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Decadence: The Theory of Decline or the Decline of Theory? Part 2

Part 1/ Part 2 / Part 3

In the second instalment of this, our radical soap-opera of theoretical controversy, we critically examine three important revolutionary currents that went beyond the objectivism of orthodox Marxism - Socialism or Barbarism, the Situationist International, and the Italian autonomist current, as well as attempts to reassert the orthodox line.

Part Two

The subject of this article is the theory that capitalism is in decline or decay. This characterisation of 'the epoch' is associated with the schema that capitalism's youth was the period of mercantile capitalism that lasted from the end of feudalism until the middle of the nineteenth century, its mature healthy period was the laissez faire liberal period in the second half of the nineteenth century, and that its entry into the period of imperialism and monopoly capitalism with its forms of socialisation and planning of production marks the start of the transitional epoch towards post capitalist society.

In Part I we looked at how this idea of the decline or decadence of capitalism has its roots in Second International Marxism and was maintained by the two claimants to the mantle of true continuers of the 'classical Marxist tradition' - Trotskyist Leninism and Left or Council communism. Both these traditions claimed to uphold proper Marxism against the reformist Marxists who had ended up defending capitalism. We suggested that a root of the practical failure of the Second International was that theoretically 'classical Marxism' had lost the revolutionary aspect of Marx's critique of political economy and had become an objectivist ideology of the productive forces. The idea of the decline of capitalism upheld by these traditions is the sharpest expression of their failure to break from objectivist Marxism. After the Second World War, while Trotskyism and Left-communism maintained their position despite the counter evidence of the greatest boom in capitalist history, a number of revolutionaries attempted to develop revolutionary theory for the new conditions, and it is to these currents that we now turn.

We will look at three groups which broke from orthodoxy - Socialism or Barbarism, the Situationist International and the Italian workerist/autonomist current. We will also consider the re-assertion of the theory of decline and the rejection of decline within objectivism.

1 The break with orthodoxy

i) Socialism or Barbarism
Socialism or Barbarism(S or B), whose principle theorist was Castoriadis (aka Cardan or Chalieu), was a small French group that broke from orthodox Trotskyism. It had a considerable influence on later revolutionaries. In Britain the Solidarity group popularised its ideas through pamphlets that still circulate as the most accessible sophisticated critique of Leninism.

Undoubtedly one of the best aspects of S or B was its focus on new forms of workers' autonomous struggle outside their official organisations and against their leaders.1 S or B, though small, both had a presence in factories and recognised proletarian struggles beyond the point of production.

Part of what allowed S or B to get down to this theorisation and participation in the real forms of workers struggles was a rejection of the reified categories of orthodox Marxism. In ]Modern Capitalism and Revolution Cardan summed up this objectivism as the view that "a society could never disappear until it had exhausted all its possibilities of economic expansion; moreover the 'development of the productive forces' would increase the 'objective contradictions' of capitalist economy. It would produce crises - and these would bring about temporary or permanent collapses of the whole system."2 Cardan rejects the idea that the laws of capital simply act upon the capitalists and workers. As he says "In this 'traditional' conception the recurrent and deepening crises of the system are determined by the 'immanent laws' of the system. Events and crises are really independent of the actions of men and classes. Men cannot modify the operation of these laws. They can only intervene to abolish the system as a whole."3 S or B took the view that capitalism had, by state spending and Keynesian demand management, resolved its tendency to crisis leaving only a softened business cycle. Cardan's attack on orthodox Marxism's adherence to a Nineteenth century crisis theory in mid-Twentieth century conditions had bite. Conditions had changed - in the post war boom capitalism was managing its crises.

But rather than take this position as undermining the objective basis for revolutionary change S or B affirmed a different way of conceiving the relation of capitalist development and class struggle. As Cardan puts it, the "real dynamic of capitalist society [is] the dynamic of the class struggle." Class struggle is taken by this to mean not just the constantly awaited date of revolution, but the day to day struggle. In this turn by S or B within their theory of capitalism to the everyday reality of class struggle and their attempt to theorise the new movements outside of official channels we see the turn from the perspective of capital to the perspective of the working class. In the mechanical theory of decline and collapse the orthodox Marxists were dominated by capital's perspective, and such a perspective affects ones politics as well. The rejection of the crisis theory was for S or B the rejection of a concomitant politics for as Cardan points out, the objectivist theory of crisis holds that workers' own experience of their position in society makes them merely suffer the contradictions of capital without an understanding them. Such an understanding can only come from a 'theoretical' knowledge of capital's economic 'laws'. Thus for the Marxist theoreticians workers:

Driven forward by their revolt against poverty, but incapable of leading themselves (since their limited experience cannot give them a privileged viewpoint of social reality as a whole) ... can only constitute an infantry at the disposal of a general staff of revolutionary generals. These specialists know (from knowledge to which the workers as such have no access) what it is precisely that does not work in modern society...4

In other words the economics involved in the theory of capitalist decadence goes hand in hand with the vanguardist 'consciousness from outside' politics of What Is To Be Done.

In the attempt to recreate a revolutionary politics S or B rightly rejected the orthodox conception that the link between objective conditions and subjective revolution was that the crisis would get worse and worse forcing the proletariat to act, with the Party (through its understanding of 'the Crisis') providing leadership. Indeed, in the absence of crisis but with the presence of struggle, the rejection of the traditional model was a help rather than a hindrance. At their best S or B turned to the real process of class struggle, a struggle that was more and more against the very form of capitalist work. As they put it:

The humanity of the wage worker is less and less threatened by an economic misery challenging his very physical existence. It is more and more attacked by the nature and conditions of modern work, by the oppression and alienation the worker undergoes in production. In this field there can be no lasting reform. Employers may raise wages by 3% per annum but they cannot reduce alienation by 3% per annum.5

Cardan attacked the view that capitalism, its crises and its decline, was driven by the contradiction of the productive forces and private appropriation. In place of this he argued that in the new phase of 'bureaucratic capitalism' the fundamental division was that between order-givers and order- takers, and the fundamental contradiction was that between the order-givers' need to deny decision-making power to the order-takers and simultaneously to rely on their participation and initiative for the system to function. In place of the notion of crises of capitalism on the economic level Cardan argued that bureaucratic capitalism was subject only to passing crises of the organisation of social life. While the notion of a universal tendency towards bureaucratic capitalism with the crucial distinction being between order-givers and takers seemed useful in identifying the continuity between Eastern and Western systems - in both situations proletarians don't control their lives and are ordered about - such a distinction fails to grasp that what makes capitalism distinct from other class societies is that the order givers have that position only because of their relation to capital, which in its various forms - money, means of production, commodity - is the self expansion of alienated labour. The tendency towards bureaucracy does not replace the laws of capitalism, particularly the fetishism of social relations, rather it expresses them at a higher level. The return of crises in the early seventies showed that what Cardan termed bureaucratic capitalism was not a once and for all transformation of capitalism that abolished economic crises but one particular form of capitalism in which crises tendencies were temporarily being controlled.

