Letter in reference to 'End Notes' in Fall 2017 issue of NYC journal 'n+1'

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Vince
Letter in reference to 'End Notes' in Fall 2017 issue of NYC journal 'n+1'
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In response to a lengthy critique of the ultra-left theoretical journal End Notes by Tim Barker in its previous issue, this letter appeared in the Fall 2017, issue #29 of the New York City journal n+1:

DEAR EDITORS,

There was a factual error in your review (“The Bleak Left,” Issue 28) of the ultraleft journal Endnotes. The ultraleft theorist Gilles Dauvé was not involved in the journal Invariance. Since the 1970s, Dauvé has been involved in publications ranging from Le Mouvement Communiste and Mordicus to Troploin. Jacques Camatte was one of the main authors of Invariance and there is a world of difference between Dauvé’s perspectives and those of Camatte. A wrong answer on something as crucial as this could get you bounced out of the final round on Jeopardy.

Regarding Endnotes: my understanding is that after Marx died, Engels reminisced that when the two began their partnership as young men, they resolved to write all their works at a level that would be readily comprehensible to persons of average intelligence and educational level. Anything other than this they regarded as being irrelevant to the real movement to abolish existing conditions. A set of theories that can contribute to a liberatory downfall of the global market order must emerge from ongoing involvement in public action that has some potential to generate this. It must try to suggest practical strategies and tactics of use to nonacademic working people. It has to grow and adapt as it engages with the complex, contradictory reality outside a theorist’s comfort zone. This does not take place in Endnotes.

It is difficult to imagine anyone who doesn’t have a doctorate in advanced Marxoid studies reading Endnotes. It is even more difficult to see how its insights can be put to use. If transit-system operators, transit-system riders, supermarket cashiers, and enlisted people in the armed forces will never encounter Endnotes, then in real-world subversive terms, Endnotes does not exist. Pessimism about the possibility of global revolutionary change is understandable, but the specific kind of pessimism exhibited in Endnotes is consistent with its subjectively insurrectionary authors’ lack of a credible will to act on what they believe — outside a cosseted academic echo chamber, in contexts where they can be taken seriously by friend and foe alike.

For all its undoubted brilliance, Endnotes inadvertently proves that there is an impermeable firewall separating all college Marxist theory, no matter how subjectively radical, from life outside academia. What happens within the precincts of the bourgeois academy stays there. Ongoing collective action against what capitalism does to our lives has never been more necessary, and the conditions that give rise to it in the United States grow more promising by the day. If a body of supposed revolutionary theory does not contribute to mass collective resistance to capitalism however, this theory adds up to nothing.

Kevin Keating

Non ex hoc mundi
Activism

Marx once infamously described the role of philosophers as an activist role. The purpose of thinking critically, he said, was to change the world, to affect it. This and the rest of his ideology, which of course has become known broadly as Marxism today, has failed in its goal of communism-- but it has changed the world, and capitalism, for the better. And the real purpose and value in critical inquiry is the simple act of the query itself. Circular argumentation is a cancer and the only real and useful "intelligence" within Marxism originates soley with the info gleaned from those "outsiders" who interact with the theories.

No individual or organization can correctly be called "revolutionary" today. There's no revolution anywhere to be found. There's barely class struggle on the collective level; there's certainly none on a massive scale.

No amount of clever propaganda will suddenly trigger a total cessation of capitalist production. No program, no matter how minimalist or maximal, can end domestication and capital. The most likely coup de grace at this point seems relate to the depletion of some critical resource(s). As the nihilism of various communists have pointed out, we are set the problem of becoming butterflies without ever having a proper caccoon. We need global communist consciousness now, yesterday, in fact.

I don't consider myself a councililst nor do I fetishize spontaneous forms of syndicalist "class action". But whatever deus ex machina ends up as potentially the catalyst for the downfall of capitalism, or perhaps civilization itself, would be more thoroughly and effectively understood and utilized by proletarians in the span of 5 minutes versus the whole two-hundred year history of Marxism.

"The philosopher must always present what is not the case, and in so doing attempt to break the constant tendency towards 'praxis'."

Vince
Your perspectives has no

Your perspectives has no practical component, and it leads nowhere.

Thank you -- next!

