People got wishful thinking a lot, and I am always for breaking the borders, but as this can be read from afar, I reckon yes, but the prognosis offered below by Hardt and Negri back in the Empire day ends up objectively anti-communist – the wrong side is lauded as abandoning the discipline of the system. What if rather, all the exploited under capitalism had pushed at the wall the other way, the former soviet block might not be a pit of cowboy corruption and proto-fascist gangsterism, but rather a renewal – walls can fall both ways, and maybe H&N were pushing the wrong way. I don’t mean everyone should now move to Mexico, but abandoning the shopping centre queues in favour of a Leninist discipline supporting an organised alternative to empty glitz is a long term better solution for all rather than this multitude exodus which does tend to me to sound a bit like Pol Pot’s year zero as well.
“A specter haunts the world and it is the specter of migration. All the powers of the old world are allied in a merciless operation against it, but the movement is irresistible. Along with the flight from the so-called Third World there are flows of political refugees and transfers of intellectual labor power, in addition to the massive movements of the agricultural, manufacturing, and service proletariat. The legal and documented movements are dwarfed by clandestine migrations: the borders of national sovereignty are sieves, and every attempt at complete regulation runs up against violent pressure. Economists attempt to explain this phenomenon by presenting their equations and models, which even if they were complete would not explain that irrepressible desire for free movement. In effect, what pushes from behind is, negatively, desertion from the miserable cultural and material conditions of imperial reproduction; but positively, what pulls forward is the wealth of desire and the accumulation of expressive and productive capacities that the processes of globalization have determined in the consciousness of every individual and social group—and thus a certain hope. Desertion and exodus are a powerful form of class struggle within and against imperial postmodernity. This mobility, however, still constitutes a spontaneous level of struggle, and, as we noted earlier, it most often leads today to a new rootless condition of poverty and misery. A new nomad horde, a new race of barbarians, will arise to invade or evacuate Empire. Nietzsche was oddly prescient of their destiny in the nineteenth century. ‘‘Problem: where are the barbarians of the twentieth century? Obviously they will come into view and consolidate themselves only after tremendous socialist crises.’’ We cannot say exactly what Nietzsche foresaw in his lucid delirium, but indeed what recent event could be a stronger example of the power of desertion and exodus, the power of the nomad horde, than the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the entire Soviet bloc? In the desertion from ‘‘socialist discipline,’’ savage mobility and mass migration contributed substantially to the collapse of the system. In fact, the desertion of productive cadres disorganized and struck at the heart of the disciplinary system of the bureaucratic Soviet world. The mass exodus of highly trained workers from Eastern Europe played a central role in provoking the collapse of the Wall. Even though it refers to the particularities of the socialist state system, this example demonstrates that the mobility of the labor force can indeed express an open political conflict and contribute to the destruction of the regime. What we need, however, is more. We need a force capable of not only organizing the destructive capacities of the multitude, but also constituting through the desires of the multitude an alternative. The counter-Empire must also be a new global vision, a new way of living in the world… If in a first moment the multitude demands that each state recognize juridically the migrations that are necessary to capital, in a second moment it must demand control over the movements themselves. The multitude must be able to decide if, when, and where it moves. It must have the right also to stay still and enjoy one place rather than being forced constantly to be on the move. The general right to control its own movement is the multitude’s ultimate demand for global citizenship. This demand is radical insofar as it challenges the fundamental apparatus of imperial control over the production and life of the multitude. Global citizenship is the multitude’s power to reappropriate control over space and thus to design the new cartography.”
Thanks J Adams for the reminder of this bit of Empire
My longe essay critiquing Empire is here
4th and 5th of October 2019.
