Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Anti-theses. Anti-crisis 1

1. The problem, predicament, and conceit of and for Marxists (present company not excepted) is that we are all, more or less, and once, always, and forever Hegelians.  We think we are channeling the movement of the great critical spirit; that purpose, goal, of history-- namely human emancipation.  We think that when we're not thinking that we are channeling the great spirit of the "great man" himself.  We think that we're somehow speeding things up, and forward, to a great fruition which  is nothing other than subduing the world to and with the great logic that explains the world to itself.  And where does that get us?

2. Where does that get us? The answer is where it has already gotten us. Pretty close to zero.  Official Marxism, by which I mean that of 2, 3, 4, 5, many Internationals positions itself as the channel of channels, the mediation of the advancing big C creative spirit and the reluctant backsliding flesh. It gets us to that point where we're conducting Marxism the way the medium conducts messages from the dead at a séance.  "Give us a sign, oh great spirit, if you're with us today."  And sure enough we always get the sign.  "There's a crisis!  Look, over there.  Isn't that a crisis I see?"  Sure thing.  There's always a crisis. The stock markets tank, unemployment rises, profits fall.   "Sooner or later" and "I told you so" are the paltry best we come up with.

3. So let's just say, it isn't a spirit thing. And "crisis" isn't a message from the dead,or the living, that capitalism has come undone when the undoing is itself the form for capitalist reconstitution. Confusing?

4. Then try this:  It's a social thing, relation where the obstruction to capitalist accumulation is made manifest in the inability of the social beings to reproduce themselves as the vital players in such accumulation while at the same time, this marginalization of the producers and consumers allows capitalism to drive down the cost of its own reproduction through a sequence of social "distress sales" so that value, profit,  is not realized, but re-imagined. Got it?  Capital shuts down, demobilizes, marginalizes, and what remains is capital re-imagined.

5. The failure of the left is that its every move is but a  re-imagination of profit.  The left re-imagines profit in the forms of taxation; in nationalization; in stipends, subsidies, distributions etc.  That and those are not at all all nonsense, but they are all derivatives of value production, imaginings derived from profit. 

6. Syriza's "capitulation" wasn't in its agreement to a new memorandum, and the agreement isn't a betrayal.    The capitulation was predetermined in the paucity of its imagination-- where "the best" it could come up with was the re-imagination of profit as a European Union "New Deal," as a second Marshall plan.  That's not imagination.  It's nostalgia.  Worse, it's delusional nostalgia, a memory of a past there never was; one scrubbed clean of its origins in blood, gore, and shit. 

7. Clearly, the material basis for imagination is class struggle; the struggle for the overthrow of value production, for  the abolition of value... and  for the throttling of "productive labor" in that all notions of "productive labor" are class based. The revolutionary class has to imagine first and foremost its own abolition as laborers, as workers, as sources of value, as liquid pools of labor serving the purposes of exchange.  It's not the "will to power" that informs history; it's the imagination of power that historical materialism grasps.

8.  "We will work  cooperatively toward our regeneration, the birth of communal luxury, future splendors and the Universal Republic."-- Manifesto of the Artists' Federation of Paris, April 15, 1971, cited in Communal Luxury:  The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune. Kristin Ross, Verso, 2015, a book that is as indispensable in its way as Maksakovsky's The Capitalist Cycle. 

August 25, 2015

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Down to the Bare Walls, Fixtures Included

1. Somewhere that guy Marx, collaborating with that guy Engels-- a man a bit too taken with the military side of things, wrote that "the history of hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."  A revolutionary proposition to be sure, back then and there, and here and now; and a revolutionary challenge to the purveyors, hawkers, merchants of natural law, social contracts, rational market, the rights of man, etc. etc. and forever etc.

The challenge was  developed, refined, deepened over the course of four decades, manifesting in a hundred different texts in a hundred different expressions a core content: that human history is  indeed fashioned, constructed, built by human beings, but only in their existence as social producers.

