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Tag: Marx

Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (Braverman, 1974)

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by Harry Braverman

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The transformation of working humanity into a “labor force,” a “factor of production,” an instrument of capital, is an incessant and unending process. The condition is repugnant to the victims, whether their pay is high or low, because it violates human conditions of work; and since the workers are not destroyed as human beings but are simply utilized in inhuman ways, their critical, intelligent, conceptual faculties, no matter how deadened or diminished, always remain in some degree a threat to capital. Moreover, the capitalist mode of production is continually extended to new areas of work, including those freshly created by technological advances and the shift of capital to new industries. It is, in addition, continually being refined and perfected, so that its pressure upon the workers is unceasing. At the same time, the habituation of workers to the capitalist mode of production must be renewed with each generation, all the more so as the generations which grow up under capitalism are not formed within the matrix of work life, but are plunged into work from the outside, so to speak, after a prolonged period of adolescence during which they are held in reserve. The necessity for adjusting the worker to work in its capitalist form, for overcoming natural resistance intensified by swiftly changing technology, antagonistic social relations, and the succession of the generations, does not therefore end with the “scientific organization of labor,” but becomes a permanent feature of capitalist society.

Karl Korsch (1886-1961)

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“Marxism as an historical phenomenon is a thing of the past. It grew out of the revolutionary class struggles of the first half of the nineteenth century, only to be maintained and re-shaped in the second half of the nineteenth century as the revolutionary ideology of a working class which had not yet regained its revolutionary force. Yet in a more fundamental historical sense, the theory of proletarian revolution, which will develop anew in the next period of history, will be an historical continuation of Marxism. In their revolutionary theory, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels gave the first great summarization of proletarian ideas, in the first revolutionary period of the proletarian class struggle. This theory remains for all time the classical expression of the new revolutionary consciousness of the proletarian class fighting for its own liberation.” – The Crisis of Marxism, 1931

Books (pdfs):

Marxism and Philosophy (1923) – by Karl Korsch

Karl Marx (1938) – by Karl Korsch

Karl Korsch: Revolutionary Theory – edited by Douglas Kellner (1977)

Karl Korsch: A Study in Western Marxism – by Patrick Goode (1979)


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Marxism: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Mattick, 1978)

"Iconographic encyclopaedia of science, literature, and art."

by Paul Mattick (1978)

From Marxism: Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie? by Paul Mattick, edited by Paul Mattick Jr., published by Merlin Press, 1983

In Marx’s conception, changes in people’s social and material conditions will alter their consciousness. This also holds for Marxism and its historical development. Marxism began as a theory of class struggle based on the specific social relations of capitalist production. But while its analysis of the social contradictions inherent in capitalist production has reference to the general trend of capitalist development, the class struggle is a day-to-day affair and adjusts itself to changing social conditions. These adjustments find their reflection in Marxian ideology. The history of capitalism is thus also the history of Marxism.

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Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany (Engels, 1851)

by Friedrich Engels (1851-52)

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Marx was asked in the summer of 1851 by Charles Anderson Dana, managing editor of the New York Tribune, to write a series of articles on the German Revolution. Founded in 1842 by Horace Greeley, the Tribune was the most influential paper in the United States at the time. These articles were written by Engels at the request of Marx, who was then busy with his economic studies and felt, besides, that he had not yet attained fluency in English. Engels wrote the articles in Manchester, where he was employed, and sent them on to Marx in London to be edited and dispatched to New York. Thus, although Engels must be rightly considered their author, Marx took a big part in the preparation, for in their almost daily correspondence the chief points were discussed thoroughly between them. The articles appeared under Marx’s name, and it was not until much later, when the correspondence between the two life-long collaborators became available, that the true circumstances were revealed. The contributions to the Tribune thus begun continued until 1862, and though Marx himself wrote most of the articles after 1852, Engels continued to help his friend by writing for him important articles on political and military affairs. When Marx’s daughter, Eleanor, wrote the preface to the 1896 edition she was still under the impression that Marx had written the series. [Publisher’s Note to the 1969 edition published in London by Lawrence & Wishart]

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Marx and the Utopian Wilhelm Weitling (1948)

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by Hans Mühlestein, Science & Society, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Winter, 1948), pp. 113-129

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The most important proletarian representative of “equalitarian communism” in the earlier nineteenth century was undoubtedly the tailor Wilhelm Weitling, who was born in 1808, the illegitimate son of a French officer of the Napoleonic army of occupation and a working girl of Magdeburg. Weitling’s relative historical importance was that, along with Auguste Blanqui, he represented the most active element of the revolutionary tendency of the continental proletariat throughout the first period of his life; that is, until the first communist trial in Zurich, in 1843. At that time he was a leader in that phase of the proletarian movement which developed immediately before the first published works of Marx and Engels. If he has a place in history, it is because he was the first real proletarian (besides the weak Pierre Leroux) who proved to be a revolutionary writer, and the only proletarian who ever built a consistent and complete Utopian system of communism. Etienne Cabet, his contemporary Utopian, had been general procurator of Corsica and advocate at the royal court, and was certainly not a proletarian. 

