Introduction to ‘A reply to Aufheben’ - A former member of Aufheben

A reply from a former member of Aufheben to Theorie Communiste. Previous entries in this debate can be found in Riff-Raff No. 8.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on July 3, 2011

An introduction to an introduction
It has been suggested that the following text – a draft for an introduction to TC’s response to what had appeared about them in Aufheben no 12 – requires some explanation.

Just as consciousness can be seen to exist between people rather than in people’s heads, theory exists socially in the active process of responding to the movement of reality and to previous theoritical attempts to grasp that movement, a response that invites another response and so on. Richard Gunn suggests that such practically reflexive theory is identical with ‘good conversation’: a play of recognition where each partner puts everything about themselves and their views at stake. The interaction between Aufheben and TC was an attempt at such ‘good conversation’. The following text was meant to close the published conversation for a while by introducing and commenting on TC’s most recent response but leave them with the last word for the time being.

The normal Aufheben practice would have involved this draft being collectively argued about, corrected, and the modifed version appearing in the magazine. Instead some involved in the project argued that their disagreement with the draft was such, that neither it nor the TC text should appear in the magazine. After some heated discussion a compromise was reached of publishing the TC with a non-committal introduction. After Aufheben no 13 came out the internal argument was taken up again. However, before the issues could be fully clarified, one part of the group decided they could no longer work with certain others, and that they must be asked to leave. There was an acrimonious split.

We can see that while mainly intended to be a part of a ‘conversation’ Aufheben was having with TC and with its readers about TC, the draft introduction was, at the same time, a move within a conversation that was occurring within Aufheben. What followed – the rejection of the draft, followed by the withdrawal of recognition from conversational partners – were extreme moves in dialogical terms. Such a termination of the discussion prevented further clarification at that time of the issues at stake either between TC and Aufheben or within Aufheben. Implicitly however these very moves were a recognition of the significance of of the argument. The identity of Aufheben itself was at risk and could be saved only by an end to the dialogue. It can be seen as a confirmation of Gunn’s observation that:

nothing is less polite than rigorous conversation pursued to its end. … no-one can say in advance where (into what issues of life-and-death struggle) good conversation may lead.1

However this means that the text before you remains a rough and unfinished draft. Apart from a general tidying up, the main section that could have done with more work is the fourth point on alienation. The main question is what is the relation of the use of the category of alienation in Marx’s 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and that in the Grundrisse and The Missing 6th chapter? Some important secondary works on this question are chapters 2–3 of Simon Clarke’s Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology and Chris Arthur’s Dialectics of Labour. The latter writer has commented directly on TC’s arguments about alienation in a letter2 .

However, the acceptance in the draft of TC’s challenge to consider what lies behind the ‘marxological’ argument about alienation was a good move and one suspects part of what made it unacceptable to others in Aufheben. As one of us speculated in the subsequent internal discusion within Aufheben: ‘TC’s theory is stronger than their weaknesses in understanding of the Hegel–Marx connection and failure to grasp the continuity of the EPM and later Critique of Political Economy might otherwise suggest. How? Because despite their not wishing to take on the account of Marx’s relation to Hegel’s dialectic that he offers in the EPM, TC get their Hegel and their dialectics from another source: the Grundrisse. It seems to me that despite themselves – TC are in an important sense “Hegelian Marxists” who grasp the ontological dimensions of Marx’s critique. This is because they take the Grundrisse as their key text and thus themselves use concepts based fundamentally on alienation.’

Anyway, the conversation continues…

Introduction to ‘A reply to Aufheben’

Here we see the reason behind one particular complaint so often made against them: that so much has to be read over and over before it can be understood – a complaint whose burden is presumed to be quite outrageous, and, if justified, to admit of no defence.3

Oh no, not more TC!? [Aufheben reader]

We have now devoted considerable space, time and effort in the magazine and our own discussion, in grappling with the perspectives of the French group Theorie Communiste (TC). Yet we know some of our readers are not following us in this effort. A question is whether the difficulty of TC is to do with the importance of what they are saying – and perhaps the resistance it produces in the reader – or down to a lack of clarity in the way they express themselves? The answer is perhaps a bit of both.