Cardan and S or B thought they had superseded Marx in identifying as the 'fundamental contradiction' of capitalism that between capital's need to "pursue its objectives by methods which constantly defeat these same objectives", namely that capitalism must take the participative power away from workers which it actually needs. In actual fact this contradiction, far from being an improvement on Marx, is but one expression of the fundamental ontological inversion Marx recognised at the root of capitalism - the process where people become objectts and their objects - commodities, money, capital - become subject. Of course capital has to rely on our participation and initiative because it has none of its own. Capital's objectivity and subjectivity is our alienated subjectivity. While the ideology that flows from capital's social relations is that we need it - we need money, we need work - the other side is that it is totally dependent on us. S or B's 'fundamental contradiction' does not grasp the full radicality of Marx's critique of alienation. In other words they presented as an innovation what was actually an impoverishment of Marx's critique. We can however understand that their theory was a reaction to a Marxism, whether Stalinist or Trotskyist, that had lost the fundamental importance of Marx's critique of alienation and become an ideology of the productive forces, a capitalist ideology.

Moreover, in not really grasping the root of what was wrong with orthodox Marxism S or B allowed some of its problems to reassert themselves within their own ideology. One could say that, in their identification of the order giver's reliance on workers control of the production process and their councilist wage labour based program,6 S or B showed the extent to which it remained stuck in the councilist perspective that some of its concrete studies of workers' resistance should have moved it away from - i.e. the perspective of the skilled technical worker. The perspective and struggles that were to bring the post-war boom to a crashing end were those of the mass worker. Whereas the radical perspective of the skilled worker, because s/he understood the whole productive process, tended towards the notion of workers control whereby the capitalist parasite could be dispensed with, the struggles of the Taylorised mass worker tended towards a rejection of the whole alienated labour process - the refusal of work.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Cardan's critique of Marx and Marxism is what it identified in Capital as the root of orthodox Marxism's sterility. What's wrong with Marx's Capital for Cardan:

is its methodology. Marx's theory of wages and its corollary the theory of the increasing rate of exploitation, begin from a postulate: that the worker is completely 'reified' (reduced to an object) by capitalism.7 Marx's theory of crises starts from a basically analogous postulate: that men and classes (in this case the capitalist class) can do nothing about the functioning of their economy. Both these postulates are false... Both are necessary for political economy to become a 'science' governed by 'laws' similar to those of genetics or astronomy...It is as objects that both workers and capitalists appear on the pages of Capital. ...Marx who discovered and ceaselessly propagated the idea of the crucial role of the class struggle in history, wrote a monumental work ('Capital') from which the class struggle is virtually absent!8

Cardan has recognised something crucial - the relative marginalisation of class struggle by the very method adopted by Marx in Capital. It is this closure of the issue of class struggle and proletarian subjectivity in Capital that is the theoretical basis of the objectivist theory of decline. Cardan's reaction is to abandon Capital. Similarly Cardan makes a central point of his attack on the tendency of the rate of profit to fall an assertion that Marx believed that the real standard of living and wages of the working class is constant over time.9 However this is not the case. Capital holds this as a provisional hypothesis - part of the provisional closure of subjectivity in Capital. Marx was always aware that what counts as the necessary means of subsistence is a point of struggle between the combatants but in Capital he holds it constant expecting to deal with it in the 'Book on Wage Labour',10 a book that was never written. Thus the value of labour power is dealt with in Capital only from the point of view of capital because here Marx was essentially concerned with showing how capitalism was possible. For capitalism to exist it must reify the worker, yet for the worker to exist and to raise the level of her needs she must struggle against this reification. In Capital Marx presented the proletariat with an account of how capitalism operated. Such an account is one part of the project of overthrowing capitalism but only a part. The problem with objectivist Marxism is that it has taken Capital as complete. Thus it takes the provisional closure as final. Cardan's criticisms grasp an important one-sidedness to Capital, and it is the failure to recognise that one-sidedness that leads to the one-sidedness of orthodox Marxism.11

However understandable in the context of the post war boom, Cardan and S or B's rejection of the theory of crisis and later of Marx was an overreaction that itself became dogmatic. Cardan and many other S or B theorists like Lyotard and Lefort became academic recuperators. While adopting Cardan's ideas gave revolutionaries an edge on the Leninists in the fifties and sixties, when crisis returned in the seventies those who continued to follow him ironically showed the same dogmatism in denying crisis in the face of its obvious reappearance as the old lefties had in insisting on it during its absence. What one might say is that although the substance of the theory of S or B was wrong, the importance of the group was not their alternative theory of capitalism nor the later ravings of Cardan but rather the way their critique of orthodox Marxism pointed the way for later revolutionaries. S or B pointed towards a rediscovery of the revolutionary spirit in Marx, which is nothing more than an openness to the real movement happening before our eyes.

ii) Situationist International
One of the most important parts of S or B's analysis was their recognition that workers were struggling against alienation in the factory and outside. The situationists developed the critique of the modern forms of alienation to a new peak, subjecting the capitalist order of things to a total critique. Rather than saying revolution depended on the capitalist crisis reducing the proletariat to absolute poverty the situationists argued that the proletariat would revolt against its materially-enriched poverty. Against the capitalist reality of alienated production and alienated consumption the situationists put forward a notion of what is beyond capitalism12 as the possibility of every individual participating fully in the continuous, conscious and deliberate transformation of every aspect and moment of our lives. The refusal of the separation of the political and the personal - rejection of the sacrificial politics of the militant and thus the critique of objectivist Marxism in a lived unity of theory and practice, objectivity and subjectivity, was one major contribution of the Situationist International(S.I.). In fact one could say that in recognising that revolution had to involve every aspect of our activity and not just the changing of the relations of production the situationists reinvented revolution, which Leninism had wrongly identified with the seizure of the state and continuation of an economically determined society.

