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A to Z of communisation (Gilles Dauvé)

(This “A to Z” is the third part of Everything Must Go! Abolish Value, published by Little Black Cart Books, Berkeley, California, in 2015.  The first two parts were written by Bruno Astarian: Crisis Activity & Communisation, and Value & its Abolition)


“Some people will find our propositions insane or naïve. We do not expect to convince everyone. If such a thing were possible, it would be very disturbing. We would rather have readers who have to rub their eyes before granting credence to our positions.”

A World Without Money: Communism, 1975

 AUTONOMY                       BLUE COLLAR                    CLASS                       DAILY LIFE

ECOLOGY                      FAMILY                             GIOTTO                              HABITAT     

INSURRECTION                   JAILBREAK                       KARL  (MARX)                   LABOUR    

MONEY               NON-ECONOMY          OBFUSCATION                POLITICS               QUERY  

REVOLUTION               SEX             TIME  (IS OF THE ESSENCE)                       UNLABELLED

VALUE                        WORK          XENOPHILIA                      YESTERDAY                      ZOMIAS


In 2012, radical Oakland occupiers made it clear that “no permission would be asked, no demands would be made, no negotiation with the police and city administration” : nobody or no body had the power to grant them anything relevant, so there was no point in bargaining with wannabe representatives.

Participatory decision-making implies a communal capacity often called “self-empowerment”. Autonomy is inclusive. As participants share an equal stake in the creation of a different world, the most important thing in their lives becomes their relation to others, and this interdependence extends far beyond the circle of relatives and friends.

In a different time and place, some people have stressed the spontaneity of many recent Chinese strikes, demonstrations, protests, street blockades and riots. Other observers have emphasized the careful planning that takes place beforehand. Yet organization and spontaneity are two sides of the same coin. A self-initiated work-stoppage needs previous secret talks and meetings, and its continuity needs durable independent information channels (such as a mutual help hotline) and decision-making structures.

However, the ideology of autonomy is one of the up-to-date nostrums. Autonomy is acting by oneself:  it says nothing about what this individual or collective self actually does. In the ebbs and flows of social battles, most occupations and strikes meet the limit of one company, one neighbourhood, one town, one city. Workplace, neighbourhood, kinship, etc., create a potential community of struggle which by its own strength alone can certainly self-manage an occupation, a strike, even community life for a while… but it is not enough to break the log jam.

How does a community of struggle create more than its struggle ? Can it go beyond rituals of social partnership ? How does solidarity not become an end in itself ? When can collective will wield its transformative power?

Unlike a book divided into chapters which gradually make their point from beginning to end, this A to Z is more like a dictionary in which each entry is to be read in relation to all the others. It is by accident that autonomy begins with the first letter of the alphabet. But it is no accident that self-activity should be a starting point. Autonomy is a necessary condition of the whole A to Z of communisation. It does not encapsulate the whole process.

Occupational Hazards. The Rise & Limitation of Occupy Oakland, CAL Press, 2012

New Strikes in China,

Eli Friedman, Insurgency Trap. Labor Politics in Post-socialist China, Cornell U.P., 2014

A Contribution to the Critique of Political Autonomy, troploin site, 2008


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The Mandibles


The collapse of the United States arrives in 2029, not via climate change or airborne viruses or zombie hordes, but international monetary policy: foreign governments establish their own currency, the bancor (a concept first proposed by economist John Maynard Keynes), and when the U.S. resists, it’s effectively locked out of global trade. America speedily goes into free fall, with rampant shortages and inheritances vaporized by high costs, unemployment, and human longevity. The Mandible family is just barely hanging on: Florence, who has one of the few stable jobs left (working at a homeless shelter), is forced to open her Brooklyn home to desperate family members, including a humiliated economist brother-in-law, a sister whose career as a novelist tanked along with all print media, and her once-wealthy grandfather who has only a silver service left to his name and whose second wife suffers from violent dementia.

Almost gleefully, Shriver catalogs how this upper-middle-class clan gets knocked off its perch in ways both small (toilet-paper shortages, overcrowding) and large (rampant theft and violence, starvation, zero health care, general erosion of humanity). Politically, this may be the only novel Mother Jones and can both take an interest in, though it might tire them both, too: the closing chapters, set in a scorched-earth 2047, are overly didactic on themes of individual rights, taxation, and citizenship. “Plots set in the future are about what people fear in the present,” as Florence’s brother-in-law puts it, and Shriver’s biggest fear is that, between numbing technology and nanny-statedom, we’ve lost our capacity to live by our wits. This novel is a bracing vision of what happens when we’re forced to, though the lecturing tone sometimes grates.

An imperfect but savvy commingling of apocalyptic and polemic.

 – The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

Slavery and the History of Capitalism


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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From ZIRP to NIRP: the last throw of the dice

Michael Roberts Blog

The recent announcement of the Bank of Japan (BoJ) that it would introduce a negative interest rate (NIRP) for commercial banks holding cash reserves is the final admission that monetary policy supported by mainstream economics and implemented by central banks globally has failed.

