TC/Communisation etc. - split from Democratic Alternative

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redtwister
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Dec 9 2005 22:38
TC/Communisation etc. - split from Democratic Alternative

Admin edit - this split from here:

http://libcom.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7160

Wow, and when i first saw the thread title I thought this was a discussion of whether or not Sweden was a democratic alternative... embarrassed

Well, suits, I like Riff-Raff a lot. Been looking over the journals for a few years. Nice to read what you wrote. Are you familiar with the Internationalist Communist Group? Clearly, you know Wildcat and Aufheben and Theorie Communiste and prolly Precari Nati, and I think all of these groups as a whole mark out a kind of community of organizations who are neither simple councilists nor Bordigists, but who have taken some measure of all of the tendencies and traditions. I ask about the ICG because I am reading their stuff right now and I rather like it, plus they share your critique of democracy and have very novel and I think decents notions of what is meant by a party and by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

I largely agree with your responses to Nick and Catch, maybe if I find some difference I can say something small.

on the two phases of communism issue, your point is interesting. I agree on the question of communisation, but given the drastic disparities in the world, I still rather imagine a lengthy period of transformation.

Of course, maybe as the dictatorship of the proletariat is really the dictatorial suppression of value and commodity production and involves simultaneous communization, given the current level of world development, your perspective is correct.

Anyway, looking forward to issue 7 and welcome to the boards.

Chris

cph_shawarma
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Dec 2 2005 22:15

To elaborate on what comrade suitsmeveryfine wrote in the last few paragraphs, I would say that mine and his (at least from what I know) views do not adhere to a philosophical determinism, which I could sense in those paragraphs. Instead it is determinism post festum which we stand closest to. The things that happened did happen because they were necessary, but the things that are going to happen are still hidden in the fog of the future (and not "necessary").

We always have to look at why the revolutions failed, and my recent hypotheses on this (not adhering to the objective/subjective-dicotomy) is that the dialectic of capital had not become a totality (cf. "second stage of real subsumtion" in TC's theoretical production), it had not really subsumed the production process and it didn't subsume the entire society. Thus the critical theory (which was totalising and dialectic) could not be combined with a critical practice which was total (but anti-totality and counter-dialectic). This dialectical process towards totality can of course never become entirely complete, but it must reach a certain point before it can be critisised in its totality (if the revolutions of 1917-20 had succeeded, this theory would of course be total humbug, but since they did not succeed, we must see that they did this out of necessity).

Furthermore I strongly disagree with Alf's description of capitalist production as irrational, when its entire essence is rationality (value, for one thing, is a completely rational, quantitative measure). Its complete rationality (its subsumtion under value) is also what makes it so utterly inhuman. The rule of value and rationality, capital as subject, is the utmost explanation for alienation. Realising this should not mean that we fall into an appraisal of the total irrationality, but instead that communism must supersede the categories and separations of capitalist rationality and irrationality.

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suitsmeveryfine
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Dec 2 2005 22:47

redtwister, I'm glad you like our magazine

I've heard about ICO but I can't say I've read much by them -- there is always som much to learn.

"looking forward to issue 7"

hehe! it's already out. (except the article "Communism of Attack..." which is beeing proofred at the moment -- I assume you read it in English)

but I guess you mean no. 8.

"welcome to the boards."

Thanks! I don't know how long I will stay here though. Especially at the moment I've got so much else I suppose to do.

Thanks shawarma for correcting me at a few points. I think you are right it could have sounded like fatalism at some points. But even though I agree with the notion of determinism post-festum I myself can't see practical solutions for the problems posed to for example the Russian revolution after 1917 or Spain 1936. Always when you discuss with Leninists of different sorts or other people you get the question: "Well, what should one have done then?" And to this I can't give a straight answer (and therefore instead arguing for the impossibility), not believing niether the party/state, self-managing workers' councils or soviets could have suppressed capitalism at that time / under those conditions (maybe alien intervention from outer space would have).

About the rationality part: I think one could say capitalism has an irrational organisation of society from the point of view from communism, not fulfilling the needs of people while the means to do it exists. However, I agree in that in that the capitalist system is rational for itself and that it is our job to put an end to this rationality.

Mike Harman
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Dec 2 2005 23:01
suitsmeveryfine wrote:

Well, in that case I could say I agree to some extent. I still wouldn't use the word “bringing” which has a sound of that you're coming from ‘the outside’ to ‘intervene’. I’d rather say that you should dig where you stand, so to speak. That you when you've got a job for instance engage in the probably already ongoing (often ‘faceless’) resistance in that workplace.

I don't disagree with any of that.

However, my communist ideas come from reading, from a combination of historical and theoretical writing, not from active struggle. They result in more active struggle as I understand more and get more confident, but that doesn't change that my first and primary relationship with conscious class struggle has come from books. I'm 25, a large number of people on this forum are within 10 years either side of my age. I'd wager 98-100% of the people on here were introduced to revolutionary political ideas (whether anarchist or marxist) by either the media in one way or another, or propaganda. Not from workplace or community struggles whether their own or even their parents.

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As a communist you may have got a clearer understanding of the development of this mode of production / society, and in that way I would say you are little more than just another proletarian. But I would be careful not to alienate workmates by doing every small ‘action’ in the name of a principle, like “according to my anarchist belief I think we should do this or do that, etcetera in the from day to day struggles.

Nah in real life I'm very pragmatic, and try to approach every situation as it comes then relate to wider contexts later on. I'm concerned with what's effective rather than what meets certain theoretical criteria - because the second doesn't mean too much unless it results in the first somewhere along the line. Also, at such a low ebb in class struggle, I think we're entitled to make some mistakes because we really can't fuck it up much more than it already is.

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I also don’t “fancy nuclear power stations being left unattended” as well as I agree on what you call longer-term organisations of agriculture. However, what I maybe should have made clearer was that I think that in all of these actions you should carefully consider what they actually will mean. For instance, what is only a temporary solution and what will you have to do to ensure that it won’t become permanent. It is in this light I want to put forward that the only real strength the revolution can rely on are the real communisation measures. The revolution can't be postponed until “after the class struggle”.

That makes sense, I don't think we disagree on this point.

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I don’t think putting up an organisation with the purpose that it will be an instrument of the revolution by automatic will ensure it will actually do this. Look at the Bolshevik party for instance. No it will be different tendencies – revolutionary and in the long counter-revolutionary – working at the same time including those (temporary) which the proletariat has set up.

That's ok. Since you mention the Bolshevik party, I think one of the interesting things with the Russian Revolution (or interesting to me at the moment) is why the factory committees and the soviets weren't able to assert their independence from the party as they were sidelined. I don't want to get into "what if?" scenarios, but that's what I mean by organisation - having some kind of structure rooted which will be resistant to counter-revolution both from without and within.

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I'm not so sure about that.

I was talking more about his post-scarcity stuff which is very relevant to the idea that communism has become possible, well, post '50s to a large extent. I've seen him say very positive things elsewhere about Marx's exposition of the commodity form, but there you go. If I was a Marxist I'd say he's spent to much time overall hanging around with the wrong sort of Marxist.

As yet I haven't found any body of theory that's complete - I'd rather start from the idea that all thinkers are necessarily incomplete and take what resonates from each.

redtwister
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Dec 4 2005 04:09
cph_shawarma wrote:
We always have to look at why the revolutions failed, and my recent hypotheses on this (not adhering to the objective/subjective-dicotomy) is that the dialectic of capital had not become a totality (cf. "second stage of real subsumtion" in TC's theoretical production), it had not really subsumed the production process and it didn't subsume the entire society. Thus the critical theory (which was totalising and dialectic) could not be combined with a critical practice which was total (but anti-totality and counter-dialectic). This dialectical process towards totality can of course never become entirely complete, but it must reach a certain point before it can be critisised in its totality (if the revolutions of 1917-20 had succeeded, this theory would of course be total humbug, but since they did not succeed, we must see that they did this out of necessity).

Furthermore I strongly disagree with Alf's description of capitalist production as irrational, when its entire essence is rationality (value, for one thing, is a completely rational, quantitative measure). Its complete rationality (its subsumtion under value) is also what makes it so utterly inhuman. The rule of value and rationality, capital as subject, is the utmost explanation for alienation. Realising this should not mean that we fall into an appraisal of the total irrationality, but instead that communism must supersede the categories and separations of capitalist rationality and irrationality.

On the possibility of revolution, I think TC's basic point is incorrect and I think that Dauve and CJ Arthur have both made effective critiques of it. I have also shared my disagreements on it with Aufheben and if I can dig it up, I will post them. Their approach is in fact a kind of historical determinism and objectivism, which given their critique of exactly that, is quite ironic. This is the unfortunate influence of Althusser on their work, IMO, or rather Althusser gives a pre-generated expression to this tendency in their line of thought.

It is related to decadence theories, in which capital is progressive up to a certain point, and up to that point, it is not really possible to make a revolution (a position expressed crudely by the ICC, with some greater nuance by Trots like Mandel, and with greater finesse by Internationalist Perspective, Loren Goldner and a few others, mostly following Engels, Lenin and Luxemburg.) But once capital is decadent and therefore regressive, revolution is possible, and to some such theorists it even becomes impossible for capital to grant reforms (see Loren Goldner's very interesting thought experiment, which I have posted here and posted a critique of as well, for the latest example.)

In TC's case, once there is the change to 'real subsumption' on a general level, or their 'second phase real subsumption', for lack of a better name, revolution was not previously possible. This is their attempt to account for the failure of the working class, instead of trying to account for the failures of the revolutions up til now by moralism: bad leadership, betrayal, etc. But this is less of an explanation than a way of begging the question, since all this does is say: Hey, the problem was that it was impossible.

Of course, now they assume it is impossible, but so did the revolutionaries in the past. How do we know? How do we know we are not wrong?

To me this is a wholly incorrect approach. While there are certain material and social preconditions, I suspect that those have been met for quite some time. Just because they are more ripe now than in 1917 0r 1936 does not mean that the fruit had not ripened then.

More importantly, in attempting to get rid of 'moralistic' answers to the question: why did those revolutions fail?, they only succeed in neglecting the subjective side of the relation, in turning to an objectivism of their own.

While indeed the limits of the organizations of the time expressed the limits of the working class itself, it is foolish to think that the working class will ever be ready or be a class except through the class struggle. There is no way to pre-educate the class, nor is there a way to find objective conditions which automatically override capital's objective and subjective domination. Rather, the objective conditions are the objectification or solidification of subjective struggles, of the class struggle. Class struggle is not the subjective movement happeningwithin an objective framework, and TC's approach smells of that on this question.

