Value, time and communism: re-reading Marx – Gilles Dauvé

We re-post here a very interesting essay by Gilles Dauvé

Going back to Marx has nothing to do with digging into layers of thought and balancing merit: a few essential abstract notions – value, work, time, labour time and productivity – indicate what we wish to change in this world, and how.

1) The Origin of Value

Capital Volume I does not begin with a definition of what capitalism is, but how it “presents itself”: “an immense accumulation of commodities”. This approach points to a particular choice of perspective. Marx broaches the issue with the encounter of independent producers who meet on the market to exchange their wares. Since capital/labour is the heart of the matter, as Marx himself points out, and since he is not writing a history book, why not start with the encounter of the wage-earner and the capitalist ? His enquiry into wage-labour is initiated from the point of view of a division of labour between self-employed producers (farmer meets cloth-maker), and proceeds to analyze the dual nature of labour: concrete (labour has use value) and abstract (it produces exchange value).

According to Marx, use value takes up the character of exchange value once it enters the market. He describes the process as if value, instead of being born out of a very specific type of production, came after the productive moment and imposed itself upon work as an exterior constraint. It follows that the task of revolution would be to free the producers from this constraint.

Though Marx constantly relates value to labour, he does not insist upon its origin in production. Yet value results from a certain type of production, in which each item is made for and according to the labour time necessary to make it. Therefore communism as Marx sees it is a moneyless world based on communal work: the trouble is, work is a lot more than people getting together in a workshop to manufacture objects. Work includes time-counting and time-saving, which in turn implies quantifying average labour time necessary to produce this or that item : in other words, what Marx rightly calls value. Marx treats use value like a natural result of human activity, and would like to have use values without exchange value.

But use value is an analytic category both opposed to and encompassed by exchange value: it is impossible to do away with one without doing away with the other.

“Marx has offered much more than was directly essential for the practical conduct of the class war. [..] It is not true that Marx no longer suffices for our needs. On the contrary, our needs are not yet adequate for the utilization of Marx’s ideas.” (Rosa Luxemburg, Stagnation and Progress of Marxism, 1903)

That not-so-obvious idea suggested by R. Luxemburg over a century ago is even more relevant than she thought. Because of the historical limits of the proletarian movement in his time, because “mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve”, Marx could not take his own intuitions to their ultimate conclusions. He gave all the elements to understand that value [i]originates in production and manifests itself in exchange, but he still presented exchange – the market – as if it determined the whole process: therefore a market-less production, namely associated work, would be the key to emancipation. Hence the variations in Marx’s critique of work:

2) Work Abolished, or Work as Our Prime Want ?

In 1846, Marx argued that “the communist revolution is directed against the preceding mode of activity” and “does away with labour” (German Ideology, Part I, D). This was a long way from identifying man as homo faber, or a “toolmaker” (B. Franklin).

Twenty years later, there is a shift in emphasis : “So far therefore as labour is a creator of use value, is useful labour, it is a necessary condition, independent of all forms of society, for the existence of the human race; it is an eternal nature-imposed necessity, without which there can be no material exchanges between man and Nature, and therefore no life.” (Capital, 1867, Chap. 1, 2).

Capital’s first chapter regards labour (not wage-labour, labour in general) as something that has existed since the dawn of mankind and in nearly every society. As the “man and nature” metabolism becomes an object of enquiry under the category of “labour”, labour turns work into an eternal natural fact. We are left with the idea that work, not work as we know it now, but what it may have been in very old times, before private property, before money, classes, etc., and what it could become in communism, i.e. work without a labour Market, is positive and necessary.

The Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) described “[..] a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly [..]” Here Marx launched what was to be the ABC of Marxism: the proletarian ceases to be a proletarian (i.e. a wage-earner exploited by a boss) when everyone works. Now, which work ? wage-labour ? Marx proceeds as if the question was irrelevant: as soon as we all belong to the work community and there are no bourgeois, extending work to everyone solves the social question. Getting rid of capitalism is not perceived of as abolishing the capital/labour reunion, but as liberating work from capital, from its alienated prison.

In the 1840s, Marx started from a radical standpoint that was utterly unacceptable in his time (and has remained so up to now). Thirty years and a few proletarian defeats later, by labour becoming “life’s prime want”, he certainly meant a complete reconfiguration of creative activity. But for him, achieving this goal required more development of “the productive forces”. The historical thread Marx was weaving in the 1840s proved in contradiction to the working class movement as it was really developing (unions, parties, parliamentary action, etc.). Sadly but logically, Marx’s late vision remained hampered by capitalist pictures of the future: only a worker-led economic growth would ultimately free mankind.

3) Time as Measure

According to Capital, “In all states of society, the labour time that it costs to produce the means of subsistence, must necessarily be an object of interest to mankind, though not of equal interest in different stages of development.” (Volume I, Chap.1, 4)

The 1857-58 manuscripts (the Grundrisse) are reputed to be quite different from Capital. In many respects they are, especially because they link exploitation to alienation. Still, one can read in those pages the same contradictions as in Marx’s published writings, on work as well as on time, and both concepts are indeed interlocked.

“Real economy – saving – consists of the saving of labour time (minimum (and minimization) of production costs) [..] The saving of labour time [is] equal to an increase of free time, i.e. time for the full development of the individual [..]”

“It goes without saying [..] that direct labour time itself cannot remain in the abstract antithesis to free time in which it appears from the perspective of bourgeois economy. Labour cannot become play, as Fourier would like, although it remains his great contribution to have expressed the suspension not of distribution, but of the mode of production itself, in a higher form, as the ultimate object.”

True, life, and of course productive acts, require “practical use of the hands and free bodily movement”, and imply effort and exertion, and we must bear this in mind, especially against the myth of automation-induced freedom. Nevertheless, the work v. play opposition is a dead-end: these are historical, not natural, categories. Not everything can be turned into fun. Quite. But the necessity of effort does not mean that it has to take the form of [/i]work[/i]. It is not always more pleasant to eat than to cook. And what about washing up ? It only becomes a chore because of the mechanical nature of housework (80% of which are still performed by women in Western Europe and North America), that has to be done under double pressure from time-saving and family life as we know it. Re-appropriating and altering our conditions of existence involve new relationships between man/woman, but also parent/child, adult/youth, which call for another habitat, another education, etc.

What we read in the Grundrisse is as profound as ambiguous:

“Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth.”

“The more this contradiction develops, the more does it become evident that the growth of the forces of production can no longer be bound up with the appropriation of alien labour, but that the mass of workers must themselves appropriate their own surplus labour. Once they have done so – and disposable time thereby ceases to have an antithetical existence – then, on one side, necessary labour time will be measured by the needs of the social individual, and, on the other, the development of the power of social production will grow so rapidly that, even though production is now calculated for the wealth of all, disposable time will grow for all.”

