communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Tag: communisation

The Bleak Left: On Endnotes

Advertisements

A Few Clarifications on Anti-Work

circle3631.png

There persists a certain confusion around the notion of anti-work. “On the Origins of Anti-Work” (Echanges et Mouvement, 2005) did not escape this fate as well. The confusion consists in not sufficiently specifying the notion of anti-work. On one hand, it consists of placing in the same category as anti-work certain behaviors like worker laziness, which looks to do the least amount of work, or the preference for (compensated) unemployment or living life on the margin. These resistant acts of work refusal are as old as the proletariat itself and do not define modern anti-work. On the other hand, the confusion consists of placing in the same category as anti-work resistant practices against exploitation which are indeed pro-work, like Luddism for example. However, I believe that we should rather keep the term anti-work for the struggles of our time (since ’68) that show that the proletariat is no longer a class which affirms itself in revolution as hegemonic labor and is neither a class which will make work obligatory for everyone, nor will it will replace the bourgeoisie in directing the economy.

Source: A Few Clarifications on Anti-Work by Bruno Astarian

Read the rest of this entry »

On the “woman question” (Dauvé)

Ghada Amer, Diagonals in Red, 2000

by Gilles Dauvé

If, as Marx wrote in 1844, taking a cue from Fourier, the relationship between the sexes enables us to judge humankind’s “whole level of development”, with this relationship we can also judge the level of development of the revolutionary movement. According to this criterion, past insurrections have done rather poorly, as they have usually let masculine domination prevail.

When faced with this undisputable fact, most radical thought rarely rises up to the challenge. (1)

In the past, anarchism did not treat this issue as a specific one: emancipating the human species would emancipate women as well as men. Lately, since the 1970s and the growth of a feminist movement,  many anarchist groups have come to regard women as an important (and long overlooked) oppressed category which must be added to the list of major potentially revolutionary categories.

As for the Marxists, they often start with the perfectly valid assumption that the “woman question” part can only be solved via the “proletarian” whole, and with the equally valid necessity of differentiating between bourgeois women and proletarian women, but they end up dissolving the woman question in the class question. The trouble is, without this part, the whole does not exist. (2)

Unlike most anarchists and Marxists, we think women’s emancipation is not a mere consequence of general human emancipation: it is one of its indispensable key components.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chuang #1: Dead Generations

Issue1WebCoverSMALL

In this first issue we outline our basic conceptual framework and illustrate the current state of class conflict in China. We also include translated reports and interviews with the proletarians engaged in these struggles, pairing our theory with primary sources drawn from class dynamics that might otherwise remain abstract.Though taking the futureless present as our starting point, our first issue is also in a way performing burial rites for the dead generations who have populated the collapse of the communist horizon in East Asia. This issue therefore begins with a long-form article on the socialist era, “Sorghum and Steel: The Socialist Developmental Regime and the Forging of China,” the first in a three-part series aiming to narrate a new economic history of China (the next two parts will be included in subsequent issues), before moving on to a pair of analytic articles on contemporary urban and rural struggles, as well as original translations and interviews with individuals engaged in them.

Print copies available from AK Press and HK Reader.

Read the rest of this entry »

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)

uplift

“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

AUTONOMY

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, gongchao.org

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

See INSURRECTION, CLASS, LABOUR 

Read the rest of this entry »

On Communisation and its Theorists

transverse-line

Endnotes – If the term “communisation” is missing from Endnotes 4 this is due partly to the topics we covered, and partly to our frustration with the way this word has become associated with a new theoretical brand and/or radical identity. We will return to the theme of communism in the present tense in Endnotes 5, but as a preview of that issue we here publish a critical take on “communisation” by some friends of ours and the classless society (Freundinnen und Freunden der klassenlosen Gesellschaft). We don’t agree with it all, and we will include a response in the forthcoming issue, but in the meantime we hope it will provide food for thought. This text was originally published in the Friends’ journal Kosmoprolet as a response to Théorie Communiste’s critique of the Friends’ 28 Theses on Class Society. A translation of TC’s original critique can be found here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Endnotes 4, 3, 2, 1

ENDNOTES 4: UNITY IN SEPARATIONOCTOBER 2015

  1. A chronicle of #BlackLivesMatter, situating this movement in the history of race politics and struggles in the US. Traces the shifting meaning of black identity in a context of growing surplus populations managed by incarceration and police violence.

  2. A HISTORY OF SEPARATION

    The rise and fall of the workers’ movement, 1883-1982. European socialists and communists had expected the accumulation of capital both to expand the size of the industrial workforce and, at the same time, to unify the workers as a social subject: the collective worker, the class in-and-for itself. Instead capitalist accumulation gave birth to the separated society. The forces of atomisation overpowered those of collectivisation. Late capitalist civilisation is now destabilising, but without, as yet, calling forth the new social forces that might be able, finally, to dissolve it.

    1. PREFACE

    2. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT

    3. THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE MODERN WORLD

    4. THE FRACTURING OF THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT

    5. THE STRANGE VICTORY OF THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT

    6. THE DEFEAT OF THE WORKERS’ MOVEMENT

    7. AFTERWORD

  3. GATHER US FROM AMONG THE NATIONS

    An analysis of the biggest protest wave taking place in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the 1992-95 war. When workers from privatised factories — whose demands had been ignored by authorities for years — were attacked by police in Tuzla in February 2014, thousands took to the streets, storming several Canton government buildings and setting them on fire. During the following months, citizens held large assemblies, where they rejected the ethnic divisions that had plagued the country for more than two decades. Analyzing the relation of the protesters to the state, as well as the specific role of nationalism in the region, we look at how this movement tried to answer the problem of composition.

  4. ITS OWN PECULIAR DECOR

    CHRIS WRIGHT

    The United States is anomalous among the most developed capitalist countries for its lack of social democratic structures and independent working class politics. This article argues that the peculiar spacial deployment of capital’s powers in the U.S. following the ‘sprawl’ model and the redistribution of wealth downwards through highly racialized and gendered private home ownership have played an important role in the rise of reactionary populism. In pointing out both the particular and the more general moments of this development, this piece also hopes to point out some of its limits and the potential for its subversion.

  5. AN IDENTICAL ABJECT-SUBJECT?

    A clarification of the concept of surplus population. Explores the problem of applying this category to a single, coherent social subject and of valorising the surplus as the new global revolutionary agent. Attempts to sketch a relation between surplus population and social stigmatisation or abjection.