This is why I find the ICG's answer to the question of what the party is interesting, as their conception is not of something one can build, a grouplet that grows into a mass party, but is a spontaneous body which develops out of actual struggles, of those tendencies seeking to centralize and cohere all those struggles and workers into a unified force, and that isn't likely to be the work of so-called revolutionaries, anymore than Marx and Engels or Bakunin had squat to do with the founding of the IWMA.

In such a conception of the historical party, the relation of subject and object, of previous forms of organization which were more or less means of coping with capital and as such an inadequate basis on which to break with capital, and the formation of new organizations and forms which are appropriate to the overthrow of capital, there is no guarantee that workers, regardless of the objective conditions or degree of subsumption, will find such adequate forms.

As such, TC is not proposing a post-festum determinism at all, even thought it has that appearance.

As for irrationality, I will stick to my opinion that capital is an insane form of human social relations, but that it has the form of appearance of complete rationality, that rationality is the mode of existence of its inhuman, insane form (here by inhuman I mean no more than capital makes the produce of our activity appear to be objective and independent of us, and in fact, our master: that dead labor rules living, that capital really is subject even though capital is an undead fiend.) As such, political economy is perfectly rational, a rational expression of madness, and therefore twice mad, just as religion is a rational response to the misery of this world, within the confines of a view that sees this world as the only possible world. The problem is not to break the heart of a heartless world, but to show that in destroying this heartless world, to have a world with heart, would put an end to religion and that we do not seek 'religious freedom', but freedom from religion. So with capital and political economy. Political economy is the rational expression of madness.

Cheers,

Chris

redtwister
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Dec 4 2005 04:13
suitsmeveryfine wrote:
redtwister, I'm glad you like our magazine

I've heard about ICO but I can't say I've read much by them -- there is always som much to learn.

"looking forward to issue 7"

hehe! it's already out. (except the article "Communism of Attack..." which is beeing proofred at the moment -- I assume you read it in English)

but I guess you mean no. 8.

"welcome to the boards."

Thanks! I don't know how long I will stay here though. Especially at the moment I've got so much else I suppose to do.

Hey. Yeah, well I think you would like the ICG/GCI stuff. Like I said, you seem to me to form a certain continuum with them, Wildcat, Aufheben, Precari Nati, etc. Not that each group is alike, but that there are some distinct commonalities. It is always good to meet like people.

Yeah, I know 7 is out, I apologize for being unclear. I just haven't read it yet. I had just finished printing it off while I was writing. smile I am still looking forward to it as parental duties have kept me out of my reading this weekend.

Chris

redtwister
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Dec 4 2005 04:22

I am with Catch on that. Forgot to chime in my support too.

And waiting for "Communism of Attack", sounds intriguing.

chris

cph_shawarma
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Dec 4 2005 10:42
Quote:
On the possibility of revolution, I think TC's basic point is incorrect and I think that Dauve and CJ Arthur have both made effective critiques of it.

I rather think that TC makes a really good critique of Dauvé in Normative history and the revolutionary essence of the proletariat, when they say that his theory of "proletarian energy" is a non-theory, it doesn't explain why it happened, instead it didn't happen because it didn't happen. From what I've read of TC I would say that I agree with this starting point, however I can't say that they meet up to their own standards.

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This is the unfortunate influence of Althusser on their work, IMO, or rather Althusser gives a pre-generated expression to this tendency in their line of thought.

As I said in my previous post it is not determinism, it is determinism post-festum (which both I and TC adhere to). I think it's rather fruitless to use contra-factual history theorising and as I said the things that did happen did happen out of necessity: they were products of the contemporary interactions between individuals and their collective practique of producing value, both as substance and subject.

In Aufheben 12 they put forward some critique of TC which I certainly can agree on, ie. TC puts more emphasis on exploitation than alienation. But instead of performing a critique of the other aspects of TC I think Aufheben's reply focuses too much on alienation. I don't think they have very much to put up against TC on this issue, except for the part on alienation. On the question of alienation I would say that Moishe Postone seems to have solved the riddle and would aufheben the theory beyond TC/Aufheben.

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It is related to decadence theories, in which capital is progressive up to a certain point, and up to that point, it is not really possible to make a revolution

This is actually one of the few things that I found strongly irritating about the Aufheben 12 article. Instead of performing a critique on the basis of TC's theoretical production they try to invoke the readers' affections against decadence theory. I would like to see much much more proof for their thesis that TC falls into the decadence camp.

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But this is less of an explanation than a way of begging the question, since all this does is say: Hey, the problem was that it was impossible.

The problem is not "that it was impossible". As I said earlier in this post, TC pose the question of why it was impossible (because it evidently was impossible: it didn't happen), but they do not come to an answer (at least from what I've read, I would like to get my hands on R. Simon's Fondements critiques d'une théorie de la révolution and the three volumes which are currently being written.

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Of course, now they assume it is possible, but so did the revolutionaries in the past. How do we know? How do we know we are not wrong?

Well, to be correct, the revolution 1917 wasn't impossible 1916, but it was in 1918. wink This is the essence of determinism post festum, the things that have happened happened for a reason and they were therefore the necessary outcomes of the chain of events that took place. Then the question is why this chain of events took place in the first place. And as I said earlier, Dauvé/Nesic's explanation that the historic battery of "proletarian energy" wasn't charged enough, is just as much a non-explanation as TC's answer so far (or at least so far I've read). The difference is that TC poses the right question and therefore supersedes Dauvé (even if Dauvé certainly is part of the same movement).

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More importantly, in attempting to get rid of 'moralistic' answers to the question: why did those revolutions fail?, they only succeed in neglecting the subjective side of the relation, in turning to an objectivism of their own.

Nope. The whole objectivism/subjectivism-dicotomy is in fact superseded by TC, they do not focus on the "productive forces" or anything like the objectivist decadence theorists. It is very much so that the practiques of men in the times of revolt were explanatory of the failure of the revolution, they were determined by the dialectic of capital, where value is the subject-object. Their practiques of upholding capital, by producing value was due to the fact that they were not able to immediately communise society (as both Dauvé, TC and riff-raff propose) for lots of reasons. This can also be seen by making our theory self-reflexive. There is a reason why the concept of communisation emerged in the 70's milieu. There is also a reason why the concept did not exist in either the 19th century of Marx and Engels, nor in the 1917-21 revolutions of Europe, nor in the revolution in Barcelona 1936.

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While indeed the limits of the organizations of the time expressed the limits of the working class itself, it is foolish to think that the working class will ever be ready or be a class except through the class struggle. Class struggle is not the subjective movement happening within an objective framework, and TC's approach smells of that on this question.

Nope, again. Instead the whole concept of communisation is in fact (both in Dauvé and TC) the concept that class struggle must be abolished and that the only time the proletariat is revolutionary is when their actions are turned against their position as class. The proletariat can never be unified as a class, as a class the proletariat is divided and atomised, it is merely in the class struggle against class struggle, the politics against politics, class action against class action, that we can find the revolutionary actions of a proletariat-in-dissolution (this does not mean that the proletariat is dissoluting at the moment, but that this is the essence of the revolution). See for example TC's text Self-organisation is the first act of the revolution; it then becomes an obstacle which the revolution has to overcome (http://meeting.senonevero.net/article.php3?id_article=72&lang=en). And class struggle is, as you say, not a subjective part of an objective framework, but this is not a position you can pin on TC.

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This is why I find the ICG's answer to the question of what the party is interesting, as their conception is not of something one can build, a grouplet that grows into a mass party, but is a spontaneous body which develops out of actual struggles, of those tendencies seeking to centralize and cohere all those struggles and workers into a unified force, and that isn't likely to be the work of so-called revolutionaries, anymore than Marx and Engels or Bakunin had squat to do with the founding of the IWMA.

I'm not sure why you bring this up, since it's the whole essence of the communist movement, which TC is a part of. Where have TC suggested a "mass party", where have riff-raff suggested such an idiotic notion?

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In such a conception of the historical party, the relation of subject and object, of previous forms of organization which were more or less means of coping with capital and as such an inadequate basis on which to break with capital, and the formation of new organizations and forms which are appropriate to the overthrow of capital, there is no guarantee that workers, regardless of the objective conditions or degree of subsumption, will find such adequate forms.

No there is no guarantee, which TC does not propose either. They say the possibility exists (but I can't say I necessarily agree with them on why it is possible), not that it is necessary. And I still don't understand why you bring this up in this discussion, where it is completely self-evident that we, and TC, agree on this (except for your dicotomy between subjective and objective, or to be correct the middle-ground in between, instead of an aufheben beyond this dicotomy). I don't want to think awful thoughts about people I haven't met, but I sense a certain rigidness in the things you write, as though TC has a position which you must negatively distance yourself from.

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As for irrationality, I will stick to my opinion that capital is an insane form of human social relations, but that it has the form of appearance of complete rationality, that rationality is the mode of existence of its inhuman, insane form (here by inhuman I mean no more than capital makes the produce of our activity appear to be objective and independent of us, and in fact, our master: that dead labor rules living, that capital really is subject even though capital is an undead fiend.)

Capital is the subject, the practices of man have rigidified into a quasi-objective, self-moving automat. It is not an illusion, because then it would be in conflict with the underlying "productive forces", an idea which "traditional Marxism" (to use Postone's term) adheres to. Capital is the subject, and we must kill that subject, we can't merely think ourselves away from the reality by saying that capital "isn't really" the subject, when it in fact is exactly that in this world. The practices of man must be fundamentally altered (communised) in order for another world to arrive from the future.

Now I've defended TC all this post, which was quite tedious, since I have got some rudimentary critique of them. However, I felt that it was necessary to clear out some misunderstandings.

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suitsmeveryfine
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Dec 4 2005 17:18

Catch:

Quote:
[M]y communist ideas come from reading, from a combination of historical and theoretical writing, not from active struggle. They result in more active struggle as I understand more and get more confident, but that doesn't change that my first and primary relationship with conscious class struggle has come from books.

That goes for me too. But what I was aiming at was rather: How do we support the actually ongoing struggles? And in this context I find the description "bringing libertarian communist ideas" confusing.

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Since you mention the Bolshevik party, I think one of the interesting things with the Russian Revolution (or interesting to me at the moment) is why the factory committees and the soviets weren't able to assert their independence from the party as they were sidelined.

I actually think Paul Matticks description (although I don't really like his more 'political' writings) that the workers actually (in general) handed over the power to the Bolsheviks, and then went home. It tells yoy something about how substitutionist ideas came out so naturally in this environment.

Quote:
I don't want to get into "what if?" scenarios, but that's what I mean by organisation - having some kind of structure rooted which will be resistant to counter-revolution both from without and within.

