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Tag: capitalism

Basic Banalities (Vaneigem, 1962)

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Basic Banalities

Raoul Vaneigem

Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962)

Translated by Ken Knabb

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BUREAUCRATIC CAPITALISM has found its legitimation in Marx. I am not referring here to orthodox Marxism’s dubious merit of having reinforced the neocapitalist structures whose present reorganization is an implicit homage to Soviet totalitarianism; I am stressing the extent to which crude versions of Marx’s most profound analyses of alienation have become generally recognized in the most commonplace realities — realities which, stripped of their magical veil and materialized in each gesture, have become the sole substance of the daily lives of an increasing number of people. In a word, bureaucratic capitalism contains the tangible reality of alienation; it has brought it home to everybody far more successfully than Marx could ever have hoped to do, it has banalized it as the reduction of material poverty has been accompanied by a spreading mediocrity of existence. As poverty has been reduced in terms of survival, it has become more profound in terms of our way of life — this is at least one widespread feeling that exonerates Marx from all the interpretations a degenerate Bolshevism has made of him. The “theory” of peaceful coexistence has accelerated this awareness and revealed, to those who were still confused, that exploiters can get along quite well with each other despite their spectacular divergences.

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Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society (Dahrendorf, 1959)

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Ralf Dahrendorf (1959)

The concept of class has never remained a harmless concept for very long. Particularly when applied to human beings and their social conditions it has invariably displayed a peculiar explosiveness. The logician runs no risk in distinguishing “classes” of judgments or categories; the biologist need not worry about “classifying” the organisms with which he is concernedbut if the sociologist uses the concept of class he not only must carefully explain in which of its many meanings he wants it to be understood, but also must expect objections that are dictated less by scientific insight than by political prejudice. As Lipset and Bendix have stated: “Discussions of different theories of class are often academic substitutes for a real conflict over political orientations” (55, p. 150).

[PDF of book, 18MB]

Contradictions of the Welfare State

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by Claus Offe (1984)

Now, capitalist societies are defined by the fact that in them – on the basis of an unequal distribution of property resulting from precapitalist ‘primitive accumulation’ – the organizational principle of the exchange (of equivalents) is universal. This principle of exchange, which also includes the commodification of labour power, becomes dominant because it is freed from normative and political-coercive restraints. To be sure, a society organized by means of exchange relationships can never be organized solely through exchange relations but, rather, requires ‘flanking subsystems’: even in a purely competitive-capitalist social system, individuals must be socialized in normative structures, while the established rules of social intercourse must be sanctioned by sovereign power. A society based on market exchange cannot function without the family system and the legal system.

If the dominant organizational principle of the social processes of every capitalist society is that of exchange, a theory of the crises of capitalist society can identify those processes which challenge the dominance of this central principle. This, in turn, can be done in two ways.

  1. The theory of historical materialism attempts to show that processes organized and formed through exchange lead to results that cannot be dealt with by the exchange process itself. Economic crisis theories in a narrow sense, such as the theorem of the historical tendency of the rate of profit to fall, reconstruct the processes of self-negation of the exchange principle that potentially result in the revolutionary transformation of the entire ideological and political ‘superstructure’.
  2. As an alternative to this approach, a theory of the system crises of capitalist societies would examine crisis-prone developments not in the exchange sphere itself (i. e., in the form of an economic crisis theory); rather, it would concentrate on the relationship between the three fundamental organizational principles of society as a whole. Not the self-negation of the exchange principle but its restriction and questioning by the other two organizational principles would serve as the criterion of crisis processes.

PDF of Book

Industrial Relations, Trade Unions and Social Conflict in German Capitalism

German metal workers union IG Metall protest in Mannheim

by Ulrich Brinkmann and Oliver Nachtwey, 2013

Times have been changing. German capitalism, the former “sick man of Europe” in the late 1990s recovered from the financial crisis after 2008 very well. Indeed, the German labour market performed better than most of its European counterparts and during spring 2012 it reached the lowest level of unemployment since German reunification. The German press as well as significant parts of the leading political discourse are bursting with pride about a new German “labour market wonder”. During the first months in 2012 there have been a lot of debates on the specific macroeconomic configuration of the European monetary union with Germany as the current high-performer regarding labour market and export performance. Certainly: the fact that – though highly productive – the German export industry does not face a monetary revaluation plays an important role (Cesarotto/Stirati 2010; Lehndorff 2012). It profits from the common currency and the implications of the restraints for national monetary responses to exchange, credit and trust crises. But – and this is essential to the argument provided in this text – there is an underlying mechanism that complementarily supports this configuration from the industrial relations level.

