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Tag: fascism

Theses Against Occultism (Adorno, 1947)

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by Theodor Adorno, from Minima Moralia

I. The tendency to occultism is a symptom of regression in consciousness. This has lost the power to think the unconditional and to endure the conditional. Instead of defining both, in their unity and difference, by conceptual labour, it mixes them indiscriminately. The unconditional becomes fact, the conditional an immediate essence. Monotheism is decomposing into a second mythology. “I believe in astrology because I do not believe in God”, one participant in an American socio-psychological investigation answered. Judicious reason, that had elevated itself to the notion of one God, seems ensnared in his fall. Spirit is dissociated into spirits and thereby forfeits the power to recognize that they do not exist. The veiled tendency of society towards disaster lulls its victims in a false revelation, with a hallucinated phenomenon. In vain they hope in its fragmented blatancy to look their total doom in the eye and withstand it. Panic breaks once again, after millennia of enlightenment, over a humanity whose control of nature as control of men far exceeds in horror anything men ever had to fear from nature.

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Obsessions of Berlin (Mattick, 1948)

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by Paul Mattick, Partisan Review, Vol.15 No.10, October 1948, pp.1108-1124. [PDF]

As against the terror of the bombs, the actual conquest of Berlin was of lesser significance to its inhabitants. Nevertheless, the artillery tore new holes into the ruins, shot away parts of the surviving buildings, killed many people running for food and water. The spray of machine guns is visible almost on every house, every floor, every apartment door. The tanks ground down the streets and sidewalks. The battle was fought section by section, street by street, house by house. It is said that sixty thousand Russians died in the struggle for Berlin. The estimate may be incorrect, but it reveals the ferocity of the struggle. There are no guesses on the German losses. They lost everything – particularly, however, their illusions about the Russians.

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A Capitalism Pure and Simple / Counter-Revolution Against a Counter-Revolution (Tamás, 2004/2007)

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by Gáspár Miklós Tamás (interview / words from budapest / truth about class)

A Capitalism Pure and Simple  (2004) PDF

The symbolic and historic importance of Eastern Europe for the left is beyond dispute. It was, after all, in Eastern Europe where the socialist experiment has been allegedly attempted. The fall of the East Bloc régimes in 1989 has meant for most people that there is nothing over the horizon of global capitalism. Although it is by no means certain that what failed was socialism, institutions, organizations, currents of the Western left collapsed, as if what they represented would have been identical with the dismal heap of ruins which was the empire of Stalin’s diadochoi. However inglorious, drab, scary and tedious that empire was,  today’s  inmates believe that  it was  far superior in all respects to the new dispensation. Socialists appear to be disavowed by the general belief that capitalism is all there is, and democrats seem to be told that, compared to this new liberal democracy, dictatorship was a picnic.

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Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience (Biehl & Staudenmaier, 1995)

By Janet Biehl & Peter Staudenmaier (1995)

AK Press / PDF

The reappearance of fascism in many western countries threatens all the freedoms the left movements have managed to gain over the last half century. Equally disconcerting is the attempt by fascist ideologists and political groups to use ecology in the service of social reaction. This effort is not without long historical roots in Germany, both in its nineteenth-century romanticism and in the Third Reich in the present century. In order to preserve the liberatory aspects of ecology, the authors, as social ecologists, explore the German experience of fascism and derive from it historical lessons about the political use of ecology. Comprised of two essays—”Fascist Ideology: The Green Wing of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents” and “Ecology and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-Right,”—Ecofascism examines aspects of German fascism, past and present, in order to draw essential lessons from them for ecology movements both in Germany and elsewhere.

