Request: Communisation Theory for Dummies

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boomerang
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Apr 10 2014 06:36
Request: Communisation Theory for Dummies

I've read communisation theory and I find it very hard to understand, because it's written in "academicese."

Can anyone here give a lay-person's terms, "for dummies" explanation of it?

Here's my interpretation: During revolution, it's not enough for workers to take over the means of production and democratically self-manage. Whatever we produce under workers control, we must make available for free, immediately. During the revolution we'll probably need a relatively high amount of rationing (due to war), and with time we can phase that out. But whatever we produce must be provided for free from day one of the revolution.

Is that all there is to it?

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Apr 10 2014 09:44

This is the simplist text that I know of: http://libcom.org/library/communisation . The "In a nutshell" part may answer your question if you haven't read this already.

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Apr 10 2014 09:48

Bloody good question.

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Apr 10 2014 10:20

That "in a nutshell" section linked by sabot is at least clear and mercifully short. It references the leaflet "Un Monde Sans Argent"

Quote:
To the best of our knowledge, Un monde sans argent has not been translated in English, except for short extracts published in the SPGB magazine Socialist Standard (July 1979) : John Gray "For communism" site

Does anybody know if it has yet been translated into English?

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Apr 10 2014 12:00

A world without money: communism - Les Amis de 4 Millions de Jeunes Travailleurs

the first two parts were translated

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Apr 10 2014 13:47

Thanks. I see part 3 remains to be done. Maybe one of these days when I get some time...

boomerang
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Apr 10 2014 14:30

Thank you Sabot. So I read what you linked to, with special attention to the "In a Nutshell" section. And I found the quote that completely trips me up and confuses me about communisation theory (from here on I'll call it CT):

http://libcom.org/library/communisation wrote:
The process will take time to be completed, but it will start at the beginning of the revolution, which will not create the preconditions of communism: it will create communism.

Does everyone see how ambiguous and wide open for interpretation that is? On the one hand CT seems to be screaming, "The revolution must be communist from day one! And to be communist we must abolish the following capitalist evils! (insert list here)" But then it says, "The process will take time to be completed, but it will start at the beginning of the revolution" - and that can be interpreted to mean almost anything.

What can be counted as "beginning the process" of communisation?

CT rightly argues that workers taking over the means of production and having democratic self-management is not communisation, as long as there continues to be money, exchange, wages, etc. But someone could easily argue that this IS "the beginning of the process" of abolishing these capitalist evils, because workers are now in power and this is a necessary pre-condition to the rest.

What does it mean to "begin the process" of abolishing money? Can there be intermediate steps? Wouldn't most people on Libcom say "no"? CT implies that yes, there can. Doesn't this leave the door open to interpret this as a seal of approval for introducing things like labor notes? Or non-transferable credits? Or barter? Or "time dollars"?

I don't think the authors of CT would advocate any of these things. So then what DO they mean? Maybe that money should be abolished gradually by making basic goods available for free immediately but still using money for luxuries, and then slowly bringing the luxuries into the free-sphere until after some time everything is free and money is totally abolished? I doubt this is what they're advising, but I can't think of any other way to "begin the process" of abolishing money.

Think about this for the other things on their list of evils of capitalism that must be abolished.

What does it mean to "begin the process" of abolishing wage-labor? Can you imagine an enterprise where workers have semi-abolished wage labor? What the hell does that mean? Does anyone here even believe this is possible?

What does it mean to "begin the process" of abolishing
... private property?
... production for value?
... exchange?
... commodities?
... profit?

I don't think any of these things can be semi-abolished.

-

Unless I'm interpreting this all wrong. Maybe by

Quote:
The process will take time to be completed, but it will start at the beginning of the revolution

what they mean is that when workers get a hold of a certain geographic space (an enterprise, a neighborhood, a city, a country) then we fully introduce communism in the space that we control. But this only "begins the process" because there are still other geographic spaces that have not been communised, and this is why "the process will take time to be completed."

Is that the proper interpretation?