The fact that the formal party actually did play this important role in the Russian revolution form me shows that the conditions for communism -- immidiate communisation -- wasn't met. If you at this time put in new organisations (I would use a more general term) off cource you change the preconditions. I think that at a more fundamental level people were isolated from each other then in a way that made communisation unfavourable.

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I was talking more about his post-scarcity stuff

Fine, you could be right about that. Off cource I don't know for certain, but it doesn't sound that impossible

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If I was a Marxist I'd say he's spent to much time overall hanging around with the wrong sort of Marxist.

Well it seems that way, yes. Off cource "Second International Marxism", including their "economy" (when talking about this) has nothing to offer revolutionary theory of today.

redtwister:

Quote:
Hey. Yeah, well I think you would like the ICG/GCI stuff. Like I said, you seem to me to form a certain continuum with them, Wildcat, Aufheben, Precari Nati, etc. Not that each group is alike, but that there are some distinct commonalities. It is always good to meet like people.

Yes off cource. I/we feel the same way, that it is a sort of continuum there.

I will pm you about the rest.

cph_shawarma: I'm on your side in the discussion with redtwister but I would prefare a little friendlier tone if I were you. Redtwister isn't Ali Esbati you know.

cph_shawarma
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Dec 4 2005 20:41

I apologize for my rude attitude towards the end of my last post, and blame it on my hang-over.

redtwister
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Dec 5 2005 01:53

If I reply below below, it is not to be tedious, but because I have not had anyone to discuss TC with much, aside from reading their exchange with Aufheben and it is nice to talk to/exchange with someone else who has read them seriously.

I had no idea about the Ali Esbati reference, so I looked him up. Quite the spectacular (and I mean that in the nastiest way possible) personage. Is he hot in Sweden? He seems made for magazine covers and sexy radical photo-ops.

Anyway, I took no offense, shawarma (your name makes me hungry, btw, but I can't get good hummus and shawarma in Baltimore.)

cph_shawarma wrote:
Quote:
On the possibility of revolution, I think TC's basic point is incorrect and I think that Dauve and CJ Arthur have both made effective critiques of it.

I rather think that TC makes a really good critique of Dauvé in Normative history and the revolutionary essence of the proletariat, when they say that his theory of "proletarian energy" is a non-theory, it doesn't explain why it happened, instead it didn't happen because it didn't happen. From what I've read of TC I would say that I agree with this starting point, however I can't say that they meet up to their own standards.

I agree that their critique of Dauve was basically good. Dauve on the other hand returned the favor rather effectively in his To Work or Not Work. In either case, I have not read your exchange with them yet in issue 7, but I look forward to it.

Quote:
As I said in my previous post it is not determinism, it is determinism post-festum (which both I and TC adhere to). I think it's rather fruitless to use contra-factual history theorising and as I said the things that did happen did happen out of necessity: they were products of the contemporary interactions between individuals and their collective practique of producing value, both as substance and subject.

I am not sure exactly what you mean by contra-factual history theorising, unless you mean posing other possible outcomes. If that is what you mean, I am sympathetic, but at the same time one must grapple with why these revolutions failed, one question being whether or not another outcome was possible. This does not require arguing what would have had to happen for success to be possible, which is the typical move, but it does require either stating that is was[i] possible or [i]it wasn't[i], and TC says that, in hindsight it was not possible, and here is why: TC does so by arguing that they had to fail, that in some sense the working class was not mature enough or capitalism wasn't 'decadent' enough. That is happens post-festum or a priori seems irrelevant to me once you have made the move to say “And the loss was the result of being in the first phase of real subsumption, but now that we have entered the second phase, victory is really possible. Of course, if we lose, and we most certainly will lose more battles on a grand scale, it becomes necessary to answer why. I don't think that TC's move works.

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In Aufheben 12 they put forward some critique of TC which I certainly can agree on, ie. TC puts more emphasis on exploitation than alienation. But instead of performing a critique of the other aspects of TC I think Aufheben's reply focuses too much on alienation. I don't think they have very much to put up against TC on this issue, except for the part on alienation. On the question of alienation I would say that Moishe Postone seems to have solved the riddle and would [i]aufheben the theory beyond TC/Aufheben.

I am also interested in Postone, though I have qualms with his treatment of subjectivity. Historical Materialism 12.3 had a good discussion of Postone recently, particularly the articles by Werner Bonefeld and CJ Arthur (I feel like I am in a citation rut.) I don't think Postone really gets us out of this bind, though he may be important to resolving it, as I think that TC and Aufheben are as well. I think we are all focussed on the right set of questions, but I am not happy with any of our answers so far.

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It is related to decadence theories, in which capital is progressive up to a certain point, and up to that point, it is not really possible to make a revolution

This is actually one of the few things that I found strongly irritating about the Aufheben 12 article. Instead of performing a critique on the basis of TC's theoretical production they try to invoke the readers' affections against decadence theory. I would like to see much much more proof for their thesis that TC falls into the decadence camp.

It is not a question of invoking affections, but of finding similarities, which I do, for reasons expressed above and in the prior piece. I would need to see much, much more of their work to really develop that critique of their work, but what I paste in below may have some relevance.

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But this is less of an explanation than a way of begging the question, since all this does is say: Hey, the problem was that it was impossible.

The problem is not "that it was impossible". As I said earlier in this post, TC pose the question of why it was impossible (because it evidently was impossible: it didn't happen), but they do not come to an answer (at least from what I've read, I would like to get my hands on R. Simon's Fondements critiques d'une théorie de la révolution and the three volumes which are currently being written.

It is a fine line between “it was impossible” and “why it was impossible” and possibly no line at all. They elide whether or not it was possible by saying that because it did not happen, it was therefore impossible. I do not agree to such a logic. I hold that it merely did not happen, that those revolutions failed, that the path was not closed off then, even if it is now for those events, being passed/past.

And I wish I could get a translation of R. Simon's book and the three upcoming. TC is asking important questions.

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Of course, now they assume it is possible, but so did the revolutionaries in the past. How do we know? How do we know we are not wrong?

Well, to be correct, the revolution 1917 wasn't impossible 1916, but it was in 1918. wink This is the essence of determinism post festum, the things that have happened happened for a reason and they were therefore the necessary outcomes of the chain of events that took place. Then the question is why this chain of events took place in the first place. And as I said earlier, Dauvé/Nesic's explanation that the historic battery of "proletarian energy" wasn't charged enough, is just as much a non-explanation as TC's answer so far (or at least so far I've read). The difference is that TC poses the right question and therefore supersedes Dauvé (even if Dauvé certainly is part of the same movement).

I agree that TC poses the right question in so far as the reject the objectivist ground, but if we re-ran the tape of 1917, it is unlikely things would play out the same. We cannot, of course, but the problem is that TC does not get us out of the bind, they merely make a move towards a kind of Althusserian “determination in the last instance.” At least, this is how their post-festum determinism strikes me, as a reworking of “determination in the last instance” that Althusser applied to the relative autonomy of the different “levels”, of base and superstructure, which Poulantzas then applies to the relative autonomy of the state and politics. I do not have enough material to give these intimations, and that is all they are, a feeling generated by the arguments, substantial meat.

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More importantly, in attempting to get rid of 'moralistic' answers to the question: why did those revolutions fail?, they only succeed in neglecting the subjective side of the relation, in turning to an objectivism of their own.

Nope. The whole objectivism/subjectivism-dicotomy is in fact superseded by TC, they do not focus on the "productive forces" or anything like the objectivist decadence theorists. It is very much so that the practiques of men in the times of revolt were explanatory of the failure of the revolution, they were determined by the dialectic of capital, where value is the subject-object. Their practiques of upholding capital, by producing value was due to the fact that they were not able to immediately communise society (as both Dauvé, TC and riff-raff propose) for lots of reasons. This can also be seen by making our theory self-reflexive. There is a reason why the concept of communisation emerged in the 70's milieu. There is also a reason why the concept did not exist in either the 19th century of Marx and Engels, nor in the 1917-21 revolutions of Europe, nor in the revolution in Barcelona 1936.

I am not proposing a subject-object dichotomy, I am suggesting that TC does not supercede treating subject and object as a dichotomy, but that they largely toss out the subjective side qua proletariat. I am certainly aware that the theorists did not propose communization (on which we all agree in this discussion, and inherited from the SI first and foremost), but were there such tendencies in the working class itself? And are you so sure that Marx did not propose such concepts? I do not find communisation foreign to Marx's work at all, albeit it is not deeply developed nor could it have been. I think your point that “where value is subject-object” is interesting (and I see Postone there, as well as Althusser), and this is exactly a formulation I find somewhat dubious. It is, in reality, at the core of our disagreement because capital is only subject within its own universe, but revolution is a rupture, a tear, in the fabric of that reality and the proletariat proposes itself as a counter-subject in the process of coming into existence as proletariat through those struggles.

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Nope, again. Instead the whole concept of communisation is in fact (both in Dauvé and TC) the concept that class struggle must be abolished and that the only time the proletariat is revolutionary is when their actions are turned against their position as class. The proletariat can never be unified as a class, as a class the proletariat is divided and atomised, it is merely in the class struggle against class struggle, the politics against politics, class action against class action, that we can find the revolutionary actions of a proletariat-in-dissolution (this does not mean that the proletariat is dissoluting at the moment, but that this is the essence of the revolution). See for example TC's text Self-organisation is the first act of the revolution; it then becomes an obstacle which the revolution has to overcome (http://meeting.senonevero.net/article.php3?id_article=72&lang=en). And class struggle is, as you say, not a subjective part of an objective framework, but this is not a position you can pin on TC.

First, you say that the class struggle must be abolished. And yet, how is this possible without the abolition of classes? This is certainly an important part of TC's question. I agree that the working class is not revolutionary, except as its own negation, as its own attempt to abolish itself. The proletariat is not an affirmation of labor, but its negation, as much as of capital. However, in insisting that 'as a class, the proletariat is divided' seems to me to lost sight of the split within the class, in the relation between capital and labor. On this, I am more influenced by the Open Marxism milieu than TC, as I think that they miss the interrelation of capital and labor.

It follows from what was said above re: the subject-object. For me, the objectivity of capital is the subjectivity of labor alienated, of creative activity rendered as an object (labor), its products (commodity) rendered as alien to the labor which produced it, and the means of the realization of labor as masters of the labor itself. This is why the alienation question is so central and why a simple focus on alienation is the logical conclusion of capital as 'subject-object'. This approach mistakes the relation of subject and object and accepts the fetishized relation of subject and object. I would be quite interested in fact to see TC's discussion of fetishism in depth. I suspect it is a concept they do not deal with well.

The result is one in which the working class disappears before it realizes its own disappearance, instead of its coming to power being the very means of its own self-dissolution. I have not read the self-organisation pieve and I think you warmly for the link. Looks great!