The Historicity of Abstractions (Gray, 2012)

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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

Introduction

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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The Permanent Crisis (Mattick, 1934)

Henryk Grossmann’s Interpretation of Marx’s Theory of Capitalist Accumulation

by Paul Mattick, International Council Correspondence Vol. 1, no. 2, November 1934, pp. 1-20. PDF

I.

According to Marx, the development of the productive forces of society is the motive power of historical development. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production, and in changing their mode of production, their manner of gaining a living, they change all their social relations. The transformation of the spinning wheel, the hand-loom and blacksmiths sledge, into the self-tending mule, the power-loom and the steam hammer was not only accompanied by a change of the small individual shops of the craftsmen into huge industrial plants employing thousands of workers, but there also came with it the social overturn from feudalism to capitalism; that is, not merely a material revolution, but a cultural revolution as well.

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Für Krahl (Reinicke, 1973)

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by Helmut Reinicke (Merve Verlag, 1973) PDF

[See also: Digger Journal; Krahlstudien; Krahl-briefe]

»Ist das Wahre abstrakt, so ist es unwahr

Hegel

I.

Eine Darstellung der intellektuellen Biographie der Revolt am Denken von Hans-Jürgen Krahl (1944-1970) bedarf nicht des je­weils akribischen Nachweises der gelungenen marxistischen Ab­leitung jeder Kategorie. Nicht auf das hausmannskostartige Räsonnement kann es ankommen, den Versuchen einer Rekonstruk­tion der revolutionären Theorie auf jeder Stufe vorzuhalten, sie habe Theoreme der Marxschen Lehre ungenügend abgeleitet oder die Totalität nicht im Griff. Oft sind Krahls Gedanken noch mit den Muttermalen der Kritischen Theorie behaftet, – selbst seine letzten Arbeiten, die den mittlerweile ausgesessenen Meta­physikverdacht, ein Apriorismus läge der Revolution in der Theo­rie des historischen Materialismus zugrunde, an Marx herantragen. Dies sind Relikte, welche die weiteren Debatten über materia­listische Erkenntnistheorie nicht mehr zum Gegenstand ihrer Über­legungen zu machen brauchen; Krahls Arbeiten haben selber da­zu beigetragen, dass die Rekonstruktion der Marxschen Lehre den seit der II. Internationale und dem Stalinismus angestammten Vorurteilen nicht mehr aufsitze. Verkürzungen Marxscher Begriffe oder die oft spekulativen Ableitungen kennzeichnen die Eile, in der zur Zeit des aktiven Widerstandes der Hochschulrevolt gedacht wer­den musste; sie sind zugleich Index für die Notwendigkeit revo­lutionären Denkens, sich auch als vorübergehendes Theorem fest­halten zu müssen, als transitorisches Denken.

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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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Adorno, Non-Identity, Sexuality (Stoetzler, 2009)

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by Marcel Stoetzler, published in Negativity and Revolution: Adorno and Political Activism (ed. Holloway, Matamoros, Tischler, 2009)

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This chapter explores some of Adorno’s scattered remarks on love, on the gender relation between men and women, as well as on homosexuality, and how these relate to modern individuality, subjectivity and the capitalist mode of production. Its focus is on the modernity of the idea that there are exactly two sexes, understood as two distinct species or essences, and some of the implications and reverberations of this idea. It proceeds by way of arranging (juxtaposing perhaps) a number of related arguments taken from a body of Marxist writing mostly from the 1970s and 1980s that seems, if not influenced by, then at least compatible with, Adorno’s theorising. The guiding idea is that strict sexual dimorphism is an aspect, or expression, of the increasingly genital organisation of sexuality on the one hand, and on the other, the sublimation of Eros in the service of capitalist real subsumption. Both have been, and still are, part of the same historical process.

