A questionable proposition: Theorie Communiste’s bizarre theory of exploitation through the social product

1933: Beginning with the Great Depression, the fascist state began the practice of buying and slaughtering livestock and paying farmers subsidies not to plant crops.

As you probably have already noticed, I have been reading a lot from communization theory. After ignoring the tendency, it suddenly occurred to me that it is actually important. I have no apologies for my late turn. Sometimes I get it and other times things just go over my head. To make up for my previous error, I have been poring over a number of documents from the school.

One tendency I have noticed in the school is the stubborn avoidance of anything that smacks of Marx’s alleged ‘determinism’; which is to say the communization school is trying to argue for communization without invoking Marx’s labor theory of value. Like most Marxists today, TC seems to reject Marx’s labor theory, while trying to retain the power of his critique of the capitalist mode of production.

This approach appears to stem from the idea that Marx’s labor theory of value cannot account for the observed facts of post-war (and, in particular, post-1971) capitalism. The insistence on a non-deterministic critical approach leads to the sort of silly formulations as Theorie Communiste offers of a working class that can be “exploited through the product of their labour and not the sale of their labour-power.”

What TC is trying to account for with this bizarre formulation is the notion of Postone’s superfluous labor time. I figured I would give them some help. Hence this rather overly long post.

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Maya Gonzalez and the Global Failure of Twentieth Century Socialism

Let me say that I am reluctant to speak on the issues of gender. It is not that I am unfamiliar with the issues; rather, it is no more my place to state my opinion on the question of gender than it is the place of a white person to define white supremacy or a colonizer to tell the colonized what they are fighting for.

Nevertheless, here is an interesting formulation of communization from Maya Andrea Gonzalez, taken from her essay, Communization and the Abolition of Gender, in Clever Monkey’s anthology, Communization and its Discontents:

Communization describes a set of measures that we must take in the course of the class struggle if there is to be a revolution at all. Communization abolishes the capitalist mode of production, including wage-labor, exchange, the value form, the state, the division of labor and private property.

This set of measures, we are told, are not a revolutionary position, a state of society to be established after the revolution, a strategy, a tactic, an organization or a plan. It is the form the revolution itself must take owing to the nature of the class struggle today.

If I understand Gonzales, based on the peculiar characteristics of the class struggle today, the revolution must immediately put an end to the capitalist mode of production, including wage labor, exchange, money, the state, the division of labor and property. To this, Gonzalez adds gender and all divisions within social life. We cannot wait until after the revolution to accomplish all of this: presently, this is the revolution – the complete eradication of all existing social relations.

Frankly, this is a rather tall order that makes me wonder if communizers are actually serious about communization.


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Evan Calder Williams on communism: “We’ll Know it when we see it.”

For a guy who has remarkably little to say about communization theory and strategy, in his essay, “Fire to the Commons”, Evan Calder Williams proves that  he can just drone on and on, while saying nothing.

Williams’ essay was published as part of Clever Monkey’s stubbornly silly anthology, “Communization and Its Discontents”.

It is more than three-quarters of the way through the essay when Williams reminds us that he has not even mentioned the term, communization, much less discussed it. Apparently concerned to leave this surprising streak unbroken, Williams tells us this was his intention all along:

Despite the specificity of the volume, I have not yet spoken of communization, for the simple reason that I have not yet spoken of transition. My concern has been how we understand the position in which we find ourselves and how that relates to our discontinuous instances, what might chain them together, what forms of thought could aid that work.

In other words, communization only concerns the actual transition to communism; Williams first had to explain to us where we are situated within this transition. But even this definition of communization may be too broad, Williams tells us: communization doesn’t mean we have actually begun a transition to communism simply because the limits of capital has been reached, nor does it mean we can begin the transition right now through our praxis.

Instead, communization calls into question the very notion of a revolutionary transition itself.

***** Continue reading “Evan Calder Williams on communism: “We’ll Know it when we see it.””

Evan Calder Williams asks, “Is that all there is?”

Evan Calder Williams’ essay is my next target from Clever Monkey’s 2012 anthology, Communization and Its Discontents. William’s asks:

“do common things, having things in common, and what is common amongst us have to do with communism?”

I am looking forward to his answer, since, apart from expropriating capitalist property, most Marxists propose no other specifically communist measure than common ownership of the means of production. But then again, hypocrisy has always been the strong suit of Marxists.

John Cunningham: What praxis disables the entire reproductive cycle of capital remains an open question …

It literally took John Cunningham more than 6000 words to tell us what he could have told us in a single sentence, namely that he has no idea what communization means.

I feel cheated. I will never get back the time I spent poring over his essay, “Make Total Destroy,” from the anthology produced by Clever Monkey, Communization and its Discontents.

It is actually unfortunate that Cunningham makes this admission, since he appears to come closest to actually establishing a realistic communization strategy. I will try to show why I think this, but first let me summarize what I think is Cunningham’s argument.


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Shorter John Cunningham …

“I have no fucking idea”:

Apparatuses reproduce a more uneven terrain of struggle that includes but can’t be reduced to production as a site of contestation, corresponding to the everyday and potentially blocking insurrection. This aporia will only be resolved through a praxis that disables the entire reproductive cycle of capital and what that would be remains an open question.
Make Total Destroy, John Cunningham

This took 18 pages to say.

More later.

Class struggle and the abolition of wage labor: Did 20th century Socialism have it backwards?

I know I said I would review Nicole Pepperell’s essay next, but I still haven’t figured out what the fuck her argument is, yet. I apologize for that. I will keep at it until I have something relevant to say about it.

In the meantime, one of the more interesting takes on the notion of communization as a strategy is offered by Jasper Bernes’ “The Double Barricade and the Glass Floor”. Bernes explains how really difficult it may be to produce a strategy based on communization theory. I think he is right. Communization theory seems to get the relation between the class struggle and the immediate abolition of labor exactly backwards.

Trying to produce a strategy based on the premise that class struggle leads to the abolition of wage labor may not just be difficult, it may be impossible.

***** Continue reading “Class struggle and the abolition of wage labor: Did 20th century Socialism have it backwards?”

Has Toscano ever actually read Capital?

Continued from here

The abolition of wage labor in 20th century socialism

I think it’s a mistake to think communization theory offers anything new to replace the old strategy of the Communist Manifesto. The idea communists gathered around Marx and Engels in the middle of the 19th century were not committed to the idea of immediately abolishing wage slavery is silly.

This is all communization means.

Is Toscano seriously trying to argue that the men and women who produced and adopted the Manifesto did not fully intend to immediately put an end to the buying and selling of labor power if they successfully gained state power?

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Can Communization Work as a Strategy? Alberto Toscano is skeptical

In this critique of British cultural critic, social theorist, philosopher and translator, Alberto Toscano’s essay, Now or Never, I am examining his various reservations with communization theory.

For the purpose of this critique, I assume that communization means the direct and immediate abolition of wage labor by the proletarians is all that is required to realize a fully communist society. Although many communizers may not hold to this view, I do not feel bound by their lack of recognition of the implications of their own theory.

In the course of answering Toscano’s reservation I hope to show why my definition of communization, as the direct and immediate abolition of wage labor, is the only rational reading of communization theory.

This post is a bit long, so I will divide it into two parts.


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