Capitalism “is thus, despite itself, instrumental in creating the means of social disposable time, in order to reduce labour time for the whole society to a diminishing minimum, and thus to free everyone’s time for their own development. But its tendency is always, on the one side, to create disposable time, on the other, to convert it into surplus labour.”

“For real wealth is the developed productive power of all individuals. The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labour time, but rather disposable time.”

By definition, disposable time has not been employed yet, is still potential, therefore
impossible to measure. There is a difference between saying: “I’ll work in your garden
tomorrow from 2 to 4”, as a local exchange trading system partner would say (as an interest-free credit swap, LETS is based on labour-time count), and saying: “I’ll help you gardening tomorrow afternoon”, as a friend might say. So Marx’s disposable time seems to break with value. But the question remains: in a future society, will this disposable time become the totality of time, or will it be simply added to an always present labour-time, even reduced to a couple of hours a day ?… Further on, Marx defines “free time” as “both idle time and time for higher activity”, so we are not any wiser.

Marx posed the “time-count” issue (which is fundamental to the question of work) but could not solve it because he was addressing it on the basis of the notion of time itself. Time is indeed the dimension of human liberation, providing the measure of time does not turn into measuring the world and us according to time.

4) Community Planning

“Let us now picture [..] a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour power of the community. [..] The total product of our community is a social product. [..] We will assume, but merely for the sake of a parallel with the production of commodities, that the share of each individual producer in the means of subsistence is determined by his labour time.” (Capital, vol. I, chap. 1, 4)

If Marx assumes that labour time will regulate production, “merely for the sake of a parallel with the production of commodities”, this is because the opposite assumption would be near unthinkable. Though this is for the sake of a comparison, his perspective is indeed to replace small private producers by social work, bourgeois rule by community rule, and anarchy and waste by democratic planning.

The whole plan hinges on transparency and self-understanding: in future, human beings will be conscious of what they do. At present, the bourgeois do not know what labour time amounts to, and they don’t want to know, because an accurate reckoning of labour time would reveal the extent of the exploitation of labour. Exact opposite in communism: in Marx’s view, associated producers will be able to compute the labour time necessary to whatever they manufacture.

Marx repeatedly refused to draw blueprints for the future. So it is significant that when he did elaborate on the subject in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), his suggestion for the “lower phase” of communism, labour vouchers, amounted to value without money.

5) Council Communism & Labour Time

In 1930, the Dutch council communist group GIK (Group of Internationalist Communists
of Holland) published Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution.

After being active in the KAPD, German-born Jan Appel (1890-1985) had to move to Holland where he joined the GIK. He had done the first draft of the text, and later the scheme was laid down in more details, by Paul Mattick in particular.

Its main principle is the “introduction of the Average Social Hour of Labour as a unit of economic regulation and control. [..] all money will be declared worthless and only labour certificates will give entitlement to social product. It will be possible to exchange this “certificate money” only at the cooperative shops and warehouses. The sudden abolition of money will bring about a situation in which, equally suddenly, all products must have their appropriate ASRT (Average Social Reproduction Time) stamped upon them.” (1930 edition, Epilogue, § 2: “From Money to Labour-Time Computation”)

Now, if the GIK gave a key role to labour time counting, it was not from an economist’s or a technician’s point of view, because that method would be more efficient or better adapted to modern industry. In a short autobiographical note (readable on libcom) written in 1966, Jan Appel made it clear what the idea that underpinned the plan was :

“[..] the most profound and intense contradiction in human society resides in the fact that [..] the right of decision over the conditions of production, over what and how much is produced and in what quantity, is taken away from the producers themselves and placed in the hands of highly centralised organs of power. [..] This basic division in human society can only be overcome when the producers finally assume their right of control over the conditions of their labour, over what they produce and how they produce it. [..] It was likewise a wholly new conception to concentrate one’s attention [..] upon the exercise of power by the factory organisations, the Workers’ Councils, in their assumption of control over the factories and places of work; in order that flowing from this, the unit of the average social hour of labour, as the measure of the production times of all goods and services in both production and distribution, might be introduced.”

This highlights the prime purpose of the scheme : to make sure all producers would be able to understand how production functions, so they can take authentic collective decisions. Nobody else but the producers is in the best position to know what production implies in terms of material and human resources, and the only way of synthesizing all productive factors is to reduce them to their common denominator: human labour, measured in time, ASRT, the great and fair simplifier. So it will be necessary to “adopt as the nodal point of all economic activity the duration of labour time expended in the production of all use values, as the equivalent measure replacing money values, and around which the whole of economic life would revolve.”

As seen above in § 1 and 3, Marx was in contradiction with himself when he presented social labour time as something different from and opposed to value, but his notes did not elaborate the idea into a full definitive plan. Council communism’s ASRT brings this contradiction to a stage where it is untenable : The bourgeois does not know what value is : he only bothers about profit, interest or rent, and when economists discuss value, it is these three forms they are talking about, not Marxian value. Yet, according to council communists, the associated producers would be able to evaluate the individual and the collective physical-mental energy necessary to produce objects, and to measure that exertion in time. This is forgetting that labour time, because it is a social average, is hardly computable for a specific task or object. Value does exist, but not as a management technique instrument.

The money-less utopia goes a long way: whereas money is the natural tool of the rich, the common people want a standard that comes from them, from those who do the real thing, who create riches. After all, any effort can be reduced to a certain exertion measurable in time (considering the intensity of the task and skill involved). In order to expand « free » time, the aim is to locate “working hours” and reduce them as much as possible.

Council communists proposed a proletarian variation on that theme. To avoid utopia, the plan starts from three postulates: production has to be done, cannot be turned into play, and its process is so complex that it requires planning. The labour time-based economy meets all three requisites. It would make worker management possible and exploitation impossible: gold, coins or notes can be accumulated to hire labour, labour-time vouchers can’t. Besides, a labour time-based economy would eliminate waste and reconcile fairness with efficiency.

A 1994 essay describes “a society based on labour time” :

“The only way time can become ‘free’ is by making the products of that time free as well. The products of our work can all be compared with one another in terms of the time taken or spent producing them. So now we can, if we choose, suppress prices, markets and so on and make distribution of all products ‘free’ in exchange for the ‘time’ of the producers. [..] Only when the producers themselves know the true costs of production can they take control of or manage the production process.” (The content of Socialism/Communism, by D.G.: readable on left-dis.nl)

In such plans, in spite of complete political and economic worker democracy, work is not abolished as such, as something distinct from the rest of life.