ENDNOTES 3: GENDER, RACE, CLASS AND OTHER MISFORTUNESSEPTEMBER 2013

  1. EDITORIAL

    Past, present and future of the Endnotes project.

  2. THE HOLDING PATTERN

    Since 2007, states have been forced to undertake extraordinary actions. Bailouts have shifted private debts onto public balance sheets. And the world’s central banks are spending billions of dollars, every month, to convince capital to invest in a trickle. So far these state interventions have managed to stall the unfolding crisis. Yet its petrification has been the petrification of class struggle. Like the crisis itself, the struggles of 2011–2013 entered a holding pattern, unable to venture beyond the weak unity—defined by anti-austerity, anti-police, and anti-corruption sentiments—that was established in the movement of the squares.

  3. THE LOGIC OF GENDER

    Marxist-feminists have employed a number of binary oppositions: productive/reproductive, paid/unpaid and public/private. We interrogate these categories and propose new ones. Starting from the specificities of the production and reproduction of labour-power, we define gender as the anchoring of individuals into two separate spheres of social reproduction. We trace the development of these spheres through the history of the capitalist mode of production, and survey the dynamics of gender in the recent crisis, which we characterize as a rise of the abject.

  4. A RISING TIDE LIFTS ALL BOATS

    A reading of the 2011 England riots and British student movement against a backdrop of decades-long social processes of abjection, class decomposition and the tendential disintegration of the wage relation.

  5. LOGISTICS, COUNTERLOGISTICS AND THE COMMUNIST PROSPECT

    JASPER BERNES

    An inquiry into the consequences of “the logistics revolution” for contemporary struggles. In light of the disaggregation and diffusion of productive capacity across the globe, direct seizure of the means of production no longer describes an implementable project for the majority of proletarians. New horizons and prospects materialise.

  6. THE LIMIT POINT OF CAPITALIST EQUALITY

    CHRIS CHEN

    Without taking identity, cultural difference, or normative “privilege” as fundamental categories of anti-racist analysis, this article sketches a racial genealogy of superfluous populations as a constitutive feature of the emergence and spatial expansion of capitalism. The possibility of abolishing “race” as superfluity is therefore bound to contemporary anti-capitalist struggles, and vice-versa.

  7. SPONTANEITY, MEDIATION, RUPTURE

    How can we recover the key concepts of revolutionary theory today, that is, after the end of the workers’ movement? We offer the following reflections on three concepts — spontaneity, mediation, rupture — as an attempt to re-fashion the core of revolutionary theory, for our times. By taking cognisance of the gap that separates us from the past, we hope to extract from past theories something of use to us in the present.

ENDNOTES 2: MISERY AND THE VALUE FORMAPRIL 2010

  1. CRISIS IN THE CLASS RELATION

    Taking the capitalist class relation as a self-reproducing whole, the horizon of its overcoming appears as an invariant aspect of this whole, albeit one with a historically variant quality. Surplus population and capital’s basic problem of labour characterise core dynamics underlying the shift in this horizon beyond the old programme of workers’ power.

  2. MISERY AND DEBT

    A re-reading and historical interpretation of Marx’s “general law of accumulation”— the tendency for the expanded reproduction of capital to throw off more labour than it absorbs—in light of the growth of surplus populations and surplus capital in the world today.

  3. NOTES ON THE NEW HOUSING QUESTION

    Preliminary materials for a theory of home-ownership, credit, and housework in the post-war US economy. How is the fundamental separation between production and reproduction transformed when the home becomes the commodity through which all others are sold?

  4. COMMUNISATION AND VALUE-FORM THEORY

    The theory of communisation and Marxian value-form theory emerge from the same historical moment, mutually complement each other, and point towards the same radical conception of revolution as the immediate transformation of social relations, one in which we cease to constitute value and it ceases to constitute us.

  5. THE MOVING CONTRADICTION

    A reconstruction of the systematic dialectic of capital as a dialectic of class struggle. The forms of value which are constituted by and regulate social practice are totalising and self-reproducing through the subsumption of labour under capital. The totality so constituted is inwardly contradictory, and ultimately self-undermining: capitalist accumulation is a moving contradiction, i.e. a historical contradiction, between capital and proletariat.

  6. THE HISTORY OF SUBSUMPTION

    The philosophical/logical concept of subsumption is employed in various periodisations of capitalist society, such as those of Théorie Communiste, Jacques Camatte, and Antonio Negri. A critical examination of this concept and its historical uses.

  7. SLEEP-WORKER’S ENQUIRY

    Worker’s enquiry in the cynical mode: the unrevolutionary working life of the web developer.

ENDNOTES 1: PRELIMINARY MATERIALS FOR A BALANCE SHEET OF THE 20TH CENTURYOCTOBER 2008

  1. BRING OUT YOUR DEAD

    An Introduction to the debate between Théorie Communiste (TC) and Troploin (Dauvé & Nesic) concerning how to theorise the history and actuality of class struggle and revolution in the capitalist epoch.

  2. WHEN INSURRECTIONS DIE

    GILLES DAUVÉ

    Dauvé shows how the wave of proletarian revolts in the first half of the twentieth century failed: either because they were crushed by the vicissitudes of war and ideology, or because their “victories” took the form of counter-revolutions themselves, setting up social systems which, in their reliance on monetary exchange and wage-labour, failed to transcend capitalism.

  3. NORMATIVE HISTORY AND THE COMMUNIST ESSENCE OF THE PROLETARIAT

    THÉORIE COMMUNISTE

    In their critique of When Insurrections Die, TC attack Dauvé’s “normative” perspective, in which actual revolutions are counter-posed to what they could and should have been, that is, to a never-completely-spelled-out formula of a genuine communist revolution. In contrast, TC claim to give a robust account of the whole cycle of revolution, counter-revolution and restructuring, in which revolutions can be shown to have contained their own counter-revolutions as the intrinsic limit of the cycles they emerge from and bring to term.

  4. HUMAN, ALL TOO HUMAN?

    GILLES DAUVÉ

    Dauvé criticises TC for proposing a self-referential historical model that unjustifiably privileges the current cycle of struggles, while denying proletarian actors of the past all capacity for action not completely determined by the historically-prevailing relation between capital and wage-labour.

