Why are some communists considered to be to the 'left' of others?

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Boris Badenov
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Apr 29 2010 15:00
Ret Marut wrote:
You might just as well say that because Marx, even in 1871 (and later), remained in one sense a parliamentarian [...] that this therefore 'says everything about Marx's understanding of capitalism'.

Oh I'm sorry, I didn't know Camatte produced a groundbreaking critique of capitalism when he wasn't writing his primitivist stuff. Marx had many flaws, and I'm no fan of the man, but his legacy goes far, far beyond some dodgy "theory of rackets."
My point was simply that since his understanding of Marx has led him to embrace an explicitly anti-Marxist and illogical (not because it is anti-Marxist of course) point of view, maybe his understanding of Marx was shaky to begin with; then again, maybe not. Since when is voicing an opinion grounds for sending in the Spanish Inquisition? I don't see how Noa was being so outrageously arrogant above; AFAIS he was just voicing skepticism regarding this whole "rackets vs. parasites" charade. Is that not allowed, Mr. Marut?

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And, by the same logic, does then the later development of Leninism as the dominant form of Marxism negate all of Marx?

I don't see Leninism as a form of Marxism, so no. Leninism is narodnikism dressed up in Marxist verbiage, and therefore does not negate, or confirm, Marx in any way.

Boris Badenov
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Apr 29 2010 15:54
mciver wrote:

Everybody is a witness – an 'observist' – as you could say.

Everyone is a witness, but there is no such thing as an "observist." Whether you like it or not, we live in a world where you have to take sides (despite all the toss that gets trumpeted about this "apolitical age of consensus"). That was my point.

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Obviously political agendas and categorisations mean a lot to you, as ways to define individuals.

Yes they do (as ways to understand, not define, individual behaviour), because I don't like to pretend that politics doesn't matter. It is a dangerous game to play, and one in which those without political power are bound to lose. I need to know where people stand; this is why I like to be as straightforward as possible. I could have asked you "how do you feel about this and the other," but I prefer not to waste words and time. If that offends you in some way, I apologize.

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I don't think that's important, or at least I don't care to define myself with those labels. Why does it matter?

see above.
No one said anything about defining yourself according to any label. That said, it's no use to beat around the bush. Either you are a communist, or you're not.

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I'm not out to build any political theory. A 'theory of rackets' has been developed effectively already, mostly by Camatte, Collu and Perlman. Others more capable than me will undoubtedly add something new. And others have and will attempt to demolish the content, to render it falsifiable. That's positive, although I haven't yet seen a productive and honest refutation of the concept 'rackets'.

I don't see how it's useful as a "concept." All political groups want to influence the ideas that are dominant in society. Some political groups' ideas are reprehensible, others have good ideas but some of their members are less than adequate. This is what life is like. I don't see a need for a "theory of rackets" as if this "racketeering" was some unique historical development. Opportunism, profiteering have always been around; simply acknowledging this and being wary of it does more than the whole tedium of the "rackets vs. parasites" debate (both concepts being equally superfluous as someone has already stated; I thnk it was Noa)

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It's doubtful that an ICC apparatchik is a 'communist' in his/her own terms. That includes those who were there 30 years ago or more. They defended and still do a centralised and hierarchical model of 'militancy'.

There are problems with the ICC and other Party-focused communist groups. I'm not going to deny that.

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Historically, this type of apparat always fulfilled domination needs, not any effort of emancipation. The devotion to this regressive model of racket power is found not only in the surviving sects of 'the communist left', but in all Leninist groups (Trotskyists, Maoists, etc). They attract pale replicants of the fodder churned out by Zinoviev and Pianitsky in Comintern days. But nothing like 1917-23 will ever happen again, so their activity is redundant. No matter, critical observation continues without them.

Yes, I agree. The Party has historically been used, esp. by the Bolsheviks as a way to retard revolutionary efforts rather than advance them. This is because once in power, people want to stay in power. Again, not sure why the racket theory is necessary to explain this when it is pretty self-evident.
Nothing like 1917-21 will ever happen again, I agree; that is because the material conditions that created the RR were historically unique. However, great revolutionary waves will happen again, and in this sense, one must always be on one's toes when it comes to the Party and its nefarious influence on the working class. Here I agree that critical observation is necessary and highly useful.

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Regarding 'anarchism', what's the current relevance of the thought of individuals from Bakunin and Kropotkin to Derrick Pike and others? This is too vast a subject and anyway there are already countless contributions on anarchism here.

The current relevance is that anarchism proposes a way for the emancipation of the working classes, the only way that does not entail trading old masters for new, "proletarian" ones. Bakunin's thought isn't error-proof; neither is Kropotkin's, but both have relevant things to say when it comes to today's world. If you care to argue against that, you can do so in a different thread.

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Re anarchism in Spain 1936-39, I don't think that the intention of the article on Lorca was to delve on the author's beliefs. What would be the point of that? The subject matter was the issue of Lorca and a mass movement.

I realize that. I didn't think it was about Lorca's beliefs.

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I agree that a separation must be made between the Anarchist leaders who joined the Generalitat, and I include among these leaders the warlord Durruti who supported the Republican war effort,

This is baseless slander. Durruti was absolutely opposed to those who wanted to cooperate with the republican government (e.g. the reformist CNTista Angel Pestana). Because he stood up in defence of the revolution you call him a "warlord"? Come off it.

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and the anarchist workers and peasants, including the majority of individuals involved actively or passively in the civil war, who were not members of any anarchist group.

But they were. And they weren't members of the FAI and the CNT because they had been seduced by "rackets". They were members because they understood that working class organization, not pie in the sky dreams of total emancipation, make the social revolution. Yes, their leadership let them down, as they were bound to from the first time they contemplated acting like political leaders, but that does not mean that workers and peasants, and women and artists and whoever, were not members of the FAI and the CNT. The numbers speak against you my friend.

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That is done in the article. Incidentally, there is no evidence that Lorca was an anarchist, so to label all opponents of Franco as 'anarchists' is wrong.

I have not done that, and I know that Lorca was not an anarchist. He was however targeted as much for his political sympathies as for his status as social outcast, no? He was at the very least anti-fascist.

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Michael Seidman's studies in his Republic of Egos is a salutary reminder that state apparatuses and rackets of all sorts confronted great problems in integrating individuals and masses to an inter-imperialist conflict.

It is a salutary reminder how ex post facto it is all so easy to tear everything to bits without even bothering to understand what people at that time were trying to accomplish. But let's not go into that, there is a separate thread about Seidman on this forum.

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If to you 'anarchism' still came out of the Spanish War with flying colours, then perhaps your attachment to the label is delusional and uncritical.

It did not, but not because of the "rackets" in the CNT and FAI. That would be a grotesquely unhistorical explanation. It happened because the anarchists were fighting against the double-headed behemoth of fascism and republicanism, it happened because there was no international revolutionary context, besides the irrelevant Stalinist IBs, it happened, yes, because its self-styled leadership was sucked into the political dead end. It happened for many reasons that have specific historical contexts.
"Rackets" obscure the historical truth, and simply lay the blame on an abstract "organizational practice," as if organizations were entities with wills of their own, and not subject to the whims, passions, madness, or whathaveyou, of its members.

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So observe with more attention. Incidentally, there is no hard evidence that Shakespeare was a Catholic.

There is none, no.

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I also agree that individual emancipation won't fall from the sky, and I didn't claim that 'mere enlightened criticism and observation' will bring it about. But these resources shouldn't be disparaged, they are essential in our epoch of blindness.

I am not disparaging them, but neither can quietist observation substitute for action. What I mean by this is not an empty call to "do something, anything" but I'm not even sure if you believe that there is any merit in furthering the class struggle, given your pessimism about its recuperation by "organization rackets."

