Open Letter to John Holloway

1997 open letter from Wildcat (Germany) to John Holloway concering his article "Dignity's Revolt" and issues of class composition, the Zapatistas and more.

Submitted by libcom on November 1, 2005

From Wildcat-Zirkular No. 39 - September 1997 - pp. (german edition) 31-44.

Open Letter to John Holloway

Dear John,

In the last two years we have translated various texts of yours and published them in the Wildcat-Zirkular.1 In the spring you sent us your paper on 'Dignity's Revolt' and asked if we wanted to translate it and publish it.2 We would now like to explain why we are not satisfied with this text, with the aim of starting an open discussion. Your inquiry about 'Dignity's Revolt' stimulated us to formulate in writing some critical reflections on your theoretical approach. The letter consists of three parts: first we shall explain the background of our group, in so far as this is important for understanding our objections (A). Then we want to focus on a central critical point of the paper 'Dignity's Revolt', without discussing the whole text, and without getting into a debate about the EZLN itself (B). Finally we want to explain through the concept of work what direction we think a further discussion might take (C).

A. How Wildcat arose and what our Problems are

From Jobbing to Militant Inquiry

In the beginning of the 1980s the cycle of factory worker struggles was over, but for many young people it was inconceivable to adjust to wage labour and to work away at a job until reaching pension age. Additionally, we ourselves refused to strive individually through a professional career for a better place in the capitalist hierarchy. Out of this grew the practice of jobbing: to do any old shitty job for a short time, in order then to have time for ourselves, for political struggle and for pleasure. In formal terms, we worked under conditions that would later be characterised by the sociologists as 'precarious' in the sense of being vulnerable to one-sided measures by capital. But it was even easier then to use the regulations of labour law and the welfare state for our own needs.

Out of the attempt to politicise these practices and to bring them into play intentionally as struggle against work and for a revolutionary perspective, there arose 'jobber groups'. They were a form of self-organisation aimed at mutual support, solidarity against the bosses and the spreading of experiences. A group in Karlsruhe picked up on Italian theoretical discussions in which this 'figure' of the jobber was seen as a rising proletarian subject: through the refusal of work and the gradual spread of these practices, this figure is seen as being at the centre of a process of class composition. Jobbers are seen as embodying the tendency to communism through their mobility on the labour market and their high level of qualification combined with their rejection of capitalist command. Because of their mobility, it is argued that they do not develop any sort of identification with capital and thus get involved to a high degree in such forms of struggle as sabotage and wildcat strikes.

That corresponded to the experiences that we had in factories, building sites and temporary work agencies. But we also observed that 'jobbers' remained a very heterogeneous and marginal group within the working class, and that many just practised an individualised rejection of work. While some jobber groups decided to institutionalise themselves and to become advice centres for welfare state benefits (and this was then referred to as the 'unemployed workers' movement'), the group in Karlsruhe - from which the 'Wildcat' journal later arose - proposed a comprehensive discussion on the working class as a whole. For our theoretical understanding of capitalism and class struggle, the Italian 'operaismo' was particularly important.3 Especially the early texts of this current (by Romano Alquati and others) helped us to decipher the mystifications of capital in the immediate process of production. The operaist critique offered not just the basis for a theoretically revolutionary understanding of the world, but also a practical set of instruments. Basing ourselves on the operaist ideas of inquiry, we proposed to the undogmatic and non-Leninist left a broad 'militant inquiry' within the working class. But the proposal remained a minority affair. The only people who were still interested in the working class were Leninist and Stalinist 'parties' with whom we did not want to have anything to do.

Through the 'militant inquiry' project we wanted to develop a revolutionary critique of capitalism out of the critique of the production process as contradictory unity of labour process and valorisation process. In discussions, surveys and common struggles together with our co-workers we tried to demystify the fetishised power of capital which confronts us hostilely in production as technology, division of labour and alienated cooperation. We wanted to see where and how the workers break through these mystifications themselves in their struggles and thus recognise their productive cooperation as power against capitalism and as possibility of communism.