  5. LOVE OF LABOUR? LOVE OF LABOUR LOST…

    GILLES DAUVÉ & KARL NESIC

    Dauvé and Nesic’s historical account challenges the thesis that the self-identification of the proletarian as producer has been the decisive cause of its defeats. When, they ask, did the workers actually try to shoulder economic growth? When did they ever compete with bourgeois owners or modern directors for the management of the companies? Workers’ movements don’t boil down to an affirmation of labour. And if the “being” of the proletariat theorised by Marx is not just a metaphysics, its content is independent of the forms taken by capitalist domination.

  6. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

    THÉORIE COMMUNISTE

    TC undertake a painstaking, point-by-point refutation of “Love of Labor? Love of Labour Lost…”, first by developing in detail the concept of programmatism, which allows for an historicisation of the terms of class struggle, revolution and communism, then by delineating the originality of a new cycle of struggle, beyond programmatism.

  7. AFTERWORD

    On the difference between TC’s and Dauvé’s theory of communisation: ever-present and invariant possibility, or specific form which the communist revolution must take in the current cycle of struggle. Following TC’s account of the development of the class relation, without embracing their categories of formal and real subsumption, it is argued that the communist movement must be understood neither as a movement of communists nor of the class, but of the totality itself.

Crisis of Civilization

 71407-planet-of-the-apes-statue-of-liberty-blu-ray-disc-screenca

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Trapped at a Party Where No One Likes You

awkward-family-photos--large-msg-134764258473

By surplus club, frankfurt

When considering unemployment, social exclusion or precarity, it is inadequate to simply take refuge within the empirical question of which groups live under these conditions. Contemporary sociological identities are themselves forms of appearance, moments of the totality of the reproduction of the capital-labor relation and therewith in the devaluation of the labor-power commodity presently unfolding through the category of the surplus proletariat.

Introduction

At the outset of 2015, anyone hoping for a recovery of labor markets is told to lower their expectations.[1] Specious apologetics on the resilient turnaround of unemployment rates and job creation stumble against continuously revised growth forecasts reflecting the inertia of both high-GDP and emerging market economies. On a global level, the period since the crisis of 2007-08 has witnessed, at best, tepid economic activity despite unprecedented monetary stimulus and liquidity injection. Business investment remains predominantly stagnant, most recently with energy producers dramatically cutting back total capital investment.[2] Even China is stuttering and decreasing its appetite for raw materials[3], while the professed German success story cannot be read without the unfolding process of precarious capital concentration of a rapidly declining Eurozone, rather than as an indicator for lasting growth.[4] At the same time, the world economy continues its recourse in unrestrained leveraging[5], further exacerbating credit-to-GDP ratios, with, according to a recent report by the International Centre for Monetary and Banking Studies, total public and private debt reaching 272% of developed-world GDP in 2013.[6] The recent alarm of deflation means a rise in the real value of existing state, corporate, and household debt. Corresponding to the fiscal approach of higher budget deficits is, since 2010, the outright purchasing of government, corporate and real estate bonds by central banks and paid for with newly printed money – i.e. ‘quantitative easing’. The European Central Bank has, most recently, followed the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan in the latter policy despite the fact that it has yet to demonstrate itself as an effective response to decelerating economies. Instead, the money created enters into the banking system, shoring up balance sheets on finance capital and fomenting bubbles within assets held.

These conditions outline the phenomenal contours of the present crisis of capital accumulation, which is at the same time a crisis of the reproduction of the capital-labor relation. Since the economic restructuring of the 1970s, deregulation has expanded the flexibility of labor markets and fundamentally reoriented the conditions of the class relation. While unemployment remained relatively abated during the postwar period – alongside the assurances of the welfare state – developments in capital accumulation since then have witnessed an unprecedented ascendance, in terms of duration and concentration, of both unemployment and underemployment.[7] Since the early 1970s and through the dismantling of the Keynesian wage-productivity deal of the postwar period, the capitalist mode of production has been stumbling to combat the anguish of diminishing returns. Its recourse of economic restructuring consisted in the expansion of finance capital and increasing the rate of exploitation in an attempt to stabilize and defer its own inherent propensity to undermine the process of self-valorization. The 21st century thereby opened with a reign of labor-power devaluation that has only intensified its duress, which, alongside fiscal and sovereign debt crises expressed in austerity, continues to wield unrelenting immiseration.

Materially, the crisis of 2007-08 has only worsened the conditions of labor with, for example, the labor participation rate in the US now at a 36-year low[8], eclipsing any earnestly lauded low-wage job creation and its feeble average hourly earnings. For that segment of the proletariat not losing their jobs or dropping out of the labor force altogether – for which unemployment statistics have very little to say – the types of employment still available are largely temporary, part-time, seasonal, freelance, and in general, precariously informal without contractual guarantee of compensation. Thus, as the present moment finds an overcapacity of surplus capital unable to find lasting investment, the effective demand for labor-power follows suit and diminishes. Through the critique of political economy, this phenomena finds systematic expression in what Marx refers to as the “general law of capital accumulation”. Here, the proportional expansion of total capital, itself resulting from the productivity of labor and therewith in the production of surplus value, yields a mass of workers relatively redundant to the needs of the valorization process. This tendency arises simply from the nature of capital.[9] As capital develops labor as an appendage of its own productive capacity, it decreases the portion of necessary labor required for a given amount of surplus labor. Therefore, the relation of necessary labor needed by capital continuously declines. This occurs through the organic composition of capital in which competition between competing capitals induces the generalization of labor-saving technologies such as automation, thereby increasing constant capital at the expense of variable capital, resulting in a relative decline in the demand for labor.[10] The production of this relative surplus population is the devaluation of the total labor-power that takes on the form of a dislodgement of workers from the production process and in the difficulty of absorbing them through customary or legally regulated channels. If the labor-power of the proletariat cannot be realized, i.e. if it is not necessary for the realization of capital, then this labor capacity appears as external to the conditions of the reproduction of its existence. It turns into a crisis of the reproduction of the proletariat who is surrounded, on all sides, by needs without the means to adequately satisfy them.[11]

Friends have pointed out that surplus population is a necessary product of capital accumulation and therefore a structural category deriving from the ratio of necessary and surplus labor. It is a tendency that is always already there and inherently constitutive of the capital-labor relation independent from its historical configurations. So why might one justify its emphasis within the present conjuncture? After all, the notion of a surplus population “is already contained in the concept of the free labourer, that he is a pauper: virtual pauper.” (Grundrisse) The task therefore remains to demonstrate why the relative surplus population is paradigmatic of the class relation in the present moment and what are the implications for contemporary class struggle.