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This is why I find the ICG's answer to the question of what the party is interesting, as their conception is not of something one can build, a grouplet that grows into a mass party, but is a spontaneous body which develops out of actual struggles, of those tendencies seeking to centralize and cohere all those struggles and workers into a unified force, and that isn't likely to be the work of so-called revolutionaries, anymore than Marx and Engels or Bakunin had squat to do with the founding of the IWMA.

I'm not sure why you bring this up, since it's the whole essence of the communist movement, which TC is a part of. Where have TC suggested a "mass party", where have riff-raff suggested such an idiotic notion?

I was not proposing that TC or riff-raff were supporting such a notion. I think the ICG has a different answer to the same problem, both they and TC rejecting each (as do you and I), the traditional 'Marxist' point of view. I'm sorry if it came off wrong, I think it is more a matter that I was doing a little free association and did not let you into my association.

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(except for your dicotomy between subjective and objective, or to be correct the middle-ground in between, instead of an aufheben beyond this dicotomy). I don't want to think awful thoughts about people I haven't met, but I sense a certain rigidness in the things you write, as though TC has a position which you must negatively distance yourself from.

Well, I am glad you are disinclined to think ill of me, though why you would be inclined to do so after a single brief exchange I do not know. For my part, it is simply having spent a lot of time thinking about TC, in having worked through some criticisms, but in still finding them immensely valuable as a way to work against certain assumptions. Neither am I quite happy with Aufheben's critique, though I am sympathetic to aspects of it, it is not sufficient.

I find it funny that in this single exchange you have brought out many of the associations I too have made over the last two years or so of reading TC's materials, such as is available in English (objectivism, comunisation, subject-object dialectic, Postone.)

I suppose it is not that I want to negatively distance myself from TC, but that I have come to certain conclusions about the direction of their answers to the good questions they pose and ultimately I am dissatisfied with those answers and find them interlinked, and not random or accidental. That does not make Tcs questions any less important or their work any less exhilirating.

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Capital is the subject, the practices of man have rigidified into a quasi-objective, self-moving automat. It is not an illusion, because then it would be in conflict with the underlying "productive forces", an idea which "traditional Marxism" (to use Postone's term) adheres to. Capital is the subject, and we must kill that subject, we can't merely think ourselves away from the reality by saying that capital "isn't really" the subject, when it in fact is exactly that in this world. The practices of man must be fundamentally altered (communised) in order for another world to arrive from the future.

This is back to the question of fetishism and the problems of form and content in Marx's work. Capital as subject is an illusion, but it is also real. Capital as subject is the necessary form of appearance or mode of existence of the denial of labor as subject. Labor only exists as a subject in the mode of being denied. In TC's mode of analysis, labor has no place, is no place, and does not exist except as capital. But I may be allowed to wonder if labor is only this, then where is the purchase of labor against capital? Where is the revolutionary impetus against capital? It is not in alienated labor, but in exploitation, in capital, thereby presupposing the very circuit its must undermine, and IMO thereby reinforcing it. The confliuct comes back to capital and its own inner contradictions, something of a replay of the German state debate from the 1970's and early 1980's. TC proposes, if you want to emphasize their limitations, a capital logic. That is why the alienation vs. exploitation point looms so large in this discussion and why some older discussions (decadence, state debate, Althusser) resonate in it.

Anyway, we can certainly go back and forth, or in more or less depth on this. I am not trying to convince you per se, I am just enjoying the discussion and I have found it illuminating. If you have not, well then i am sorry, I have failed on my end.

I will end with a note [which i sent to Aufheben] I made while thinking about TC and reading Slavoj Zizek who I like for some of the same reasons I like TC, primarily his ability to provoke thought.

Finally, there is an interesting passage in Slavoj Zizek's reasonably interesting book on Iraq (Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle) aimed at Laclau and Mouffe which would seem applicable to TC.

>

> p. 94 "The criticism also can be framed like this:

what is the exact status of the reference to a specific historical moment in the sentence which asserts that the prohject of radical democracy is 'the result of a pluralization of social struggles anchored

in the new structures of contemporary capitalism'? Does this mean that 'radical democracy' is merely the political project which fits today's constellation of pluralized struggles, while, in previous situations, other, more 'essentialist' and even undemocratic projects were appropriate? in this case, we would be back to the split between universal theory and particular forms of engagement: the theory of

hegemony remains a universal abstract theory which explains why, today, radical democracy is the proper choice, while it also explains why, in a different situations, another choice would be more appropriate. If,

however, the universal theory of hegemony is connected by a kind of umbilical cord to 'radical democracy' [which seems like TC's case to me, esp if one reads their otherwise very interesting critique of Dauve's When Insurrections Die], this, then, necessarily involves the psuedo-Hegelian historicist thesis that there are privileged historical moments which enable universal insight: today's situation of pluralized

democratic struggles is such a moment which enables us to gain insight into the universal logic of the political."

>

> If we replace 'radical democracy' with TCs notion of revolution as the abolition of the working class, theory of hegemony with TCs notion of periods of subsumption, and the political with class struggle, the critique seems to have some traction.

>

> One might then ask if revolution was not in fact impossible objectively in the earlier period, and if so, how is it now suddenly possible? They explain prior defeats well, but seem to me to offer nothing to explain the possibility of the impossible, of the abolition of capital, except a kind of naive idea that now, suddenly today, we have reached the requisite degree of development (one is tempted to say

alienation of labor) which allows for the working class to have no other choices in struggle than to overthrow capital. One might extend this further and suspect that this may be a position begging for disappointment and one which also undermines their idea that communism is the abolition of labor by labor, is the self-negation of labor by the

collective laborers. I say this because they seem to split the positive and the negative aspects of labor into "working class" and "not working class" without quite showing us how the working class gets to its own non-existence if it is merely a positivity rather than

having already within itself a negative aspect as well (something the Open Marxism folks are quite good about pointing out, IMO.)

cph_shawarma
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Dec 5 2005 23:25
redtwister wrote:
If I reply below below, it is not to be tedious, but because I have not had anyone to discuss TC with much, aside from reading their exchange with Aufheben and it is nice to talk to/exchange with someone else who has read them seriously.

Once again I apologize for my lousy attitude in the last post and after reading the current post I find our debate far more exhilarating, even if I disagree with much of what you say, but if we didn't disagree why would we debate? wink

By the way, Ali Esbati is the former leader of Young Left (ex-stalinist, now reformist youth organisation to the social democratic Left Party). He made a pathetic excuse of "review" of riff-raff's anthology of translated Dauvé texts. I never saw you as an American Esbati, if that makes it better. wink

cph_shawarma wrote:
I agree that their critique of Dauve was basically good. Dauve on the other hand returned the favor rather effectively in his To Work or Not Work. In either case, I have not read your exchange with them yet in issue 7, but I look forward to it.

To Work or Not Work is one of many good texts by Dauvé, and since it has been a while since I read it I can't say I have it fresh in memory, but from what I remember, they pose a very interesting problems. Still I must say I stick with TC's critique, in this question.

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I am not sure exactly what you mean by contra-factual history theorising, unless you mean posing other possible outcomes. If that is what you mean, I am sympathetic, but at the same time one must grapple with why these revolutions failed, one question being whether or not another outcome was possible. This does not require arguing what would have had to happen for success to be possible, which is the typical move, but it does require either stating that is was possible or it wasn't, and TC says that, in hindsight it was not possible, and here is why: TC does so by arguing that they had to fail, that in some sense the working class was not mature enough or capitalism wasn't 'decadent' enough.

And I would still disagree with this appropriation of TC, it is as you said against decadence theories which they pose their questions and temporary answers. The development of the capitalistic totality is a fact and the implications of the different degrees of development (which we can find already in the works of Marx) are very different. The really subsumed production process gives another outcome both in class struggle and further development of the organic composition of capital from that which comes from a "merely" formally subsumed process. Of course, Aufheben is right to ask the question if the changes in the production process post-1970's are enough to constitute a new concept, but I would say that TC and others have provided a good description of the new forms of production. I disagree with Aufheben that such a concept could merely be descriptive, if a concept should be useful it must be explanatory and of course critical.

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That is happens post-festum or a priori seems irrelevant to me once you have made the move to say “And the loss was the result of being in the first phase of real subsumption, but now that we have entered the second phase, victory is really possible. Of course, if we lose, and we most certainly will lose more battles on a grand scale, it becomes necessary to answer why. I don't think that TC's move works.

TC's optimism is one of the things I find both problematic and exciting (it is much too contemporary to be a pessimist wink). As I said in an earlier post, the future is still hidden, which makes TC's absolute postulation on the possibility of a truly communist revolution today somewhat problematic. This does not mean I disagree with them on their analyses of some of our contemporary struggles (see Self-organization...).

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I am also interested in Postone, though I have qualms with his treatment of subjectivity. Historical Materialism 12.3 had a good discussion of Postone recently, particularly the articles by Werner Bonefeld and CJ Arthur (I feel like I am in a citation rut.) I don't think Postone really gets us out of this bind, though he may be important to resolving it, as I think that TC and Aufheben are as well. I think we are all focussed on the right set of questions, but I am not happy with any of our answers so far.

I haven't read Historical Materialism's discussion. So far I think Postone solves alot of problems, among them the problem of subjectivity vs. objectivity, by concluding that the subject-object of our days is capital, ie. self-valorizing value, which I think is very nicely put by Marx in Capital:

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It [value] is constantly changing from one form into the other without becoming lost in this movement; it thus transforms itself into an automatic subject. [...] In truth, however, value is here the subject of a process in which, while constantly assuming the form in turn of money and of commodities, it changes its own magnitude, [...] and thus valorizes itself. [...] For the movement in the course of which it adds surplus-value is its own movement, its valorization is therefore self-valorization. [...] [V]alue suddenly presents itself as a self-moving substance which passes through a process of its own, and for which the commodity and money are both mere forms.
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It is a fine line between “it was impossible” and “why it was impossible” and possibly no line at all. They elide whether or not it was possible by saying that because it did not happen, it was therefore impossible. I do not agree to such a logic. I hold that it merely did not happen, that those revolutions failed, that the path was not closed off then, even if it is now for those events, being passed/past.

And I agree with that type of reasoning. If it did not happen it was not possible, the revolution bears the counter-revolution in its essence. This can also be applied to recent struggles, even if they pose more interesting questions. We must ask why the struggles at eg. Cellatex and Moulinex did not produce communism and why the revolution was impossible in these struggles too as the outcome of the chain of events must also be investigated. "Impossible" does, in this terminology, not mean that it is merely the "objective" conditions which were not ripe, since this conception of subjective and objective is superseded.