For the GIK, the company explicitly stood as an economic unit at the centre of the system. Of course, council communists were aware of the inescapable fact that some companies, and some workers within each company, would be more productive than others: they thought this would be compensated for by a complex regulating mechanism detailed by Mattick in What is Communism ? (International Council Correspondence, # 1, Oct. 1934). However, if the regulator is labour time, this entails the imperative of being productive, and productivity is no servant : it rules over production. The shopfloor would soon lose control over its elected supervisors, and democratically designated co-organizers would act as bosses. The system of councils would survive as an illusion, and workers’ management result in capitalism, or rather… capitalism would never have disappeared. We can’t have it both ways: either we keep the foundation of value, or we dispense with it. The circle can’t be squared.

Such a scheme goes as close as one can get to keeping the essentials of capitalism yet putting them under full worker control.

6) Bordiga’s Critique

The GIK and Pannekoek’s vision was born as a counterpoint to Leninist and then Stalinist Russia, and owed a lot to a prevailing mood created by the 1930s Depression. Across the political spectrum, Otto Rühle, Bruno Rizzi, dissident Trotskyists Burnham and Schachtman, non-Marxists Berle and Means and many others thought capitalism was on its way to planning, bureaucratization and nationalization. During the war, J. Schumpeter announced the end of the age of private entrepreneurs, and for him the question was whether a new socialized economy would come under democratic or dictatorial rule. After 1945, this perception was reinforced by the growing power of the USSR and Mao’s victory in China. Socialisme ou Barbarie is now well-known as an eminent theorist of world bureaucratization, but similar views were common at the time. Karl Korsch wrote in 1950 :

“The control of the workers over the production of their own lives will not come from their occupying the positions, on the international and world markets, abandoned by the selfdestroying and so-called free competition of the monopolistic owners of the means of production. This control can only result from a planned intervention by all the classes today excluded from it into a production which today is already tending in every way to be regulated in a monopolistic and planned fashion.” (Ten Theses on Marxism Today)

For council communists, the revolutionary question became how labour could take over the management of a more and more “organized” capitalism and thereby transform it in a socialist/communist economy. Russia played the part of a counter-model. To quote one of the editions of the GIK’s text, the objective was that “once the workers have won power through their mass organisations”, they “will be able to hold on to that power”.

Bordiga stood apart because he refused the concept of « bureaucracy » as a new social agent which would play in the 20th century an epochal role comparable to the bourgeoisie before. Though his theory of the party differed from Lenin’s, he maintained a constant pro-Lenin stand. Such persistency paradoxically helped him grasp the nature of capitalism and of communism. The main reason why it took him so long to analyse Russia as capitalist and the Comintern as anti-revolutionary, is for him the bureaucracy/rank and file opposition was never a key issue. He rejected the theory of “bureaucratic” capitalism : the Russian command economy run by the party-State did not differ in nature from western bourgeois-led capitalism. The enigma was not the bureaucracy, but the essential economic laws which the bureaucracy had to obey, and he saw these laws as described in Capital: value accumulation, exchange of commodities, declining rate of profit, etc. Only relative backwardness prevented Russia from the “usual” manifestations of over-production, which asserted itself anyhow, particularly by waste. During the Cold War, when many a council communist depicted bureaucratic regimes as the likely future of capitalist evolution, Bordiga foresaw the US dollar would penetrate Russia, and ultimately crack the Kremlin walls.

The Dutch-German Left was right to define the USSR as capitalist: the reason why it defined it as capitalist was flawed. Because there were no private bourgeois, no privately owned business and because competition seemed inexistent, council communists believed that Stalin’s Russia had altered at least some of the fundamentals set down by Marx. It insisted on the control of the economy by the bureaucracy, to which it opposed the slogan of worker management. Bordiga said there was no need for a new programme : worker management is a secondary matter, and workers will only be able to manage the economy if market and value relations are abolished.

Needless to say, Bordiga’s cogent objections were left unanswered, partly because they came from a staunch defender of Lenin.

In his Marxist days, C. Castoriadis (then writing as P. Chaulieu) regarded value as a mere instrument of measure, a useful concept, not as the reality of capital. In Marx and Keynes (1969), Mattick interpreted the analysis of value as a critique of the superficial nature of classical economics : he did not see it as a social mechanism characteristic of capitalism.

The debate goes far beyond the analysis of bureaucratic or State capitalism.

Because wage-labour and value were essential to Bordiga’s definition of capitalism, he better understood what the USSR was. At the same time, as he dismissed the bureaucratic or State capitalist theories, he missed the bureaucratic issue, which is a real one, not in the German-Dutch sense which gives it pre-eminence, but in the sense that there will be no revolution without proletarian self-action. “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, Independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” (Communist Manifesto, chap. 1: our emphasis) The Dutch-German Left was among the few who took these words seriously. In short, Bordiga thought communism could be achieved top down. Councilism prioritized worker democracy (and some like Castoriadis, in the end, just democracy). Bordiga prioritized dictatorship. However, his consistency in defining communism neither as a matter of consciousness nor as a matter of management remains valid and essential.

7) Does Value Abolish Itself ?

One more episode in the value saga…

If revolution is a complete break with capitalism, this begs the question of what causes it. The proletariat makes the revolution, no doubt, but Marx often presents proletarian action as a side-effect of industrialization, as if the development of productive forces not only contributed to revolution, but was its major cause. This is what Marx suggests in relation to the first automated machines, with special reference to computing pioneer Ch. Babbage :

“As the basis on which large industry rests, the appropriation of alien labour time, ceases, with its development, to make up or to create wealth, so does direct labour as such cease to be the basis of production, since, in one respect, it is transformed more into a supervisory and regulatory activity; but then also because the product ceases to be the product of isolated direct labour, and the combination of social activity appears, rather, as the producer.” (Grundrisse)

“As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. [..] With that, production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis.”

In other words, when it becomes impossible to trace the personal contribution of an individual worker to wealth creation, the law of value (the regulation of production and circulation of goods by the amount of average labour time necessary to produce them) hinders economic progress and mutates into an absurdity which triggers historical change.

In the past, the growing merchant power had exploded feudal shackles and replaced aristocratic by bourgeois rule. Soon the industrial thrust, the economic socialization and the concentrated masses of workers would prove incompatible with private property and bourgeois domination. Proletarian revolution was thought of on the model of democratic bourgeois revolution. The author of Capital partook of his time’s belief in historical progress, and added a revolutionary twist: capitalist development led to communism.

