Archive for May, 2012

Marxism: Should Marxists rethink it or or just dump it altogether?

May 27, 2012 8 comments

I want to take a moment to sum up some of my thoughts regarding Marxism that has occurred to me during my occupation of the Marxist Academy. This is only a rough outline of those ideas and I welcome comments on them from readers of this blog.

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On the stupid slogan: “Socialism or Barbarism”

May 23, 2012 16 comments

Postone ends his critique of Michael Hardt with these words, the last sentence of which I find to be as theoretically repugnant as his critique of Hardt was sublime:

These brief considerations suggest that a future beyond capitalism would require a fundamental transformation of the division of labor and that, without movement in that direction, increasing numbers of people will be rendered superfluous, susceptible to hunger, disease, and violence. They will increasingly become the objects of militarized control. On this level, the current crisis can also be understood as a crisis of labor interwoven in complex ways with a crisis of the natural environment. Against this historical background, the old slogan of “socialism or barbarism” acquires new urgency, even if our understanding of both terms has been fundamentally transformed.’

I have a complete distaste for the slogan “socialism or barbarism”, because people who raise it most vociferously, apparently hold to the idea barbarism is somehow a future prospective alternative to communism. Those who raise that slogan are only saying shit hasn’t gotten deep enough to make them close their mouths yet.

I just have one response: “For Christ’s sake don’t swallow, idiot!”

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Categories: political-economy

Tronti in Chicago…

May 16, 2012 11 comments

Capital’s power appears to be stable and solid. … the balance of forces appears to be weighted against the workers… and yet precisely at the points where capital’s power appears most dominant, we see how deeply it is penetrated by this menace, this threat of the working class.

Can I say Tronti cannot just be dismissed. His argument is very complex and rich; his argument in “Struggle Against Labor” is so absolutely precise and full it demands a reading.  And, I think, Postone’s critique of Hardt points to a potential for synthesis of a reconstructed Marx’s value theory with autonomism or workerism. I want to explore that potential briefly by looking at Tronti’s argument in his piece, which, according to the poster at, is “One of the existing English language excerpts from Tronti’s influential book Operai e capitale”

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Postone’s take on the current crisis

May 13, 2012 19 comments

A new article (PDF) by Postone is likely one of the best things written by a Marxist on this crisis. In the critical segment posted on Principia Dialectia, Postone critiques, and demystifies, Hardt’s concept of value. This critique of Hardt shows why Postone remains the single most insightful Marxist scholar today. His reconstruction of Marx’s labor theory of value is one of the single most important theoretical accomplishments of our time.

To understand the far-reaching significance of the argument Postone makes in this piece, substitute the term “socially necessary labor time” for the term “value”.

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May 8, 2012 3 comments

Skepoet interviewed me, covering a range of issues related to my core argument in my occupation of the Marxist Academy.

Categories: Uncategorized

Jehu’s disgusting diatribe

May 8, 2012 4 comments

by Anne Jaclard, Organizational Secretary, Marxist-Humanist Initiative

Jehu’s disgusting diatribe thoroughly misrepresents Kliman and Marxist-Humanist Initiative. Moreover, he neglected to cite the publication in which the article in question originally appeared, Marxist-Humanist Initiative’s web journal, “With Sober Senses” (so did Libcom, which is what he cited). By violating our re-publication policy, he deprived readers of an opportunity to examine our site and to judge for themselves if his charges against us are true.

The URL of the article is

If he has any thoughtful readers, they may be interested in the discussion taking place in the comments that follow the article. Those do much to articulate and to clear up some misconceptions about it, including some people’s initial difficulty in understanding how one can critique Graeber’s theory and support the Occupy Movement.

His serious accusation against Marxist-Humanism of being one-sidedly concerned with theory and not practice is untrue. A cursory glance at our website will show some of the movements we have been involved in and support, including Occupy Wall Street, international solidarity work, strike support, and many more. One can also see discussions of Raya Dunayevksaya’s philosophy, which is based in a developing interrelationship between theory and practice; in fact, her concept of “a movement from practice that is itself a form of theory,” articulated 60 years ago, has been copied by many spontaneists ever since. If we talk about theory a lot, that’s because what she called “the movement from theory” has not received the same attention, and that failure is holding back the development of mass movements. One need only observe today’s activists repeating the failures of the 1960s and 70s by thinking that more and more activity will get us to a revolution without the need for a new interrelationship with Marx’s philosophy of human liberation.