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I agree that TC poses the right question in so far as the reject the objectivist ground, but if we re-ran the tape of 1917, it is unlikely things would play out the same. We cannot, of course, but the problem is that TC does not get us out of the bind, they merely make a move towards a kind of Althusserian “determination in the last instance.” At least, this is how their post-festum determinism strikes me, as a reworking of “determination in the last instance” that Althusser applied to the relative autonomy of the different “levels”, of base and superstructure, which Poulantzas then applies to the relative autonomy of the state and politics. I do not have enough material to give these intimations, and that is all they are, a feeling generated by the arguments, substantial meat.

I must say I haven't read any of Althusser's work, but what I've heard from secondary sources, some of it may very well be useful. However, I don't intend to get in a discussion on Althusser, since I do not know his works at the level required to debate it. smile I would also like to hear the answer to Aufheben's questions in their 12th issue: what parts of Althusser's thought does TC find interesting and applicable, what parts are useless and so on.

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I am not proposing a subject-object dichotomy, I am suggesting that TC does not supercede treating subject and object as a dichotomy, but that they largely toss out the subjective side qua proletariat.

And I can't agree with this notion of subjectivity (ie. proletariat as subject), which in my mind makes an understanding of alienation impossible.

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I am certainly aware that the theorists did not propose communization (on which we all agree in this discussion, and inherited from the SI first and foremost), but were there such tendencies in the working class itself? And are you so sure that Marx did not propose such concepts? I do not find communisation foreign to Marx's work at all, albeit it is not deeply developed nor could it have been. I think your point that “where value is subject-object” is interesting (and I see Postone there, as well as Althusser), and this is exactly a formulation I find somewhat dubious. It is, in reality, at the core of our disagreement because capital is only subject within its own universe, but revolution is a rupture, a tear, in the fabric of that reality and the proletariat proposes itself as a counter-subject in the process of coming into existence as proletariat through those struggles.

And I disagree with the "coming into existence as proletariat", I know you agree with the concept of communisation, but with that concept we can not understand the revolution as the affirmation ("coming into existence") of the proletariat, but the negation of the proletarian class as the revolution, ie. the proletarian ceases to be proletarian (and does not "come into existence as proletarian", but as a human). I agree that capital is only a subject in its own universe, but in that universe (our current reality) it must be understood as the subject-object. As I said earlier, this is the ground for alienation, the objectified structures becomes a subject alien from the human individuals.

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First, you say that the class struggle must be abolished. And yet, how is this possible without the abolition of classes?

It is not. wink The abolition of class struggle implies the abolition of classes, the ceasure of the capital as subject-object implies the ending of the proletariat's class activity (ie. its production of value).

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The proletariat is not an affirmation of labor, but its negation, as much as of capital.

Here I disagree on the terminology, but we are in agreeance in content.

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It follows from what was said above re: the subject-object. For me, the objectivity of capital is the subjectivity of labor alienated, of creative activity rendered as an object (labor), its products (commodity) rendered as alien to the labor which produced it, and the means of the realization of labor as masters of the labor itself. This is why the alienation question is so central and why a simple focus on alienation is the logical conclusion of capital as 'subject-object'. This approach mistakes the relation of subject and object and accepts the fetishized relation of subject and object. I would be quite interested in fact to see TC's discussion of fetishism in depth. I suspect it is a concept they do not deal with well.

Instead I find the very essence of alienation (contrary to TC) in the understanding of capital as subject-object, as proposed by Postone.

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The result is one in which the working class disappears before it realizes its own disappearance, instead of its coming to power being the very means of its own self-dissolution. I have not read the self-organisation pieve and I think you warmly for the link. Looks great!

Here I disagree. The profound problem of early communist theorists was their focus on this "coming to power" whether it be by means of statist coercion or economic power of the proletariat. This means in fact the affirmation of labor, rather than its negation (the working class is only a class as a character mask for the labor pole in the dialectic of capital). The negation of proletarian action must instead be the communisation of our relations (which is one sort of coming to power, but not the coming to power of the proletariat but of free individuals, masters of their own fate, not fettered by the dialectical movement of capital).

I do not consider the last part of your post in this reply, since it's getting late over here and I need to get to sleep. I will pick it up at a later point in time.

redtwister
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Dec 6 2005 17:53

Hey Shawarma,

Bah, no offence taken. All is good.

Just a general note, since I am reading a body of materials that is relevant to this discussion and I suspect will add depth to my understanding of your take on the matter.

proletariat as affirmation versus proletariat as negation:

from my point of view, the formation of the proletariat as a class is its negation as labor for capital. The worker as labor for capital is a member of a class only in a sociological or passive sense, as part of the total "objective", exploited labor power.

The formation of the working class into proletariat is negation of the working class as a class for capital, is the domination of its side as against capital, but still, in so far as it is taking on the abolition of capital, commodity, value and all the other forms, still as linked to labor.

The way you explained communization to me implies a break with mediation prior to the abolition of one side of the relation, and IMO, this is not possible and is still somewhat close to "anarchism".

As such, we share a distinctly different notion of class and of dialectic, which seems to me at the base of our differences. We could debate what TC means, but if we do not get at this problem of class and dialectic, we will miss what is key to our disagreement. And really it is the same question, what we consider a properly dialectical formulation of the class movement between labor and capital, as containing its in, its against, and its beyond. For you, the beyond of capital is somewhere beyond labor too because IMO you only consider labor as it relates to capital as labor 'for capital', while labor 'against capital' has to somehow be outside of the capital-labor relation.

To me, this is reminiscent (to be really weird, but I am reading this right now and it just hit me) of Hegel's discussion of the beyond in the section of the Phenomenology of Spirit on The Unhappy Consciousness. Sorry if that seems obscure, but it struck a familiar chord.

chris

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suitsmeveryfine
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Dec 8 2005 15:27

redtwister:

Quote:
from my point of view, the formation of the proletariat as a class is its negation as labor for capital. The worker as labor for capital is a member of a class only in a sociological or passive sense, as part of the total "objective", exploited labor power.

The formation of the working class into proletariat is negation of the working class as a class for capital, is the domination of its side as against capital, but still, in so far as it is taking on the abolition of capital, commodity, value and all the other forms, still as linked to labor.

I know the concept of "class-for-itself" as applicable for the movement of labour within (and against) capital -- during the epoch of formal subsumtion and the first phase of real subsumtion to use the language of TC -- as actually class struggle, but for demands within this mode of production (unions, welfare-state, etc.). Demands, which were actually realistic at that time. Now, on the other hand (during the second phase of real subsumtion) the movement of labour (as an autonomous force) within capital is no longer possible and, as an immediate result, class-for itself is no longer possible. In my view, today, the formula should instead be class-against-itself.

redtwister
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Dec 8 2005 22:02
suitsmeveryfine wrote:
I know the concept of "class-for-itself" as applicable for the movement of labour within (and against) capital -- during the epoch of formal subsumtion and the first phase of real subsumtion to use the language of TC -- as actually class struggle, but for demands within this mode of production (unions, welfare-state, etc.). Demands, which were actually realistic at that time. Now, on the other hand (during the second phase of real subsumtion) the movement of labour (as an autonomous force) within capital is no longer possible and, as an immediate result, class-for itself is no longer possible. In my view, today, the formula should instead be class-against-itself.

Hmmmm...

Ok, but how has the "class for itself" not always been the "class against itself"? Since in the capital-labor relation, labor is only either 'as capital' or 'as not capital' (take your pick of other formulations: 'for/against', 'class in itself/class for itself'), as negation of capital, and as such as negation of its own aspect 'as capital', there is a movement within itself of its own supercession, a gap or lack or a beyond within itself.

I suppose I just don't see the against as also within, but as one direction of an activity and a relation (labor) that has a direction also within. The 'against' need not win and it is in response to the 'against' that capital is forced to restructure, to decompose and recompose class relations, but that does not mean that the 'against' is 'within'. Labor is 'against' and 'within', as a relation and an activity. Otherwise, it would mean that 'against' is in 'against' and in 'within', which to me makes no sense. At least, that is how I end up reading your point.

I also don't see labor as an 'autonomous' force. It is not a question, as autonomia and operaismo posit it, of one positive subject versus another. Labor is not autonomous of capital, cannot be. Labor must overcome capital, a process which involves its own self-overcoming, its negation of itself as labor and as human activity which exists in absolutely alienated form. Since I posit capital as human activity alienated from itself in the form of labor, human activity in the mode of being denied, as not merely producing objects, but in objectifying, to overcome capital is necessarily to overcome labor too. Now is it overcoming a specific form of labor or labor as such? Marx is not helpful on this per se, as he uses 'labor' to denote generic human activity in interchange with nature for the production and reproduction of human life, but also as a specific form in which human social, creative activity is alienated from itself qua capital.

Is that too opaque? 'Class for itself' in Marx's sense has always been 'class against itself', against the constitution of human social relations as class relations.

This is present already in Marx in a fairly consistent form, is lost in the reactionary milieux of the Second International, recovered in the wake of 1917-21 (Rubin, Pashukanis, the Frankfurters to some degree, young Lukacs and Korsch to some degree, the KAI to some degree, I am unsure of Bordiga on this question), received a new impetus after WWII from the Johnson-Forrest Tendency, the SI, and the people like Dauve and Cammatte who appropriated Bordiga and the councilists, while in Germany people like Reichelt, Agnoli, and others absorbed the lessons of operaismo, Rubin, Pashukanis, Hegelian Marxism, and the left communists.

In fact, it is only in the last 20 years, I think, that a full appropriation of all of the tendencies (Rubin-Pashukanis-Hegelian Marxism; Left communism-councilist; left communism-Bordigist; and then the melange of post WWII tendencies that appropriated facets of these, but never the whole of them) has begun. The question is why this is possible now, just as why TC has come to where they are now. Is it as TC says because we have entered a new stage of subsumption, one which has changed everything?

Well, clearly from my point of view revolution was always 'class against itself', since against capital is against labor as capital, ie against the current mode of existence of labor, so the 'new stage' idea doesn't seem necessary to me, to add anything of substance, but rather to rend apart what is organic.

chris

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suitsmeveryfine
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Dec 9 2005 01:18

Moderator/admin: Perhaps it would be a good idea creating a new thread, moving some posts, since the discussion no longer is about DemAlt?

redtwister:

Quote:
Ok, but how has the "class for itself" not always been the "class against itself"?

Off cource, in Marx’ critique of political economy one can see that there has to be a fundamental change of the production of social relations for the working class (with it’s conditions) to disappear together with capital – we don’t need to rewrite Capital. On the other hand, the political program he and Engels puts forward in for example the Manifesto or in the Critique of the Gotha programme does not have an immidiate solution to the reproduction of labour/capital. It is beeing postponed after the period of transition. Marx together with e.g. Bordiga does not recognise the workers’ state as socialist/communist (which Stalin does) but on the other hand sees it as a level from which a new mode of production can grow.