Marx cannot be simplified into this position, but there is enough in his work to warrant it. Present in his analysis is the tension of the time of bourgeois triumph. “Social labour” implies the possibility of rejecting all forms of alienated practice, but the concept oscillated between utopia in the 1840s and practical politics in later years. At about the same time as the Grundrisse{/i], he was writing that

“At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production [..] From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.” (preface to his [i]Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859)

As explained in the conclusion of Capital volume I, “ [..] capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of negation.” This “expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people” will be possible when capitalist development ( = the development of productive forces) renders useless and absurd the coexistence of exploiting and exploited classes. The Grundrisse expounds the same dialectic:

“As the system of bourgeois economy has developed for us only by degrees, so too its negation, which is its ultimate result.”

Many a thinker (their name is legion) has taken pains to demonstrate how the “law of value” was tending to abolish itself (the word law is typical of the decline of critique into science). These theorists herald the advent of a time when the average social labour time would mutate into an inadequate measuring rod and ineffective regulator. Sooner or later, wage-labour’s own socialization would tear the system apart as an outmoded frame.

This amounts to revolutionary change without revolution.

No. There is no tipping point when the wage-labour system would render itself null and void. Let us not expect capitalist contradictions to solve those of the proletariat, because the proletariat also is a contradiction: it is situated both at the inner heart and outside of capitalism. Theories of (violent or gradual) capital self-destruction dodge this contradiction, which has to do with class struggle. In particular, as no expenditure of physical or mental effort can be accurately broken down to seconds and minutes, complete submission of labour by capital is impossible. The proletarians’ fight against capital is based on their resistance to what the bourgeois turns them into: an activity bound in and forced into productive time.
8) Marx as a Marxist

In order to distinguish between Marx and his many non-revolutionary successors, radicals have often contended that Marx himself was the first and probably best critique of Marxism. (I did it too.)

Sometimes the road to a mistake is paved with good intentions.

As soon as “Marxism” emerged, Marxists started looking over Marx’s writings to find the demonstration that one day capitalist socialization would prevent capitalism from perpetuating itself. This might be a good definition of Marxism, actually: replacing proletarian action by fairly peaceful evolution or by a beneficial catastrophe, but in any case a quasi-natural process. At the end of the 19th century, this structural limit was perceived in the contradiction between bourgeois property and such a huge productive blossoming that even cartels and trusts would be incapable of mastering it. As volumes II and III of Das Kapital came out, they were read as proof that enlarged reproduction of capital would inevitably reach breaking point.

Nowadays, the analysis shifts from the economic to the social crisis, and from the worker to the people as an agent of change. Thanks to the 1857-58 manuscripts being available, the limitation is now said to be in the contemporary sources of wealth, which supposedly exceed so much capitalist structure that they call for its suppression, like a fabric bursting at the seams. Toni Negri will not be the last one to read in the Grundrisse that value (the regulation of production by labour time, by the hunt for minimal production cost) is already ceasing to rule modern society : according to T. Negri, the world now depends on the general or social intellect (Marx beyond Marx. Lessons on the Grundrisse, Autonomedia, 1991). All we (a we likely to include about 99% of the population) would have to do is grow aware of this historical discrepancy, turn potential evolution into effective change, and society would be transformed.

In plain English, in the 21st century as in 1900, productive forces are portrayed as if they were antagonistic to value and wage-labour, and on the verge of spiralling out of bourgeois control.

This interpretation is biased but, as explained before, not unfaithful to Marx’s letter and spirit.

There is more to it than simply contrasting young Marx to the old. Contradictions abounded in (and drove forward) his writings from beginning to end. He followed a consistent and discontinued path from the 1840s unpublished manuscripts to the (often equally unpublished) manuscripts of later years. In the 1860s, at the same time as he was having far-reaching insights in what is known as the Grundrisse, he was never-finishing his masterwork, Capital. The title is significant of Marx’s priority : a 20 or 30-year effort to immerse himself in the ins and outs of capitalism in order to understand its possible overthrow. The means turned into an end: the more he wanted to get to the essentials of the proletariat, the deeper he went into studying capitalism. Procrastination is often a sign that problem and solution are indissolubly mixed.

Undoubtedly, we criticize Marx with the help of Marx, and the most enlightening comment remains the one Bordiga made more than 50 years ago: Marxian texts have to be read as a “description of the features of communist society”. That being said, what dominated Marx’s life and work ? Not only did he leave his literally blinding intuitions aside, but even those insights mixed the supersession of the economy with the project of a community economy (see above § 4). Marx is more a critic of money and commodity than of work and productivity. If he gave a minor place to a communist revitalization of the Russian peasant commune compared to worldwide industrialization, it was because capitalist headway went along with an ascending worker movement which was essential to him.

“[..] the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favour of free trade.” (Speech on the Question of Free Trade, January 1848)

No-one sets himself free from the limits of the period he happens to live in, and we are as time-bound as Marx and Engels were.

Understanding communism implies distinguishing Marx from Marxism without denying the link between the two. Otherwise, we would risk making up Marx in accordance to our wishes, or (worse) with the winds of time. We can already read about a Marx who was an ecologist before ecology. Maybe soon we will be told about an esoteric Marx who theorized gender.

G.D.

For further reading:

Several essential points made in this text derive from Bruno Astarian’s stimulating Feuilleton (serial) on value, chapters 1 and 2 (on the Hic Salta site, so far only in French).

Oddly enough first published in Moscow in the maelstrom of the second world war, the Grundrisse remained virtually unknown until the second German edition (1953), were made available in French only in 1967, and English readers had to wait until 1973 for a full translation.

All Grundrisse quotes are taken from Notebook VII, § “Contradiction between the foundation of bourgeois production (value as measure) and its development. Machines, etc.”.

If the GIK and Mattick could have read the then-unpublished Grundrisse in the 30s, it is likely that Marx’s pages would have fuelled their thesis rather than thrown cold water on it. When they consider the Grundrisse, contemporary councilists like D.G. find confirmation in Marx’s passages on time. For example, in Marx’s Critique of Socialist Labor-Money Schemes & the Myth of Council Communism’s Proudhonism, libcom, 2013, David Adam rebuts my former critique of the councilist vision of communism on the ground that the GIK’s notion of value is the same as Marx’s. The discussion is becoming rather tricky, no fault of D. Adam or mine, it is just that the question is complicated. In the past, I wished to refute the GIK in the name of Marx’s analysis of value, with special reference to the Grundrisse. I now make the point that there is something highly debatable in Marx’s vision itself, both in Capital and the Grundrisse, and that the GIK did follow Marx’s footsteps and was wrong to do so: far from being a useful and fair instrument of measure, labour time is capitalist blood. This is more than a causative link: labour time is the substance of value. Marx was indeed a forerunner of the councilist project. Let it be clear, however, that our present critique of Marx is also possible because of what we read in his writings.