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They can be exercised by individuals. What to 'do' apart from being honest witnesses, well, only billions can answer that effectively. Unless you think that 'What is to be Done' remains a good recipe book, or any of the anarchist variants -- the organisers organising themselves, taking us back to the racket.

There is clearly a whole lot of space between "What is to be done?" and doing nothing. What does "billions" mean here? Like I said above, it is very naive to think that politics (and here I should clarify that by politics I don't mean the political opportunism of the anarchist "leadership" during the SCW)
is only the business of the few, comfortable "rackets," while the masses out there do not care about such rarified issues. There is no one single voice for these "billions." Most of them are trampled under foot by capital every day, that much is certain. But that has not led to any great revolutionary upsurges as of yet. This is because what you call racketeering, honest communists and anarchists call education and agitation and dissemination of revolutionary ideas. It was not long ago that I had my hopes in all sorts of liberal and social democratic projects, because I, like many of these billions, did not understand or know the true source of misery in this society. I came to anarchism all on my own, without any racket dragging me by the collar, and although I am not a member of any political group, I do not for a minute believe that a social revolution can be achieved without organizations of the working class, like you do.
Some on this board belittle this project of education and spreading of revolutionary ideas, and prefer, in their own words to "do nothing," although they still call themselves communists. These people are in my view as reprehensible as the rackets you speak of, only for the opposite reasons.

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The contradiction appears in the logical, though unnamed antinomy, 'totalitarian communist' -- then contrasted to the 'libertarian' good guys.

Totalitarian communist is obviously a contradiction in terms, but as a political bogeyman it runs very strong in the minds of many. This is because the horrendous disaster that was Leninism and later Stalinism have been always trumpeted by bourgeois intellectuals as the failure of communism itself. And some have even argued that even more "liberal" (because in their jargon liberal always stands for enlightened) forms of communism, like that in Spain, were bound to fail because the anarchist groups were all nothing but a bunch of profiteering "rackets." Sounds familiar?

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Naturally, no 'totalitarian communist' will admit he's one, though he will be 'frank' in reminding us that collateral damage is implicit in revolutions,

How is it incorrect to state that in a revolution people will die? Is it the same as saying "I want people to die in a revolution" or "Come the revolution, we will make people die"? Not at all, unless you are being deliberately opaque. All communists admit that a revolution is a bloody affair, not all try to profit from it and to take advantage of a revolutionary situation to grab the reins of power.

fort-da game
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Apr 29 2010 17:01
Vlad336 wrote:
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I don't think that's important, or at least I don't care to define myself with those labels. Why does it matter?

see above.
No one said anything about defining yourself according to any label. That said, it's no use to beat around the bush. Either you are a communist, or you're not.

An extremely weak starting point on two scores. Firstly, more than 6 billion people are not communists and therefore if there must be a conscious commitment to communism as a prerequisite for communism then this by itself would eliminate any possiblity of communism (simply in terms of feasibility). Secondly, a communist is not miraculously self-identical to himself, his perspective is mediated both historically and socially. Which brings us to this:

Vlad336 wrote:
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I'm not out to build any political theory. A 'theory of rackets' has been developed effectively already, mostly by Camatte, Collu and Perlman. Others more capable than me will undoubtedly add something new. And others have and will attempt to demolish the content, to render it falsifiable. That's positive, although I haven't yet seen a productive and honest refutation of the concept 'rackets'.

I don't see how it's useful as a "concept." All political groups want to influence the ideas that are dominant in society. Some political groups' ideas are reprehensible, others have good ideas but some of their members are less than adequate. This is what life is like. I don't see a need for a "theory of rackets" as if this "racketeering" was some unique historical development. Opportunism, profiteering have always been around; simply acknowledging this and being wary of it does more than the whole tedium of the "rackets vs. parasites" debate...

The point about ‘rackets’ (and why it is a useful concept) is that it locates within self-identified communist groups capitalistic practices. That is to say that in spite of their ideology, communist structures continue to reproduce capitalist relations internally, but they do so in bad faith i.e. they externalise such faults onto their market competitors. No ‘communist’ organisation is honest enough in its aims and principles to describe itself, for example, as a capitalist organisation, a product of capitalist conditions, that is in struggle against its own determinations and mediations – if it did so it would have something interesting to say, it would be acknowledging how complex social relations are and how difficult they are to escape from. I do not think if they defined themselves thus that they could be more unpopular than they currently are. But, instead, communist organisations represent themselves as somehow being defined above all, and even exclusively, by the principles of communism (i.e. they run against the materialist understanding of history).

The debate is not tedious, it is vital – the fact that communist organisations are (let’s not use the term racket) Firms producing products, accumulating capital, exploiting labour (that is reproducing subjectively the general capitalist relation) is the very reason that when given the oppotunity they have tended in all historical revolutionary situations to re-impose capitalist productive relations. The anarchists of Spain never got to the position of achieving the status of what they said they were, they were never simply, ‘anarchists’ (‘and nor were they either anarchists or not anarchists’); despite their best efforts they never gained full control of their activity and interventions and nor do present communist organisations.

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Red Marriott
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May 1 2010 23:00
Vlad wrote:
Oh I'm sorry, I didn't know Camatte produced a groundbreaking critique of capitalism when he wasn't writing his primitivist stuff. [...] some dodgy "theory of rackets."

I don't know that Camatte wrote anything that is "primitivist" (do you?) - but most, afaik, of what he wrote and is known for isn't (see last para below) and his writing under discussion on this thread isn't. And why is his theory of rackets "dodgy"? Care to explain?

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[..] since his understanding of Marx has led him to embrace an explicitly anti-Marxist and illogical (not because it is anti-Marxist of course) point of view, maybe his understanding of Marx was shaky to begin with; then again, maybe not.

There was no "maybe" in your earlier statement. But I wouldn't assume that someone's "understanding of Marx" must be "shaky to begin with" for them to ackowledge how "groundbreaking" Marx was and yet still come to an "explicitly anti-Marxist" view - unless Marx is The Ultimate Eternal Truth (ie, an ideology in Marxian terms). Camatte might even say that his conclusions are not "anti-Marxist" at all but the logical outcome of the historical application of Marxian thought to the development of capital in this era. You can say he got it wrong, but that doesn't prove he's "anti-Marxist" - only that other claimed strains of Marxisms disagree. By the very nature of calling themselves "Marxist", it seems likely many Marxists would say no one has since been as "groundbreaking" as Marx. That in itself still doesn't negate what else they may say, nor Camatte.

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I don't see Leninism as a form of Marxism, so no. Leninism is narodnikism dressed up in Marxist verbiage, and therefore does not negate, or confirm, Marx in any way.

If Leninism is not a Marxism - is there only One True continuity/interpretation of Marx's theory? (That would be a view shared by Leninism.) Mosts Marxisms can quote chapter and verse of Marx to justify their practices, including Leninism; seizure of state power, nationalisation, approval of social-democratic party forms, parliamentarism etc ... One can often find critiques of these in Marx too (reflecting that Marx's theory was changeable and often more radical than his political practice).

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Since when is voicing an opinion grounds for sending in the Spanish Inquisition? I don't see how Noa was being so outrageously arrogant above; AFAIS he was just voicing skepticism regarding this whole "rackets vs. parasites" charade. Is that not allowed, Mr. Marut?

Well, Mr 336; so if we express our opinion with conviction when asking for clarification of shallow unsubstantiated dismissals, and go to considerably greater lengths than those we respond to to explain our criticism, we are Inquisitorial? I don't agree. It is the repeated dismissal without any clarification or backing up that is being responded to.