Read the rest of this entry »

Arson with demands – on the Swedish riots

sweden_011

Arson with demands – on the Swedish riots

(sicjournal.org)

“30-40 years ago, the state could afford to BUILD 1 million flats in 10 years, now it’s too poor to even RENOVATE them.”

– Megafonen – ‘Alby is not for sale!'(( Megafonen, Alby är inte till Salu! [Alby is not for sale!], our translation.))

This exclamation is highly representative of the activism that has flourished in the suburbs of Stockholm these past years. In this case, it comes from Megafonen (‘The Megaphone’), a grass-roots activist group founded by young people in the Stockholm suburb Husby in 2008, around the principles of democracy, welfare, community, work and education. The state, says Megafonen here, no longer lives up to its proper function, which would be to ensure the material well-being of people through housing policies. The ambivalence of this perspective is already clear in the nostalgic reference to the heyday of Swedish social-democratic welfare, represented by the state housing policy which led to the construction of ‘1 million flats’ between 1965 and 1974. On the one hand, it recognises cuts, privatisations, closures, etc. as symptoms of an already existing capitalist restructuring. On the other hand, its actions emerge as the affirmation of what is left of the infrastructure and political institutions that formed the Swedish workers’ identity, e.g. public housing.

This ambivalence can be made coherent: by fighting the advancement of the restructuring, one is at the same time defending that which it has not yet reshaped. But then, one leaves aside an essential product of the destruction of workers’ identity: the end of the political existence of the proletariat in Sweden which, in the most pauperised areas, has been acompanied by the development of inarticulate riots between 2008 and today. If we take the practices of these riots into account, the ambivalence of Megafonen’s type of activism – the fact that it operates within that which incarnates the end of workers’ identity, and at the same time tries to organise upon the remnants of that identity –, appears as a contradiction between the conditions in which it exists and its perspectives. In a time in which the proletariat, in the obligation to sell its labour power which defines it, is structurally excluded from the table of collective bargaining, this activism still does, through its denunciations of ‘the state’ and its various institutions, affirm the possibility of a dialogue and a future within this society. In a word, it defends a welfare state which no longer exists.

It would be tempting to analyse this contradiction along a revolt-reform axis, in which the riots would incarnate the destructive language of ruptures, whereas the activists would incarnate the constructive language of politics. The riots would be a mere symptom of the destruction of workers’ identity, whereas the activists would be trying to find a remedy to it. But if one takes a closer look at the events in the long run, this political-theoretical construct does not fit. Of course, the riots are not harmoniously united with this activism. The practices of burning cars and setting fire to the head-quarters of various institutions, or fighting the police and the fire brigade, are qualitatively different from practices such as demanding specific political transformations and explicitly stating what institutions’ function should be. But with regard both to the subjects that carry out these practices, and to the practices themselves, the relation between riots and activism is not that of two clearly distinct camps. What is at stake is to reveal this contemporary relation between rioting and activism in Sweden, to see what this says about the current period more broadly.

Six years after the riots in Malmö, five years after the riots in Göteborg, and more than a year after the week of riots in Stockholm and other Swedish cities, the scarcity of writings about these events prevents us from even picturing what happened during the riots. Therefore, what is needed first and foremost is a description of the emergence of both riots and activism in the suburbs of these cities between 2008 and last year. The focus on the practices which compose the riots on the one hand, and the activism on the other, must be followed by an exposé both of their historical production and of that which structures the so-called suburbs today. This will lead us to look at the inner relation between the riots and the activism in these suburbs, and to formulate a question which exceeds the Swedish context: that of social and political integration.

Read the rest of this entry »

On Recuperation (Gilles Dauvé)

100101

There are worker councils: “Councils were easy to form and had enormous potential. They were flexible and democratic. They presupposed cooperation and coordination, and they extended notions of popular governance and grassroots participation. For council members, neither pre-existing organizations nor a background in socialist theory were prerequisites. Councils made the unions and political parties redundant. They could embrace as much of the population as prevailing political understandings and cultural prejudices made possible. Because of the councils, society was both thrown into chaos and was susceptible to a thorough and radical reorganization. If councils are still relevant today, it’s not because they imply a particular solution to humanity’s problems, but because the need for something new in both form and content grows ever more pressing.” (1)

And there is councilism, the ideology of self-management, in the past usually equated with the running of factories by the workers themselves, now extended to self-managing  our whole life.

Needless to say, the “victory” we speak of here is not the sort of achievement that past and present councilists were and are aiming at: only a sad unavoidable ideological victory,

Ideology is not necessarily made of false data, nor does it put forward only wrong ideas. It is a deformed consciousness of reality (and therefore usually incorporates hard facts), which provides people with a way of (mis)understanding history and themselves in it.

Councilism is a mental mapping born as much out of proletarian endeavours as out of their limits. While worker self-organization was (and remains) necessary, it was (and is) not enough to overthrow capitalism. Instead of perceiving this limit for what it is – a limit –ideology sets it as the objective of the movement. Ideologization is the process by which the whole of proletarian history is re-interpreted as if this limitation was its essence. Councilism is worker councils turned into the be-all-and-end-all of revolution.

Like any other partial truth, it has fallen prey to “recuperation”. The ability of modern society to integrate and digest radical critique is nothing new, or to be afraid of. Nowadays, because capitalism carries the day, as long as the essentials (private property, wage-labour, the authority of the State) are respected, the allowed margin of freedom is larger than before, and we are granted lots of “discursive space”. I once saw a graffiti on a white wall in Vienna :

←           freedom from here to here         

     Not only is “law and order” compatible with innocuous critique and inoffensive social experiment, it also needs our active involvement in the day-to-day running of society. In democratic countries, providing you pay the rent and obey the cop, you’re free to extol Buddha or Bakunin. “Changing things so everything stays the same”, as novelist Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard. Traditional “bourgeois” culture has gone multicultural and nonconformity is marketed. More harmless personal freedom, more leeway, more community watch, more peer-control too. The most modern aspects of contemporary discourse have renounced a strict hierarchy, and see no contradiction in promoting at the same time individualism (self-empowerment) and collective values (the team spirit).