On the popularity of the “planning” and “organized capitalism” themes in the 1930s: In 1932, under the name of Carl Steuermann, O. Rühle published a book (available in French, not in English) the title of which translates as: “World Crisis or: Towards State Capitalism”. Although his 1939 book (first published in French) remained in obscurity for thirty years, Bruno Rizzi (1901-77) was one of the first to theorize the Bureaucratization of the world. In 1939-40, in the American Trotskyist SWP, J. Burnham and M. Schachtman rejected Trotsky’s thesis of the USSR as a “degenerated workers’ State”, and demonstrated that the bureaucracy was an exploiting class and the Russian State imperialist. Burnham soon turned arch-conservative and became a dedicated Cold Warrior. Schachtman evolved towards a more and more moderate social democracy. A. Berle and G. Means were among those who promoted the theory of corporate governance (The Modern Corporation & Private Property, 1932). A. Berle was involved in the New Deal. J. Schumpeter’s influential book was Capitalism, Socialism & Democracy (1942).

On Marx and the Russian mir, see his letter to Vera Zasulich, March 8, 1881; and : “If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development.” (preface to the 1882 edition of the Communist Manifesto); also Engels’ prescient remarks in his letter to V. Zasulich, April 23, 1985.

Chapter from a new edition of Eclipse & Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, (to be published by PM Press, Autumn 2014).

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On the Paris Massacre and the Government’s Campaigns

The following piece was written by a comrade in France

The demonstrations in reply to the deadly massacre against the editors of Charlie Hebdo and a kosher hypermarket have gathered almost four million people on January 11, one and a half million of which showed up in Paris. Together they constitute one of the largest gatherings in French history. Four days earlier, on the evening of the Charlie Hebdo killings, the mobilization had started spon­taneously. It has expanded, particularly through social networks via Internet, outside of any State control.

First and foremost this dash has translated the will to come together, to not remain in one’s own corner, powerless in face of this horror. The stakes consisted in expressing a real solidarity with the victims, politically impertinent cartoonists, who embodied what is left of the liberty of expression. It claimed to a stand for the drawing pencil against the Kalashnikov, for humor and free criticism against religious obscurantism, for civilization against barbarism.

The empathy expressed by the slogan “I am Charlie” was often extended to “I am Jewish, cop, Muslim”, as if one wanted to give credit, for a brief moment, to a human community in which all fraternize, united by the rejection of barbarity. Even the ‘forces of order’, who less than three months earlier had been taunted for having provoked the death of a young ecologist protesting against the construction of a barrage, [1] appeared as heroes who risk their lives in order to save the community from ‘terrorism’.

In reply, the government has rapidly taken the initiative for a gigantic national mobilization that would canalize every propensity to act within the limits of a ‘sacred union’ behind the representat­ives of the established ‘democratic’ order. The French president Hollande himself announced that he would take part in a large demonstration, affirming the unity of the nation in defense of the “val­ues of the Republic”, of “democracy against terrorism and barbarity”. About forty representatives of other governments were invited and took part.

On January 11, one witnessed the absurd and sad spectacle of a demonstration of revolt against barbaric acts, but one that had been organized and directed by the political managers themselves re­sponsible for the social system that engenders this barbarity on a daily basis.

The savagery that has manifested itself in the murderous attacks against Charlie Hebdo in the name of a radical Islamism is part of the savagery sewn by the great powers and the local ones that confront each other in Syria, in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in Africa, in Ukraine… It is the great powers, among which France, that produce, sell and provide the weapons serving to saw ter­ror within the civil populations and by which soldiers kill each other mutually on all sides of the fronts. They are the same who foment and utilize local antagonisms in order to enlarge or preserve their respective zones of influence. Radical Islamism was encouraged and utilized by the USA since the end of the 1970s in the war in Afghanistan, to counter the country’s invasion by the USSR. Ever since, it has been an instrument of recruitment utilized, in an incalculable number of ways, by the local governments and by the great powers. In Syria, for instance, where a horrible war of self-de­struction has already provoked 200,000 deaths and the displacement of whole populations in terrible conditions, France has supported radical Jihadist groups against the regime of Bashir El Assad.

With a likewise cynicism they pretend to be the guarantors of ‘democratic liberties’ and ‘human rights’. It was a very democratic French government that, in 1970, banned the ancestor of the afore­mentioned Charlie Hebdo, Hara-Kiri Hebdo, for having ridiculed the death of Charles De Gaulle. Charlie Hebdo had, in the first place, been a reply to this denial of liberty. The very democratic Spanish government, whose leader Mariano Rajoy paraded together with François Hollande at the Paris rally, has just adopted an ensemble of laws that criminalize and punish virtually every concrete attempt to manifest one’s opposition to the established order, to a degree unprecedented since general Franco. The dominant classes only support ‘democratic liberties’ as long as they permit them to rule by encapsulating social life with more or less flexibility in the straightjacket of their system. But as soon as they feel threatened themselves, or simply have fear, as has surely been the case for certain sectors in Spain since the uncontrollable mobilizations of the Indignados, they do not hesitate to suppress or go around them, and take recourse to violence and brutal repression.

The French government has skilfully succeeded in transforming what should have been a mobil­ization against the social system that engenders the wars and misery – of which the Paris massacre has only been one product, just like the massacres against the population in Nigeria that occurred at the same time – in a demonstration of a ‘Sacred Union’ behind the State that manages and protects this system.

By doing so, the government primarily pursues two objectives. The first is the preparation of ‘public opinion’ for an intensification of the military interventions of France. Three days after the demonstrations of January 11, François Hollande had himself filmed on the aircraft carrier ‘Charles De Gaulle’, on its way to the Middle East to take part in the combat against the ‘Islamic State’, as­sisting at the taking off of a series of military aircraft, chanting the Marseillaise with the navy sol­diers and announcing the suspension of the reduction of military expenses previously envisaged. In French parliament the deputies have also broken into the national anthem as an expression of their ‘Sacred Union’, a term first used by the very same assembly at the outset of the First world butchery in August 1914.

The government’s second objective is to reinforce the State’s police control over the population. Already for quite a long time the French State exercises a surveillance of and a control over the Ji­hadist networks that is reputedly efficient. Many observers remain intrigued by the fact that Ji­hadists so well known to the French secret services could have committed this deadly assault. But, bey­ond this aspect and under the pretext thereof, the government puts in place an important reinforce­ment of means of surveillance and control of the whole population. Certain deputies even speak about the necessity of a ‘Patriot Act’ in French style, referring to the “anti-terrorist” law signed by George W. Bush in the wake of the attacks against the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in 2001. Among others this law permits the American State to detain every person suspected of a terrorist project without limitation and without indictment, in the name of defending “democracy”, or to have access to all digital data of the citizens without prior authorization and without informing them.

