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Internationaler Kongress zum 200. Geburtstag von Karl Marx (videos)

RLS, Berlin, 2. bis 6. Mai 2018

The unfinished system of Karl Marx: Critically reading Capital as a challenge for our time

Opening marx200 in May 2, 2018 — marx200 Livestream-Aufzeichnung vom 2.5.2018. [EN]/[DE] The central question is: what is the challenge for an «appraisal» of Marx in 2018 in order to strengthen emancipatory forces? Why do we think that our book can contribute to this? This question will be linked with two other considerations: Why has the Marxian heritage not been recognized and used in its complexity? And what does this mean for the left? With Patrick Bond (University of the Witwatersrand, Südafrika / South Africa), Jan Toporowski (University of London), Kohei Saito (Osaka City University, Japan), Judith Dellheim (Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung). Moderation / facilitation: Frieder Otto Wolf (FU Berlin)


Karl Marx und die Geburt der modernen Gesellschaft

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Michael Heinrich

[DE] marx200-Livestream-Aufzeichnung vom 2.5.2018. Die Durchsetzung «moderner» bürgerlich-kapitalistischer Verhältnisse wird von Marx in einer Folge unabgeschlossener Projekte analysiert und kritisiert. Um die begrifflichen Verschiebungen, Abbrüche und Neuanfänge zu verstehen, muss man sich mit den zeitgenössischen Konflikten und Marx eigener Rolle darin auseinandersetzen. Mit Michael Heinrich (Berlin) Moderation: Antonella Muzzupappa (Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung).

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On the Poverty of Student Life (1966)

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Considered in Its Economic, Political,
Psychological, Sexual, and Especially Intellectual Aspects,
With a Modest Proposal for Doing Away With It

by

members of the Situationist International

and students of Strasbourg University (print version)

1. To make shame more shameful still by making it public

It is pretty safe to say that the student is the most universally despised creature in France, apart from the policeman and the priest. But the reasons for which heT1 is despised are often false reasons reflecting the dominant ideology, whereas the reasons for which he is justifiably despised from a revolutionary standpoint remain repressed and unavowed. The partisans of false opposition are aware of these faults — faults which they themselves share — but they invert their actual contempt into a patronizing admiration. The impotent leftist intellectuals (from Les Temps Modernes to L’Express) go into raptures over the supposed “rise of the students,” and the declining bureaucratic organizations (from the “Communist” Party to the UNEF [National Student Union]) jealously contend for his “moral and material support.” We will show the reasons for this concern with the student and how they are rooted in the dominant reality of overdeveloped capitalism. We are going to use this pamphlet to denounce them one by one: the suppression of alienation necessarily follows the same path as alienation.

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Marx and World History

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Michael R. Krätke (2018)

In 18811882, Marx undertook extensive historical studies, covering a large part of what was then known as world history. The four large notebooks with excerpts from the works of (mainly) two leading historian of his time, Schlosser and Botta, have remained largely unpublished. In this article, Marxs last studies of the course of world history are contextualized: Marxs previous historical studies and his ongoing, but unfinished work on the critique of political economy. The range and scope of his notes is astoundingly broad, going far beyond European history and actually covering many other parts of the world. Marxs focus in these studies supports the interpretation offered in the article: that the author of Capitalwas fascinated by the long process of the making of the modern states and the European states system, one of the crucial prerequisites of the rise of modern capitalism in Europe.

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Red Seder

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Bdikas khomets (Search for leaven). Illustration from the first edition of Hagadah far gloybers un apikorsim (Passover story for believers and atheists). Kharkov, 1923.

Blessed is October, dictator of the proles, who produces, distributes, and consumes the earth’s harvest.

In Berlin 5777, a new communist Haggadah for a Red Passover Seder was brought forth into the world. It replaces the communist Haggadah of  Brooklyn, 5771. This new one is the first Red Haggadah since the Jewish Bolsheviks used them in the 1920s. I now offer it here for use (the Hebrew text came out backwards, unfortunately). The historical background text is below, but to do an actual seder, one must download the Haggadah and follow the steps. Love live October 5778!