As even their admirers will often admit TC’s writing style leaves something to be desired, there is a repetition and verbosity, endless self-reflective sentences which don’t seem to end and in which the subject and object is unclear.4 What more than one reader has said, is that TC could really do with is a good editor. TC keep coming back to to a number of key theoretical ideas: the old cycle of struggles – programmatism – and its abolition in the restructuring; the new cycle of struggles; the rejection of any revolutionary essence to the proletariat; refusal to see revolution as the overgrowth of present struggles. However, if that is put as a criticism, TC could always follow Voltaire in saying that they will repeat themselves as often as necessary until they are understood.

For ourselves we can say that we are finding the interaction with TC provocative and stimulating if also frustrating. The following text is an amalgamation of two letters in which TC take up what they identify as the four key points of dispute between us. Rather than a full on rejoinder to their points we opt here for a brief(ish) introduction to their points, allowing them for the time being the last word (in a sense).

First point
TC’s first point is based on the mistaken view that we had agreed with the critique of them made by Dauvé and Nesic in their text, To Work or not to work? Is that the question?5 Despite this, TC’s point is worth including for two reasons. One, in answering the criticisms of Dauve and Nesic, TC usefully clarify what they mean by their their concept of programmatism. Two, it usefully draws attention to the only substrantial critique of TC we are aware of. Dauvé alonside Camatte is in anglophone countries one of the best known figures6 from the communist scene or miliue that flowered in France around ‘68, that we have called the modern ultra left. Inspired by the developments in the class struggle and influenced by Socialism or Barbarism, the Situationist International and by the publication of Marx’s Grundrisse this scene made a non-dogmatic appropriation of the best ideas of council communism and Bordiga. TC’s claim is that their theory is the theoretical product – the right way of taking forward the thinking carried out by that scene.7 Dauve in his continuing writing and activity is a main representive of an alternative theoretical direction taken by those emerging from that milue,8 and of course that would not agree with TC’s opinion. Interestingly while situ types might in the past have accussed Dauve and his friends of determinism9 this is now exactly the charge that he is making against TC. This is a topic we may return to another time.

Second Point
The second point is a response to our question whether TC, ‘in not mourning the loss of workers identity miss the fact that perhaps the proletariat has to recognise itself and its situation to abolish itself?’10 TC’s answer is a clarification of how they understand the present cycle of struggles as different from programmatism, and a description, at a very abstract level, of what proletarian revolutionary move towards communism would involve.

Aufheben has occaisionally taken up of the idea, quite a commonplace on the left, that the difference between workers struggles now, and in the 60s and 70s is that between defensive and offensive struggles. For TC this underestimates the profoundity of the defeat of the old workers’ movement. There has not been simply a retreat of essentially the same kind of class struggle which could then re-emerge in much the same form.

For TC, both the leftist wait for a return of the old workers movement – of assertive unions and proper social democracy – and the ultra left watch for a return of the forms of self-organisation and proletarian autonomy, which it oppossed to those institutions, are hinged on a cycle of struggles which is past. The idea here that ‘Self-organisation and union power belonged to the same world of the revolution as affirmation of the class.’11 indicate why we have seen TC as possibly the right move ‘beyond the ultra left’. For the ultra left the class struggle in the form of proletarian autonomy and self-organisation is good (or at least potentially revolutionary) and unions are bad (or at least irredeemably counter-revolutionary) thus if they appear to be connected this is only because the latter repress, recuperate and hold back the former. But one knows that that in the period up to the 70s which TC call programmatism much of the wildcat strikes that the ‘ultra-left’ has been excited by were in actual fact led by rank and file shop stewards. Also one can observe that when workers did actually organise themselves against the official unions there has been a overwelming tendency either for the forms they have set up to become new unions or for them to drift back to acceptance of the official unions. When ultra leftists ackowledge this they generally try to understand it in terms of a tendency towards autonomy and proper revolution which has been defeated again and again. Revolutionaries are then given the role of transmitting the lessons of those defeats, so that next time the revolution won’t be betrayed by the wrong roads of union accomodation, or social democracy, or leninism or nationalism etc. TC thus undermine the identity of those who see themselves as champions of the good side of workers activity – autonomous, self-organised – against the bad one – incorporated, accepting of representation. They do this by seeing this opposition as part of a historical period, a period which may have certainly involved splits and conflicts but in which workers autonomy and union power were part of a continuum of workers struggles that shared in the same model of emancipation and revolution, one based on an an affirmation of the class.12