-

If so, then I still take issue with CT! Because I think a couple of things on their list of capitalist evils that must be destroyed actually cannot be destroyed immediately (even in a given geographic space that workers control) but will require gradual change. I'm referring to these two:

Quote:
work-time as cut off from the rest of our life, ...
the separation between learning and doing,

-

And last but not least, there are a couple of things on their list that I just don't understand what they mean

Quote:
the enterprise as a separate unit and a value-accumulating pole, ...
the quest for maximum and fastest circulation of everything,
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Apr 10 2014 15:26

Communization theory is mostly an eschatological-millenarian, post-modern Pol-potism for hipsters. They all try, for the most part, to not get into "after the revolution" discussions, but when they do it's envisioned as the anti-thesis of planning and "accounting" (like labor-time accounting) If, in their words, "communist measures" were carried out irl on a large scale, groups of normal people affected (probably based on the family unit) would simply retreat to subsistence farming and private handicraft production. The worst of the communization milieu is probably the views in SIC journal and Bruno Astarian, but they all seem to have this problem with millenniarianism and post-modern Pol-potism.

jolasmo
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Apr 10 2014 16:38

I took the point of communisation to be about how we need to start implementing communist social relations from the beginning of the revolutionary moment, as opposed to e.g. setting up a workers state that will bring about communism at a later date. It doesn't mean you'll get communism instantly, that'd be ridiculous, but if for e.g. there's still money in circulation after the first few days of revolution then that's just because communism isn't strong enough yet, not because the workers have this plan figured out to keep some money around for a bit as a stepping stone to full communism.

kingzog wrote:
Communization theory is mostly an eschatological-millenarian, post-modern Pol-potism for hipsters. They all try, for the most part, to not get into "after the revolution" discussions, but when they do it's envisioned as the anti-thesis of planning and "accounting" (like labor-time accounting) If, in their words, "communist measures" were carried out irl on a large scale, groups of normal people affected (probably based on the family unit) would simply retreat to subsistence farming and private handicraft production. The worst of the communization milieu is probably the views in SIC journal and Bruno Astarian, but they all seem to have this problem with millenniarianism and post-modern Pol-potism.

I admit I struggle with some of the texts produced by the communisation lot, but tbh I can't remember every reading anything as bafflingly incomprehensible as "eschatological-millenarian, post-modern Pol-potism". I mean, what? I assume that's... bad? Right?

~J.

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Apr 10 2014 16:40

Just curious, did you finish the rest of the Troploin article? It does mention some of the concerns you brought up but the article admits it doesn't have a blue print on how society should properly re-organise itself under such a scenario. I'd be pretty skeptical of it if it did try to sketch out anything. Also, It does attempt to examine and critique some of the failures of previous revolutions.

For your last question, that one deals with capital social relations and might take a little longer to explain. I always try to recommend more succinct text first before a longer one (otherwise I would have just recommended reading Marx's Capital, which isn't the best way to answer that question). Hmm..maybe try reading Dauvé next (again, if you haven't already):
http://libcom.org/library/capitalism-communism-gilles-dauve

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Apr 10 2014 16:45

As I understand from Troploin and Theorie Communiste and such, communisation theory focuses on socialist revolution as the transformation of capitalist social relations into communist ones i.e. the establishment of from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. This is in contrast to conceptions of revolution that emphasize workers seizing control of the means of production (but not necessarily abolishing commodity production ASAP) or some "workers' party" taking control of the state--"The Revolution" isn't some insurrectionist act or change in management that precedes the construction of communism, but rather the construction of communism itself.

I've no idea what this has to do with Pol Pot.

boomerang wrote:
what they mean is that when workers get a hold of a certain geographic space (an enterprise, a neighborhood, a city, a country) then we fully introduce communism in the space that we control. But this only "begins the process" because there are still other geographic spaces that have not been communised, and this is why "the process will take time to be completed."

Is that the proper interpretation?

I believe so. The extent to which communism has spread geographically also limits the ability to build communism in any area at all (e.g. food couldn't be distributed by need if there just wasn't enough food within a "communist area" for this to be possible).

boomerang wrote:
And last but not least, there are a couple of things on their list that I just don't understand what they mean
Quote:
the enterprise as a separate unit and a value-accumulating pole, ...
the quest for maximum and fastest circulation of everything,

I think that abolishing "enterprise as a separate unit and a value-accumulating pole" means that production will be carried out on the basis of human needs and desires rather than production being carried out for profit and only incidentally related to the aforementioned needs and desires. Abolishing "the quest for maximum and fastest circulation of everything" seems to me a way of describing the end of capital accumulation and particularly the increased working speed and hours that increasing the rate of accumulation entails.