Ho Chi Minh City, Socialist republic of Vietnam
Welcome to the website for the conference Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities, jointly organised by The University of Trieste, Italy; the Universität Leipzig, Germany; National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan; University of Warwick, UK; College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (CHESS) at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), USA; and Ton Duc Thang University, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Conference Venue – Ton Duc Thang University
Address: 19 Nguyen Huu Tho Street, Tan Phong Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Invitation and Call for papers:
For the International Conference 4-5 October 2019 at Ton Duc Thang University, HCMC, Vietnam, we would like to hear from those working on innovative approaches to public engagement in the social sciences and humanities. Methodological, empirical, archival or conceptual-theoretical work is encouraged, especially where a keen interest in application, consequence, practice or outcome is involved. Sometimes this is called impact on the one side, or intervention on the other, but we are nevertheless interested in all inquiries and investigations which advance the emancipatory possibilities of scholarship in a radically changed global context.
Social and cultural practices in both modern life and in the preservation of historical memory, could suitably connect sociology, social work, history, ethno-anthropology (museums, exhibitions, fairs, monuments, collective ceremonies), cultural tourism, eco-preservation policies, and other urgent contemporary social issues. Comparative studies are welcome, but not the only focus. We are especially interested in deep and detailed studies which have wider significance and suggestions for ‘best practice’. After many years of ‘interdisciplinarity’, or at least talk about this, we are interested to see examples where this works well in practice. We can assume all studies are comparative and interdisciplinary in a way, and all certainly have consequences, implications…
We are especially keen to hear from those working in three overlapping areas of engaged activity: these may be people working as anthropologists, historians, museum and preservation/heritage studies; cultural geographers, sociologists and in cultural studies; or on border studies, migrant labor and workplace and institutional inquiries. Our themes will interact within the structure of the conference, but we are keen in particular to go deeply into each area.
With Innovations in Public Engagement we anticipate discussions of the ways scholarship might best go about communicating in public the experience of the past and of human, cultural and environmental diversity, including technological and bio-political innovations and their contemporary reshaping of pasts and presents. Challenges to questions of who produces scholarship and why, for whom and by whom, can apply to past and present uses of knowledge, where the models of research and inquiry are actively reworked in the face of new public demands.
With Historical/contemporary practices and policies we seek to address issues related to contemporary forms of social conflict, including unequal citizenship and new racisms, the rise of right-wing populist movements and infiltration of religious power in secular governmentality, migrant workers as neoliberal slavery, questions of human trafficking and refugees, developmentalism and environmental pollution, crony capitalism and geo-economic zoning politics.
With Innovations of methodology, training and new skills for the future it seems to us crucial that our work respond to rapid reconfigurations of the very possibility and consequences of engaged social sciences and humanities scholarship. Whether the changing context is imposed by governments by industry or by civil society, when we deal with institutional change and competitive and imperative demands, we do need to develop new tools for knowledge(s) and new sensibilities/sensitivities. Education, reform and responsiveness, new skills and objectives, new modes of investigation and teaching in general. An urgent and targeted focus on how scholarship might remain relevant and critical in the face of global trends – funding cuts, social constraints, new demands, new conservatism, and crises of certitude.
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam will be our venue, but it need not necessarily be the context or focus of all papers, nor are comparative, or East-West or ‘post’ or neo-colonial framings always to be foregrounded in the papers. We are interested however in papers that encourage us to think anew about the implications of where we are and about how to re-orient humanities and social sciences scholarship in contexts where rising tensions in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia call on us to innovate and apply once more.
On acceptance of your paper, we will provide you a letter of acceptance or an invitation letter for your visa application to Vietnam or financial sponsorship from your institution. Therefore, you are encouraged to submit your paper at the earliest time possible.
The conference proceedings and papers will be in English.
- Abstract Submission: By February 28th, 2019
- Notification of Paper Acceptance: Before March 30th, 2019
- Full Paper Submission: By May 30th, 2019
- Registration and Payment by: August 20th, 2019 (early bird discounts apply)
- Conference Dates: October 4th– 5th, 2019
We look forward to receiving your contributions and kindly ask you to disseminate the call to your colleagues who may be interested in participating the conference.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any further information.
Assoc. Prof. Le Thi Mai, Ph.D
Head of Sociology Department
Laugh out loud passage in Rosa Luxemburg’s letter of April 2 2011 to Kostya Zetkin (Clara’s son) about Lenin’s visits and the sharp dialectical criticism of Lenin by Mimi the cat.