Table of Contents:

Introduction

Fascist Ecology: The “Green Wing” of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents
by Peter Staudenmaier

The Roots of the Blood and Soil Mystique
The Youth Movement and the Weimar Era
Nature in National Socialist Ideology
Blood and Soil as Official Doctrine
Implementing the Ecofascist Program
Fascist Ecology in Context

Ecology’ and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-right
by Janet Biehl

Neofascist ‘Ecology’
National Revolutionaries
The Freedom German Workers Party
The Republicans
The National Democratic Party
The German People’s Union
Anthroposophy and the World League for the Protection of Life
Rudolf Bahro: Völkisch Spirituality
Liberating the ‘Brown Parts’
Social Darwinist ‘Ecology’: Herbert Gruhl
A Social Ecology of Freedom

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The council communists between the New Deal and fascism (Bonacchi, 1976)

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A history by Gabriella M. Bonacchi of council communist efforts in the US in the 1930s. Published in Telos #30, Winter 1976

In recent years growing interest in the problems of the 1930s has brought to light aspects of the labor movement that had been relegated to oblivion by traditional historiography. This is especially true for the council communists who in an America upset by the Great Depression sought to renew a political project that had been crushed in Europe. While there have already been numerous studies of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the harsh and violent context of American factories prior to WW II, there has not yet been any thorough investigation of the convergence of the remnants of the IWW and the council communists.

Generally speaking the progressive loss of influence of those defined as “the most dangerous subversives ever raised on sacred American soil” over the American proletariat after WW I, goes back to the incongruence of their strategic “lack of organisation” with the changes imposed on American capital and labor by the real winners of the war: the key auto, steel and rubber industries.

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What is Trump?

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Dylan Riley

New Left Review 114, Nov-Dec 2018

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Debates around the politics of Trump and other new-right leaders have led to an explosion of historical analogizing, with the experience of the 1930s looming large. According to much of this commentary, Trump—not to mention Orbán, Kaczynski, Modi, Duterte, Erdoğan—is an authoritarian figure justifiably compared to those of the fascist era. The proponents of this view span the political spectrum, from neoconservative right and liberal mainstream to anarchist insurrectionary. The typical rhetorical device they deploy is to advance and protect the identification of Trump with fascism by way of nominal disclaimers of it. Thus for Timothy Snyder, a Cold War liberal, ‘There are differences’—yet: ‘Trump has made his debt to fascism clear from the beginning. From his initial linkage of immigrants to sexual violence to his continued identification of journalists as “enemies” . . . he has given us every clue we need.’ For Snyder’s Yale colleague, Jason Stanley, ‘I’m not arguing that Trump is a fascist leader, in the sense that he’s ruling as a fascist’—but: ‘as far as his rhetorical strategy goes, it’s very fascist.’ For their fellow liberal Richard Evans, at Cambridge: ‘It’s not the same’—however: ‘Trump is a 21st-century would-be dictator who uses the unprecedented power of social media and the Internet to spread conspiracy theories’—‘worryingly reminiscent of the fascists of the 1920s and 1930s.’¹

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Bolsonaro’s Brazil

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by Perry Anderson (Feb 2019)

I: Lula/Dilma

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

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

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Authority and the Family (Horkheimer, 1936)

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by Max Horkheimer (1936) PDF

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

source: Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory: Selected Essays, Continuum: New York, 1975

Meditations on a Corpse

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new left review 111

INTRODUCTION TO SIMONE WEIL

Of the three most remarkable women thinkers born in the last century, Simone Weil (1909–43) was a year younger than Simone de Beauvoir, herself a little over a year younger than Hannah Arendt. From a secularized Jewish family in Paris, she declared herself a Bolshevik at the age of ten, and proved a brilliant student, first at the elite lyćee Henri IV and then at the École normale supérieure. There after listening to a homily on patriotism by the sociologist Célestin Bouglé—a fellow spirit of Durkheim, toast of today’s ‘social liberals’ in France—she got up and read out a speech of Poincaré in 1912, who took the country into the First World War two years later, advocating an invasion of Belgium. Bouglé, dumbfounded at this exposure of Entente hypocrisies, could think of no better answer than to announce it was 12 noon and time for lunch, a response that immediately became a legend in the school. When she passed her agrégation in philosophy in 1931, Bouglé made certain that the ‘Red Virgin’, as he called her, was not allowed to teach in an industrial town as she had requested. She was dispatched instead to Le Puy, a rural backwater. There, nevertheless, she was soon active in solidarity work with the local trade unions and writing in La Révolution prolétarienne, a libertarian journal of the left edited by militants expelled from the Communist Party.

