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Tag: endnotes

The Historicity of Abstractions (Gray, 2012)


by Nick Gray (originally written for SIC Journal in 2012, but never published) PDF

The Historicity of Abstractions: Are the categories ‘use-value’, ‘concrete labour’ and ‘labour as such’ transhistorically operative? [1]

Only totalising theory can interrogate the status of abstractions sufficiently vigorously”[2]

– Richard Gunn


At stake in this enquiry are: our conception of labour[3], of revolution, and social mediation in communism.

In this essay the Marxian categories of concrete labour, use-value, and indeed the category of “labour as such” are interrogated with respect to their historicity. I first briefly state what I take to be the traditional interpretation, and then consider the question from the angle of value-form theory, which establishes the historicity of abstract labour and the form-determination of the capitalist production process. Subsequently I consider the ramifications for the status of the categories of use-value and concrete labour of a critical analysis of the process of (real) hypostatisation within capitalist relations of commodity production and exchange. This is followed by an exegesis of Marx’s 1857 Introduction with regard to the historicity of the two types of abstraction in operation there: general and determinate abstractions. I then close by counterposing two radically opposed conceptions of the post-capitalist status of labour exemplified by Chris Arthur (circa 1978) and Moishe Postone, and argue that the dissolution of capitalist social relations implies that of the categories “concrete labour”, “use-value” and “labour as such”.

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Onward Barbarians (Endnotes, 2020)


An anti-government protester returns a tear gas canister to police during clashes in Santiago, Chile, on March 6, 2020. Esteban Felix / AP

by Endnotes, Dec 2020

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At the beginning of May 2020, hunger riots erupted in Santiago, Chile. Lockdowns had deprived men and women of their incomes to the point of near starvation. A large movement of self-organized community kitchens soon spread across the country. Later in the month, riots spread through Mexico in response to the police murder of Giovanni López — a construction worker who had been arrested for not wearing a mask — while thousands of despairing migrant workers broke the curfew in India. Some Amazon warehouse workers in the US and Germany had begun to strike in protest at poor COVID-19 safety protocols. (1) Yet these stirrings of workers’ struggle in the world’s largest retailer were quickly drowned out, at the end of May, by a mass movement of unprecedented size that swept across the US in revulsion at the live-streamed police murder of George Floyd. Largely initiated by black residents of Minneapolis, the uprising was quickly joined by Americans from every place, race and class. In the first riots and demos one could even spot a few supportive militiamen in a Querfront worthy of the age of QAnon. (2)

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Three Agricultural Revolutions (Clegg & Lucas, 2020)


By J. Clegg and R. Lucas (Endnotes) SAQ (2020)


There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry anymore.  

— Adorno, Minima Moralia

Critique of Revolutionary Reason

It’s safe to say that there is today no particularly obvious consensus about what the overcoming of capitalism might look like. Surveying the field of imagined scenarios, we find everything from neo-social-democratic bids to gradually legislate capitalism away, to apocalyptic visions of social breakdown marked by the spontaneous redistribution of goods. Nor is there a simple, uncontentious definition of communism. It could in principle be anything from some classical Sparta’s helot-exploiting collectivism, to a recapitulation of hunter-gatherer lifestyles; from the perfected bureaucratic state, to federated worker’s councils; from Stanford Beer’s cybernetic visions, to a return to pastoral commons. Marx, of course, was famously reticent about giving the term any positive content, displacing its meaning instead onto the historical unfolding of the movement of the same name. He claimed to prefer “critical analysis of actual facts” to “writing recipes for the cookshops of the future” (Marx 1976: 99). And Marxists of various stripes have often appealed to that precedent in one way or another to justify a focus not on the speculative future, but on the “real” present. In Endnotes’s broadly “ultra-left” milieu, a passage from Marx’s German Ideology often functions as a kind of mantra: “communism is for us not a state of a airs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (Marx 1970: 56). READ PDF

Endnotes 5: The Passions and the Interests



We Unhappy Few


Contours of the World Commune

Revolutionary Motives

To Abolish the Family

The Passion of Communism

Life Against Nature

Notes from the Chemo Room

The Bleak Left: On Endnotes

LA Theses (endnotes)