The main economic policy weapon used since the global financial crash and the ensuing Great Recession to avoid another Great Depression of the 1930s has been zero interest rates (ZIRP), then ‘unconventional’ monetary measures or ‘quantitative easing (QE)’ (increasing the quantity of money supply to banks), all fixed to inflation targets of 2% a year or so.  ZIRP and a virtually unlimited supply of cash (QE) were supposed to kick-start the global economy into action, so that eventually capitalism and market forces would take over and achieve ‘normal’ and sustained economic growth and fuller employment.

But QE and ZIRP have failed to achieve their inflation (and growth)…

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A Communist Life

by Felix Baum

Along with the return of economic crisis and social struggles around the world, the term “communism”—supposedly discredited once and for all by the experience of Russia and its satellite states in the 20th century—seems to be enjoying a certain comeback in recent years. Conferences on “the idea of communism” attract significant crowds, books by professed communists like Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek find readers and grab media attention. However, more often than not this (surely limited) comeback does not seem to be driven by a genuine desire to retrieve the emancipatory content the term carried in the writings of Karl Marx and like-minded critics, as well as in practical movements from the 19th century onwards. Rather, maîtres-penseurs like Badiou and Žižek prefer to pose as enfants terribles, defending Maoism and flirting with Bolshevik terror, hence reaffirming precisely the unholy traditions with which a “communism” for the 21st century would have to break.

Paul mattick

In his new biography of Paul Mattick, a German-born worker who immigrated to the United States in 1926 and later emerged as one of the most important radical critics of his time, Gary Roth tells the story of a largely forgotten current in the 20th century that early on made a rupture with the statist caricatures of communism to which today’s media-savvy leftist intellectuals are still holding fast.1 Noting that this story is about “bygone eras in which a radicalized working class still constituted a hope for the future,” Roth steers clear of melancholy and nostalgia, instead seeking a justification for his work in the more recent reconfiguration “of the world’s population into a vast working class that extends into the middle classes in the industrialized countries and the pools of underemployed agricultural workers everywhere else.” In fact, though far from constituting a sustained, consistent assault on existing conditions, some recent struggles of parts of this class, most notably the “square movements” that spread from North Africa via Europe to Istanbul, exhibit certain traits—horizontal self-organization (or “leaderlessness), direct mass action against state forces, a focus on occupations—that point much less to the Bolshevik-Leninist tradition than to the one Roth describes, commonly referred to as council communism, though the resemblances should certainly not be exaggerated.

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The Year We Obsessed Over Identity

by Wesley Morris


2015’s headlines and cultural events have confronted us with the malleability of racial, gender, sexual and reputational lines. Who do we think we are?

A few weeks ago, I sat in a movie theater and grinned. Anne Hathaway was in ‘‘The Intern,’’ perched on a hotel bed in a hotel robe, eating from a can of overpriced nuts, having tea and freaking out. What would happen if she divorced her sweet, selfless stay-at-home dad of a husband? Would she ever meet anybody else? And if she didn’t, she would have no one to be buried next to — she’d be single for all eternity. And weren’t the problems in her marriage a direct result of her being a successful businesswoman — she was there but never quite present? ‘‘The Intern’’ is a Nancy Meyers movie, and these sorts of cute career-woman meltdowns are the Eddie Van Halen guitar solos of her romantic comedies.

But what’s funny about that scene — what had me grinning — is the response of the person across the bed from Hathaway. After listening to her tearful rant, this person has had enough: Don’t you dare blame yourself or your career! Actually, the interruption begins, ‘‘I hate to be the feminist, of the two of us. … ’’ Hate to be because the person on the other side of the bed isn’t Judy Greer or Brie Larson. It’s not Meryl Streep or Susan Sarandon. It’s someone not far from the last person who comes to mind when you think ‘‘soul-baring bestie.’’ It’s Robert freaking De Niro, portrayer of psychos, savages and grouches no more.

On that bed with Hathaway, as her 70-year-old intern, he’s not Travis Bickle or the human wall of intolerance from those Focker movies. He’s Lena Dunham. The attentiveness and stern feminism coming out of his mouth are where the comedy is. And while it’s perfectly obvious what Meyers is doing to De Niro — girlfriending him — that doesn’t make the overhaul any less effective. The whole movie is about the subtle and obvious ways in which men have been overly sensitized and women made self-estranged through breadwinning. It’s both a plaint against the present and a pining for the past, but also an acceptance that we are where we are.

And where are we? On one hand: in another of Nancy Meyers’s bourgeois pornographies. On the other: in the midst of a great cultural identity migration. Gender roles are merging. Races are being shed. In the last six years or so, but especially in 2015, we’ve been made to see how trans and bi and poly-ambi-omni- we are. If Meyers is clued into this confusion, then you know it really has gone far, wide and middlebrow. We can see it in the instantly beloved hit ‘‘Transparent,’’ about a family whose patriarch becomes a trans woman whose kids call her Moppa, or in the time we’ve spent this year in televised proximity to Caitlyn Jenner, or in the browning of America’s white founding fathers in the Broadway musical ‘‘Hamilton,’’ or in the proliferating clones that Tatiana Maslany plays on ‘‘Orphan Black,’’ which mock the idea of a true or even original self, or in Amy Schumer’s comedic feminism, which reconsiders gender confusion: Do uncouthness, detachment and promiscuity make her a slut, or a man?