Noa's & co's one line dismissals are typical libcom banalities; a form of pseudo-debate that's anti-theoretical - it often defends the precious frozen ideologies/dogmas/received ideas of ideological authorities, organisations and cliques provided by those who think for others for those who want others to think for them. It seeks to close down the potential expansion of thought and understanding - it only takes one dismissive line to thoughtlessly invoke/reference one's ideological authority and comfort one's self that your guru's eternal truth has a permanent ready-made refutation of all awkward questions. Theorising (or any attempt at understanding and useful dialogue) is the opposite of such unquestioning loyalty. No surprise then that those who use the one-line dismissal the most are the ones least able or willing to flesh out their argument. This kind of one-line dismissal is an attempt to close down consideration of views that threaten the ideological authority of the dismisser's belief system and their gurus. (It can also be used to reference the supposed unchallengeable authority of the dominant herd consensus.) Those who act like this here often have a critique of vanguard groups, so it's worth pointing out that the relationship perpetuated by such practice is as servile as the relationship of vanguard party leadership to member-follower.

Btw, if it's not too Inquisitorial to ask; what evidence is there to justify calling Camatte and his writings "primitivist", as you do? Iirc, he concluded the proles had been integrated into a system of autonomised capital, so were no longer a revolutionary subject, then is rumoured to have gone to live in the countryside. And primitivists have later referenced him as an influence. None of which makes anyone a primitivist. Otherwise, by the same logic, Marx must then be a social democrat or Stalinist (or, via Camatte, a primitivist). I don't know about the content of his post-70s work. Can you reference material that justifies your definition, Vlad?

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May 2 2010 00:30
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Btw, if it's not too Inquisitorial to ask; what evidence is there to justify calling Camatte and his writings "primitivist", as you do?

Typed Camatte in youtube and came up with a lecture about primitivism:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GjxPu3xsdQ

(Don't watch that shit)

Wellclose Square
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May 2 2010 01:02
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NRod wrote: Typed Camatte in youtube and came up with a lecture about primitivism:

What can I say but you really know your stuff. You're teasing us, surely?

Boris Badenov
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May 2 2010 02:01
Ret Marut wrote:
Btw, if it's not too Inquisitorial to ask; what evidence is there to justify calling Camatte and his writings "primitivist", as you do? Iirc, he concluded the proles had been integrated into a system of autonomised capital, so were no longer a revolutionary subject, then is rumoured to have gone to live in the countryside. And primitivists have later referenced him as an influence. None of which makes anyone a primitivist.

Are you kidding me? His Against Domestication is unapologetically primitivist.

Camatte in A.D. wrote:
Revolution will make itself felt in the destruction of all that which is most "modem" and "progressive" (because science is capital).

.

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And why is his theory of rackets "dodgy"? Care to explain?

See my last reply to mciver above.

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May 2 2010 11:02

Funny how a 'debate' about political rackets has now been reduced to denunciations of the supposed 'primitivism' of the 'unapologetically primitivist' Camatte, characterised by selective quotation and the monotonous one-line dismissal, betraying the erudition of a pair of planks (sorry, but it's already been an insult to the intelligence, so I feel justified in that). It's particularly hypocritical of Vlad 336 to 'debate' in such a dishonest way considering the respect he would like people to accord the ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin:

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Bakunin's thought isn't error-proof; neither is Kropotkin's, but both have relevant things to say when it comes to today's world. If you care to argue against that, you can do so in a different thread.

Camatte's thought isn't error-proof, but he has some relevant things to say when it comes to 'rackets' and so on... I note from the Zizek thread that NRod is capable of stringing more than two sentences together. I've never read Zizek on transcendental materialism or on anything else, so I won't be troubling that thread with any cheap one-liners...

As regards why a serious engagement with a theory of 'rackets' is so difficult for some, I suspect that Ret Marut has hit the nail on the head when he says:

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Noa's & co's one line dismissals are typical libcom banalities; a form of pseudo-debate that's anti-theoretical - it often defends the precious frozen ideologies/dogmas/received ideas of ideological authorities, organisations and cliques provided by those who think for others for those who want others to think for them. It seeks to close down the potential expansion of thought and understanding - it only takes one dismissive line to thoughtlessly invoke/reference one's ideological authority and comfort one's self that your guru's eternal truth has a permanent ready-made refutation of all awkward questions. Theorising (or any attempt at understanding and useful dialogue) is the opposite of such unquestioning loyalty. No surprise then that those who use the one-line dismissal the most are the ones least able or willing to flesh out their argument. This kind of one-line dismissal is an attempt to close down consideration of views that threaten the ideological authority of the dismisser's belief system and their gurus. (It can also be used to reference the supposed unchallengeable authority of the dominant herd consensus.) Those who act like this here often have a critique of vanguard groups, so it's worth pointing out that the relationship perpetuated by such practice is as servile as the relationship of vanguard party leadership to member-follower.

Finally, Vlad336 asked

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'Since when is voicing an opinion grounds for sending in the Spanish Inquisition?'

Ret Marut has already answered that question, at least to my satisfaction. What I find disconcerting is the vaguely inquisitorial tone of the following pronouncement:

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Vlad336 wrote: Some on this board belittle this project of education and spreading of revolutionary ideas, and prefer, in their own words to "do nothing," although they still call themselves communists. These people are in my view as reprehensible as the rackets you speak of, only for the opposite reasons.
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May 2 2010 11:49

I don’t think its fair to call Camatte a primitivist. Even looking at that quote (in full roll eyes ) which Vlad posted:

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Revolution can no longer be taken to mean just the destruction of all that is old and conservative, because capital has accomplished this itself. Rather, it will appear as a return to something (a revolution in the mathematical sense of the term), a return to community, though not in any form which has existed previously. Revolution will make itself felt in the destruction of all that which is most "modem" and "progressive" (because science is capital). Another of its manifestations will involve the reappropriation of all those aspects and qualities of life which have still managed to affirm that which is human.

He also wrote


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For a considerable time, human beings have, strictly speaking, been outstripped by the movement of capital which they are no longer able to control. This explains why some people think that the only solution is flight into the past, as with the fashionable preoccupation with mysticism, zen, yoga and tantraism in the U.S. Others would rather take refuge in the old myths which reject the total and all-pervading tyranny of science and technology. (Often this is all combined with the use of some drug which gives the illusion of the rapid arrival of a world different from the horror we are now living through. [2]) On the other hand, there are people who say that only science and technology can be relied upon to provide the answers -which would explain why certain women in the feminist movement are able to envisage their emancipation through parthenogenesis or by the production of babies in incubators. [3] There are others who believe they can fight against violence by putting forward remedies against aggressiveness, and so on. These people all subscribe, in a general way, to the proposition that each problem presupposes its own particular scientific solution. They are therefore essentially passive, since they take the view that the human being is a simple object to be manipulated. They are also completely unequipped to create new interhuman relationships (which is something they have in common with the adversaries of science); they are unable to see that a scientific solution is a capitalist solution, because it eliminates humans and lays open the prospect of a totally controlled society.

This isn’t a rejection of technology, but a recognition that ‘salvation’ doesn’t lie in it, or in its total rejection.

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May 2 2010 11:52
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Funny how a 'debate' about political rackets has now been reduced to denunciations of the supposed 'primitivism' of the 'unapologetically primitivist' Camatte,

What does the 'domestication' in the title refer to, then?

It's not a denunciation to place a thinker within his larger ideological camp.

Also, it's not enough to say I'm dismissive or ignorant; you need to give the information or arguments I'm supposedly dismissive/ignorant of. Otherwise I can just as well reply that you're dogmatically defensive of Camatte, etc.

