As I mentioned I want to get to know insurrectionalist currents. I’ve read a bit of stuff by the Tiqqun people now (notes to follow, for now let me just say, blech! the silver lining is that making myself slog through that muck will be good for my self-discipline) and have been doing some background reading, specifically about the overlap between that stuff and the ultraleft marxist milieu. I read this piece and I read this over at Bedtime Theory. Below are some notes and questions on the Bedtime Theory piece.
This is a helpful piece, for your drawing out implications and for the other works you reference, none of which I’ve read.
I’m curious, have you read that other piece I linked to (“invisible politics”)? If so, what do you think of it and how much do you agree or differ w/ it? I’m also curious to hear how you’d map correspondences and/or divergences between all this and Don H’s stuff. I’m thinking in part about the bit (which seems right to me) in his Lenin essay where he says basically “sometimes we need to consolidate gains and hold ground, we don’t always push ever forward.” Maybe that’s not in tension w/ this french ultraleft stuff but the ultraleft stuff *feels* like it’s only able to think pushing forward.
I think this point is particularly interesting – “Even when workers are just making demands they often come to a point when there is no other solution but a violent clash with the State and its assistants, the unions.” That’s quite different from the “no demands!” line in the occupationist milieu.
I’ve not (yet) read the Aufheben piece you quoted from; maybe this is obvious in the original context but in your piece I think this quote is ambiguous: “It is inadequate and unhistorical to assume that the ultra-left had the right ideas but that they simply lost out to the wrong ones, and on this basis to assert its critique of trade unions and leftist political parties when the opportunity occurs.” What’s the status of asserting the ultraleft critique? It’s not clear to me from this, like just grammatically – does ‘inadequate’ refer to the assertion of this critique, or is the issue just one of understanding something about that critique but still asserting it? (Or something else altogether?)
On this – “Insurrections fail because workers are not at that moment revolutionary” does this refer to aims or to effectivity? As in, does this mean “insurrections fail because the proletariat is not yet engaged in a project of making revolution, such that insurrections have run too far in advance of the class” or does this mean “insurrections fail because the proletariat fails to enact a revolution.” The latter’s a bit tautologous I think.
I think this is interesting – “it is the reformist activity of workers themselves which maintains organised, openly counter-revolutionary, reformism.” That speaks to some of what we’ve talked about w/r/t service unionism. There really are some workers who want a union as an outside party to sweep in and save the day for them. I’m not totally sure but I think there’s a resonance here with the early IWW stuff I was writing about a while back (and with our emphasis in mass work on thinking more about developing subjects than about changing objective conditions).
How does that stuff square with the rejection of the perspective “that the problem with workers is that they have the wrong ideas”? Surely some aspect of the reformism you and Dauve are criticizing has an intellectual component. And, how does Dauve’s insistence — “it’s the nature of the change we’ve got to insist upon: creating a world without money, without commodity exchange, without labour being bought and sold, without firms as competing poles of value accumulation, without work as separate from the rest of our activities, without a State, without a specialized political sphere supposedly cut off from our social relationships” — avoid the criticism you and he voice?
On this — “It seems like a cruel fate for the life of struggle to resolve into the worship of dead forms of living fights, but that’s the product of a left wholly alienated from the experiences and struggles of a living class.” Perhaps, though I think you overstate this (in true ultraleft style!); I wonder if there’s also a way in which something else is going on, analogous to the point you/Dauve made earlier. You said that reformism partially results from workers reformist activity. In that case, perhaps the insistence on dead forms also has an element of workers looking to bad past examples?