While S or B fetishised their rejection of Marx the situationists recovered his revolutionary spirit.13 The chapter of Debord's Society of The Spectacle - 'The Proletariat as Subject and as Representation', is an acute study of the history of the workers' movement. In terms of the question of crisis and decline14 one of the most important of Debord's points is his criticism of the attempt to ground the proletarian revolution on past changes in modes of production. The discontinuity between the tasks and nature of the bourgeois and proletarian revolutions is crucial. The proletarian aim in revolution is not the wielding of the productive forces more efficiently; the proletariat abolishes their separation and thus abolishes itself as well. The end of capitalism and proletarian revolution is different to all previous changes so we cannot base our revolution on past ones. For a start there is only really one model - the bourgeois revolution - and our revolution must be different in two fundamental ways: the bourgeoisie could build up their power in the economy first, the proletariat cannot; they could use the state, the proletariat cannot.15

These points are crucial to an understanding of our task. The bourgeoisie only had to affirm itself in its revolution, the proletariat has to negate itself in its. Of course orthodox Marxists will admit there is something different about the proletarian revolution but they do not think through its implications seriously. In the notion of the decline of capitalism the analogy is made to previous systems in which the old order runs out of steam and the new one has grown ready to take over with a simple capture of political power to accompany economic power. But the only change between modes of production that corresponds to this was the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and the transition from capitalism to socialism/communism must be different because it involves a complete rupture with the whole political/economic order. The state cannot be used in this process because by its nature the state is an organ to impose unity on a society riven economically while the proletarian revolution destroys those divisions.16

Part of what led orthodox Marxists to the notion of socialism as something constructed through the use of the state is their bewitchment by Marx's 'Critique of Political Economy', through which they become political economists. Now while Marx's work was not political economy but its critique it had elements that allowed this attenuation of the project. As Debord writes:

The deterministic-scientific facet in Marx's thought was precisely the gap through which the process of 'ideologization' penetrated, during his own lifetime, into the theoretical heritage left to the workers movement. The arrival of the historical subject continues to be postponed, and it is economics, the historical science par excellence, which tends increasingly to guarantee the necessity of its future negation. But what is pushed out of the field of theoretical vision in this manner is revolutionary practice, the only truth of this negation.17

What this describes is the loss of the centrality of 'critique' in the assimilation of Capital by the 'classical Marxist' tradition. In losing the importance of this fundamental aspect to Marx's project their work descends into 'Marxist political economy'. As we mentioned in relation to Cardan a theoretical root of objectivist Marxism is the taking of the methodological limitations of Capital as final limitations in how to conceive of the move beyond capitalism.

However if the problem of the objectivists was how they took Capital as the basis for a linear model of crisis and decline, a problem with the situationists was the extent to which they reacted to this misuse of the Critique of Political Economy by hardly using it at all. For the situationists the critique of political economy becomes summed up as the 'rule of the commodity'. The commodity is understood as a complex social form affecting all areas of life but its complexities are not really addressed. The complexities and mediations of the commodity form - that is the rest of Capital - are worth coming to terms with. The commodity is the unity and contradiction of use value and value. The rest of Capital is the unfolding of this contradiction at ever higher levels of concreteness. This methodological presentation is possible because the beginning is also a result. The commodity as the beginning of Capital is already the result of the capitalist mode of production as a totality, is thus impregnated with surplus value and an expression of class antagonism. In other words the commodity in a sense contains the whole of capitalism within it. More than that the commodity expresses the fact that class domination takes the form of domination by quasi-natural things. That the situationist critique could have the power it does is based on the fact that 'the commodity' does sum up the capitalist mode of production in its most immediate social form of appearance. However, particularly with regards to questions like that of crisis, the mediations of that form need to be addressed.

Instead of rejecting Capital (or ignoring it) what should be emphasised is its incompletion, that it is only one part of an overall project of 'capitalism and its overthrow', in which the self-activity of the working class has the crucial role. What the work of the situationists did, in their re-emphasis on the active role of the subject, was to pose 'the only truth of this negation'. To emphasise this, against all the scientific Marxists, the Althussarians, the Leninists etc., was right. In a fundamental sense it is always right. Orthodox Marxism, lost in political economy, had lost the real meaning of revolutionary practice. The situationists regained this crucial element in Marx by preferring the earlier writings and first chapter of Capital. The ideas of the situationists, which were a theoretical expression of the re-discovery of revolutionary subjectivity by the proletariat, inspired many in '68 and since then. They are an essential reference point for us today. But this re-assertion of the subject in theory and in practice did not defeat the enemy at that time - instead it plunged capital into crisis.

In the new period opened up by the proletarian offensive in the late sixties and seventies an understanding of the crisis - including its 'economic' dimension - would once again need to be a crucial element of proletarian theory. But the situationists had essentially adopted Socialism or Barbarism's position that capitalism had resolved its tendency towards economic crisis.18 Debord's critique of the bourgeois outlook lying behind the scientific pretensions of the upholders of crisis theory had its truth, but he was wrong to dismiss the notion of crisis completely. In The Veritable Split, Debord and Sanguinetti at least admit the return of crisis saying that "Even the old form of the simple economic crisis, which the system had succeeded in overcoming... reappears as a possibility of the near future."19

This is better than Cardan's attempt even in his '74 intro to another edition of Modern Capitalism and Revolution to deny the substantial reality of the economic crisis.20 Cardan even accepts the bourgeois belief that it is all an accident caused by the oil shock. But whilst Debord and Sanguinetti's position in admitting the return of crisis is better, we see no attempt by situationists to really come to terms with that return. As The Veritable Split opens "The Situationist International imposed itself in a moment of universal history as the thought of the collapse of a world; a collapse which has now begun before our eyes."21 In fact The Veritable Split is generally characterised by the notion that capitalism's final crisis has arrived - though that crisis is seen as a revolutionary one.

In The Veritable Split the description of the period opened up by May '68 as one of a general crisis is basically correct, however it was also inadequate. Although in the wake of May '68, the Italian Hot Autumn etc. to judge the epoch thus is perhaps forgivable what was needed was a real attempt to come to terms with the crisis. That would have required some grasp of the interaction of the rebelling subject and the 'objective' economy, and that would have required a look at the rest of Capital.