“Self-empowerment in its simplest form means taking charge of your own life, in your work place, with your colleagues, with your subordinates, with your superiors, with your body, with your illness and for you caring for yourself.” (Self-Empowerment & Development Centre, 2013)

As a result, a consensus has emerged on the virtues of autonomy: peer assessment in the classroom, power-sharing and self-governance for local associations and public bodies, management by agreed-upon objectives in the office, horizontalism in the Occupy and the Squares movements, autonomous space for alternativists in many cities, etc. Parliamentarianism is aging, let’s revive it with strong doses of participatory or monitory democracy. Communal goal-setting, self-development and networking make the news. Leninist party builders are a joke. Partyism is down, grassroots-ism prevails.

Secondly, “information first” has become part of dominant ideology: maximum and fastest information ! The assumption is, the more we know, the more we understand, but above all we need facts, and correct understanding will comes from lots of data : “Knowing is Doing”. Mainstream society is obsessed with education and empowerment: community civic classes (learning to be a community-minded citizen) now extends to global civics (learning to be ecologically-concerned).

This universal trend is unfortunately reflected in the radical milieu. Informations & Correspondance Ouvrières (1961-73), andnow Echanges & Mouvement claimed to have no theory except the theory that only the proletarians could determine their own methods and aims. Likewise, thousands of infokiosks and indymedia collectives profess to have no specific doctrine (Marxist, anarchist, ecologist, feminist, whatever), and say their sole purpose is to serve as a meeting place and communication centre meant to promote social struggles, with the difference that the “historical subject” is no longer the working class, but the people (the famous 99%). They act as if ICO’s  “choice of non-existence” (IS, # 11) had been inverted into the choice of 24/7 on-line presence, yet information firstremains the priority, too often with similar features as “bourgeois” media : constant data flow, information overload and obsolescence, sensationalism… Radicalism is reduced to a description and exaltation of manifold struggles.

The autonomy principle and the information fascination can best be seen at work in the world wide web: the Internet is the universal dispenser, accelerator and multiplier of data and ideas. The “chattering classes” have expanded far beyond the readership of the Guardian or the New York Times: everyone is an opinion giver and receiver now. For those who believe that social change will come out of ever more global knowledge and discussion, cyber-activism is ideal. A planetary critical sub-society is waging a permanent war of the words.

This is all happening in the realm of ideology. In reality, we do not live in a bottom-up society. Far from it. 19th century factory despotism has not gone. Today’s boss tells you what to do and punishes you if you misbehave, and not just in dictatorial China. In Amazon’s European warehouses, the company lords over the life of its labour force to the point of telling employees how to park their cars: trespassing over the white line separating the parking spaces gets you a “warning”. And democratic America offers a wide range of societal and cultural arch-conservatives who manage to put back the cultural societal clock.

So, as far as ideas matter, a mere ideological victory, miles away from Anton Pannekoek’s writings or ultra-leftist summer camps. At the end of the 19th century, Marxism watered-down Marx to an apologist of worker productivism. Later, hundreds of millions were oppressed in his name, and North Koreans still are. More recently, Debord has been transmogrified into an anti-art artist: he no longer has a “bad reputation”. Amadeo Bordiga would prove too much to chew for acamedia pundits, but who knows ? The old Neapolitan’s insights on ecology, his cutting sharp-worded style and scathing wit could add a much-wanted provocative flavour to current discourse. There is no doctrine that infotainment is unable to feed on. No-one is innocent. Everybody is liable to prosecution or recuperation.

The German-Dutch Left indeed had a strong point in 1920 and later, when it rejected the mass parties of the 2nd and 3rdInternationals in the name of radical worker self-activity. The conundrum was that the call for worker power conflicted with the communist perspective of the abolition of work, when only the abolition of work could get rid of capitalism. In 1920, the proletarians stood at the crossroads, stayed there, did not meet the challenge that their own uprising had created, and were defeated. As the perspective of going beyond work and the commodity had hardly emerged in the 1920s or 30s, and only began to assert itself in the 60s, the contradiction was inevitable at the time and lingered on in the way the radical minority could understand itself. Recuperation always feeds on such inner contradictions, by prioritizing some aspects of theory and deflecting others. (2)

Self-organizing is indispensable. Self-managing factories, neighbourhoods or schools is another thing. Though self-organization and self-management are not necessarily synonyms, ideology blurs the difference. It is an inevitable illusion for workers at one time or other to believe that they would be free if they took work into their own hands, that is, without doing away with work as such. And for people in general to believe that we could change society merely by running society ourselves. Revolution will not clear up these illusions in a day.

“Recuperation” is the normal process by which society recovers parts of what tried to negate it, so there is nothing here to reproach councilists with. What is objectionable, though, is a persistent failure to realise how and why such a specific ideologizing diversion could take place. Some basic councilist tenets have been incorporated within dominant ideas, because they were based on historical limits, and it is these limits that we must comprehend. Ideology only trivializes and sterilizes theoretical aspects by separating theory from the practice where it originated.

“The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.” These were the Rules of the International Workingmen Association, approved by its Geneva congress in 1866. Autonomy is indispensable, not just to initiate revolution, also to accomplish it: who else but the self-organizing proletarians could do away with the proletariat ? But it’s not enough. It is not the principle on which everything can or must be based. Autonomy means giving oneself one’s own law (nomos). It’s based on the self (auto). As far as the proletarians are concerned, what self are we talking about ? Praising worker autonomy is mistaking the part for the whole, fragment of a frozen totality. (3)

G.D.

(1) Insurgent Notes 2013 review of two recent history books – by M. Comack and G. Kuhn – on worker councils : see insurgentnotes.com

(2 )The same obviously applies to the most recuperated of all, Karl Marx : we cannot be content with repeating that the dictatorship of the proletariat he wrote about had absolutely nothing in common with Trotsky’s militarization of labour or Stalin’s Five Year Plan. As we hope our Value, Time & Communism: Re-Reading Marx shows, there is no point for us reading Marx unless we care to see how much he owed to his time.

(3) For more on autonomy and democracy, see our Contribution to the Critique of Political Autonomy (on this site).

*****

Gilles Dauvé

The Bitter Victory of Councilism (2014) – This is a chapter from Eclipse & Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement (PM Press, to be published in Autumn 2014). § 5 of the preceding chapter (“Value, Time & Communism: Re-Reading Marx”), deals with Council Communism & Labour Time, and is a critique of the famous councilist  1930 text titled Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution.