Bound up with this approach was an understanding of 'class' and 'class struggle' which stood in complete contrast to the traditional understanding in Marxist theory and in the labour movement. We criticised the reduction of class struggle to an economic question of distribution and wages as the ideology of the labour movement, which we saw as an essential moment in the mediation and political weakening of class antagonism. In all this, it was important that since the 1970s a whole series of groups had turned to operaismo and had carried out their own inquiries (see, for example, the book by Karl Heinz Roth on the The 'Other' Labour Movement, published in 1974).

Our experience in the early and mid-1980s in factories, temporary employment agencies and building sites made it clear to us that everyday class antagonism had in no way disappeared, as many on the left maintained. We came across many forms of underground conflict and saw what enormous problems capital had in introducing new technologies of production or new models of work organisation - exactly as you observe at the end of your analysis of Keynesianism: 'The social forces that had imposed the recognition of the power of labour upon capital still existed, stronger than ever, and could not be abolished simply by the declarations of the politicians' (Bonefeld and Holloway (1995), 33).

From the middle of the 1980s there arose new class conflicts in Europe which escaped from the traditional grip of the trade unions. Workers rose as subjects of their own struggles and their radicality embodied a new offensive moment. These conflicts took place especially in 'new' sectors (public service, transport, hospitals, schools, banks, but also in some 'modernised' factories) and seemed to represent a new class composition. We thought that a revolutionary perspective could again become practical in these struggles. In contrast to the trade union struggles for peaceful accommodation with exploitation, a comprehensive hostility to capitalist society could be seen here. We were actively involved in the nurses' movement of 1989 and saw what sort of initiatives were possible without the obstructive influence of the trade unions.

For this reason we paid little attention to the theoretical debates of the 1980s. We observed the change-over of most of the intellectual left to the side of capital, but thought that in the context of the new class struggles the theoretical questions could be approached from within the struggles. In other words, we considered our theoretical basis quite adequate in order to develop a revolutionary project from the working class itself.

The Radical Change of '89 and its consequences

At the beginning of the '90s we proposed to a group of the revolutionary left in Europe the idea of undertaking a common research project on the situation of the working class. (This proposal was later taken up once again in your journal, Common Sense: see Ed Emery, 'No Politics without Inquiry: A Proposal for a Class Composition Inquiry Project 1996-97', Common Sense no. 18). Some comrades from other countries, however, thought that, in view of the world-historical change, it was more urgent to examine our theoretical concepts. At that time we ourselves still approached the collapse of really existing socialism very optimistically.

In 1988/89 there were the beginnings of an instensification of class conflict in West Germany. In the course of the change in the GDR it came to - now long forgotten - mass discussions in the factories there about a social perspective beyond capitalism and GDR-socialism, and with the economic ruin of the former GDR there developed there a broad movement of struggle against factory closures and the deterioration of social conditions. In spite of that, we were no longer able to read a communist perspective in these quantitatively increasing struggles. With the massacre of the Gulf War in 1991 and the economic crisis, which broke rather late in Germany (in 1993, after the unification boom) and which led to the acceptance of the intensification of labour and deteriorating social conditions on a broad scale, we were no longer convinced by our original optimism.

Previous revolutionary concepts and certainties were thoroughly shaken. Struggles in the factories had now only a defensive character, even stooping to begging for jobs. The left was concentrating on racism, fascism and nationalism, without either wanting to or being able to connect these with the class character of capitalism and the question of its revolutionary overcoming. That is why more and more influence in political discussion was gained by those theories which had already in the 1980s departed from the radical critique of class society (as you (pl.) have shown in detail and criticised in relation to Hirsch's theories). We did not wish to become supporters of these theories and to forget the class character of this society. A large part of the work in the journal Wildcat consisted in presenting and analysing the class struggles in the world, which had by no means disappeared after 1989. But struggles and wars were breaking out (Gulf War, Yugoslavia, Chechenya, Somalia, Rwanda...) which seemed to indicate the tendency towards barbarism rather than towards liberation from capitalist domination.