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Apr 10 2014 18:03

I enjoy and share the confusion about this! My take has been that its just prefigurative politics given a new name and minor tweaks to attract the interest of (very small) groups of people.

I've failed to see how it's not a form of what around here is called lifestylism.
Help wanted!

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Apr 10 2014 18:37

I'll preface this by saying i also find communisation texts very dense, hard to read, and quite cryptic. And that you can get by perfectly fine without reading it. That said, I think it can be summarised in three key components:

1. A critique of the traditional workers' movement. The argument goes something like this: in the past, workers identified with their work, a sort of pride in their trade, the working class was relatively homogenous, or at least was united behind leading industrial sectors (mining, car factories etc). This gave rise to ideologies of self-management, workers' kicking out their bosses and carrying on production more or less as before. It also gave rise to a progressivist ideology - 'we're going to inherit the earth', which made sense at the time since the industrial proletariat was ever-growing and seemed to be the class of the future.

2. A periodisation of the class relation. This is closely related to 1: the claim goes that since the 1970s, capitalism has been restructured in such a way to fundamentally change the class relation. Up to this point ('Fordism'?), workers identified with their work, and could express their struggles within the class relation (i.e. through wage bargaining and productivity deals, which also boosted the economy). Since then, this class compromise has disintegrated. Instead, workers are increasingly excluded from production due to automation, creating a growing surplus population, who don't identify with work and experience capital as an external constraint.

3. A claim about the nature of revolution. The claim is that revolution is communisation. This is principally a critique of the 'transitional period' of traditional Marxism, though it is also extended to all the other traditions of the workers movement (council communists, anarcho-syndicalists, etc). At its simplest, this just means that revolution is the process of creating communism, not a period based on non-communism (e.g. state socialist planning, or self-managed wage labour). The claim is also that 'communisation is a movement at the level of the totality', i.e. things are only communist to the extent they're part of an overall movement towards communism.

Each aspect of each of these claims is obviously open to question. I don't think I accept much of it without big caveats or qualifications.

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Apr 10 2014 19:04
Joseph Kay wrote:
1. A critique of the traditional workers' movement.
2. A periodisation of the class relation.
3. A claim about the nature of revolution.

Yes, and much of it is valid, but it seems all change will happen by people step by step and more or less as individuals? Changing their way of life and creating spaces (not just physical) outside of capitalism? You then bump into the issue of competing with capitalism. I'm not dead set that you can't compete with capitalism as it's pretty shit the way I see it but I still see a weakness there.

I'm not very knowledgeable on this topic at all and it would be interesting to know if I've got it all wrong.

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Apr 10 2014 19:08

I think that's one of the points of the internal debate, e.g. Endnotes' critique of Tiqqun. Tiqqun are much more the drop out/form a commune/crack capitalism types, Endnotes are more about struggles linking up and generalising to the point of creating new social relations. Arguably this is just lifestyle vs social anarchism restaged with lots of Marxist jargon.

CrimeZone
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Apr 10 2014 19:23
Quote:
Arguably this is just lifestyle vs social anarchism restaged with lots of Marxist jargon.

This is why communisation theory always seemed like a total dog-and-pony-show to me. Nothing new presented that hasn't been argued before, but dressed up in pretentious, superfluous jargon to disguise this so that kids emerging from anarcho-punk and distrustful of "outdated theory" will naively assume it to be a new perspective and also feel good about their mental faculties because they are able to wade through the gummy tar pit of philosophical cant and nifty creeds of "subjectivity". I hope it is, and I'm sure it is, helpful to some. But its basic assumption, that we should start producing communist relations as part and parcel of the revolution, seems like it's been said since the 1800s, and even done before in revolutionary situations- it's only an astonishing surprise to MLs or Trots.

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Apr 10 2014 19:37

Yeah, I probably agree with that. I think communisation theorists would argue (due to claim #2), that revolution as communisation is only possible in the present period, so if say, anarchists said it in 1900, they were utopians, or something. But I don't think it's all entirely without merit - I've been slowly working my way through Endnotes 3; I think the piece on gender is a very good attempt to get past the limits of Italian Marxist feminism and theorise social reproduction, and I think 'the holding pattern' piece is a pretty good, balanced piece on the recent struggles.