Remarks on Activism

731694_8cf3_1024x2000-1

 

Activism is the permanent “What is to be done?” of the epoch in which everything that constituted a worker identity has disappeared. A permanent “What is to be done?” which no longer disposes of that mediation towards generality which was represented by the worker identity and/ or the Party (existing or to be built), by the empowerment of the class, or more generally, by a proletarian being to be revealed, no matter if it was explicit in its mediations (political, trade-unionist, institutional) or thwarted by them. If activism is an autonomisation of the dynamics of the current cycle of struggles, this autonomisation becomes for activism, in its working modalities, the generality of the proletariat in which every particularity is just a contingency, an accidental occurrence.

This is why activism can also be defined on the basis of a constitutive contradiction: Practice is necessary to it, whereas it sustains a random relationship to its object. This contradiction could equally be formulated in the following terms: activism falls within the province of a general class belonging; its application is, in fact, always particular. Hardly pressed, without any mediation, between the general and the particular, activism is tactics, and always dissatisfied with itself and with others (until the next action). The next action is the rationale of the current action. Being fundamentally tactical, activism works like a toolbox: generalisation of the action, overcoming of sectional demands, self-organisation of the struggle, rejection of mediations, autonomy, etc. As a consequence, activism is normative. And while such a feature might not enter into its definition, it is nonetheless a preponderant trend.

For activism, any specific activity might have, in every case, been different. This appears to be self-evident as a critique of a tailor-made “enemy”: “determinism”. But the separation between an activity and the circumstances on which it is exerted constitutes a retrospective illusion which, constantly repeated, imposes itself a priori as a general comprehension of “practice”. “Practice” then becomes the question of practice, i.e. the question of intervention. The retrospective trap of the analysis of specific activities within a movement is defined by a separation, appearing a posteriori as self-evident (since it pertains to a cyclical movement) between the conditions of a movement and the activities or decisions of its actors (which are being retrospectively apprehended as particular objects). The starting point is the analysis of the limits of particular actions in relation with the movement, not of the limits of the movement of which these actions are constitutive elements, and which would admittedly have been different without them. One has separated what, in the best case, was in unison: conditions and activities, terms which not only were in unison, but rather absolutely identical – so much so, that no reality presents itself as the relation of these two terms. Their separation is the reconstruction of the world through the question of practice: an objective world faced by activity.

The error resides not only in the separation of the terms, but also in the comprehension of reality in these terms. Militants, always considering retrospectively their current action, have principles to apply, and dispose of a well-furnished toolbox; whereas the on-the-spot actors are content with the possibilities (which are actions themselves), the thoughts produced, and the initiatives taken at the moment of the action. This is because they are defined by those actions while, like everybody else, they do not identify themselves with them. The retrospective trap transforms a movement of struggles, which is the sum or, even better, a constantly changing interaction between actions and decisions taken, into a scene that becomes the object of action, that is, one to which the action is applied. In this way, activism constructs and confirms the abstract generality of its class practice. This is then a militant reconstruction of reality in which action is “pure action” and its preexisting subject is a “pure subject that constitutes reality”. Neither the activity nor its subject are being produced themselves; they just face the world as “pure object”. The relationship to the world becomes that of success or failure. Needless to say, “failure” is always being interpreted as conjunctural and/or circumstantial.

However, the dialectics of the particular and the general does not spare activism. Nourishing the pretension to always be general, activism is directed towards an attack on the general conditions of capitalist reproduction as its particular and preferred field of action: commodity, exchange, State violence, ideological constraints, the educational system, gender roles, etc. Activism finds there a generality adapted to its own abstraction. But what makes it fail in its attack on the general conditions of reproduction is that the practices deployed in this attack render these conditions as abstract as activism itself. By its very nature, activism stops before the point of articulation between the general and the particular: being defined by a general and abstract construction of class belonging, activist practice jumps over the reality of the particularities inherent in the capitalist relation of exploitation. For activism, the generality of the proletariat is simply given, or at least an internal truth to be revealed, a generality mirrored so as to justify the generality of activism itself. To further the analysis, the definition of the proletariat here appears as self-sufficient, independently of the relation between proletariat and capital, and thus of the specific, subsuming role of capital in this relation, and of its defining presence in the other pole of the relation.

It is in this sense that alternativism represents the natural inclination of activism, and the friction between “proletarian activism” and “alternativist activism” is a family affair (with its fair share of dirty linen to wash and the occasional murder between friends).

Sic 1.1 – Further Remarks on Activism

The revolution will not be won in a straight line

photo

Some fractions of the insurgent proletariat will be smashed, others will be “turned back”, rallying to measures for the conservation of survival. Other insurrections will pick up where they leave off. Certain of those turned back or bogged down will resume wildcat expropriations, and the organisation of the struggle by those who struggle and uniquely for the struggle, without representation, without control by anyone in the name of anything, thereby taking up once again the constitution of communism, which is not a goal of the struggle but rather its content. Counter-revolutionary ideologies will be numerous, starting perhaps with that of the survival of the economy: preserving economic mechanisms, not destroying all economic logic, in order to then construct a new economy. The survival of the economy is the survival of exchange, whether this exchange uses money, any kind of voucher or chit, or even simply barter, which can be adorned with the name of mutual aid between workers! The situation where everything is for free and the complete absence of any form of accounting is the axis around which the revolutionary community will construct itself. Only the situation where everything is for free will enable the bringing together of all the social strata which are not directly proletarian and which will collapse in the hyper crisis. Only the situation where everything is for free will integrate/abolish all the individuals who are not directly proletarian, all those “without reserves” (including those whom revolutionary activity will have reduced to this condition), the unemployed, the ruined peasants of the “third world”, the masses of the informal economy. These masses must be dissolved as middle strata, as peasants, in order to break the personal relations of dependence between “bosses” and “employees” as well as the situation of “small independent producers” within the informal economy, by taking concrete communist measures which force all these strata to join the proletariat, that is, to realise their “proletarianisation.”