But what of the new cycle of struggles? It is worth noting here that what some people appreciate in their work, and what has not come out in our exchange, is actually the close attention they give to concrete struggles and how their abstract theory emerges out of that. TC mention two examples – Cellatex and Vilivoorde – which indicate for them the character of the new cycle of struggles. By giving some details of these struggles they mention we may get some idea of what they are getting at. Cellatax refers to a very militant response to the closure of a textile mill in Northern France in 2000. The workers occupied, briefly held officials hostage and threatened to blow up the plant which was full of poisionious and explosive chemicals. With banners reading ‘We’ll go all the way… boom boom.’ they demonstrated their seriousness to the media by setting off small explosions and tossing chemicals into large fires in front of the factory gates. In a move not endearing them to environmentalists, they released some chemicals into the river13 and threatened more. After this they were offerred and accepted a much more favourable redundancy package.14 Vilvoorde refers to how the workers in a Belgian factory responsed to Renault’s announcement of its closure in 1997. In what became known as the ‘eurostrike’ the workers occupied the plant, managed to prevent the hauling away of and thus held ‘hostage’ 4,500 new cars. They made guerilla or commando raids to spread action to French plants. They received a lot of solidarity action both from Renault workers in France and Spain and from other Belgian carworkers culminating in a giant demonstration called at short notice in Brussels. After this the French Prime Minister came on to television to announce a big increase in the payoff to the workers. In both cases then, despite their differences, we see imaginitive and in the Cellatax case violent protest at a plant closure and job losses which results in… closure and job losses plus a more extensive social plan for the workers. One might say that these examples show workers responding militantly to restructuring but also in a sense realistically in accepting in the end the best deal they think they can get. Now the extent to which these results become the standard for future restructuring and closures, is an important cost for capital, part of what bourgeois commentors bemoan as the inflexible European labour market, but we are hardly dealing with forward steps for labour. If leftists see in these actions a partial return of working class identity (trying to fit the Vilovoorde struggle into demand for and defence of a ‘Social Europe’ for instance) and ultra leftists may see the encouraging signs of return of workers autonomy, for TC what is apparent is the contrast to the struggles of the earlier cycle of programmatism, the way that a labour identity is not reproduced.15

However TC insist that they are not saying that in the old cycle the proletariat struggled to assert itself in capitalism, while now the proletariat has become a ‘purely negative being’ that only wants to abolish capital and itself. Rather their argument is that the proletariat, as ever, struggles for its immediate interests, but because that struggle can no longer be resolved in the confirmation and affirmation of a worker’s identity as a basis of further capitalist reproduction, the possibility of a revolutionary conclusion of this cycle of struggles is opened up. At that point they even say that the the notion of a ‘class for itself’, which our question pointed to, may become appropriate. But for them it would come about where the class recognioses its definition as a class as something imposed as an external constraint and overcomes it, a recognition which they they suggest would be the same as a practical knowledge of capital. This idea that the class struggle now poses itself at the level of the reproduction of classes – that revolution will be produced by this cycle of struggles – is of course one that we would like to be true even if we are not quite sure of how TC see this is emerging.

Third point
In their third point TC explain somewhat their periodisation of capitalism and in particular the basis on which they argue for a second phase of real subsumption starting in the 70s. As we previously said, our attitude here is not an out an out rejection of a periodisation based on formal and real subsumption. We recognise that the move to such a form of periodisation16 was (tremendously) theoretically productive for the French communist scene it influenced, as it also was for the autonomist Marxists who took it up at the same time. This periodisation had the advantage on alternative ways of grasping the period at that time17 in being properly rooted in Marx’s critique of political economy and his conception of capital as the autonomisation of value. Moreover we can see that TC’s introduction of a second stage of real subsumption goes some way to deal with what for us is the obvious weakness of such a periodisation: the inflexibility of the simple binary opposition – formal–real.