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May 2 2010 12:28

As Denna shows, Vlad's use of the Camatte quote to "prove" his primitivism is misleading; so I remain unconvinced that Camatte is a primitivist. Camatte disagrees with some Marxist orthodoxy - enough to label him a heretical "anti-Marxist" by defenders of orthodoxy. But to (rightly or wrongly) revise or reject in the light of historical development parts of Marx's theory is anyway not "anti-Marxist". I say all this not to even defend Camatte's theory - I could completely disagree with it and still make the same criticisms of the shallow dismissals and misrepresentations attempted here.

NRod wrote:
What does the 'domestication' in the title refer to, then?.

I can appreciate that the above statement illustrates your preferred method of evaluation and comprehension - 'oh look, a word primitivists use in the title; 'domestication' = primitivism, so I must know what's wrong with that article and can smugly denounce it without reading cos I'm a real Marxist'. Try, for once, reading an article before shooting your mouth off about it.

Camatte wrote:
...the domestication of humanity... comes about when capital constitutes itself as a human community. The process starts out with the fragmentation and destruction of human beings, who are then restructured in the image of capital; people are turned into capitalist beings, and the final outcome is that capital is anthropomorphised. The domestication of humanity is closely bound up with another phenomenon which has intensified even further the passivity of human beings : capital has in effect "escaped". Economic processes are out of control and those who are in a position to influence them now realize that in the face of this they are powerless : they have been completely outmanoeuvered.

One doesn't have to agree with this to see that it's not primitivist.

NRod wrote:
It's not a denunciation to place a thinker within his larger ideological camp.

A "camp" that didn't even exist when Camatte wrote what is being called here "primitivist". Guilt by retrospective association - the worst of crimes. More uninformed arrogant nonsense.

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May 2 2010 12:57

Well, I'm happy to learn Camatte is not a primitivist. The less of them, the better.

Boris Badenov
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May 2 2010 13:25
Wellclose Square wrote:
Funny how a 'debate' about political rackets has now been reduced to denunciations of the supposed 'primitivism' of the 'unapologetically primitivist' Camatte, characterised by selective quotation and the monotonous one-line dismissal, betraying the erudition of a pair of planks (sorry, but it's already been an insult to the intelligence, so I feel justified in that). It's particularly hypocritical of Vlad 336 to 'debate' in such a dishonest way considering the respect he would like people to accord the ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin

That is because I have had more exposure to what Bakunin and Kropotkin wrote and thought. There is nothing hypocritical in my understanding of Camatte; this is genuinely how I interpret his meaning in that text. That I misread it is obviously a possibility, and I could do worse than read it again.
Tbh, I am not in the least interested in debating Camatte on this thread, so if my assessment of him is actually misguided then I accept that for now, and retract whatever "bad things" I said about him.
What is more interesting (though equally off-topic considering the OP) is that you "find disconcerting the vaguely inquisitorial tone of the following pronouncement"

I wrote:
Some on this board belittle this project of education and spreading of revolutionary ideas, and prefer, in their own words to "do nothing," although they still call themselves communists. These people are in my view as reprehensible as the rackets you speak of, only for the opposite reasons.

So let me just ask you right now, are you one of these "nihilist communists"? Because that would certainly explain why you're so defensive about someone who, if not a primitivist, is at least in the same class as the post-Marxist mystics who trumpet the dissolution of the proletariat and the end of class struggle (people like Postone and others that usually get ripped to shreds around these parts, and for good reason). Or maybe you just like Camatte for some strange reason. Who knows...
There is nothing inquisitorial about what I wrote. I simply expressed a personal opinion regarding the thought and significance of a particular group, while making a larger point in response to miver (looks like it's not just Camatte who's being "selectively quoted"). Inquisitorial is when you don't have anything substantial to add to the debate but go on and on about "oneline dismissals," as if that was the ultimate sin.

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As regards why a serious engagement with a theory of 'rackets' is so difficult for some, I suspect that Ret Marut has hit the nail on the head

on the head of a big fat strawman maybe, because I made no oneline dismissals. My labeling of Camatte as a primmo is simply because that's how I understand what I've read by him so far, not a sign of my wish to defend certain monstres sacrees of anarchism. As for the theory of rackets, I already explained to mciver why I think it's useless; kindly refer to that passage, and if you disagree with me, let me know why.

Boris Badenov
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May 2 2010 14:08
fort-da game wrote:
Vlad336 wrote:
Quote:
I don't think that's important, or at least I don't care to define myself with those labels. Why does it matter?

see above.
No one said anything about defining yourself according to any label. That said, it's no use to beat around the bush. Either you are a communist, or you're not.

An extremely weak starting point on two scores. Firstly, more than 6 billion people are not communists and therefore if there must be a conscious commitment to communism as a prerequisite for communism then this by itself would eliminate any possiblity of communism (simply in terms of feasibility).

Obviously there must be a conscious commitment to communism for at least a significant percentage of the working class, for there to be even a glimpse of a possible communist society. Obviously as with everything, this is a process and there will be no instant 6 billion communists.
Let me ask you this however: if communism is not feasible as long as it depends on a large group of people becoming communists, in what sense is it feasible at all?

Quote:
The point about ‘rackets’ (and why it is a useful concept) is that it locates within self-identified communist groups capitalistic practices. That is to say that in spite of their ideology, communist structures continue to reproduce capitalist relations internally, but they do so in bad faith i.e. they externalise such faults onto their market competitors.

Sounds very moralistic to speak of "bad faith". Yes all groups inevitably reproduce capitalist relations to some extent, and just as in capitalism some people take advantage to the detriment of other people, so it is with these political groups. Is there a "theory of bosses", a "theory of scabs"? No, and there is no need for one, because these things are already covered by the "theory of class society" as formulated by Marx and others.

Quote:
No ‘communist’ organisation is honest enough in its aims and principles to describe itself, for example, as a capitalist organisation, a product of capitalist conditions, that is in struggle against its own determinations and mediations – if it did so it would have something interesting to say, it would be acknowledging how complex social relations are and how difficult they are to escape from.

I agree that such a disclaimer would technically be honest and accurate, but it would also be confusing for people who are perhaps not coming to these groups with a solid understanding of what "the determinations and mediations" of capital are. So it could just as well sound like "we are a capitalist organization pretending to be against capital." Rather than being advertised in its title, such an issue could be discussed at length by all members of the group; I think that would be equally useful and no less honest.

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The debate is not tedious, it is vital – the fact that communist organisations are (let’s not use the term racket) Firms producing products, accumulating capital, exploiting labour (that is reproducing subjectively the general capitalist relation) is the very reason that when given the oppotunity they have tended in all historical revolutionary situations to re-impose capitalist productive relations.

The re-imposition of capitalist production in a number of historical revolutionary contexts has a number of explanations and cannot simply be rationalized as an inevitable consequence of "racketism."
Organizations are not just "capitalist relations" just as individuals are not just "capitalist relations" (if they were then surely there would be no possibility whatsoever, not even theoretical, of ever overthrowing capital).
I think the "theory of rackets" (as I understand it right now) is misleading because it tends to explain particular historical events in terms of an ahistorical "organizational practice" that doesn't add to our understanding of why revolutions failed in the past.
The Russian Revolution succumbed for different reasons than the one in Spain (although obviously there was a common context to some extent), and it wasn't just their respective "revolutionary organizations" that brought about such an outcome.

Quote:
The anarchists of Spain never got to the position of achieving the status of what they said they were, they were never simply, ‘anarchists’ (‘and nor were they either anarchists or not anarchists’); despite their best efforts they never gained full control of their activity and interventions and nor do present communist organisations.