Download the Haggadah for a RED SEDER: to read/ to print

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Now

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THE INVISIBLE COMMITTEE, NOW (2017)

Full book, translated into English by Robert Hurley.

Economy rests on a pair of fictions, therefore, that of society and that of the individual. Destituting it involves situating this false antinomy and bringing to light that which it means to cover up. What these fictions have in common is making us see entities, closed units and their relations, whereas what there is in fact are ties. Society presents itself as the superior entity that aggregates all the individual entities. Since Hobbes and the frontispiece of Leviathan, it’s always the same image: the great body of the sovereign, composed of all the minuscule, homogenized, serialized bodies of his subjects. The operation which the social fiction depends on consists in trampling on everything that forms the situated existence of each singular human being, in wiping out the ties that constitute us, in denying the assemblages we enter into, and then forcing the depleted atoms thus obtained into a completely fictitious, spectral association known as the “social bond.” So that to think of oneself as a social being is always to apprehend oneself from the exterior, to relate to oneself as an abstraction. It’s the peculiar mark of the economic perception of the world to grasp nothing except externally.

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Capitalism and ecology: from the decline of capital to the decline of the world – Paul Mattick

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‘Kapitalismus und Okologie’ (1976) by Paul Mattick, translated by Paul Mattick Jr. This article looks at ecological crisis, the Club of Rome’s ‘The Limits to Growth’, and the work of East German philosopher Wolfgang Harich.

The historical character of nature follows from the Second Law of thermodynamics, discovered more than a hundred years ago by Carnot and Clausius, spelling an increase in entropy ending in heat death. Our earthly life depends on the continuous supply of energy from solar radiation, which decreases with increasing entropy, however slowly. The period of time involved is indefinite from the human point of view, too gigantic to be taken into practical consideration. Nevertheless, the entropy law has a continuous, direct influence on the earth and therefore on the fate of humankind. Apart from the sun, the mineral wealth of the earth provides for the satisfaction of human energy needs. Its exploitation, however, hastens the transformation of “free” into “bound” energy, that is, energy no longer available for human use and degrading towards heat death. In other words, the available energy sources can only be utilized once. With their exhaustion human life would come to an end, and indeed very long before the cooling of the sun, as all the natural riches of the earth contain no more energy than two days’ sunlight.

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On Organization (Camatte, 1969)

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The following letter (dated 04.09.69) led to the dissolution of the group that had begun to form on the basis of the positions set forth in Invariance. The letter opened an important area of reflection and debate that has gone on since, certain conclusions of which have already been discussed in “Transition”, no. 8, série 1.

Although certain points raised by the letters have been partially dealt with, others have hardly been touched upon. That’s why it’s necessary-given the importance of making a more clean break with the past-to publish it now. Our publishing it should enable the reader to appreciate the work accomplished thus far, and what still remains to be done.

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A contribution to the critique of political autonomy (Dauvé, 2008)

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by Gilles Dauvé (pdf)

It’s very difficult to force into obedience whoever has no wish to command.

Rousseau

No critique beyond this point

Any critique of democracy arouses suspicion, and even more so if this critique is made by those who wish a world without capital and wage-labour, without classes, without a State.

Public opinion dislikes but understands those who despise democracy from a reactionary or elitist point of view. Someone who denies the common man’s or woman’s ability to organize and run himself or herself, logically will oppose democracy. But someone who firmly believes in this ability, and yet regards democracy as unfit for human emancipation, is doomed to the dustbins of theory. At the best, he is looked down upon as an idiot; at the worst, he gets the reputation of a warped mind who’ll end up in the poor company of the arch-enemies of democracy: the fascists.

Indeed, if “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”, it seems obvious that in order to emancipate themselves, the exploited must not only do away with the power structures that enslave them, but also create their own organs of debating and decision-making. Exercising one’s collective freedom, isn’t that what democracy is all about? That assumption has the merit of simplicity: to change the world and live the best possible human life, what better way than to base this life on institutions that will provide the largest number of people with the largest freedom on speech and decision-taking? Besides, whenever they fight, the dominated masses generally declare their will to establish the authentic democracy that’s been so far lacking.

