Fragments on Radical Vision: Pairings of Bordiga, Adorno, Camatte, and Dauve

“Until now all sides have argued as if human beings remained unchanged in different class societies and under the domination of capital. This is why the role of the social context was emphasized (man, who was fundamentally good, was seen to be modified positively or negatively by the social context) by the materialist philosophers of the 18th century, while Marxists emphasized the role of an environment conditioned by the development of productive forces. Change was not denied, and after Marx it was repeated that history was a continual transformation of human nature. Nevertheless it was held explicitly or implicitly that an irreducible element continued to allow human beings to revolt against the oppression of capital. And capitalism itself was described in a Manichean manner: on one side the positive pole, the proletariat, the liberating class; on the other the negative pole, capital. Capital was affirmed as necessary and as having revolutionized the life of human beings, but it was described as an absolute evil in relation to the good, the proletariat. The phenomenon which emerges today does not in the least destroy the negative evaluation of capital, but forces us to generalize it to the class which was once antagonistic to it and carried within itself all the positive elements of human development and today of humanity itself. This phenomenon is the recomposition of a community and of human beings by capital, reflecting human community like a mirror. The theory of the looking glass could only arise when the human being became a tautology, a reflection of capital. Within the world of the despotism of capital (this is how society appears as of today), neither a good nor an evil can be distinguished. Everything can be condemned. Negating forces can only arise outside of capital. Since capital has absorbed all the old contradictions, the revolutionary movement has to reject the entire product of the development of class societies. This is the crux of its struggle against domestication, against the decadence of the human species. This is the essential moment of the process of formation of revolutionaries, absolutely necessary for the production of revolution.” – Jacques Camatte

The “economy” surely does not explain power. Profit-making strictly speaking does not account for (local or world) wars. A similar socio-economic “infrastructure” can coexist with very different and opposed political forms. Capitalist Germany was successively run by a monarchist caste, by bourgeois, by the leaders of a nationalist-racist one-party State, then after 1945 by bourgeois in the West and by bureaucrats in the East, then again by bourgeois when the country was reunified. History provides us with many examples of non-coincidence between economic might and political authority, and of a modern State occasionally ruling against the bourgeois, forcing the general interest of the system upon reluctant industrialists or businessmen. Faced with a large strike in the Ruhr, Bismark himself compelled the bosses to grant a wage rise. Although usually in Europe money brings about power, in Africa and in the East, power is often the quick way to fortune, with family or clan misappropriating public funds or siphoning off foreign trade. Also, it’s not uncommon for political rulers to dispossess the rich, as we’ve seen in Russia over the last ten or twenty years.

Yet, in the vast majority of cases, political leaders and masters of the land, of trade and of manufacturing go hand in hand or come down to the same thing. Commanding men usually goes together with putting them to work. The two forms of control can clash with one another, but not for long: one consolidates the other. Power does not create itself. Political rule and possession of the means of production rarely coincide, but in modern society there’s neither exploitation without domination, nor domination without exploitation: the same groups have direct or indirect control over wealth and power.–Gilles Duave, A contribution to the critique of political autonomy

“Personality is the caricature of freedom. The ground of the aporia is that the truth beyond the identity-compulsion would not be purely and simply its Other, but is mediated through it. All individuals are in the socialized society incapable of what is moral, which is socially demanded, but which would be real only in an emancipated society. Social morality would be solely, to finally bring the bad infinity, the dreadful cycle of retribution, to an end. The individual meanwhile is left with nothing more of what is moral, than what Kant’s moral theory, which conceded inclination to animals, but not respect has only contempt for: to attempt to live so, that one may believe to have been a good animal. – Theodor Adorno

Democracy is based on a dualism, and is the means to surmount it. Thus it resolves the dualism between spirit and matter, which is equivelant to that between great men and mass, through delegation of powers; that between citizen and man, through the ballot paper and universal suffrage. In fact under the pretext of the accession to reality of total being, there is a delegation of the sovereignty of man to the state. Man divests himself of his human power.

The separation of powers requires their unity and this is always done by violation of a constitution. This violation is founded on a divorce between situation in fact and situation in right. The passage from one to the other being assured by violence.