Obviously these anarchists did not exist in a void where all they had to do was blossom into "what they said they were". Spanish anarchists existed in the context of a vicious war carried by the state machine against the Spanish working classes. If you think this doesn't complicate things immensely, and that it's just the "rackets" what ruined everything, then I think you are mistaken.

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Red Marriott
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May 2 2010 17:29
Vlad post 80 wrote:
Isn't Camatte a primitivist now? I think that says everything about his understanding of Marx.

.

Vlad post 103 wrote:
a big fat strawman ... because I made no oneline dismissals
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Noa Rodman
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May 2 2010 18:17
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One-line dismissals

good one

fort-da game
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May 2 2010 20:36

The critique developed by Camatte of what I will call ‘organisatlionalism’ was not of his divising but only the theoretical culmination, or simply a reflection or summary, of what many others also experienced during a period where class struggle became more overtly politicised. He was responding to a situation where the ideas of the many left fragments then active, and for the first time in decades, were connecting to actual lived events within the lives of millions of individuals.

As is to be expected of genuine communists, he did not seek to merely celebrate the form taken by those struggles but rather sought to anticipate and articulate points of weakness... i.e. in particular he focused on the problems that might occur if groupscules gained power within the working class. This is not to say that that was all there was to say on the struggles of the time, or on the elective group form. He was not alone in developing this critique, although it is very convenient for later ‘organisationalists’ (I deliberately do not say racketeers) to isolate him as a ‘primitivist’ and thereby discredit his historically important intervention. The historical isolation of Camatte is a misreading of those times and to their great credit, there were other communists who independantly arrived at similar conclusions: Debord, Vaniegem, the writers of the text Militancy - Highest stage of Alienation, the group Negation, Joe Jacobs amongst others who we do not remember. All of these made critical interventions on the simple forms the workers’ movement was adopting... not because they were running dog lackeys but because it is the role of communists to criticise exisitng forms rather than advocate them.

On the side issue of primitivism itself... I think there remains something to say on it and I hope to start a thread on it in the next week or so (or perhaps someone else would be kind enough to do that) but in the case of Camatte, let us remember his actual theorisation of the events of the time so we can better understand his theory of ‘domestication’ (which like ‘racket’, is an unfortunate term that has echoed down the decades).

It was Camatte’s understanding that the working class had passed into a stage of ‘real subsumption’ and its forms thereby merely replicated capitalist relations without establishing any external opposition to it – he concluded that the apparent antagonism of class was actually the motor of capitalist reproduction (I should say here that these arguments were grounded in a perfectly coherent and text-based reading of Capital).

He then went on to investigate where oppositional subjective forms capable of overcoming capitalism might be developing... these forms (which we might call, immediatist) were defined by their attempts to autonomously impose conditions of live activity (as opposed to the effects of accumulated dead labour) and were later termed ‘primitivism’. In other words ‘primitivism’ is the proletariat’s attempt under capitalist conditions to immeidately realise live activity and re-skill itself... if this undertaking was in error (and I think we all think it is) then it was an error of the same magnitude of ‘workers’ councils’ as a productivist solution. In other words it articulated part of the problem (in the case of primitivism alienation, in the case of councilism, the organisation of mass society) but did not access the generality of communist relations.

I think most communists probably agree that Camatte was mistaken in his conclusions concerning the subsumption of the working class but only for a certain mindset are his findings insulting and worthy of uncomprehending denunciation. For the rest of us, his ideas, and the framework by which he generated them, remain of interest because they are still useful (even if they are not completely ‘correct’).

We should be mature enough to grant to to Camatte that he ‘needed’ to adopt the theological apparatus of ‘primitivism’ in order to gnerate the insights that he did in other areas. Having said that, it could also be that others might replicate his findings and further develop his thoughts.

In general, on the question of calling names and labelling the ideas of others as they would not necessarily label themselves. It should be remembered that the point is to develop and put into the hands of other human beings the tools that will aid in their own liberation. The point is not to get these others to simply parrot the same principles as us. The point in making arguments is not to denounce the other but to release the truth from their errors. The point is that we must take care that we do not become the opposite of what we are arguing for even as we argue for it. Camatte is not some devil and nor is it appropriate to dehumanise your self or your cause by portraying him as such. Where we disagree we must make our own arguments in our own terms without fear of whether this fits in with our organisation’s official policy – this disagreement, or critique, the breaking with orthodoxy, is the method of communist thought.

Of more interest (to me at least) than denunciation and counter-denunciation, is the question of how the ideas of those communist individuals who break from established organisations are then communicated... where there is no organised ‘tradition’ who in the communist milieu is going to have an open enough mind to remember and engage with their work (and how) for the benefit of the proletariat? For example, if Camatte is remembered only as a primitivist then the injury is not to him but to the interest of the working class in its struggle to abolish itself (which was the interest which Camatte attempted to advance) because it will no longer have access to his ideas.

Wellclose Square
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May 2 2010 22:34
Quote:
Wellclose Square wrote: Funny how a 'debate' about political rackets has now been reduced to denunciations of the supposed 'primitivism' of the 'unapologetically primitivist' Camatte, characterised by selective quotation and the monotonous one-line dismissal, betraying the erudition of a pair of planks (sorry, but it's already been an insult to the intelligence, so I feel justified in that). It's particularly hypocritical of Vlad 336 to 'debate' in such a dishonest way considering the respect he would like people to accord the ideas of Bakunin and Kropotkin:
Quote:(Vlad336 wrote)

"Bakunin's thought isn't error-proof; neither is Kropotkin's, but both have relevant things to say when it comes to today's world. If you care to argue against that, you can do so in a different thread."

Quote:
Vlad336 wrote: That is because I have had more exposure to what Bakunin and Kropotkin wrote and thought. There is nothing hypocritical in my understanding of Camatte; this is genuinely how I interpret his meaning in that text.

@Vlad336 - What I was getting at was the way you appeared to imply that Camatte had nothing of value to say about anything because he was a 'primitivist'. Essentially this is the same discursive strategy as saying that Kropotkin and Bakunin had nothing of value to say because of their respective support for inter-imperialist war and anti-semitism. The fact that you chose such a strategy has nothing to do with how much or how little you know about the ideas of Bakunin, Kropotkin and Camatte. It just won't wash, and I think you know that. Thanks to Denna for elucidating the context of your selective quotation 'proving' that Camatte was a low-down primmo. For myself, I think the primitivist connotations of some of Camatte's writings are deeply problematic to say the least. Thanks to fort-da game for his latest, very informative, post on the complexities of communist theory and practice.

Quote:
Vlad336 wrote:So let me just ask you right now, are you one of these "nihilist communists"? Because that would certainly explain why you're so defensive about someone who, if not a primitivist, is at least in the same class as the post-Marxist mystics who trumpet the dissolution of the proletariat and the end of class struggle (people like Postone and others that usually get ripped to shreds around these parts, and for good reason). Or maybe you just like Camatte for some strange reason. Who knows...

Now, that statement is inquisitorial and not a little paranoid... What's the worst that can happen 'around these parts'? Getting 'ripped to shreds'? Who are you, the fucking Pope? Do you really think your enquiry as to whether I'm 'one of these "nihilist communists"' or 'post-Marxist mystics', rounded off with a rhetorical 'Who knows', warrants an answer? Hardly, if the denunciation is already incorporated into the question. I don't know why I've even dignified it with this reply.

Boris Badenov
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May 2 2010 23:18
Wellclose Square wrote:
Now, that statement is inquisitorial and not a little paranoid... What's the worst that can happen 'around these parts'? Getting 'ripped to shreds'?