“in this society unity appears as accidental, separation as normal.”
—Marx, Theories of Surplus Value

  1. We live in an era of long-unfolding social crisis, which is fundamentally the crisis of societies organized in a capitalist mode. Indeed, the employment relations that govern production and consumption in capitalist societies are breaking down. The result has been the reappearance of a structural condition that Marx called surplus capital alongside surplus population. Technological transformations continue to take place in spite of economic stagnation, giving rise to a situation in which there are too few jobs for too many people. Meanwhile, huge pools of money scour the earth for profits, leading to periodic expansions of bubbles that burst in massive blowouts. Rising job insecurity and inequality are symptoms of the increasing impossibility of this world as such.
  2. In the present moment, these contradictions, formerly contained within capitalist societies, are set to explode. The 2008 crisis was one manifestation of this. It gave rise to a global wave of struggles that is still unfolding today. In order to gain some control over a simmering crisis, states organized coordinated bailouts of financial and other firms. State debt rose to levels not seen since World War II. Bailouts of capitalists thus had to be accompanied by punishing austerity for workers, as states sought to manage their balance sheets while also recreating the conditions for accumulation. Yet these state actions have been only partially successful. Rich economies continue to grow ever more slowly even as they take on huge quantities of debt at every level. Poor economies are also faltering. We call this global situation the holding pattern and assert that further economic turbulence is likely to issue in a capitalist crash landing.
  3. Workers fought defensive battles in the twentieth century as they still do today. But then, their defensive battles were part of an offensive struggle: workers sought to organize themselves into a labor movement, which was growing ever more powerful. This movement would sooner or later expropriate the expropriators in order to begin to build a society organized according to the needs and wants of workers themselves.
  4. However, the post-1970s crisis of capitalism, which for many should have spelled its end, led to a deep crisis of the labor movement itself. Its project is no longer adequate to the conditions workers face. Most fundamentally, this is because of the decline of the centrality of industrial work in the economy. With the onset of deindustrialization and the decline in the manufacturing share of employment (which was itself one of the fundamental causes of the expansion of surplus populations), the industrial worker could no longer be seen as the leading edge of the class. In addition, due to rising levels of greenhouse gases, it is apparent that the vast industrial apparatus is not only creating the conditions of a better future – it is also destroying them. Most fundamentally of all, work itself is no longer experienced as central to most people’s identities. For most people (although not everyone), it no longer seems as if work could be fulfilling if only it was managed collectively by workers rather than by bosses.
  5. At the same time, the decline of the workers’ identity revealed a multiplicity of other identities, organizing themselves in relation to struggles that had, until then, been more or less repressed. The resulting “new social movements” made it clear, in retrospect, to what extent the homogeneous working class was actually diverse in character. They have also established that revolution must involve more than the reorganization of the economy: it requires the abolition of gender, racial and national distinctions, and so on. But in the welter of emergent identities, each with their own sectional interests, it is unclear what exactly this revolution must be. For us, the surplus population is not a new revolutionary subject. Rather, it denotes a structural situation in which no fraction of the class can present itself as the revolutionary subject.
  6. Under these conditions, the unification of the proletariat is no longer possible. This might seem to be a pessimistic conclusion, but it has a converse implication that is more optimistic: today the problem of unification is a revolutionary problem. At the high points of contemporary movements, in occupied squares and factories, in strikes, riots and popular assemblies, proletarians discover not their power as the real producers of this society, but rather their separation along a multiplicity of identity-lines (employment status, gender, race, etc.). These are marked out and knitted together by the disintegrating integration of states and labor markets. We describe this problem as the composition problem: diverse proletarian fractions must unify but do not find a unity ready-made within the terms of this unraveling society.
  7. This is why we think it is so important to study the unfolding of struggles in detail. It is only in those struggles that the revolutionary horizon of the present is delineated. In the course of their struggles, proletarians periodically improvise solutions to the composition problem. They name a fictive unity, beyond the terms of capitalist society (most recently: the black bloc, real democracy, 99%, the movement for black lives, etc.), as a means of fighting against that society. While each of these improvised unities inevitably breaks down, their cumulative failures map out the separations that would have to be overcome by a communist movement in the chaotic uproar of a revolution against capital.
  8. This is what we mean when we say that class consciousness, today, can only be consciousness of capital. In the fight for their lives, proletarians must destroy that which separates them. In capitalism, that which separates them is also what unites them: the market is both their atomization and their interdependence. It is the consciousness of capital as our unity-in-separation that allows us to posit from within existing conditions – even if only as a photographic negative – humanity’s capacity for communism.