While there are many who would criticise Lenin without reading or meeting him, the critical support that Rosa provides – the contestation, disagreement and solidarity, are exemplary, as is the cat.
And it confirms all I wanted to say about the politics of cats – The Politics of Cats – first version, later published in Stimulus Respond in an article of which I am still quite pleased – available as part of Handpicked, by Pavement books.
Yesterday Lenin came, and up to today he has been here four times already. I enjoy talking with him, he’s clever and well educated, and has such an ugly mug, the kind I like to look at … Mimi [Rosa’s cat] … impressed Lenin tremendously, he said that only in Siberia had he seen such a magnificent creature, that she was a barskii kot—a. majestic cat. She also flirted with him, rolled on her back and behaved enticingly toward him, but when he tried to approach her she whacked him with a paw and snarled like a tiger.
from p 289 of ‘The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg’ eds Georg Adler, Peter Hudis and Annalies Laschitza. verso
Just leaving this gem here in the Crimbo file in anticipation of being grumpy about it next year as well.
by Ross Wolfe
Just in time for the holidays.
Needless to say, these creepy Christmas portraits were not Lenin’s idea. One can only guess how horrified he would have been if he had lived to see them. Christmas was abolished as an official holiday by the Bolsheviks starting 1918, roughly a year after the October Revolution. By 1935, however, Stalin’s government decided to reintroduce Santa to the children of the USSR. Poskrebyshev, a member of the Central Committee, enacted the reform.
Well, to expand a bit, it wasn’t Santa quite as we’d think of him. It was based on the old Russian version — Ded Moroz [дед Мороз], that is — different from Western Santas in several ways: 1. he isn’t jolly/fat; 2. rather, he’s tall and somewhat menacing. Some important modifications were made for (anti)ideological reasons: 1. ded Moroz no longer wore blue, as he had been turned red by communism; 2. now he wore a more festive hat instead of a boyar’s cap, as this would have harkened back to the feudal past.
Anyway, sometimes Santa was entirely superfluous. Lenin was all you needed. “I don’t know how to break it to you, little Vadim. God’s not real, and was never born, but I brought you some gifts anyway.”
Thanks to Anatolii Krasnopivtsev for the original post in Russian, which I just happened across today. Enjoy!
From What is to be Done, section 3:
Everyone knows that the economic struggle of the Russian workers underwent widespread development and consolidation simultaneously with the production of “literature” exposing economic (factory and occupational) conditions. The “leaflets” were devoted mainly to the exposure of the factory system, and very soon a veritable passion for exposures was roused among the workers. As soon as the workers realised that the Social-Democratic study circles desired to, and could, supply them with a new kind of leaflet that told the whole truth about their miserable existence, about their unbearably hard toil, and their lack of rights, they began to send in, actually flood us with, correspondence from the factories and workshops. This “exposure literature” created a tremendous sensation, not only in the particular factory exposed in the given leaflet, but in all the factories to which news of the, revealed facts spread. And since the poverty and want among the workers in the various enterprises and in the various trades are much the same, the “truth about the life of the workers” stirred everyone. Even among the most backward workers, a veritable passion arose to “get into print” — a noble passion for this rudimentary form of war against the whole of the present social system which is based upon robbery and oppression. And in the overwhelming majority of cases these “leaflets” were in truth a declaration of war, because the exposures served greatly to agitate the workers; they evoked among them common demands for the removal of the most glaring outrages and roused in them a readiness to support the demands with strikes. Finally, the employers themselves were compelled to recognise the significance of these leaflets as a declaration of war, so much so that in a large number of cases they did not even wait for the outbreak of hostilities. As is always the case, the mere publication of these exposures made them effective, and they acquired the significance of a strong moral influence. On more than one occasion, the mere appearance of a leaflet proved sufficient to secure the satisfaction of all or part of the demands put forward. In a word, economic (factory) exposures were and remain an important lever in the economic struggle. And they will continue to retain this significance as long as there is capitalism, which makes it necessary for the workers to defend themselves. Even in the most advanced countries of Europe it can still be seen that the exposure of abuses in some backward trade, or in some forgotten branch of domestic industry, serves as a starting-point for the awakening of class-consciousness, for the beginning of a trade union struggle, and for the spread of socialism.