Germany is the main exception in Europe in terms of social conflict, too. Since 2010, Europe has experienced a wave of mass-, and even general strikes: France, Greece and Portugal were centres of social conflict. Germany, however, remained calm, despite a sharp economic downturn and in spite of a cuts program by the government. Yet there were different historical experiences, too: In post-war Germany big and occasionally spectacular strike movements repeatedly took place – i.e. in 1956/57 for continued payment of wages in case of illness (sick pay), the unauthorized strikes 1969 et seq. or the major strike in 1984 for the 35-hours-week. But still, compared to international standards Germany is considered a “low-strike country” (Dribbusch 2007).

This article focuses the main developments of the German industrial relations, that contributed to the recent developments of the German economy in general, and the labour market in particular. We are starting with further factors that should be taken into consideration when debating the low level of social conflict in Germany. In general, German capital has gained new strength while trade unions have been forced onto the defensive since the 1990s. Furthermore, the changing forms of corporatist integration and the reconstruction of the German production and employment model have played a significant role in weakening trade union power resources. [READ PDF]

Bolsonaro’s Brazil

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by Perry Anderson (Feb 2019)

I: Lula/Dilma

The teratology of the contemporary political imagination – plentiful enough: Trump, Le Pen, Salvini, Orbán, Kaczyński, ogres galore – has acquired a new monster. Rising above the ruck, the president-elect of Brazil has extolled his country’s most notorious torturer; declared that its military dictatorship should have shot thirty thousand opponents; told a congresswoman she was too ugly to merit raping; announced he would rather a son killed in a car accident than gay; declared open season on the Amazon rainforest; not least, on the day after his election, promised followers to rid the land of red riff-raff. Yet for Sérgio Moro, his incoming justice minister saluted worldwide as an epitome of judicial independence and integrity, Jair Bolsonaro is a ‘moderate’.

To all appearances, the verdict of the polls last October was unambiguous: after governing the country for 14 years, the Workers’ Party (PT) has been comprehensively repudiated and its survival may now be in doubt. Lula, the most popular ruler in Brazilian history, has been incarcerated by Moro and awaits further jail sentences. His successor, evicted from office midway through her second term, is a virtual outcast, reduced to a humiliating fourth place in a local Senate race. How has this reversal come about? To what extent was it contingent or at some point a foregone conclusion? What explains the radicalism of the upshot? By comparison with the scale of the upheaval through which Brazil has lived in the last five years, and the gravity of its possible outcome, the histrionics over Brexit in this country and the conniptions over Trump in America are close to much ado about nothing.

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Authority and the Family (Horkheimer, 1936)

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by Max Horkheimer (1936)

THE history of mankind has been divided into periods in very varying ways. The manner in which periodization has been carried out has not depended exclusively on the object, any more than other concept formations have; the current state of knowledge and the concerns of the knower have also played a part. Today the division into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modern times is still widely used. It originated in literary studies and was applied in the seventeenth century to history generally. It expresses the conviction, formed in the Renaissance and consolidated in the Enlightenment, that the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the fifteenth century was a dark era for mankind, a sort of hibernation of culture, and was to be understood only as a period of transition. In contemporary scholarship this particular periodization is considered highly unsatisfactory. One reason is that the “Middle Ages” were in fact a time of important progress even from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, since they saw decisive advances in civilization and produced revolutionary technical inventions. A further reason is that the usual criteria for making the fifteenth century a dividing point are partly indefensible, partly applicable in a meaningful way only to limited areas of world history.  [READ PDF]

Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image

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Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image – Aspects of Marx’s Capital Today

Edited by Peter Osborne, Éric Alliez and Eric-John Russell

Contributors: Éric Alliez, Étienne Balibar, Tithi Bhattacharya, Boris Buden, Sara. R. Farris, John Kraniauskas, Elena Louisa Lange, Maurizio Lazzarato, Antonio Negri, Peter Osborne, Eric-John Russell, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Keston Sutherland

Drawn from a conference held to mark the 150th anniversary of the first volume of Karl Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, these essays from a range of internationally established contributors offer readers a snapshot of debates about the book’s current relevance across a variety of fields and contexts. The volume approaches Marx’s Capital as an exemplary text in the continuation of the tradition of post-Kantian European Philosophy through transdisciplinary practices of critique and concept construction. The essays are grouped into four sections: Value-Form, Ontology & Politics; Capitalism, Feminism and Social Reproduction; Freedom, Democracy and War; The Poetics of Capital/Capital. Each section is accompanied by an image from the 2008 film by Alexander Kluge, News From Ideological Antiquity: Marx – Eisenstein – Capital.

