On the Dialectics of Anti-Capitalism - Wolfgang Fritz Haug

A reflection on the pitfalls of the anti-globalization movement and such like, by one of the strongest Marxist thinkers in Germany.

Submitted by Noa Rodman on November 2, 2010

On the Dialectics of Anti-Capitalism1

Staring at evil contains an element of fascination. Therein, however, also an element of consent.

Horkheimer/Adorno, Dialectics of Enlightenment

The thought baffled me. Was that my thought? That was the thought of the enemy. Was I my own enemy? I distanced myself from myself, that means, I imagined a man who looked at me from outside.

Volker Braun, The Iron Car

The first massive appearance of a plural movement of globalisation critics in Seattle 1999, greeted as the “New Aurora” (Ramonet 2000), may not have rung in a revolutionary turn in the world, but inasmuch as it turned against the rulers of world capitalism, it has brought about a turn of the globalisation critics towards the world. A memorable dialectics converted them into the pioneers of a different kind of globalisation. With a term borrowed from French, we call them “Alterglobalists” (altermondialistes). Their world-wide movement has conjured from the paralysing trauma of state socialism the new dream of a world that would no longer be capitalist and yet would not fall prey to the almightiness of a state apparatus. Since then, not only slogans critical of capitalism, but also anti-capitalist slogans increasingly find an echo. Therewith arises the need for clarification.2

1) Dialectics or crisis of anti-capitalism

The words are close together. What they designate differs: critique of capitalism names what is bad in capitalism in order to regulate it; anti-capitalism wants to overcome capitalism. Critique of capitalism has a second meaning, belonging to a different level than the first, namely the Critique of Political Economy, the over-reaching title of the Marxian theory of capital. In turn, there are also many forms of anti-capitalism; roughly speaking, you may distinguish regressive from progressive ones. The following attempt at clarification aims at progressive anti-capitalism. Who has learnt from Marx will see its pivotal point in transcending capitalism on the basis of the material and personal productive forces that capital has produced. Yet immediately, objections are voiced that bring into play the Dialectics of Enlightenment, following which “technical rationality today […] is the rationality of domination [Herrschaft] itself” (Adorno, CW 3, 142).

If we here try to contribute to clarification in the form of a “dialectics”, we do not have an academically congealed notion in mind. The “thing itself”, with which we are concerned, cannot be grasped from a would-be extraterrestrial vantage point. We are ourselves at issue, “since, as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in that we have made the former, but not the latter” (Marx, Capital, transl. Fowkes, 493, fn.4 ). However, our history is made in such a way that what comes out in the end was usually not intended that way. It is crucial that we avoid such inversion of the effect against the project in our investigation of the dialectic of anti-capitalism. Posing the question this way, we try to bring limitations in view in order to transcend them. The limits that are meant here are the result of short-sighted intervention in the moving ensemble of our social relations. The feed-back of these relations convey to us the experience that our goal-directed action “unconsciously” misses the goal and leads to a result which can be described with Engels as “unintended; the historical actors have either directly wanted something other than what came out, or this result leads in its wake to quite different unpredicted consequences” (MEW 39/428). We need to think these shifts. In general, however, what “relates to conflict, collision and struggle can”, as Brecht reminds us, “in no way be treated without materialistic dialectics” (CW 23, 376). It is needed for dealing with the “surprises of the logically progressive or jumping developments, the instability of all situations, the wit of contradictions etc.” (CW 16, 702). That begins with the fact that every struggle creates a sort of unity among those fighting one another. If, however, we are surprised from behind by “jumpy” developments and the “wit of contradictions” occurs at our expense, we can speak of passive dialectics.3 The dialectics of anti-capitalism has to do, first of all, with that. To deal with passive dialectics means to work on the capacity for practical or active dialectics. Naïve anti-capitalism has its original rights. But if it does not evolve, “Dialectics is replaced by eclecticism.” (Lenin, SR, LW 21, 412)4 As long as a social movement or a political actor does not learn to deal with contradictions that its environment holds in store for it, it will at best remain helpless, if it does not indeed call forth counter-effects that assimilate it into its opponent.

Even if misunderstandings cannot be avoided, let us put forth a few sentences to prevent misunderstanding: The attempt to get to know the tricks of the dialectics of a field where one acts oneself, the claim to get the sedimented positions of this field into a moving context, without refraining from taking a position oneself, after all seems to entangle one in an insoluble contradiction. In fact, what interests us in every position is its negation, which is its limit, following Spinoza’s insight that any determination is a negation. Since in this way all single figures are criticised, none condemned, this attempt risks double jeopardy, partly, because no condemnation takes place, partly, because no justification is given either. We no longer depart, like Lukács, from one homogenous totality, but from criss-crossing totalisations that usher in incomplete totalities that constantly fall apart. Moreover, our reflections are situated in the process itself. Neither will we have to announce an apparently absolute truth, nor a nostrum for solving the problems.

2) The Stalinist legacy and the danger of being taken in from the right

The question of the dialectics of anti-capitalism does not come out of the blue. The sky of capitalism is obscured by the plagues that it brings over “the earth and the worker”, just because of its as yet unsurpassed productivity: over-accumulation of capital and massive consumerism here5, under-consumption there, massive overwork on the one hand, massive unemployment on the other, massive capital destruction by wars, from which capitals draw extra profit, resource wars and consumption of the absolute resource, the conditions for life on this planet. Since the survival of the human species is in question – and with it the survival of countless animal and plant species –, there are more and stronger reasons than ever for a critique of capitalism. Nevertheless, in spite of its destructive course, capitalism does not lack the creative moment. A system that has retrieved the computer from the catacombs of nuclear war preparations and elevated it to the universal “guiding productive force” (Haug 2003, 38f) is historically not yet finished, even if “capitalism of any degree is not in a position to really transpose the ‘high’ in the ‘new technology’ into a genuinely ‘new economy’” (Krysmanski 2001), but realises its potential only selectively. The productivity of this literally non-human developmental machine that we call capitalism cannot be separated from its destructiveness. This has consequences for the struggle against it. You cannot simply decree that the time of “transitory necessity of the capitalist mode of production” (MEW 23, 617) is over, even if the system is moving at its historical border.6 Later on, we shall return to this contradiction7, which can catch anti-capitalism on its off foot.

For mainly two reasons, the sky of anti-capitalism is also clouded. This mainly for two reasons. First of all, anti-capitalist motivations can be taken over by right-wing populist, authoritarian, yes, even fascist and racist agitation (cf. Kaindl 2007). It depends on the proportion of what Lukács used to call terminus a quo in relation to the terminus ad quem. In other words: Where the “anti” in anti-capitalism gets it by a long shot over the “pro” in favour of a credible social project, this danger is particularly great. And "the difficulty with social movements lies in this, that in many cases they fail in constructing political options" (Sader 2007). For the moment, you may get applause with anti-capitalist rhetoric. But the consent thus gained is sentiment, first of all, and as such inconsistent in both force and orientation. Comparable to the enlistment of human rights for the US-led wars, anti-capitalist motives can be enlisted for reactionary mobilisation. Indeed, “Sharia and Jihad” after all aspire to make themselves “the spearhead of anti-capitalism world-wide” as the magazine Bahamas infers maliciously of the naïve anti-capitalists, of course without saying that the former are in many respects the products of just this Western-staged capitalism.