That was in reference to Postone et al, not you or any other member; nice twist though.

Quote:
Who are you, the fucking Pope?

I have been called that, yes.

Quote:
Do you really think your enquiry as to whether I'm 'one of these "nihilist communists"' or 'post-Marxist mystics', rounded off with a rhetorical 'Who knows', warrants an answer?

Yeah I think it does; it's an honest question. If you don't want to answer it fine but don't give me this hissy fit crap about how I insulted you with my "inquistorial" rudeness.

Quote:
Hardly, if the denunciation is already incorporated into the question.

Nothing is incorporated into the question. It is an actual question. A lot of people in this thread have made a point out of acting the sceptic, starting with mciver, who has made some good points I might add, and I'm just curious to know what the sceptics subscribe to. So to whose left are you and why?

Quote:
I don't know why I've even dignified it with this reply.

I know m'lud; for someone of your stature to descend to this level...unforgiveable!

horopo
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May 3 2010 18:53
Entdinglichung wrote:
papaspace wrote:
a revolution carried out by the proletariat (with support of the peasantry) would fail, if it would limit itself to the tasks of a bourgeois revolution, it should not wait but advance to a socialist revolution

What is the difference between a bourgeois and socialist revolution?

fort-da game
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May 6 2010 14:35
taxikipali wrote:
Like vultures greek politicians and church leaders have fallen on the bodies of the three bank workers trying to capitalise politically on their death. It is incredible how cold blooded these reptiles are. True to his fascist ideals Mr Kaklamanis, the mayor of Athens, has even gone as far as demanding from the government to annihilate anarchists within 24 hours.

As if the anarchists did not capitalise politically on the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

The rationalisations and misdirections that have followed these murders are an interesting example of gang (or racket) consciousness at work. The murders themselves also demonstrate how the modus operandi of the Greek anarchists, excepting on an ideological level, is indistinguishable from that of the fascists (and is thus equally expressive of the ‘politics’ that is generated and contained by present circumstances): each phalanx is built on extreme mystified loyalty to the group; each deploys the same macho techniques of intimidation, insurrection, confrontation; both externalise blame and invariably identify others as being ‘responsible’; both generate a milieu of intellectual sympathisers to contextualise and rationalise their atrocities; both tend towards a form of mysticism of ideals in place of critique; both focus their critique on finance capital; both are incapable of analysing how their role feeds into the spectacle, how they still belong to capital even as they seemingly oppose it; it is also highly likely that the street level membership of both factions drift between the gangs. And most importantly, both factions fail to recognise their mutual similarities and how they are of exactly the same order of determination with regard to the social relation. Murder is what happens during extreme social upheavals and this is not a more tragic event than any other three avoidable deaths that ocurred in the world yesterday. But nonetheless, three workers were burnt to death by anarchists and that needs to be internalised and engaged with if pro-revolutionaries are not to remain mere agents of social disfunction, tragically acting out inescapable traumas like any other form of gang criminality. The worst prospect for the anarchists is that the more they escalate and rationalise their militaristic approach in opposing capital the more they come to resemble fascists, and the more likely it is that their actions will feed into some form of fascist coup.

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Django
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May 8 2010 00:37
fort-da game wrote:
taxikipali wrote:
Like vultures greek politicians and church leaders have fallen on the bodies of the three bank workers trying to capitalise politically on their death. It is incredible how cold blooded these reptiles are. True to his fascist ideals Mr Kaklamanis, the mayor of Athens, has even gone as far as demanding from the government to annihilate anarchists within 24 hours.

As if the anarchists did not capitalise politically on the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

The rationalisations and misdirections that have followed these murders are an interesting example of gang (or racket) consciousness at work. The murders themselves also demonstrate how the modus operandi of the Greek anarchists, excepting on an ideological level, is indistinguishable from that of the fascists (and is thus equally expressive of the ‘politics’ that is generated and contained by present circumstances): each phalanx is built on extreme mystified loyalty to the group; each deploys the same macho techniques of intimidation, insurrection, confrontation; both externalise blame and invariably identify others as being ‘responsible’; both generate a milieu of intellectual sympathisers to contextualise and rationalise their atrocities; both tend towards a form of mysticism of ideals in place of critique; both focus their critique on finance capital; both are incapable of analysing how their role feeds into the spectacle, how they still belong to capital even as they seemingly oppose it; it is also highly likely that the street level membership of both factions drift between the gangs. And most importantly, both factions fail to recognise their mutual similarities and how they are of exactly the same order of determination with regard to the social relation. Murder is what happens during extreme social upheavals and this is not a more tragic event than any other three avoidable deaths that ocurred in the world yesterday. But nonetheless, three workers were burnt to death by anarchists and that needs to be internalised and engaged with if pro-revolutionaries are not to remain mere agents of social disfunction, tragically acting out inescapable traumas like any other form of gang criminality. The worst prospect for the anarchists is that the more they escalate and rationalise their militaristic approach in opposing capital the more they come to resemble fascists, and the more likely it is that their actions will feed into some form of fascist coup.

Maybe it was worth responding to Taxikipali's post on the thread he/she posted it in, rather than on this one.

One of the things interesting about what you are saying here is that my understanding of the Greek movement/scene is that the 'anti-organisational' tendency in anarchism is predominant there, and that attempts to co-ordinate activity through membership organisations there are viewed with a lot of suspicion. I'm not familiar with Cammatte's arguments, but if he criticises political organisations rather than political ideas for their racketeering, is the situation in Greece a good illustration of his arguments?

There are points in your post which seem valid, but with my knowledge of the anarchist movement in Greece coming from English language reports, is there any factual basis to some of your claims here - for example the idea that there's significant driftage between the ranks of the anarchists and fascists, or that anarchists might be part of a military coup in Greece. We also don't know at this stage whether these people were killed by anarchists its a possibility but they've been falsely blamed in a similar incident in the past.

Its also worth noting that there are attempts to "internalise and engage" with the problems of the anarchist movement in Greece - you've quoted Taxikipali above but ignored the criticism he/she has made of the macho streetfighting mentality in the anarchist scene which make these kinds of tragedies a real risk. There's also this, which has been circulated via the After the Greek Riots blog.

I also think you are overstating your point here - if the anarchists are just like fascists because they have a poor critique of the spectacle, "invariably identify others as being ‘responsible’", etc, then so is pretty much everyone on the planet who has some sort of political perspective on the world they live in, with the exception of a tiny milieu within the tiny ultra-left milieu. They might be criticisms worth making, they might not, but "they're just like fascists" looks like Godwin's law.

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May 8 2010 00:53

After reading through the comments on this thread, there's a question worth raising - how is the kind of fetishisation which political organisations face different to the kind of fetishisation we all face, communist theorists included? In short, if all communist groupings and political organisations are invariably 'capitalist' in nature, because of the way consciousness is rooted in material circumtances, how are polical arguments, texts, etc. of any kind not subject to the same pitfalls?

Take an argument like this for example:

Quote:
That is to say that in spite of their ideology, communist structures continue to reproduce capitalist relations internally, but they do so in bad faith i.e. they externalise such faults onto their market competitors. No ‘communist’ organisation is honest enough in its aims and principles to describe itself, for example, as a capitalist organisation, a product of capitalist conditions, that is in struggle against its own determinations and mediations

I mean all thought, analysis and reflection in the here and now is a product of capitlist conditions, and cannot set itself outside of the fetishised conditions of life under capitalism. Surely that problem is as inescable in the most advanced communist critique of organisational practice as it is in anywhere else.

