Critical theory and experience: Interview with Detlev Claussen (2019)

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Detlev Claussen and Jordi Maiso – RP 2.06 (Winter 2019)
Translated by Alex Alvarez Taylor

[See Claussen’s biography of Adorno: One Last Genius (2008)]

Detlev Claussen (b. 1948) is Professor Emeritus of Social Theory, Culture and Sociology at Leibniz Universität Hannover. In the mid-sixties he moved to Frankfurt to study with Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, where he was actively involved in the protest movements associated with the political upheavals of 1968. In the seventies, Claussen worked as Oskar Negt’s assistant, with whom he shared the common project of opening up new avenues for critical theory without renouncing the thought of their intellectual mentors. Since then, Claussen has argued that instead of offering an overarching theory that can be applied from ‘outside’ of existing social reality, critical theory offers a variety of strategies that allow us simultaneously to disentangle and invigorate present experience. Claussen has written on a wide range of themes, including social theory, psychoanalysis, the sociology of science and culture, as well as anti-Semitism, racism, nationalism and migration. His biography of the legendary Jewish coach and footballer Béla Guttmann, yet to be translated into English, offers a prime example of how his published work cannot be separated from the wider context of his intellectual biography. Both an essayist and Adorno’s biographer, Claussen is one of the leading lights of critical theory today.

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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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PREORDER NOW

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