Proletarians who communise society will have no need of “frontism”. They will not seek out a common program for the victims of capital. If they engage in frontism they are dead, if they remain alone they are also dead. They must confront all the other classes of society as the sole class not able to triumph by remaining what it is. The measures of communisation are the abolition of the proletariat because, in addition to its unification in its abolition, they dissolve the basis of existence of a multitude of intermediate strata (managerial strata of capitalist production and reproduction) which are thereby absorbed into the process of communisation and millions (if not billions) of individuals that are exploited through the product of their labour and not the sale of their labour-power. At the regional level as much as at the global one, communisation will have an action that one could call “humanitarian”, even if this term is currently unpronounceable, because communisation will take charge of all the misery of the world. Human activity as a flux is the only presupposition of its collective, that is to say individual, pursuit, because, as it is self-presupposing, it has no conception of what a product is and can thus give plentifully. The proletariat, acting as a class, dissolves itself as a class through these acts of seizure, because in them it overcomes its “autonomy”.

– the suspended step of communisationSic 1

Sic 2: Sicker than Ever

2014-02-27 11.23.49

Sic: International Journal for Communisation: Order here

This Is Not an Editorial

Crisis has become a household word and the attack on the value of labour power an everyday reality. Such an attack had already been stamped on capitalism’s genetic code by the restructuring of the ’70s–’80s, but the crisis of restructured capitalism gave it an enormous impetus. From struggles of waged workers anxiously demanding to remain such and mobilisations of pensioners defending their survival, to the outburst of rage of the ‘feral class’ in developed countries, to violent workers’ riots in the South-East Asian global factory, and all the way through to the Arab Spring and its aftermath, hard evidence of the continuing conflictuality of social reality forces even the most unrepentant end-of-history sopranos to refresh their repertoire. Admittedly, not everything bathes in perfection. But it would seem that there is good news too: nobody has to worry about where this world is going, it is a one-way street, just keep on going. Some changes in management personnel are graciously offered, the persons reciting the ‘no alternative’ mantra can always be renewed and even bear the socialist flavour. Of course, the remnants of a once optimistic citizenism keep formulating ‘proposals’ – ever less far-reaching, ever more restrained – begging capitalism to mend its ways, but nobody seems to take these noble souls seriously enough, since they dispose of no high-placed interlocutor with a receptive ear. Still, there are struggles, outbursts, riots, serving as a reminder that class struggle is always there and that capital, today no less than yesterday, is a ‘moving contradiction’. Hand in hand with it, the critical theory of its demise is being produced: history in the making is also the making of theory.

Communisation is no longer being perceived as an exotic beast, and it even tends at times to become a fashionable word. Present-day struggles highlight the end of the classical workers’ movement, together with its ambition to take the supposedly good-by-nature core of the economy away from voracious capitalist predators and run it itself. It is almost obvious that the world of our days, matter and soul alike, is the world actually produced by and for capital; that, therefore, workers and their products would have never existed as such if capital had not called them into existence in the first place; that working people’s demands have nowadays become asystemic or, in other words, a scandal akin to high treason; that proletarians are forced to defend their condition against capital but, in this struggle, actions that hurt capital are also actions that tend to call into question the proletarian condition; that communism cannot possibly be conceived as a program to be realised, but only as the historical product of proletariat’s struggle against capital and, at the same token, against its own class belonging; etc., etc. All this is reassuringly easy to show, almost worryingly so in fact.

Logical obviousness is not the stuff reality is made of. The extreme segmentation of the proletariat in restructured capitalism can easily blur the distinction of who fights for what, and it is only a meagre consolation that the ultimate outcome cannot but be capital’s victory or destruction. On another score, we are no longer in the presence of a central confrontation between capital and labour amidst pre-capitalist or proto-capitalist social strata which might support or not support either of the protagonists. The whole of society has been taken over and reproduced by capital, and this means, among other things, that various middle strata, salaried or otherwise, cannot but be directly involved. In the really globalised world of restructured capitalism unification is only achieved by the construction of differences whose interrelation is conducive to the desired unifying result – targets being adapted or reset as the actual configuration of forces takes form. Zoning among regions of the world and within each region and each country seems much less stable than what, at some point in time, appeared as a well arranged fractalisation of the world, with its inevitable glue of authoritarianism and slaughter. In a context of protracted crisis, proletarians strive for survival and various middle strata strive to avoid proletarianisation and marginalisation, while the internecine strife of various capitals tends to indefinitely hesitate between two ‘pure’ but equally impossible outcomes: maintaining the instant global mobility of capital while at the same time postponing the massive devalorisation needed for any sort of fresh start; falling back into the warm embrace of states or blocs of states ready to decisively weigh, via bombers, tanks, secret services and all the paraphernalia, on the ever-renewed game of the appropriation of globally produced surplus value. The ‘normality’ of restructured capitalism was pointing towards an unimpeded global fluidity of capital and a repressive management of national spaces through states whose only really national element would be the ideology of their repression of the internal enemy. Its crisis is pointing to the practical difficulty of achieving a moving equilibrium: wide masses produced by both ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ capitalism as surplus population are showing no particular enthusiasm to disappear from the face of the earth, through a downward spiral of misery, just because capitalism tells them to oblige; numerous middle strata, from Egypt to the United States, are objecting to their squeezing by dominant capitals, being sometimes ready even to hit the streets; and, most importantly, in proletarian struggles the weakening or absence of mediation mechanisms is made manifest and the only dilemma posed seems to be outright confrontation or unconditional surrender.

The core of the capitalist powerhouse is exploitation of one class by another and, in this process, their reproduction as a class of exploiters and a class of exploited and the reproduction of the whole of capital’s society. Every cycle of struggles constructs the content of revolution adequate to a historically produced class configuration, and also of the counter-revolution corresponding to it. A victorious counter-revolution concluding a cycle of struggles is also a restructuring in view of a new cycle of accumulation: there is no such thing as a set of ‘objective conditions’ getting ‘ripe’ and pronouncing a verdict which would just have to wait a bit for the formality of its execution. The stuff reality is made of is class struggle, but not in a supposedly pure form: if any ‘purity’ is to exist at all, it will have to be historically produced by this very class struggle, in ways that constitute a breach from the routine cycle of capital’s reproduction. There is no linear development from present struggles to revolution, but present struggles, even through their limits and impossibilities, are the only anchor of the theory of communisation. The second issue of Sic is decisively focused on a critical appraisal of struggles of varying geographical locations and content; a discussion of communist measures may serve as a theoretical counterpoint; looking into the concept of conjuncture will deal with the necessary leap away from the internal causality chain of capital’s reproduction.