Endnotes, Los Angeles, December 2015

Rèpublique Absurd


Rècit of the Spring 2016 French Uprising  by Asja Crise

The following account, necessarily incomplete and perhaps also imprecise in places, will attempt to describe the recent struggles in France as they developed over the course of four months, from late February to the middle of June. It is based both on translations of material at the time and first-hand experiences. These struggles understood themselves as challenging not only the “labor law [loi du travail]” handed down by the Socialist government of Manuel Valls and François Hollande, but also—as one key slogan had it—“against its world,” that is, the conditions that have made it possible but that are also left wide open in the slogan. Is this world the capitalist one? The “neoliberal” one? That of E.U.-imposed austerity? Or just that of a routinely treacherous Socialist government? And then there is the more radical, let’s say constructive, slogan that circulated among younger demonstrators, borrowed from the title of the Parisian hip-hop group PNL’s hit the previous summer: le monde ou rien, the world or nothing. While I will proceed more or less chronologically, there are a couple of points to make here at the beginning. I choose to start with a short account of the November 13th attacks aftermath and the context of the state of emergency, leading up to the beginning of mobilizations in late February and March, spearheaded by highschoolers. This account moreover will focus on the Paris metropolitan area, where I was living, with minimal reference to other cities.

Accounts of the different phases of the struggle typically break down like this, as the movement mutates from month to month: March is the month of high school mobilization (picking up from last year’s movement against a different version of the law, this one proposed by Emmanuel Macron, the Economics minister), while April saw the occupation of République by the so-called Nuit Debout movement and May was the month of strikes and blockades, as the key French labor union, the CGT—traditionally aligned with the French Communist Party—found itself forced to enter the fray, in part from pressure from its own restive rank-and-file. Throughout this sequence, we encounter the notorious casseur (“wrecker”) who is an entirely ambiguous figure within the movement (that’s the point). The hooded proletarian—high school student? radicalized union rank-and-file? youth from the suburban housing projects, eager to fight the police? “anarchist” or “autonomist” militants?—is targeted and denounced by all the respectable actors of the movement, from Socialist ministers to the CGT leadership, and even by voices on the “revolutionary” Left. At the same time, the figure operates as a unifying point of identification for the movement itself: “we are all casseurs” was a chant often heard in demonstrations, in particular during pitched battles with police.  . . [read more]

Endnotes 4, 3, 2, 1


  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.


    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








    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.



    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.


    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.



    Past, present and future of the Endnotes project.


    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.


    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.


    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.



    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.



    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.


    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.



    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.


    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.


    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?


    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.


    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.


    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.


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



    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.



    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.



    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.



    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.



    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.



    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.


    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.


by Il Lato Cattivo

[We publish below a translation of “‘Questione curda’, Stato Islamico, USA e dintorni” by the Italian collective Il Lato Cattivo. Though there are limitations to the text (for example it largely ignores the Arab Spring) we think it provides an insightful analysis of recent geopolitical conflict in the Middle East. Thanks to Nicole, Marco, Matthew, and the authors for help with the translation.]


The following text was originally prepared for a public meeting — held in Bologna at the beginning of September 2014 — with Daniele Pepino, author of Kurdistan. In the Eye of the Cyclone (in “Nunatak” no. 35, summer 2014). Unable to attend the meeting, we subsequently altered the initial draft; what results can be read either as a series of marginal notes on that article, or as a stand-alone text.

