“Either competition, – that is, monopoly and what follows; or exploitation by the State, – that is, dearness of labour and continuous impoverishment; or else, in short, a solution based upon equality, – in other words, the organisation of labour, which involves the negation of political economy and the end of property.”
– Proudhon, System of Economic Contradictions
[Chapter from AK Press "The End of the World as We Know It?"]
In a blurry black and white photograph from Italy in the 1960s, a worker rides a Vespa past a factory wall on which is scrawled operaist graffiti "Il Vietnam è in fabbrica" - Vietnam is in the factory. Today it would be more likely to find "The factory is in Vietnam" on the walls of the long-closed factory. Yet these two moments are not unconnected. So how did we get from the fall of Saigon to the fall of Lehman brothers, from Nixon to Obama? The answer from much of the Left seems to be "financialization", understood not as a materialist process, but as fulfillment of the Communist Manifesto's apocalyptic vision that "all that is solid melts into air."
Financialization, credit, debt become immaterial, intangible factors, things of air and fiction, in the process becoming explanations that explain nothing. Trying to step back from such ultimately unsatisfying interpretations, this chapter begins the attempt to outline a materialist history of how the global capitalist system has evolved since the demise of the post-WW2 Bretton Woods system in the ruins of Saigon, to the present day rise of China as the world's foremost industrial power and the onset of stagnation and decline of the West.
Almost two years after Shell smuggled their Tunnel Boring Machine out of Dublin port in the middle of the night, and then spent 3 days meeting resistance across the country before getting stuck in the bog, they removed it from Erris Monday night.
What if we build it and they don’t come? That was the experience of the left during the crisis - decades had been spent building organisations and a model of how crisis would create revolution but when the crisis arrived the left discovered that the masses weren’t convinced. The expected pattern of crisis leading to small strikes and protests, then to mass strikes and riot and then perhaps to general strike and revolution didn’t flow as expected. Under that theory the radical left would at first be marginal but then as conditions drove class militancy to new heights the workers disappointed by reformist politicians and unions leaders would move quickly to swell its ranks.
This article appeared in Anarchist Studies (volume 22, number 1) in the spring of 2014
The links between the two schools of revolutionary socialism – Marxism and class struggle anarchism – have produced much debate, some more helpful than others. Into the helpful pile comes Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) edited by Alex Prichard, Ruth Kinna, Saku Pinta and Dave Berry. Twelve excellent chapters and a terrible one are sandwiched between a useful introduction and conclusion. Overall, it is essential reading for all those seeking to enrich libertarian socialism in the 21st century.
This article is an attempt to investigate certain problems of the left via the lens of micropolitics and macropolitics, terms first introduced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (henceforth D&G). Faced with the challenging nature of texts from post-structuralist thinkers like D&G or Foucault, many people make the assumption that they are really motivated by an elitist desire to confuse, intimidate and befuddle the masses and divert theory into useless abstractions, far removed from the concerns of ordinary people for social transformation and liberation from oppression and exploitation. However a careful reading of D&G’s Micropolitics and Segmentarity chapter in “A Thousand Plateaus” (ATP) reveals they have two main objects in their theorising there - to make sense of the experience of fascism in the 1930s and 1940s and the (then) more recent uprisings of Paris May ‘68. We will try to extend that to looking at more recent problems, passing via the Poll Tax riots of 1990 to looking at today’s current controversies around intersectionality
IMAGE: By Azirlazarus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
For the last couple of months the radical left, across the English-speaking world, has been in the grip of a furious online debate around intersectionality. Near the start of that period author Mark Fisher published an article with the title ‘Exiting the Vampire Castle.’ In this piece he portrayed those who favored an intersectional analysis as monsters engaged in a campaign of online bullying which is intended to bring down important left leaders like Owen Jones and Russell Brand. In a later interview with Doug Henwood he made it clear that the intention of the piece was to exclude such people, including anarchists, from left debate.
Horizontalism is an emerging term used to describe the key common characteristics of the waves of rebellion of the last decade. Occupy in 2011 was the peak to date but the term Horizontalism itself appears to originate the rebellion in Argentina after the 2001 banking crisis there. Marina Sitrin in her book on that rebellion says the term (in Spanish obviously) was used to describe the neighborhood, workplace & unemployed assemblies that emerged to form "social movements seeking self-management, autonomy and direct democracy." [Translation into Catalan] [Greek]
Image by Author:Meeting in Gezi Park, June 2013
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), the first person to proclaim himself an anarchist, is rarely treated with respect. Thanks to various hatchet-jobs (Marx, Schapiro, Draper), if he is mentioned it is often with contempt but usually with incomprehension. The notion that he was contradictory is so well engrained in the secondary literature (itself usually based on repeating previous secondary sources) that what Proudhon actually argued is lost. It is so bad that many people think he advocated ideas he publically refuted holding.