I see the working class in the days of Marx or Bordiga struggling for better conditions by affirming itself as a class, by demanding higher wages, better working conditions, social reforms. In this struggle there is room for unions, workers’ partys, workers’ councils... They all represent labour in the way of selling labour power for a higher price and caring for the quality of the labour power. The Keynesian social contract is working because labour gets its parts in form of secure labour conditions – the state fighting unemployment, high wages and shortening of the working day through the unions –. At the same time the workers’ representatives promise cooperation, social peach, which leaves room for capital to expand in the production of relative surplus value, which in turn produces a quantitive of value which can be used to finance the continued building of the wellfare state. In Sweden anyway, this as been a very deliberate political project by the social democracy.

Class-for-itself as within, but at the same time against... I try to explain it as labour organised against capital, because the working class does cause trouble for the capitalist class accumulating surplus value and therefore it meets resistance. On the other hand the struggle, often mediated through the unions, is not directed towards abolishing capital/labour but to force capitalist society to mutate. And therefore it is not really against. The ultra-left sees the history of class struggle as the all the time lost revolution, due to the working class beeing fooled by the counter-revolution in the form of unions, nationalism, Stalinism... over and over again (Don’t they ever learn?). I think it’s an absurd position.

Quote:
The 'against' need not win and it is in response to the 'against' that capital is forced to restructure, to decompose and recompose class relations, but that does not mean that the 'against' is 'within'. Labor is 'against' and 'within', as a relation and an activity. Otherwise, it would mean that 'against' is in 'against' and in 'within', which to me makes no sense. At least, that is how I end up reading your point.

I think this is an ahistorical view of the class struggle through out history, very much the same reasoning as Dauvé in To Work or Not to Work, that the workers always posed the true abolition of wage labour but were too weak so the result instead happened to be a restructuring of capitalism. I, on the other hand, would say that organised labour (in the epoch of programmatism) actually was struggling as a capitalist class, at the same time fighting for the improvement of its own living conditions.

The fundamental difference now, however, would be that the proletariat no longer has this space and that the class struggle have become determined to directed immediatly against labour as such, capitalist production no longer offer any new compromises.

Quote:
I also don't see labor as an 'autonomous' force.

Off cource it is not truly autonomous because labour is capital and capital is labour. But what I, and TC, mean by autonomous is that working class interests actually could be organised creating a force, a workers’ movement, capable of presenting social reforms (everyting from workers’ councils, unions, social democracy and ...Stalinism!) Today, all these forms of organisations does not represent any progress, and therefore the decline of politics and organisations. The only thing which could be organised today would be immediate attacks on labour and every organisation/representation of workers as workers would mean a confirmation of the working class as an exploited class an gainting no improved conditions. Threatining to blow up Cellatex factories gives results, organising Stalinist partys demanding nationalisation of industry doesn’t.

In short, if labour at least had some sense of autonomy from capital within capitalist society, it is now completely intermixed.

If you don’t like the presentation of labour forcing the change of capitalism in one way or the other, keep Marramao in mind, this is only one way of expressing the the development. You could, if you like, say that it is capital – through its inner logic – which is developing changing the conditions for the workers to struggle. This is the false opposition between subjectivism/objectivism (present in the Decadence articles e.g. and resolved by Marramao) I believe.

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The question is why this is possible now, just as why TC has come to where they are now. Is it as TC says because we have entered a new stage of subsumption, one which has changed everything?

Well, I must say I don’t have the empirical material substanciating that everything in fact has changed since the 70s. We have the decline of the wellfare systems and the Stalinist block which could be interpreted to point in this direction. On the other hand, is truly the conditions for struggle in the old fasion programmatism really dead everywhere on the planet. TC seams to suggest this, I don’t know.

I don’t say this explanation is flawless, but I do prefare – it in the meantime – before the idea that communism has always been possible. I would very much, as shawarma said, read the big book by TC. I have it in my bookshelf but unfortunantly don’t read or speak French.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Dec 9 2005 01:41
revol68 wrote:
I can see why Aufheben detected a whiff of decadence theory from the TC.

???

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suitsmeveryfine
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Dec 9 2005 01:49

revol68

Quote:
all reads a tad determinist to me, not to mention the argument that workers councils sought economic gains for the working class within capitalism is rather ahistorical, reading more like someone projecting back onto history nice little narratives that justify their present politics.

Too bad the ‘subjectivist’ Dauvé sais the same thing then:

Quote:
Pannekoek developed the idea that these forms [workers' councils] were important, in fact vital to the movement, as opposed to the traditional party form. It was on this point that council communism attacked party communism. Pannekoek went on to develop this aspect more fully, until after the second world war he published Workers' Councils, which elaborates a purely councilist ideology. Revolution is reduced to a mass democratic process, and socialism to workers' management through a collective system of book-keeping and labour time accounting: in other words, value without its money form. The trouble is, far from being a mere instrument of measure, value is capitalist blood.

http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3909/epanne.html

This has nothing to do with subjectivism vs objectivism

redtwister
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Dec 9 2005 04:24

I'm fine with moving it to another thread.

chris

redtwister
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Dec 9 2005 05:39
suitsmeveryfine wrote:
Off cource, in Marx’ critique of political economy one can see that there has to be a fundamental change of the production of social relations for the working class (with it’s conditions) to disappear together with capital – we don’t need to rewrite Capital. On the other hand, the political program he and Engels puts forward in for example the Manifesto or in the Critique of the Gotha programme does not have an immidiate solution to the reproduction of labour/capital. It is beeing postponed after the period of transition. Marx together with e.g. Bordiga does not recognise the workers’ state as socialist/communist (which Stalin does) but on the other hand sees it as a level from which a new mode of production can grow.

The problem is in part a confusion as to what constitutes the programme of the class. To me, this or that statement of demands is not the programme, in a historical sense following the notion of a historical party. Marx is of value because he, in his works like the 1844 Manuscripts, the Manifesto, the Grundrisse, Capital and The Critique of the Gotha Program, elucidate the historical programme of the class, not some list of demands.

Also, I think we have a different reading of what is involved in transition in Marx (I cannot speak on Bordiga on this.) Marx is concerned with what is necessary for the proletariat to wipe out capital, value, commodities, markets, etc. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the forcible suppression of value, capital, markets, etc., and and the first phase of communism already assumes the suppression of classes, of class relations, of value, market, money, etc. and the elimination of the state because with the end of capital and classes, so ends the need for the semi-state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of the state reduced to the organized violence of the class (as opposed to the illusory community, the community through which all operate as citizens.)

As such, while Bordiga (according to what you say) catches one aspect, he misses that the DofP is not merely the seizure of political power, but the use of the social dictatorship of the proletariat to effect the abolition of capital and the communisation of social relations. It is in this a dual movement.

TC frankly seems close, very close, to anarchism. I am still working my way through the communisation article, of course, so that is a very provisional statement.

Quote:
I see the working class in the days of Marx or Bordiga struggling for better conditions by affirming itself as a class, by demanding higher wages, better working conditions, social reforms. In this struggle there is room for unions, workers’ partys, workers’ councils... They all represent labour in the way of selling labour power for a higher price and caring for the quality of the labour power. The Keynesian social contract is working because labour gets its parts in form of secure labour conditions – the state fighting unemployment, high wages and shortening of the working day through the unions –. At the same time the workers’ representatives promise cooperation, social peach, which leaves room for capital to expand in the production of relative surplus value, which in turn produces a quantitive of value which can be used to finance the continued building of the wellfare state. In Sweden anyway, this as been a very deliberate political project by the social democracy.

This seems to me a perfect example of a genuine break with Marx for a kind of economism, and it is not quite accurate as a picture of the struggles in the post-WWII period. The SI made the correct point that while one can raise wages and even improve working conditions, there is no way to otherwise, directly, compensate for alienation. It is not merely these issues over which workers struggled, but control over their work, refusal of work (and not merely led by union stewards as TC, IMO, very wrongly claims), more free time, the structure of work, the problems of boredom, rigidity, etc. Undoubtedly, these reflect limited aspects that capital in fact to some degree used as a means to restructure, but only after the fact. The TC view to me is very one-sided and narrow and depends on distorting and denigrating struggles as merely reproductive of capital, or as at best disruptive. At least until...

Quote:
Class-for-itself as within, but at the same time against... I try to explain it as labour organised against capital, because the working class does cause trouble for the capitalist class accumulating surplus value and therefore it meets resistance. On the other hand the struggle, often mediated through the unions, is not directed towards abolishing capital/labour but to force capitalist society to mutate. And therefore it is not really against. The ultra-left sees the history of class struggle as the all the time lost revolution, due to the working class beeing fooled by the counter-revolution in the form of unions, nationalism, Stalinism... over and over again (Don’t they ever learn?). I think it’s an absurd position.

First, class-for-itself is the class-against. As I said, the way you pose it is not even logically-grammatically correct to me. However, because the working class did not overthrow capital, because its defeat does in fact become the basis of a new epoch of development; and it must be the basis because these are the demands that capital must find some way to address to regain social peace. So you and TC claim that the real struggles of the working class were in fact not against capital. And you know this because they failed. So that failure marks a 'determination after the fact', which proves to me only that hindsight is being read as a way to reach a closure, a certainty, which did not and does not exist. as for the rest of the ultra-left, well, that's not my problem. I cannot take responsibility for them and in so far as TC attacks that weak point, they raise a valuable problem we must square up to. TC does not have the only reasonable answer however.

Quote:
I think this is an ahistorical view of the class struggle through out history, very much the same reasoning as Dauvé in To Work or Not to Work, that the workers always posed the true abolition of wage labour but were too weak so the result instead happened to be a restructuring of capitalism. I, on the other hand, would say that organised labour (in the epoch of programmatism) actually was struggling as a capitalist class, at the same time fighting for the improvement of its own living conditions.

I am trying to figure out what you mean by 'ahistorical'. Do you think there is an objective structural development that will finally allow the working class to be objectively forced into communisation? There is still no real analysis of why defeat happened, but a statement that it had to happen because the working class' own struggles were those of a capitalist class, IMO reported in a distorted form, stripped of their non-economistic aspects, and too often reduced to identity of the workers with the organizations that arose from the workers' struggles sans contradictions. I agree that the organizations that existed refelcted the limits of the class itself, of its own development. Revolution reflected an attempt by the class to overcome its limits, to overcome its 'within', but that is a contingent event with no guarantees and happens it seems more through failure than through success. So far, again provisionally as the communisation and self-organization article is the only thing of theirs I have read on this, seems to me to have all of the immediatism of anarchism.