Kurdistan. In the Eye of the Cyclone has the merit of presenting a clear picture of the political forces that act in the Kurdish region; but the article gives rise to a series of questions that we would like to pick up. Beyond a simple valorisation of the intervention of the PKK militias in support of the Yazidi, threatened by the Islamic State (IS), in northern Iraq, the author mobilizes a veritable apologia for this organization and its alleged “libertarian” turn (the so-called democratic confederalism). Moreover, the absence of a description of the social and class forces of which the various organizations are an expression, presents their work as the product of simple subjective choices made by indeterminate individuals. Finally, a number of issues, from the financing of the PKK to the framework of alliances that goes into defining the Middle East, are too perfunctorily dealt with. Of course, one would need to write several books in order to comprehensively address all these points; the following notes are accordingly not any less sketchy. But we can in this way examine in a different light both the recent evolution of the “Kurdish question”, as well as the conflicts that are going on once again in the Middle East. If this can be of any use for us, or for others, it lies in the fact of not posing the question of autonomy (whatever that means), but that of communism.



Source: The Economist

The emergence of a specific “Kurdish question”, beginning at the end of the First World War, is inscribed in the chaotic process of the formation of nation-states in the Near and Middle East. Everywhere, the formation of a modern nation-state requires that the borders of an administrative state match those of a single national population. Multinational states are generally problematic or exceptional situations. The nation-state, i.e. the state of capital, is mono-national, because the relationship between the individual and the state cannot tolerate loyalty to intermediate communities—state and nation must coincide. This process is nothing “natural”, it is a process of homogenization that includes every kind of bricolage, and can avail itself of forms of soft assimilation as well as the most brutal ethnic cleansing. If it is true that for Western Europe the population puzzle has been a less important obstacle than in the Balkans or the Middle East, the reason lies not so much in the greater or lesser complexity or insolubility of the puzzle itself, but in the fact that, in Western Europe the formation of nation-states was realized with the momentum of an endogenous capitalist development, made possible by a precise sequence of previous modes of production, while in the Balkans and the Middle East it followed from a development of capitalism that originated elsewhere, and the inter-capitalist rivalries that emerged as a result.  The fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire, or rather its division between the victorious war powers Britain and France, led to the foundation on the one hand of Iraq and Syria under the respective mandates, and on the other that of Turkey, with the rise of the nationalist movement of Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). The latter found himself immediately confronted with the multinational character of the future Turkish state (Turks, Kurds and Greeks of Anatolia), although  the situation had already been “simplified” by the extermination of the Armenians in 1915–16 at the hands of the “Young Turks” (1.2 million deaths). As for the Kurds, the Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) had sanctioned the possibility of creating a small independent Kurdistan, provided that this corresponded to the collective will of the Kurdish people and that an Armenian state was also built from some provinces of eastern Anatolia. These conditions were rejected by tribal leaders and sheikhs (landowners), because the territory of the proposed Kurdish state was small relative to the region actually occupied by the Kurdish population, a territory that would have been further reduced by the emergence of an Armenian state. An embryonic Kurdish nationalism then tried to join the Kemalists whose response after consolidating their own position was to crush Kurdish dissent along with the Marxist element at Koçgiri (1921), before imposing through the treaty of Lausanne (1923) a revision of the Sèvres agreements of three years earlier, finally fixing today’s Turkish borders and in doing so leaving Southern Kurdistan to the British Mandate.

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Einleitung zu den drei Bänden zur Kommunisierung

image image image



Die Kommunisierung beschreibt eine kommunistische Revolution ohne Übergangsphase, eine Revolution nicht „für den Kommunismus, sondern durch den Kommunismus“ [1]. Durch die Ergreifung kommunistischer Massnahmen wird gleichzeitig der kapitalistische Feind geschwächt und die post-revolutionäre Welt skizziert. Aufgekommen ist der Begriff in den intensiven theoretischen Debatten in den linkskommunistischen Milieus Frankreichs nach dem Mai 1968. Der Begriff wird in der Regel Gilles Dauvé zugeschrieben, der ihn als erster in der Zeitschrift Le Mouvement Communiste gebraucht haben soll [2].

In Zusammenarbeit mit anderen Linkskommunisten wie François Martin und Karl Nesic versuchte Dauvé, verschiedene linkskommunistische Strömungen zusammenzubringen, zu kritisieren und weiterzuentwickeln, z.B. die italienische Bewegung, die mit Amadeo Bordiga in Verbindung gebracht wurde, die Zeitschrift Invariance von Jacques Camatte, den deutsch-holländischen Rätekommunismus und französische Strömungen wie Socialisme ou Barbarie und die Situationistische Internationale.