The Test of Communism (Bernes, 2021)

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by Jasper Bernes (2021) PDF

Communism is an old idea in the world. Let’s call it ancient, for it may as well be our antiquity. We need not track down its origins in the alleyways of insurrection, only know that millions have struggled and died in its name. In this sense, it is not just an idea but a real force in history, product of and factor in a proletarian movement that has for at least two centuries now posed the overcoming of capitalism by classless, stateless, moneyless society. In fact, what’s remarkable about the history of the workers’ movement of the last two centuries is that this real ideal has until recently not only seemed inevitable but obvious. Even where they disagreed, violently, about how to achieve such a state of affairs, anarchists, communists, socialists, Marxists, syndicalists, and even some liberals, all stood joined by a common vision of a future classless society.

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The Money Theory of the State (Merchant, 2021)

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Reflections on Modern Monetary Theory

by Jamie Merchant, Feb 2021, Brooklyn Rail: Field Notes

“No domination is so easily borne, even so gratefully felt, as the domination of high-minded and highly educated officials.”

— Georg Friedrich Knapp1

Kafka’s unfinished final novel, The Castle, can be read as a parable about the misrecognition of power. In the course of trying to discover if he has, or has not, been appointed as a land surveyor by the local authorities, the protagonist K. becomes obsessed with the authorities themselves, the officials of the great castle whose shadow looms over the village below. Its bureaucrats cut nearly superhuman figures, working tirelessly day and night on countless cases while keeping track of innumerable files with an otherworldly zeal that overawes K. and the villagers, who respect and even revere them. Over the course of the narrative, though, it becomes evident that all this strenuous paper-pushing might be completely pointless, directed to tasks they may never complete, involving problems and questions that cannot be resolved or perhaps never existed in the first place—including, probably, K.’s appointment. The officials might very well have no idea what they are doing, or they might be useless drones, working themselves to death toiling away in busy work that never goes anywhere. But for K. this is unthinkable. For their prestige flows from the impersonal rule of the mechanism, the calcified, methodical, formal procedures that, as in a cage, enfold and dominate the officials and the villagers alike. K. deploys his own formidable powers of reasoning to penetrate their mysteries in his quest to gain permission to enter the castle. But the more he learns, the more he calmly reasons and deduces the state of affairs with impeccable logic, the more transfixed he is by the officials’ cabbalistic aura, the more entangled he becomes in their byzantine networks of influence, and the more he effectively dominates himself.

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A world without money: communism (Les Amis de 4 Millions de Jeunes Travailleurs, 1975-76)

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Un Monde Sans Argent: Le Communisme was originally published in three parts, as three separate pamphlets, in France, between 1975-6. It was produced by Dominique Blanc, shortly after the dissolution of the Organisation des Jeunes Travailleurs révolutionnaires. The name Quatre Millions de Jeune Travailleurs was apparently ‘adopted’ from a 1971 PSU youth publication (Parti Socialiste Unifié – a French Socialist Party), presumably to satisfy French publishing laws, and texts continued to be published under this name through the 1970’s including the widely distributed tract A Bas Le Proletariat/Vive Le Communisme.

PDF: English / French

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Some Stories About Communization

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by Jasper Bernes, Nov 2020-Jan 2021, via Substack

(see also Planning and Anarchy (2020), and Belly of the Revolution (2018))

Part 1, Nov 26, 2020

I want to do a series of posts on the theory of “communization” as it has developed since 1968, because it seems to me there is a great deal more interest in the term and desire than there is comprehension. There are many reasons for the abuse the word has suffered, but foremost is that, in France, from whence it derives, “communization” never at first served to name a tendency or a coherent theory. It was simply a term of art that a loosely connected network of communist projects used to explain their vision of communist revolution.

Even as the term courant communisateur – communizing tendency, or communizer current–began to be applied to these groups retrospectively, many questioned and resisted the term, drawing attention to the way that it conflated advocates of communization, who can exist in the world here and now, with those who practice communization, that is with people who do not yet exist.

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Marx on Social Reproduction

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by Paul Cammack (Historical Materialism, 2020)

Marx is generally reckoned to have had too little to say about what has come to be defined as ‘social reproduction’, largely as a consequence of too narrow a focus on industrial production, and a relative disregard for issues of gender. This paper argues in contrast that the approach he developed with Engels and in Capital, Volume 1, provides a powerful framework for its analysis. After an introductory discussion of recent literature on social reproduction the second section sets out Marx’s approach to the ‘production of life, both of one’s own in labour and of fresh life in procreation’. The third addresses his account of reproduction in Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 23. The fourth and fifth compare the relationship of the family to industry and exchange as depicted in Capital and in the present day respectively. The conclusion suggests some implications for theories of social reproduction.

