Saturday, December 26, 2015

Under the Christmas tree, the beach! This season's communising measures...

Happy Christmas fellow wage-slaves! I'm re-reading this Endnotes #2 text and wanted to share a great segment from it:

"The theory of communisation emerged as a critique of various conceptions of the revolution inherited from both the 2nd and 3rd International Marxism of the workers’ movement, as well as its dissident tendencies and oppositions. The experiences of revolutionary failure in the first half of the 20th century seemed to present as the essential question, whether workers can or should exercise their power through the party and state (Leninism, the Italian Communist Left), or through organisation at the point of production (anarcho-syndicalism, the Dutch-German Communist Left).

On the one hand some would claim that it was the absence of the party — or of the right kind of party — that had led to revolutionary chances being missed in Germany, Italy or Spain, while on the other hand others could say that it was precisely the party, and the “statist,” “political” conception of the revolution, that had failed in Russia and played a negative role elsewhere.

Those who developed the theory of communisation rejected this posing of revolution in terms of forms of organisation, and instead aimed to grasp the revolution in terms of its content.

Communisation implied a rejection of the view of revolution as an event where workers take power followed by a period of transition: instead it was to be seen as a movement characterised by immediate communist measures (such as the free distribution of goods) both for their own merit, and as a way of destroying the material basis of the counter-revolution.

If, after a revolution, the bourgeoisie is expropriated but workers remain workers, producing in separate enterprises, dependent on their relation to that workplace for their subsistence, and exchanging with other enterprises, then whether that exchange is self-organised by the workers or given central direction by a “workers’ state” means very little: the capitalist content remains, and sooner or later the distinct role or function of the capitalist will reassert itself.

By contrast, the revolution as a communising movement would destroy — by ceasing to constitute and reproduce them — all capitalist categories: exchange, money, commodities, the existence of separate enterprises, the state and — most fundamentally — wage labour and the working class itself."

So what the hell are 'communist measures'? There's a text on communist measures here, but one Libcom posters note that:

'communisation is a movement at the level of the totality'. So it's not a question of particular acts being communising, and enough of them adding up to communism/revolution, but that acts take on a communising character depending on the movement of which they're a part. This is all a bit abstract, so I'll give an example.

Let's imagine a single factory closes down, and is occupied, taken over and self-managed by its workers. This may or may not be a good thing; I doubt many communisation theorists, even those most critical of self-management would begrudge workers trying to survive, though some argue occupying to demand a higher severance package would be a better approach than assuming management of a failing firm. But a single act like this doesn't challenge the totality of capitalist relations, it would just swap a vertically managed firm for a horizontally managed one, leaving the 'totality' unchanged.

However, if factory takeovers were happening on a mass scale, such that they could start doing away with commercial/commodity relations between them; and at the same time there were insurgent street movements toppling governments; mass refusals to pay rent/mortgages and militant defence of subsequent 'squatting'; collective kitchens springing up to feed insurgents (whether they're 'workers' in a narrow sense, or homeless, or domestic workers, or unemployed or whatever); and free health clinics being opened either by laid off doctors/nurses, or in their spare time, or in occupied hospitals and other buildings... If this was happening across several countries then we might be looking at a communising movement at the level of the totality; toppling state power, superseding commercial relations, making possible social reproduction (housing, food, health) without mediation by money, self-management of the activities necessary for this etc (rather than self-management of commodity production and wage labour).

All a long way to say that: a) things can't go on the way they are, and b) the struggle against the way things are can't necessarily be the same as struggles of the past.

Time for some more reading!