For all these reasons, the critique of democracy is a lost or forgotten battle.

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The Aporias of Marxism / Archaism and Modernity

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By Enzo Traverso

The Aporias of Marxism

In a letter to Walter Benjamin, dated 13 April 1933, Gershom Scholem described the rise of Nazi Germany as ‘a catastrophe of world‑historical proportions’ which permitted him for the first time ‘to comprehend deeply’ the expulsion of the Spanish Jews in 1492: ‘The magnitude of the collapse of the communist and socialist movements,’ he wrote ‘is frightfully obvious, but the defeat of German Jewry certainly does not pale by comparison.’ [56] These words, written in Palestine by a historian of the Cabbala who had left Germany almost ten years before, seem today a good deal more lucid than any of the Marxist analyses of the time.

In 1933very few intellectuals were aware of the fact that Hitler’s rise to power signified the end of Judaism in Germany. The Jews, as Scholem bitterly observed in this same letter, were powerless and continued desperately to cling to a national identity that had been obstinately constructed over a century of assimilation. The National Socialist laws were soon to abolish at one shot the gains made by emancipation. The great majority of the tens of thousands of Jews who left Germany were intellectuals and left-wing militants, Socialists or Communists, whose Judeity made their position even more hazardous and precarious. The official institutions of the Jewish community, notably the Zentraverein, tried to find a form of coexistence and accommodation with the new regime. [57]

The workers’ movement was no more ready to deal with the catastrophe. From the end of the twenties, Trotsky had seen the danger of German fascism: his warnings went unheeded. The KPD and SPD were dismantled without offering any real resistance, after having shown themselves incapable of obstructing the rise of National Socialism and of providing an alternative to the dissolution of the Weimar Republic. However, in 1933, nazism unleashed its attack on the workers’ organizations, not on the Jews. Nazi anti‑Semitism developed gradually and inexorably, passing through several stages: first discrimination and the questioning of emancipation again (1933‑35); then economic depredations and the adoption of a policy of persecution (1938‑41); finally extermination (1941‑45). The destruction of the workers’ movement was not a gradual process: it was, in fact, one of the conditions for the consolidation of the Nazi regime. Paradoxically, while the parties, the press, and the left‑wing militants were outlawed and persecuted, Hitler was establishing and encouraging the development of Jewish institutions. His object was to drive a wedge between the ‘Aryans’ and the Jews and to eradicate any sentiment of belonging to the German nation that the latter might still entertain. The result was that the anti-Semitism seemed superficial and transitory by comparison with the absolute opposition of National Socialism to the workers’ movement. In other words, nazism was perceived as a regime that was far more antiworker than anti-Semitic.

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Utopia as Method, Social Science Fiction, and the Flight From Reality

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a Review of Peter Frase, Four Futures: Life After Capitalism (Verso Jacobin Series, 2016)

by Anthony Galluzzo

Charlie Brooker’s acclaimed British techno-dystopian television series, Black Mirror, returned last year in a more American-friendly form. The third season, now broadcast on Netflix, opened with “Nosedive,” a satirical depiction of a recognizable near future when user-generated social media scores—on the model of Yelp reviews, Facebook likes, and Twitter retweets—determine life chances, including access to basic services, such as housing, credit, and jobs. The show follows striver Lacie Pound—played by Bryce Howard—who, in seeking to boost her solid 4.2 life score, ends up inadvertently wiping out all of her points, in the nosedive named by the episode’s title. Brooker offers his viewers a nightmare variation on a now familiar online reality, as Lacie rates every human interaction and is rated in turn, to disastrous result. And this nightmare is not so far from the case, as online reputational hierarchies increasingly determine access to precarious employment opportunities. We can see this process in today’s so-called sharing economy, in which user approval determines how many rides will go to the Uber driver, or if the room you are renting on Airbnb, in order to pay your own exorbitant rent, gets rented.

