The Real Movement

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Tag: Ben Noys

Is the proletariat the only revolutionary class in society?

This essay by Ben Noys, “Apocalypse, Tendency, Crisis”, got me thinking about that question. If we could extrapolate the accumulation process of the capitalist mode of production indefinitely into the foreseeable future where would it end up?

One huge problem is that there is nothing in Marx’s theory that says the accumulation process necessarily results in a proletarian revolution. Why is this a problem? Most people think communism requires a proletarian revolution. If the accumulation process doesn’t end in a proletarian revolution, there is this big black theoretical hole where we don’t know what happens if accumulation continues but a proletarian revolution never happens. We just don’t know where this process ends up. Read the rest of this entry »

An uncomfortable question for the Left after SYRIZA’s victory: Was Nick Land right all along?

Rory Scothorne (@shirkerism) tweeted this interesting statement:

“tbh the best way of getting a Scottish Syriza probably would have been via the brutal troika/IMF restructuring following independence”

wowtripod_profileSo does this mean Nick Land is at long last vindicated? The Left is very bad at drawing lessons from its own experiences, so I just want to hear the Left acknowledge Nick Land was mostly right.

SYRIZA’s victory in Greece, has only come after years of a brutal austerity regime, where, SYRIZA finance minister Varoufakis once argued, “everyone except the Nazis, the bigots and the misanthropic racists will be a loser”.

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Labor Theory and Accelerationism by the numbers

In my last post I showed why an accelerationist interpretation of historical materialism was understood by Marx to be embedded in his theory. However, the criticism leveled by Ben Noys might still be considered valid by some Marxists who refused to acknowledge my references.

Nick Land accelerationism as seen through the writing of Ben Noys

First, those criticisms include the charge that Marx’s own writings might lend themselves to “a religious, even apocalyptic, interpretation of historical materialism.” This is a difficult charge to counter simply by referencing the texts alleged to be prone to apocalyptic interpretations. Almost anyone dumb enough to take Noys argument seriously on this point is not likely to dissuaded of it by any references to the actual texts written by Marx.

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Marx’s big error

post-work2I came across this comment by JD Taylor on accelerationism, in a post that seems to adopt Ben Noys’ argument in toto:

“Secondly, a tactic like Accelerationism acts either as a ludicrous and fatalistic defence of Capital, or a strategy that is just too vague to implement and which, in whatever small cases it is worked, will mainly serve to alienate others and get that person sacked, making the Left look even more obscure and confusing.”

There is, says the writer, some big problems with accelerationism:

“There’s some clear flaws with Accelerationism. The Marxist logic itself, for one. Ok, we defeat Capitalism (hurrah hurrah implied, but why would we want to do this though?) by pushing its inherent contradictions – it’s gonna blow anyway, with a religious redemptive revolution at the end of it, let’s push it faster, exacerbate the conditions for revolution! So does that mean, as local govt employees, we actually strive to make living conditions worse?”

And this conceals an even bigger set of problems:

“Secondly, why do we assume history is on our side? This is something Alex Williams is particularly guilt of in his dual-analysis of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ accelerationism, in another post on his blog, Splintering Bone Ashes. Weak Accelerationism drives capitalism towards point of communist revolution by foregrounding its internal contradictions, which in real terms means making things worse, which presupposes that the proletariat might not just rise up against their middle-class and marginal left-wing overlords who are acting to manipulate the markets and criticise trade unionism. Strong Accelerationism in contrast poses whether accelerated processes of Capital itself might fundamentally alter them, and in doing so alter subjectivity towards the inhuman, beyond any revolution.”

The problems posed by the writer points to a huge error Marx probably had not anticipated in his theory:

Marxists would be too dumb to figure anything out on their own.

They would, instead, simply circle around the same old arguments over and over again until capitalism just finally collapsed on its own without their help.

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Apocalypse, accelerationism and the unscrupulous argument of Ben Noys


aggIn his essay, “Apocalypse, tendency, crisis”, Ben Noys begin innocently enough by appropriating the anti-communist charge that several well known Marxists have a religious, even apocalyptic, interpretation of historical materialism. However, he explains, he isn’t going to hold it against them:

“I’m not concerned with the old Cold War trope that Marxism is really a form of religion with its own eschatology.”

After which, bizarrely enough, Noys goes on to accuse these Marxists of being just that:

“I am, however, critiquing the remnants of a religious model of providence, in which we suppose history is necessarily on our side.”

