The Great Recession and the Failure of Capitalism, Paul Mattick,Professor of Philosophy, Adelphi University, New York, Part of the 2011 Ethics Awareness Week from the Center For the Study of Ethics.

Hegel via Aaron

The planning for this “action”, for logistical and pragmatically necessary reasons was, in its initial stages, kept as quiet as possible. For this reason it was frequently referred to as “the action” in correspondence and conversation. Now we have acted and the abstract concept is apparently no less determined. What does it mean to have engaged in or accomplished this “action”? The “action”, of course, is not accomplished, not terminated with the taking of space, but not for that reason, any less an action. In taking the space, in acting, we have created the condition for further instantiations of “action.” In creating a space for the further development of the movement we create space and opportunity for “action” previously lacking. The “action” is, in this way, a continuous development out of and beyond itself. It does not bleed into something different, but is itself further determined by what it becomes. Only through the process of progressively unfolding in ever richer determinations can we come to understand the meaning of the action we have taken. The determination of all actions is future oriented, that is, they are essentially the possibilities they open by what becomes thinkable and doable as their result. In this radical break from normal relations, we advance in an as yet undetermined dialectic. In recognizing our constitutive role in the process of determination we simultaneously acknowledge our freedom, our freedom to create freely. To continue acting is to continue in the manifestation of free meaning by increasing the horizon of possibilities, and in this way we simultaneously challenge both reified consciousness and the persistent foreclosure of opportunities for a truly rational, socially integrated society.

Arendt via Marianne

“No chaos resulted from the actions of people without leadership and without previously formulated program…instead of mob rule there appeared immediately the same organization which for more than a hundred years now has emerged whenever the people have been permitted for a few days, or a few weeks or months, to follow their own political devices without a government (or a party program) imposed from above.” So said Arendt, over fifty years ago, about the Hungarian revolution. She went on, in that article, to point out tat “the councils were born exclusively out of the actions and spontaneous demands of the people, and they were not deduced from an ideology, nor foreseen, let alone preconceived, by any theory about the best form of government. Wherever they appeared they were met with utmost hostility from leaders from right to left ant with the unanimous neglect of political theorists and political scientists. The point is that these councils have always been undoubtedly democratic, but in a sense never seen before and never thought about.” Such is our General Assembly. It is the next form of politics and freedom – one coming blessedly, just in time.

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Takethecity.orgRecent events have raised many important questions: What does a real and vital movement look like?  What is the nature of leadership in struggle?  Is there a ‘correct’ way for us to fight against our conditions? Below is a statement from some friends addressing theoretical and practical concerns that have arisen in the last month or so.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/livingdead.jpg

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language…. The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content – here the content goes beyond the phrase.”  Karl Marx – 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

The above quote is just as integral to revolutionary struggle in the 21st century as it was for France in 1852.  Across the vast human topography of class society, clear lines are being drawn between those who parody and fetishize the movements of dead generations in order to dominate the movements of today, and those who seek to expand forms of praxis and theory created in the current cycle of struggle, through the self-directed struggle of workers and students themselves.

After several weeks of smears, ad hominem attacks and political diatribes, the conversation surrounding the events of March 4th has finally shifted to the terrain of tactics and ideology.  The small segment of humanity actually paying attention to this debate has been gifted with lapidary critiques of Anarcho-Imperialism, Anarcho-Situ-Autonomism, Demand-Nothingism, and – most recently — dangerous, “anger-based” Anarcha-Feminism.  While these critiques are coming from various activist quarters, they all focus their attention on the supposed Take The City “Organization.”  Each of these critiques (even if accurate) could land only a glancing blow, because the people who comprise their opposition are neither a party, nor an association nor even a website.  In fact, the alleged saboteurs of March 4th, the occupiers of last April, the self-proclaimed “bitches,” the militant feminists, and many others are merely tendencies within a larger, informal network.  This group has no party-line, no hierarchical structure and little theoretical unity.  The only thing that unites us is camaraderie and solidarity on the one hand and an understanding of direct action and self-organization on the other.  The following is a partial critique, by one tendency within this group, of the tactical and theoretical composition of what has been called the ‘student movement’.

Can a couple hundred students at an outdoor rally at Hunter be considered a movement?  Can six or seven hundred people standing in a Midtown police pen be considered a movement? The reason the NYC ‘student movement’ must be put in quotations is because the label is largely self-flattery.  We hope to show below that the tactics of the coalition of movement-builders are, at best, unhelpful to the development of a strong and vital movement and, at worst, preventative of one.

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Our group convenes this week and begins with a discussion and celebration of the latest events from comrades in the West and the possibility of further accelerations of struggle in our own vicinity. We respond to a series of questions posed by a Greek bourgeois newspaper concerning their year of insurrection and revolt. Our attention then turns to our weekly collective study. This week we prepare to continue reading chapter three.

We review, recite and observe with a particular emphasis: the capital process is masked by its constant transformations into concrete particular modes of existence; the commodity’s dual aspects are masked by their existence in the equivalent and relative forms as only a use-value for the reciever and only an exchange value for the transmitter; the labor and marginal theory of value of the political economist is a mask that freezes time as opposed to the historically dynamic abstract and socially necessary labor time at the root of the value of products; capital’s money-form as wages for the proletariat mask their role in the circulation of variable capital as drafts for means of subsistence as opposed to money as disposition for productive consumption, for the capitalist; convention, culture and juridical activity mask the productive-historical factors that are behind them leading to bizaare rituals and value systems; markets mask the myriad shifts in supply and demand for countless productive activities which we lose track of and therefore control over, passively deferring to the inexorable spiral of self-valorization; exchange masks the intentions and concrete conditions of production; etc.
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Occupied UC Berkeley, 18 November 2009

Being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening.
UC President Mark Yudof

Capital is dead labor which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor.
Karl Marx

Politics is death that lives a human life.
Achille Mbembe

Yes, very much a cemetery.  Only here there are no dirges, no prayers, only the repeated testing of our threshold for anxiety, humiliation, and debt.  The classroom just like the workplace just like the university just like the state just like the economy manages our social death, translating what we once knew from high school, from work, from our family life into academic parlance, into acceptable forms of social conflict.

Who knew that behind so much civic life (electoral campaigns, student body representatives, bureaucratic administrators, public relations officials, Peace and Conflict Studies, ad nauseam) was so much social death?  What postures we maintain to claim representation, what limits we assume, what desires we dismiss?

And in this moment of crisis they ask us to twist ourselves in a way that they can hear.  Petitions to Sacramento, phone calls to Congressmen—even the chancellor patronizingly congratulates our September 24th student strike, shaping the meaning and the force of the movement as a movement against the policies of Sacramento.  He expands his institutional authority to encompass the movement.  When students begin to hold libraries over night, beginning to take our first baby step as an autonomous movement he reins us in by serendipitously announcing library money.  He manages movement, he kills movement by funneling it into the electoral process.  He manages our social death.  He looks forward to these battles on his terrain, to eulogize a proposition, to win this or that—he and his look forward to exhausting us.
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