This book is available as a free ebook at the link below. The book will also be available as a paperback from Amazon in February 2019.

DOWNLOAD BOOK HERE

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Erik Olin Wright (1947-2019)

Link to: Archive of Erik Olin Wright’s work (mediafire, zip file, 244MB)

“One of Poulantzas’s most important contributions is his insistence that class relations cannot be understood solely in terms of economic relations; political and ideological relations must be brought into the understanding of objective class position itself. The weakness of his analysis, as discussed earlier, is that he has developed this principle in such a way that ideological and political criteria have effectively become coequal with economic relations themselves. For political and ideological relations to be integrated into a theory of the structural determination of class, it is necessary that this be done in a way that maintains the primacy of economic relations. We need, in other words, a criterion for the use of political and ideological relations which is itself determined by economic relations.

Our analysis of contradictory class locations provides us with such a criterion: the extent to which political and ideological relations enter into the determination of class position is itself determined by the degree to which those positions occupy a contradictory location at the level of social relations of production. The more contradictory is a position within social relations of production, the more political and ideological relations can influence its objective position within class relations. The more a position coincides with the basic antagonistic class relations at the level of social relations of production, the less weight political and ideological forces can have in determining its class position. In a sense it is the indeterminacy of class determination at the economic level which allows political and ideological relations to become effective determinants of class position.

Political and ideological relations can either tend to heighten or to counteract the contradictory quality of locations that are not completely determined at the economic level. For example, the ideological division between mental and manual labour, on which Poulantzas places such stress, would tend to deepen the contradictory class location of certain semi-autonomous employees. Many technicians with only minimal control over their immediate labour process would be located close to the boundary of the working class in terms of the three dimensions of class relations at the economic level, but would be pushed further from the working class by the status division between mental and manual labour. A strong union movement among white-collar employees, on the other hand, could constitute a political factor which pushed them closer to the working class. In this way, political and ideological class struggle become determinants of the objective class positions of contradictory locations at the economic level.”

Webpage of Erik Olin Wright 

 

 

In Praise of Idleness (1932)

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by Bertrand Russell (Harpers 1932)

Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.” Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. Every one knows the story of the traveler in Naples who saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth. This traveler was on the right lines. But in countries which do not enjoy Mediterranean sunshine idleness is more difficult, and a great public propaganda will be required to inaugurate it. I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

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The Roundabout Riots

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Contribution to the Rupture in Progress

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A Translation from France on the Yellow Vest Movement

The following text appeared December 6th on the French platform lundimatin; they describe it as the best sociological and political analysis to date on the yellow vest movement. Although we are no more optimistic about the “non-ideological” character of the first phase of the yellow vest phenomenon than we are about the antiquated methods of organization it supplanted, the movement itself has become a battleground to determine what form the next wave of opposition to neoliberal austerity will assume—and no one can afford to stand aside. This text concludes with a cool-headed appraisal of the risks and possibilities before the gilets jaunes and all who will follow in their wake.

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The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation (1969)

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by Margaret Benston (Monthly Review, 1969)

The “woman question” is generally ignored in analyses of the class structure of society. This is so because, on the one hand, classes are generally defined by their relation to the means of production and, on the other hand, women are not supposed to have any unique relation to the means of production. The category seems instead to cut across all classes; one speaks of working-class women, middle-class women, etc. The status of women is clearly inferior to that of men, but analysis of this condition usually falls into discussing socialization, psychology, interpersonal relations, or the role of marriage as a social institution. Are these, however, the primary factors? In arguing that the roots of the secondary status of women are in fact economic, it can be shown that women as a group do indeed have a definite relation to the means of production and that this is different from that of men. The personal and psychological factors then follow from this special relation to production, and a change  in the latter will be a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for changing the former. If this special relation of women to production is accepted, the analysis of the situation of women fits naturally into a class analysis of society . . . [READ PDF]

Introducing Commune

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Commune Magazine

For a life worth living.