The significance of your (pl.) theoretical efforts for our discussion4

In this situation, we felt it was necessary to examine (and, if necessary, to develop anew) our theoretical basis. A reckoning with the 'new' left theory, which had departed from its radical hostility to capitalism, was more necessary than we had thought. They offered plausible explanations for the new developments, and we had nothing to offer in their place. The operaist thesis that 'the workers produce the crisis' became meaningless, since the open crisis of capitalism bore no direct relation to offensive struggles by workers. Then how could we understand this crisis without seeking refuge in the 'objective laws of development' of the Marxist textbooks or the then fashionable regulation theory? How can we explain that the working class is forced to accept a serious deterioration in their conditions without any radical struggles developing? And why, in spite of this apparent weakness of the working class, does capital not come out of its crisis?

We therefore began with an intensive theoretical discussion of these questions and looked at all sorts of theories about the present crisis (from the regulationists to Wallerstein's world system theory). It was a special piece of good luck that in this process we came across your texts, which, unlike most other theories, start out from the same question as ourselves. You criticise radically the theories of the new left as a capitulation in the face of the tasks of revolutionary theory. Against the apparent all-powerfulness of capital, you stick to the point that it is not a question of autonomous 'things' or 'structures', but of a social relation, in which antagonism is inscribed. Starting from the social constitution of the social relations you try to sketch a different explanation of current development.

Precisely because we agree with you on the way the question is posed, we consider that a more precise discussion of your theses would be important and productive. For us it is a question of coming to a revolutionary theory which has practical meaning. The theory must relate to the reality of the present-day working class. We can imagine such a project only as a collective one, as one of many people discussing and working together. For us it is not a question of getting immediate answers, but of starting up a process of asking and exploring. To anticipate: the main problem that we have with your texts is that in many points they do not follow through the revolutionary and de-mystifying approach radically enough. This may be because you often want to give general solutions too quickly, where today it would be more important to leave questions and problems open in order to lead into a collective theoretical process.

B. 'Dignity' and 'Humanism' - a flight into the unhistorical?

In the paper on 'Dignity's Revolt' you want to protect the EZLN and the uprising in Chiapas against criticism from the left. To do that, you develop a comprehensive concept of 'dignity', which keeps on cropping up in the texts of the Zapatistas.

The uprising in Chiapas was for us too one of the most important movements after 1989 and the Gulf War. It put world revolution back on the agenda. Here, and everywhere in the world, it embodied a new feeling of revolt, courage and revolutionary hope. It set something up against the feeling that capitalism had finally triumphed and that revolution had become impossible. We hoped that with the uprising in Chiapas a new revolutionary debate could start up. All the more so since the Zapatistas themselves seemed to stimulate such a debate by their invitation to the international gatherings 'against neoliberalism'.

However, we soon became aware of three things:

1. The movement of support for the Zapatistas remained limited to the classical form of solidarity work. In this context it was not possible to hold a comprehensive revolutionary discussion. The uprising in Chiapas was 'cool' and 'important', but it was a long way away and had nothing to do with conditions here.

2. Behind the slogan 'against neo-liberalism' there quickly gathered a broad spectrum of political currents, of which the majority was in no sense revolutionary. There is a strong bourgeois critique of neo-liberalism (for example under the slogan of turbo-capitalism, which was coined by the rightwing conservative military strategist Edward Luttwak in the United States), which is concerned not with overthrowing capitalist relations, but with saving them. 'Unbridled capitalism' must, in this view, be protected from destroying itself. The age of 'Keynesianism' is characterised as a 'golden age'. Precisely because of this argument, which is shared by many on the left, we found your criticism of Keynesianism important and helpful.

3. From the EZLN itself came no indications that they would criticise this development. Their position - both on questions of development in Mexico and in the world - was thus questioned not only by the orthodox-Marxist groups to which you refer in 'Dignity's Revolt'. It was criticised also by people who expressly consider themselves to be part of the anti-Leninist and undogmatic tendency. 5

For us it is not enough to read a new model of revolution out of the declarations of the Zapatistas and to use this to interpret away all problems. It is also not enough just to take the declarations of the Zapatistas and on that basis to say something about the character of the struggle and the uprising, rather we have to deal with the way in which the people there live, produce and struggle; how their struggle fits materially into the international class struggle. Precisely on this point there is hardly anything at all in the paper on 'Dignity's Revolt'. In its unhistorical generality, it might just as well be a defence of the liberation struggle of the Sandinistas or any other movement of liberation in any other time.