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Secular Utopia

by Wes Enzinna


One of the safer crossings into Syria is at a small town called Fishkhabour, in the far northwestern corner of Iraq. In a whitewashed shack on the shore of the Tigris River, an official from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government pointed out the window toward a pontoon bridge that bobbed in the cola-colored water. A year ago, 30,000 refugees fleeing an Islamic State massacre in Syria walked for 30 hours before crossing it in the opposite direction, half-starved, half-dead, terrorized. The official told me and my interpreter, Mohammed Ismael Rasool, that a few days before we arrived, an Italian volunteer was arrested by a border patrolman while trying to swim back toward Iraq. ‘‘Don’t change your mind,’’ he said, wagging a finger.

Our destination was a sliver of land in the far north of Syria: Rojava, or ‘‘land where the sun sets.’’ The regime of President Bashar al-Assad doesn’t officially recognize Rojava’s autonomous status, nor does the United Nations or NATO — it is, in this way, just as illicit as the Islamic State. But if the reports I heard from the region were to be believed, within its borders the rules of the neighboring ISIS caliphate had been inverted. In accordance with a philosophy laid out by a leftist revolutionary named Abdullah Ocalan, Rojavan women had been championed as leaders, defense of the environment enshrined in law and radical direct democracy enacted in the streets.

But much of the information emerging from Rojava seemed contradictory and almost fantastical. To the Turkish government, the territory, which is now the size of Connecticut and has an estimated 4.6 million inhabitants, was nothing more than a front for a Turkish group known as the P.K.K., or Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Since its founding in 1978, the P.K.K., led by Ocalan, had been fighting for independence from Turkey, hoping to establish a homeland for the country’s 14 million Kurds. The effort had caused the deaths of 40,000 people, thousands of them civilians, and led to the imprisonment of Ocalan. The American State Department designated the P.K.K. a terrorist organization in 1997. Having failed in Turkey, officials claimed, the P.K.K. was trying to create a Kurdish homeland amid the disruption of war. ‘‘We will never allow the establishment of a state in Syria’s north and our south,’’ President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said in June. ‘‘We will continue to fight in this regard no matter what it costs.’’

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All Tomorrow’s Parties


by Jason Smith

Whoever battles monsters should take care that he doesn’t become one in the process. And if you stare for a long time into an abyss, the abyss looks into you, too.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

With the recent victory of Alexis Tsipras’s post-referendum, streamlined electoral machine, shorn of its nettlesome Left Platform, it is finally time to soberly survey the wreckage the Syriza sequence has left in its wake. It was not long ago, we should remember, that much of the European left was sent into a frenzy by the prospect of a properly socialist mass party assuming command of the levers of state power. Across the continent, militants young and old looked to Greece as a “laboratory of hope” while dusting off the old Eurocommunist playbook (Gramsci, Poulantzas) with earnestness, as if things had gone well the first time, or as if the resounding defeats of decades ago could be made right. Just a few days after Tsipras’s first turn at forming a government, in late January, Antonio Negri enthused that “the situation is probably ripe enough to attempt once again that most political of passages: the seizure of power.”1 To refer to the forming of a government with a dubious right-wing party—less surprising if one noticed the unseemly nationalist rhetoric that ran through even Syriza’s left faction—as a seizure of power is surely an exaggeration, even for Negri; that such a pronouncement echoed in the void of any real open antagonism, in the streets or in workplaces, underlines just how heady those days really were.

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Cosmic Pessimism


Eugene Thacker

We’re Doomed.
Pessimism is the night-side of thought, a melodrama of the futility of the brain, a poetry written in the graveyard of philosophy. Pessimism is a lyrical failure of philosophical thinking, each attempt at clear and coherent thought, sullen and submerged in the hidden joy of its own futility. The closest pessimism comes to philosophical argument is the droll and laconic “We’ll never make it,” or simply: “We’re doomed.” Every effort doomed to failure, every project doomed to incompletion, every life doomed to be unlived, every thought doomed to be unthought.

Pessimism is the lowest form of philosophy, frequently disparaged and dismissed, merely the symptom of a bad attitude. No one ever needs pessimism, in the way that one needs optimism to inspire one to great heights and to pick oneself up, in the way one needs constructive criticism, advice and feedback, inspirational books or a pat on the back. No one needs pessimism, though I like to imagine the idea of a pessimist activism. No one needs pessimism, and yet everyone—without exception—has, at some point in their lives, had to confront pessimism, if not as a philosophy then as a grievance—against one’s self or others, against one’s surroundings or one’s life, against the state of things or the world in general.

There is little redemption for pessimism, and no consolation prize. Ultimately, pessimism is weary of everything and of itself. Pessimism is the philosophical form of disenchantment—disenchantment as chanting, a chant, a mantra, a solitary, monophonic voice rendered insignificant by the intimate immensity surrounding it.

In pessimism, the first axiom is a long, low, funereal sigh.