We are a year into the death, the real death, of liberalism. Or maybe two years? It was never more than our fair-weather friend, an often treacherous ally to the radicals who did the heavy lifting for social change it claimed for itself, in the labor and women’s movements, in struggles for civil rights that were for much more than rights, and struggles against the war that were against much more than war. Though liberalism’s death warrant was sealed long ago, when the capitalism for which it has long served as management team ceased to expand, we were surprised by the rapid progress of the disease. In any case, the shameful circumstances of its demise underscore how little we should mourn.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Authoritarian State (Horkheimer, 1942)

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The historical predictions on the fate of bourgeois society have been confirmed. In the system of the free market economy, which pushed men to labor-saving discoveries and finally subsumed them in a global mathematical formula, its specific offspring, machines, have become means of destruction not merely in the literal sense: they have made not work but the workers superfluous. The bourgeoisie has been decimated, and the majority of members have lost their independence; where they have not been thrown into the ranks of the proletariat, or more commonly into the masses of unemployed, they have become dependents of the big concerns or the state. The El Dorado of bourgeois existence, the sphere of circulation, is being liquidated. Its work is being carried out in part by the trusts which, without the help of banks, finance themselves, eliminate the commercial intermediaries and take control of the stockholders organizations. Part of the business sphere is handled by the state. As the caput mortuum of the transformation process of the bourgeoisie there remain only the highest levels of the industrial and state bureaucracy. “One way or another, with or without the trusts, the official representative of capitalist society, the state, must finally take over the management of production… All social functions of the capitalists are now discharged by salaried civil servants… And the modern state is once again only the organization which bourgeois society creates for itself to maintain the general external conditions for the capitalist means of production against encroachments either by the workers or by individual capitalists… The more productive forces the state takes over as its own property, the more it becomes a collective capitalist, the more citizens of the state it exploits. The workers remain wage laborers, proletarians. The relationship to capital is not abolished but becomes far more acute.” In the transition from monopoly to state capitalism, the last stage offered by bourgeois society is “the appropriation of the large productive and commercial organisms, first by joint-stock companies, later by trusts and then by the state.” State capitalism is the authoritarian state of the present. . . [READ PDF / Deutsch]


see also: The Philosophy of History and the Authoritarian State (1971) by Hans-Jürgen Krahl

Bordiga and the Passion for Communism (Camatte,1972)

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Jacques Camatte’s 1972 essay on Amadeo Bordiga, discussing the Italian Marxist’s notorious “invariance”, his “hermeneutics” of “the precise connection between the proletariat and theory”, his “prophetic vision” of the communist future, his identification of the party with the class, his disdain for the cult of personality, his “anti-gradualism”, the impact of the publication of the Grundrisse and the Economic Manuscripts of 1844 on his thought, his precocious environmentalism, his anti-individualism, and his failure to recognize the significance of May ’68, pointing out that despite all his contradictions and limitations “his works are full of starting points for new research”.


Bordiga and the Passion for Communism

by Jacques Camatte

“Passion is the essential force of man energetically bent on its object.”
Karl Marx

Men are the products of their time: some are capable of representing it, because the invariance of their thought overcomes the ideology of the ruling class or expresses the impetuous assault of the oppressed class; others dominate it, because they are capable of perceiving the moments of discontinuity which mark the beginnings of the new stages of the process of becoming of a given mode of production (especially the new modes of production). In the former case we have the thought of continuity, in the second, that of discontinuity. In other words, we have traditional thought (in the non-pejorative sense) and revolutionary thought. Rare are those who are capable of thinking in accordance with both modalities, since this is not a case of a duality constituted by a spatial juxtaposition, but rather that of a contradictory duality. It is very often the case that the past and tradition weigh like a nightmare on the brains of the living and prevent the emergence, the eruption, of the present and the future—which nonetheless operate in reality—in thought. This is true both during periods of social peace as well as in times of revolutionary unrest, the former favoring traditionalist expressions, while the latter are more likely to favor revolutionary expressions.