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‘Make It So’: ‘Star Trek’ and Its Debt to Revolutionary Socialism

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by A.M. Gittlitz (nytimes)

H. G. Wells’s foundational work of political science fiction, “The Time Machine,” predicted a future in which a small utopia of sprightly elites is kept running by a subclass that lives below the ground and is reduced to bestial violence. This prediction, carried to a horrifically logical extent, represented the intense wealth disparity of the Victorian England in which Wells wrote the novel. Judging from the major political narratives of the fictions of our era, films like “The Hunger Games,” “Elysium” and “Snowpiercer,” the certainty of a future rendered increasingly barbarous by class division remains essentially the same.

But this was not always the case. In 1920, Wells met Vladimir Lenin, a fellow world-building visionary who planned “the inauguration of an age of limitless experiment” to rebuild and industrialize his country from ruination by years of war, abolishing class society in the process. Wells was impressed by the pragmatic revolutionary and his planned “utopia of electricians.”

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Communism for Kids

Communism For Kids

By Bini Adamczak

Translated by Jacob Blumenfeld and Sophie Lewis

Overview

Once upon a time, people yearned to be free of the misery of capitalism. How could their dreams come true? This little book proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism. Offering relief for many who have been numbed by Marxist exegesis and given headaches by the earnest pompousness of socialist politics, it presents political theory in the simple terms of a children’s story, accompanied by illustrations of lovable little revolutionaries experiencing their political awakening.

It all unfolds like a story, with jealous princesses, fancy swords, displaced peasants, mean bosses, and tired workers–not to mention a Ouija board, a talking chair, and a big pot called “the state.” Before they know it, readers are learning about the economic history of feudalism, class struggles in capitalism, different ideas of communism, and more. Finally, competition between two factories leads to a crisis that the workers attempt to solve in six different ways (most of them borrowed from historic models of communist or socialist change). Each attempt fails, since true communism is not so easy after all. But it’s also not that hard. At last, the people take everything into their own hands and decide for themselves how to continue. Happy ending? Only the future will tell. With an epilogue that goes deeper into the theoretical issues behind the story, this book is perfect for all ages and all who desire a better world.

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The Bleak Left: On Endnotes

“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die to get there”

by Jehu (2014)

If you ever want to make a good case against communism to a worker, tell her that communists want the following things:

  • Everyone is unemployed
  • No one has any income
  • Democracy no longer exists
  • No one can own anything

The paradox of communism is that it appears to involve conditions that are absolutely unacceptable to any rational person. Who in their right mind wants to give up having a job that pays a decent wage, the right to vote and control over means of production? And why would anyone who claims to fight for social emancipation stand for these sorts of things.

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Flying saucers, the process of matter and energy, science, the revolutionary and working-class struggle and the socialist future of mankind

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By Juan Posadas – June 1968

(for more on space communism, listen here)

Life can exist on other planets, in other solar systems, in other galaxies and universes.

The passage of matter from the inorganic to the organic state could take place in a different manner to how it does on Earth, such that energy could be used in a more effective manner. Here, we barely know how to make best use of the oil and, in a very limited fashion, nuclear energy that we have at hand. They, on the contrary, may be on the way to exploiting all the energy existing in matter. They can use all the energy that we still do not know how to employ on Earth, and transform it into light. It could be that matter is organised differently in other planetary systems or galaxies, in infinite combinations and in totally different forms to those that we know on Earth. We cannot imagine what it is like, but we can imagine very well that there may be an organisation of energy infinitely superior to what we have here. In the Soviet Union, they have discovered a ray infinitely faster than light, which is something totally new.

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Marx? Which Marx?

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by Anders Ramsay (2009)

In order to read Marx afresh, previous interpretations of Marx need to be corrected. In particular, that which sees money and credit as surface phenomena, based on Marx’s naturalistic understanding of value as being inherent in a commodity. This strand of Marxism overlooks the contemporary role played by credit in the reproduction of capital. 