Content isn't exactly of big concern to the bourgeoisie........until of course, it is made a big concern by events outside their control.  Even then, realization of value, market history, determines the limits of concern.  But packaging?  Packaging is everything.  "Packaging is what we do," say the market makers, market players.  History, to the bourgeoisie, isn't class struggle.  It's merchandise. It gets wrapped.  It gets advertised.  It gets announced.  It gets sold not in the package of value; the package gets sold as the value.

Asset-stripping becomes competitiveness.   Exploitation is entrepreneurship.  Poverty is economic stimulus.  Ketchup is a vegetable, arbeit macht frei, and what's the problem?  The trains are on time even if the destination is an abattoir.  Presentation is everything. History can be represented as, replaced by, merchandise.  And merchandise can always be liquidated

"Presentation"  is all there is to those who think they are intermediaries between the hammer and the anvil of class struggle.   "Presentation"-- the as if -- is what you get from those who act as if they can alter the condition of capitalism in lieu of altering the condition of labor which makes capital capital. 

Of course, that altering of the condition of labor, that overcoming of the condition in which labor is expressed as a commodity for purchase, as wage-labor can only be accomplished by the social producers, themselves, but that's exactly what the packaging is supposed to obscure.  Like Powerpoint.

2. We start from the recognition that at no time from 2009 on, has Greece existed in what is generally called a "revolutionary situation."  Despite all the unemployment, the decline in living standards; despite the social catastrophe that is called "austerity" or "the memorandum," or the "MFFA," Greece was not, and is not,  in a revolutionary situation.  There was no moment when another class, a class in opposition to the existing ruling class, had organized itself into "competing" centers of power; into organs that could, and must, compete with the parliament, the ministries, the military, of capitalism.

Still, the "economics," that is to say, the predicament in the reproduction of capital, neither waits for, nor depends upon the "readiness" of the working class before it eats away at the bourgeoisie's institutions for administering its rule.  And that erosion was and is the determining characteristic of the conditions in Greece. 

With each memorandum yet another party, yet another "package" presenting capitalism as a viable social order, was disgraced; yet another package was broken open, yielding up the big nothing that is value when it can no longer accumulate value.  New Democracy, PASOK  a "neutral" "technocrat"government-- each in turn, all together, exposed; discarded .

Enter Syriza.  Syriza had a package, and that package was the Thessaloniki program.  The "program" demanded a write down the face value of the debt to make it "sustainable."  The program demanded "growth"  "moratorium" "grace periods" "a European New Deal." 

The program promised "reconstruction,"  "restoration of wages and pensions," "rebuilding the welfare state."  The program promised to do all these things regardless of the outcome of negotiations with the Troika.

What the program really promised was the continued containment of the working class.  What the program delivered was the preservation of the institutions of bourgeois rule; the parliament, the military, the cops, the courts, the ministries.

Precisely because Greece was not, and is not, in a "revolutionary situation" but was and is in situation of social catastrophe,  Syriza deserved no support.  Precisely because conditions could only get worse, with or without a new memorandum, with or without exiting the eurozone,  there was, and is, no point to debating the terms of any memorandum, no point to debating the exit from the eurozone, no pointing in arguing with the nonsense claims of the Thessaloniki program. 

There was only one argument engaged; one debate to be joined; one demand to be raised: complete and immediate repudiation of the debt, a debt accrued of by and for a government of by and for the preservation of capitalism. 

August 5, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Are the only ones who understand Marx, as opposed to Marx-ism; who understand that Marx was first and foremost a revolutionist, that all Marx wanted to do was to place social revolution on the strongest, definitive,  irrefutable platform possible: are only those who identify with anarchism; who draw their inspiration from Situationist texts; who in fact spit on everything and everyone who already reeks of accommodation to things as they are, which of course, is only the relation that is?

I think so.  Nobody understands Marx but those who spit from top to bottom on the bourgeoisie, who can't even utter the term without spitting. 

FWIW, I know I have never written "bourgeoisie" without spitting.  I keep a bucket by my desk.