If already the possibility of being taken in by the Right admonishes the Left to self-examination, then the mutation of 20th century communism into Stalinism, i.e. the perversion of the social emancipation project par excellence into a repressive and, after considerable industrialisation and urbanisation, increasingly inefficient developmental dictatorship makes such self-questioning utterly inescapable. This defeat, paired with self-betrayal8, weighs on any anti-capitalist project. Historical self-criticism is the prerequisite of all further criticism.

How are we going to deal with this legacy? Shall we, as far as Stalinism is concerned, whitewash ourselves by blaming it, as “the most extreme form of State capitalism” (Harman 2000), on capitalism? Shall we wash our hands in innocence and excommunicate the Communist movement of the 20th century from the history of the left since we had no personal share in it? Shall we reduce the state society that issued from the revolution of 1917 by way of civil wars and economic crisis to the dictatorial “police state” whose socialism was “mere mask” (McNally 2006) and assure that we want the exact opposite in every respect?

In order to escape the long shadow of Stalinism, it seems spontaneously correct to distance ourselves as far as possible from its discredited form of socialisation. Where it was hierarchical and centralised, we take refuge in the additive idea of a rainbow pattern without leadership and domination. In place of repressive unity we put unconnected diversity. Let nothing happen “from the top”, everything “from below”. Will we, therefore, announce with David McNally that we want to abolish the rule of commodities, money and capital and at every moment want to realise the will of the majority in the shaping of production and distribution? That, moreover, total freedom should reign with us? Should we, following John Holloway, declare both revolution and reformism to be equally “state-centred approaches” and leave behind with the “state illusion” the “power illusion”, namely that “changing society was only a question of conquering positions of power or getting powerful in some way or other”, while expressing our intent to “dissolve all relationships of power” (Holloway 2003, 814f.)?

But at this point the dialectics of anti-capitalism will already have caught up with us from behind, a blind dialectics, that back in soviet times fostered the metamorphosis into the opposite, and if our beautiful project is protected against the repetition of this evil spell then only by lack of success. Because Stalinism was the product of a process acting from behind, uncontrolled by the actors and in this sense passive dialectics. Nicos Poulantzas developed the insight in 1979 9, according to which already in Lenin’s perspective of complete immediacy -- where “consequently democracy will also disappear as soon as the state disappears” (Lenin, LW 25, 409) – lies already dormant its extreme opposite, total dictatorial mediation. The elimination of institutions, legitimated by such visions in Lenin’s State and Revolution, above all those of law and people’s representation10 - which is something completely different from abolishing pre-democratic bastions within these institutions and other apparatuses of rule -, tipped over into direct and total rule. The fetish “only from below” transformed itself into the fetish “only from the top”. Those who answer with the renewed fetish of “only from below”, start this vicious circle anew. If one considers this interrelation of the extremes, then the degradation starts not with Stalin who, with his command economy flanked by state terror, “has done immeasurable damage to the ideas of socialism and communism” (McNally), but also in the form of the counter-extreme, already the ‘naïve’ anti-capitalism of the first hour. Engels’s perspective, in Anti-Dühring, of eliminating commodity-money relations was in part implemented 1:1 after the October revolution. In the light of the complete historical novelty — of a socialism in power for which there was no precedent and no experience —such naiveté was perhaps comprehensible. However, for us the Communist experiences of the 20th century prohibit this categorically. The corresponding insights must be passed on: the “communism of immediacy”11 ended in total state mediacy, imaginary direct democracy in really direct state power. The pushing aside of contradictions ended in the paranoid return of the repressed. The student movement added to that the experience of how the elimination of regulated leadership tips over into charismatic, i.e. uncontrolled leadership.

Who therefore, with the Zapatistas, aims for a world “into which many worlds fit,” is well-advised to invest everything in the political art of translating socio-political polyphony into a common language.12 If there is a lack of political culture and of gifted political moderators of a plural unity, the many worlds will divide and finally rip each other apart. The materialistic state theory should help us understand that even extra-state movements must develop capacities, and for that purpose create institutions which can take from the state apparatus the functions taken from society and can bring them back into civil society. But will we get rid of the state as state? From extra-parliamentary movements as the constant thorn of the parliamentary representations of the Left, Gramsci expects the insight that in spite of or even as a consequence of their proclaimed “extra-stateliness” they have not left the state in its integral meaning, but, in accordance with an inescapable dialectics, moved within the social part of the state that he calls the civil society. In the best case, they have changed at the same time the relations of forces within the civil society and between this civil society and the state apparatus in its narrow and command-administrative sense. To look at civil society as something that is external to the “condensation of relations of forces”, as which Poulantzas conceives of the state, would be flat bourgeois liberalism.

3) “It’s the economy, stupid”

An anti-capitalism that does not at least speak also of the hard economic and political necessities begins the fatal game again. Marx did not yield to this desire of the ‘beautiful soul’. Precisely there, where in Capital he gives room to the realm of liberty, “where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases” and “begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself”, he clarifies in honest sobriety that this, under all conceivable circumstances, will depend on “the realm of necessity as its basis”: “Freedom in this field can only consist in socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity.” (MEW 25, 828)

The Communist experience of the 20th century shows that the problem of how to socialize production and distribution is still unsolved. A left that is serious about its idea of “another world”, different from capitalism will have to evaluate the corresponding approaches and experiences carefully. Necessity is the flip side of freedom. The GDR solution: “Work with us, plan with us, govern with us”13 names the goal; seized in the wrong way and under most unfavourable circumstances, this goal was not achieved. Nevertheless, those who believe that in 1989/91 it was simply “Stalinism” that collapsed ignore the centrality of precisely this basic necessity. In reality, it was Gorbachev’s democratisation project that collapsed back then, last but not least because, on the basis of the structural heritage of Stalinism and the “colossal erosion of the human factor” (Butenko 1988, Haug 1989, 156-59), it failed to solve the problem of production and provisioning. Some speakers seem to believe that you could rescue the world’s poor from their poverty solely, or at least primarily, politically, by way of democracy, instead of economically. In such speeches, hard necessity yawns like a black hole that devours any comprehension of reality. It would lead to catastrophic defeats and plunge whole countries into an abyss, if we were to leave the aggregate “collective labourer” (Marx), this commanded aggregated actor in the realm of necessity, aside and relied exclusively on the ‘marginalised’.14 The demand for filling in the sketch of the alternative can be satisfied at best rhetorically, as long as one does not think it through to the end. No alternative path leads past the productive block of a society that includes the working class and the technical-organisational intelligentsia.“Serious anti-capitalists must go further than simply to demonstrate in opposition to the system, they must find ways to get access to this power.” (Harman 2000). The problem of an anti-capitalist movement of socially capable breadth is no different from that of the political parties with a social aspiration: They must manage the balancing act between the relevant parts of the economic core area and the marginalised. Here the ability to operate with antinomies is needed. We shall return to this dialectical art.