2 Return of the Objectivists

When economic crisis did return with a vengeance in the early seventies the defenders of the traditional Marxist notion that capitalism was in terminal decline seemed vindicated.22 As well as thinkers of the old left like Mandel for Trotskyism and Mattick for the council communists new figures like Cugoy, Yaffe and Kidron23 emerged to champion their version of the proper Marxist theory of crisis. The political movements connected with such analyses also experienced a growth. There was major disagreement between the theories produced, but what most shared was the perspective that the return of crisis was to be explained solely within the laws of motion of capitalism as explained by Marx in Capital.The question was which laws and which crisis tendency was to be emphasised from Marx's scattered references.

i) Mandel and Mattick
Mandel and Mattick, as the father figures, offered influential alternatives. Mattick essentially had kept Grossman's theory of collapse alive through the period of the post-war boom. That is, he offered a theory of capital mechanistically heading towards breakdown based on the rising organic composition of capital and falling rate of profit. His innovation was primarily to analyse how the Keynesian mixed economy deferred crisis through unproductive state expenditure. He argued that though such expenditure could temporarily stop the onset of a crisis this was only because of the general upswing in the economy following the war. The successful manipulation of the business cycle was seen to be dependent on an underlying general healthiness of profits in the private sector. When the underlying decline in the rate of profit had reached a critical point then the increase in demand by the state would no longer promote a return to conditions of accumulation and in fact the state's drain on the private sector would be seen as a part of the problem. His argument then, was that Keynesianism could delay but not prevent the tendency to crisis and collapse inherent to the laws of motion ofcapital. One of the main advantages of his analysis was to make the theory of crisis basic to the internal contradictions of capitalist production. Mattick thus avoided the fashionable focus on capitalism being undermined by the defeats of imperialism represented by third world revolutions. He thus does not deny the revolutionary potential of the Western working class. However their class struggle for him would be a spontaneous response to the eventual failure of Keynesianism to prevent the crisis of accumulation. The laws of capital from which crisis was seen to originate and the class struggle were totally separate. What his analysis fundamentally lacked was an analysis of how the class struggle occurred within the period of accumulation. Capitalism's crisis cannot be understood at the abstract level with which Mattick deals with it.

Mandel, the Belgian economist, offered in Late Capitalism a multicausal approach. He defines six variables, the interaction of which is supposed to explain capitalist development. Only one of these variables - the rate of exploitation - has any relation to class struggle but even here class struggle is only one among other things that determine this variable.24 The history of capital is the history of class struggle among other things! The main other thing being the nature of uneven development and thus the revolutionary role of the anti-imperialist countries. He thus describes the history of the capitalist mode of production as driven not by the central antagonism of labour and capital but that between capital and pre-capitalist economic relations. On the one hand he asserts his orthodoxy in claiming that late capitalism is just a continuation of the monopoly/imperialist epoch discerned by Lenin, but he also rehabilitates the theory of long waves of technological development which overlays the epoch of decline giving it periods of upturn and downward movement. The long waves are driven by the agency of technical innovation.

But neither in Mandel's technology driven long waves, nor the rising organic composition driven falling rate of profit thesis, is there is recognition of the extent to which technological innovation is a response to class struggle. Technological determinism of one form or other lies behind objectivist Marxism, which is why the autonomist critique of the objectivist view of technology is so important.25 It is necessary to relate capitalist accumulation and its crises to the class struggle. The Keynesian/Fordist period had been one in which working class struggle had been expressed largely in steadily rising wages, where the unions as representations of the working class had directed struggle against the tyranny of the labour process into wage claims. By winning steady increases in wages the workers forced capital to increase productivity by intensifying the conditions of work and making ever more labour saving investments, which in turn allowed it to continue to grant the workers rising real wages. In this sense, as we shall see the autonomists argued, working class struggle for a period had become a functional moment in the circuit of capital: a motor of accumulation. But before looking at such analysis it is worth noting that some thinkers in the objectivist camp did break from the decline problematic and attempt a more sophisticated analysis of the post-war period. The Regulation Approach(RA) was open to new ideas like the autonomist analysis of Fordism. However another major influence was structuralism and this kept the RA within the boundaries of objectivism.

ii) The Regulation approach
The RA is significant because it attempted to develop theory in relation to the concrete reality of modern capitalism. RA figures such as Aglietta and Lipietz broke from the orthodox positions on the periods of capitalism and on what capitalist crisis represented. The orthodox periodisation of capitalism was that it grew with mercantile capital, becomes mature with competitive laissez faire, and then declines and prepares the conditionsfor socialism in the period of monopoly and imperialism. The orthodox position on crisis was that in healthy capitalism it was part of a healthy business cycle while in 'the epoch of wars and revolution' it is the evidence of its underlying decline and always quite possibly the terminal breakdown crisis of the system as a whole. In terms of periodisation the RA introduced the notion of 'regimes of accumulation'. That is that the stages of capitalist development are characterised by interdependent institutional structures and patterns of social norms. In terms of crisis the RA suggested that prolonged crisis could represent the structural crises of the institutions of regulation and social norms connected with the regime.

So for example they reinterpreted the division between laissez faire and monopoly capitalism as the move from the 'regime of extensive accumulation and competitive regulation' that had existed before the First World War to a regime of intensive accumulation and monopolistic regulation after the Second World War, with the period in between a period of the crisis of one regime and transition to the next. The problem for the orthodox Marxists had been to fit the post-war period into their notion of the 'transitional epoch'. They might do so by calling it a new stage of 'state monopoly capitalism', but their problem was that monopoly should represent the end of capitalism rather than its growth. The RA said that far from being a period of decline the post war period saw the consolidation of a regime of intensive accumulation. This period they saw as characterised by Fordist production methods and mass consumption, the incorporation of consumer goods as a major part of capitalist accumulation, and at the international level American hegemony. At its core the regime is seen as founded on the linkage of rising living standards and rising productivity. In the light of the RA the '70s are then a new period of structural crisis, but this time of the regime of intensive accumulation. Like Negri and the autonomists the RA sees one part of the crisis as the delinkage of wage increases and productivity and the undermining of the social consensus. The breakdown of productivity increases brings out the fiscal crisis of the state as it remains committed to accumulative increases in public spending while the economic base - real sustained growth - for such a commitment is undermined. At the international level there is also the breakdown of favourable conditions of world trade as American hegemony is undermined. The point in relation to the decline thesis is that the crisis is not a death agony but a severe structural crisis out of which capital could come if it re-establishes a regime of accumulation.

