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Tag: bernie sanders

The Withering of the State

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by Paul Mattick

These days, critics of electoral politics can sit smugly and enjoy the deepening disarray of the political parties; the worries of the 1%, who really want little more from their governments than low taxes, high subsidies, social peace and quiet, and just enough military action to keep the world safe for democracy; and the panicked musings of the political pundits trying to make sense of it all and reclaim their lost function of predictors and explainers. Of course, when (as is most likely) Bernie has finally been done in by the Democratic machine and “progressives” are asked to hold their noses—as they now must do in every election—to vote for the hated Hillary in order to stop the dreadful Donald, it will seem like just one more dreary step downhill, the apparently inevitable result of electoral efforts not to sacrifice the good for the impossible best.

But there does seem to be something special this time. For one thing, both of the most dynamic contenders, Trump and Sanders, apparently entered the lists without expecting to win, and were only moved to give it the old college try when they discovered an unexpected level of response among the voting public. This is another side of the fact of the nearly complete absence of believable contenders beyond those two (and Clinton, of course, but without Sanders she would have been the only one on her side). The Republican field featured an astonishing array of nitwits and nonentities; the fact that Cruz—a man so obnoxious in policy and personality that he is the most hated official in his own repulsive political camp—was the last non-Donald standing says it all. This reflects the absence of any political content to Republican politics but the most simple-minded fealty to the richest Americans combined with assurances of devotion to the emotional needs of increasingly dispossessed white working- and lower-middle-class people.

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Sanders Chooses Postone as Running Mate

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Moishe Postone, son of a Canadian Rabbi, received his Ph.D. from Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in 1983.

His research interests include modern European intellectual history; social theory, especially critical theories of modernity; twentieth-century Germany; anti-Semitism;[1] and contemporary global transformations. He is co-editor with Craig Calhoun and Edward LiPuma of Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives and author of Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory. He is also co-editor with Eric Santner of Catastrophe and Meaning: The Holocaust and the Twentieth Century, a collection of essays that consider the meaning of the holocaust in twentieth-century history and its influence on historical practice. Postone’s work has had a large influence on the anti-Germans.

He was originally denied tenure by the University of Chicago’s Sociology Department, sparking a great deal of public resentment from graduate students whom he had been involved in teaching. He was later granted tenure by the History Department.

Today Moishe Postone is the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Modern History and co-director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory.

Capitalism as a historical specificity

An heterodox marxist

In 1978 Postone started a critical analysis on Marx’s theory of value.[2] But Moishe Postone’s most distinguished main work, ‘Time, Labor and Social Domination’, was published in 1993 (translated into French in 2009 and Japanese in 2012).

In his works he proposes a fundamental reinterpretation of Karl Marx‘s critique of political economy, focusing on Marx’s original concepts value, capital and labour. Inspired by heterodox Marxist thinkers such as Isaak Rubin, Roman Rosdolsky, etc., and certain authors of the Frankfurt School, e.g., Sohn-Rethel, who remained marginal to that school, he shows that the assumptions of the ‘pessimistic turn’ of Horkheimer were historically rather than theoretically founded. Postone interprets critical writings on Marx’s economics, especially in its Capital 1 edition, and Grundrisse, as the development of a social-mediational theory of value.

Marx’s Capital: a critic immanent to its purpose

Postone thinks that in writing the ‘Grundrisse‘ Marx concludes that adequate critical theory must be completely immanent to its purpose. The criticism cannot be taken from a point of view external to its object, but must appear in the mode of presentation itself. Das Kapital is so structured, for Postone, with a surface level immanent to political economics discourse and a deeper layer which comes through later, which makes it particularly difficult to interpret. Indeed, precisely because of the inherent nature of the format Marx uses, the object of the critique of Marx has often been taken as the standpoint of this criticism. For example, not only is the categories of exchange valuehistorically specific to the capitalist period, but also value’s basis, the capitalist form of wage labour, must also be historically specific, and does not apply conceptually to other periods. The methodological sections of the Grundrisse clarify therefore not only Marx’s presentation, but other sections make explicit that the categories of capital such as value and exchange-labour, are historically specific to the capitalist social formation. The so-called labour theory of value is not a theory of the material wealth created by labor but is in a parallel manner also seen when looked at transhistorically as “human metabolism with nature.” Precisely because it is not structured immanently, the ‘Grundrisse’ provides a key to read Capital. This is the key to the reinterpretation of the work of mature Marx, with which Postone works.

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Public Therapy

man-talking-with-small-groupThat problem of replacing politics with public therapy endures to this day, and it flourishes in a context where social media linkages surrogate other historical forms of social interchange and collective action. Antiracist liberalism thrives in a context where the performance of self-loathing, outrage, and concern are easily traded public currency, instead of the more socially costly politics of public sacrifice and the redistribution of societal resources.

– Cedric Johnson

Rabbi Bernie

Murray Hates Bernie

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Murray Bookchin, “The Bernie Sanders Paradox: When Socialism Grows Old” (1986)

The posters that appeared all over Burlington — Vermont’s largest city (pop: 37,000) in the winter of 1980-81 were arresting and provocative. They showed an old map of the city with a label slapped across it that read: “For Sale.” A bold slogan across the top, in turn, proclaimed that “Burlington Is Not for Sale,” and smiling amiably in the right-hand corner was the youngish, fairly well-known face of Bernard Sanders, sans tie, open-collared, almost endearingly shy and unpretentious. The onlooker was enjoined to rescue Burlington by voting for “Bernie” Sanders for mayor. Sanders, the long-time gubernatorial candidate of Vermont’s maverick Liberty Union, was now challenging “Gordie” Paquette, an inert Democratic fixture in City Hall, who had successfully fended off equally inert Republican opponents for nearly a decade.

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That Sanders won this election on March 3, 1981, by only ten votes is now a Vermont legend that has percolated throughout the country over the past five years. What gives Sanders almost legendary qualities as a mayor and politician is that he proclaims himself to be a socialist — to many admiring acolytes, a Marxist — who is now in the midpoint of a third term after rolling up huge margins in two previous elections. From a ten-vote lead to some fifty-two percent of the electorate, Sanders has ballooned out of Burlington in a flurry of civic tournaments that variously cast him as a working-class hero or a demonic “Bolshevik.” His victories now make the New York Times and his trips outside of Burlington take him to places as far as Managua, where he has visited with Daniel Ortega, and to Monthly Review fundraising banquets, where he rubs shoulders with New York’s radical elite. Sanders has even been invited to the Socialist Scholar’s Conference, an offer he wisely declined. Neither scholarship nor theory is a Sanders forte. If socialist he be, he is of the “bread-and-butter” kind whose preference for “realism” over ideals has earned him notoriety even within his closest co-workers in City Hall.

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