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Yidlife Crisis


berlin #doom

The following text is an excerpt from a longer intervention by Franco Berardi (Bifo), ahead of a conference planned by the Effimera journal in Milan, Italy. We are not planning on attending this conference, as we find both Bifo’s and Effimera’s approach very far away from our understanding of the world. It is clear, for example, that these people placed a lot of hope in Syriza, a tendency visible in many parts of the (disoriented) global Left which we never really comprehended. And we find this “sudden” realization of the failure equally surprising. [Or else, as a friend said: “Like what, gonna give up now bitches just cause your boys in government couldn’t do shit?”]. Furthermore, we have no time whatsoever for a narrative that explains and understands the european crisis management as a mere continuation of the geopolitical plan of Nazi Germany with different means, an utterly ridiculous notion that one can read (at their own risk) in the second (non-translated) part of Bifo’s original text. But what we did find attractive in this text was its description of loss and defeat, as well as the poignant way it destroys (their) illusions about the parliamentary Left. In this context, we thought it interesting to translate and publish it here, if nothing else then as a historical document that records how parts of the Left understand our predicament.


[…] The idea for a conference was born out of the endless flow of material towards the Effimera journal in the frantic days of July, after the referendum and before the “capitulation”. A conference seemed urgent to everyone, while in reality it was not. For a few days we believed that “action and will” will come back on stage, but this was merely an illusion. In reality, things developed towards the only possible direction, the financial-economic robot prevailed and society found no way out -no road that leads to autonomy.

After the referendum Tsipras realised (and in fact said openly) that neither he nor his comrades have the “special” knowledge/skills that are necessary to find a way out of the castle of the techno-linguistic binding provisions of governance. And they did not possess this knowledge for the simple reason that it does not exist. Can somone square the circle? Of course not, in the same way that one cannot possess the necessary knowledge to escape the vicious circle of debt. If you accept it [debt], you are dead. If you reject it, you are also dead.

And thus, without any haste, the conference will take place on October 3-4 in Milan, giving us a lot of time to think. What would be the topic? The horizon? I don’t have a specific proposal, nor a ready-made program to suggest, but I do believe that it would be for the best to build towards it without presupposing that “we will be able” to do something in the coming period. For the last 30 years every social conflict, every struggle against power, ends with our retreat, only in order to regroup a few meters further-back, hoping that we might finally hold through the next attack and maybe start a counter-attack. Please, stop. There will be no resistance or counter-attack. Let’s look at Syriza’s “capitulation” realistically. At an electoral level the immediate result of this capitulation is the collapse of any remaining credibility that the parliamentary Left had. Why should the Spanish or Italians vote for the Left after Syriza’s performance? Why align yourself with someone that will inevitably be defeated? Why should we aimlessly bother Schäuble when there is no Left alternative?

This is the first lesson of the bitter summer, if we want to understand what happened and not simply remain bitter. In between the day that 62% of the Greek people said no to the blackmail and Tsipras took off his jacket and said “you can have this too”, the last battle of the Left, in my opinion, was lost. It is possible that Tsipras called for the referendum hoping that he would lose it, so that he would then be mandated, through the vote, to recognize and accept the irreversible character of the financial-economic automatism. From then on, he was forced to betray the result of the ballot since the only alternative would be chaos, violence in the streets, a possible intervention of the police, with the well-known influence that Golden Dawn has inside…

Tsipras is a decent person, and this is the reason why Greeks support him, he is not a radical economist like Varoufakis. That explains his choice not to take the country towards a civil war, towards the direction that the criminals of the Eurogroup were pushing for. The defeat of Syriza is not the result of mistakes, nor is it a betrayal of some sort. It is simply the admittance that the domination of those who govern, that is the domination of the financial-economic abstraction over the reality of social life, does not allow for political changes. After the end of the Greek story, we will neither sabotage nor ridicule any attempts to re-awaken and re-activate the Left. But it is time to come to the realization that the Left’s ability to resist politically is nothing but a remnant that twitters ever so weakly.

Do we need a conference to come to these conclusions? Probably not. But in order to have a conference which is not mere rhetoric or pure self-pity, we need to reverse the standpoint from which we look at the whole situation. To abandon unambiguously the idea of resistance and of hope, and to consider as given the upcoming disastrous developments. For more honesty and a better understanding, I would propose the following title for the conference: how to survive and be happy in the forthcoming period of poverty, slavery and war. Such a title has two inter-connected consequences. On the one hand we are led to recognize that the social and psychological-educational conditions for resistance do not exist. So resistance does not resist. On the other hand, it becomes necessary to come up with a proposal for the production of a map of collective existential “escape routes” […]

Schrei Nach Liebe / Cry for Love

Schrei nach Liebe
Du bist wirklich saudumm.
Darum gehts dir gut.
Hass ist deine Attitüde
Ständig kocht dein Blut
Alles muss man dir erklären,
Weil du wirklich gar nichts weißt!
Höchstwahrscheinlich nicht einmal, was Attitüde heißt!

Deine Gewalt ist nur ein stummer Schrei nach Liebe.
Deine Springerstiefel sehnen sich nach Zärtlichkeit.
Du hast nie gelernt dich zu artikulieren.
Und deine Eltern hatten niemals für dich Zeit…

Warum hast du Angst vorm Streicheln?
Was soll all der Terz?
Unterm Lorbeerkranz mit Eicheln,
Weiß ich schlägt dein Herz!
Und Romantik ist für dich
Nicht bloß graue Theorie…
Zwischen Störkraft und den Onkelz
Steht ne Kuschelrock LP…

Deine Gewalt ist nur ein stummer Schrei nach Liebe.
Deine Springerstiefel sehnen sich nach Zärtlichkeit.
Du hast nie gelernt dich zu artikulieren.
Und deine Eltern hatten niemals für dich Zeit!