The RA's break with the rigid schema of orthodoxy appears a much more sophisticated and less dogmatic Marxist analysis. However there is no reversal of perspective to see the process from the point of the working class. The RA stays firmly within capital-logic simply layering a mass of complications on to the analysis. So although it might rightly see the crisis as an overall crisis of the social order, the fact that it sees capital not as a battle of subjects but as a process without a subject means that it falls into functionalism. It is assumed that the current restructuring of capitalism will successfully lead to the establishment of a new regime of flexible accumulation - post or neo-Fordism is deemed to be inevitable. Such ideas amount to a new form of technological determinism26 which, because it asserts the inevitable continuity of capitalism rather than its collapse, is attractive to reformist leftists rather than revolutionaries. So although we might be able to use some of their ideas, the RA is like its structuralist father essentially based on capital logic. Taking the point of view of capital is always going to be a tendency of the academic thinker paid by the state.27

Objectivist Marxism does partly grasp the reality of capitalism but only from one pole - that of capital. The categories of Capital which are based on the reifying of social relations in capitalism are accepted by this Marxism as a given rather than a contested reality. The subsumption of working class labour is taken as final where it is something that must be repeatedly made. The working class is accepted as a cog in the development of capital which develops by its own laws. Tendencies such as rising organic composition is taken as a technical law intrinsic to capital's essence while it and its counter tendencies are actually areas of contestation. It is necessary to come at the process from the other pole - that of the struggle against reification, which is what groups like Socialism or Barbarism and the situationists did. Their move away from crisis theory was understandable and a necessary part of rediscovering revolutionary practice in the post war boom. However when crisis resurfaced it was the objectivists who seemed to have the tools to grasp it. Yet they failed to come out with an adequate political direction from their theory. The idea was simply that they understood the crisis so people should flock to their banner. However in Italy there emerged a current whose rejection of objectivism included a a new way of relating to crisis.

3 The workerist/autonomist current

A strong tendency in the Italian New Left is represented by the 'workerist'28 theoreticians of the '60s such as Panzieri and Tronti and the autonomists of the late '60s and '70s in which Negri and Bologna come to prominence. They attacked the reified categories of objectivist Marxism. Attacking the objectivism of orthodox Marxism also brought into question the crisis-decline problematic that was so dominant. Part of the strength of this current was that rather than simply assert Marx against a straightforwardly reformist labour movement it had to deal with theoretically sophisticated and prestigious Marxism of the hegemonic Italian Communist Party. The PCI in its transition from Stalinism to Eurostalinism had shifted from contemplation of capitalism's general crisis to support for its continuing development. The workerists recognised that both positions shared a contemplative position on the capitalist economy and that what was needed was a reversal of perspective to look at capitalism from the point of view of the working class.

Raniero Panzieri, one of the initiators of the current contributing two fundamental critiques of orthodox Marxism. He attacked the false opposition of planning and capitalism; and the idea of the neutrality of technology contained in the ideology of the productive forces.

i) The false opposition of planning and capitalism
Panzieri argued that planning is not the opposite of capitalism. Capitalism, as Marx noted, is based on despotic planning at the point of production. Capitalism transcended previous modes of production by appropriating co-operation in the productive process. This is experienced by the worker as control of her activity by another. In nineteenth century capitalism this despotic planning contrasts with anarchic competition at the social level. Panzieri argued that the problem with orthodox Marxism and its theory of decline is that it takes this period of laissez faire capitalism as the true model, change from which must represent the decline of capitalism or transition to socialism. The conception Panzieri and later Tronti developed was that mid-twentieth century capitalism had to a certain extent transcended the opposition of planning versus market, becoming a more advanced capitalism characterised by the attainment of the domination of society by Social Capital; the progressive formation of a Social Factory. At the social level capitalist society is not just anarchy but is social capital - the orientation of all areas of life to the imposition of the capitalist relation of work.

With this the central contradiction on which orthodox Marxism based its theory of decline is undermined. There is no fundamental contradiction between capitalist socialisation of production and capitalistappropriation of the product. The 'anarchy of the market' is one part of the way capital organises society but capitalist planning is another. These two forms of capitalist control are not in deadly contradiction but in a dialectical interaction:

with generalised planning capital extends the fundamental mystified form of the law of surplus value from the factory to the entire society, all traces of the capitalist process' origins and roots now seem to really disappear. Industry re-integrates in itself financial capital, and then projects to the social level the form specifically assumed by the extortion of surplus value. Bourgeois science calls this projection the neutral development of the productive forces, rationality, planning.29

The planning we see in capitalism is not transitional. With the identification of socialism and planning, socialism from being the negation of capitalism becomes one of its tendencies. What emerged from the development of monopoly/finance capital was not the basis for a non-capitalist mode of production but for a more socially integrated form of capitalism.30 Capital overcame some of the difficulties of its earlier phase but its process of doing so was interpreted as its final stage.

ii) The critique of technology
Related to Panzieri's deconstruction of the planning/anarchy of market dichotomy was his perhaps even more path-breaking critique of technology. Capitalism's despotic planning operates through technology. Essentially Panzieri argued that in capitalism technology and power are interwoven in such a way that one must abandon the orthodox Marxist notion of the neutrality of technology. Once again what is being critiqued here is the reified nature of the terms in the orthodox conception of the productive forces rattling against the chains of their capitalist fetters.

There exists no 'objective', occult factor inherent in the characteristics of technological development or planning in the capitalist society of today, which can guarantee the 'automatic' transformation or 'necessary' overthrow of existing relations. The new 'technical bases' progressively attained in production provide capitalism with new possibilities for the consolidation of its power. This does not mean, of course, that the possibilities for overthrowing the system do not increase at the same time. But these possibilities coincide with the wholly subversive character which working-class 'insubordination' tends to assume in face of the increasingly independent 'objective framework' of the capitalist mechanism.31

This exemplifies the change the 'workerist' perspective represented - the turn from some 'occult' movement of the productive forces considered technically to the greatest productive force - the revolutionary class. Panzieri was responding to a new combativity of the working class, its coming together to pose a threat to capital but "This class level" as he puts it "expresses itself not as progress, but as rupture; not as 'revelation' of the occult rationality in the modern productive process, but as the construction of a radically new rationality counterposed to the rationality practised by capitalism."32

While the mainstream Marxists, whether ostensibly revolutionary or reformist, were and are stuck in a reformist attitude towards capitalist technology, i.e. the expressed wish of organising it by means of the plan more efficiently and more rationally, Panzieri had seen the extent to which the working class were the much better dialecticians who recognised "the unity of the 'technical' and 'despotic' moments of the present organisation of production."33 Machine production and other forms of capitalist technology are a historically specific product of class struggle. To see them as 'technically' neutral is to side with capitalism. That this view has dominated orthodox Marxism makes it no wonder that some now wish to reject the historical critique of capitalism in favour of an anti-technology perspective. The problem with substituting the simple negati on of 'civilisation' for the determinate negation [Aufhebung] of capitalism is not just that some of us want to have washing machines, but that it prevents one connecting with the real movement.