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Antifa, a documentary

 

Since the election of Donald Trump, acts of racist violence have proliferated across the United States. Racists and misogynists feel emboldened to express and act on their views. White nationalist groups and resurgent traditional white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have used Trumps victory to gain new recruits. All that stands in their way are the groups of anarchists and anti-state communists who have taken it upon themselves to prevent fascism from becoming a powerful political force in the United States. This film tells the story of what “Antifa” is and why people are using these tactics to confront racism and fascism in the US today.

Who are the anti-fascists? What motivates them to risk their lives to fight the far right? What is the history of militant anti-fascism and why is it relevant again today? How is anti-fascism connected to a larger political vision that can stop the rise of fascism and offer us visions of a future worth fighting for? Through interviews with anti-fascist organizers, historians, and political theorists in the US and Germany, we explore the broader meaning of this political moment while taking the viewer to the scene of street battles from Washington to Berkeley and Charlottesville.

by Global Uprisings

Reading Adorno’s Fascist Propaganda Essay in the Age of Trump

 

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Writing shortly after the end of World War Two, just as the enormity of what had transpired begun to set in, Theodor Adorno turned to the writings of Freud to help account for the convulsive power of the fascist spell. Drawing on Freud’s studies in the psychology of masses, he was able to render an account of the psychological conditions for the rise of a charismatic leader, as well as the arsenal of gestures used by the leader to bewitch and to mobilize.

In an era marked by the rise of a paradoxically international right-wing populism, and in the midst of ethno-nationalist tumult in the United States, this roundtable reflects on the legacy and contemporary utility of Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda.

Might Freud and other psychoanalytic theorists still have something to offer to social and political philosophy today? How can Adorno’s analysis of Fascism in the 1930s and 1940s inform our analyses of contemporary right-wing movements? These are the questions discussed by this roundtable, featuring J. M. Bernstein, Chiara Bottici, Vladimir Safatle, and Jamieson Webster.

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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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International Council Correspondence / Living Marxism / New Essays, 1934-1943

International Council Correspondence Volume 3, Number 9-10 (October 1937)


(source)

Introduction

Brought together here are references to all the publications by the International Council Correspondence-group in Chicago, Illinois, USA, originally named “United Workers’ Party”; the party-name was dropped early 1936. The periodical was published in ever bigger volumes with ever longer articles but appearing ever less frequent, discontinued in 1943.

The whole series of periodicals: International Council Correspondence; Living Marxism (International Council Correspondence); and New Essays, but without the pamphlets, was reprinted in 1970 in five volumes: in photographic reproduction of reduced size without transcription, edition, annotation or source, by the in 2015 still existing Greenwood Reprint Corporation , Westport, Connecticut, under the general title “New Essays”; with a short introduction in the first volume by Paul Mattick sr. (see below).


The first volume can also be found as pdf at: libcom.org , in a much smaller file of lower resolution and without optical character recognition. For complete scans in a better resolution but also without (searchable) optical character recognition, also see libcom.org , posted by Stephen, 13 May 2014; in September 2015 we were unaware of the existence of this publication as proper references to the whole series and tables of content were missing; since, we have given permission to libcom.org  to reproduce the scans made by us.

An anonymous incomplete table of contents, apparently originally compiled by Bjarne Avlund Frandsen (a source is not given), and amended, with links to html-versions of some of the texts, can be found at marxists.org . One might doubt the attribution of some articles to Paul Mattick; sources are not given.

Another one, with some texts and some French translations attached (1) at: La Bataille socialiste  (libertarian marxist blog).


