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Tag: Marx

The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man (Engels, 1876)

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by Frederick Engels (1876)


This article was intended to introduce a larger work which Engels planned to call Die drei Grundformen der Knechtschaft – Outline of the General Plan. Engels never finished it, nor even this intro, which breaks off at the end. It would be included in Dialectics of Nature.


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Labour is the source of all wealth, the political economists assert. And it really is the source – next to nature, which supplies it with the material that it converts into wealth. But it is even infinitely more than this. It is the prime basic condition for all human existence, and this to such an extent that, in a sense, we have to say that labour created man himself.

Many hundreds of thousands of years ago, during an epoch, not yet definitely determinable, of that period of the earth’s history known to geologists as the Tertiary period, most likely towards the end of it, a particularly highly-developed race of anthropoid apes lived somewhere in the tropical zone – probably on a great continent that has now sunk to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. [1] Darwin has given us an approximate description of these ancestors of ours. They were completely covered with hair, they had beards and pointed ears, and they lived in bands in the trees.

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Ordoliberalism and the Death of Liberal Democracy: An Interview with Werner Bonefeld

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(Salvage 2017)

George Souvlis: Can you tell us a bit about your intellectual and political formation?

Werner Bonefeld: One of my most important formative experiences was factory work. Studying was easy in comparison. I studied at the Universities of Marburg, Berlin, and Edinburgh. At Marburg the Marxism on offer was very dogmatic. It did not encourage people to think for themselves. I left after two years to continue my studies at the Free University of Berlin. In Berlin a few things came together, as it were. My favorite Professor was Agnoli, who was one of the most distinguished Marxists of his generation. He allowed his students to think. He welcomed it. He was a great orator. Part of the degree programme was to do work-placement. I first worked as a removal man and then as a research assistant at the West-German teachers’ union, for which I got paid. Never before had I earned money by reading and writing (my research was into alternative schooling as opposed to public provision). I quickly understood the meaning of Marx’s insight that to be a productive labourer in not a piece of luck but a great misfortune. One might add, nor is it an ontological privilege, as a whole tradition of historical materialism saw it. I studied in Berlin at a time of great restlessness, from the peace movement to the squatter movement in the early 1980s.

I met Kosmas Psychopedis in Edinburgh during the 1980s. He visited John Holloway. Richard Gunn and John Holloway were my PhD supervisors. Kosmas was a character, and a good friend.

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Prisons and Class Warfare

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Interview with Ruth Wilson Gilmore 

Clément Petitjean: In Golden Gulag, you analyse the build-up of California’s prison system, which you call “the biggest in the history of the world”. Between 1980 and 2007, you explain that the number of people behind bars increased more than 450%. What were the various factors that combined to cause the expansion of that system? What were the various forces that built up the prison industrial complex in California and in the US?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore: Sure. Let me say a couple of things. I actually found that description of the biggest prison building project in the history of the world in a report that was written by somebody whom the state of California contracted to analyse the system that had been on a steady growth trajectory since the late 1980s. So it’s not even my claim, it’s how they themselves described what they were doing. What happened is that the state of California, which is, and was, an incredibly huge and diverse economy, went through a series of crises. And those crises produced all kinds of surpluses. It produced surpluses of workers, who were laid off from certain kinds of occupations, especially in manufacturing, not exclusively but notably. It produced surpluses of land. Because the use of land, especially but not exclusively in agriculture, changed over time, with the consolidation of ownership and the abandoning of certain types of land and land-use. It also produced surpluses of finance capital – and this is one of the more contentious points that I do argue, to deadly exhaustion. While it might appear, looking globally, that the concept of surplus finance capital seemed absurd in the early 1980s, if you look locally and see how especially investment bankers who specialised in municipal finance (selling debt to states) were struggling to remake markets, then we can see a surplus at hand. And then the final surplus, which is kind of theoretical, conjectural, is a surplus of state capacity. By that I mean that the California state’s institutions and reach had developed over a good deal of the 20th century, but especially from the beginning of the Second World War onwards. It had become incredibly complex to do certain things with fiscal and bureaucratic capacities. Those capacities weren’t invented out of whole cloth, they came out of the Progressive Era, at the turn of the 20th century. In the postwar period they enabled California to do certain things that would more or less guarantee the capacity of capital to squeeze value from labour and land. Those capacities endured, even if the demand for them did not. And so what I argue in my book is that the state of California reconfigured those capacities, and they underlay the ability to build and staff and manage prison after prison after prison. That’s not the only use they made of those capacities once used for various kinds of welfare provision, but it was a huge use. And so the prison system went from being a fairly small part of the entire state infrastructure to the major employer in the state government.