The critique of technology combined with the reversal of perspective allowed the workerists to reclaim the critique of political economy as a revolutionary tool by the proletariat. As we have seen, a crucial part of most theories of crisis and decline is the tendency for the rate of profit to fall due to the rising organic composition of capital brought about by capital's replacement of labour (the source of value) by machines. The Italians took an overlooked statement by Marx "It would be possible to write a history of all the inventions introduced by capital since 1830 just to give them weapons against the revolts of the working class"34 and developed it into a theory that made capital's technological development a response to and interaction with working class struggle, the capitalist labour process becoming a terrain of constantly repeated class struggle. By founding capitalist development on working-class struggle the workerists made sense of Marx's note that the greatest productive force is the revolutionary class itself.

When we see the constant increase in organic composition as a product of working class struggle and human creativity, the tendency for the rate of profit to fall starts to lose its objectivist bias. Capital's turn from an absolute surplus value strategy to a relative surplus value strategy35 was forced on it by the working class and has resulted in capital and the working class being locked in a battle over productivity. The categories of the organic and technical composition of capital become de-reified in this workerist theory and linked with the notion of class composition, that is with the forms of class subjectivity and struggle accompanying the 'objective' composition of capital. Using this notion the theorists of workers' autonomy developed the critique of earlier forms of organisation, such as the vanguard party, as reflecting a previous class composition and theorised the new forms of struggle and organisation of the mass worker. This puts a whole new light on the decline of capitalism / transition to communism question:

The so-called inevitability of the transition to socialism is not on the plane of the material conflict; rather precisely upon the basis of the economic development of capitalism - it is related to the 'intolerability' of the social rift and can manifest itself only as the acquisition of political consciousness. But for this very reason, working-class overthrow of the system is a negation of the entire organisation in which capitalist development is expressed - and first and foremost of technology as it is linked to productivity.36

We see then that the first wave of Italian workerism in the '60s rejected of the view that the period of laissez faire marked the proper existence of capitalism and that what has happened since is its decline or decay in favour of an analysis of the concrete features of contemporary capitalism. This allowed them to see the tendency towards state planning as expressing the tendencies of capitalism to the full: Social Capital. They also broke from orthodox Marxism in their reversal of perspective to see the working-class as the motive force of capital, backed up by militant research on the struggles of the mass worker.

iii) The class struggle theory of crisis
There are similarities with Socialism or Barbarism's analysis but the autonomists' positions, based as they were on a reinterpretation of the tools offered by Marx's critique of political economy rather than a rejection of them, were better able to respond to the crisis that opened up in the '70s. In fact the crisis of the seventies could be said to show the accuracy of Tronti's 1964 suggestion that it was possible that "The first demands made by proletarians in their own right, the moment that they cannot be absorbed by the capitalist, function objectively as forms of refusal that put the system in jeopardy.. simple political blockage in the mechanism of objective laws."37 Capitalism's peaceful progress was shattered in the late '60s and the Italian workerists theory went furthest in understanding this, just as the Italian workers' practice during the '70s went furthest in attacking the capital relation.

As we saw with Mattick the orthodox Marxist response to Keynesianism was to argue that it could not really alter the laws of motion of capital and that it could only delay the crisis. At one level this is correct but the problem is that the economy is seen as a machine rather than the reifed appearance of antagonistic social relations. The autonomist advance expressed in such works as two essays by Negri in '6838 was to grasp Keynesianism as a response to the 1917 working class offensive, an attempt to turn working class antagonism to the benefit of capital. Keynes was a strategic thinker for capital and Keynesianism by channelling working class struggle into wage increases paid for by rising productivity was essentially not just demand management of the economy but the state management of the working class, a management that becomes increasingly violent as the working class refuses it. The precarious balance that it represented was flung into crisis by the working class offensive of the late '60s and '70s which ruptured the productivity deals upon which the accumulation was premised. The whole post-war Keynesian/Fordist period was seen in the autonomist analysis as the period of the planner state that had now been flung into crisis and was being replaced by the active use of crisis by the state to maintain control.

The class struggle theory of crisis is a necessary corrective to the objectivists' views. The fundamental point in autonomist Marxism was to turn capitalist crisis from the fatalistic outcome of objective laws standing above the working class into the objective expression of class struggle. The notion of an epoch of decline or decadence is effectively bypassed by this theory of the concrete struggles of the class. The history of capitalism is not the objective unfolding of capital's laws but a dialectic of political composition and recomposition. The serious world crisis that opened in the '70s is thus seen as the result of the struggles of the Fordist mass worker. That subject, which had itself been created by capital's attack on the post first world war class composition that had almost destroyed it, had politically recomposed itself into a threat to capital. The crisis of capital is the crisis of the social relation.

During the '70s the autonomists produced the most developed theorisation of the refusal of work and a critique of the catastrophist theory of the crisis in favour of a dynamic theory of capitalist crisis and proletarian subjectivity. The autonomists developed a class struggle theory of the crisis exemplified in the slogan 'The Crisis of the Bosses is a Victory of the Workers'. This puts them in sharp variance with the orthodox Marxist explanation of crisis39 in terms of internal contradictions of capital with the general crisis caused by its decline brought on by its fettering of the productive forces by the relations of production. The notion that capital fetters the productive forces, though in a sense true, forgets that at times of strength the working class fetters the productive forces understood in capitalist terms - the working class fetters the development of the productive forces because their development is against its interests, its needs. The significance of the resistance of the proletariat to capitalist work must not be missed in a socialist dream of work for all. As Negri puts it, "Liberation of the productive forces: certainly, but as the dynamic of a process which leads to abolition, to negation in the most total form. Turning from the liberation-from-work toward the going-beyond-work forms the centre, the heart of the definition of communism."40

Autonomist theory was in some ways an optimistic projection forward of tendencies in the existing struggle. This worked fine when the class struggle was going forward and thus when revolutionary tendencies became realised in further actions. So for example Tronti developed the notion of a new kind of crisis set off by workers' refusal because he saw it prefigured in the battle of Piazza Fontana (events in 1962 when striking FIAT workers attacked the unions with great violence). The Italian Hot Autumn in 1969 when workers would often go on strike immediately after they came back to work from a previous strike showed the validity of this projection. However such theoretical projection, which the situationists also made in seeing the emergence of wildcat strikes in England in particular as a sign of things to come,41 became inadequate when in capital's counter offensive against this refusal the tendencies that were to be later realised were that of a re-imposition of work. Autonomist theorists tried to grasp this with notions like that of the shift from the planner to the crisis state.