Among the original group in Chicago: Paul Mattick, Rudolf (Rüdiger) Raube, Carl Berreitter, Al Givens, Kristen Svanum, Allen Garman (edited Paul Mattick’s essays), Frieda Mattick; later joined by: Karl Korsch, Walter Auerbach (author and co-author with Paul Mattick), Fritz Henssler (negociated possible mergers with other journals), and the New York group: Walter Boelke, Wendeling Thomas, Hans Schaper, Emmy Tetschner, Mary MacCollum. Living Marxism in Chicago in the late 1930’s: Jake Faber, Emil White, Sam Moss, Dinsmore Wheeler (edited Paul Mattick’s essays), Fairfield Porter (financial contributor), Ilse Mattick (2). A regular outside collaborator was Anton Pannekoek. Finally there was Jos. Wagner. For a somewhat “sociological” yet informative introduction to this group, see: The Council Communists between the New Deal and Fascism / Gabriella M. Bonacchi (1976).

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Needless Necessity: Sameness and Dynamic in Capitalist Society

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Marcel Stoetzler, Bangor University, UK (via Fast Capitalism)

In capitalist modernity, all that is fluid is frozen fast, and vice versa. Everything is at the same time solid and not. We need to do something. One must always produce.[1] But then, one must always produce the same. Production is always reproduction, no more, no less, albeit on an extended scale. Capitalist society is a treadmill:[2] “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that,” as the Red Queen asserted.[3] Society (re-)produces itself, using humans as its principal agents, as ever new and ever the same. Humans (re-)produce society as ever the same by making a fresh start every morning when the alarm bell tolls: a new morning promises gold – the matter of eternity – every single day anew. My consciousness is split on this matter: it tells me, on the one hand, that I have places to go (hooray!), I have some inner growing to do, but at the same time, I am proudly identical to myself (disregarding some metabolism-related corporeal change that one tries to keep separate from one’s sense of selfhood). I who took out the student loan yesterday will have to pay up tomorrow, although the intervening time – not least ‘the student experience’, as they say – will have made me a whole new person (with places to go, hooray!). Growing up, experience – going-beyond-and-through: ex-per-ire – or not, contracts are to be fulfilled. This is a rule society will enforce.

This article explores the dialectic of a twofold compulsion characteristic of modern bourgeois society: on the one hand the dynamism grounded in the compulsion to expand production, to never stand still, relax and enjoy, always to increase the labors of self-preservation, on the other hand the static, sameness and identity that are produced by the ‘real-abstracting’ processes equally central to the capitalist mode of production, the locking down of humans in their identities, including those of sex and race. The article examines these matters through the prism of Adorno’s late essay on the concepts of ‘static and dynamic’ that is taken as a vantage point for a reading of ‘The concept of enlightenment’ in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. The last part of the essay argues that capitalist society’s needless necessities impose themselves on society through abstracting practices in everyday life but also produce an equally contradictory set of social movements that have now opened up a fragile prospect for the revolutionary overcoming of capitalist society. The key point of the argument is that Horkheimer and Adorno’s unique emphasis on the critique of ‘the economic’ beyond that of ‘the economy’ is crucial to this radical perspective.

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On the possibility that the revolution that will end capitalism might fail to usher in communism

hirstnailMarcel Stoetzler (2012)

Journal of Classical Sociology 12:2, pp. 191-204

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The optimism of the left repeats the insidious bourgeois superstition that one should not talk of the devil but look on the bright side.

(Adorno, 1978: 114)1

1

In this paper I will try to get to grips with my partial reservations about John Holloway’s conception of revolution in Change the World without Taking Power and Crack Capitalism, which concern two problems. First, the interstitial revolution will not necessarily end capitalism, as capitalism will not simply die from the fact that communism peacefully, cunningly, like a cancer, grows and grows and grows in capitalism’s interstices: I suggest that capitalism will die because of the decay of capitalism, not the growth of communism, and that these two processes are neither the same nor related in any linear manner. Second, there are anti-capitalist screams and cracks that are not at all, and cannot even potentially become, communist: there are reactionary, anti-emancipatory forms of anti-capitalism, and as these were decisive factors in the catastrophic history of the twentieth century, their theoretical reflection needs to be more than a critical afterthought; it needs to be central. One way of putting this would be that, like many other variants of autonomist and left-wing Marxism, Holloway’s theory suffers from a lack of a theory of fascism. In spite of these reservations, though, his conception is of great importance, and my way of trying to deal with my own reservations will probably make clear enough why I think it is.2