We can all agree that there have been some pretty profound changes since the 70s – a restructuring of industry involving massive defeats of sections of the working class, an increased globalisation especially of financial operations, the breakdown of the eastern bloc, the crisis of ‘third world’ attempts to follow the Russian statist model of modernisation that is of capital accumulation, the emptying out of social democratic forms such as the welfare state. Bourgeois commentators have described these changes with phrases such as Globalisation, the end of corporatism, of Keynesianism, rise of neo-liberalism, the ‘forward march of labour halted’ and of course the fall of communism.18 But we ask is TC’s new stage just a better description19 that is simply defined by the same phenomenal changes that the bourgeois use their terms to describe, or does their new stage really explain those changes by a dynamic principle properly grounded in the capital–labour relation?

TC do give some decent quotes indicating that there is some basis in Marx for the validity of developing what are for him conceptual categories of capital into a historical periodisation of capitalist society.20 Of course, as TC think the real subsumption of society hadn’t really occurred till after the old man’s death, ‘canonical Marxian references’ will not settle this matter. Indeed on the basis of fidelity to Marx it would be would be just as plausible to argue that the stages of capitalism he identifies are ‘simple cooperation’, ‘manufacturing’ and ‘large scale industry’. One might then want to add something like taylorism/fordism up to the seventies and perhaps some sort of neo-Fordism or crisis of Fordism since then.21 Of course we are not pushing the analysis of the regulation school22 as an alternative23 to TC. We can agree with them that the right approach is to make use of some of the theoretical arguments and empirical material gathered by theorists such as the Regulation School within a more class struggle focused and communist perspective.

Unsurprisingly, considering we are trying to understand the same reality, our tentative efforts to define the present period are not necessarily at complete variance to what TC are saying. For example TC, in their account of the change to the second phase of real subsumption, use an idea from Marx’s Capital,24 of the double moullinet or twin cogs of the cycles of reproduction of capital and of labour power which meet in the immediate production process. TC suggest that there are certain obstacles to the smooth intersection of these cogs, primarily imposed by the class struggle in the period of programmatism, which the restructuring overcomes and thus iniates a new phase. The freeing up of one cog – the free flow of capital – works to free the other cog – the smooth reproduction of an exploiotable labour power. There is a similarity here to the idea we have used of the intersection of finance and industrial capital where the increased mobility and power of global finance capital has allowed capital to escape the centres of working class strength, thus creating more favourable conditions for accumulation both in the new area of and in the old one. Similarily what TC are getting at with, what is for them the key idea, of the end of Programmatism was something we touched on to an extent by our articles on the retreat of social democracy.25 We are not of course saying that we have come up with the same ideas as TC nor that have a clear alternative to their stages. In terms of Social Democracy and the fate of the workers movement unlike with our tentative first approximation of a position, with TC there is no ambivalence (there is no question mark): programmatism has no future, it is irretriavibly past. So TC are more confident and definitive in their characterisation of the period meaning, even if they are wrong, they certainly have given us something to work on.

Another positive feature of TC’s stages is the way it appears to overcome the antinomy of the autonomist Marxist and objectivist Marxist approaches to the crisis. Rather than prioritise either the activity of the class as causing the crisis of capitalist accumulation, or seeing the crisis of capital accumulation as the cause of working class struggle, TC do seem to see capitalist devlopment as nothing but the development of the relation of exploitation. Thus we see TC incorporate a dynamic role of workers’ struggles in the development of the mode of production and its crises, without getting stuck in separation of the class as a separate subject from capital as happens in the the autonomist class struggle theory of the crisis.26

So we can then, see merit in TC’s periodisation, which they have gone some way to showing actually explain the period rather than just being descriptive. However while TC have clarified their picture they have not answered all our doubts. Athough they recognise that it is necessary to take up the question in a more empirical way, their account remains pretty abstract and to be convinced we would want both more empirical treatment but also to understand better the mediations between their – what to us are still somewhat abstract – schema and more empirical concrete history. Part of our problem is a certain skepticism with regards to the inevitable schematism of such a stages approach – where the concrete developments are presumed to be explained by referencing the stage of capitalism they fall under. Considering that this started as an exchange around in part the theory of decadaence, there is the curious formal similarity that just as in the theory of decadence this stage was meant to eliminate the possibility of any reformism, TC’s second phase of real subsumption is meant to eliminate all accomodation of the class within capitalist reproduction and make revolution, in its real sense as communisation, the necessary climax of this cycle of struggles.