Today’s anti-capitalism is still determined by the post-communist situation. How long this situation will last, however, is not determined by what has been, but by what can be. It is not sufficient to say with Walter Benjamin that the catastrophe is that things continue as they are. Any situation will find its end only when there arises a new conception that represents a concrete possibility to “avert the catastrophe”. This possibility depends on perceiving a concrete alternative of how to achieve a sustainable relationship to both natural resources and social relations differently -- and in the social and ecological realm credibly better -- than capitalism does, i.e. “with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature.”

4) Elements of another world in the womb of the existing

For Marx, capital "begets […] its own negation" through its concentration and centralization. "Hand in hand with […] this expropriation of many capitalists by a few, other developments take place on an ever-increasing scale, such as the growth of the co-operative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the planned exploitation of the soil, the transformation of the means of labour into forms in which they can only be used in common, the economizing of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialized labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market, and, with this, the growth of the international character of the capitalist regime." (C I, 929) This could have been written today. If we add the creation of the modern proletariat, of which Marx expected that it would become the global actor of a socialist anti-capitalism, we have before our eyes a field of dynamic contradictions. In that respect we may rightly speak of the dialectics of capitalism. To do so, however, requires that we liberate the concept of dialectics from its Hegelian teleological closure – so as not to be forced to proclaim, with the Adorno of the 1950ies, and again by Göran Therborn in 2007, "The end of dialectics".15

There is no lack of anticipations of and recourse to alternative social forms of sustaining life. What exists plentifully are niche existences and emergency solutions and their self-help concepts, from the “squatting” of empty houses or the organisation of exchange networks to the Berlin Hartz IV16 Christmas fair and "a ‘pop economy’ emerging from the flea markets and the Third World bazaars” (Krysmanski 2001). And why not reconsider eBay in this context? Thanks to a common horizon that points beyond capitalism and increasing political association, these elements of a second economy can be more than the initiative of those who are excluded anyway, to “choose” their condition of being dropped out as a ‘drop out’ existence, as Sartre might have said. At the other end of the spectrum, coming from strata of the fungible technical intelligentsia, separated from the imposed and fragmented self-help economy, there are developing forms of “alternative, but not necessarily anti-systemic cooperation: among them are many forms of open source, open content etc. movements.”17 Hans Jürgen Krysmanski, who registers these forms, relies with his concept of a post-modern “high-tech anti-capitalism” mainly on an “association of free cybernetic producers for the sake of free algorithmic associations: explorations of new forms of social self-organisation and social problem solving on the basis of the new cybernetic-algorithmic productive forces.” (2001) Indeed, the diverse uses that are made of the Internet offer innumerable examples, starting with left counter-publics and network-type forms of self-organisation up to forms of non-monetarised cooperation in digital goods, from the operating system to software-applications or to a working structure such as Wikipedia. Like a ghost light there emerges the paradox of an inner-capitalistic anti-capitalism in the form of the question: “Is the exit from the exploitation process the prerequisite for ‘liberation’ or is the exploitation process on its present level itself not already the environment for forms of associative resistance? Let us consider: means of production and workers become ‘identical’; labour time and leisure become ‘identical’; the socially required labour time is already extremely low; the service time demanded by capital increases drastically and provokes refractoriness; the commodified social relations are hypertrophied by simulation culture and provoke resistance in the simulation culture itself.” (Krysmanski 2001) The simulation engulfs the resistance as long as it does not find itself on the ground of a new economy.

In other ways, from the ensemble of social activities and functions of the ‘first’, formal economy, everything “which is general or in the end supports its generalisation” (Haug 1972/2006, 257), which therefore does not depend on the social antagonisms, tends towards forms of practical reason as only collaborative organisation can offer them. Here resides the sense of the defence of ‘public services’ against their delivery to capital. Hence the importance of communal or national modes of operations of infrastructural supply, education, and health.

These elements are highly different, but all of them more or less impinged by capital relations. Their global alternative bundling that would look credible at least to the capitalism-critical forces themselves is still lacking. All the more important are approaches that point in this direction without closing themselves off in a sectarian way. Oskar Negt has declared that the task is “to transform politically the second economy into the rank of the first” (2001, 407f). This task defines a “political battle situation of epochal significance”, where “coalition partners need to be sought and found in all social strata – among enlightened and responsible managers just as among teachers and workers” (322). Outside of such a uniting perspective that points concretely beyond capitalism, the drop-out communities allow themselves to be reabsorbed unnoticeably into the pores of neoliberal capitalism, which is after all mainly concerned with retracting the socially universal in favour of further unleashing the battle of existence among private agents.

In some respects, most of the necessarily local self-help projects spread over the whole globe can be compared to the remainders of original communities and common weal economies in the last third of the 19th century in Russia. In the Russian Left a dispute arose on the significance to be accorded to the mir. In 1881, Vera Zasulich brought this question to the attention of Karl Marx. He in turn threw himself into voluminous studies on the effects of the capitalist reform policy in Russia (cf. MEW 19, 355-424), whose result he finally pressed into the laconic information “that this community could be the support for the social rebirth of Russia”, however, only under the condition to first eliminate “the destructive influences that assail it from all sides and to be then able to grant it the normal conditions of a natural development” (243). The “destructive influences” were nothing else but the domination of capitalism forced under the Tsarist roof. The village tied to the ground was as unable to break this domination as today’s community projects outside of the formal economy are. As the condition for the possibility of transcending capitalism, the socialist and, later on, the communist left posited the planned economy. The confidence in it provided anti-capitalism its hegemonic radiance.

Today, in place of this history-shaping confidence, gapes an absence characteristic of our era. It forms the negative core of the post-Communist situation. An anti-capitalism that does not go beyond the ‘anti’ in relation to capitalism to formulate a ‘pro’ that promises to liberate productivity from the competitive profit-logic of capitalism and thereby from its destructiveness, cannot dispute its right to exist. In this respect, “the central question is: can the market mechanism be replaced by another cybernetic system that is similarly effective in coordination, but functions in a more democratic and humane way?” (Dieterich 2007) Even those large majorities suffering under capitalism are not going to embrace a project that falls behind that. Such critical assessment of capitalist productivity does not embellish it, but rather harnesses people’s own forces in the project of progressively eliminating capitalism in favor of a production for the good of the people and the planet.

5) On the “dialectics of commodification and de-commodification”

To work for the clarification of goals in the social justice movements requires first of all to listen to these movements. Where things are not clear, there arises the task of contributing to coherence. It is a matter not only of “retracing the development of capitalist rule without false consideration, but also the false categories of their counter-movements" (Wolter 2001). One of the current incoherencies consists in the fact that the demand for elimination of money-commodity relations is apparently incompatible with the demand for “existence money for all” or subsistence income. Let us first look at the problem to which the latter answers.

