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Three Agricultural Revolutions (Clegg & Lucas, 2020)

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

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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

The Belly of the Revolution: Agriculture, Energy, and the Future of Communism

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by Jasper Bernes (2018), from Materialism and the Critique of Energy

In the days when man’s members did not all agree amongst themselves, as is now the case, but had each its own ideas and a voice of its own, the other parts thought it unfair that they should have the worry and the trouble and the labour of providing everything for the belly, while the belly remained quietly in their midst with nothing to do but to enjoy the good things which they bestowed upon it; they therefore conspired together that the hands should carry no food to the mouth, nor the mouth accept anything that was given it, nor the teeth grind up what they received. While they sought in this angry spirit to starve the belly into submission, the members themselves and the whole body were reduced to the utmost weakness. Hence it had become clear that even the belly had no idle task to perform, and was no more nourished than it nourished the rest, by giving out to all parts of the body that by which we live and thrive, when it has been divided equally amongst the veins and is enriched with digested food — that is, the blood.

Many on the left still subscribe to a view of technology that G.A. Cohen, in his reconstruction of Marx’s thought, called “the fettering thesis.” From this perspective, the technological forces that capitalism employs in its quest for productivity-driven profit are the foundation upon which an emancipated humanity will erect its new dwelling. Humane cultivation of these forces is, however, “fettered” by capitalist social relations. Capitalism is pregnant with what could be, a deployment in the conditional tense of given productive forces. In a resonant moment of triumphal phrasing at the end of the first volume of Capital, Marx describes capitalism as tending toward a moment of crisis, its property relations an “integument… burst asunder” by the maturation of increasingly centralized and concentrated productive forces. The consequences, for Marx, are clear: “The knell of capitalist property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” At a critical point in the development of capitalism, the fragmented, unplanned allocation of wealth that characterizes production for profit in competitive markets no longer conforms with the complex, industrialized labor process of modern workplaces: only socialist planning and the supervision of the direct producers themselves can make effective use of the technology whose adolescence the bourgeoisie oversaw. Today, many will advance these arguments only with significant caveats, avoiding some of its more embarrassing iterations. Few would argue, for instance, that the deskilled, socialized labor of the factory system contains the germ of a new world in the making. They will not hesitate, however, to pour new wine into old bottles and say much the same thing about 3-D printers and self-driving cars… [READ PDF]

Don’t Eat Before Reading This

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by Anthony Bourdain (1999)

Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger—risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.

Gastronomy is the science of pain. Professional cooks belong to a secret society whose ancient rituals derive from the principles of stoicism in the face of humiliation, injury, fatigue, and the threat of illness. The members of a tight, well-greased kitchen staff are a lot like a submarine crew. Confined for most of their waking hours in hot, airless spaces, and ruled by despotic leaders, they often acquire the characteristics of the poor saps who were press-ganged into the royal navies of Napoleonic times—superstition, a contempt for outsiders, and a loyalty to no flag but their own.

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