Jehu’s personal attacks on Kliman are completely inappropriate to reasoned discussion. Taking one small example: does it turn Jehu into a man of the people to keep calling Kliman “professor,” a designation Kliman doesn’t use outside of academic settings? Kliman teaches for a living because he has to earn a living; maybe Jehu doesn’t work because he is independently wealthy, who knows? How come Jehu doesn’t call Ollman and Zizek “professor”? Should we judge people’s ideas by their occupations, and rule out all ideas from people who teach college for a living? Or is the real message simply the virtues of anti-intellectualism?

Here are just a few of Jehu’s misrepresentations:

· Kliman does not say that the Occupy movement failed.

· It is incorrect to claim that the movement, even OWS in NYC, chose Graeber as their leader or appointed him to anything.

· MHI does not and Kliman does not have anything in common with the straw man position that people “are hopelessly retarded children who must be led by a self-annointed vanguard sufficiently theoretically developed to uncover the path mankind must take to freedom” and “proles are imbeciles incapable of discovering their own wants.”

· Marx did not argue that the Communards “were already this new social organization of society themselves.” He said that the Commune was “the *political* form at last discovered under which to work out the *economical emancipation* of labor.” There’s a world of difference between these statements.

Professor Kliman’s “Radical” Critique of David Graeber and the Occupy Movement

May 5, 2012 44 comments

Or, why Zizek believed, ‘We must not succumb to the temptation to act’

Between Kliman’s critique of the Occupy movement, Ollman’s critique of Marx on working class consciousness and Zizek’s critique of Negri, I notice something of a pattern. Ollman in his piece, which I examined in my last blog, argues “between determining conditions and determined response is the class consciousness of the actors”. Action without this class consciousness is insufficient to accomplish the revolutionary project.

Similarly, in his 2001 critique of Negri, Zizek warns us not to yield to the temptation to act without questioning the hegemonic ideological coordinates because, as he argues,

“If, today, one follows a direct call to act, this act will not be performed in an empty space”.

The space within which we act is dominated by the “liberal-parliamentary consensus” where the only rule is “say and write whatever you want-on condition that what you do does not effectively question or disturb the predominant political consensus.” To act against existing social relations without calling into question the political expression of these social relations is not sufficient.

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My May Day Post: The Marxist Academy and the Myth of “Working Class Consciousness”

May 1, 2012 7 comments

This May Day, as in all previous May Days going back almost to its establishment, will be marked by the indifference of the working class, at least in the United States, to its arrival. The odd thing about this is that May Day was born here in the United States as an expression of working class power and its determined struggle for the reduction in hours of labor. Yet here, more than in any other country, it passes almost unnoticed by the very class that created it through its own independent power. That it should be met with indifference here in the country of its birth is a paradox that requires explaining — if for no other reason than it points to a fundamentally troubling aspect of communist theory in its orthodox Marxist and anarchist variants: the apparent failure of the working class to rise to its historical mission as gravedigger of capitalism, to acquire what is commonly referred to as a class consciousness.

Part of this paradox can be explained by visiting a paper recently published by Alberto Toscano on the problem posed by Post-Workerism interpretations of Marx’s and Engels’ argument in which a worker, Nanni Balestrini, complains:

Once I went to May Day. I never got workers’ festivities. The day of work, are you kidding? The day of workers celebrating themselves. I never got it into my head what workers’ day or the day of work meant. I never got it into my head why work should be celebrated. But when I wasn’t working I didn’t know what the fuck to do. Because I was a worker, that is someone who spent most of their day in the factory. And in the time left over I could only rest for the next day. But that May Day on a whim I went to listen to some guy’s speech because I didn’t know him.

As I stated in a recent interview:

What I find interesting about this quote is that, obviously, May Day does not “celebrate work”, but celebrates a victory in the working class’s struggle for a reduction of hours of labor. What began as a celebration of a victory marking a step toward the abolition of labor became, over time, redefined as the celebration of the thing to be abolished, labor. But what is equally interesting about the quote is that the worker quoted, while apparently ignorant of this history, recognizes the idiocy of celebrating wage slavery. Even without realizing it, the worker reestablishes the original significance of the day.

This is an observation that seems lost on the critics of the Occupy and Tea Party movements.