The “existence money” would be needed by those who are no longer needed by capitalism. Their exclusion from wealth production stems from the capitalist use of productive forces. Already Aristotle knew that if we had robots, there would not be a need for slaves. To the degree that capital disposes over automated computer-controlled production equipment, it requires per unit of material wealth fewer producers, and the relative increase of other professions in the framework of the total social work force does not compensate for this reduction; otherwise there won’t be any incentive for expensive mechanisation, let alone automation. In principle, the basic procedure is nothing new. Any development of productivity abolishes human labour. Under capitalism, this assumes as a rule the form of release of workers, in other words the loss of jobs. As long as expansion and diversification of production compensates for this release in the form of new work places, the reserve army of the unemployed grows and shrinks according to the pulse of business. Where flexible automation finally reaches the production of means of production, it conveys to this process an irreversible orientation, and the result can be understood as “high-technology unemployment” (Haug 2004, 360). To the same degree to which capital is able to satisfy solvent needs with a much smaller work force, it increases the mass of the insolvent.

Those who do not count among the rich can only make a decent living by participating in the acquisition of money. But the possibilities for participation are not only qualitatively graded, they are also quantitatively limited. There are considerably more candidates than slots. This excess will continue to grow and the number of the much-too-many will grow further, just as the quarters of misery that besiege the huge cities of the periphery and inexorably also begin to invade the developed centres. The demand for “existence money” provides an answer to the basic needs of those who are capitalistically unusable.

Let us assume that the unconditional basic income were really pushed through by social struggles. This project is reminiscent of the exclusion of the old Roman proletariat from the ranks of the historical actors and their compensation with “bread and circuses”. The “existence money” would occupy the empty space, where actually work would need to be socially “reinvented” in a structure-changing way (Haug 1999, 188-206). The monetarisation of ‘anti-capitalism’ would instead become a form of its state-mediated capitalist integration. This money, a form of generalised Hartz IV, would, after all, come from the state, which would levy it as tax in all valorisation and value realisation procedures, depending on the undisturbed functioning of the capital process. Even though it would have to be fought for against capital, the basic income as such would therefore not be anti-capitalist.18 You can hardly slaughter the cow if you want to serve its milk. Those unused by capital would in this way become clients of the state, which uses them in a secondary way in the interests of capital by redirecting their antagonism to capital into the antagonisms between them and their peers in the struggle for distribution.

The demand for existence money is popular. The approval that it receives is nourished from strata that are less anti-capitalist than oriented towards the social state as the compensatory complementation of capitalism. Maybe the experiences of the struggle for the basic income will make them correspondingly political, especially if they realise that a generalised existence-guarantee emancipated from the constraint to work is not possible with capital. But would it be feasible without capitalism? Did we once again jump over the shadow into which we placed the economy? Or do ‘we’ know all of that, quietly counting on the ignorance of the people? Following Brecht, we would then fail regarding one of the fundamental conditions for the success of a movement aimed at social restructuring, namely the renunciation to “all dishonest treatment (tactical deception […] etc.) of the allied strata” (CW 10, 116).

The unconditional basic income is often seen as “de-commodification”19. Let us, for a moment, stick with this notion. A small minority of those who think they speak as anti-capitalists in that way are clear about the fact that inner-capitalist social policy unfolds in the framework of a “dialectic of commodification and de-commodification” and that “with de-commodification [goes along] both historically as well as functionally the commodification of labour power” (Brütt 2001, 267), this in the framework of state measures that serve the stabilisation of capitalism.

The discourse about de-commodification mystifies often enough the real demands of the social movements expressed in this jargon. That “fair trade”, with the attendant support purchases (at somewhat higher prices than at the capitalist competitors), is still trade, is obvious. Obvious is also that the Latinos demonstrating in the millions in the USA in 2006 by no means demanded the “de-commodification of their labour power”. On the contrary, they demanded the emancipation from the black labour market into the ‘regular’ one, meaning from the ‘half-commodification’ of those hindered by their illegal status from ‘free’ and ‘equal’ participation in the labour market into unrestricted ‘commodification’. The problem of those who are without any work or residence permission consists precisely in that their criminalised form of existence makes it possible for those who employ them to undercut the market prices in favour of sharpened exploitation and to those, who rent them an apartment, to exceed it. In addition to informal racism, formal illegality provides for the fact that money in view of the vendors and buyers, or respectively renters, no longer, as on the regular goods market, erases “as radical leveller all distinctions” (Marx, MEW 23, 146).

Also the occupation and continued operation, by fired work teams, of businesses shut down by capital -- this immensely important anticipation of cooperatively self-administered production -- cannot be understood in terms of the de-commodification discourse. On the contrary, it puts the devalued elements – the installations no less than the labour force – back into value form. What expelled them from this form is the profit-making principle that is constantly on the jump to sacrifice location and workforce for the sake of higher profit-making possibilities.
"De-commodification" seems, however, to apply to the procedure of the “exchange rings” where those who have become excluded from the capitalist economy practice their small, as Dieterich would say, ‘equivalence economy’ with the help of a kind of local ‘work money’. Here the economic forms ‘commodity’ and ‘money’ lose any meaning.

Struggles against the privatisation of heretofore common resources used free of charge (water, rain forest etc.) – to be distinguished from the struggle against the privatisation of previously public firms, whose products already were in commodity form – also do in fact turn against their ‘commodification’, i.e. against the transformation of what was up to now ‘common property’ into private property and the needed portions of the relevant resource into commodities. From ‘below’ it is the demand (forced by need) to continued cost-free private use of resources. From ‘above’, from the side of the governments or capitalist sponsors such as Douglas Tompkins20 it amounts to exemptions from the otherwise global context of capitalist valorisation. Here we have to do with parks – literally: 'spared out' spheres --, i.e. those exceptions that confirm the rule, unless they serve the tourism industry. In both cases, he who demands such and similar things does not want to eliminate the capitalist commodity character per se, but rather to establish limits to it; but whereas the first case concerns the prolonging of the non-commodity form of exploitation of nature, the second case is a matter of limits to capitalism that, to use Karl Polanyi’s metaphor: “embed” it socially and ecologically. A movement that strives for the latter criticises wild capitalism, not capitalism as such. In tendency this position advocates smart pro-capitalism, a critique of capitalism aimed at its excesses and lack of durability.

But doesn’t the perspective of a “de-commodification of life and work” (McNally) follow from the Marxian critique of the fetish character of commodities? Is it therefore not necessary to fight against the latter? This question hits upon the truth that one cannot struggle directly against the fetish character of commodities, i.e. the “power of products over their producers” (Haug 1974/2005, 161) via the market. Here we can refer to an “insight” which Lenin in his studies against imperialism says to have won from an article of the Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv of 1910, namely that “a direct struggle against imperialism is without perspective, unless one restricts oneself to speaking out against some especially ugly excesses” (LW 39, 14). This place is marked by a double stroke on the margin by Lenin and signed with “!! N[ota] B[ene]!!”. If capitalism in a certain developmental stage appears imperialistically (and this, as Lenin says in his writing on imperialism, means “reaction on the whole front” LW, 292), we need to fight not this appearance but capitalism. If by contrast an anti-imperialist movement shuts its eyes to “the indissoluble connection of imperialism […] with the fundaments of capitalism”, it restricts itself in Lenin’s eyes to a “petty bourgeois, reformist […] opposition<, which is >economically from the ground up reactionary< (ibid.). But also the direct fight against the “overall connection” of the “subjectless domination through capitalist socialisation by value” (Wolter 2001) is possible in no other way but through an initially seemingly endless chain of ‘passage points’ and mediations, among which also non-anti-capitalist demands such as for basic income have their justification, insofar as they are not “economically reactionary”.