2

Capital is the name we give to the totalizing structure of contemporary human society. On the one hand, this structure is out there, facing us, opposed, sitting there, ob-jective, bad, dangerous, but, on the other hand, it is also nothing more than our subjectivity, our acting or agency, the agency of all humans who are part of the capitalist civilization-world, the specific societal relation constituted by and emerging out of the interactions of all human agents at any one time, the world that humanity creates every single moment following the example set by God according to the theology of Eriugena as referenced by Holloway (2010: 169).3

Crisis is likewise objective, an objective aspect of the real–abstract dynamic of that structure called capital, and, likewise, it is also true that we are the crisis, just as we are capital. Our subjectivity and agency are constitutive of the objective existence of capital as much as of the crisis and of the negation of capital.4

Negation is an unruly category, and its unruliness is the focus of this paper. In particular, the issue here is that revolution-as-the-negation-of-capital is not in itself, not necessarily, the same as communism-as-the-negation-of-capital (that is, revolution as communism): the revolutionary bringing down of capital opens up but the possibility of communism, and this possibility’s chance of success depends in important ways on how the bringing-down occurs. How is decisive.

3

Revolution-as-the-negation-of-capital is mostly done by us-as-capital: that is, by capital in a process of self-negation of capital, a self-negation in which capital, which is in this sense the subject or agent of its own negation, makes use of us-as-the-constitutive-basis-of-capital.5 Communism-as-the-negation-of-capital, by contrast, is exclusively done by us-as-not-capital, which is, to use Adorno’s phrase, our non-identity, our identity against all identifications, in particular against all identifications imposed by the totalizing societal structure called capital (Adorno, 1975: 164) – a force otherwise known as communism-as-the-real-or-actual-movement, the ‘wirkliche Bewegung’ (Marx, 1969: 35): the movement of subjects that refuse being identified, classified, subjected.6

These two negations and these two ‘we’s – or, perhaps better, these two dimensions of ‘we’: the-(self-)negation-of-capital-as-revolution and the-negation-of-capital-as-communism; and we-as-capital and we-as-not-capital – are different though related. (We are all capital/labour as well as not capital/labour, although some are perhaps more the one, some more the other.) This conceptual distinction (although to be understood as merely a dialectical distinction, a contradiction within a unity) allows us to make a further distinction, namely that we-as-those-who-drive-capital-into-crisis (and, at some point, will bring it down, that is, we as the in this respect ultimately revolutionary agents; we-the-wreckers) are not thereby necessarily communists (in the sense of we as determinately not capital); we simply play our part as labour, which is the complementary opposite as much as the constitutive basis of capital, and we do our best to play a tough game with-and-against capital because we need to survive. No less, no more: by way of constituting capital, we also constitute its intrinsic, in-built, inevitable self-negation, but not, in and of itself, communism. Not communism, but only the possibility of communism follows from the inherent contradictions of the capital relation. Although capital’s self-negating dynamic produces the elements and conditions of communism, communism is more than just the self-negation of capital. Communism emerges from capitalism only as a potentiality; it is born out of freedom, if it is born at all, not out of necessity. Freedom is what communism essentially is. In other words, the abolition of capitalism will create a chance which humanity has the freedom to spoil or to use. Only because we can spoil it we can also make communism: if it were a guaranteed outcome, it would be freedom arrived at by ways of unfreedom; guaranteed, necessary freedom, though, is implausible.7