Generally yeah, I think it's needlessly cryptic, high on assertion where evidence is needed, and often too vague to pin down to a specific claim. I don't want to defend it, but I think there's some interesting things being said in amongst it all.

boomerang
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Apr 10 2014 19:57

Tyrion, good response to my questions, clears things up.

Joseph K, nice summary.

Sabot, I read it. I'm also cautious of blueprints, but what I really hate is when things are left wide open and vague. A balance in between is good.

CrimeZone wrote:
its basic assumption, that we should start producing communist relations as part and parcel of the revolution, seems like it's been said since the 1800s, and even done before in revolutionary situations- it's only an astonishing surprise to MLs or Trots.

Which revolutionary situations were these? Every revolutionary situation I've read about didn't go further than self-managed capitalism (or if you prefer you can call it market socialism). The only exception I know of is in the rural communes during the Spanish Revolution.

If there are others, please let us know.

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Apr 10 2014 19:55

Well, no historical revolutions resulted in global communism. You will find accounts, like Gaston Leval's on the Spanish Revolution, that see the contradictory hybrid of self-management and capitalism as the result of a stalled movement though, not an altogether different analysis to 'communisation is a movement at the level of the totality':

Leval wrote:
There was not, therefore, true socialisation, but a workers' neo-capitalism, a self-management straddling capitalism and socialism, which we maintain would not have occurred had the Revolution been able to extend itself fully

http://libcom.org/library/collectives-leval-3

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Apr 10 2014 19:55
Joseph Kay wrote:
1. A critique of the traditional workers' movement. The argument goes something like this: in the past, workers identified with their work, a sort of pride in their trade, the working class was relatively homogenous, or at least was united behind leading industrial sectors (mining, car factories etc). This gave rise to ideologies of self-management, workers' kicking out their bosses and carrying on production more or less as before.

This part has always bugged me. I feel like, rather than being a critique of the "traditional workers' movement", it's more of a critique of the workers' movement during the relatively short period of social stability between the end of the depression and the sixties. This idea that, in the past, workers were always closely tied to their trade, relatively stationary, and homogenous seems to fly in the face of everything I've ever read about the pre-depression working class.

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Apr 10 2014 20:08

Yeah, I think that's a strong line of criticism. And if communisation theorists overestimate the homogeneity of the historical working class and the workers movement, they presumably overestimate the novelty of heterogeneity and division today. And given as this is the basis for the periodisation of the class relation, and therefore the novelty of 'revolution as communisation', the whole enterprise looks a bit shaky if the historical arguments don't hold up.

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Apr 11 2014 01:30
Quote:
And if communisation theorists overestimate the homogeneity of the historical working class and the workers movement, they presumably overestimate the novelty of heterogeneity and division today.

I think the assumption of homogeneity is in no small part due to the traditional depiction of the working class (by both capitalists and "socialist" states)- square-jawed white men stoking an industrial furnace- and the myopic focus on certain types of labor while regarding others as insignificant (Marx's Victorian conception of the "lumpenproletariat" springs to mind)- so in that sense, I could see the argument that advocates of communisation make in this respect. The mental image of the proletariat (that it has of itself and that others have of it) is a much different one today, even if the actual situation has not shifted as dramatically as is trumpeted about.

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Apr 11 2014 03:03
CrimeZone wrote:
Quote:
Arguably this is just lifestyle vs social anarchism restaged with lots of Marxist jargon.

This is why communisation theory always seemed like a total dog-and-pony-show to me. Nothing new presented that hasn't been argued before, but dressed up in pretentious, superfluous jargon to disguise this so that kids emerging from anarcho-punk and distrustful of "outdated theory" will naively assume it to be a new perspective and also feel good about their mental faculties because they are able to wade through the gummy tar pit of philosophical cant and nifty creeds of "subjectivity". I hope it is, and I'm sure it is, helpful to some. But its basic assumption, that we should start producing communist relations as part and parcel of the revolution, seems like it's been said since the 1800s, and even done before in revolutionary situations- it's only an astonishing surprise to MLs or Trots.