As it becomes increasingly clear that globalised capitalism cannot generate public welfare for all, the Left is once again putting the critique of capitalism on the table. Quite unavoidably, after decades of focusing on a liberal civil rights agenda primarily characterized by special issue and identity politics, reference is being made to the works of Karl Marx, or at least to his name. The rhetorical value of invoking Marx’s critique of capitalism has not lessened, despite the way in which during the greater part of the twentieth century he was associated with a sterile and dogmatic system of thought serving state and party dictatorships. Nowadays, it is common to hear that now that that Marxism is dead and buried, we are in a position to read what Marx really said with fresh eyes, unspoiled by the distortions to which many of his assertions were subjected. Marx can now, it is said, be emancipated from the stranglehold of Marxism (read: Marxism-Leninism) and of Marxists, allowing us to read Marx as we would any other social scientist or philosopher.

The question then is how we read Marx. Some examples of works discussed in the social sciences today, where Marx’s concepts are either employed or criticised, would be Jacques Derrida’s Spectres of Marx (a book which, if nothing else, has made it legitimate again to write about Marx), Antonio Negri’s and Michael Hardt’s two books Empire and Multitude, Manuel Castells’ trilogy on the emergence of a network society, and in Sweden, the journalist Andreas Malm’s När kapitalet tar till vapen (When capital takes up arms).1

However a quick survey of these works (which have had varying degrees of influence) reveals that much remains to be said regarding the various understandings of Marx they each can be said to reflect. Expressed very simply, they are not up-to-date. Present-day research on Marx provides insight extending far beyond the prevailing understanding of him, even as expressed in these recent works. This claim is particularly true of those texts that deal explicitly with Marx’s critique of political economy (that is, Capital and related texts). Whether the authors above criticise Marx (Castells), deconstruct him (Derrida), praise him (Hardt and Negri, though this appears to have no particular implications for their own analysis), or claim to develop Marxist theory further (Malm), they nevertheless adhere, basically without exception, to a traditional interpretation of Marx. Similarly, many branches of the Left seem largely content with simply giving a wink to “Marxism” as it is generally agreed upon, without going beyond notions of a neoliberal conspiracy of financial capitalism against the welfare state (hardly Marxist ideas). It is striking the extent to which the understanding of Marx’s works, both in the mainstream of today’s critical social sciences and within Leftist debate, remains at a level far below the one found even two or three decades ago, when the reception of Marx in the academic world was becoming far stronger than it had ever been before. Clearly, something has been lost that needs to be regained.

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Politics is Nothing But the Reign of Feints and Shenanigans

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An interview with Julien Coupat and Mathieu Burnel

Le Monde | April 20, 2017.  Translated by Ill Will Editions. 

Editor’s note:   The trial of Julien Coupat and Mathieu Burnel, known as the “Tarnac affair”, has dragged-on for over eight years now. On the 10th of January, the Court of Appeals deemed that it was no longer to be classified as a terrorism case. Assumed by many to belong to the Invisible Committee—whose first opus, The Coming Insurrection (2007), was a resounding success—they here take a critical look at the presidential campaign. Their newest book, Maintenant [Now], is due to hit the shelves next week.

***

Le Monde: What do you make of the presidential campaign?

What campaign? There was no campaign. There was a soap opera, a fairly worn-out one at that, to tell the truth, full of twists and turns, scandals, dramatic tension and suspense. Much brouhaha, a tiny frenzy, but nothing that managed to pierce the wall of generalized confusion. Not that there is any lack of followers for each candidate, tossing-about with varying degrees of fanaticism in their virtual bubbles. But this fanaticism only deepens the feeling of political unreality.

A graffiti that went up in Place de la Nation during the Mayday demonstration last year stated: “There will be no presidential election”. It suffices to project ourselves ahead to the day after the final round of the election to grasp what’s prophetic in this tag: whatever happens, the new president will be as much a puppet as the current one, the legitimacy of their governance will be just as lacking, just as minoritarian and impotent. This fact isn’t solely due to the extreme withering of politics—to the fact that it has become impossible to believe honestly in all that is done and said there—but is likewise due to the fact that politics is a derisory means of confronting the depth of the current disaster.