Our principal problem with your text on 'Dignity's Revolt' can be illustrated by the heading of the sixth section: 'Dignity is the revolutionary subject. Dignity is a class concept and not a humanistic one.' (This and all following quotations not specifically referring to other texts are taken from 'Dignity's Revolt'.) We would agree with the assumption contained in the statement: there is an insuperable division between revolutionary and humanistic concepts. While humanistic approaches refer to an ideal, philosophical concept of being a person and an abstract, unhistorical 'humanity', revolutionary theory starts from the historically real person. It does not see 'the person' as the revolutionary subject, but real people, who in all previous societies have been split into antagonistic classes. The subject of revolutionary change is thus the class of producers, who are exploited by the ruling class. The particular historical forms of domination and class struggle are the result of the 'specific ... form in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of the direct producers' (as, quoting Marx, you emphasise in your essay 'Crisis, Fetishism, Class Composition').

The Zapatistas speak not of class but of 'civil society'. You justify that by saying that the 'old words' are so 'worn out' that they bring more harm than clarity. The class concept, you say, has been used in orthodox Marxism as a 'definitional concept', in which it is just a question of defining class membership. Usually class is defined in terms of 'those who sell their labour power in order to survive', or 'those who produce surplus value and are directly exploited'. The working class has thus become a question of definition and indeed of a defintion which starts from 'subjection to capital'. People's struggles are then judged, you say, according to the way that they are classified. This has led, for example to the argument that, in view of the shrinking of the urban factory proletariat, class struggle is not important for social change; or it has been impossible to relate to new forms of struggle like the student movement, feminism or ecologism. For this reason you want to oppose to this definitional, classificational concept of class another which starts not from class membership (classification) but from antagonism.

We see the problem of a definitional class concept in just the same way. It is a problem of subject and object. To define the class in terms of membership on the basis of certain objective characteristics leads to political concepts that turn the class into the object of politics. It is then not a question of the self-liberation or self-change of the class, instead the class becomes the object of a political party (as is the case in Leninism). In the 'revolutionary process' it is then not the class that is the subject but a party which leads or represents it. Against this notion of party communism we too have objected that the liberation of the working class can only be the deed of the working class itself.

You then explain the character of the anatgonism between the classes in terms of the theory of fetishism. 'Although this antagonism appears as a vast multiplicity of conflicts, it can be argued (and was argued by Marx) that the key to understanding this antagonism and its development is the fact that present society is built upon an antagonism in the way that the distinctive character of humanity, namely creative activity (work in its broadest sense) is organised. In capitalist society, work is turned against itself, alienated from itself; we lose control over our creative activity.' This contradiction between creativity and its own negation is, you say, the antagonism between labour and capital. So it is not a conflict between two external forces, 'but between work (human creativity) and work alienated'. In a moment we shall return to the concept of work that you use. Here we just want to observe that for us too it is important to see class conflict as a dialectical and not an external relation. People themselves produce the conditions in which they live, and yet are dominated by them. It is by no means easy to make this deranged relation clear.

The question immediatley arises of why we produce our own world in this deranged manner. To say that this negation 'takes place through the subjection of human activity to the market' does not explain it, but merely indicates the form. And this form must be explained from the specific content, the specific historic character of labour. You avoid this problem by making subjectivity, which creates over and against itself an alienated objectivity, into an ever thinner, more abstract and unhistorical residue: 'humanity (dignity repressed and in struggle) against neoliberalism (the current, savagely destructive phase of capitalism)'.6 The subject of struggle becomes an anthropolgical category: 'the indestructable (or maybe just the not yet destroyed) NO that makes us human'. In other texts you have characterised this residue, referring to Hegel, as the 'sheer unrest of life'. Here there is no longer anything that is specific to the antagonistic struggle in capitalist society. We could apply such statements to all historical periods and use them as a general characterisation of all struggles against oppression that have ever existed. You arrive in this way to precisely to that humanism which you wanted to reject in your heading: 'humanity against neoliberalism'. This is not just a theoretical but a political problem. This slogan can be accepted by any representative of the Socialist International, or it could be used as an advertising slogan by the socialist government in France.