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Jobs, Bullshit, and the Bureaucratization of the World

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by Jason E. Smith

You probably first heard of him when reading, on Bloomberg.com or in the pages of The New Yorker, about his role as one of the “founders” of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some of you might have stumbled across him even earlier, when The New York Times published a short article on the openly anarchist anthropology professor whose politics, he lamented, thwarted his plans for tenure at Yale. Others, probably a bit younger, and having drifted into post-2008 “radical” politics, first found him on Twitter, where he assiduously maintains contact with almost 70,000 followers. Slightly older radicals will recognize him as an eager participant in and chronicler of the turn-of-the-century anti-globalization movement. SlateThe GuardianThe Financial Times and other organs of the prevailing powers open their column space to his reflections on technology, money, and Corbynism, or his calls for Western succor to the “revolutionary Kurds” of Rojava (who have, for years now, enjoyed the lethal air support of US war planes). The son of NYC leftists—his father fought in the storied Abraham Lincoln Brigades—and one of the venerable Marshall Sahlins’s last students, David Graeber is today best known for his monumental 2011 book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, which appeared just a couple of months before the establishment of the Zuccotti Park camp. That book, in the works for years, seemed, due as much to its timing as to its content, the theoretical and historical work most attuned to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its demands. Now, seven years after that publication—and the rise and folding up of that movement—Graeber has followed his earlier examination of the “barter myth” and the priority of debt over exchange relations throughout human history with a new book, this time on a contemporary matter: the “current work regime.” Or as he puts it in his insistently populist idiom, the “proliferation of bullshit jobs.”

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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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Cured Quail vol 1. (review)

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Cured Quail, Glasgow, 2018. 224pp., £12, reviewed by J. Harvey

Against a backdrop of widening climate catastrophe and incessant war, representation appeared as focus of popular outcries in the so-called era of post-truth and new media. Cured Quail is a Marxist journal of critical aesthetics, self-published in 2018, that takes seriously the appearance of a generalized crisis of representation, truth and culture afflicting contemporary capitalist societies at the edge of disaster. In a society profoundly unable to represent anything other than its fragmented self, the very universality of language becomes threatened. Far from employing a deconstructionist or relativist approach, Cured Quail levels the charge of illiteracy against this society. The notion of illiteracy utilized here is similar to Adorno’s concept of the “speechlessness” of a new type of human being: that of a people who speak concretely and without illusion, but in the voice of a radio announcer, and who are ipso facto unable to openly express how the world could be any different. In their opening statement, the editors of Cured Quailshow an awareness that these solipsistic pitfalls are equally present in the academy, gallery, pamphlet and newsfeed. Cured Quail’s intervention is necessarily immanent as it does not proclaim to be external to these conditions.

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Capitalism as Religion (Benjamin, 1921)

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A religion may be discerned in capitalism – that is to say, capitalism serves essentially to allay the same anxieties, torments, and disturbances to which the so-called religions offered answers. The proof of the religious structure of capitalism – not merely, as Weber believes, as a formation conditioned by religion, but as an essentially religious phenomenon – would still lead even today to the folly of an endless universal polemic. We cannot draw closed the net in which we are caught. Later on, however, we shall be able to gain an overview of it.

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The Controversy About Marx and Justice

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by Normas Geras (1989)

In this essay I review a fast-growing sector of the current literature on Marx and the controversy that has fuelled its growth. During the last decade or so, the keen interest within moral and political philosophy in the concept of justice has left its mark on the philosophical discussion of his work. It has left it in the shape of the question: did Marx himself condemn capitalism as unjust? There are those who have argued energetically that he did not; and as many who are equally insistent that he did — a straightforward enough division, despite some differences of approach on either side of it. To prevent misunderstanding, it is worth underlining at the outset that the question being addressed is not that of whether Marx did indeed condemn capitalism, as opposed just to analysing, describing, explaining its nature and tendencies. All parties to this dispute agree that he did, agree in other words that there is some such normative dimension to his thought, and frankly, I do not think the denial of it worth taking seriously any longer. The question is the more specific one: does Marx condemn capitalism in the light of any principle of justice?