Diese theoretischen Entwicklungen hängen stark mit der erstmaligen Übersetzung zentraler Marxscher Texte zusammen. Die Grundrisse der politischen Ökonomie erschienen zum ersten Mal 1967-1968 auf Französisch und hatten einen beträchtlichen Einfluss auf die Debatten im linkskommunistischen Milieu Frankreichs. Auch der Entwurf des Kapitels 6 des Kapitals, Resultate des unmittelbaren Produktionsprozesses, erschien 1968 zum ersten Mal auf Französisch in der Gesamtausgabe der Pléiade, herausgegeben von Maximilien Rubel und Louis Janover. Neben dem Milieu um Gilles Dauvé ist die Zeitschrift Théorie communiste eine weitere theoretische Quelle der Kommunisierung. Die Gruppe konstituierte sich 1975 und die erste Nummer von Théorie communiste erschien 1977. Einige Mitglieder gaben 1972 und 1973 die Zeitschrift Intervention communiste heraus und waren zuvor an der Zeitschrift Cahiers du Communisme de Conseil beteiligt. Diese war verbunden mit der Information Correspondance Ouvrières, aus welcher nach 1973 Échanges et mouvement entstand.

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Berlin,  Internationale Frauentag

What then is gender? For us, it is the anchoring of a certain group of individuals in a specific sphere of social activities. The result of this anchoring process is at the same time the continuous reproduction of two separate genders.

These genders concretise themselves as an ensemble of ideal characteristics, defining either the “masculine” or the “feminine”. However, these characteristics themselves, as a list of behavioural and psychological qualities, are subject to transformation over the course of the history of capitalism; they pertain to specific periods; they correspond to certain parts of the world; and even within what we might call the “West” they are not necessarily ascribed in the same way to all people. As a binary however, they exist in relation to one another, regardless of time and space, even if their mode of appearance is itself always in flux.

Sex is the flip side of gender. Following Judith Butler, we criticise the gender/sex binary as found in feminist literature before the 1990s. Butler demonstrates, correctly, that both sex and gender are socially constituted and furthermore, that it is the “socializing” or pairing of “gender” with culture, that has relegated sex to the “natural” pole of the binary nature/culture. We argue similarly that they are binary social categories which simultaneously de-naturalise gender while naturalising sex. For us, sex is the naturalisation of gender’s dual projection upon bodies, aggregating biological differences into discrete naturalised semblances.

While Butler came to this conclusion through a critique of the existentialist ontology of the body,22 we came to it through an analogy with another social form. Value, like gender, necessitates its other, “natural” pole (i.e. its concrete manifestation). Indeed, the dual relation between sex and gender as two sides of the same coin is analogous to the dual aspects of the commodity and the fetishism therein. As we explained above, every commodity, including labour-power, is both a use-value and an exchange-value. The relation between commodities is a social relation between things and a material relation between people.

Following this analogy, sex is the material body, which, as use-value to (exchange) value, attaches itself to gender. The gender fetish is a social relation which acts upon these bodies so that it appears as a natural characteristic of the bodies themselves. While gender is the abstraction of sexual difference from all of its concrete characteristics, that abstraction transforms and determines the body to which it is attached — just as the real abstraction of value transforms the material body of the commodity. Gender and sex combined give those inscribed within them a natural semblance (“with a phantomlike objectivity”), as if the social content of gender was “written upon the skin” of the concrete individuals.

The transhistoricisation of sex is homologous to a foreshortened critique of capital, which contends that use-value is transhistorical rather than historically specific to capitalism. Here, use-value is thought to be that which positively remains after revolution, which is seen as freeing use-value from the integument of exchange-value. In terms of our analogy with sex and gender, we would go one step further and say that both gender and sex are historically determined. Both are entirely social and can only be abolished together — just as exchange-value and use-value will both have to be abolished in the process of communisation. In this light, our feminist value-theoretical analysis mirrors Butler’s critique in so far as we both view the sex/gender binary as being socially-determined and produced through social conditions specific to modernity.

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An Abstracty Critique of Endnotes


(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


from The North Star

Endnotes: A Romantic Critique?


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


(übersetz von

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.