I like how, in the opening paragraph of this essay, Noys employs the words of the anti-communist author, Norman Cohn, to accuse Marxists of having “apocalyptic desires”. It really is a nice touch to see a Marxist editor of the journal, Historical Materialism, basically accuse Marxists of being moonies while slyly distancing himself from the charge.

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Left Accelerationism as product re-branding

Indian_call_centerWhat makes Land’s Accelerationism the purest and only valid existing expression of Accelerationism today?

Well, at least in part, it is because Land’s self-styled critics, such as, for instance, Alex Williams, write shit like this:

Where Deleuze and Guattari ultimately counseled caution, to accelerate with care to avoid total destruction, Land favored an absolute process of acceleration and deterritorialization, identifying capitalism as the ultimate agent of history. As Land puts it, “Capitalism has no external limit, it has consumed life and biological intelligence, [and it is] vast beyond human anticipation.” Here, the deregulation, privatization, and commodification of neoliberal capitalism will serve to destroy all stratification within society, generating in the process unheard of novelties. Politics and all morality, particularly of the leftist variety, are a blockage to this fundamental historical process. Land had a hypnotizing belief that capitalist speed alone could generate a global transition towards unparalleled technological singularity. In this visioning of capital, even the human itself can eventually be discarded as mere drag to an abstract planetary intelligence rapidly constructing itself from the bricolaged fragments of former civilizations. As Land has it, through the acceleration of global capitalism the human will be dissolved in a technological apotheosis, effectively experiencing a species-wide suicide as the ultimate stimulant head rush.

Marxists look at Land and they are scandalized by his writing; writings that violate their petty bourgeois sensibilities.

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“Capitalism Harder!”: Accelerationism as Marxism’s mirror

Left accelerationists have to show why they are not simply repackaging a discredited Marxist political strategy — a charge Nick Land makes forcefully here. The reason I say this is simple: a vulgar interpretation of Marx’s theory would suggest that as the conditions of the working class screen-shot-2012-12-30-at-9-48-52-pm-01-14-57deteriorated, they would be goaded into a socialist revolution. Some variant on this idea regularly becomes very popular among Marxists in the middle of economic downturns.

Of course, this idea is not as blunt as I put it. For instance many  simply assume deteriorating conditions push people into struggle with capital and requires the additional intervention of some sort of advanced or vanguard element to raise the political consciousness of the class. This seems to be the thinking behind the more polished argument made by Michael A. Lebowitz in this passage that crises produces conditions for socialist education:

“But, they are merely open to this understanding. All those actions, demonstrations and struggles in themselves cannot go beyond capitalism. Given that exploitation inherently appears simply as unfairness and that the nature of capital is mystified, these struggles lead only to the demand for fairness, for justice within capitalist relations but not justice beyond capitalism. They generate at best a trade union or social-democratic consciousness—a perspective which is bounded by a continuing sense of dependence upon capital, i.e., bounded by capitalist relations. Given that the spontaneous response of people in motion does not in itself go beyond capital, communication of the essential nature of capitalism is critical to its nonreproduction.”

But it was (and still is) generally held that when conditions deteriorate the working class is pushed in a heightened level of at least defensive conflict with the capitalists and thus become more open to “socialist education”.

Accelerationism simply asks a perfectly reasonable question: If deteriorating conditions allows the working class to become more open to going beyond capitalism, why try to prevent conditions from deteriorating? Why fight for piecemeal reforms that only prop up existing society by maintaining the illusion it can be fixed? If the capitalists are only concerned to push their brutal exploitation of the class to ever more extreme limits, why not welcome this?

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Pushing On A String? – The logic of state management of capitalism

“‘Pushing on a string’ is particularly used to illustrate limitations of monetary policy, particularly that the money multiplier is an inequality, a limit on money creation, not an equality.” –Wikipedia

So here are the questions I have been contemplating for the past week or so: When simpleton economists suggest policies to manage “the economy”, what in their view do they think is being managed? How do they Yellen-Summers-picconceptualize both the “economy” itself and the tools they employ to manage it? What, if any, are the vulnerabilities (defects) of this form of management that is being expressed in the current debate among mainstream (neoclassical) economists? In particular, what are the choices being expressed in the debate over who should replace Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve Bank?

To be sure, I am not trying to offer a polemic against mainstream economics in this essay but to understand this policy in its own right, as well as to restate it in a form that is comprehensible within a labor theory framework as i understand that framework.

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