Weil du Probleme hast,
Die keinen interessieren.
Weil du Schiss vorm Schmusen hast,
Bist du ein Faschist!
Du musst deinen Selbsthass nich auf andere projezieren.
Damit keiner merkt was für ein lieber Kerl du bist.

Deine Gewalt ist nur ein stummer Schrei nach Liebe.
Deine Springerstiefel sehnen sich nach Zärtlichkeit.
Du hast nie gelernt dich artizukulieren.
Und deine Freundin die hat niemals für dich Zeit.

Cry for love
You are really dumb,
which is why you’re doing so well.
Hate is your attitude,
your blood boils constantly.
Everything needs to be explained to you
because you really don’t know anything,
most likely not even what attitude means!

Your violence is only a silent cry for love,
your combat boots long for tenderness,
you have never learned to articulate yourself,
and your parents never had time for you … ohhh… asshole!

Why do you have fear of caressing, what’s the meaning of all this nonsense?
under the laurel wreath with acorns, I know your heart beats,
and romanticism is only grey theory for you,
between Störkraft and den Onkelz (nazi bands) is a Kuschelrock LP! (Cuddle rock, a soft rock compilation franchise)

Your violence is only a silent cry for love,
your combat boots long for tenderness,
you have never learned to articulate yourself,
and your parents never had time for you … ohhh… asshole!

Because you have problems that interest nobody,
because you have fear of intimacy you are a fascist.
You don’t have to project your self-hate on others,
so nobody notices what a lovely man you are … ohhh…

Your violence is only a silent cry for love, your combat boots long for tenderness,you have never learned to articulate yourself,
and your girlfriend never has time for you … ohhh.

The tyrant has too many friends


In the roar of uninterrupted proclamations that inform us of the triumphs of the dominant society on the terrains of its overwhelming, energetic power, its gross national product, its modernized crises, its cultivated computers and so many other pleasant abstractions, one too modestly forgets a concrete phenomenon of an immense significance: the worldwide organization of society that is being put into place with an always-increasing speed, has in the second half of the 20th century  succeeded in abolishing six of the seven deadly sins (or, to put it in the terms that are more transmittable today, a percentage approximately equal to 86%) […]

Pride is obviously dead for the administered voter, the sounded-out automobile driver, the polluted tele-spectator, the inhabitant of the flat and the highway vacationer. No one who has accepted surviving in this way can even hope for the possibility of experiencing a fleeting moment of pride.

Avarice no longer has any basis, since property tends to become concentrated in the State, which squanders on principle. Read individual property, accessible to very few people, is gnawed at by hairsplitting control and the right to intervention by a thousand public or corporate authorities. The salaried worker can no longer hoard a little poor money, which is of a value that is always changing, fictive and as fluid as water. This same money distances itself into an always-further away abstraction, simply “plastic,” a game of accounting that is played without the worker’s participation. And if he thinks of accumulating a few more precious objects than what is offered daily on the market, a thief carries them off.

Lust has disappeared almost everywhere, with the liquidation of real personalities and real tastes. Lust has withdrawn before the flood of ideology that is too obviously insincere, cold simulation and the comic pretensions of the robot to automatic passion […]

Gluttony has surrendered its weapons in the face of the findings of the food-processing industry. Moreover, the spectator – here as well as at the theater — no longer believes himself capable of judging the taste of what he eats. Thus he is guided by the stimuli that are the names of the fashionable dishes, advertising and the judgment of gastronomical critique.

Anger has so many reasons [for existing] and so few manifestations that it is dissolved into the general cowardice and resignation. In good faith, does a voter have the occasion to become angry with the final result of an election, which in truth is always the same and thus precisely foreseeable and guaranteed? Ill-advised to play with disappointed and humiliated innocence, the voter is in any case guilty. He can only feel anger at himself and this is an uncomfortable position that he ordinarily wants to avoid.

Laziness is no longer possible: there is too much noise everywhere. It is even worse for all those unfortunate people who hurry to work or their vacations. Laziness is only a pleasure for the one who is pleased with himself and in his own company. The modern countries can have an elevated number of unemployed people and others who work on many completely useless things. But they cannot preserve laziness for anyone; they are not rich enough for that.

One might object to us that this exposition, despite its profound truth, is a little too systematic because reality in history is always dialectic and that it is an impoverished schematization that presents all the deadly sins as being condemned to the same ruin. This objection is not founded: we have not at all forgotten envy, which contradictorily survives and which is the only inheritor of all the other annihilated powers.