 

Non ex hoc mundi
Going nowhere

You're making desperate pleas for collaboration on the ICC's obscure and rarely visited Internet forum and I'm not sure you're qualified to say what leads places and what doesn't. Your "practical component" you reference has a long, flagrant history of helping to establish a highly centralized and authoritarian State, kill workers and help usher in a way more efficient form of capitalist production and exploitation. I'd much rather be nowhere than the place authoritarian socialists like yourself want to take us.

Vince
Hi, I don't want to be too

Hi,

I don't want to be too antagonistic right off the bat -- there's plenty of time for that later!

You can be the judge of how pro-state and pro-exploitation these efforts are:

SMALL EFFORTS TO ENCOURAGE WORKING CLASS RESISTANCE TO CAPITALISM IN TODAY'S UNITED STATES.

Since the early 1990's, actions in the San Francisco Bay Area around mass transit, described here,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love2.html

The initial impetus behind this,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_social_strikeout.html

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_farestrike.html

The efforts to disseminate this among US military personnel,

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love3.html

and the anti-gentrification Mission Yuppie Eradication Project

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/myep_criticism.html

have been elements in an ongoing effort to establish a new kind of anti-state/anti-market, autonomous class struggle praxis among mainstream working people in the contemporary United States.

1. These efforts take place "on the terrain of everyday life" of the wage-earning class, where we confront what market relations do to our lives, and where the market system's antagonism to human needs gives rise to the possibility of an organized, conscious, mass collective response. These efforts have not been directed towards the left-liberal protest ghetto, or toward academic, anarchist or self-styled Marxist subcultures.

2. Mass collective class struggle includes the fight against the boss in the workplace, but is not limited to the workplace.

3. The methods used to help create a new politics of working class resistance to capital and it's political apparatus have to be qualitatively different from the politics of the left. In all its statist, populist and directly democratic flavors the left is simply the left-wing of capital.

4. Authentic enemies of capitalism in the 21st century cannot use strategies, tactics or communication methods used by pro-wage labor leftists in the 20th century.

5. The armed forces are themselves vulnerable to social forces at work in the larger society that spawns them. Revolt in civilian society bleeds through the apparent hermetic separation of the military from mainstream civilian life into the ranks of enlisted people. The relationship between officers and enlisted people mirrors the relationship between bosses and employees, and similar dynamics of class conflict emerge in the military and civilian versions of the workplace.

6. With the virtual disappearance of the conventional left, and the accelerating decline of the United States as a world power, the way is now open for the creation of a new type of autonomous working class oppositional praxis. We can borrow from the best insights of authentic revolutionary working class tendencies in the past. We can use these insights as a point of departure, but not as an end-point. Anarcho-syndicalism and council communism were both useful in their day. That day has passed. Everything has to be recreated fom scratch.

Efforts like the ones around mass transit described in the articles above have a much greater future subversive potential than the Mission District anti-gentrification efforts of the late 1990's. They have the potential to directly involve a larger number of working people over an entire urban area, and under the right circumstances these actions can also have a "bleed-through" effect, spreading resistance in other areas of contemporary life.

What's being examined here is mostly a method of communication. These methods can be a template for similar anti-state/anti-capitalist proletarian actions elsewhere, including but not limited to fights around housing, social space and against austerity measures targeting employees and passengers of mass transit systems.

[email protected]

Vince
The efforts described here

The efforts described here can be easily reproduced, and with a little luck, greatly improved on.

I was in London for five weeks 17 years ago.  I met more people with advanced communist politics there than I've encountered everywhere else I've been, before or since.  But all they seemed capable of doing was sitting on their hands moaning that the working class has forgotten its historical task. There was a shared lack of energy and a total lack of any capacity for initiative.

The London underground would be an ideal place to apply efforts like the ones asserted in the past in the San Francisco Bay Area's BART and in San Francisco's MUNI public transit systems, examined in the links above. Use these efforts and attendent leaflets, posters and other communications methods as a template.

Aggressive agitation and propaganda among transit system employees, and, as the opportunities present themselves, among tube riders, over a long term period -- five, ten, twenty years -- could have some kind of major unexpected positive results. High public visibilty and staying power are the key to potential subversive effectiveness. The exploiter class can spatially deconcentrate many or most workplaces, but they cannot do without mass transit. Low wage working people are not going to quit riding the tube and just take Lyft instead. The tube can be the Putilov metalworks of the 21st century.  Think big.  Be visionary.  Today the tube -- tomorrow the world...