Quote:
The fundamental difference now, however, would be that the proletariat no longer has this space and that the class struggle have become determined to directed immediatly against labour as such, capitalist production no longer offer any new compromises.

And this is exactly the kind of statement, repeated throughout TC and supporters of TC, that literally reeks of decadence. Until the 1970's, the working class was a capitalist class, but now that the working class is no longer produced as a viable identity (which is also not true, as working class in various forms is more than ever produced as a womderfully marketable identity, at least here in the U.S.), the working class really has no stake.

From that perspective, it seems as if the working class was not revolutionary because it was a class with radical chains, because wage-labor is and always under capital has been predicated upon the separation of the producers from the means of producing, from the product of our labor, from control over our own activity (hence the reduction of our human, social activity to 'labor'), but upon the ability of capital to generate or not generate an identity that corresponded to the fact that labor did in fact have an interest, did in fact have more than chains to lose.

Quote:
I also don't see labor as an 'autonomous' force.
Quote:
Off cource it is not truly autonomous because labour is capital and capital is labour. But what I, and TC, mean by autonomous is that working class interests actually could be organised creating a force, a workers’ movement, capable of presenting social reforms (everyting from workers’ councils, unions, social democracy and ...Stalinism!) Today, all these forms of organisations does not represent any progress, and therefore the decline of politics and organisations. The only thing which could be organised today would be immediate attacks on labour and every organisation/representation of workers as workers would mean a confirmation of the working class as an exploited class an gainting no improved conditions. Threatining to blow up Cellatex factories gives results, organising Stalinist partys demanding nationalisation of industry doesn’t.

Again, this whole thing smacks of decadence, a key part of which is that reforms can no longer be granted by capital and the class either exists as revolutionary or it is nothing. The former is false, IMO, confusing an actually particular historical solution to the last crisis by capitl, analysed in the use of debt, credit and other financial mechanisms as a central part of the decomposition of the old organization of labor, as essential means of counter-revolution. The latter was Marx's opinion, written in a letter to Arnold Ruge in 1843, and as such is not new.

that said, i agree with TC that we cannot simply expect the arrival of the same old forms of struggle. Then again, I think that such a statment itself begs the problem of the deep differences between the forms and content of the organizations that developed in the different periods from th 1840's onward. It affects a homogenization that is historically inaccurate, that bleeds the past of the workers' movement of its particularities, of its changes and developemtns, and lumps them into three big groups (and in fact lump 1, formal subsumption, and lump 2, real subsumption part 1, share far, far more in common than lump 2 and lump 3.)

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In short, if labour at least had some sense of autonomy from capital within capitalist society, it is now completely intermixed.

The Situationists actually thought the same thing, which led them to the Spectacle and our perfect enrapture, their weakest moment.

Quote:
If you don’t like the presentation of labour forcing the change of capitalism in one way or the other, keep Marramao in mind, this is only one way of expressing the the development. You could, if you like, say that it is capital – through its inner logic – which is developing changing the conditions for the workers to struggle. This is the false opposition between subjectivism/objectivism (present in the Decadence articles e.g. and resolved by Marramao) I believe.

I haven't finished Marramao yet, so i admit I am not quite sure what this means. If I understand it correctly, you are saying that it is irrelevant whether one starts from the subjective or the objective side because the dichotomy is false, but of course this critique has been made in a different way by Werner Bonefeld in his critique of Althusser's objectivism and Autonomia's subjectivism as two sides of the same coin. I agree with the rejection, but simply not with TC's answer.

Quote:
On the other hand, is truly the conditions for struggle in the old fasion programmatism really dead everywhere on the planet. TC seams to suggest this, I don’t know.

I'll let you know if I find some basis for comment after the communisation piece. I have heard that the middle east book is very good.

As for the last, why do you prefer TC to the idea that communism has 'always' been possible? What does it mean? Labor under capital has a revolutionary essence, IMO, which is a product of its historically specific form, but does that mean that communism was always possible? Maybe it is always impossible or contingent. It is odd to share so much the same on the conception of communism (communisation, at least in part; as rupture with capital, not as the realization of some tendencies within it) and still to disagree so sharply.

Ok, way more than i intended to write, but this with being part way through the self-organisation article got me thinking.

cheers,

chris

redtwister
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Dec 9 2005 16:59
revol68 wrote:
The situationists to my mind were only able to overcome the problem of agency and the total domination of the spectacle by alluding to apriori's, a set of desires that exist in essence and separate from the spectacle...

I don't understand how labour ever had autonomy from capital as capital contains labour?...

I think we can say that there are poles of opposition within the processes of capital valorisation and that as such capital is never able to completely dominate labour, infact if it could it would be suicide.

I think that the SI posited there being no gap in the spectacle. They saw it as truly universal, with reservations of course as you point out, but those disappear with Debord in Comments.

Once labor is wage-labor, I agree. Autonomy of labor is a myth and while I took a great interest in operaismo and autonomia, and even helped produce a one-issue journal call Autonomy (I lost the name vote, I wanted RevCo, a nod to the Revolting Cocks, but which could also be generously read as Revolutionary Communist, but I wanted to leave it ambiguous), i don't now and never really have liked the concept.

TC is correct to reject the 'autonomy of labor'. I may not agree with their critique on the whole, but it is the right move.

I also agree with your point that the complete the domination over labor is not only impossible, but if possible would be diastrous. I do not however have a problem with essences. It depends on what one means by essence. I am not structuralist with a bug up my ass about it, fighting a wonky humanism. Two sides of the same coin, to me.

Not sure that answers much, my head is elsewhere at the moment reading this communisation text. Its an interesting display of all of TCs strengths and weaknesses, as I understand them. Its very challenging and I would love to make every autonomist marxist read it seriously. It correctly challenges them on many points, even if the answers leave me a bit cold.

chris

Mike Harman
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Dec 9 2005 22:40
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Posts: 1096

PostPosted: Fri 09 Dec, 2005 8:28 am Post subject: Reply with quote Edit/Delete this post Delete this post View IP address of poster

Hi redtwister

I suffer from low intelligence, please could you explain what TC is for me?

Love

LR

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redtwister

I'm probably at work right now...

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PostPosted: Fri 09 Dec, 2005 4:22 pm Post subject: Reply with quote Edit/Delete this post Delete this post View IP address of poster

Lazy Riser wrote:

Hi redtwister

I suffer from low intelligence, please could you explain what TC is for me?

Love

LR

Theorie Communiste, French Marxist ultra-lefts, lots of work to read, but provocative. Just what you need Black Bloc

chris

I've moved the exchange here since people have requested. Got a bit lost myself in the middle there, but I'll try to respond to some of the points made later.

cph_shawarma
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Dec 16 2005 22:34
redtwister wrote:
First, class-for-itself is the class-against. As I said, the way you pose it is not even logically-grammatically correct to me. However, because the working class did not overthrow capital, because its defeat does in fact become the basis of a new epoch of development; and it must be the basis because these are the demands that capital must find some way to address to regain social peace. So you and TC claim that the real struggles of the working class were in fact not against capital. And you know this because they failed. So that failure marks a 'determination after the fact', which proves to me only that hindsight is being read as a way to reach a closure, a certainty, which did not and does not exist. as for the rest of the ultra-left, well, that's not my problem. I cannot take responsibility for them and in so far as TC attacks that weak point, they raise a valuable problem we must square up to. TC does not have the only reasonable answer however.

The question which I spontaneously ask right now is: If we do not acknowledge that the revolution was impossible (ie. did not happen), how can we then explain why it did not happen? If it is not the determined consequence of the actions of the proletariat (we must investigate these actions, and what in turn determined them) which gave rise to the failure of the revolution, how can we learn from the past? Maybe we are disagreeing on applicable concepts, but I hesitate to say "mere terminology", because our conceptual framework is indeed important in concrete practice and our view and perspective on several matters. As I've said before I have not accepted all of TC's answers, however I claim they move beyond the problematic of the ultra-left:

"Not only in their answers, but in their very questions there was a mystification." Karl Marx, German Ideology (quoted in Louis Althusser, For Marx, Verso, 2005, p. 66)

But I think we are in agreeance in this matter, we are both interested in the shift from an ultra-left problematic to a new one.

Quote:
I am trying to figure out what you mean by 'ahistorical'. Do you think there is an objective structural development that will finally allow the working class to be objectively forced into communisation?

This implies that suits and I adhere to the dichotomy between subject and object, which we do not. The means of historical analysis of the concrete abstractions of labour and their movement are as I see it found in much of TC's (and others') move from the ultra-left. In this question I believe that the ones that have been able to formulate a new problematic most exhaustively and "correctly" are TC, while Dauvé falls somewhat short (even though he incorporates much of the new problematic in his writings, enough to make him parti des communistes).

Quote:
There is still no real analysis of why defeat happened, but a statement that it had to happen because the working class' own struggles were those of a capitalist class

They are still the struggles of a capitalist class, no change here. What TC proposes is the question: "How can the working class, acting strictly as a class, abolish class society?" which is investigated in "Self-organisation..." The unification of the class, as a class, is impossible. Of course the self-organisation must be the first steps of the revolution, but there is nothing revolutionary to be found in the essence of class struggle, much less in the essence of the proletariat. This self-organisation fits into my little schematic: the revolutionary process begins when self-organisation negates itself, when class struggle negates itself, when the proletariat negates itself etc. In order for this negation to occur, however, there must be a class struggle, proletariat and self-organisation (ie. forms of appearance of capital).

Quote:
So far, again provisionally as the communisation and self-organization article is the only thing of theirs I have read on this, seems to me to have all of the immediatism of anarchism.

And I would have to disagree, immediate communisation (which Dauvé too speaks of) is in fact used to describe a process, which will certainly not be easy, and probably quite long. However, the usage of the communisation concept implies that this process is fundamentally different from that of capital (ie. class struggle, proletarian action, self-organisation) and that we can not produce communism by producing capital. The reason why the proletariat are able to produce communism is because they today produce value as a self-moving substance. If they stop with the latter they may begin with the first. However, when they start producing communism they stop acting as a class, the revolutionary break is when the proletariat stop acting as proletarians (ie. the abolition of class society emerges). There is however nothing that says that this must happen, the proletariat has no communist essence. It is merely a possibility.

I skip the rest, since it seems like suitsmeveryfine should answer that rather than me.

redtwister
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Dec 16 2005 22:48
cph_shawarma wrote:
"How can the working class, acting strictly as a class, abolish class society?".

This is exactly a phrasing i find completely wrong. This is the rub, i think. this form a note I wrote almost a year go on this exact line.