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A Happy Future is a Thing of the Past

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The Greek Crisis and Other Disasters by Pavlos Roufos  (2018)

Reaktion Books / UChicago Press / Amazon

Excerpt from Chapter 6: Years of Stone, pp. 96-102

The Beach Beneath

The movement that began in Syntagma Square in late May 2011 and very soon spread out to squares all over Greece (thus gaining the nickname ‘squares movement’), represented one of the most condensed moments of the struggle against the crisis, its consequences and management. Many have argued that it did not have a specific aim or demand; according to one’s politics, this observation had either a negative or a positive undertone. However, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the masses that took to the streets, occupied public spaces and fought for almost two months to defend them, were directly concerned with putting an end to the austerity policies that were underway. And these policies, as we have seen, were nothing but a systematic attempt to render people’s ability to survive in a way that was meaningful to them increasingly difficult.

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All the lonely people: Narcissism as a Subject Form of Capitalism

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by Peter Samol

(Translated and abridged from the German original: All the Lonely People. Narzissmus als adäquate Subjektform des Kapitalismus, Krisis 4/2016)

Sigmund Freud was the most astute analyst of the subjective conditions of existence in civil society. Psychoanalysis influenced by him represents the most developed theory about the sacrifices demanded of individuals living in our society. Freud understood his approach as a natural science approach. Psychoanalysis atrophied to anthropology where it could have been a critical theory (Adorno). This essay aims at a critical reconstruction of psychoanalysis regarding the term narcissism. This term coined by Freud himself characterizes a middle class subject form.

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The Market, the State, and the End of History (Agnoli, 2000)

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by J. Agnoli (2000)

The world market society, our present reality, is labelled globalization. Apart from its ideological status in social conflict – that is, the attempt of capital to make European labour accept unconditionally high unemployment and low wages – the term globalization presents something quite different; namely, the complete commercialization and commodification of social life. In other words, the so-called laws of the market, operating at a global scale, penetrate and condition everything from industrial production to cultural production. Bourgeois society rests upon the operation of these laws and it is these laws that transform bourgeois society into a world-wide ensemble of commodities. Clearly this the best of all worlds . . . [PDF]

 

A new beginning?

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(via Weekly Worker 2018)

Marcel van der Linden examines the state of the global labour movement

Traditional labour movements are in trouble almost everywhere. They have been severely enfeebled by the political and economic changes of the last 40 years. Their core consists of three forms of social movement organisations: cooperatives, trade unions, and workers’ parties. All three organisational types are in decline, though this is an uneven development, with vast differences between countries and regions. We are living through a transitional stage in which old organisational structures no longer seem to work well, while new structures are still in their early stages.

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The Center Has Fallen and There’s No Going Back

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PHIL NEEL in conversation with Paul Mattick

This month brings the publication of Phil Neel’s Hinterland, the first in the Field Notes series of books published by Reaktion Books in association with the Brooklyn Rail, to provide in-depth analyses of today’s global turmoil as it unfolds. I could not think of a better book to begin with than Neel’s insider’s analysis of the U.S. working class outside the big-city centers to which most media attention is paid. I’ve taken advantage of this occasion to ask Phil Neel to discuss some of the fundamental ideas of his book.

Paul Mattick (Rail): Near the end of the book, you make the fundamental observation, that “the character of production sculpts the character of class” in any historical period. How is the current form of production reshaping class relations, and why does understanding this require a focus on what you call the “hinterland”?

Phil Neel: This is a good place to start, because I want to be unambiguous that this question is really what the book is about, in the end. It’s a book of communist geography. There’s this new generation of thinkers who are trying to apply a rigorous Marxist method in ways that are neither frustratingly esoteric nor mind-numbingly dumb, and even while we all have our obvious disagreements, I think it’s a great thing. And the reason it’s possible is because so many of these questions that maybe thirty years ago were of purely academic interest are again becoming a lived experience. This itself is evidence of the basic thesis you mention above: the book represents a class position, not the product of some personal ingenuity. It’s something that I’ve articulated in a first-person narrative, but the basic ideas are wrought from collective experience. I think it should be read as a kind of collaborative text, formulated out of a whole horde of experiences and stories, of which my own are only a part. Stories don’t come out of nowhere, though, and when you trace things back, there is this basic scaffolding that shapes the really important things in life, and that scaffolding is economic.

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