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 s√©ance.  "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