When it comes to governing a country in which unemployment has become massive and keeps growing, particularly amongst the youth, in which the employment and working conditions are de­grading for decades, without any real perspective of amelioration, in which a new train of economic measures is shortly to be put in place [2] in order to enhance the profitability and the exploitation of labor – in short, in a country in which the reasons for revolt do not cease to multiply, it is quite nat­ural that those responsible for the State equip themselves with the juridical, technical [3] and poli­cing means to discourage and repress every real attempt of putting the dominant social order into question.

For thousands of years the dominant classes have always known to utilize the feeling of insecur­ity of the populations, if not to stimulate it, in order to justify and strengthen the State power that defends and guarantees the ruling order to their advantage. Insecurity and fear often have the tend­ency to throw the population into the arms of what may secure it, the ‘forces of peace’ ; the ‘forces of order’ ; the State that is supposed to represent the community. Today “terrorism”, by a magisterial and omnipresent operation of propaganda, offers an appropriate (and habitual) terrain for this kind of manipulations and totalitarian control of a supposedly democratic society. The extension of the concept of ‘terrorism’ to every form of opposition against that system that surpasses the framework of strict “republican legality” will soon serve as an instrument for the justification of repression.

Moreover the French State benefits from a reality that it has sown and cultivated for a very long time : the division between migrant workers, or workers ‘originating from immigration’, on the one side and French workers on the other. This is not a new policy. In all countries importing work force, the capitalist class has meticulously practiced the old principle of ‘divide and rule’ since the beginning of capitalism. Like in the England of the XIX. Century, in which the Irish workers were over-exploited and detested by the English workers who saw them as disloyal competitors.

Today this “communitarian” division is exacerbated by the economic crisis and unemployment that sharpen competition between the workers for ever rarer jobs. For reasons related to its co­lonial past, a part of the immigrant workers, or of the workers originating from immigration in France, is of Islamic religion. Religion, this “lament of the beset creature”, this “temper of a heartless world”, and this “spirit of spiritless conditions”, as Marx had said, has served and is still serving as a refuge for many workers who are regularly being treated as “dirty Arab”, and who know how diffi­cult it is to obtain a housing or a job when you are called Mustapha or Mohammed. Against this background of misery, that French capitalist society reproduces on a daily basis, semi-suicidal tend­encies towards ‘Jihadism’ can develop, in particular amongst the youth.

The recent killings committed at the outcry of “Allah Akbar” have revived anti-Muslim senti­ments with a part of the population. The number of attacks against Muslim persons and mosques has largely increased since. The ‘communitarian’ divisions are a deadly poison for the workers and pen­nies from heaven for the governments, who find a powerful means to bar the unification of the sole force capable of putting their power into question : the union of all exploited, of the immense major­ity of the population beyond ethnic and national divisions.

It is not by chanting the national anthem, as was done during the demonstrations of January 11, with the managers responsible for this mortifying and freedom killing society, that one puts an end to ‘terrorism’ neither to the barbarity it is part and parcel of. Contrary to the numerous illusions that traversed these demonstrations, it will be necessary to unite in order to achieve the unification of a veritable human community – not with the dominant classes and their politicians, but against them and against their inhuman logic. This is more difficult. But it is the only way.

Raoul Victor, January 29, 2015.

Translated by : Jac. Johanson, February 6, 2015.

[1] In the course of a demonstration at the project site at Sivens, in the south-west of France, the 21 years old Rémi Fraisse was killed by a grenade, during a confrontation between anti-riot police and a group of demonstrators.

[2] The Macron law.

[3] In particular by a stricter surveillance of the Internet.

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On Syriza and its Recent Victory in the General Elections in Greece

The following post contains excepts from a document on the electoral victory of Syriza in Greece written by the comrades of the TPTG group. Since the document is too long to post in its entirety here, we have chosen to reprint the opening paragraph and the appendix. To read the entire document, please visit our site here.

———————————————————

On the 25th of January of 2015, for the first time in Greek history, a left-wing party, SYRIZA, won the general elections with a majority of 36.34%, 8.5 percentage points above Nea Dimokratia (“New Democracy”), the traditional right-wing party and the main force of the departing government coalition. However, SYRIZA didn’t win an absolute majority since it gained 149 seats in the parliament (a minimum of 151 seats is needed to win a vote of confidence). In consequence, they formed a coalition with “Anexartitoi Ellines” (“Independent Greeks”), a right-wing nationalist populist party which gained 4.75% of the votes and 13 seats in the parliament. Such a collaboration became possible due to the firm opposition of “Anexartitoi Ellines” to the memoranda austerity programs in the previous years despite the great differences in issues like immigration and foreign policy between the two parties…

Appendix: On some theoretical debates inside SYRIZA that were quickly
put aside

The anti-state communist minority in Europe and elsewhere, who still concern themselves with issues of communization, the capitalist state and value theory might be interested to know that one of the main architects of SYRIZA’s program – and a member of the negotiating team of the new government with the rest of the EU member-states- was, until some years ago, the main theoretician of the Althusserian faction of SYRIZA and a leading critic of the neo-gramscian state theory and the left ricardian labour theory of value!

Here are some interesting quotes from his texts:

It’s the parliamentary “filtering” of the different class practices (the practices not only of the bourgeoisie and its allies but also of the working class and its allies) that makes their “representation” inside the state feasible; that makes their subsumption to the general capitalist interest practicable… It’s not a particular party but the whole parliamentary system that ties the lower classes to the “political class” of capitalist rule. It’s not a particular party but the capitalist state as a whole that constitutes the real “party”, the real “representative” of capital, the political condensation of capitalist rule. That’s why, since the era of Marx, all the “visions” and the attempts of the reformist political vehicles to “conquer” and socialize the state have ended to the nationalization of the visionaries and a rude awakening.

Classical political economy was an embodied labour theory of value and a theory of the exploitation of wage labourers by propertied classes. The main currents of Marxism adopted this classical theory of value and exploitation by removing Marx’s critique of it. This theoretical mutation is closely connected to the ideological and political mutation of the Left from a movement of radical contestation to a power of management and reform of the capitalist system… In its “conservative” version this problematic raises the issues of the “fair” pay of the worker, her “dignified living conditions”, pay rises in accordance to productivity of labour etc. In other words, the immediate demands of the workers in their conflict with capital are raised to the status of a “social ideal”, since the forms of capitalist relations of power are taken as a “necessary fact”. In its “radical” version this classical theory of value and exploitation envisages a “capitalism without private capitalists”: “socialization”, i.e. public property of means of production goes hand in hand with the maintenance of all forms of capitalist economy and the capitalist state… The transition from capitalism to communism is necessarily related to the abolition of value form, i.e. money and
commodity, and the form of enterprise.