Plus, it'd be easy enough to argue that its having your cake and eating it to say that on the one hand the method of communist thought is critique of everthing that exists, but that the problem with 'rackets' is their view of rival groups of competitors - which would be manifested in practice as the critique of other groups.

fort-da game
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May 8 2010 11:42

Thank you for your excellent comments. I am okay with everything you say... the point for communists is to present the problem to the working class, which must be resolved at a 'higher' level of recursivity than that at which communists operate, i.e. the bind must be released by the practice of the class. I think communists crystallise or embody theoretical problem, in this way they reverse the 'organisationalist' relation by which the 'party' brings meaning to the proletariat. I think it is the proletariat that brings meaning to the communists.

My only points of difference with you are:

a. on Godwin's law; it is the greek anarchists who fetishise 'their' struggle against fascists not me, this is the background 'turf war' to current events – but there is a real problem in the critique of finanace, the IMF and other 'external' enemies. I do not have facts about interchangeability of memberships except to say that this is what happens in gang warfare and historically certain forms of anarchism have drifted into fascism. My point was that the technique of the anarchists at that point was indistinguishable from that used in communal, ethnic, religious wars. I regret the comment on fascist coups, upon consideration I should say, such acts have separated the anarchists from the wider working class... (and yet this is an ambiguous outcome, as it allows the anarchists to reengage with who and what they are). Overall, I do not think we should be over-concerned with attribution (Greece is the country of N17 after all) but rather should focus on how the anarchists fed their interventions into the spectacle of Greek politics... they are permitted a space (not allowed in other European countries) which they inhabit, the problem is this relation between what is permitted and what then takes place.

b. yes, the greek milieu is dominated by insurrectionists, a tendency which critically minded communists are ambivalent about because of its focus on radical subjectivity as an end in itself. However, the implication that informality generates more informal tyrannies than membership organisations doesn't hold... there is constant tendency within all instituted and non-instituted relationships towards informal tyranny. Again, we are presented with a 'problem' which we should not rush to close or exteriorise.

c. I meant no sleight against Taxikipali in not replying on the other thread, I just thought it illustrated certain issues with 'gangs and rackets' which were under discussion here.

Again, thanks for your very useful summing up of the last few pages of this thread... you mentioned 'purism' or the ultra-ultra left, you might want to develop that further as it kind of brings this discussion back to the core of this thread and where 'invariance' should appropriately appear within communist thought.

fort-da game
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May 8 2010 11:51
Django wrote:
I mean all thought, analysis and reflection in the here and now is a product of capitlist conditions, and cannot set itself outside of the fetishised conditions of life under capitalism. Surely that problem is as inescable in the most advanced communist critique of organisational practice as it is in anywhere else.

Plus, it'd be easy enough to argue that its having your cake and eating it to say that on the one hand the method of communist thought is critique of everthing that exists, but that the problem with 'rackets' is their view of rival groups of competitors - which would be manifested in practice as the critique of other groups.

I didn't really address this. I don't have an answer, as I said above, the proper means of addressing the problem is to present the determination accurately (i.e. we are a formation of capital struggling against it) in the hope that external others will be able to release the bind. This after all is the honest representation of the truth of the relation between the small group and the proletariat, only they can release us all from the problems that we have articulated.

ernie
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May 8 2010 14:04

They and us are part of the same process: arn't they? The effort of communist to develop organisations is an expression of the proletariat trying to arm itself with political organisations.

RedHughs
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May 8 2010 20:52
forte wrote:
... the point for communists is to present the problem to the working class, which must be resolved at a 'higher' level of recursivity than that at which communists operate, i.e. the bind must be released by the practice of the class

As far as I can tell, capitalist society presents the problem to the working class every day. Why should anyone just spend their time showing the contradictions that are already screaming at people in their daily lives? Still, Forte's approach here comes naturally from his basic positions - communists somehow operate at a lower level or other than the undifferentiated working class.

I think Django hits the nail on the head here and it's pretty simple.

The Camette/gangs/etc line either must claim nothing is possible or must claim that conscious/organized communists become specially tainted in some weird way that stands in their way of creating conscious communist practice.

My guess here is at least the appeal of this view that comes down more to a psychology of self-hate than to any very logically defensible position. And self-hate can have a big audience - probably a good fraction of the would-be-Avant-garde. And this appeal increases when our enterprising anti-organizationalists tie their self-hate to a variety of sophisms from the philosophy's grab bag, from Russell's paradox to Zeno's paradox.

One certainly should grapple with the structural problems inherent in attempting to realize one's conscious intent. This is not a small problem, not an insoluble problem but also not a problem that we can expect some undifferentiated other to solve for us later. This problem is endemic to civilized society. As Marx or the Buddha roughly formulated it; the results of people's acting go beyond their intention and war plans don't last the first a battle. Certainly this an important problem for we conscious communists but also will be a problem for any collective would-be communist practice, is even a problem for the capitalist ruling class maintaining itself, and will be a problem for even a communist world maintaining itself. Collective action involves the failure of individual intentions.

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May 8 2010 21:20
fort-da game wrote:
the point for communists is to present the problem to the working class, which must be resolved at a 'higher' level of recursivity than that at which communists operate, i.e. the bind must be released by the practice of the class. I think communists crystallise or embody theoretical problem, in this way they reverse the 'organisationalist' relation by which the 'party' brings meaning to the proletariat. I think it is the proletariat that brings meaning to the communists.

the problem here is an absolute separation of "communists" from "the class", as if we're not workers. the thing is (for the most part), we are. thus the 'problem' of capital is one we face day to day, whether through shit at work, crap from landlords or other problems arising from alienated society (racial/gendered violence, depression...). organisation then should serve the purpose of aiding communist workers to engage in the process of organisation against said conditions, which of course we can't do on behalf of the wider class but as a part of it (that is to say, with our workmates, fellow tennants etc).

Samotnaf
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May 9 2010 05:07

The organisation question is pretty fundamental, and those who think organising an organisation helps towards self-organisation (their own, that of specific struggles and that of a revolutionary movement as a whole) are stuck in the perspectives of the old workers' movement, with all its confict within itself and with its image for others. This was pushed to the extreme by Stalin's, and all the other Leninists', need to present a revolutionary image with their ideology of the collective opposed to the false choice of bourgeois individualism, which in fact was used to crush all individual desires, initiative and critique on the part of individual proletarians (and in the case of the Bolsheviks after Lenin's death, ended up forcing the silence of individual leading Bolsheviks in the name of the image of the Party...Trotsky's wilful silence about Lenin' testament warning the party about Stalin is just one example of the submission of individuals to collectivist ideology).

In 1977, in response to various confusions about the organisational question in France, Daniel Denevert, a situationist, wrote this as a draft text which never got published; nevertheless I reproduce it here because, although it tends towards an excessive reactive attitude to collectivist pro-organisational ideology and towards a kind of 'proletarian' inidividualism, it still has some significant pertinence to the critique of rackets:

Quote:
"The CRQS didn't attempt to be a better organisation - it is part of the bursting of the very perspective of an autonomous revolutionary organisation (or organisations), in which I see the heritage of the model of Leninist organisation, that is to say of a bourgeois-bureaucratic conception of struggle, developed by the ensemble of the old politics.

One can say, in all rigor, that the Situationist International attempted to restore a revolutionary significance to this model, starting up again the adventure of the revolutionary Party - in the sense of Lenin and Lukacs, the organisation seen as the mediation destroying all its presuppostions (militantism, the historic mission of guiding the class to revolution and of officering it there, putting an ideology in power, etc.). The originality, but at the same time all the ambiguity,of the S.I. was in its constituting itself as a useless Party, that is to say useless in the perspective of party struggle. Which, in the context of its period, was an extremely ingenious method; which can be compared on the terrain of organisational politics with the methods of Dada on the terrain of art. But the S.I. also exposed itself as empty form, because as organisational form it didn't really have any perspective, if not to defend for itself a place among the leaders wrangling over the ownership of the modern revolution.