The problem you (and we) started from was a different one: you wanted to criticise the left currents that put the activity and seizure of power by a political party in place of the self-emancipation of the working class. But in attempting to oppose the objectivist, definitional and classificatory concept of class, you throw the baby out with the bathwater. If we reduce the concept of class to a general human contradiction present in every person between alienation and non-alienation, between creativity and its subordination to the market, between humanity and the negation of humanity, then the class concept loses all meaning. It then only has the value of a moral characterisation which we can apply to all possible movements, without saying anything at all about them, their character and their importance for the worldwide revolutionary process. The antagonism is accordingly timeless in your work: it exists all the time, sometimes weaker, sometimes stronger - there is no end in sight. 'Revolution is simply the constant, uncompromising struggle for that which cannot be achieved under capitalism: dignity, control over our own lives.'

Revolutionary theory must work out how a concrete perspective of emancipation and liberation is contained in struggles in spite of their fragmentation, and bring this perspective into them. Showing that there is a general human content in all these single struggles does not create this bond, but runs away from the real political problems to a philosophical level. We have come to the conclusion in our discussions that we need a theoretical precision of the class concept, but to do that we must stick with the question, instead of avoiding it with philosophical answers.

In operaist theory 'class composition' was a category and an analytical instrument that was opposed both to the fetishised and objectivist class concept of party Marxism and to the sociological concept of class. After the defeat of class struggles in Italy, there was a discussion about how and whether this concept could be maintained as an abstract framework in separation from the concrete historical conditions in which it arose. The generalisation of 'class composition' from the mass worker to the 'social worker', which Negri undertook, never convinced us, neither then nor now.7 Just like the 'sheer unrest of life' the 'social worker' is a sort of universal key, which fits everything and thus becomes meaningless for practice. Precisely because the question of the understanding and meaning of the concept of class is important for us, we must pose it correctly.8

C. Work is central - but what does that mean?

The different conflicts within society are today generally juxtaposed without any relation being established between them. The result is an image of a multiplicity of conflicts, in which the 'totality' of capitalist society and hence a revolutionary goal no longer appear. In your essay, 'From Scream of Refusal to Scream of Power: the Centrality of Work', you therefore emphasise the role of 'totality' for a 'theory against society'. You criticise the mystifying separation off of the struggle over exploitation into an 'economic' sphere. This struggle, you say, stands in the centre of social reproduction and its change, because in it is contained the basic dialectic and instability of the social cohesion.

Capital depends on work, it is nothing other than the fetishised form of appearance of past work. 'No matter how absolute and terroristic the domination of capital is, there is no way it can free itself from its dependence on labour. The dependence of capital on labour exists within capital as contradiction' (Open Marxism III, p. 178). That means that the domination of capital is the domination of our own products over us. And thus it is a relation that is capable of being revolutionised, capable of being overcome, because it is constituted by us ourselves. It seems to us extremely important to insist on this basic dialectic of fetishisation and to make it the starting point of every investigation.

However, as we have said already, this raises the question of why we put ourselves in this historically specific relation to the products of our work. Marx criticises the classical political economists for never having posed the question, for accepting the fetishised forms of our products - commodities, money, capital - as normal and historically unchangeable. They never asked the question why this content (human work) takes that form (commodity). Marx traces the commodity character of our products back to the specific historical shape of work: abstract labour. With that he does not mean an abstraction in thought, but the really abstract character that work has for us in capitalism: we do not work to produce a particular product; the product that we produce is not for us, but for others; we are not bound by particular personal qualities with this or that activity; an employer can employ these hundred workers today, those hundred tomorrow and in both cases will have the same average quantity of work. This abstraction is tied to the capitalist mode of production and first develops historically with the establishment of a factory-type organisation of work, whether it now take place in the hospital, the office, in a lorry, in agriculture or in the factory. The commodity character of our products rests on this 'specifically capitalist mode of production'. Work in this mode of production is daily alienation, which confronts us in the commodity and in private property as a thing.