So we land again at our query for the “How” and “Where-to-go” of the overcoming of capitalism. The critique of the commodity's fetish character opens the perspective of replacing market socialisation by self-socialisation of the producers. It therefore demands an answer to the question how this can be imagined today. We can no longer, like the war communists after 1917, aim at simply abolishing money-commodity relations. Together with the purchasing power of money and the commodity form of goods there also disappears the means of life that has been banned into that form. Or should we retreat to Rudolf Bahro’s land communes, meaning socialise in a way that would result in a de-socialisation? This exit from capitalism would secure the survival of only a small percentage of today’s world population, and this at a very reduced level and at the expense of the many-sided possibilities for the unfolding of individuals. This answer cannot be ours. But what is it then? The abstract-total negation of capitalism opens an alternative space just as abstract and total. As long as this space remains empty, it becomes an open flank, where all kinds of ideologies can enter. If present-day anti-capitalists, as Nadia Rakowitz argued at the Frankfurt Communism Congress in November 2003, are mostly “oblivious of production”, i.e. that the globalisation critics are distributional socialists, this reveals an incongruence in the anti-capitalist project. In tackling this problem “the movement of movements” needs to prove its maturity. Anti-capitalism becomes concrete in drafting political and social transitional stages and the credible presentation of an alternative organisation of social work and distribution on the level of a highly differentiated world society working with scientific productive forces.21

6) A monster, but enormously productive

In the merging of WASG (Electoral Alternative Labour and Social Justice) and PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism) into the Left Party (Die Linke), no one doubted that the new party would be critical of capitalism. There were objections against the restriction to “anti-capitalism”. Wolfgang Gehrcke (2006) wondered “how one could be for socialism, also democratic socialism, if one does not want to be against capitalism, meaning anti-capitalist.” Daniela Dahn expressed it in a similar way: “Democratic socialism” to her would be “the democratically legitimated breaking of the power of capital.” (2004) Yet, how does one “break” the rule of capital? And what should induce a majority of the population to vote for such a break if no alternative social organisational form of winning the life necessities is close at hand?

The existing vacuum with regards to the question of socialisation cannot be filled without the Marxian theory of capitalism. The reason may at first sight appear paradoxical to the naïve anti-capitalist. The Marxian critique of capitalism, however, does not simply reject the things it criticises, but puts us first of all in a position of understanding capitalism’s unprecedented historical productivity. About the capitalist Capital states: “As fanatic of the use of value, he recklessly forces humanity to produce for production’s sake, thence to a development of social forces of production and the creation of material conditions of production which alone can form the real basis of a higher social form, whose basic principle will be the full and free development of each individual.” (618)
Compare that to anti-capitalist discourses of the present: to castigate the “sick folly of the global system” (Harman 2000) or to say of transnational capitalism with its “transnational enterprises and unrestrained financial moves” only that it has “reached the state of a malignant cancerous tumour and will continue to devour human and natural resources and to destroy them” (George 1999) is to fall into a helpless anti-capitalism of bold words. No wonder that Susan George declares, somewhat later: “I must admit unfortunately that I don’t have the foggiest idea what in this beginning 21st century could be meant by the ‘overthrowing of capitalism’.” (Quoted after Callinicos)
The diagnosis "malignant cancerous tumour", if taken literally , would require an immediate surgical elimination, whereby the strong metaphor bursts like a soap-bubble. Susan George could never have said that she hadn't the foggiest idea what surgical elimination of a cancerous tumour could mean. Thus the verbally vehement denunciation of capitalism veils the problems which for its real overcoming would have to be solved and disguises the reformist withdrawal from anti-capitalism into anti-neoliberalism. Surely, there are reasons for this withdrawal that might lead to a new point of departure. But in that case they need to be named. The Zapatistas from whom in the mid-90s “many heard this term consciously for the first time: neoliberalism” (Haug 1999, 171), looked for the best possible echo to their position of weakness. They did not proclaim anti-capitalism, but the struggle against neoliberalism. They did not call for the elimination of the market, but demanded the building of roads which would make it easier for the indigenous peasants to bring their products to the market. Only in that way could they become the pioneers of the new global anti-capitalist movement. It was held against them that their anti-neoliberalism merely demanded a different management of world capitalism. Does this imply that, today suddenly criticism of capitalism and anti-capitalism fall apart again as reform and revolution did back then? “Now we are stronger”, proclaims the declaration to the 13th anniversary of the Zapatista uprising: “And we say that it is an anti-capitalist and left struggle, but while some want another government, we want to change our country and our world.” (January 1, 2007) John Holloway (2003) unwittingly demonstrates the price that such anti-capitalism has demanded of the theory of capitalism. A myth of “Capital” pushes aside the scientific concept of capital as a specific social relationship and replaces it by the concept of “power”. Now it may be argued that “the struggle for power is a capitalist method.” (819) Piercingly, Heinz Dieterich objects from the opposite extreme: “All politics is struggle for power”, and we can only conceive of the transition to a “post-capitalist civilisation when the bourgeois army is broken up” (2007).22 By contrast, Holloway identifies capitalistically reduced politics with politics as such which then prohibits anti-capitalist politics to position itself symmetrically to it and against it, and he declares: “We therefore must understand our struggle as anti-politics, simply because the existence of the political is itself a constitutive moment of the capital relationship” (2003, 819). What is posited here in an essentialist manner and from the opposite extreme is the passive dialectics to which we deliver ourselves “when we participate in the political without putting it into question as form of social activity” (818). Because, as a matter of fact,as Wolf-Dieter Narr has pointed out, in critical political action the form is “materially superior” to its substance which requires the permanent critical reflection about the “goal and process adequacy of one’s own organisation” (Narr 1980, 149f.)23 In the case of Holloway, this bending backwards of one’s own view onto itself congeals into a negative counter-essence. In order to free the “doing and thinking from the drawers in which the capitalist power keeps it hidden“, the struggle would have to direct itself “against defining” itself (817). This demand for forms which make it possible “to express our simple renunciation to express our NO to capitalism” (818), harks back to the notion of revolution. Bernstein’s famous formula of reformism, the final goal means nothing to me, the movement is everything, all of a sudden reappears at the opposite pole in guise of the formula that the “being against is itself the revolution” (817). Holloway ascribes this perspective to the Zapatistas whose concrete social policy of good government in the Lacadonian villages he overlooks in favour of his formula: “They ask us to accompany them on a dangerous, vertiginous path which will lead us to God knows where.” (816)

Behind this misleading philosophising there hides an ambiguity which historically cannot be bypassed: The struggle against capitalism as it is now aims also and foremost at a global social and ecologically regulated capitalism. An absolute anti-capitalism that wants to ban reformism absolutely catapults itself out of the world. It is not impossible to imagine that Susan George and her stance against empty verbal radicalism such as the simple call for the “overthrow of capitalism” will be right with the following scenario: “Maybe we shall experience one day what the philosopher Paul Virilio has called the ‘global crash’. If it comes to that, it will most certainly be accompanied by extreme human suffering. If all financial and stock markets suddenly and at the same time collapse, millions of people would be thrown into the streets as a result of company bankruptcies, small as well as big ones, bank crashes would by far surpass the means of the government to avert a catastrophe. Insecurity and crime would spread and we would be in the Hobbesian hell of a war of all against all. Call me a reformist – if you want – I want to avoid such a future just as a pre-programmed neoliberal future.” (88f., qtd. Following Callinicos)
Here the aspiration towards an alternative to capitalist production is giving way to the striving for a change of paradigms in the form in which world capitalism is institutionally embedded and regulated. But also this reformism of avoidance, of the lesser evil, is not immune against dropping from the frying pan into the as yet unknown fire.