Envy has become an exclusive and universal motive. Envy has always proceeded from the fact that many individuals measure themselves according to the same scale. Most often, this is power and money. Beyond this common measure of limitation, reality remains diverse and those who do not care too much for power and riches obviously remain sheltered from envy. On another side, some envious characters can always be in rivalry with people in their spheres of activity. A poet might envy a[nother] poet. And such envy can be manifested by a general, a prostitute, an actor or an owner of a cafe. But the largest number of individuals hardly arouse the envy of others. Today, when people have almost nothing and love nothing, they want everything, without neglecting the contrary. Any [given] spectator envies almost all of the stars. But he can also simultaneously envy all of the traits of all the stars. He who has the baseness to make a career, and who is thus hardly satisfied with that career (others are always higher up), would also have the honor and pleasure of being considered as someone who is misunderstood, insubordinate and “cursed.” And since this pursuit of the wind is absolutely vain, all of today’s cuckolds are thus condemned to run unceasingly. Ignoring real life, they do not know that almost all the human traits are actually grounded by necessarily excluding many of the others.

We say that the intensive and extensive repression of personality inevitably involves the disappearance of personal taste. What can actually please someone who is nothing, has nothing and knows nothing — other than lying and imbecilic hearsay? And almost nothing displeases such a person: such is exactly the goal that the owners and “deciders” of this society propose, that is, those who hold the instruments of social communication, with the aid of which they find themselves in a position to manipulate the simulacra of disappeared tastes.

[…] The tyrant, as La Boetie showed, has many friends. For there are many people with small interests who, on behalf of those with large interests, want to see history and memory abolished.

Crisis of Civilization


by Gilles Dauvé

All historical crises are crises of social reproduction. We will try and investigate how the present crisis, like and unlike others in the past, forces society to face the contradictions which formerly stimulated its dynamics but now drive it into a critical juncture. (1)

Every major crisis forces social groups to come to grips with the deep contradictions of society. In capitalism, class confrontation is the prime mover that drives society forward : it forces the bourgeoisie to adapt to labour pressure, to “modernize”. Crisis is when these formerly positive pressures strain the social fabric and threaten to tear it apart.

Contradiction does not mean impossibility. Up to now, all big crises have ended in the system managing to pull through and eventually becoming more adaptable and protean. No “ultimate” crisis is automatically contained in even the most acute contradictions.

1 : Why “Civilization” ?

Capitalism is driven on by a social and productive dynamism, and by an un-heard-of regenerative ability, but it has this weakness: by its very strength, by the human energy and the technical power it sets into motion, it wears out what it exploits, and its productive intensity is only paralleled by its destructive potential, as proved by the first civilization crisis it went through in the 20th century.

No value judgement is implied here. We do not oppose civilized people to savages (even good or noble ones) or barbarians. We do not celebrate “great civilizations” which would have been witness to the progress of mankind. On the other hand, we do not use the word in the derogatory sense it has with writers like Charles Fourier, who called “civilization” a modern society plagued by poverty, trade, competition and the factory system. Neither do we refer to those huge geo-historical socio-cultural constructs known as Western, Judeo-Christian, Chinese or Islamic civilizations.

The civilization we speak of does not replace the notion of mode of production. It merely emphasizes the scope and depth of a world system that tends to be universal, and is also capable of disrupting and then reshaping all kinds of societies and ways of life. The hold of wage-labour and commodity over our life gives them a reality and dynamics that were unknown in the past. Capitalism today is the only all-encompassing network of social relationships able to expand geographically and, with the respective differences being considered, to impact on Djakarta as well as Vilnius. The spread of a world capitalist way of life is visible in similar consumer habits (McDonald’s) and architecture (skyscrapers), but has its deep cause in the dominance of value production, of productivity, of the capital-wage labour couple.

The concept of a mode of production is contemporary to capitalism. Whether or not Marx  invented the phrase, it has become common since the 19th century because capitalism imposes on us the image of factors of production combined to beget a product or a service bought or sold on a market, and of a society ruled by supply/demand and productivity.

Then the concept was retrospectively applied (often inadequately) to other systems, past and present: the Asiatic or the domesticmode of production. (2) Whatever relevance these derivations have, they pay tribute to the overwhelming presence of the capitalist mode of production.

Capitalist civilization differs from empire, which has a heart, a core, and when the core withers and dies, the whole system around it goes too. On the contrary, capitalism is a polycentric world system with several rival hegemons, which carries on as a global network if one of the hegemons expires. There is no longer an inside and an outside as with Mesopotamian, Roman, Persian, Hapsburg or Chinese empires.

A crisis of civilization occurs when the tensions that formerly helped society to develop now threaten its foundations: they still hold but they are shaken up and their legitimacy is weakened.

As is well known, tension and conflict are a sign of health in a system that thrives on its own contradictions, but the situation changes when its main constituents overgrow like cancerous cells.

A century ago, capitalism experienced such a long crisis, of which the “1929 crisis” was but the climax, and capitalism only got out of it after 1945. Going back over that period will help understand ours.

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Towards a materialist approach to the racial question


a response to Indigènes de la République

The following text, a critique of the Parti des Indigènes de la République by three of its former members, originally appeared in the French journal Vacarme. A radical anti-colonial party, Parti des Indigènes came to wide attention among the English-speaking Left for their sharp critiques of secularism and racism on the French Left following the Charlie Hebdo attacks of 2015. While they seem to have attained great respect from certain sectors of the Left, the translator of this document believes such respect is mistaken; that PIR’s identitarian politics seeks an alliance with the identitarian far-right of Le Pen, Dieudonné, and Soral; and that such an approach to politics poses a great threat to the Left.