4

The conceptual construction proposed here makes possible two things (and was formulated precisely in order to deal with two problems perceived while reading Holloway’s two recent books). First, the distinction allows us to appreciate as revolutionary the kind of social practices that Holloway chose to refer to as ‘screams’, or practices that produce or reinforce ‘cracks’ in the social totality of capitalist society: they are revolutionary in the sense of helping to create or anticipate communism, although they are not revolutionary in the sense of being likely to help bring down capitalism. To use examples given by Holloway, such practices include dying one’s hair green, guerrilla gardening, being a girl reading a book in a park; more generally, all things queer and beautiful. Second, the proposed distinction makes it possible to articulate the critique and rejection of reactionary opposition to (aspects of) capitalism on two levels, namely responding, first, to the question, ‘Is this particular practice bad for capitalism?’, and responding, second, to the question, ‘Is this particular practice good for communism?’ On a pragmatic note, it could be added that a particular practice could be examined with respect to the question whether, if it is bad for capitalism (which is good), it is at least not bad for communism, too.8

This allows us to argue that:

• we should be most enthusiastic about actions and practices that are bad for capitalism, but good for communism;

• we should be reasonably enthusiastic about actions and practices that are neutral in terms of destroying capitalism but good for communism, or neutral in terms of communism but destructive of capitalism;

• we should somewhat more discretely and guiltily enjoy those that are as good for capitalism as for communism (I think here of nice food, well-designed clothes, and so on – things that will proliferate endlessly in communism, but require some rehearsing in advance);

• we should very much oppose, though, actions and practices that are bad for communism regardless of whether they are bad for capitalism, too: in other words, it is imperative explicitly to resist the temptation to join or support people who fight against capitalism in ways that are bad for communism.

It follows from this consideration that the question ‘What is good for communism?’ is much more important than the question ‘What is bad for capitalism?’ If a good-enough approximate definition can be agreed upon, such as communism is ‘the state of things where one can be different without fear’ (Adorno, 1978: 103),9 presupposing societal arrangements in which nobody’s access to the means of subsistence is conditional on what, if anything, that person chooses to contribute to society, then a set of criteria for what actions and practices will further such a state of things can be inferred. (The definition of communism – actually socialism, which in Marx are synonymous – that is quoted from Marx, for example, in an article by Paresh Chattopadhyay is the ‘society of free and associated producers’, which is an important formal characterization but too formal as a definition [Chattopadhyay, 2006: 46]. Chattopadhyay goes half-way towards making in this context the distinction I am proposing; he writes: ‘Marx shows how capital creates the subjective and objective conditions of its own negation and, simultaneously, the elements of the new society destined to supersede it – socialism’ [2006: 46]. Chattopadhyay formulates very carefully: capital does not automatically produce its own negation but merely the conditions for it, and ‘simultaneously’ not ‘the new society’ but the elements of the new society. This formulation does imply that still somebody has to do the negating, and somebody has to come up with some good idea of how to put these ‘elements’ together, or else they will go to waste or serve some other purpose. The concept of ‘negation’, however, might imply either simply disintegration or implosion, or else the ‘determined negation’ of capitalism by socialism/communism. The openness and indeed realism of his statement are in turn negated by Chattopadhyay’s adding that destiny has already decided that socialism/communism will follow capitalism. How does he know?)

5

The answer to the question ‘What is bad for capitalism?’ is – somewhat counterintuitively – even less straightforward than the answer to the question ‘What is good for communism?’, as even the capitalists don’t seem to agree easily on what they think is good for them, and those who define themselves negatively as ‘anti-capitalists’ seem to mirror their counterparts in this respect. Trade unionism, for example, is only very indirectly bad for capitalism, namely by way of being good for capitalism, by way of being good for workers as workers: insofar as we are workers, and that’s what we mostly are, we need to get as good a deal as we can get, like the air to breath. In fact only things that are good for capitalism are bad for capitalism, as only the capitalist dynamic digs capitalism’s grave. In terms of the question of consciousness – and the determined negation of capitalism by communism can only be a conscious one – there lies the rub: to the same extent that we succeed in getting better deals, being good workers and trade unionists, contributing thus (as labour/capital) to capitalism’s eating away at itself, we think less about communism and fail to get ready for task two (the big one). Conversely, an empty stomach is of course even less likely to become a communist – it’s a double bind.

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