The proletariat does not act strictly as a class of this mode of production. This is the anti-Hegelianism, anti-dialectical edge of TC. Their question is wrong, IMO, and certainly presupposes an understanding of class and the proletariat (in-against-beyond) that I see no reason to accept. It accords more with the sociological notion of class, for acting as a class strictly of this mode of production, the working class does not act as a class, but as labor-for-capital. The confusion arises because there is no strict separation between labor-for, labor-against and labor-beyond. TC, rejecting a properly dialectical notion, adopts an analytical or empirical (I suspect analytical or capital-logic) notion of class, as if the proletariat was ever a class capable of “acting strictly as a class of this mode of reproduction.”"

For the rest, I really ended up enjoying the communisation text, it was very evocative. I am very much fond of TC. Agree or not, I would recommend that everyone read them. Very good stuff.

I don't know if they get beyond, but they point to it, they are looking in all the right places, i think. i think I sent Suits a note, if I find it I will post it here.

Thank you Shawarma, it has been a pleasure. Also, please note that I posted all the Riff-Raff articles Riff-Raff wrote in the Library.

Chris

redtwister
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Dec 16 2005 22:54
cph_shawarma wrote:
There is however nothing that says that this must happen, the proletariat has no communist essence. It is merely a possibility.

your notion of essence is too Althusserian, either/or. The proletariat as a negative movement is essentially against capital, as its own self-negation, as not-labor, but it also has a positive essence as labor. In other words, in having a split essence that is in and against capital, in and aginst itself, it actually has a purchase on both capital (its enemy) and communism (its self-liberation.)

Hence marx's comment that the proletariat is revolutionary because it is a class with radical chains.

Of course, we agree that this guarantees nothing.

Chris

cph_shawarma
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Dec 17 2005 01:19
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This is the anti-Hegelianism, anti-dialectical edge of TC.

Not anti-dialectical, counter-dialectical. wink The movement of capital is indeed dialectical, but the communist movement abolishes this dialectic. This is the essence of Marx's critique of Hegel. Hegel proposed dialectics as historical philosophy, while Marx situated the dialectical process to the historically-concrete abstractions which are capital.

Quote:
It accords more with the sociological notion of class, for acting as a class strictly of this mode of production, the working class does not act as a class, but as labor-for-capital.

That which constitutes the proletariat as class is indeed "labor-for-capital" to put it in your words. Labour is indeed capital, and as a class the proletariat will work in the factories, producing yet more value.

Quote:
The confusion arises because there is no strict separation between labor-for, labor-against and labor-beyond.

A rhetorical question: What parts of capitalistic labour are supposed to negate the existence of the proletariat (ie. produce communism)? The proletariat can not be seen in this dualistic manner, where one part of it apparently is entirely separated from the concrete reality in which we live (capital).

Quote:
TC, rejecting a properly dialectical notion, adopts an analytical or empirical (I suspect analytical or capital-logic) notion of class, as if the proletariat was ever a class capable of “acting strictly as a class of this mode of reproduction.”

What do you mean by a "properly dialectical notion"? The classes are mere character masks to the relationship of capital, as Marx says in Capital vol. 1. The understanding of capital as something that indeed is "logical", bound by laws which are beyond the control of the proletariat, is entirely necessary to understand fundamental notions such as alienation, critique of self-management, leninism and even Marx himself.

It has been a pleasure.

/cph

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suitsmeveryfine
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Dec 17 2005 08:20

redtwister:

Quote:
Quote:
Off cource, in Marx’ critique of political economy one can see that there has to be a fundamental change of the production of social relations for the working class (with it’s conditions) to disappear together with capital – we don’t need to rewrite Capital. On the other hand, the political program he and Engels puts forward in for example the Manifesto or in the Critique of the Gotha programme does not have an immidiate solution to the reproduction of labour/capital. It is being postponed after the period of transition. Marx together with e.g. Bordiga does not recognise the workers’ state as socialist/communist (which Stalin does) but on the other hand sees it as a level from which a new mode of production can grow.

The problem is in part a confusion as to what constitutes the programme of the class. To me, this or that statement of demands is not the programme, in a historical sense following the notion of a historical party. Marx is of value because he, in his works like the 1844 Manuscripts, the Manifesto, the Grundrisse, Capital and The Critique of the Gotha Program, elucidate the historical programme of the class, not some list of demands.

This is not what I meant. I am aware of the concept of the historical party and that it is about the “final goal”: the negation of wage-labour, the classes, the state etc. I agree with Bordiga that Marx’ writings are a description of communism. But let’s spend some time thinking about the more immediate demands Marx proposes. On the one hand, he has this very clear understanding of communism / the historical party, but I would say that he, in Critique of the Gotha Program and other texts, doesn't manage to connect today with tomorrow. I wouldn’t say the measures of concentration all the means of production in the state and others are not measures of communisation.

For Marx, these measures somehow creates a link to communism via the period of transition. TC calls this idea programmatism and says that this was a “necessary” way of posing the way of communism in a time when immediate communisation wasn't on the door step. Dauvé as well says that the question of the period of transition was something revolutionaries in the past stood before but that no longer is valid.

Was there ever a possibility in the past that the proletariat by actually organising itself as a class – creating workers councils, book-making of labour time etc. – could create a link to communism? Maybe it was: maybe it was realistic and even likely under certain (subjectical--objectial) conditions. But since this didn’t happen, this subjectical–objectial situation failed to come, we stand before the question what actually did happened (as Shawarma has said). In TC’s critique of When Insurrections Die one agrees on Dauvés description of what historically happened in Spain for instance, but criticise him for condemning the anarchists / the historical movement in general of that time, for what measures one never did. You say that you cannot take other ultra-lefties into account. You are right about that, but what I think I was aiming for was that a certain way of arguing (yours from what I've heard so far, and Dauvés) logically makes one run into the same cul-de-sac as the traditional ultra-left (described in Aufheben #11).

Now I am not fully convinced about everything TC says, mostly because I find it very hard to verify, but since I believe they've got more than a point in the objections/critique of the ultra-left their idea of an end of programmatism with a new situation with a new problematic becomes really attractive.

redtwister wrote:
Also, I think we have a different reading of what is involved in transition in Marx (I cannot speak on Bordiga on this.) Marx is concerned with what is necessary for the proletariat to wipe out capital, value, commodities, markets, etc. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the forcible suppression of value, capital, markets, etc., and and the first phase of communism already assumes the suppression of classes, of class relations, of value, market, money, etc. and the elimination of the state because with the end of capital and classes, so ends the need for the semi-state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of the state reduced to the organized violence of the class (as opposed to the illusory community, the community through which all operate as citizens.)

I also had this view once. I believed that the first phase of communism described by Marx in Critique of the Gotha programme was correct and quoted it quite often in discussions with people. But then I was convinced that this was a superficial, in the end second international-, understanding of value and capital which (demonstrated very well in the articles on the USSR by Aufheben) leads to impossible positions such as Trotskyism. The law of value must have operated in for example Russia and not been suppressed by collectivisation. Now I am not certain of exactly what you mean by that the categories of capital will be suppressed during the first phase of communism, right now I’m only reading a second international understanding, so could you please explain that a little more careful?

redtwister wrote:
This seems to me a perfect example of a genuine break with Marx for a kind of economism, and it is not quite accurate as a picture of the struggles in the post-WWII period. The SI made the correct point that while one can raise wages and even improve working conditions, there is no way to otherwise, directly, compensate for alienation.

I didn’t mean to give you that impression. Off course I do agree with you that wage-labour (and living in capitalist society in general) is alienating and not bad just because the salary is low. I took Sweden (the well-fare state) as an example in what I said on this before so I can do it again: in the 70’s in northern Sweden there was a wave of violent wild cat strikes in the mining and forest industry at the time of a social democrat government (Olof Palme) and it had the spirit of protesting/acting against alienation. So off course, class struggle doesn’t die out just because there is a social contract. Is it your point that the proletariat has a communist essence because class struggle also attacks alienation?

Quote:
Quote:
...Threatining to blow up Cellatex factories gives results, organising Stalinist partys demanding nationalisation of industry doesn’t.

Again, this whole thing smacks of decadence...

Apart from perhaps what is happening in Venezuela, don’t you agree on that the Stalinists disappears or becomes social democrats and that the social democrats becomes liberal, and that voting for any party in the parliament looses its attractiveness for every day? The right wants to lower taxes and the left wants to deliver reforms or at least maintaining a certain standard in the public sector. The funding: accumulation of capital, and the whole discussion becomes what is the most effective way to do this. This is at least a tendency I think I can see. Maybe it’s not true everywhere in the world, I don’t know.

I think I have replied on most of the most relevant. For the rest I refer to most of Shawarma’s remarks (ooops, that was a few ‘mosts’). His mentioning of “counter-dialectics” gives me an opportunity also to recommend Marcel’s (the guy who did the making hamburgers article) “Communism of Attack and Communism of Withdrawal”. A really rough translation can be found here. The text was very controversial in our group and there were a lot of disagreements (a quite critical reply has been written for #8 for example). Most of them are connected to the disputes we’ve had in this discussion. (And please don’t put this text in your archive – cheers for the others though)

redtwister
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Dec 19 2005 18:31

Ok, well I'll chew on the stuff you guys wrote and I look forward to the Communism of Attack piece (I'll e-mail you questions re: translation, form, sp, etc.).

I'm going to bow out of this for now and sit back and chew on the discussions.

Cheers,

Chris

suitsmeveryfine's picture
suitsmeveryfine
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Dec 20 2005 01:06

Yes it seems like a good time to let the discussion rest for now. I must say you've contributed with a great deal av valuable thoughts which we are discussing right now in our group.

Quote:
I'll e-mail you questions re: translation, form, sp, etc.

oh, that's extremely nice, but please don't. Not before I've checked with som other people who had promised to look at it anyway. We don't want there to be made two same jobs -- but I'll let you know! Your beeing willing to help is extremely valuable to us.

And I guess we'll probably have a lot more intriguing discussions in the future.

lem
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Apr 26 2006 22:55
Quote:
Finally, there is an interesting passage in Slavoj Zizek's reasonably interesting book on Iraq (Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle) aimed at Laclau and Mouffe which would seem applicable to TC.

I'm about to have a g at reading hegemony and soicalist strategy - does anyone point me in the direction of anything that might make it more informative/me more clued in. Cheers!

lem
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May 2 2006 02:16

Yeah, Laclau's socialist startegy... As I understand it hegemony is when one group stands in for another's class task - e.g. the w/c for the bourgoisie in Russia.

In what way, can anyone tell me, is radical democacy a hegemonic project? Is it that Laclau belives that plural antagonisms can stand in for the proletariat's historic task?

Cheers