Fair enough, Dr. Milios! Thanks for this excellent critique of reformist politics! But what has this self-understanding got to do with SYRIZA’s program? Absolutely nothing! The problem of disconnection of theory and practice is well known in the revolutionary movement ever since the era of German social democracy. Many decades ago, Paul Mattick had criticized Kautsky for his inability to imagine that a Marxist theory should be supplemented by an adequate Marxist practice. So, his understanding “that for Marx, value is a strictly historical category; that neither before nor after capitalism did there exist or could there exist a value production which differed only in form from that of capitalism” was totally useless.

With the academicization and professionalization of Marxist theory in the last decades things have become even worse. In public political meetings, conferences, reading groups, summercamps, demos etc. one constantly comes upon hundreds of leftist PhD students, researchers, journalists etc. Most of the times one finds herself wondering whether it is a genuine interest in anti-capitalist politics that brought them there or if this involvement is just a necessary step towards a profession guaranteed by the capitalist state, a capitalist enterprise or a reformist party

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The Capitalist State and Islamism: The Dangers and their Political and Social Roots

To the obscene spectacle of dozens of the leaders of world capital celebrating democratic freedom in Paris last Sunday, one must now add the determination of many of those same leaders (Cameron and Merkel for example) to provide their governments with enhanced powers of surveillance and control of social media in the name of the defense of “freedom,” as well as the ramping up of police and military power on the streets of Western cities. The danger of Islamist terrorism (not unlike the danger of “communism” in the 1950’s) will be used by the capitalist state in the West (“democratic” to be sure) to mobilize the population behind new witch hunts and xenophobic reactions directed against the Muslim population of the West, and to justify expanded military action in the Muslim world in the name of “self-defense.” The danger represented by capital and its state power in the West, abetted by the mass media (the capitalist organs of mass manipulation), is growing by the day, as recent events in both the Middle East, and Western Europe have demonstrated. But it is not the danger represented by capitalism and its social relations, but the danger of the eponymous “Muslim” or potential terrorist next door, from whom the capitalist state must protect us, that is increasingly targeted as the imminent threat to which we must respond.

But no less real is the danger of Islamism both as an increasingly powerful reactionary ideology, and a political and even military challenge to the core states of capital in the West and their partners in the Muslim world, and of course to the civilian populations in the West who are also targeted by the Jihadists whether Jews, apostate Muslims, or the editors of secular publications that have offended the faith. In the Islamic world too an ideological and military mobilization is underway, from ISIS to AQAP, from Boko Haram, and the Taliban to al Nusra. The mass victims of these movements, armies, and proto states, in the first instance are the Muslim population of the Islamic world (and of course the non-Muslim minorities that still remain there). The social roots of Islamism lie not in deeply rooted tradition and still tribal societies, but rather in the social decay wrought by the destruction of traditional social patterns, themselves the outcome of the global spread of capitalism. In the first instance the emigration of large numbers of people from the Arab and North African world over the past half century escaping poverty and seeking jobs in the Western world, and now facing both unemployment, marginalization, and growing hostility there as capitalism’s economic crisis in the “metropoles” deepens. And in the second instance, the effects of Western military intervention, war, and occupation, and the concomitant spread of impoverishment and desperation in the Muslim world itself, and the hopelessness and resentment that it has created. That very hopelessness and resentment then feeds the xenophobic ideologies of Islamism and its “promise” of resistance by the Muslim “nation” (the Ummah), providing a mass base and source of recruits for the “jihad” that these political movements are waging.

The military struggles in Syria, Iraq, Libya, the whole of the Sahel, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are intra-capitalist struggles, struggles between rival factions of the capitalist class. Whether the West and its local allies solidly reestablishes it rule over the Muslim world or Islamist (Jihadist) states emerge, the power of capitalism will be consolidated. Social existence in the capitalist West will become increasingly militarized, increasingly subject to censorship and surveillance. Social existence wherever Islamist factions gain power will see the imposition of total control over the lives of its subjects, material, economic, cultural, and “private” in the name of their vision of Sharia law. Western democracy and Islamism, seemingly mortal enemies on the inter-imperialist battlefield, both constitute bulwarks of the social relations that condemn the mass of their populations to increasing misery and human degradation, the differences between their specific ideological or legal forms, paling in comparison with the same reactionary social system that each seeks to protect and perpetuate.

Mac Intosh

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Is Everybody Charlie Now?

Charlie-Hebdo saw it as its mission to ridicule all forms of hypocrisy, demagoguery, obscurantism, doublespeak and scumbaggery, without respect for any authority. Capitalists and Stalinists, Muslims, Christians and Jews, they all were dragged through the mud. Sometimes in very funny ways, sometimes it was just “stupid and mean” (“bête et méchante” was its slogan), always it was merciless. The French state banned its predecessor (Hara Kiri-Hebdo). Both the right and the left detested the paper. The big media regarded it as a mangy, mentally disturbed little brother.

But now, it seems, we’re all Charlie. The entire “civilized” world embraces the little paper which only yesterday was so despised. The next issue of Charlie will be subsidized to print 3 million copies, in order to show the terrorists the finger. And of course, it will have a caricature of the prophet Muhammad on its cover.

What a spectacle it was last Sunday, these gigantic demonstrations in France and beyond, united behind the cry “Je suis Charlie” – “I am Charlie”. What a patriotic feast it was in France, as if “les bleus” (the national soccer team) had won the world cup. Tricolores everywhere and people singing the Marseillaise, that bloodthirsty racist national anthem:

Aux armes citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons

(“to arms citizens, form your battalions, let’s march, let’s march so that impure blood waters our furrows”)

Leading the parade were prime ministers and other dignitaries of more than forty countries. In short, the whole civilized world, united in its resistance to barbarism: among them the leader of Israel and his Palestinian vassal, the foreign secretaries of Russia and Turkey, the German chancellor, high representatives of the US, Egypt and so on. People on whose hands there’s far more blood than on those of the terrorists. Blood of anonymous civilians in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Afghanistan, Ukraine and many other places were the media don’t bother to send reporters to. And in their prisons, there is no shortage of journalists and other people locked up for saying or writing what they think. But such details could not spoil the fun in Paris. Here in the French capital, in the glaring spotlights of the world’s media, we’re all for freedom of expression, we’re all for a world without violence, a world without hate. Nous sommes tous Charlie!

Today that is. Tomorrow we go home and it’s back to business. Tear-gassing demonstrations in Istanbul, locking up journalists in Moscow, whipping and killing dissidents in Cairo and Riyadh, shooting kids in Cleveland and dropping bombs on Gaza… and everywhere, cutting pensions and wages and health care to spend more on armaments to fight barbarism.., and everywhere, militarizing the police and spying on everybody to protect us from terrorists… and everywhere, closing down newspapers because they don’t make enough profit for capital, so that most media are concentrated in very few hands, while shouting: “Long live the freedom of the press!”