July 26, 2015

SA(S)R Syndrome Moves On

Short-Attention-Span-Radicalism has quickly recovered from its setback in Greece,  finding solace in  its own unique spin on Joe Hill's supposed last words-- "Don't mourn, Don't organize; Forget, Ignore, Repeat." The SARs brigade made up of VIBs; SIPs; near, neo, quasi, democratic, semi, hemi, demi, erratic, mo, po, po-mo socialists is done sitting shiva for Greece and has moved on to its next challenge, its once and future failure, Britain.

"Greece?  Oh, that's so yesterday. Greece? What did you expect?  Greece?  We told you it wasn't a revolutionary situation," say our SARs.  "We're over Greece."

The VIB, Richard Seymour, is once again waxing, and waning, eloquent in this demonstration of obsessive-compulsive behavior, this repetition in the service of failure.  Opining on the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn for the leadersip of Britain's Labour Party, Seymour writes that Corbyn is the candidate the Conservative Party most fears.  Absolutely correct, but the Tory fear is miniscule compared to that of the Labour Party itself.  Seymour points out that the right-bloc of the party threatens a split, a coup, collective suicide, but not yet car bombings, if Corbyn wins.

Panicked by the flood of new members into the party, the "right bloc" [if such a thing can be said to exist in this party] has called for the election to be suspended until a proper check of the credentials of the new members can be vetted, highlighting how dangerous becoming the majority really is to the right-bloc of the Labour Party.

John Mann, Labour MP, has written that the election "threatens to become a farce" due to the return to the party of "some of the Militant-Tendency types," proving once again that Labour may be "a big house" but it's a mortgaged big house,  a sub-prime ARM with a big fat balloon payment callable at the whim of the bankers.

Corbyn, loyal first and last, says he only wants "genuine Labour supporters"  Says Corbyn, "I only want people to register as Labour supporters if they are genuine supporters and intend to stay for the longer course."  Word.

Really?  Sure thing.  Seymour says:
So, Corbyn could win.  This does not mean that I am going to pay my £3 and join up as a 'supporter' in order to vote for Corbyn.  There's quite a lot of bandwagon-hopping at the moment - it was the same with the Greens last year - and joining the Labour Party just to have a vote and then leaving is pointless.  Why vote for Corbyn if you're not going to hang around and try to support him and try to reconstitute the Labour Party?  He'll be weak enough against the established power of the old right-wing bureaucracy, without a big chunk of his base fucking off the day after the polls close.  Corbyn will not win by pulling in outside forces who have no interested in the Labour Party's long-term future, and no identification with it; he will win by shaking up the Labour Party, and drawing in new members who are just becoming politicised. 
Indecisiveness is essential to the manifestation, and maintenance of SAR syndrome, so a paragraph or so later, we get:
However, that tactical point doesn't change the overall situation, and it doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to support Corbyn's bid...It's not just the Labour Left that is weak.  It is the Left as a whole.  Yes, Corbyn would be relatively isolated at the top, and top-heavy successes are extremely vulnerable.  Yes, he will be trying to shift the balance of forces in favour of the Left, in a situation in which our forces are incredibly depleted. But it is a structural aspect of today's situation that in the growing vacuum created by the breakdown of the old party-base relationship, individuals and groups can suddenly project influence well beyond their actual social basis, if what they say finds an ideological resonance in lived experience.  We don't get to change that just be force of will.  So we have to work with the grain of our few advantages.  Corbyn has made a breakthrough, and that presents opportunities that it would be stupid and irresponsible to opt out of.
 Well, what do you know?  What can you say,  after you say: 

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done

We can say: "let's try this"-- Everywhere in Seymour's article for the words Tory, Conservative, Tories, substitute New Democracy; for the word Labor, substitute PASOK, for Corbyn substitute Syriza or Tsipras (your pick).  Now read it again.  Does this sound familiar?  To those not (yet) infected with SARs (no guarantees as to anyone's "natural" immunity), it should.  

For our VIP bogger, not so much. It must be  the deep shock of Syriza's capitulation, a "world-historic" defeat that compels Seymour into one more iteration of repetition in the service of failure.  However, if it really is a "world-historic defeat" then surely it deserves an analysis, an explanation, an examination, something more material than the pathetic sentimentality Seymour has provided. 