However we can agree with them when they say that if for the sake of argument they were to accept our objections, what is essential and what needs to be discussed is the very content of what they are saying that there has been a ‘restructuring of the relation of exploitation, of the contradiction between proletariat and capital.’ That is to say, that even if TC’s stages are wrong they address head on the profoundity of what the crisis and restructuring of the 70s has involved.27

Fourth Point
TC’s final point concerns the status of the concept of alienation in Marx, something we devoted a lot of space to in our reply to TC and which they now take on seriously in response. As TC joke, we seem here to be in a competition in the domains of marxology and pedantry, but they end by suggesting what might really be at stake behind the ‘marxological’ argument: let’s cut to the chase.

This for TC is that the problematic of alienation is definitively a problematic of the revolutionary nature of the proletariat. They argue that despite the distance Aufheben sometimes manage from the more obviously ideological approaches of much of the ultra left, we ultimatley have not escaped its problematic. This is because we still ‘maintain an abstract vision of autonomy and self-organisation (the true being of the proletariat) in spite of its historical collapse’, and this is expressed in the way we deal with current struggles such as the Direct Action movement. TC contend that our analyses, despite a commendable concretesness, fall into an external judgement of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of these movements rather than raising ‘the questions of the “why” of these movements, of their “existence”, of what they contribute theoretically, of their existence as definition of a period.’ Of course what TC are essentially saying is that we don’t understand these struggles the way they do. But we can’t dismiss the argument, because TC are identifying a weakness in our approach that we are aware of ourselves. (What is a stake in a way is how can one be open to the real movement before our eyes.)

We certainly are not always content with what we manage to say about current struggles whether those of what TC term the ‘direct action movement’ or of more traditional social/class struggles. The fact that we generally manage to produce something better than what we read elsewhere, doesn’t actually say very much. Most political publications, at least those we come across in English, largely just filter what they read in the bourgeois media through their own ideology, or at best they may collect good information or describe things they have experience of, but still interpret it in terms of their already established categories. The idea of developing new categories or transforming existing ones from the experience of the class struggle is fairly alien to those for whom the answers are already known.

Something we have heard attributed to TC is the critique of ultra leftist or other revolutionaries that they go to struggles with a check list: e.g. was there an explicit break from the unions, did they set up strike assembly, did they attempt to overcome sectionalism by trying to spread the action and by making their struggle open to others, was there a break with bourgeois legality, have they set up workers councils etc. Struggles are marked from this check list according to a standard defined by previous revolutionatry upsurges which the revolutionaries are the memory of. We can recognise this rather sterile approach and would hope ourselves to avoid it. We try not to just fit struggles into pre-existing categories, or to criticise them ideologically or moralistically for not measuring up to an pre-established set of principles about what constitutes proper revolutionary struggle. We try to avoid cliched pat conclusions, to be open to novel features and the contradictions in developments. (But when we have a perception of communism that is not shared by most participants in the struggles we might be involved in or write about it is hard for this not to sometimes come across as an external weighing of the pros and cons of these struggles.) Anyway we are well aware that we don’t always come up with anything that cutting.28 TC suggest that it is possible to do better and we recognise that it is.