Strong words with weak meaning also garnish the idea of the “’killing fields’ of capitalism” by which one ProKla number is headed. The first column of the editorial is dedicated to the “killing fields” of the Pol Potian massacres as one “of the most devastating genocides of the 20th century”. Then the text passes on immediately to capitalism as if this horror had grown on its and not on left-wing turf. Hardly the shadow of an idea is devoted to answering the question: “Is this only conceivable as the result of the crazy rage of a militant group that passed over dead bodies when it was a matter of implementing their utopia of a radical egalitarian rural society?” (ProKla 2/2006, 148). This question by the way ignores the underlying anti-capitalist conception that had been propelling the murderous process of the ‘killing fields’. After this lion’s head of initial effect follows a departure as small as a mouse: “Capitalism is production for markets, where businesses produce and sell things that can be useful or also damaging.” (151) Behind the strong speech of the “killing fields” of capitalism, there finally appears the following idea: While the realisation of Communist Utopia leads to catastrophes like the murder of its own people by the Red Khmer, in the case of capitalism, which has no utopia to realise, they are avoidable through the process of civilising it. In the same issue, Elmar Altvater proclaims the “defence of labour, nature, and money” – but aren't these the famous three allegedly value-producing factors of capitalist ideology? There are good reasons for Altvater's demands, of course, ones inherent to capitalism. However, far from being, as Altvater thinks, “’sand in the machine’, so to speak, of the devil’s mill of disembedded markets”, corresponding reform policies, especially the “regulation of money” by “modern central banks and regulatory state institutions” (167), would rather and merely be the lubricant ‘embedding’ and thus hampering their destructive and self-destructive dynamism. The same applies to the call for “a new form of articulation of local, regional, national economy and the institutions of the world market” (Altvater 2005, 208) or the demand that “scientific research needed to be instated and capital invested – however, in a different way from the way it is currently taking place” (Harman 2000). Such demands remain within the domain of capitalism.

In another way, the lambasting of capitalist excesses in fact recedes from an anti-capitalist position. The worse these are, the more harmless their castigation may become for the system as a whole. When the “cataclysmic bankruptcy of the energy trader Enron” erupted, in which the top management of the seventh-largest company of the USA “sold stocks valued at more than a billion Dollars before its total collapse… while at the same time imposing on their employees, whose pension savings were dwindling considerably, the prohibition of selling their stocks”, Jordan Mejias commented in the FAZ (2002): “In the purest capitalist country of the world, the scandal should grow into an anti-capitalist learning play such as Bertolt Brecht could not back then have imagined more polemically.” But why did the anti-capitalistic effect of the Enron-scandal slip away? Already Machiavelli teaches us that letting scandals erupt is an indispensable practice for the reproduction of a system of rule. Instead of focussing on the excesses, it is necessary to anchor the criticism in the “ideal average of the system” (Marx). But the public is more readily impressed if one proceeds from the extreme. “The ‘new imperialism’ of the 21st century is an economics of expropriation” (Altvater 2006, 165, with reference to Harvey 2005). What, in David Harvey, describes one aspect of the whole is here transformed into the whole per se. It needs to be feared that the notice the public takes will not last for very long. To say that “the accumulation of capital […] again is founded more on expropriation than on production of surplus” (Altvater, ibid.) fits in with the eagerness for cheap labour that drives the transnational companies in droves to China just as little as with the dominant productivism and consumerism. If the scandalising of excesses removes the normal case from the target range, the process is completed by deflecting the criticism to the USA, world capitalism as such, describing the present world state as “barbarity departing from one single powerful country: the USA” (Foster/Clark 2005, 499).

7) On the “We” in theory

The question that torments the anti-capitalist position was brought to a head by Wolf-Dieter Narr:

“How can the interests engraved in the existing system be taken up and developed by a majority in such a way that a mass movement […] becomes an enduring, political changing force? This dilemma is overlooked in a risky […] way by those who, like Bahro, now see in ecology and in the so called ‘new consciousness’ (which is not described in detail), ‘the capacity’– represented, of course, by all-knowing intellectuals who substitute the normal people — ‘to carry to the great majority of the society […] the draft of an overall alternative’ (Bahro 1980). No wonder that to such salvation bringers, ‘organisational questions’ only appear to be of a ‘derivative’, and hence almost irrelevant, nature.”

(Narr 1980, 159)

To these questions must be added those of leadership, theoretically founded analysis of reality and its subjects, as well as the strategy emanating from that analysis. If we, following John Holloway, refuse power in general and with it leadership and theory, we shall get entangled in the self-contradictions of all theorists of immediacy. This reveals itself when Holloway says of the relationship of his discourse to the Zapatistas, “I put words into their mouths.” (2003, fn. 4) Just as uncontrolled factual leadership emerges from the elimination of formal leadership , uncontrolled theory results from the theorist’s self-dethronement.. “The revolution”, Holloway lets Comandante Tacho say, “is like lessons in a school that wasn’t even built yet.” (816) Is there no library? No teacher? Does it mean that we also are not going to study the accumulated knowledge on capitalism, but in a direct way practice “a much deeper rejection of capitalism” (ibid.)? It is true, in a certain way, that we are always forced to move ahead without prior knowledge. But we do that in a universe that has been interpreted over and over again. We hear the message invoking a We in which no mention of the division of labour exits the mouths of specialised intellectuals bathing in the division of labour, who with sentences like “no leadership is required“ claim leadership. Analogously, they rule over theory. Heinz Dieterich explains to us that theory was, “seen dialectically, always ‘production just-in-time’”. Its antagonist Holloway throws it – in words, not in his intellectual practice – completely out of the world: “We are forced to create ourselves our own way, where only the star of utopia guides us.” (Ibid.) That is the star from the story of the Three Kings from the Orient, rather than the red star of concrete utopia. The project thus interpreted by him, of the Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos, whose charisma last but not least nourishes itself by working against the charisma of the leader, would long have sunk if it let itself be guided solely by the “star of utopia”.

Just as the intellectuals of Marxism-Leninism were supposed to be no intellectuals at all, so the leaders of fetishised immediacy in their self-description were no leaders and their theory no theory at all. Each of the disappearing points notes a point of breakage where ever again “action-guiding theory turns into action-barring ideology” (Narr 1980, 152). The We of discourse must come out into the open. This will only happen honestly if its legitimacy as a political-intellectual We is recognised.

8) “The curtain closed and all the questions open”? (Brecht)

"Capitalism will change and, ultimately, be displaced, only if overwhelming pressure is applied by the majority. Failing that, capitalism may persist indefinitely, in spite of its rising human and environmental costs."