I agree that communisation theory isn't anything new, which is actually part of what I like about it; it returns to the very self-emancipatory roots of communism as the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. However, over the last century, socialist revolution has been popularly conceived as workers taking over the means of production (potentially a step toward communism, but also possibly to self-managed exploitation) or as a "workers' party" taking control of the state. Communisation theory may not seem particularly insightful for someone coming from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, but I'd imagine it receives a very different reception by those who've been more into Leninism or some sort of bastardized syndicalism.

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Apr 11 2014 09:20
redsdisease wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
1. A critique of the traditional workers' movement. The argument goes something like this: in the past, workers identified with their work, a sort of pride in their trade, the working class was relatively homogenous, or at least was united behind leading industrial sectors (mining, car factories etc). This gave rise to ideologies of self-management, workers' kicking out their bosses and carrying on production more or less as before.

.
This part has always bugged me. I feel like, rather than being a critique of the "traditional workers' movement", it's more of a critique of the workers' movement during the relatively short period of social stability between the end of the depression and the sixties. This idea that, in the past, workers were always closely tied to their trade, relatively stationary, and homogenous seems to fly in the face of everything I've ever read about the pre-depression working class.

Even further, I think there's ironically something of the old-fashioned "1857 Preface" style orthodox thinking of being able to read the historical reality of the class from the left theory of the time.

TC look back at the workerism of both social-democrat theory of the Belle Epoque (1895-1914), of Kautsky, Bebel, Luxemburg, Pannekoek, etc, and also the syndicalist wave of that era (arguably a succession of two waves, whatevs) and see that it glorifies the industrial worker as the producer of everything who can seize control of the existing means of production and produce a self-managed collectivist socialism - and therefore conclude that they can read back the lived reality of the historical working class from that theory, in a simple base-determines-superstructure kinda way. That kind of thinking is itself a holdover of the theory of the "traditional workers movement" era they are supposedly putting behind them.

And as people have already said, there were plenty of people around at the time who didn't get swept up in that theoretical wave and criticised it at the time (Malatesta for one, but there were others), and detailed social movement histories of the period reveal that the workers movement was always more rich, complex and contradictory than this simplistic base/superstructure ideology as reflection of material social relations picture allows.

Then again, tiny theoretical sect overestimates the historical role of theory - what else is new?

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Apr 11 2014 09:36

Given that the whole rejection of a transitional phase of "socialist wage labour" and "workers state" has always been part of anarchist-communism, the only real new thing about communisation is this periodisation, which really stems from Cammatte's idea of a passage from formal subsumption to real subsumption at a social level (as opposed to the immediate process of production that Marx talked about). Cammatte, as we recall managed to paint himself into a dead end, and I still think there are some of those problems haunting communisation as well - the incapability of articulating any kind of strategy, for one.

On that bit, I really liked this section from the Viewpoint mag article on the Castoriadis-Pannekoek exchange

Quote:
Many of the defin­ing prin­ci­ples of the his­tor­i­cal ultra-left per­sist, and their pecu­liar com­bi­na­tion of blind­ness and insight bears the marks of their prog­en­i­tors. Their shared empha­sis on pro­le­tar­ian self-activity, their will­ing­ness to delib­er­ately con­flate means and ends, their ten­dency to elide the moment of strat­egy, their demand for the abo­li­tion of a tran­si­tion period, and their ten­dency towards fatal­ism, are all age-old his­tor­i­cal debates.

So, apart from the dodgy periodisation, a lot of what communisation comes out with seems to be the preference of marxists to produce a vast amount of verbiage rather than the four simple words "the anarchists are right".

Having said that, the central problems of forming an effective transformational strategy, how to practically effect the transition from capitalist to communist social relations (the abolition of wage labour, value, the state, etc) are common to us all, so the discussion on these problems remains of vital interest. But we should definitely tease them about their waffle being an attempt to cover up their "ideological capitulation to anarchism" from a marxist point of view.

edit: sod it, I'm throwing in another quote from that article, cos I think it's great.