The overwhelming majority of Russian Social-Democrats have of late been almost entirely absorbed by this work of organising the exposure of factory conditions. Suffice it to recall Rabochaya Mysl to see the extent to which they have been absorbed by it — so much so, indeed, that they have lost sight of the fact that this, taken by itself, is in essence still not Social-Democratic work, but merely trade union work. As a matter of fact, the exposures merely dealt with the relations between the workers in a given trade and their employers, and all they achieved was that the sellers of labour power learned to sell their “commodity” on better terms and to fight the purchasers over a purely commercial deal. These exposures could have served (if properly utilised by an organisation of revolutionaries) as a beginning and a component part of Social-Democratic activity; but they could also have led (and, given a worshipful attitude towards spontaneity, were bound to lead) to a “purely trade union” struggle and to a non-Social-Democratic working-class movement. Social-Democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organised political force. Hence, it follows that not only must Social-Democrats not confine themselves exclusively to the economic struggle, but that they must not allow the organisation of economic exposures to become the predominant part of their activities. We must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.
What appears to be the first statement from the London Occupation… is indeed a bit anti-theory – which I agree is strange because it comes out of a group sitting around thinking about what to do – and the demands are only an initial and somewhat abstract step towards building an alternative – yes, actually, how does one nationalize a bank?, I would very much like to see a guide for that – and yet this is wholly necessary: the effort to make something work beyond the repetitious call for ‘another world is possible’ is also here… Maybe its a bit ‘end is nigh’ in tone, and overly reliant on some ‘separate’ labour movement that will come like the cavalry to make us serious, and it flirts with the usual anarcho anti-Leninism that mistakes the British Trotskyite swamp with the Left… but on the whole, I like and welcome this and see it as an improvement on the brand-label slogans that have been our fare so far. Join us in the streets… I would put this entire text on my banner with just a few modifications – and openness to more ‘demands’ – there are always many demands – which is a good thing, no.
From now on there is only action - open letter ( via email ) Dear comrades, From now on there is only action. The theories are nice to have – the theory of horizontalism, of communes, of erotic revolt against the capitalist oppression of our bodies. But the global crisis is moving fast. Whether you are the Greek Communist Party, or UKUncut, or Anonymous, or Die Linke or Lulzsec, or Zizek or just some gang of kids on a corner that likes one kind of music and hates another: there is no time left for convincing others. We have to act together. Capitalism is about to experience a moment of breakdown. The Eurozone’s financial system is bust: the result will be either a chaotic series of defaults, provoking involuntary nationalisations and temporary abolition of market forces by the ruling elite (short selling bans, bans on CDS); or we will be saved from this by a pre-emptive abolition of the market in sovereign debt, bank debt, credit derivatives etc. This stark alternative explains the inaction of Merkel, Trichet, Barosso, Lagarde: the only plan possible to pre-empt disaster is, to them, disaster: it is the involuntary socialisation of the finance system. We have got to this moment of mass, simultaneous, global occupation of space in the cities of the world through a painful process. Committed minorities put their bodies in the way of harm: from Climate Camp to Gaza to Tahrir Square to Syntagma to Wall Street. There is a natural feeling of jealousy, of ownership, among those who got us this far: that the new masses being dragged onto the cold pavements do not understand the finer points of theory, were not kettled the year before, were not part of this or that iconic Facebook group. But get ready for something bigger: the labour movements of the world are grinding slowly into action. Cumbersome, slow, bureaucratic, hierarchical, given to forming a committee to solve a problem that can be sorted out with an iPhone. Yes. But decisive. In Greece right now, workers are doing what a molotov cocktail cannot: stopping the printing of tax forms, stopping the IMF delegations from even checking into their hotel rooms. Right now the problem of the spontaneous movements, wherever they have set up camp, is their failure to articulate with the levers of control currently held by the rich elite. In a period before a crisis, or a period of hopelessness, this is not a problem: creating the alternative nucleus of a better world does not need one to get dirty in the business of the possible. Living despite capitalism was a good idea and still is. Demanding the impossible was, and remains, an act essential to liberate one’s mind. But. The crisis is going to bring the impossible onto the agenda. It will be necessary to construct a pathway from where we are to what we want to achieve. Failure to connect with the levers of power, of policy, of the actual, of