Secondarily, this document provides a much-needed insight into the problem of antisemitism. Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the media hysterically speculated that Europe was on the verge of a pogrom, to be carried out by its numerous Muslim immigrants; Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu took up the hysteria, calling for French Jews to emigrate. The backlash among certain leftists, whom the present translator otherwise respects, was perhaps equally hysterical. Some questioned whether antisemitism was even extant in contemporary Europe; others seemed to blame antisemitic acts on crimes of the Israeli state, rather than the perpetrators. As this document’s analysis shows, antisemitism is not only a threat against Jews, but against any movement of the working class.

Towards a materialist approach to the racial question: a response to INDIGÈNES DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE

by Malika Amaouche, Yasmine Kateb & Léa Nicolas-Teboul

[translation by puyraveau]

Les Indigènes de la République have helped to shed light on racism within the Left, supported by the racism of French society at large. But are they also prisoners of racism? We propose a systematic analysis of the forces exercised upon the most precarious: a critique of the erasure of race and gender; while escaping the identitarian project of the extreme right; remaining anchored in critique of political economy.

From the dead refugees of the Mediterranean, to the Baltimore riots, to the events of everyday metropolitan life, we are constantly drawn back to the question of race. It seems necessary to propose an analysis of the foundations of racism, which will not be merely a shallow response to current events.

Today, we observe mounting Islamophobia and antisemitism. These two are a pair – in a context where social segregation is becoming stronger, and the logic of all-against-all becomes uncontrollable, we must work to think of these things in conjunction. That means to reject the logic of competition between different racial oppressions; but also to examine Islamophobia and antisemitism together in all their specificity. And in all this, the general context – growing social violence, a hardening of class segmentation, and effects of structural racism (in housing, work, and so on). It is harder and harder for the poor, and for those who are the most precarious (racial minorities and women).

With the [Charlie Hebdo] attacks in January, the left was hit with its own denial of the issue of racism. It made a specialty of denouncing the victimization, and of dismissing racism as a massive structural phenomenon. Institutional feminists’ obsession with the veil functioned as a spotlight on the racism of a Left clinging to an abstract and aggressive universalism.

This was why we were enthusiasts of the great work of exposing the racism of the Republican left – a project in which the Parti des Indigènes de la République has participated since 2004. There are many of us who worked to undermine this “respectable” racism, under which the indigènes were never truly equal. [1] If the Left was never explicitly against racialized people, its arguments were dismissive of the great values meant to emancipate them. An entire history of the condescension and paternalism of the French Left remains to be written. Such a history would note the way discourse of class was used to stratify the hierarchies of the workers’ movement itself.

Nevertheless, it seems to us that PIR is slipping. Riding the gathering wave of identitarianism, it proposes a systematic cultural, almost ethnocentric, reading of social phenomena. This leads to the adoption of dangerous positions on antisemitism, gender, and homosexuality. It essentializes the famous “Indigènes sociaux,” the subaltern it aims to represent. It is as if the racialized working class, who face the most violent racism, are being instrumentalized in a political strategy which basically plays in the arena of the White left and à la mode radical intellectuals.

For us, descendants of Muslim and Jewish Algerians, to lead the critique of the PIR, just as we led the critique of the Left, is a matter of self-defense. We believe we have nothing to win from a political operation which subsumes all questions under that of race. For us, not only the question of race, but also those of political economy, and the social relations of sex, are the order of the day.

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Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters, no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row

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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So sieht Überproduktion aus …

Die brasilianische Seite hat einen interessanten Artikel gepostet. Mit beeindruckenden Fotos soll belegt werden, dass es eine Absatzkrise bzw. Überproduktionskrise im Automobilsektor gibt. Übersetzung des Artikels folgt.

Wer kein portugisiesch spricht, kann aber schon mal Bilder von riesigen Autoparks anschauen! Es soll dazu Pläne von millionen Surplus-Proletariern geben, sich die Autos einfach unter den Nagel zu reißen.


Sinais do Reino.

Pussy Riot on America

New Pussy Riot song & music video on police brutality and the death of Eric Garner who was killed by NYC Police.

All Leberwürste unite!

Northwest Passage

  northwestern passage 4

The first known sea adventurers who came close to the Northwest Passage were Norwegian Vikings, as a result of hunting and trading expeditions with the locals (Inuit and People of Dorset Culture).  But it was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that colonial powers from Europe, eager to systematically explore and expand the trading routes of the ascendent dynamism of capitalist exchange, made the Northwest Passage a locus of dispute. Seen as a possible shipping route that would connect the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, competing powers financed a series of journeys around the ice landscape. Guided by the scientific misconceptions and prejudices of the time (the ridiculous belief, for example, that seawater cannot freeze), most attempts were remarkable failures.