Or maybe-- maybe the so yesterday events in Greece aren't a defeat at all, a position advanced by Panitch and Gindin and echoed oddly or not by Insurgent Notes, which after producing a single article in 2010, couldn't muster another examination of the struggle in Greece until this -- seven paragraphs in half-an-article, which more rather than less, dismisses the events, as its author later makes explicit in his comments, as not amounting to a reversal to the struggle against capitalism in Greece, Europe, the globe.   

I wish I could say I'm surprised by this lack of insight, the superficiality of analysis, the disavowal of  and disdain for the struggle in Greece promoted by Insurgent Notes.  I am not.  So-called "left communism"can be just as much leftism as anything and anyone else-- concerned with its own status, its own credentials, its own package.

There has been a reversal in Greece.  The struggle against capitalism has suffered a defeat.  Still, history hasn't come to an end.  It's not quite yet over in Greece.  Greece 2015 is not yet Chile 1973.  It's not yet time to move on and plan the next disaster.   The class struggle in Greece deserves better treatment. 
July 26, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes

                                                        Mix and Match


 "This is not our Europe. This is only the Europe we want to change.  In place of a Europe of fear of unemployment, disability, old-age and poverty; in the place of the current Europe that redistributes income to the rich and fear to the poor; in place of a Europe in the service of bankers’ needs, we want a Europe in the service of human needs."

"Finally, the real issue facing the Greek left is how to unite people on a class basis against a ruling class that is tightly coupled to the German bourgeoisie. Syriza offers a framework for revolutionaries that will enable them to connect with millions of Greeks who have not yet achieved a revolutionary consciousness. Unlike the Greek Communist Party, Syriza is relatively open and transparent—a function of the “reformism” that Callinicos disdains. The alternative to the CP and Syriza is the tiny and inconsequential Antarsya that is united around the need for revolution but a “reformist” party that can begin to serve as a pole of attraction for revolutionaries. In the event that Syriza is elected and fails to carry out its mandate, it will be up to its left wing to push the agenda for overcoming austerity in the only way possible: overthrowing Greek capitalism."

"The fact is that the leaders of erstwhile socialist parties have been talking the talk of responsible capitalism for a very long time. It was how they covered their tracks as they retreated from offering people a way out of the rat race of capitalism – rather than compensation for being losers in it – even in the postwar era. Those who imagine that the progressive reforms achieved in that era stand as proof today that a responsible capitalism is possible are sorely mistaken. On the contrary, the undoing of those reforms after just a few decades shows that a responsible capitalism is indeed a contradiction in terms.

"On the basis of the massive defeat of the forces behind the Yes vote in the referendum, and the opposition party leaders resignation, the other mainstream party leaders joined with Syriza in backing the plan the Institutions had rejected before and coupled that with support for Syriza's position. This was that once the plug had been pulled on the extension of the old government's memorandum, they would all support coupling fiscal restraint and structural reforms with substantial debt restructuring and investment funds in immediate negotiations on a new three year memorandum..

The hope that this might be pulled off was enhanced by indications that the U.S. government was putting pressure both on the IMF and the Merkel government. This was fed by IMF signals on the importance of very significant debt restructuring in a new three year deal...

What Alexis Tsipras and (the new Finance Minister) Euclid Tsakalotos took to the final negotiations last Saturday, as passed by the Greek parliament, was not all that different than the plan that has been forwarded to the Institutions and rejected before the referendum. And they took courage from the fact that the negotiations were now about a new three year deal rather than continuing the drip-feeding from the old memorandum with which they had been strangled from February to June. There was now even a clear split on the side of the European interlocutors over whether to accommodate what Tsipras was bringing to the table. "  

"I am long past the point when I expect anything different.  I never had an(y) expectations that Syriza would be victorious...I take everything in stride."                        
"I acknowledge the fiscal measures are harsh, that they won't benefit the Greek economy, but I'm forced to accept them."


Full disclosure:  Even I get sick of my sarcasm at times.  I acknowledge what a harsh, severe, relentless, abrasive bastard I am, when it comes to these things.   Really.  But how else can you deal with the selective memory loss, the cognitive dissonance, that is so essential to the pathology that is repetitive leftism?