[email protected]

Non ex hoc mundi
Mr. Selkirk (or whatever

Mr. Selkirk (or whatever other alias you're using now)

It's pathetic you think this idea and others like it will somehow magically become the deus ex machina that brings down capitalism. You complain about Marxist dogma and proceed to spew your own dogmatic mess. It's straight up delusional. Wake up and smell the hummus you seem capable.

Vince
So, what's your alternative.

So, what's your alternative.  Let me guess: zip, zed, ningun, nada.  Nothing.

Those that can, do, and those that can't are apparently you.

Vince
A long-term agitprop effort

A long-term agitprop effort among London tube employees, akin to what's described here:

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/love2.html

Extending to tube riders as the opportunities present themselves, and avoiding the pitfalls the effort must inevitably encounter when leftist dolts glom onto the effort, as described here...

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_social_strikeout.html

http://www.infoshop.org/myep/muni_farestrike.html

...can, under some fortunate confluence of circumstances that are impossible to predict, take off in an unprecedented big way.  

There are more than enough people in London who are acquainted with advanced communist politics to get an effort like this going, and sustain it over a long period of time.  

In London the tube is definitely the way to go.

 

Non ex hoc mundi
Re: alternatives

Those like me have no concerns about alternatives to the usual; about who is doing what and how. There will always be dilettantes and activists to fill these roles.

I understand perfectly well how all shit in this reality continues irrelevant to and outside of my own individual power or efforts -- and there's nothing I can do to change this fact -- Mr. Original here seems to consider themselves above this type of mentality, which is unfortunate. Communism cannot and will not emerge from you or anything you end up doing, pal.

Our tasks as communists in this period is not to "affirm" the agendas of the Marxist organizations, but instead to "query" them at every given opportunity.

Vince
Since you so obviously have

Since you so obviously have nothing to say, you can now refrain from saying anything more.  Go find another inline sandbox to play in.

Vince
"inline" should be "online."

"inline" should be "online."  Sorry about that.

Vince
The fact that there are as

The fact that there are as many individuals in London who claim some sort of alleigance to revolutionary class struggle perspectives should make what I've suggested extremely possible among tube workers of the London undergroud -- and, under the right confluence of circumstances, extremely fruitful as well.

Again, see the links referred to above for style models of leaflets, stickers, posters, and how to start at the center and work your way outwards.

Examination of some of the pitfalls seen here can be of use as well:

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/01/11/18729952.php

Alf
Linc: are you familiar with

Linc: are you familiar with the London tube workers' experience described here?https://libcom.org/library/workmates-direct-action-workplace-organising-london-underground

By the way, there is a comrade who already posts here as Link, albeit with a 'k'; so to avoid confusion it might be better if you changed your name....

Vince
Hi Alf, I haven't seen that

Hi Alf,

I haven't seen that London tube worker's direct action workplace organzing article before, thanks for it.

Also, I'll go for your suggestion about changing my handle to avoid confusion.

Non ex hoc mundi
D E L U S I O N

Just one more subway strike until the revolution, comrades!

Vince
"Though cowards flinch and

"Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer..."

Non ex hoc mundi
Lookout for the badass

So because I think flyering the bus drivers at UC Berkeley is stupid I'm a traitor and coward.

I've read your accounts of your activism -- over a year ago now. It utterly failed -- by your own fucking standards. You didn't move anyone closer to communism (not that anyone can), especially from the supposedly unidentifiable, indistinguishable, uniform mass of people which you all refer to in one breathe as "the class" -- it's ridiculous.

P U R E D E L U S I O N

Vince
Does anyone with something

Does anyone with something worthwhile to say care to comment?

Demogorgon
Tone

I have nothing substantive to say on the topic, but I would encourage those who do to keep it civil. Calling someone a traitor because they disagree with your very specific prescription for the class struggle isn't going to get you very far. Similarly, calling someone delusional before you've really engaged with the substance of their arguments won't get you very far either and simply provoke them to respond in kind.

We all sometimes get frustrated in discussions, but it's a bit disheartening to see it happen in less than 20 posts.