Alfredo Saad-Filho, 2002

If we want to achieve the “possible other world” we must know the world as it is, because this is the world in which we have to navigate. . Knowledge alone is not sufficient. It must be elaborated in the form of abstract theoretical concepts together with the capacity to apply them to concrete reality, changing them, if necessary, to fit a changing reality. Without confrontation with Marx’s theory of capitalism, however, there can be no clear conception of the social kernel of a progressive alternative to capitalism. The anti-capitalist revolutions “contra il 'Capitale'” (Gramsci 1917)24 have all failed after initial successes. Is it really necessary to point out that a purely moral condemnation of capitalism, if it does not come down to its historical-materialist foundations, will always be integrated by capitalism – especially ideologically?

If pro-capitalism without knowledge of Capital condemns itself to blindness, then reformism without knowledge of Capital is an illusion, while anti-capitalism without the critique of political economy threatens to tip over into the regression towards more work-intensive modes of production.25 Marx’ Capital is “a blueprint still today” as Karl-Heinz Roth says somewhat strangely, “on the basis of which a small group of smart people can try to formulate in a new way the critique of political economy at the level of the clashes taking place today between trans-nationally operating enterprises and a working class exposed to world-wide competition” (2005, 50).
Since capitalism, as one might say in the spirit of a sentence by Brecht, also monopolises the doing of what is useful, it cannot be condemned in all its elements. It has in a way taken the productive part of society hostage. The task would be to reclaim this, its integral component, from capitalism or, to stick to the image, to free the hostage without endangering its life. The only alternative would be to assume the position of those whom Marx in his time called the “contrary ones”, because they opposed capitalism in an undialectical way and wanted accordingly to abolish the system together with its fruits: “They hence share with the [bourgeois] economists — if from the opposite end – the narrow-mindedness of confusing the antagonistic form of this development with the content itself. Some want to eternalise the antagonism because of its fruits; the others, in order to get rid of the antagonism, are determined to sacrifice the fruits growing in this antagonistic form.” (Theories on Surplus Value, MEW, 26.3, p. 257) Such anti-capitalists, therefore, act out “ascetically” (ibid.). Today they enter the stage “in variants of withdrawal and asceticism” (Krysmanski 2001). As a matter of fact, considered historically, as Rosa Luxemburg made cristal clear in the revisionism debate, capitalism and democracy “are alongside and at once the obstacles and the only possibilities of realizing the socialist programme (W 1/1)”. As far as democracy is concerned, “it is necessary and indispensable for the working class […], because it creates political forms (self-management, voting right, and so on) that will serve as approaches and bridge heads”, second, “because […] only in the struggle for democracy, in the exercise of its right, the proletariat can come to the consciousness of its class interests and its historical tasks” (ibid.). Proletariat — at first sight the most old-fashioned of notions — is perhaps the most contemporary, because it transcends national, ethnic, and gender barriers and includes the marginalised and excluded as well as the core workers, the scientific-technical intelligentsia and pseudo-self-employed free lancers. They do not know it, but they are the proletariat. They could 'pull themselves together' and thus radically change their condition of aggregation. This currently elusive, real possibility founds the possible reality of anti-capitalism.

Insofar as rhetorical speeches skirt this real condition, they point, with their easily explainable positions, to a path of anti-capitalism which, for the time being, appears to be easier. Should it fail, they will be at the next academy in a jiffy, and will have known better all along. They produce protest as a straw fire, they persuade instead of enlighten, and they cover up those contradictions that might split the collective movement. They do this for understandable reasons; however, to understand these reasons does not mean to pardon them. In order to prevent the contradictions from splitting the movement, it behooves us to, in Brecht’s words, “be able to operate with antinomies” (CE 21, 578). In order to be able to practice this dialectical art of politics within the anti-capitalist field, one needs to study its antinomies and also work out in what forms they resurface when they are rhetorically pushed aside. It will then prove to be the case that none of the reformist politics — nor any of the revolutionists’ attacks against them — are principally wrong, but that the one-sided fixation that splits the movement turns them into wrongs. Rosa Luxemburg understood this in all clarity: “Parliamentarism as solely-blessed political means of struggle by the working class is just as fantastic and, in the last instance, reactionary as the solely-blessed general strike or the solely-blessed barricade.” (W 1/2, 247)

To the degree that the questions as to the perspective of a no longer antagonistic and earth-plundering mode of socialisation become part of the agenda, anti-capitalism begins to strip off its character of a mere allegory that always means something different than it says. Its theoreticians who do not exhaust themselves in the here and now are confronted with the task of once again picking up the truncated debates on democratic economic planning. Since they were discontinued, the development of computer and internet technology have provided the technological base for forms of decentralised and fluid socialisation of production and distribution. Without theoretical anticipation, we are left with empty rhetoric! The mere proclamation that one is a socialist then degenerates into mere eye-candy, a facade behind which there hides some reformed variant of capitalism — which would by no means be the worst one! The mere avowal, however: “For an anti-capitalist, socialist world!” (International Socialist Resistance) seems to be constantly trying to hold together an army which supposedly cannot be counted on to support the truth about the relations of forces. Perhaps it will never be put to use and will regularly dissolve itself whenever it realises this. The anti-capitalist reformers will then just as regularly be smelted in by capitalism.
We should therefore in no way free anti-capitalism from the burden of being clear about the task of mediation. Least of all based on the argument that otherwise it would not be compatible with a social movement. The contrary is true. Anti-capitalist agency decides itself in concrete political mediations26, the transitory slogans, and the demands that drive things forward from there. Employed as such, reformist goals like basic income or the focus of criticism on neoliberalism can contribute to break the spell of the status quo. Decisive is the capacity for 'determinate negation' that knows where it wants to go, with what elements of the new it connects, and with whom it allies in that purpose. If it is not to come to “liquidation instead of elimination, formal instead of determinate negation”27, we should not only have in view the terminus a quo — the against which — but also the terminus ad quem — the what for — of criticism. The most important mediation, to be done time and again, is that between close-range and long-term goals. It translates Rosa Luxemburg’s guiding idea of >revolutionary realpolitik< into the concrete present (see Frigga Haug 2007, chapter 2). It proves itself when what appears to be far away flashes up close at hand. When, if not now, should we ever reach what for Luxemburg was the “final goal"? The mediation that we need to think about is not a postponement, but it is pervaded by the insight that there will be no last battle. Final goals such as the solidary association of producers of whom it can be demanded that they leave the earth “to the following generations in an improved state” (Marx, Capital III, MEW 25, 784) are indispensable, — and their practical realisation begins in the present.