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Beyond Reification: Reclaiming Marx’s Concept of the Fetish Character of the Commodity (Pepperell 2018)

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by Nicole Pepperell, Contradictions Vol. 2 number 2 (2018)

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György Lukács’s influential interpretation of commodity fetishism as “reification” shapes many contemporary critiques of the apparently objective and impersonal form taken by capitalist social relations. Such critiques seek to debunk the false veil of objectivity that results from fetishism, revealing the real character of the social relations underneath. This line of criticism, however, often attributes totalising power to capitalism, which undermines its own critical standpoint. I argue that the solution to this dilemma lies in understanding the fetish not as an ideological veil that needs to be debunked, but instead as a novel form of social interdependence that is genuinely – not illusorily – impersonal. This impersonal form is generated by a diverse array of disparate social practices whose interaction yields this unanticipated and unintended result. Within this framework, the diversity of the underlying social practices offers a practical potential basis for constituting new forms of social interdependence that lack not only the semblance, but also the reality of capitalism’s oppressive objectivity. READ PDF

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Marxism and Mediation (Gunn, 1987)

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Richard Gunn, Common Sense No. 2 (July 1987)

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In both Hegelian and Marxist thought, the concept of mediation figures as a central dialectical category. That the category does theoretical, and revolutionary, work is clear. What is less clear, to myself at any rate, is what might be termed the conceptual geography of the category itself. It is this conceptual geography which, as a preliminary to further discussion, the present paper attempts to clarify. A more pretentious title for what follows might be ‘Prolegomena to a Reading of Marx’.

To mediate is to bring about a relation by means of a relating (an “intermediate”) term. A mediation is the relating term itself. To count as a mediation, a relating term must be more than a mere catalyst or external condition (however necessary) of the relation: rather, it must itself be the relation. It must constitute it, in the way that for example – and the example is offered merely heuristically – a rope linking two climbers is constitutive of the relation in which they stand.

If a mediation is, thus, the relation which it establishes, it does not follow that just any relation counts as a mediating term. A mediated relation is distinct from a relation for which, to render it intelligible or accurately describe it, no reference to a relating term need be made – for example, a relation of juxtaposition. A relation of this kind is an immediate relation (which, for its part, may be catalysed or necessitated in this or that way).

From the commodity to the spectacle: Debord’s Marx (Russell, 2019)

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by Eric-John Russell, Capitalism: Concept, Idea, Image eds. Osborne, Alliez, Russel (2019)

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Published a century after Marx’s Capital, Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle was described upon its release as ‘the Capital of the new generation’ (Le Nouvel Observateur). However, the book’s content has almost never been seriously examined alongside the dialectical logic of the social forms of value systematically ordered within Marx’s Capital. Despite Debord’s description of the modern spectacle as a development of the commodity-capitalist economy, discussions on Debord’s debt to Marx customarily emphasize those early writings in which Marx enunciates the critique of alienation without having yet traversed the works of classical political economy. And for good reason, as his archival notes can verify. A preliminary glance at The Society of the Spectacle elicits the impression that the ‘ruthless criticism of all that exists’ first enunciated by Marx in his early twenties continued to reverberate a century later. The book resounds with both implicit and explicit reference to the phenomenon of social alienation or estrangement described by Marx in the 1844 Manuscripts. READ PDF

The Principles of Communism (Engels, 1847)

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by Friedrich Engels

Written: October-November 1847;
First Published: 1914, Eduard Bernstein in the German Social Democratic Party’s Vorwärts!
Translated: Paul Sweezy
MECW 6: 341-357

— 1 —
What is Communism?

Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat.

— 2 —
What is the proletariat?

The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition. The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century.[1]

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On Slavery and Slave Formations (Patterson, 1979)

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by Orlando Patterson, New Left Review, 117, 31– 67.

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What is slavery? How do we identify a slave formation or society? What do we mean when we say that a given society was based on slavery? Is there such a thing as a Slave Mode of Production? It is remarkable that after nearly a century and a half of modern scholarship on the subject these are still unanswered questions. At no time, however, were answers more urgently needed than now. Slave studies has become something of an academic industry. The industry encompasses a vast and growing body of works from Marxist and bourgeois scholars alike, and on the ancient, medieval and modern periods of every continent. Yet, with a few notable exceptions, few scholars are concerned with both the theoretical and empirical aspects of the problem. An unhealthy specialization has therefore developed in current slave studies. On one side stands a legion of empiricists who pursue every conceivable detail of slave culture and economy, often in a theoretical wasteland; on the other side is a small but growing band of theorists who insist on defining the ‘crucial issues’ and weave theories which, by their own admission, bear no relation whatever to reality. READ PDF

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