the concrete always leave opposition movements open to being used as a walk on army for the reformists: reform by riot – a division of labour by which a kid in a hoodie goes to prison for two years and a man in a suit gains sudden acceptance of his liberal reform plans – is as long as the history of capitalism. It is too late for that now. The movement needs to have demands: not impossible ones but concrete ones. Not schematic, drawn from the theories of various left philosophers but based on action. The movement should combine demands, objectives, with the new means of achieving them: where the social democrat calls for nationalisation, the movement of the masses calls for decentralised social ownership and takes physical control of the seized assets. It will come down to this in practice. Soon numerous European banks are going to go bust; maybe even some states. In some places ATMs will close. There will be a right wing backlash: the authoritarians and the racists are swarming to join the riot squads and the reserve military formations to get their chance to break our heads. They will break the heads of migrants, the oppressed; narratives of racial and religious purity will appear; narratives of “national economic interest: dead for decades will be revived. It is possible to live "despite capitalism" - it is not possible to live "despite quasi fascism": there is no space in right wing crisis capitalism for anything - first books burn, then bodies. In the 1930s fascism won because the workers movement and the progressive left refused to unite in action, letting their differences –not just of politics but of lifestyle and of historical rivalry – get in the way of unity. Today, with social media, instant unity is possible between a variety of people, and it can last microseconds or long enough to take and hold a square. The united front is replaced by the flashmob. Soon we are going to have to take and hold banks, insurance companies, pension funds. And we are going to have to keep the system running – the system many of us would see destroyed – until it can be morphed, reformed, dismantled in a way that does not smash the lives of a whole generation. We cannot leave politics to the politicians and economics to the economists, reserving for ourselves only the streets, the camps, the symbolic act, hilarious graffiti and acts of kindness. We have to deconstruct and replace both mainstream politics and economics; we cannot become passive consumers of the alternatives offered by the “great and good” of the liberal left. It is for the exploited and oppressed to create these alternatives themselves. Comrades – do not be frightened of demands. They need not dominate us or entrap us into hierarchies or timetables from the 20th century. The can liberate us from the role of being the opera chorus: the spear carriers with formidable presence whose ultimate role is as warm-up act for the political divas of Labour, social-democracy, Stalinism and Green Party politics. I demand – and you may join me if you wish, or amend, delete, reject – the following: Nationalise all banks that cannot raise capital to withstand the coming sovereign debt crisis. Break them up. Create a state guarantee for deposits but impose 100% losses on shareholders and bondholders. Repurpose what’s left as development banks and small scale credit for working class communities and business loans. Create a socialised banking system – a mixed economy of utility banks, non-profits, ethical banks, credit unions and mutual societies. Impose – immediately and universally across Europe and wherever possible elsewhere – uniform minimum standards for wages, employment rights, rights for precarious workers. Impose from below: by refusing to work without them. This will, at a stroke, remove the possibility of the parallel, cheap-labour economy that has corroded social solidarity in the rich countries and regions of Europe. Commit ourselves to a high wage, high skill economy, with massive state spending on upskilling and education. Once this is done, the debate on how much growth we actually want and need is a real one. Ie, it has a real outcome, not a theoretical warm glow in our heads. Statism and central planning are dead, discredited. But now, too, the free market has failed. Rationality can be imposed on the economy, but from below as well as above, and using the state as enabler of competition, creativity and invention, destroying forever the Hayekian objection that rationality in economics leads to “serfdom”. Any fiscal union for Europe must be created on terms dictated by the workers, the poor and the oppressed, not the dim elite who fucked things up so badly. It will involve transfers – of taxpayers money from the north to the south. We are sorry about this, but it will. The prize – and the only condition for this merger – is that we create a unified social Europe – from Iraklion to Rekyavik – where social justice is an inalienable right, and speculation, inequality and exploitation are a jailable offence. Our crisis is coming. The American crisis and the Chinese crisis will not be long following. If we do it – this continent with its 1000 year traditions of revolt, utopianism, bloodshed and craziness – it will prove to the world it can be done. Others will follow. Out of these meagre tents and chickpea soup kitchens will come the new world. There is nowhere else for it to come from.