July 16, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Hard Way

The Hellenic Parliament has voted to approve, and will presumably implement, the demands of the Troika accepted on July 12 by the prime minister, who now states he doesn't support the agreement although he will implement it, and urges its approval.  The comes five days after the prime minister promised "the bigger the 'No' vote [on the referendum regarding the Troikas final, but expired and off the table offer], the better the deal."   It takes a lot of processing power, and storage capacity to keep up with the prime minister's different positions.

Inside the parliament the vote was 229 in favor to 64 against.  Thirty two of the "no" votes came from Syriza MPs.  Deputies from Syriza's coalition partner, the right-nationalist ANEL party, brought into government because of its principled agreement with Syriza's original position of "no further memorandums, no further bail-outs," voted unanimously for the agreement, which means the "principle" is now in direct contradiction to what it once was, but the partners are still allied.

The Tsipras government is now a minority government.  It depends for its existence on the support of PASOK and New Democracy and To Potami.  

Outside the parliament, the police are protecting the parliamentarians from the street protests with batons and tear gas, the purchases of which are not subject to Troika scrutiny.  

Well....a reader wanted to know why I thought "repudiating the debt was better than the status quo."  There are multiple reasons.  First and foremost, there is no status quo.  That's the critical point.  As bad as things are now, they will be much worse with the burdens placed on Greece through this agreement and the next memorandum.  Secondly, all those things forecast to occur if Greece repudiated the debt-- "the loss of tourism, further drops in foreign investment, social turmoil"-- will occur under the terms of the new memorandum, or without a new memorandum.  There is simply no possibility for "recovery," if such a word even has meaning any longer, of Greece's capitalism. 

The reader then asked "how would Greece defaulting be a better option for the prospects of a global revolution CONCRETELY?"  Concretely, repudiating the debt would pretty much bankrupt the ESM, jeopardize the ECB, and undermine the capital markets worldwide.  Now that in itself is not a seizure of power, but it's not a bad start.  Concretely, repudiating the debt attacks the claims on labor that need to be enforced to preserve capitalist property.  Concretely, repudiating the debt threatens every mechanism of exchange, and control, that the European bourgeoisie have fashioned in their grand alliance of the European Union.  Concretely, repudiating the debt would have a tremendous impact on the poor, the pensioners, the unemployed of Greece posing the question of the purpose of production along class lines.  Concretely repudiating the debt would have an equally dramatic impact on workers in Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary.  Concretely, repudiating the debt undercuts the appeal of the fascists to the unemployed, the youth, the marginalized.

Would Europe retaliate?  Of course.  Would Greek assets be seized?  Of course.  Would living conditions in Greece deteriorate?  Undoubtedly.  This isn't 1960; Greece isn't Cuba; and there is no Soviet Union to subsidize the country. But...

But...I flip the assertion right back to those who argue against repudiating the debt:  there is no choice.  The alternative to repudiating the debt has proven itself catastrophic.  Repudiating the debt is an essential first step to reversing the catastrophe.  Don't take that step and nobody goes nowhere. 

Is it "hard"? Complicated?  Difficult?  Painful?  Of course.  And there is no alternative.

Back in the day, so many years ago that I can only dimly recall, after the collapse of Lehman Bros. and after Maiden Lanes 1,2,3, and all the special facilities, there was the same type of argument about TARP.  Then, Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer, supported the TARP intervention to stabilize the credit-system, because (if I recall the argument correctly) the alternative was the collapse of the entire financial network, and a massive global depression.  The alternative it was thought was too horrible to contemplate.  Hence one had to support the government rescuing the bourgeoisie.

One did not.  One does not.  The collapse of the system is preferable to its maintenance, to its reproduction, to its recovery.  Because....the recovery of this system is much more horrible to contemplate than the after-effects of repudiating capitalism in part and in whole.  No I don't think things have to get worse before they get better.  I just think capitalism gets worse without getting better.

July 15, 3015
how would Greece defaulting be a better option for the prospects of a global revolution CONCRETELY?" - See more at: http://thewolfatthedoor.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-third-time-is-charm.html#comment-form