Quote:
This gap goes a long way in explain­ing Pannekoek’s some­what con­fus­ing belief that the party can never actu­ally be a part of the class itself. In his let­ters, he seems to argue that any enlarged con­cep­tion of the party would nec­es­sar­ily trans­form it into a spe­cial forces team, which would be called in to bash heads when the class runs into trou­ble. He refused to enter­tain the pos­si­bil­ity that the party, as was the case in Rus­sia, may itself be a nec­es­sary ele­ment of the class. Unlike Cas­to­ri­adis, who tried to cap­ture the sig­nif­i­cance of the French Com­mu­nist Party by study­ing its pos­si­ble social bases, its par­tic­u­lar his­tory, and its broader rela­tion­ship to the class strug­gle itself, Pan­nekoek con­tented him­self with sim­ply argu­ing that it was on the side of cap­i­tal. For Cas­to­ri­adis, this was not good enough; the task was to metic­u­lously ana­lyze the pecu­liar, and rather unprece­dented, com­po­si­tion of a reformist party work­ing in the ser­vice of a for­eign coun­try, to “explain patiently the com­plete work­ings and mate­r­ial roots of Stalinism’s betrayal” in order to defin­i­tively out­flank it.28
.
Pan­nekoek delib­er­ately ignored these kinds of ques­tions – ques­tions, he would say, that have been posed in “an entirely prac­ti­cal way” – because his vision of rev­o­lu­tion, despite its numer­ous mer­its, was still largely informed by a kind of fatal­ism. Pro­le­tar­i­ans will nat­u­rally fig­ure every­thing out based on their imme­di­ate expe­ri­ences, as though they pos­sess some kind of innate knowl­edge organ­i­cally dri­ving them to a spec­i­fied goal, like an acorn grow­ing into an oak tree. They will spon­ta­neously become polit­i­cal sub­jects, like the log­i­cal result of an equa­tion, and make their rev­o­lu­tion on their own. If they run into any set­backs, it’s only because they still don’t have enough expe­ri­ence; if they suf­fer a defeat, it’s only because they weren’t ready. For the Pan­nekoek of these let­ters, there is no gap between imme­di­ate needs and the eman­ci­pa­tion of the class through rev­o­lu­tion. The two seam­lessly blend into one another in such a way as to entirely cover up the moment of strategy.
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Apr 11 2014 12:56

Great thread, more than I can take in right now. For now, I like JK's summary and agree with his take. FWIW I had written off the communization stuff but after reading this piece "Communization Theory and the abolition of the Value Form" by Internationalist Perspective I'm convinced there's elements to this theory that's worth taking seriously. That piece is here - http://internationalist-perspective.org/IP/ip-archive/ip57.pdf

The parts that really struck me start on page 14 of that PDF with the paragraph beginning

"The question raised by communization theory as it has developed over the past several decades is whether the social imaginary of a period of transition, of lower and higher stages of communism, has not become – at this historical stage of capitalism – one more obstacle to the communist revolution, to communization." Sorry if this is obvious but 'period of transition' here means specifically deliberate measures to maintain capitalist social relations/commodification. The part I like about this is the point about rejecting that theory of revolution involving transition. What I don't like is the idea that this is only possible 'at this historical stage'. I think Dauve/Nesic are better here when they talk about communism as invariant and some form of communism always having been possible (I may have misunderstood D/N as well).

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Apr 11 2014 15:07

Ah yes ''some form of communism'' certainly but would it/could it have been sustainable and anyway nothing we would consider practical or even want to-day.

And rejecting 'transitional' phases' and the whole historical stages approach to the revolutionary overtyhrow of capitalism may have been the theoretical preserve of some anarchist-communists of old but was it a practical proposition then? Were there not anarcho-syndicalists of the same era with a more 'practical' approach not so disimilar to the left wing of Social Democracy?

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Apr 11 2014 17:08

There were, though that still raises the problem ocelot mentions of treating the theoreticians as representative of the movement, I think.

Another way communisation stuff could be seen as saying something new is the synthesis with value-form theory. This is clearest in Endnotes, who seem heavily influenced by Chris Arthur's systematic dialectics.* I think the value-form stuff has merit - mainly in terms of showing how different social forms - wage labour, the state, etc - presuppose and require one another. I think that's a useful theoretical effort, though of course value-form theory is hardly any easier than communisation theory in general to read. There's also important critiques of the value-form approach, like from political Marxists who stress that the different social forms emerged historically at different times, which would suggest they're not as mutually dependent as value-form analysis suggests.**

* Systematic dialectic is opposed to historical dialectic: in other words, history does not unfold dialectically, not all societies or nature or things are 'dialectical', but the particular structure of capitalist society can be understood and presented dialectically.