The class struggle theory of crisis lost its way somewhat in the '80s, for while in the seventies the breaking of capital's objective laws was plain, with capital's partial success the emergent subject was knocked back. It appears that during the '80s we have seen the objective laws of capital given free reign to run amok through our lives. A theory which connected the manifestations of crisis to the concrete behaviours of the class found little offensive struggle to connect to and yet crisis remained. The theory had become less appropriate to the conditions. Negri's tendency to extreme optimism and overstatement of tendencies as realities, while not too bad in a time of proletarian subversion, increasing became a real problem in his theorising, allowing him to slip in his own decline thesis. Out of the relation to the revolutionary movement Negri's writings suffer massively. In writings like Communists Like Us and his contribution to Open Marxism we even see in a new subjectivist guise the theory of a decline of capital/emergence of communism behind our back.42

All in all the autonomists are a necessary move but not a complete one, they expressed the movement of their time but, in Negri's case anyway become weak in isolation from it. We might say that just as '68 showed the limitations as well as validity of situationists ideas the period of crisis and revolutionary activity in Italy in the decade '69-'79 showed the validity and limitation of the workerist and autonomists theory. This does not mean we need to go back to the objectivists but forward. Autonomist theory in general and the class struggle theory of crisis in particular did essential work on the critique of the reified categories of objectivist Marxism. It allows us to see them "as modes of existence of class struggle".43 If at times they overstate this, failing to see the real extent to which the categories do have an objective life as aspects of capital, it remains necessary to maintain the importance of the inversion. We need a way of conceiving the relation of objectivity and subjectivity that is neither the mechanics of the objectivists nor the reactive assertion that its 'all class struggle'.

S or B, the situationists, and the autonomists all, in different ways, made important contributions to recovering the revolutionary core of Marx's critique of political economy. They did this by breaking from the catastrophist theory of decline and breakdown. But the revolutionary wave they were part of has receded. The post-war boom is now a fading memory. Compared to the era in which these revolutionary currents developed their theories the capitalist reality we face today is far more uncertain. Capitalism's tendency to crisis is even more evident, yet class struggle is at a low ebb. In the third and final part of this article we shall look at more recent attempts to solve the problem of understanding the world we live in, such as that of the Radical Chains group, and put forward our own contribution to its solution.

  • 1. The Johnson-Forest tendency in America were developing a similar bottom up and non-workerist approach.
  • 2. Modern Capitalism and Revolution, p. 85.
  • 3. Ibid., p. 48.
  • 4. Ibid., p. 44.
  • 5. Redefining Revolution, p. 17.
  • 6. See Workers' Councils and the Economics of Self-Management.
  • 7. Paradoxically, though this reification is a central part of Cardan's critique of Marx, he himself suggests another problem with Marx is his use of the category of reification when instead modem capitalism should be understood by its 'drive to bureaucratic-hierarchical organisation.' Revolution Redefined, p. 6.
  • 8. Modern Capitalism and Revolution, p. 43.
  • 9. See the Appendix to Modern Capitalism and Revolution. Part of the rest of this appendix is an argument for a return to Adam Smith's definition of capital.
  • 10. As he writes to Engels 2/4/1858, "Throughout this section [capital in general] wages are invariably assumed to be at their minimum. Movements in wages themselves and the rise or fall of that minimum will he considered under wage labour."
  • 11. For more on this crucial point about how to read Marx, see F.C. ShortalI, The Incomplete Marx (Aldershot: Avebury, 1994).
  • 12. They declined to use the word communism because of its associations. To which one would have to say their alternative of universal self-management has not escaped its own negative connotations.
  • 13. "Are you Marxists? - Just as much as Marx was when he said 'I am not a Marxist."' Situationist International Anthology.
  • 14. The situationists at times expressed the idea of a general crisis of capitalism, of its reaching of an impasse. At times they expressed the view that modem capitalism was in decline or decomposition. However they did not see this proceeding through an objective logic of the economy, seeing it rather as arising from the subjective refusal of the proletariat to go on as before. To an extent they did ground this on the contradiction of productive forces and relations, but only to the extent that the gap between how capitalism developed them, and what their possible use by the proletariat as it abolished itself could be, had reached an extreme level visible to the subject. This perspective is crucial but it should not be confused with the theory of decline as classically understood where there is a linear evolutionary logic in which it is the productive forces which push to be liberated. The gap between what is possible and what actually exists can only be crossed by a leap.
  • 15. "...the bourgeois revolution is over; the proletarian revolution is a project born on the foundation of the preceding revolution but differing fiom it qualitatively. By neglecting the originality of the historical role of the bourgeoisie' one masks the concrete originality of the proletarian project, which can attain nothing unless it caries its own banners and It knows the "immensity of its tasks." The bourgeoisie came to power because it is the class of the developing economy. The proletariat cannot itself come to power except by becoming the class of consciousness. The growth of productive forces cannot guarantee such power, even by way of the increasing dispossession which it brings about. A Jacobin seizure of power cannot be its instrument. No ideology can help the proletariat disguise its partial goals - general goals, because the proletariat cannot preserve any partial reality which is really its own." The Society of the Spectacle, Thesis 88.
  • 16. This is not to say the proletariat does not use force to realiae its goals and prevent a return to capitalism, just that its force is qualitatively different to state force, which can only be the power of the separate.
  • 17. The Society of the Spectacle, Thesis 84.
  • 18. See The Society of the Spectacle, Thesis 82.
  • 19. Debord and Sanguinetti (1972) The Veritable Split, Thesis 14, (London: Chronos Publications, 1990).
  • 20. Modern Capitalism and Revolution, pp. 10-11.
  • 21. The Veritable Split, Thesis 1.
  • 22. The ICC even try to explain '68 in terms of the objective crisis beforehand. Despite the overwhelming market lead of the falling rate of profit theory of crisis they continue to push a Luxemburgist thesis. Such brand loyalty really should be applauded.
  • 23. Yaffe and Kidron were both in the International Socialists (forerunner of the SWP) which attempted to distinguish itself with its theory of the Permanent Arms Economy. This essentially tried to account for the whole post-war boom in terms of one factor - arms spending. Behind the innovation of giving arms spending a stabilising role, the theory was essentially orthodox Marxist economics. In the version put forward by Cliff the orthodoxy was underconsumptionism. Military expenditure was given an ability (initially very temporary then as the catastrophe failed to arrive more long lasting) to ofliet an inevitable crisis of overproduction of capital versus the limited consumption power of the masses. When within Marxist economics there was a shift - the falling rate of profit increasingly took the foreground and underconsumptionism was seen as too crude - Kidron put forward a new version which changed what it was that military spending was meant to mitigate. Rather than unproductive arms spending delaying the point when production of capital outstrips the possibilities for its consumption, that spending was to be seen as a counter-tendency to the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