Sic is an international theoretical project, not a homogeneous group. Differences of opinion are welcome and eagerly put to discussion: they should come as no surprise. However, a common ground does exist, and it does differentiate Sic from other currents. For example, a transhistorical and teleological understanding of class struggle, which turns its back on any periodization of its content, will not be at home here; the conception of ever recurring proletarian assaults, identical to each other and with no actual history in between, belongs to those ready to interpret the possibly good one just like the others, with the only difference that it was successful instead of unsuccessful; the ‘proposal’ (whom to?) of models of society which would be ‘better’ than the existing one is none of our preoccupations; the faith in the demarcation and extension of a communist terrain, in a communist rodent diving into the capitalist cheese and gradually eating it away, is not ours.

Other than that, Sic is an open project. Openness is of course no panacea, and a helpful mutual explanation and understanding is not a specialty of the society we all are part of. A few months ago, the members of the French theoretical group Théorie Communiste (TC) decided to withdraw from Sic. This development was particularly important, as the theoretical elaboration produced by TC had been the cornerstone for Sic’s constitution. However, life goes on, and the proof of the pudding is certainly in the eating: the ability ofSic to host a creative collective functioning and theoretical elaboration will be the only decisive criterion for the future of the project (apart from any more general developments, needless to say). Withdrawal from the table neither disproves the pudding nor absolves anyone of past and present sins. As history will not care to give any verdict on the matter, suffice it to say that we wish a constructive continuation to both TC and Sic.

T.H.

An Abstracty Critique of Endnotes

future-robot-wallpapers-hd-934941-0-s-307x512

(from Wandering Abstraction by Ray Brassier)

Endnotes’ various writings certainly provide an eminently plausible conceptual reconstruction of the totality which is the ground of the class relation, and hence of communist theorising. And it is clear from their analyses of capital’s ‘moving contradiction’ how this relation is self-undermining: ‘the relation of exploitation corrodes its own foundation, as that which is exploited – labour-power – is tendentially expelled from the production process with the development of the productivity of social labour.’ Thus the thought that is ‘adequate’ to the class relation (i.e. the relation of exploitation) is the thought of a ‘fundamentally impossible relation’, which is ‘only insofar as it is ceasing to be’.

That only the thought of an impossible relation can render theory adequate to its object is the index of the torsion that is supposed to bind theoretical abstraction to the reality of social abstraction independently of the representational recourse to an objective correspondence relation (which would require ‘an external, Archimedean point from which to take the measure of its object’). No doubt, this impossible relation is supposed to mark communist theory’s immanence to revolutionary practice: any subordination of practice to theory (or vice versa) would threaten to reintroduce the transcendence of an external, Archimedean point, which is to say, a representation. But it seems that what prevents communist theory’s adequation to the class relation from fissioning into a relation to this impossible relation, which is to say, a theoretical representation of reality, and ultimately, a program, is its immediate consummation as self-proclaimed revolutionary activity: an activity that guarantees its own traction upon the capitalist class relation simply by engaging in the struggle to destroy it. There is a laudable consistency here. By taking the ‘posited supersession’ of the capitalist totality as its starting point, communist theorising secures its traction upon the antagonism constitutive of social reality. But the danger remains that this posited supersession of totality will substitute for its actual supersession not in spite of but precisely because it refuses its theoretical construction.

By abjuring such construction as a representational intrusion compromising thought’s adequation to the class relation, communist theory secures its grip on the ‘real movement’ which communism is, but at the risk of eliding real movement with the movement of ideas. Thus, as Endnotes themselves make clear:

Communization […] has little positive advice to give us about particular, immediate practice in the here and now […] What advice it can give is primarily negative: the social forms implicated in the reproduction of the capitalist class relation will not be instruments of the revolution, since they are part of that which is to be abolished.

The question then is: how are we to identify those social forms that are not implicated in the reproduction of the class relation? The distinction between compulsive labour and spontaneous practice is required not only to stave off the paradox of self-cancellation, but also to distinguish between those activities programmed to reproduce the class relation and those capable of interrupting this reproduction. But the spontaneity whose exercise is the prerequisite for the destruction of the class relation will also generate new abstractions together with new forms of mediation. What is required is an understanding of social practices that would allow us to begin distinguishing between oppressive and emancipatory forms of mediation.

A Schmaltzy Critique of Endnotes

Flint-orchestra

from The North Star

Endnotes: A Romantic Critique?

by MATTHIJS KRUL on JANUARY 28, 2014

Endnotes 3 is the most recent product of the discussion group of ‘communisation’ theorists that go under the Endnotes name. In this article, I will attempt a sympathetic, but critical discussion of what I see as some of the central contributions of Endnotes’ writings, especially in Endnotes 2 and Endnotes 3. The Endnotes discussions, and perhaps communisation theory more generally, I think can fairly be said to develop two central ideas throughout their work. The first is that the history of the 20th century has been the historic failure of the workers’ movement as a workers’ movement, that is, as a self-conscious movement based on working class identity and the class position of the worker — the affirmation of the working class, including its associated concepts of ‘workers’ power’, the ‘workers’ state’ and so forth. This workers’ movement is seen to have failed to understand the abolition of classes required to abolish the value form: not an affirmation of working class identity, but doing away with such identity — a class position that is a “misfortune”. The central question is then, as Endnotes 2 put it: “The history of capitalist society is the history of the reproduction of the capitalist class relation. It is that of the reproduction of capital as capital, and — its necessary concomitant — of the working class as working class. If we assume the reproduction of this relation is not inevitable, what is the possibility of its non-reproduction?”  . . . continue

 

Vorwort Endnotes 3

endnotes-3

(übersetz von Kommunisierung.net)

Diese Ausgabe von Endnotes war lange unterwegs. Ihre Veröffentlichung verspätete sich aufgrund von Erfahrungen und Diskussionen, welche uns dazu zwangen, unseren Analysen mehr Klarheit zu geben und sie manchmal ganz zu überarbeiten. Viele der Artikel in dieser Ausgabe sind das Produkt jahrelanger Diskussionen. Einige Artikel waren schliesslich so lange, dass wir die Ausgabe in zwei Teile gliedern mussten. Endnotes 4 wird also bald erscheinen, nicht wieder in drei Jahren, sondern eher in den nächsten sechs Monaten. In diesem Text beschreiben wir, als Erklärung für die Verzögerung, einige der Fragen und Zwickmühlen, welche am Anfang dieser und der nächsten Ausgabe standen.