Whether TC achieve this would have to be tested in comparing the way they and ourselves treat the same concrete struggles. It would be interesting say, to read their more developed criticism of our analysis of the anti-capitalist movement, which appears as part of their own analysis in ‘Apres Gênes’ (‘After Genoa’) in Théorie Communiste no 18. Thus as more of TC’s work is translated, as we imagine it will, the situation will become clearer. Will we be persuaded by their categories – by their analysis of the Radical Democratism and the Direct Action movement, and of specific situations such as the Middle East or will we find that TC are also, like some of the approaches they criticise, forcing concrete struggles into already established abstract categories. Still, even if there is an element of the latter, it does seem that the working out of these categories has been through a genuine enagement with what has been happening in the last thirty years.

But after accepting that the ad hominem denounment at the end of TC’s fourth point does hit the target somewhat, we do have problems with the earlier plot developments. We are not persuaded that the weakness of some of our analyses are a result of the problematic of alienation which is in turn bound to the problematic of the revolutionary nature of the proletariat. Now confronted by TC we will accept that the proletariat does not have a revolutionary essence in itself and that it is only revolutionary as part of the development of the capital–labour contradiction.29 It’s just that we would say that that contradictory social relation is one of alienation.

If one looks at TC’s main argument on this point one must admit that it is coherent and well constructed. For the moment we are not going to come back at them on this level in which we agree they have distinguished themselves. Let’s just note that a tremendous weight falls on the assertion that there is in Marx a change in problematic from a humanism centred on man and his alienation to anti-humanism focused on social relations. For us this problematic of the problematics is problematic. It strikes us like other aspects of TC as overly schematic. There are of course breaks in Marx but there is continuity as well as discontinuity between his writings either side of these breaks.30 We accept that much understanding of alienation falls into problems. Our argument would be that the correct understanding of it would grasp it as at the foundation of the later critique of political economy. Yet of course TC argue we ourselves fall into problems say with our Bloch inspired idea of the humanity that is not yet. For the moment lets leave it there.