    The essential point is the theory kept within the assumptions of objectivist Marxist economics. To the extent that it broke from Lenin's analysis of imperialism it was not because of the fact that Lenin gave no place to working class struggle in his analysis. No, for the International Socialists imperialism was just to be the 'last stage but one - another objectivist capital-logic stage. The permanent arms economy was to be the final stage and it, like Lenin's Imperialism, is explained purely in terms of capital. Even in its more developed form the theory was a bit of a hotch potch that had younger guns in the I.S. like Yaffe, who was better versed in the Marxist classics, demanding a return to a fundarnentalist falling rate of profit-based theory and leaving to form the RCG in order to develop one. Since then Chris Harman has fleshed out the theory, rounded off a few of its rough edges, and even used Grossman and other decline theorists to back it up. By the seventies anyway the SWP had returned to the fold by agreeing that arms spending could no longer mitigate the tendency towards crisis.

  • 24. Late Capitalism, p. 40. Interestingly Mattick, who one would have to side with politically against Mandel, argues that Late Capitalism gives too much weight to the class struggle. Mattick introduced Grossman's falling rate of profit based breakdown theory to a new audience. That we find the non-Leninist arguing against the significance of class struggle shows that the problem of objectivism cuts across the Leninist/anti-Leninist divide. In actual fact in Britain the Mattick/Grossman thesis on the nature of the crisis was taken up by a firm Leninist David Yaffe. For Yaffe the class struggle had been absent during the post war boom but the economic detetminants had apparently been progressing in its absence.
  • 25. See following section.
  • 26. The attack on the functionalism and determinism of the RA is ably made in Post Fordism and Social Form (edited by Bonefeld and Holloway) and reviewed in Aufheben 2 (Summer 1993).
  • 27. On the other hand the analysis of the autonomists never lost the point of view of the working class. The point is that though some of the Italian theorists were academics they were also part of a revolutionary current. They might be 'thinkers sponsored by the state' but when half of them get arrested and banged up for years it becomes reasonable to believe that their ideas were contradictory to their position.
  • 28. Italian 'workerism' refers not as with the Anglo-Saxon use of the term to the idea that only shop-floor struggle is meaningful, but to the attempt to theorize capitalism from the working class's perspective.
  • 29. 'Surplus Value and Planning' in The Labour Process and Class Strategies, CSE Pamphlet No.1, p. 21.
  • 30. While some of those influenced by Bordiga became the archetypal dogmatic proponents of the theory of decadence others developed some of his ideas in an interesting direction with parallels to the workerists. Invariance (Jacques Camatte et al.) theorised that the increasing socialization of production expressed not the decline of capital but the shift from capital's formal subsumption of the labour process to its real subsumption i.e. the shift from capitalist supervision of a labour process dependent on workers' skills and understanding, to complete capitalist domination of the whole process. Furthermore they saw a shift from capital's formal domination of society to its real domination. However we might say that their attention to the autonomy of capital insufficiently recognised that this process is constantly contested; this led them to see revolution as a catastrophist explosion of repressed subjectivity.
  • 31. R. Panzieri, 'The Capitalist Use of Machinery: Marx Versus the 'Objectivists'' in P Slater ed., Outlines of a Critique of Technology (Ink Links, 1980), p. 49.
  • 32. lbid., p. 54.
  • 33. Ibid., p. 57.
  • 34. Capital, vol. 1, p. 563.
  • 35. I.e. From a strategy of increasing exploitation through lengthening the working day to one of increasing productivity, thereby lengthening the section of the existing working day during which the worker produces surplus-value.
  • 36. 'The Capitalist Use of Machinery: Marx Versus the 'Objectivists'' in Outlines of a Critique of Technology, op. cit., p. 60.
  • 37. Working Class Autonomy and the Crisis (Red Notes and CSE Books), p. 17.
  • 38. 'Keynes and Capitalist Theories of the State Post 1929' and 'Marx on Cycle and Crisis', both in Revolution Retrieved (London: Red Notes, 1988)
  • 39. In fact your orthodox Marxist militant will think it wrong to suggest that crisis could possibly be the work of the working-class. "No, no, no" s/he'll say "that's a right wing argument; crisis is the fault of capital; the working class - bless his cloth cap - is free of any involvement in it - the crisis shows the irrationality of capitalism and the need for socialism". But this was precisely what the autonomists attacked - socialism seen as the resolution of capital's crisis tendency.
  • 40. Marx Beyond Marx, (London: Autonomedia/Pluto, 1991), p. 160.
  • 41. Not to mention Marx and the Silesian miners.
  • 42. For example on p. 88 of Open Marxism II: "new technical conditions of proletarian independence are determined within the material passages of development and therefore, for the first time, there is the possibility of a rupture in the restructuration which is not recuperable and which is independent of the maturation of class consciousness." He seems to think that this possibility is linked in with the immaterial labour of computer programrners! It seems that many radical thinkers show a tendency to lose clarity in their old age or, more accurately, when the movement to which they are connecting falls back. Perhaps it is a question of using Negri against Negri as we (must sometimes?) use Marx against Marx, and perhaps also we should see decadence theory as a slippage made by revolutionaries when the movement they are part of recedes (post 1848, post 1917 post 1977). When the movement of class struggle that one could connect to seems to lose its power there is a temptation to give power to capital's side - a temptation that should be resisted.
  • 43. See R. Gunn (1989) 'Marxism and Philosophy', Capital & Class, 37.