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How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that’s already happened)

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by David Graeber, David Wengrow

The story we have been telling ourselves about our origins is wrong, and perpetuates the idea of inevitable social inequality. David Graeber and David Wengrow ask why the myth of ‘agricultural revolution’ remains so persistent, and argue that there is a whole lot more we can learn from our ancestors.

1. In the beginning was the word

For centuries, we have been telling ourselves a simple story about the origins of social inequality. For most of their history, humans lived in tiny egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers. Then came farming, which brought with it private property, and then the rise of cities which meant the emergence of civilization properly speaking. Civilization meant many bad things (wars, taxes, bureaucracy, patriarchy, slavery…) but also made possible written literature, science, philosophy, and most other great human achievements.

Almost everyone knows this story in its broadest outlines. Since at least the days of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it has framed what we think the overall shape and direction of human history to be. This is important because the narrative also defines our sense of political possibility. Most see civilization, hence inequality, as a tragic necessity. Some dream of returning to a past utopia, of finding an industrial equivalent to ‘primitive communism’, or even, in extreme cases, of destroying everything, and going back to being foragers again. But no one challenges the basic structure of the story.

There is a fundamental problem with this narrative.

It isn’t true.
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Durcheinander der Revolution. Umsturz als Transformation und Konstruktion

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Von Bini Adamczak (2018)

Die Revolution, die eine gute Zukunft realisieren will, entstammt einer schlechten Gegenwart, die sie überwinden will. Ohne die gefrorene Gewalt dieser vorrevolutionären Strukturen lässt sich die entfesselte der revolutionären Bewegung nicht verstehen. Wer das stille Leid der Unterdrückten nicht sehen will, wird in ihrem schließlichen Schrei nichts anderes hören können als das Brüllen einer Barbarei, gegen die dieser eigentlich gerichtet ist. Denn zunächst ist die Aufgabe der Revolution negativ bestimmt, sie hat einen unerträglichen Zustand zu beenden. »Der Zweck der Revolution«, schrieb Theodor W. Adorno in einem Brief an Walter Benjamin bündig, »ist die Abschaffung der Angst« (Adorno 1994, 173). Insofern aber die Angst, die sich auf eine ungewisse Zukunft richtet, der Vergangenheit entstammt, ist das kommunistische Morgen nicht ohne kapitalistisches Gestern verstehbar. Die Revolution lässt sich nicht ohne Kenntnis der Welt erschließen, aus deren Zusammenbruch sie hervorgeht und aus deren Trümmern sie eine neue zu erschaffen hat.

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Hans-Jürgen Krahl (1943-1970)

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Hans-Jürgen Krahl points to the ceiling during the occupation of the University of Frankfurt, May 15, 1968 (AP Photo)

Dave Mesing | Hans-Jürgen Krahl, For and Against Critical Theory: Introduction

For Anglophone readers, Hans-Jürgen Krahl’s name is most distinctive as a marker for a possible alternative path within the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research.

Hans-Jürgen Krahl | Personal Information

The anti-authoritarian revolt was precisely a process of Marxist training, in which we have gradually detached from bourgeois ideologies, in which we have revealed the purely ideological character of its promises of liberation, and definitively understood that the classic forms of liberalism and emancipation, which still drive the liberal capitalism of competition, have definitively passed away. We have understood that now, in the struggle against the state, against bourgeois justice, and against the organized power of capital, in a long and certainly difficult process, it is a matter of conquering conditions that allow us to enter into organized contact with the working class and to create the historical pressures necessary for the education of class consciousness. It was a long process of education which also had to impose itself within the SDS.

Detlev Claussen | Krahl and His Conjuncture: An Interview with Detlev Claussen

The task for intellectuals is not to propagate the revolution from the outside, but to develop emancipatory needs which go beyond work—an emancipatory consciousness of the totality. In 1969, the world in Europe still seemed so open, the Italian Hot Autumn and the September strikes in Germany made such a task seem appropriate.