Quote:
“It is notorious that anarcho-situationist egalitarianism has always refused to recognise the real hierarchical organisation upon which it has functioned. The major practical evasion finally reduced the Situationists' theory, on the question of revolutionary organisation, to being nothing but a mere counter-ideology opposed to the dominant heirarchical organisation; preferring to share the illusion and official lie of equality rather than bear the shame of its denial. Yet the possibility of effectively anticipating all the new problems while there was still time to do so (notably for the old S.I.) hinged upon the acceptance of this denial and on the theoretico-practical conclusions resulting from it.”

(Theory of Misery/Misery of Theory, Daniel Denevert)

Quote:
''If this epoch can now do without a Situationist International, it is because its solution depends on the fact that a situationist proletariat is going to succeed in exposing and developing itself there.”

(Chronique of Public Secrets, vol.1)

Quote:
“The SI did not apply itself to the extent of applying its own theory in the very activity of the formulation of that theory or in the general conditions of its struggle. The partisans of the SI's positions have not, for the most part, been their creators or their real agents. They were only more official and more pretentious pro-situs.This is the principal failing of the SI...Not to have been aware of it was for a long time its worst error (and to speak of myself, my worst error). If this attitude had dominated, that would have been its definitive crime. As an organisation, the SI has partly failed: and precisely on this point. It was necessary therefopre to apply to the SI the critique that it had applied, often so well, to the dominant society. It could be said that we were well enough organised to make our programme be visible in the world, but not our programme of organisation.”

(Orientation Debate of the SI, 1969 – 1970, Guy Debord)

The autonomy of individuals has been posed as the fundamental condition of the “autonomous revolutionary organisation”, a counter-measure aimed at prohibiting the habitual relations of revolutionaries in the classical organisation. This is organisational strategy – organisational ideology – arrived at the bursting point of demanding the autonomy of its members. The individual officially desires his autonomy “for himself”, but fundamentally because it is the ultimate requirement of the ultimate possible spectacle: the spectacle of the destruction of the spectacle. It is the last condition through which organisational ideology can still think to save itself (although it thus moves towards its accelerated destruction), it is the last ruse of that conception of the world so well-embodied by Leninism. It has come to the point of demanding autonomous members, that is to say precisely individuals capable of doing without membership in an organisation. That which the organisation demands, in the interior, of its members, it must equally demand, at the exterior, of the revolutionary proletariat; it must demand that it do without the organisation; it declares itself useless; sometimes going on to pose itself, in the greatest confusion, the never resolved question of its relations “with the class”, which comprises, for example, the absurd substance and the impotence of the Orientation Debate.

The contradiction that shields the notion of autonomy is perfectly relected in the significant expression “autonomous organisation”, which refers at one and the same time to the autnomy of the organisation, the autonomy of individuals - that is to say to their capacity in their activity to do without each other and the organisation – and to the autonomy of the organisation, i.e. to the absolute dependance of the individuals mediated by the organisation. The organisational perspective is a conception of revolutionary activity that walks on its head. The principle of organisation does not lie in a determined accord between determined activities, it does not translate the really organisable element of individuals' acitivity, but is the inversion of this point of view: it is real and potential global activity, the very substance of individuals, working to organise the organisation. The organisational perspective precisely translates the estrangement into a spectacle of revolutionaries' activity and their need of conserving a spectacle.

Another significant notion is that of “interior” and “exterior” that one systematically meets with in all the groups and parties. The very fact that this distinction is possible well expresses the strange autonomy of the organised individual. Regarding the banal – non-organised – individual, one would spontaneously tend to think that if he has an “exterior” it begins with the other, with the objective world. That is to say that this notion translates the fundamental relation of the individual to the world and his own activity, the point of view of his own subjectivity in the world. With the organised individual (formally organised or living in a group., a gang, a couple, a socio-professional grouping, a family, a country) it is completely different: the feeling of exteriority is pushed back to the frontier of the organisation, that is to say, the organisation itself tends to become the only real individual, the sole historic subject; of which, according to that other significant expression, the individuals are no longer anything but the members.

***

The guiding line which has orientated the conception of the CRQS has been to consider the autonomy of individuals in its relation with the organisational perspective and the ideology on organisation. It is to have detected that the need of an organisation and the practice of an organisation constitute the first major resignation of individuals, the moment when the activity of individuals separates itself from individuals and faces them as spectacle of their own practice. The CRQS has considered the autonomy of individuals as a problem which was not dependent on revolutionary solidarity, nor on any collectivity.

The CRQS is, to my knowledge, the only practical tentative – of which I obviously recognise all the insufficiencies, including that of having scarcely known the significance of its enterprise - which has not been content to repress the problem, that is to say, in the best of cases, to leave to the future the task of creating its organisation when individuals have finally become autonomous. It is almost unnecessary to point out how much this attitude which temporarily affirms its reticence to organise itself is still dominated by the organisational perspective, and therefore, which is more important, by its very manner of conceiving of «autonomy».

We have organised our critique and our refusal of organisation. We concluded an accord – defined the rules of our game – in such a way that it would not be able to come to dominate us as an autonomous rationale; we organised a definite part of our capacities for a voluntarily modest – non-valorisable – activity, while smashing the spectacular logic of organisation.

I consider that the CRQS has perfectly succeeded from this point of view, inasmuch as, for the individuals who composed it, the CRQS was not able to constitute the central reference for judging their activity. Just as it is clearly and publically affirmed as forming the revolutionary politics of the individual, that is to say, the radical critique of politics, so that the internal reference of the CRQS is the individuals themselves and not so much what associates them there; they are bluntly placed before their personal result, that of their activity or inactivity, and from this point of view can refer to no one's account but their own (i.e. hold no one else responsible). This is our radical manner of approaching autonomy: the activity of individuals is not an organisational preoccupation, it is not taken charge of by any form of collective reason, i.e. deformed or hidden by any spectacle. There no longer exists any entity capable of guaranteeing the revolutionary excellence of individuals. The success or failure there of the individual is clearly declared the affair of the individual, which can only be concelaed by individual blindness, that is to say, by an autonomous choice...

No form of collectivity should be able to come to orient or judge the fundamental activity of individuals in the perspective of integrating or conserving them in the collectivity, that is to say from the point of view alone of the results of the individual activity insofar as they concern the collecitivity. For there is one fundamental result to which the collectivity is necessarily indifferent: the individual himself. When collective reason comes to dominate individual reason, the individual is placed in a spectacular relation. Everything is said about the spectacle except what it always and fundamentally is: the colonisation of the point of view of the individual by the point of view of the collectivity. The point of view of the collectivity and the point of view of the individual are irreconcilable – one must dominate the other. To reverse the dominant perspective that would have it that the individual is only a part of the ensemble ''society'', it is necessary to practically smash the authority of all the existing or potential societies, from the family to the State, from the sects to the Parties, community and socialism, in order for society itself to no longer be anything but a part of the ensemble ''individual''. It has too readily been said that the essence of man is social; it is necessary, on the contrary, to consider how much the essence of society is individual.''

I'm certainly not going to defend all of this, but I think it can usefully contribute to the debate on this thread, which has thankfully gone beyond the uninteresting limits of its title.

Samotnaf
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Joined: 9-06-09
May 9 2010 05:28

PS
For information's sake re. the above: the CRQS was a very small group (4 individuals - including, obviously, Denevert) based in Paris; CRQS stands for - in English - The Centre For Research Into The Social Question.