1 Contribution to the congress "Marx international", Paris, 5 octobre 2007. I want to thank Karen Ruoff Kramer, who reworked the English.
2 In the founding process of the Association of Popular Movements of Oaxaca in Mexico (APPO) the easiest part was to agree that it would be anti-capitalist. >But there was no clear consensus about what that meant.< (Esteva 2007, 94)
3 Tying in with Gramsci’s notion of passive revolution, the notion of passive dialectics coined by me in 1984, means “to be ruled by its catastrophic consequences from behind”: “Although moving in contradictions is inevitable, it can assume very different forms and meanings, depending on our conscious and unconscious ways to deal with them. […] We look back to unexpected turns (Wendungen in the sense that Lenin and Brecht used the term), to paradoxical unities of fighting opposites, to the nullity of apparently solid essences.” (52) As in surfing, one has to try to ride on the tip of the wave in order not to be engulfed in it; the point of the art of practical dialectics is not being seized by the contradictions, but to possibly even transform them into targeted forces of movement. - I have continued to develop the notions of passive and active dialectics in a contribution to the Paris dialectic conference of 2005 organised by “Espaces Marx” (online under www.wolfgangfritzhaug.inkrit.org) as well as in a lecture “On Practical Dialectics”, published in German in Argument 274 (2008).
4 “Such a substitution is of course nothing new“, added Lenin, “It could even be observed in the history of classical Greek philosophy.” (Ibid.)
5 “Consumerism“, laments former Portuguese president Mario Soares, “is spreading even in poor countries hit by horrendous inequality. And with it irresponsibility, loss of value, the corruption of all degrees, shamelessness, a way of life that exhausts itself in the momentary, without reference to the past and without direction towards the future.” (2007)
6 The drawing closer of the historical limit of capitalism can be gathered from the fact that the quota of capital victims – demanded for the profit of surviving capital-- goes up. It can in part be understood as a consequence of the “growing age of capitalist production” which Marx believed to be able to read off from the organic composition of capital and the tendency of sinking average profit rate (cf. MEW 24, 469). Can we conclude conversely from the fact, that the rate of capital destruction is leaping up, to the approaching of this limit? Not directly, because speculative (and military) capital destruction accompanies capitalism from its beginning like its own shadow. In a certain way it can be said, that capitalism during its whole history is periodically hitting its historical limit and bouncing back from it. This would mean that this is in itself historical and assumes permanently new forms. Precisely times of innovation are characterised by increased capital destruction. The founding fever regularly burns tremendous amounts of capital. In that sense, explained differently, Harvey’s “expropriation economy”, would be a permanent tendency.
7 See the double issue of Das Argument 268 (2006), Great Contradiction China.
8 „The institution of the centralised state party throws ridicule on everything that had once been thought about the relationship to state power.” (Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 55)
9 In an address at the “Marxist People’s University” in Stockholm.
10 Lenin in this context does not cite Marx, but Engels’ Anti-Dühring: “The proletariat seizes state power and transforms the means of production at first into state property. By this, however, it eliminates itself as proletariat, lifts all class distinctions and class contrasts and thereby also the state as state.” (MEW 20, 261) For Lenin it follows from there “that the ‘special power of repression’ [Engels, ibid.] of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat […] must be replaced by ‘special power of repression’ of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie” (ibid.).
11 The “direct immediacy without money, state, law, politics, profit […] has been led ad absurdum in the immediacy of Stalinist exercise of power” (Rainer Land in his thesis paper dated “November 1989” from the defunct GDR). The criterion of any socialist alternative was phrased thus by Land: “A socialist economy is one that is regulated and shaped by a public-democratic communication system” (quoted after Haug 1990, 212 and 214). Here begin the questions of a new How which are still waiting for a serious debate.
12 One of the obstacles is a certain "movementism" as in the case of the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO). This movement of movements doesn't present its own candidates at the elections and could not even make up its mind to support the Mexican Convención Nacionál Democrática. Gustavo Esteva believes that movements as such cannot associate >with another movement or organization< (2007, 93), which ignores that the APPO is in itself already such an association. It is hard to see how this local movement of enormous importance could form an element of national democratization, as long as it is unable to associate with others.
13 "Arbeite mit, plane mit, regiere mit".
14 To rely predominantly “on the so-called marginalised” (Raúl Zibechi) condemns itself to failure. If it looks different in Venezuela, this is because there are oil revenues to be distributed. This can, of course, not be generalised. Not much better is the idea, a country like Brazil could simply “break with the IMF, with the industrialised bourgeoisie and the financial sector.” Here we trade in revolutionary illusions while eclipsing the relations of forces.
15 >Capitalism's new push was not accompanied by any strengthening of the working-class and anti-capitalist movements, nor by the opening of a systemic exit into another mode of production -- at least not in perspectives visible to the naked eye.< (Therborn 2007, 65) In short, >the dialectic of capitalism was imploding< (ibid.).
16 Named after Peter Hartz, in the meantime convicted for corruption, “Hartz IV” is the popular denomination of the subsistence money which in Germany is paid to the long-term unemployed. It amounts to 347 € for singles.
17 Drawing on Frederic Jameson, Krysmanski argues that “the logic of late-capitalist world system […] is first of all a cultural one”, namely that of “post-modernism”. There is a need to “think and argue […] against the new, post-modern high-tech capitalism if we want to get a picture of the possibilities of a high-tech anti-capitalism that deserves of this name.” (Ibid.) The hard core of the socialisation of labour, however, is lost from view with respect to the virtualisation appropriate to the internet as medium and the apparent ‘immaterialization’ of the economic. Central by contrast would be the construction of a perspective of social use of the high-technological mode of production.
18 Some capital fractions favour existence money; some ultraliberals promise themselves a rolling back of state bureaucracy as a result, and its most prominent advocate is Götz Werner, owner of the DM drug store chain.
19 De-commodification (from the word commodity = ware or good) means the stripping, elimination of the commodity form and hence exemption from the law of value.
20 The 45000 km2 of his Conversation Land Trust in Chile separate the country into two halves; in Argentina as well, the multimillionaire acquainted with president Kirchner has ‘bought out’ gigantic pieces of real estate from private property and handed them over to the state under the condition of their transformation into natural reservation.
21 "Anti-capitalism can only become politically active, however, […] if there is […] a conceivable alternative to capitalism” (Havemann 2006).
22 Dieterich thinks of the struggle for power militarily, and this with the old idea of the one power centre to be conquered, “because that, like in classical physics and in the military sciences, representated the centre of motion of the system.”
23 Insights such as those that the people is often enough wrapped into the media view of parliamentarianism or, put more correctly, made silent (Narr 1980, 153) tip over very easily into political nihilism, following which “it does not [make] any difference who has the ‘control’ over the state” (Holloway 2003, 818).
24 "La rivoluzione contra il 'Capitale'", in: Avanti!, edizione die Milano, november 24, 1917; in: Antonio Gramsci: Scritti politici, ed. by Paolo Spriano, vol. 1, Rome 1973, pp. 130-133.
25 On the border to such regression, there moves the demand for a „reorganisation of commodity production in favour of the weight of value-creating labour and at the expense of the role of material investments”; it is justified by the idea that the “substitution of labour force y fixed capital” threatens the development of economy-wide value creation. (Tjaden/Peter 2006, 26)
26 „There are no indispensable political mediations“, Holloway by contrast states in his answer to Atilio Borón, who asked for them. “Or rather the only ‘indispensable political mediations’ […] are those accepting capitalist rule.” Here anti-capitalism at the end engulfs itself like the annihilator in Yellow Submarine. Compare my mediation attempt for the Holloway-Boron controversy (2003).
27 Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectics of Enlightenment, chapter "Elements of Antisemitism", VII.


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