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Which Feminisms?

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Frauenkampftag, Berlin, Mar 8. 2018

By Susan Watkins (New Left Review 109, January-February 2018)

Of all the opposition movements to have erupted since 2008, the rebirth of a militant feminism is perhaps the most surprising—not least because feminism as such had never gone away; women’s empowerment has long been a mantra of the global establishment. Yet there were already signs that something new was stirring in the US and UK student protests of 2010, the 2011 Occupy encampments at Puerta del Sol and Zuccotti Park. In India, mass rallies condemned the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey in 2012 and feminist flash-mobs have disrupted the moral-policing operations of Hindutva fundamentalists. The protests against sexual assault on US campuses blazed across the New York media in 2014. In Brazil, 30,000 black women descended on the capital in 2015 to demonstrate against sexual violence and racism, calling for the ouster of the corrupt head of the National Congress, Eduardo Cunha; earlier that year, the March of Margaridas brought over 50,000 rural women to Brasília. In Argentina, feminist campaigners against domestic violence were at the forefront of protests against Macri’s shock therapy. In China, the arrest in 2015 of five young women preparing to sticker Beijing’s public transport against sexual violence—members of Young Feminist Activism, an online coalition that’s played cat-and-mouse with the authorities—was met with web petitions signed by over 2 million people.

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For Moishe Postone

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Barbara Brick, Moishe Postone, Harold Marcuse, 1979, after Herbert Marcuse’s death

by Jacob Blumenfeld

I first encountered Moishe Postone‘s work on antisemitism in the early 2000s but it wasn’t until 2008-9, when the United States was in the grips of a financial crisis, that his thinking on Marx, capitalism, and value really began to hit home. I remember making zines out of his essay, “Critique and Historical Transformation“, and distributing them in New York City to students, activists, and friends, in the hopes of starting a more critical conversation on the crisis. The point was to go beyond superficial analyses of “crony capitalism” and to see the totality of capital as a self-mediating, crisis-prone dynamic of value which cannot simply be opposed to labor. Furthermore, Postone’s critical theory challenged those of us who became politicized in the ‘anti-globalization’ movement and the anti-war movements of the late 90s and early 00s.

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Red Seder

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

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

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

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

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Umrisse der Weltcommune

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Von Freundinnen und Freunde der klassenlosen Gesellschaft, 2018 – Kosmoprolet #5

1. Nachdem die Möglichkeit einer anderen Welt lange Jahre fast nur noch in Botschaften aus dem lakandonischen Urwald oder von Leuten behauptet wurde, die darunter kaum mehr verstehen als die Einführung einer Finanzmarktsteuer, hat sich das Bild angesichts der schweren Weltmarktgewitter seit 2008 verändert. Entwürfe einer postkapitalistischen Gesellschaft entstehen seither zuhauf und schaffen es mit etwas Glück sogar auf die Bestsellerlisten. Auch Radikale denken wieder vermehrt darüber nach, wie es anders sein könnte. Allerdings gilt für alle derzeit diskutierten Alternativen, dass sie eher am Schreibtisch ausgebrütet als auf der Straße erfunden wurden. Von den Kämpfen der vergangenen Jahre – sei es der arabische Frühling, die Occupy-Bewegung oder das Aufbegehren gegen das neue Massenelend in Südeuropa – sind sie vor allem negativ geprägt. Weniger deshalb, weil diese Kämpfe auf ganzer Linie gescheitert sind. Weitgehend außerhalb der Produktion angesiedelt und auf die Realisierung »echter Demokratie« gepolt, haben sie die Frage nach einer anderen Gesellschaft nicht wirklich aufgeworfen.