In this sense we agree with you that work is central. Because the form of value constituted by work is 'the thread that binds the world together, that makes apparently quite separate processes of production mutually interdependent, that creates a link between the coal miners of Britain and working conditions of car workers in Mexico, and vice versa' (as you put it in 'Crisis, Fetishism, Class Composition', Open Marxism II, p.155). We could also put it in this way: in value our social connection in production confronts us as a thing because we do not constitute it self-consciously and freely. We do not choose the people for whom and with whom we produce, rather this seems pre-ordained by the command of capital. In capital the social connection which is reified in value becomes autonomous and commands us.

That does not mean, however, that all riches and all social appearances are the product of work, as you seem to say ('Work is all-constitutive,' or 'since work is the only creative force in society (any society)...' in 'From Scream...', Open Marxism III, p. 172). There are any amount of activities that nobody would describe as 'work': free artistic activities, games or struggles within society. And there are plenty of riches that are not the product of work, starting with air and sunshine. To lead everything back to work easily comes close to the glorification of work by the workers' parties (Marx criticised this as long ago as the first draft programme of the German Social Democratic Party). If wealth depends only on work - work as it is commonly understood today - then the biblical curse of 'you shall eat bread by the sweat of your brow' is our inescapable destiny. Marx said in Capital that the 'realm of freedom' could begin only beyond work.9

We know that for you it is not a question of glorifying work, but of criticising the reified world. In all your texts you emphasise that it is a question of forms that are constituted by us ourselves, and not of eternally valid 'structures' or 'laws'. But to use 'work, creation and practice' as 'interchangeable concepts' ('From Scream...', Open Marxism III, p. 172) deprives the demystifying critique of the commodity, money and capital forms of its explosive force. The demystification cannot consist just in relating these forms simply to human activity, but to a historically specific and changing way of producing. But to do this, there must be an investigation of the change in form and the transformations in the process of production. If 'work' is defined simply as human activity, statements about the centrality of work become tautological, because by defintion all practice has already been declared to be work. The centrality of work, that is, of the process of production and exploitation, for a revolutionary perspective is thus asserted, but the demonstration is lacking. Besides, the perspective of real liberation is dismantled. Communism as the overcoming of socialisation through work is then no longer conceivable.

We think that a reason for the over-historical generality of the concept of work in your texts is that the 'immediate production process' rarely appears and, when it does, it is abridged. In the article on 'Crisis, Fetishism, Class Composition' you emphasise: 'The core of the matter is the form "in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers"'. The specifically capitalist character of this form is related to commodity exchange: 'What distinguishes capitalist exploitation from other forms of exploitation is that it is mediated through exchange' (Open Marxism II, p. 153). But then we are caught in a circle, for it is the exchange and commodity character that needs to be explained. We think that this can be done only through the analysis of the specifically capitalist production process. The essential characteristic of this mode of production consists in the fact that it is possible only as social production, as the working together of millions of people. But since this socialisation exists as cooperation, division of labour and machinery which are forced upon us and pre-given, it appears as an alien power. This material, real shape of the production process is the hard core of the capitalist command over our life.

The material shape of the production process, and therefore machinery and technology, are indissolubly linked with the social relation of domination, the command of capital. In your texts you stress that the antagonism exists not on the level of distribution and the wage question but in the immediate process of production, in the conflict over the 'pumping out of surplus value'. But what is missing is the analysis and determination of the specific forms of this pumping out. Only when we decipher the basis of capitalist command in the concrete structures of the production process can we understand why this deranged capital relation of alienation and reification continues to exist - and how the working class develops in it as an antagonistic subject.