Franklin and the journey to the end of time
Perhaps the most celebrated of these failures belongs to John Franklin, heir to a family of country gentlemen from Lincolnshire, who would later become a Royal Navy officer and explorer of the Arctic. Having participated in a number of successful imperialist battles and expeditions (notably: the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, an exploration of Australia in 1802, the Battle of Pulo Aura on behalf of the East India Company and the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars in 1805), Franklin’s reputation as a loyal and courageous lackey of British capitalism won him a front seat in the exploration of the north coasts of Canada. Those travels were far from uneventful: in between 1819 and 1822 most members of his crew died, while Franklin himself survived. In doing so, he gained the nickname “the man who ate his boots”, though it is more likely that his survival had something to do with certain allegations of cannibalism rather than stuffing himself with leather boots.

Notwithstanding, upon returning from his first Arctic vacation, Franklin got married to the poet Eleanor Anne Porden, on the condition that their marriage would not terminate her poetic endeavors. When Eleanor died of tuberculosis two years later, Franklin married her best friend.

In 1845, and at the age of 59, Franklin accepted an invitation to lead a new expedition to map out the last 500 km of the unexplored Arctic coastline, the so-called Northwest Passage. HMS Erebus and HMS Terror (sic) were chosen for the journey, and their respective libraries were filled with more than 1,000 books. Three years’ worth of supplies were also included, but -alas- the provisioner was a cut-throat merchant who put his particular accumulation needs above those of the universal (haha) Crown: the water-distilling system and the canned food were leaking heavy doses of lead, steadily and decisively poisoning crew and officers. Leaving England in May 1845, the ships were last seen by other Europeans in July in Lancaster Sound by a whaler. Trapped in the ice, Franklin and crew are believed to have wintered 1845-1846 on Beechey Island, and no white people ever set eyes on them again.

In timely fashion, the Admiralty launched a search party and offered a considerable sum of money to anyone who would locate the frozen remnants of the glorious expedition, three years after their departure. A number of equally eager adventurers set out to collect the fee, but when more ships and men were lost looking for them, the expedition was called off. All that remained was “Lady Franklin’s Lament“, a ballad heroically commemorating his wife’s endless search for her lost husband.

In what was a simple twist of fate during another expedition, reports on the actual fate of the motley crew resurfaced in 1854, but the news only angered the widow and the establishment: with both ships icebound, the men had tried to reach safety on foot, only to wither away in a combination of freezing temperatures and (old habits die hard) cannibalism. Their dire conditions where made worse by their colonial idiocy: when encountering local Inuit hunters, they condescendingly refused to ask them how they managed to survive. Their arrogance accelerated their disappearance from history.

northwestern passage 2

Warming up the Passage?
Ice cold, colonial smugness and scientifically unsound prejudices dealt the final blows to Franklin’s expedition. But capitalist necessity recovers (relatively) quickly from its archaic hiccups. Moreover, global warming, a side-effect of capital’s insatiable lust for value, also helped. With the ice of the Northwest Passage melting faster than the time it took Franklin to admit they fucked up and should probably get some tips from the local Inuits, shipping along the Arctic coastline became possible again around 2009. In 2010, 4 ships made it through unscathed, and in 2013 the number was up to 71. And since no reversal of the ice melting is expected, as experts reluctantly tend to admit, one can only expect traffic in those ice lands to increase in the future.

If one adds the recent estimate of the geographical service of the American Army, that the Arctic ground contains 13 per cent of the world’s oil reserves and 30 per cent of the world’s natural gas, it would not be an understatement to claim that the opening up of the Northwest Passage gets renewed as a locus of competing capitalist interests. Having survived the previous territorial carving up of inter-imperialist conflicts, the Arctic landscape is once again losing its peace and quiet with great speed.

Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Russia, the US (through Alaska) and Denmark are among the main competitors, but Japan, China and India are not far behind. In this push and shove around the ice fields, Russia is so far doing its best to install Putin’s statue on this side of the earth’s axis. For in accordance to a 1982 UN resolution (that the US have so far refrained from signing and has probably led them to kick themselves), if a country proves that the seabed is but an extension of its own territory, it can claim ownership (Russia claims it can actually prove such a thing).

In another instance of this Arctic-style Cold War (first as a farce, then as tragedy), Denmark and Canada (backed by the US) have also engaged into a heated exchange of insults, centered around Canada’s recent military occupation of the insignificant (by all means) Hans island, which is floating between Greenland and Ellesmere. As all inter-national disputes, the Hans island conflict is skating on thin ice, caught between absurdity (the rock is less than one square kilometer in size) and seriousness (war manufacturing is still a profitable industry). And though for the time being a certain agreement has been found (as absurd as the dispute: Hans Island will be divided in two), the “political complexities of making an [official] announcement are, in many ways, much more complicated than settling the actual territorial dispute”.

northwestern passage 3

The bad days will end
Far from all these colonial adventures, the competing capitalist powers, and the bottomless chasm that this society of dispossession generates, we will close this saga by quoting the only reasonable words that have ever been uttered concerning this part of the world, proclaimed in the distant year of 1963 by a small group of fanatics whose arrogance can only fill our hearts and minds with respect:

“We need to discover and open up the Northwest Passage toward a new revolution that cannot tolerate masses of followers, a revolution that will surge that central terrain which has so far been sheltered from revolutionary upheavals: the conquest of everyday life. We will only organize the detonation: the free explosion must escape us and any other control forever.”

Situs having fun