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Der Prolet ist Ein Anderer. Klasse und Imaginäres Heute

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An ihren Begriffen sollt ihr sie erkennen. Dass Begriffe nicht einfach nur neutrale generalisierte Bezeichnungen von Dingen, Vorstellungsinhalten und Praktiken, oder reflektierter: von zuvor selbst erst gesetzten Differenzen sind, wie das der Commonsense oder die Wissenschaftstheorie annehmen, sondern potentiell immer auch politische »Kampfformeln« (Eric Voegelin), vermittels derer Sachverhalte und Verhältnisse zugespitzt und einer politischen Entscheidung zugetrieben werden, das hat die politische Rechte unserem Verständnis von Begriff hinzugefügt. Ein Virtuose dieser Form von Begriffsgebrauch war Carl Schmitt. Begriffe sortieren Gegenstandsfelder nicht nur, sondern richten sie aus; und sie werden selbst zu Kennmarken, nach denen sich – gut schmittianesk – Freund und Feind gruppieren. Dabei spielen weniger analytische Trennschärfe und Präzision der Begriffe eine Rolle als die affektive Ladung, die sie als Elemente von Sprache nolens volens immer aufweisen und die selbst in der kältesten Wissenschaftsprosa nie ganz neutralisiert werden kann. Das eigentlich poetische Moment jeder Theorie liegt in ihrer Nomenklatur, behauptet Giorgio Agamben irgendwo: in der Belehnung bestimmter Wörter (und eben gerade keiner anderen) mit Begriffsfunktion.

Ein lange gültiges Schibboleth dieser Art war »Klasse«. Wer den Begriff benutzte, kam von links, wer sich über den Begriff stritt – und da gab und gibt es einiges zu streiten! –, der stand auf der Linken; und dass »Klasse« zuzeiten sich zu einem »neutralen« wissenschaftlichen Begriff zu verallgemeinern schien (wie in den 1970er Jahren in der westdeutschen Akademie), kann als Anzeichen einer linken Hegemonie in diesem Bereich und zu dieser Zeit gedeutet werden. Und viele von denen, die irgendwann ihren »Abschied vom Proletariat« genommen haben, spüren noch oft eine leichte Wehmut, wenn sie wenigstens an jene alten Illusionen zurückdenken, die im Begriff »Klasse« wie in wenigen anderen aufgespeichert sind.

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Hegel and Freud

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Mladen Dolar (2012)

Hegel and Freud have nothing in common, it would seem; there is everything to oppose them. On the one hand: the speculative philosopher of absolute spirit whose system encompassed every sphere of being – logic, nature, and spirit – and who is reputed to be the most obscure and difficult in the entire grand philosophical tradition; on the other hand: a man of medical formation, a therapist who in all his work took clinical practice as his guideline and only gradually extended some psychological insights into larger circles of culture, civilization, and history. On the one hand: not only a philosopher, but a philosopher par excellence, the paradigmatic example of a philosopher who managed to encapsulate in his system all the themes and achievements of the metaphysical tradition; on the other hand: a man of natural science who adamantly opposed philosophy as such and even saw attempts to turn psychoanalysis into a new philosophical current as one of his discipline’s greatest dangers. On the one hand: not only a German, but seemingly a German par excellence, a model of German spirit, or even the Prussian state philosopher, as the adage goes; on the other hand: a Jew who already in his young days experienced the pressure of anti-Semitism and eventually, despite his fame, lived his final days in exile, his books burned by a regime that was, ironically, evoking Hegel. And finally, on the one hand the philosopher who relied more than anyone else in the history of philosophy on the powers of reason, concepts, and knowledge; on the other hand someone who more than anyone else took his cue from something that inherently escapes those powers or presents their fissure – this fissure forms the very object of psychoanalysis, of entities such as the unconscious and the drives.

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Marx and Freud

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by Paul Mattick (1956)

A review of EROS AND CIVILIZATION. A PHILOSOPHICAL ENQUIRY INTO FREUD. By Herbert Marcuse. The Beacon Press, Boston, 1955, 277 pp., $3.95.

Marcuse’s book renews the endeavor to read Marx into Freud. Previous attempts, by Reich and Osborn for instance, failed miserably. Instead of overcoming a bewailed inertia, Reich’s theories hardly sufficed to sustain a ridiculous private racket. Osborn’s work, a product of the Stalinist popular-front period, designed to attract the petty bourgeois, was soon forgotten by both the Western petty-bourgeoisie and the bolshevik regime. Psychoanalysis did not become part of, or a new basis for, a radical doctrine but merely a way of transferring money from the analyzed many to the analyzing few. By providing a new terminology for the various social “ills,” the ideological inertia, as part of the general inertia of capital stagnation, could at least verbally be ended. The re-interpretation in psychoanalytical terms affected all and everything; literature, the arts, the social sciences and politics. Psychoanalysis, moreover, became an independent branch of social activity developing vested interests of its own. Once installed, it perpetuated itself in competition with other ideological instrumentalities by continuously re-creating “demand” for its services through the discovery of new and more “ills” falling into its domain. It is now part and parcel of the prevailing social structure which commercializes all ideas and makes a business out of tangibles and intangibles alike.

