communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Tag: nationalism

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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Winter in Catalonia

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Don Quijote en la playa de Barcino, Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau

by / 

Narrative Confusions

In Catalonia morbid symptoms abound.1 The population lives through bitter division. The Catalan leadership is in prison. The left is divided. On December 21st, all political parties in the self-declared Catalan republic will participate in elections forced on them by the Spanish government. In the confusion of the interregnum of the Spanish state, all actors struggle to find a narrative form that might elevate their mission of establishing a new regnum.2

It is no wonder the world struggles to discern the narrative form of the Catalan independence struggle. Official European opinion, never a good reader, discerns a morality tale of the dangers of populism and nationalism, in which a reluctant Spanish hero is forced to put into place a rogue separatist government. Meanwhile, unofficial opinion is rallying to the Catalan cause, interpreting it in the register of a great epic of national liberation and the struggle against Francoism. Horrified and enthusiastic spectators alike cannot but observe the Catalan secession drama through the lenses of its key antagonists: the gobierno of Mariano Rajoy in Madrid and the independentistas lead by Carles Puigdemont’s now deposed govern. But the very nature of an interregnum is that governments cannot truly rule, and that people do not wish to be ruled. In the interregnum genres fail, and when the epic fails, the result is invariably tragicomic. The greatest reflection on that is Cervantes’ Don Quixote.3

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Brexit means… what? Hapless ideology and practical consequences

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Auf­heben № 24
November 2016

A number of left groups and individuals campaigned for the UK to leave the European Union. Aufheben argue that the Brexit campaign, and the referendum itself, its results and its implementation, have been one with a victory of the ruling class against us. The implementation of Brexit will negatively affect solidarity among workers and radical protesters, setting back our strength and potentials to overturn capitalism. Many people in the radical left were blinded by the ideological forms of our capitalist relations, the reification of our human interactions, to the point of accepting a victory of the far right with acquiescence, or even collaborating with it.

The EU mi­grants’ or­deal and the lim­its of dir­ect ac­tion

We be­gin this art­icle with a case dealt with by Brighton Solfed (SF) and CASE Cent­ral so­cial center — the story of an EU mi­grant in Brighton.

At the end of 2015, L., a Span­ish hos­pit­al­ity work­er, sought help from SF. She had worked in a res­taur­ant for more than a year but, as soon as she fell ill, her em­ploy­er sacked her with a flimsy ex­cuse, in or­der to avoid pay­ing Stat­utory Sick Pay (SSP). Re­ceiv­ing SSP would have been this work­er’s right un­der both do­mest­ic and European Uni­on (EU) le­gis­la­tion. However, the em­ploy­er in­sisted that she left her job vol­un­tar­ily, and re­fused to re-em­ploy here.

One then claimed a sick­ness be­ne­fit, Em­ploy­ment and Sup­port Al­low­ance (ESA). As an EU work­er, she should have been en­titled to equal rights un­der EU le­gis­la­tion, and to ESA. However, the state re­fused the be­ne­fit: they said that, due [to] a “gap” between the end of her job and her claim, she was no longer a “work­er” when she claimed ESA. A be­ne­fits ad­vice group helped with an ap­peal, but the state re­fused to re­con­sider. L. was in a des­per­ate situ­ation, with no money and far from her fam­ily, and was temp­ted to move back to Spain. This would amount to eco­nom­ic de­port­a­tion — not im­posed through phys­ic­al force, but through ex­treme hard­ship.

Back in [the] 1970s the UK’s mem­ber­ship of the European Com­mon Mar­ket was op­posed by left-wing mil­it­ants, as the Com­mon Mar­ket was seen as a neo­lib­er­al club de­signed to pre­vent the ad­vance of so­cial­ism, or just the im­ple­ment­a­tion of Keyne­sian policies.

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THE “KURDISH QUESTION”, ISIS, USA, ETC.

by Il Lato Cattivo

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

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

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

THE KURDISH QUESTION: A HISTORICAL DIGRESSION

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Source: The Economist

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

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The Wreck of the Plaza

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In an epoch characterized by disequilibria political and economic, none has been more perplexing than the inability to match means with ends. Everywhere, violent eruptions find no demand or objective around which to cohere, while struggles for the most minor of reforms burn with revolutionary intensity. Either the means overrrun their ends, or they find no end at all. In Turkey and Brazil, demonstrations over a change in the price of transit, or the development of a city park, provoke violent conflicts of an almost insurrectionary intensity. In France, teenagers barricade their schools against the withdrawal of a pension that is as yet fifty years off. Any pretext, any provocation can become the adventitious occasion for mobilization of antagonism that finds no outlet, no name or program. Do we suppose that French kids are really concerned about what will happen to them once they are ready to retire? Does any young person expect the current social order to last that long? What can it mean when a .20 real increase in transit fares becomes the occasion for petrol bomb attacks on the National Assembly, when a conflict over a half acre of green space sets in motion a national uprising involving millions? What can be glimpsed through this gap between tactics and strategy, discourse and praxis, between the slogans and signage of a social movement and what one is willing to do with friends and strangers on a given evening after the future has come to an end?

Three years ago we wrote from an absent future we had encountered on the grounds of the American university. Today, the absence of that future is everywhere present. Neither capital nor its would-be antagonists can provide a compelling portrait of the next decade, let alone the next century. All the sci-fi utopias of flying cars and robot servants, of full automation and zero work, seem truly ridiculous. No one can imagine capitalism providing a series of progressive social reforms, any more than they can imagine seizing the state and the economy to provide a more egalitarian distribution of resources. No, the future presents only as ruin, apocalypse, burning metal in the desert. There is no possibility of an instrumental linking of means to ends, a linking of people to party, party to program. Everywhere, means exceed their ends; everywhere, the registration of social catastrophe must find its occasion lacking any remedies carried forward from the past. In such a conjuncture, the masses are opportunists; they find in immediate and often trivial demands an opportunity to mobilize grand antagonisms which otherwise find no clear expression.

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