– image from Chaos Camp 11 @ Podopolog.
In 1898 Kollontai abandoned her conventional marriage to study political economy in Zurich. She had already read Marx and Lenin, but in Zurich she familiarized herself with the views of Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg. Before returning to St. Petersburg in 1899, she met in London Sidney and Beatrice Webb, whose reformist thoughts she rejected. Kollontai’s first article, dealing with the relationship between the development of children and their surroundings, was published in the Marxist journal Obrazovaniie in 1898. In her article dealing with Finland, published in Novoye vremia, she used the pseyudonym Elin Molin. Kollontai contributed … to the German journal Sociale Praxis.
Kollontai ardently believed in the natural and sacred function of motherhood and said so many times. Her largest book and much of her political effort after October was devoted to ensuring adequate medical care for working mothers. She … believed that society had an obligation to assist mothers by helping to raise their children. But her belief bore a qualification rarely mentioned in comments about it or about her: The state would not take children away from their parents, and all public child-rearing arrangements would be voluntary on the part of the parents. Her primary concern was that every woman would have the right and the genuine opportunity to have children and to be sure that they would be cared for. “Every mother must be convinced that once she fulfills her natural function and gives a new member to communist society, i.e. a new worker, the collective will love and attend to her and her child.” Marriage and sex were personal affairs; but motherhood, she said in words almost identical to Lenin’s, was a social concern.
Kollontai became the first woman elected to the Party Central Committee. After the October Revolution, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power, she was appointed People’s Commissar for Public Welfare. In the Ministry she was welcomed with a strike, as the other Commissars. “Immediately the poor of the great cities, the inmates of institutions, were plunged in miserable want: delegations of starving cripples, of orphans with blue, pinched faces, besieged the building. With tears streaming down her face, Kollontai arrested the strikers until they should deliver the keys of the office and the safe; when she got the keys… it was discovered that the former Minister, Countess Panina, had gone off with all the funds, which she refused to surrender except on the order of the Constituent Assembly.” (John Reed in Ten Days that Shook the World, 1919)
Kollontai was a member of the Social Democratic Labour Party. At its Second Congress in London in 1903, there was a dispute between two of its leaders, Vladimir Lenin and Julius Martov. Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Martov won the vote 28-23 but Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks.
When the February revolution of 1917 broke out, Kollontai was in Norway. She delayed her return to Russia only long enough to receive Lenin’s “Letters from Afar” so she could carry them to the Russian organization. From the moment of her arrival, she joined Alexander Shlyapnikov and V. M. Molotov in the fight for a clear policy of no support to the provisional government, against the opposition of Kamenev and Stalin. She was elected a member of the executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet (to which she had been elected as a delegate from an army unit). At a tumultuous meeting of social democrats on April 4, she was the only speaker other than Lenin to support the demand for “All Power to the Soviets.”
Throughout this period Kollontai had consistently stressed the need for working class women to organise independently from the bourgeois feminists. In this she was at odds with the majority of the Menshevik faction which consistently adapted to and compromised with the forces of bourgeois feminism. Her hostility to feminism placed her closer to the Bolsheviks who similarly waged a war against feminism. But at this stage she had not yet developed a coherent communist position on the organisation of working women which she was to develop alongside the Bolsheviks on the eve of the 1917 Revolution. Most importantly Kollontai, unlike Zetkin, failed to grasp the importance of ensuring Party leadership of the working class women’s movement. In this sense she remained closer to the positions of the Menshevik faction than to those of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.