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Abschied von der Klassenmetaphysik

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Formwandel der Klassengesellschaft, Paralyse der Kritik. 

„In die gleichen Ströme steigen wir und steigen wir nicht; wir sind es und wir sind es nicht“ (Heraklit)

  1. Der Abschied vom Proletariat

1980 erschien in Frankreich ein Buch mit dem programmatischen Titel Adieu au prolétariat, zu Deutsch: Abschied vom Proletariat.[1] Sein Verfasser, André Gorz, traf damit den Geist der Zeit. Denn die Verabschiedung alter marxistischer Gewissheiten hatte zum Zeitpunkt der Veröffentlichung bereits seit einigen Jahren Konjunktur unter Linksintellektuellen verschiedener Provenienz. Neben dem einschlägigen Frontalangriff des Poststrukturalismus auf Subjekt, Geschichte und Emanzipation entstehen auch verschiedene Versuche einer Erneuerung des Marxismus, die diesen modernisieren wollen, ohne das Kind mit dem Bade auszuschütten. Ob es sich dabei um den libertären Ökosozialismus André Gorz‘ oder den linken Populismus von Ernesto Laclau und Chantal Mouffe handelt – das verbindende Moment dieser und weiterer durchaus heterogener Revisionen war eben jener Rückzug von der Klasse, wie die amerikanische Historikerin Ellen Meiksins Wood bereits 1986 feststellte.[2]

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How the Situationist International became what it was

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by Anthony Hayes

The Situationist International (1957-1972) was a small group of communist revolutionaries, originally organised out of the West European artistic avant-garde of the 1950s. The focus of my thesis is to explain how the Situationist International (SI) became a group able to exert a considerable influence on the ultra-left criticism that emerged during and in the wake of the May movement in France in 1968. My wager is that the pivotal period of the group is to be found between 1960 and 1963, a period marked by the split of 1962. Often this is described as the transition of the group from being more concerned with art to being more concerned with politics, but as I will argue this definitional shorthand elides the significance of the Situationist critique of art, philosophy and politics. The two axes of my thesis are as follows. First, that the significant minority in the group which carried out the break of 1962, identified a homology between the earlier Situationist critique of art — embodied in the Situationist ‘hypothesis of the construction of situations’ — and Marx’s critique and supersession of the radical milieu of philosophy from which he emerged in the mid- 1840s. This homology was summarised in the expression of the Situationist project as the ‘supersession of art’ (dépassement de l’art). Secondly, this homology was practically embodied in the resolution of the debates over the role of art in the elaboration of the Situationist hypothesis, which had been ongoing since 1957. However, it was the SI’s encounter with the ultra-left group Socialisme ou Barbarie that would prove decisive. Via Guy Debord’s membership, the group was exposed to both the idea of a more general revolutionary criticism, but also ultimately what was identified as the insufficiently criticised ‘political militancy’ of this group. Indeed, in the ‘political alienation’ found in Socialisme ou Barbarie, a further homology was established between the alienation of the political and artistic avant-gardes. This identity would prove crucial to the further elaboration of the concept of ‘spectacle’. By way of an examination of the peculiar and enigmatic ‘Hamburg Theses’ of 1961, and the relationship between these ‘Theses’ and the Situationist criticism of art and politics worked out over the first five years of the group, I will argue that the break in 1962 should be conceived as one against politics as much as art (rather than just the latter, as it is more often represented). Additionally, I will outline how the SI, through the paradoxical reassertion of their artistic origins, attempted to synthesise their criticism of art with the recovery of the work of Marx beyond its mutilation as Marxism. Indeed, it was the synthesis of these critiques that enabled the considerable development of the concept of ‘spectacle’, opening the way to the unique influence the SI exerted in the re-emergence of a revolutionary movement at the end of the 1960s.

Thesis available here