And when soon the entire world economy suffers another deep dip those same representatives of the civilized world will ask us for more sacrifices to shore up capital’s profitability and French prime minster Hollande will repeat what he said last week: “Nous sommes tous ensemble. Francais, serrez les rangs. Nous sommes tous Charlie!”

And other world leaders will repeat it the world over: we’re all in the same boat, support your local capital, look how bad our enemies are. Don’t fight us, even though we attack you, fight with us against them, the forces of barbarism. “Nous sommes tous Charlie!”

All this makes us quite curious about the content of the next issue of Charlie-Hebdo. If the paper remains true to its mission, it will point out the irony of the whole spectacle. The crocodile tears, the phony solidarity, the disgusting operation of ideological recuperation. If it doesn’t , Wolinski will turn over in his fresh grave.

Meanwhile, there was a lot less solidarity with the victims of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. For the media, this was but a footnote, even though many more people died than in Paris. But wait, these were black people, right? And this happened in Africa? Then it’s normal that our media paid little attention to it. What are you saying? That our media are racist? How dare you!

Of course “our” media are nationalist and implicitly racist. That is the window through which they want us to see the world. There is a logic to its selection of what’s important and what’s not, and it’s the logic of capital. The “freedom of the press” celebrated in Paris, does not exist. The media have perverted “Je suis Charlie!” to an imperialist slogan, perfectly fitting capitalism’s course towards more violence, more misery and war.

Sander

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Internationalist Perspective 60

The new issue of Internationalist Perspective is now available.

Download the PDF here.

The issue features articles on crisis theory, Michael Heinrich, Ebola, ISIS, Imperialism and much more.

Individual articles will be available shortly.

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On Aufhebengate and TPTG’s counter Inquiry

In 2011, the Greek communist group TPTG publicized the fact that a member of the collective which publishes the journal Aufheben , J.D., was also a signature on articles on crowd control which were commissioned by the police. This class-collaborationist act was the subject of much heated discussion within the milieu.

TPTG for its part also proposed a “proletarian counter-inquiry.” In November 2011, we published a short article on our blog entitled “On Aufhebengate” which condemned the actions of J.D., but also rejected TPTG’s proposal for a commission into such actions.

Since we published our position, we have pursued this discussion further with both Aufheben and TPTG. In the case of Aufheben we stand by our original assessment, but we now recognize that our assessment of TPTG’s position was inaccurate.

Rather than an inquiry to investigate the behavior of a particular person, TPTG’s proposal was directed at police methods in general, and the thinking behind it, including the use of crowd psychology. That is indeed a worthwhile research-project, and while it has so far yielded little in the way of concrete results, we have written to TPTG to offer our support and participation.

Internationalist Perspective

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Baiting the Russian Bear: A Comment

The following is a response to the posting by Mac Intosh.

None of the articles I linked to in my Ukraine piece (No Jack Straw there:-)) deny the role of fascists in Maidan, some in fact are quite alarmed by that role.

In terms of how the left is taking on the matter, you should get around more, Mac Intosh. KPFA News, and in particular members of the “more radical” faction at KPFA, are quite antagonistic to the Kyiv government, the latter for all intents and purposes cheerleading for Putin, bringing on people to interview who are all but supporting that regime. Likewise even with Democracy Now. WSWS, while claiming to be anti-Putin, and it has posted articles critical of him in the past, has blamed the US/EU at every turn, and has excused the Russian government’s every move, in fact not posting any article critical of its policies overall, outside of the Ukraine matter, as if not wishing to undermine it. Global Research/Voltaire Net pretty totally pro-Putin.

When all is said and done, Mac Intosh, I agree with you, any support for nationalism of any sort is support for barbarism.

Jeff

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Baiting the Russian Bear

From an internet discussion list

Anyone who had any doubt that the mass media (from CNBC to Fox, from CNN to public television) constitutes the organ of mass manipulation of capital, needs to seriously consider the coverage of events in Ukraine. They are “All In” from Fox to the Nation. The government in Kiev (or Kyiv) — even how you pronounce or spell the name of the capital city is politicized today — is presented as a democratic redoubt vainly struggling against the Stalino-fascist and thuggish Putin regime in Moscow, determined to crush a weak democracy in a valiant Ukraine. Meanwhile, not a word about the power of the oligarchs in Kiev, who prefer Exxon to Gazprom, and NATO to the Kremlin, in a geopolitical struggle between capitalist states and blocs. Not a word about Svoboda or the Right Sector, who control the Maidan in Kiev, and who are the lineal descendants of Stefan Bandera, and the fascists who sought an alliance with Nazi Germany in June 1941, and assisted in the mass murder of Jews, and who today wrap themselves in the mantle of “democracy” and Western values (weren’t they the same values that Hitler defended as his armies swept through Ukraine in 1941, killing Jews and “communists”?), even as they demand a racially pure Ukraine? But this is not just about the deceitful role of journalists and the mass media in the West. It’s really about the fact, which “progressives” cannot accept, that nationalism in all its ideological forms today is reactionary; that in the present epoch nationalism – like democracy – is the watch-word, the clarion call, of capitalism as it seeks to generate mass support for its underlying social and production relations. And beyond Ukraine, that clarion call evokes a response on the “left” as anyone who has watched Al Sharpton or Ariana Huffington over the past several weeks can attest: a call that seconds the efforts of the Obama administration to build popular support for a tough sanctions regime, and arms for Kiev. We may not be on the brink of war, nuclear or otherwise, in Ukraine, but we are certainly seeing a significant heightening of inter-imperialist tensions, even as the left seems to be only choosing sides over who is the real aggressor.

Mac Intosh

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May Day 2014

Almost 130 years ago on May 4 1986, socialists, anarchists and labour supporters gathered in Haymarket Square in Chicago to protest for and support the eight-hour work day, and to protest the killing of strikers by police at a demonstration the day before. The events of the day are well known. An explosion at the end of the rally, the deaths of seven police officers and four demonstration participants, followed by a witch hunt and arrest of eight anarchists, and the execution of four (one militant committed suicide in prison).

While May Day was being celebrated within a few years of the Haymarket Massacre, its true history is largely unknown. In North America May Day is virtually unknown. (Its pallid cousin Labor Day merely signifies the last long weekend of summer). For much of the Twentieth Century May Day was seen as a military celebration of the State-capitalist regimes in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Yet, amnesia and misdirection have not buried that dream of a better world. And it is still necessary to recall and to loudly proclaim the worlds of the Internationale,

The world is about to change its foundation
We are nothing, let us be all.

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