The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. – Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) The quote above comes from Karl Marx’s critique of the French President turned Emperor Napoleon III, the nephew of the French Emperor of the early eighteenth century. Napoleon III was democratically elected president of the Second French Republic before leading a coup d’état to become the Emperor of the Second French Empire. Marx’s abrasive critique of Napoleon III’s rise to power is, in my opinion, one of Marx’s best writings. One of the major problems he had with Napoleon III and the Second French Empire was that it appealed to French tradition of the Napeolonic Era, which French people adorned as a time of its great power and influence. Napoleon III lacked the leadership skills of his uncle, but he shared the name and appealed to that tradition, which gave him credibility with many French. Marx’s point was that — in a time of revolutionary distress — instead of embracing progressive or radical change, the French people and Napoleon III looked to the past to find names, symbols, imagery, that provided nostalgia for a supposed better time. In short, traditions of past generations haunt the beliefs of the living generation who cling to symbols of the past to find comfort during times of change. Marx’s quote relates to and can explain many conservative beliefs that continue to look to the past to resolve political problems.
Systematic dialectic is distinguished from historical dialectic and its logic explored. As a strategy of exposition designed to articulate the forms of a given whole it orders the relevant categories in a linear development. The dialectical justification of the transitions is the central question addressed. What is given progressively as the further determination of the abstract beginning should be read retrogressively as a grounding movement validating the earlier categories from the perspective of the concrete whole.
All over the world, events are keeping up with the pace of a crisis, the end of which was just recently cheerfully proclaimed by people who thought ludicrous amounts of sovereign debt to be the recipe for an economic miracle. By racking up debt to their ears, governments worldwide were able to contain the so-called financial crisis; but then, the rating agencies presented them a bill that they promptly passed on to wage workers. The whole maneuver did not lead to recovery but to an even more menacing state budget crisis, the handling of which through uncompromising austerity measures has aroused anger. Resistance is mounting. We are at the threshold of a social crisis. Those who feel the effects of the governments’ austerity programs in their everyday life are starting to realize ever more clearly that these are not temporarily painful, yet necessary sacrifices. They are becoming aware of the fact that the drastic cuts will not only last for years or even decades, but that their own future is becoming ever bleaker. We are probably at the start of a new era: Ever since society was brought back down to the earth of cold hard economic facts, the culturalist carnival of differences has come to an end. Society’s colorful superstructure has scaled off to reveal, in Orthodox Marxist terms, the drab, universal base. And the crisis has achieved what activists striving to link struggles have been incapable of for decades: millions have taken to the streets simultaneously with the same purpose. All they’re left with is an ever more precarious survival under the reigning conditions. For them, it’s all or nothing.
In this interview with Shift Magazine, John Holloway talks about Open Marxism, the state, rage, and the real democracy movement.
“What was once the factory is now the university” states the international Edu-factory collective, which started off as a mailing list of 500 students, activists and researchers worldwide. They argue that in today’s cognitive capitalism, we have experienced the transformation from organising knowledge from above to the capture and expropriation of common knowledge after it is produced. This appropriation and exploitation of knowledge produced in the common opens up for a possibility that lies in the autonomy of knowledge production. The fact that knowledge today is produced in the common also makes it possible for us to re-appropriate it. The Edu-factory’s attempt to create a global autonomous university is a way of reclaiming such common knowledge. Edu-factory writes, “Theoretical practice is always political practice, and political practice is not only theoretical practice”. They claim that there is no production of knowledge that is not political. Theory is always a field of struggle and in times of “cognitive capitalism,” perhaps one of the most important. We met with Gigi Roggero, one of the initiators of Edu-factory at the Labour of the Multitude conference in Warsaw to talk about Edu-factory, recent university and precarious workers struggles, and ideas of autonomous education.
Borio, Pozzi and Roggero (eds.) 2005 have characterised operaismo as ‘neither a homogenous doctrinaire corpus, nor a unitary political subject’, but rather ‘multiple pathways with their roots in a common theoretical matrix’. Starting with a diagram drawn up by Primo Moroni in the 1980s, this paper will explore a number of the ways in which those paths might be mapped out, in terms of key categories and projects, above all for the years that follow 1979.
During the last ten years Marxism has come to occupy a substantial position within American academia. This is especially true in economics where, until recently, discussion of Marx and the Marxist tradition was largely confined to courses in the history of economic thought and in the economic history of the Soviet Union. The rise of an academic Marxism has been due, I would argue, to two forces. First, the struggles of students within the context of the social upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s carved out time and space within which politically active students could study Marxism as apart of radical economics, insurgent sociology, and so on. Second, university administrators and the business interests they generally represent have been surprisingly tolerant of the expansion of Marxist studies. This reaction to student demands is not simply a case of the “repressive tolerance” Marcuse described so vividly. The current tolerance is due, more importantly, to the need of business for new ideas during the present period of economic and social crisis. There is a long history of the capitalist appropriation of Marxist ideas which should lend credence to this suggestion. Moreover, the numerous attempts in recent years in the business press and in professional economic journals to give space to radical ideas and to evaluate current Marxist economic research demonstrates the on-going interest of business and its ideologues in the possibility of appropriating something new from Marx. Nowhere has this tolerance been more obvious than in the area of Marxist research on the theory of economic crisis." This willingness on the part of business to appropriate Marxist ideas and to use them for its own purposes has been largely ignored by Marxists working on the theory of crisis. They have, time and again, formulated their theories in ways that facilitate such appropriation. Yet this is not necessary. There is a way to read Marx and to develop Marxist theory that does not lend itself to this kind of appropriation. In this essay I do two things. First, through a series of examples, I illustrate how, in the history of Marxist work on the theory of crisis, many have forgotten the revolutionary content of Marx’s own work and thus left themselves open to the dangers of capitalist appropriation. Second, I suggest an alternative approach to the study and elaboration of Marx’s analysis of crisis that makes its political and revolutionary content explicit and thus more immune to appropriation.
Edu-factory is entering into its fifth year of activity. This period has been formidable, both for edu-factory as well as for the changes in the general context. First and foremost, there is the global crisis, which is to say, the crisis of global capital. Reading the daily catastrophic reports and the desperate alarms of governments, think-tanks and the mainstream media all over the world, who can remember that only twenty years ago the universal rhetoric was the celebration of the end of history? So, without any sort of idealist purpose, by means of a materialist analysis we can say that the proposition and prospect of revolution is no longer a pipe dream or fantasy. Such a possibility can be formulated from the classical definition of revolutionary situation: the governors of the global capital cannot live like before; workers, precarious, students and the productive multitudes don’t want to live like before.
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