** I think these positions can probably be reconciled, but not in a forum post.

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Apr 12 2014 13:27
Spikymike wrote:
Ah yes ''some form of communism'' certainly but would it/could it have been sustainable and anyway nothing we would consider practical or even want to-day.

Well, if communism means 'no commodification' plus freedom, or something like that, (which is most of what the communization theory seems to say about what communism is) then yes, I think it's possible at any time. That seems obvious to me. To say otherwise is to say basically that capitalism is unavoidable, which is silly imho. And this isn't to say all societies emerging into communism are identical regardless of when and where it happens. That we today in the 21st century UK and US would want a different sort of communism than would have existed in the 1800s or early 1900s is neither here nor there in terms of 'was communism REALLY possible?!' kinds of debates. I'm fine to agree to disagree on this point and won't reply on it further on this thread as I think it's kind of a thread derailer.

On the rejection of transition part, I think that's really key. I think it sounds really good to say that the idea of rejecting transitional phases was in the past just a theoretical matter but is today practical. But there's no actual evidence for that, it's just playing with theoretical categories to create distinctions between traditions imho. Rejecting transitional phases is no more practical today for anyone than it ever has been before - there's pretty minimal communization practice happening in the world, I think, not a lot of actual communizing taking place and I think the communization theorists, at least some of them, don't believe that communization theorists themselves can kick off actual practices of communization. So this is all largely theoretical and communization theorists are also limited to not practicing communization until the working class starts practicing in somewhat larg scale. When/if that starts to happen we can start to talk about rejecting transition in practice rather than just in theory. And we won't really know if that's a revolutionary creation of communism until after capitalism's gone. I think it's likely we'll see some starts that fail before we see revolution (and no doubt some people will then write article about how those efforts were impossible because of objective conditions etc).

Spikymike
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Apr 12 2014 14:43

For others who took an interest in Joseph's post 29 above I noticed they gave a more detailed and useful explanation that I actually understood in the theory thread titled 'political marxism - value theory mashup' worth a look.

Nate,

I suppose my earlier brief comment reflected my view that whilst some forms of communism have always been possible and arguably actually existed, and so was by that token certainly practical, that such forms were in practice, and could only have been, geograpically localised and historically vunerable to extinction and therfore unsustainable. As a matter of fact it seems that it is capitalism, and more particularly modern global capitalism (under the 'real domination of capital') that has created the objective potential and subjective necessity to practically create a sustainable communist society on a world scale.

Joseph,

Surely the 'labour republic' and various forms of 'self-managed capitalism', were the 'best' achievements in practice of the workers movement as represented by the initial Russian and Spanish revolutions and some other isolated and stalled insurrectionary workers movements of a certain period and more than what they were represented as theoretically by the political activists of anarcho-syndicalism or left Social Democracy? So I'm not sure yours and ocelot's point on this is valid.

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Joseph Kay
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Apr 12 2014 19:46

I think the problem is anyone can predict with certainty after the fact. I'm not sure what use theory is if it serves mainly to tell us that stuff which happened necessarily had to happen, and that this can be read off from (a selective reading of) the theories of the time. I mean this was there in Hegel - the whole 'owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk' thing. That wasn't so much a problem for him, as a Prussian state philosopher convinced he was the wise old owl at the end of history, looking back and making sense of it all.

I think some or all of the communisation stuff inherits this problem. When communism is posed 'at the level of the totality', strictly speaking we'll only know what was communising once we're in a communist society. At which point communisation theory is reduced to philosophy in the sense Marx famously criticised ("The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.")

I mean I actually think the 'level of the totality' thing is an important point to insist on - it's not a question of whether say, workplace occupations are communist in the abstract. It's a question of the movement those occupations are part of. It's entirely possible that a workplace occupation could be at the forefront of a communising movement - the first occupation inspiring a spreading wave - but later become an obstacle, e.g. by insisting on retaining a wage system or refusing to distribute goods on a non-market basis when everywhere else wages and markets are becoming obsolete.

I think the best of communisation theory is trying to think about those kind of dynamics. I'm not sure the retrospective determinism and historical flattening helps though. In fact as others have said, the historical stuff seems mainly about demarcating themselves from all hitherto existing traditions.