The democratic principle in reality is only the acceptance of a given fact : the scission of reality, the dualism linked to class society.” – Jacques Camatte

“Capital lives to accumulate value: it fixes this value in the form of stored labour, past labour. Accumulation and production become ends in themselves. Everything is subordinated to them: capital feeds its investments with human labour. At the same time it develops unproductive labour, as has been shown. The communist revolution is a rebellion against this absurdity. It is also a dis-accumulation, not so as to return to forms of life which are now gone forever, but to put things right: up to now man has been sacrificed to investment; nowadays the reverse is possible. Communism is opposed to productivism, and equally to the illusion of ecological development within the existing economic framework. “Zero growth” is still growth. The official spokespersons of ecology never voice a critique of economy as value-measuring, they just want to wisely keep money-led quantities under control. […]

“In the 19th century, and even at the time of the first world war, the material conditions of communism were still to be created, at least in some countries (France, Italy, Russia, etc.). A communist revolution would first have had to develop productive forces, to put the petite bourgeoisie to work, to generalize industrial labour, with the rule: no work, no food (of course this only applied to those able to work). But the revolution did not come, and its German stronghold was crushed. Its tasks have since been fulfilled by capitalist economic growth. The material basis of communism now exists. There is no longer any need to send unproductive workers to the factory; the problem is to create the basis of another “industry,” totally different from the present one. Many factories will have to be closed and compulsory labour is now out of the question: what we want is the abolition of work as an activity separate from the rest of’ life. It would be pointless to put an end to garbage collection as a job some have to do for years, if the whole process and logic of garbage creation and disposal did not change at the same time.

“Underdeveloped countries – to use a dated but not inadequate phrase – will not have to go through industrialization. In many parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, capital oppresses labour but has not subjugated it to “real” domination. Old forms of social communal life still exist. Communism would regenerate a lot of them – as Marx thought of the Russian peasant commune – with the help of some “western” technology applied in a different way. In many respects, such areas may prove easier to communize than the huge motorcar-adapted and screen-addicted ‘civilized’ conurbations. In other words, a worldwide process of dis-accumulation.” – Gilles Dauve

“In a future revolutionary period, the most subtle and most dangerous defenders of capitalism will not be the people shouting pro-capitalist and pro-statist slogans, but those who have understood the possible point of a total rupture. Far from eulogising TV commercials and social submission, they will propose to change life… but, to that end, call for building a true democratic power first. If they succeed in dominating the situation, the creation of this new political form will use up people’s energy, fritter away radical aspirations and, with the means becoming the end, will once again turn revolution into an ideology. Against them, and of course against overtly capitalist reaction, the proletarians’ only path to success will be the multiplication of concrete communist initiatives, which will naturally often be denounced as anti-democratic or even as… “fascist”. The struggle to establish places and moments for deliberation and decision, making possible the autonomy of the movement, will prove inseparable from practical measures aimed at changing life.

‘…in all past revolutions, the mode of activity has always remained intact and the only issue has been a different distribution of this activity and a redistribution of work among different persons; whereas the communist revolution is directed against the mode of activity as it has existed up till now and abolishes work and the domination of all classes by abolishing classes themselves, because it is carried out by the class which no longer counts as a class in society, which is not recognised as a class, and is in itself the expression of the dissolution of all classes, nationalities, etc. within present society…'”- GIlles Duave, WHEN INSURRECTIONS DIE

Modern capital, which needs consumers as it needs to produce ever more, has a great interest in letting the products of dead labour fall into disuse as soon as possible so as to impose their renewal with living labour, the only type from which it “sucks” profit. That is why it is in seventh heaven when war breaks out and that is why it is so well trained for the practice of disasters. Car production in America is massive, but all, or nearly all, families have a car, so demand might be exhausted. So then it is better that the cars last only a short time. So that this is indeed the case, firstly they are badly built with a series of botched parts. If the users break their necks more often, no matter: a client is lost, but there is another car to substitute. Then they call on fashion with a large cretinising subsidy of advertising propaganda, through which everyone wants the latest model, like the women who are ashamed to put on a dress, even if perfectly good, “from last year”. The fools are taken in and it does not matter that a Ford built in 1920 lasts longer than a brand new 1951 model. And finally the dumped cars are not used even for scrap, and are thrown into car cemeteries. Who dares to take one saying: you have thrown it away as if it were worthless, what harm is there in me fixing and reusing it? He would get a kick up the backside and a gaol sentence.

To exploit living labour, capital must destroy dead labour which is still useful. Loving to suck warm young blood, it kills corpses.’ – Amadeo Bordiga

“If negative dialectics calls for the self-reflection of thinking, the tangible implication is that if thinking is to be true – if it is to be true today, in any case – it must also be a thinking against itself. If thought is not measured by the extremity that eludes the concept, it is from the outset in the nature of the musical accompaniment with which the SS liked to drown out the screams of its victims.” – Theodor Adorno


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