  • 1Richard Gunn, ‘Marxism and philosophy, Capital and Class no 37, 1989, p. 105
  • 2Available on the Aufheben site.
  • 3Hegel, Preface to Phenomenology of the Spirit
  • 4Though TC are quite anti-Hegeliean, these are exactly the points that Hegel thought made his writing necessarily difficult.
  • 5Available at
  • 6This is particularly through on-going popularity of the texts published in english as Eclipse and Re-emergence of the Communist Movement. ‘Eclipse…’ consists of revised versions of texts which originally appeared in the journal Mouvement Communiste {1969–1973) (Not the same as the Mouvement communiste publishing today).
  • 7TC have recently collected the texts Rupture dans la théorie de la Révolution (‘Rupture in the theory of revolution’) 1965–1975 with an introiduction that sees themselves as the continuation.
  • 8We quote how TC characterise the other tendency of the modern ultra left in footnote 25 on p 44 of Aufheben 12.
  • 9One thinks for example of the lines by his collaborator François Martin: ‘The activity of the working class does not proceed from experiences and has no other “memory” than the general conditions of capital which compell it to act according to its nature. It does not study its experiences; the failure of a movement is itself an adequate demonstration of its limitations.’ From ‘The class struggle and its most characteristic aspects in recent years’ in Eclipse and Re-emergence of the Communist movement, p 53.
  • 10Aufheben no 12, p. 40
  • 11One might say that their claim is unsettling and scandelous only to those who have defined themselves on the distinction and the identity it gives them as champions of the good side of workers activity – autonomous, self-organised – against the bad one – incorporated, accepting of representation.
  • 12‘Self-organisation and autonomy are not constants whose reappearance we could wait for, rather they constitute a cycle of struggles which is finished; for there to be self-organisation and autonomy, it is necessary to be able to assert yourself as the productive class in opposition to capital.’
  • 13Firefighters managed to contain the release.
  • 14Moulinas and Celltax was one of a number of very militant responses by workers in france to plant closures. For an account in English see – From Cellatex to Moulinex: Burst Up of an Open Social Violence by Henri Simon . For more on cellatax in particular see The Cellatex chemical plant occupation .
  • 15One might say that these struggles demonstrate TC’s case better than other ones, for example strikes in transport – say on the British tube or Italian buses, or in the British post office perhaps have more continuity with the strikes of ‘programmatism’ – of course these are precisely areas where restructuring has not been so intense because in part it is not possible to move production elsewhere.
  • 16It was suggested, as far as we know first by Camatte and Invariance.
  • 17Contemporary alternatives were Baran and Sweezy’s ‘monopoly capitalism’, Stalinism’s ‘state monopoly capitalism’, Socialism or Barbarism’s ‘bureacratic capitalism’, or indeed the idea of a universal state capitalism in the epoch of decadance that which would be championed by the more fundamentalist sections of the ultra-left. All of these emphasised some move away from the principles of Marx’s critique – usually by emphasising the role of the state. Real subsumption on the contary suggests the subordination of the state to capital also expressed sometimes as society no longer being bourgeois so much as capitalist. (Many of the alternative ways of periodising suggest some sort of peculiar developement of capitalism while in the idea of real subsumption society is recognised as not less but more profoundly capitalist than the ‘classic capitalism’ of the nineteenth century.)
  • 18As TC put it there has been a comprehensive defeat – a defeat of ‘workers’ identity, the communist parties, syndicalism, self-management, self-organisation, the refusal of work. It is a whole cycle of struggles which has been defeated, in every aspect; restructuring is essentially counter-revolution, one which can’t be measured by the number of deaths.’
  • 19Is TC’s reference to a second stage of real subsumpotiuonn an explanation of these empirical changes at a deeper level or could one really just call it the stage – 1890–1975 and 1975 – with no loss of power? (Are they just doing a Kant by drawing a stage out of their stage bag with the implication they could draw another as and when necessary?)
  • 20TC say ‘We can’t amalgamate or put on the same level absolute surplus-value and formal subsumption, or relative surplus-value and real subsumption. That is to say we can’t confuse a conceptual determination of capital and a historical configuration’ i.e. they see surplus value and relative surplus value as conceptual categories and formal and real subsumption as historical; we don’t think this is justified in Marx, but we accept that whether Marx used the categories in the way TC do does not in itself prove that they are wrong.
  • 21Dauvé and Nesic go for a periodisation like this in Whither the World, a text that unsurprisingly TC have subjected to critique.
  • 22For a good critique see Ferruccio Gambino, ‘A Critique of the Fordism of the regulation School’, Common Sense and reprinted in Revolutionary Writing, ed Bonefeld.
  • 23It is noticeable that whatever the basis of the stages most stages involve one started aroung the first world war or a bit before the first world war and ending in the 70s.
  • 24Unfortunately the English translation of Capital loses this level of meaning which TC use to conceive the basis of a change within real subsumption by not attempting to get across the metaphor in the German original.
  • 25‘Social Democracy: No Future?’ in Aufheben no 7 and ‘Re-imposition of Work in Britain and the “Social Europe”’ in Aufheben no 8
  • 26In another text they write: ‘to make of the proletariat the subject putting capital into crisis is necessarily to presuppose its existence outside the relation and it is thus necessary to define the terms of the relation outside of their connection. Thus to say that the crisis of capital constrains the proletariat to act, or to say that the proletariat puts capital into crisis, comes back to the same problematic. We presuppose the definition of the terms before their connection, for the proletariat we pose its activity in the crisis of capital, as the realisation of a possibility that it has in itself before the crisis, since it produced it.’
  • 27That is they address the profound defeat of ‘workers’ identity, the communist parties, syndicalism, self-management, self-organisation, the refusal of work. It is a whole cycle of struggles which has been defeated, in every aspect; restructuring is essentially counter-revolution, one which can’t be measured by the number of deaths.’
  • 28We simply is just the best we can come up within the constraints of our production process, who’s willing to write, how much time we have considering our self-imposed deadline of yearly publication etc.
  • 29Thus ‘class’ is revolutionary as this relation not as a quality inhering in constituted classes.
  • 30Just as there is continuity as well as discontinuity between the class struggle before and after the 70s.



12 years 9 months ago

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Submitted by piter on August 25, 2011

do someone know what is this direct action movement? to what actual struggle does it refers?

anyway it is an interesting text, a pretty accurate description I think of the strenght and weakness in Théorie Communiste and can be useful as a kind of brief introduction to TC.

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