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Identity/Class/Reaction

Contemporary Classics from Viewpoint Magazine

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Identity Crisis by Salar Mohandesi

As L.A. Kauffman has suggested, identity came to signify not only a description, but a project – a sense of self shaped by the experience of oppression, but also something to be embraced, affirmed. Echoing the psychological provenance of the term, which linked the individual to the group, it was also a communal project. As Carmichael and Hamilton explained, Black Power meant creating a “sense of peoplehood: pride, rather than shame, in blackness, and an attitude of brotherly, communal responsibility among all black people for one another.” Gradually, some activists took this line of thinking to another level. They argued that personal experiences created relatively stable identities, that everyone possessed one of these identities, and that politics should be based on the search for that identity and its subsequent naming, defense, and public expression. Whereas many 1960s radicals once had argued that exploring personal experiences could serve as the first step to discovering particular oppressions, understanding how they operated, and ultimately developing political strategies to overcoming them, some now came to insist on a direct and unmediated link between one’s identity and one’s politics. Rather than being a part of a political project, identity was now a political project in itself.

This idea that one could draw such a direct line between identity and politics would become the basis of identity politics in its contemporary form, the core around which all these other elements – guilt, lifestylism, or the homogenization of groups – came to gravitate around over the next decade. Although this kind of thinking remained marginal at first, over the 1970s and 1980s, a vicious conservative backlash, the destruction of radical movements, the migration of political critique into the universities, the proliferation of single-issue campaigns, and the restructuring of capitalist relations all worked in unexpected ways to create the historical conditions that allowed identity politics to eventually achieve a kind of hegemony on the left. But its limitations were clear from the outset. Most importantly, identity politics tended to flatten important distinctions within otherwise heterogeneous identities. It was in this context that the idea of “intersectionality” emerged. Although now regarded as synonymous with identity politics, the concept actually originated as a critique of its flaws.

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Making Waves (Part 1) by Viewpoint Magazine

Historically, social democracy has presented itself as an alternative to communism, but in reality social democratic politics were always dependent on the communist threat. Capital’s willingness to strike compromises with social democracy was always inspired by its fear that failing to do so would push the organized working class towards communism. It is no coincidence that the most progressive class compromises were made at times of communist ascendancy, as in the 1930s United States and post-war Europe, or that the decline of European Social Democracy accelerated with the decline of the internal and external communist threat. Another more well-known condition of social democracy was the post-war boom, which the prespective of the longue-durée shows was an exception in capitalist history. Today, the scope for reformism is radically diminished as redistribution runs up against low profit rates and Keynesian debt financing has to rely on deregulated and volatile global financial markets. In today’s low-growth economy, the reform programs of left-social democrats such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn of the British Labour Party (distinct as they are) would require both a will and a capacity to break radically with capitalist interests, i.e. to risk provoking processes of rupture rather than reform. In all likelihood, progressive social democratic leaders would either have to turn against the promises of social democracy, or overcome social democracy itself, by abandoning reformism.

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The Darkness at the End of the Tunnel: Artificial Intelligence and Neoreaction by Shuja Haider

If the builders of technology are transmitting their values into machinery, this makes the culture of Silicon Valley a matter of more widespread consequence. The Californian Ideology, famously identified by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron in 1995, represented a synthesis of apparent opposites: on one hand, the New Left utopianism that was handily recuperated into the Third Way liberal centrism of the 1990s, and on the other, the Ayn Randian individualism that led more or less directly to the financial crisis of the 2000s. But in the decades since, as the consumer-oriented liberalism of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs gave way to the technological authoritarianism of Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, this strange foundation paved the way for even stranger tendencies. The strangest of these is known as “neoreaction,” or, in a distorted echo of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s vision, the “Dark Enlightenment.” It emerged from the same chaotic process that yielded the anarchic political collective Anonymous, a product of the hivemind generated by the cybernetic assemblages of social media. More than a school of thought, it resembles a meme.

We Need Communism

 

QUESTION: Why do we need communism?

ANSWER: Because people need money

 

A Few Clarifications on Anti-Work

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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

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