That is why it is particularly important to discuss what you have to say about the production process in your texts. In the presentation of 'Fordist production' in your articles on 'The Red Rose of Nissan' (Capital & Class no. 32, summer 1987) and in 'The Abyss Opens ...', it struck us that the specific character of labour is established there only in terms of its monotony, boredom, de-skilling etc. These are all characterisations that are assumed in the general left criticism of Taylorism (e.g. Bravermann) and that always start out from the individualised, atomised worker. They make that which is the result and form of appearance of the capitalist mode of production - namely the fragmentation and atomisation of the working class - into their theoretical point of departure. In that sense they stand in direct contradiction to your demystification approach. In left sociological criticism, the contradictory unity of atomisation and socialisation in the capitalist production process is suppressed. It is not only that capital is always dependent on living labour, but this labour develops an increasingly social character. The sociality of work, that is, the productive cooperation of the workers, is a historical process. Capital flees from the 'insubordinate power of labour', but it can only flee in the direction of its further socialisation, which it must build up against the workers as a new 'social power', just as Ford's River Rouge complex was a 'social power'. A principal problem of the revolutionary politics consists in our view today in its inability to criticise, theoretically and practically, the worldwide production process in such a radical, demystifying fashion.

So far for the moment our remarks, as a start in the process of theoretical clarification, of which we hope that it will open the way to practice.

Your translators

Libcom note: John Holloway's reply is here.

  • 1We have translated the following texts of John Holloway and published them in the Wildcat-Zirkular: 'Capital Moves' in no. 21 (originally in Capital & Class no. 57); 'The Abyss Opens: The Rise and Fall of Keynesianism' and 'Global Capital and the National State' in no. 28/29 (both originally in W. Bonefeld and J. Holloway (eds), Global Capital, National State and the Politics of Money, Macmillan, London, 1995); 'Introduction' and 'Conclusion: Money and Class Struggle' (both with Werner Bonefeld) from the same book in no. 30/31; 'From Scream of Refusal to Scream of Power: The Centrality of Work' (from W. Bonefeld et al., eds, Open Marxism III, Pluto, London, 1995) and 'Crisis, Fetishsim, Class Composition' (from W. Bonefeld et al., eds, Open Marxism III, Pluto, London, 1992) in no. 34/35.
  • 2The article is published in John Holloway and Eloina Pelaez (eds), Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico, Pluto, London, 1998.
  • 3Important texts were re-published by us or translated for the first time in Thekla 5, 6, 7, 9; on the origin of 'operaismo' see the article 'Renaissance of Operaismo' in Wildcat no. 64/65.
  • 4Translator's note: The 'you' in this section of the letter refers to texts by Werner Bonefeld, John Holloway, Richard Gunn and others connected with Common Sense and Open Marxism.
  • 5In Wildcat-Zirkular no. 22 we translated, for example, texts by Sylvie Deneuve / Charles Reeve from France and by Katerina from Greece.
  • 6Did you not want to show in 'The Abyss Opens', that Keynesianism was no less destructive, but could only 'blossom' after the murder of millions of people by world war and fascism?
  • 7See 'Mass worker and social worker - some remarks' by Roberto Battaggia, Primo Maggio No. 14, 1980/81, translated in Wildcat-Zirkular no. 36/37.
  • 8As a complement to 'Dignity's Revolt' you recommended to us the article by Luis Lorenzano, 'Zapatismo: Recomposition of Labour, Radical Democracy and revolutionary Project'. It is an extreme example of this 'new' operaismo, which uses 'class composition' as a sort of universal key, without even devoting a sentence to going into what the material conditions of production and the social relations in Chiapas look like. (The article is also published in Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico).
  • 9"In fact, the realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases, thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production ... Freedom in this field can only consist in socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control... But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itslef, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can blossom forth only with this realm of necessity as its basis" (Marx, Capital, III, p. 820, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1959). Thus Marx contradicts conventional wisdom of the Left which implies, that "humanizing" of labour or a "liberation within labour" were at stake. As labour is in itself the active alienation it follows that the aim cannot be liberated labour but only liberation by getting rid of labour. As a result it is also a mistake to confront "alienated" labour with "non alienated" labour as is hinted at in "Dignity's Revolt".