Archive for December, 2006

Microcredit, enclosures, commons

Monday, December 18th, 2006

video_button_white_dred.gifThis is an extract of a debate on microcredit broadcasted by Democracy Now! (13 December - go here for full coverage in real player) between Susan Davis, founder and chair of the Grameen Foundation, and Vandana Shiva. The occasion was the Nobel Peace price acceptance speech made by the founder of Grameen Bank Muhammad Yunus. The Commoner has already pusblished a critique of Grameen Bank with the article by George Caffentzis titled Varieties of Bancocide: Left and Right Critiques of the World Bank and IMF, linking microcredit to IMF and World Bank policies.

The debate here extracted is not only informative, it is also enlightening of the gap we have to overcome in our critical discourses. Susan Davis and Vandana Shiva epitomise here two opposite ways to deal with “poverty” and “development”. Susan Davis, in a business like fashion, (more…)

Competition as class struggle

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

optical-illusion.jpgYou try to go at a Marxist conference and say that “class struggle” is the centre of our preoccupation, that we need to bring in subjectivity and struggles, desires and class composition, strategies and counterstrategies, problematic of political recomposition vis-a’-vis capital in our way to apprehend the world. You will be answered with a rift sang by all types of variations and idiosyncratic types of Marxism: the historical approach, the value form approach, the disequilibrium approach, the equilibrium approach, the overproduction approach, the under-consumption approach, the logic of capital approach, even the “of-course-class-struggle-is-important” approach. In all their diversity, they share one common song, they sing to you to shut up your insistence on subjectivity and struggle, and this is it: “there is not only class struggle, there is also competition among capitals” . . .or, to put it in a more elegant (maybe) way, here they go: “there is not only the vertical struggle between capital and labour, there is also the horizontal competitive struggle among capitals”.

Ok, let us take a time machine and travel back 102 years, to 1905, (more…)

Thoughts on Workerism after Mario Tronti’s talk

Monday, December 11th, 2006

lenin-in-inghilterra2.jpgIt has been suggested to me, in the corridors of the Historical Materialism conference held over the week end, that what distinguishes what we may call, broadly speaking, autonomist marxism with other marxist approaches is the argument that the “working class” is the agent of transformation that pushes capital on the defence and forces its “economic” development rather then, on the contrary, being capital that “overdetermines” the rest by means of its agency. This suggestion furthermore is accompanied by the claim that this view is false, since capital has “more power”. In my view, the insight of 1960s operaismo with respect to working class agency were not falsified in light of 1980s capital’s agency, they were simply temporally bounded. Class struggle, in a process-like manner, have at least two broad actors, not one, and their tragic-comic struggle develop through highs and lows for both sides, “scoring points” for both sides. The process of this historical development of struggle, this very process of “point scoring” for one or the other, is the stuff of capitalist development. The problem is that acknowledging this does not give us any hint of how to go beyond capital and the very specific form of struggle shaping its development.

And I think it is at this point that it is important to underline that what distinguishes “autonomist marxism” in its operaiste roots to other forms of marxism, is a specific theoretical attitude, one that takes the processes that traditionally we understand as “political” and “economic”, as one. Its unique political methodology is one that allows to ask research questions as part of a heretic research program, (more…)

Looking for a photo on shop floor commons

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

refusalofworkflowcharts.jpgit is a desperate thing to search for pictures on “refusal of work” and constitution of shop floor commons over the internet. The “refusal of work” search tab, reports few pictures of diagrams describing the procedures a company must adopts if a worker refuses to work for health and safety reasons (see aside), and a bunch of unrelated issues . . .The search begun because I am looking for a photo that is impressed in my memory, of a group of Italian factory workers in the late 1960s or 1970s (Fiat?), who were in the action of refusing to work (one of them was sleeping, the others I thing playing cards) . . . In reality I am looking for any type of photos that document refusal of work on the shop floor (that is refuse capital’s measure of life activity), because I want to make a case that commons also emerge on the shop floor . . .I know they exist from the tales that Italian factory workers have told me back in the 1970s . . .I know it also for what some time ago I read about Ford, Harley Devidson etc. in the United States in the same period. . .I tried to search for “workers playing card”, I tried “ford workers 1970s” and a series of variation on the theme . . . nothing, pages after pages of workers who were pictured in the act of working, or, at most, pose for the group picture (now that is a very temporary commons!). . . quite frustrated I tried a different technique in my google search, and I entered the tag “workers history” and variations on the theme . . .then I realised that our historical photo album is pretty much peculiar: photos of union leaders, some demonstrations, some posters, some image of proud worker . . but very little, if not, sense of the community that these people were sharing and constituting in their daily practice and struggles . . . in other words, we look at the pictures of some of the past actors of our history as subjects of struggle, and we do not see them as kin as a sort of family, that is as card players hiding from the boss, laughing behind the back of authority to recover the dignity lost on the line, teasing each other, arguing or fighting or coming together in companionship, and organising for a big push the next strike . . . all this, it seems to me, is not documented in images, and it is as if our family photo album was filled only with passport pictures of our relatives.

Rumsfeld leaves a trace on his way out

Monday, December 4th, 2006

rumsfeld-i-dont-see-a-civil-war2.jpgRead the text of a classified Nov. 6 memorandum that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent to the White House suggesting new strategic options in Iraq. The memorandum was sent one day before the midterm Congressional elections and two days before Mr. Rumsfeld resigned. These options reveal to us how they think. It will be interesting for us to see what of these will be adopted by the remaining two years of the current US administration and possibly future democratic administration. In any case, just pick these two option for illustrative purpose:

“Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi Government and the U.S. — political, economic and security goals — to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made).”

Here the request is for a set of target/benchmarks against which military intervention in Iraq is measured and assessed. Measurement here has a function of double coupling: on hand hand to couple US political, economic and security goals to Iraqi Government and on the other to couple US military intervention in Iraq with domestic aspirations of the public (i.e. factroy of consent).

Another interesting point is the application of disciplinary processes to engineer “behavioural changes”.

¶Stop rewarding bad behavior, as was done in Fallujah when they pushed in reconstruction funds, and start rewarding good behavior. Put our reconstruction efforts in those parts of Iraq that are behaving, and invest and create havens of opportunity to reward them for their good behavior. As the old saying goes, “If you want more of something, reward it; if you want less of something, penalize it.” No more reconstruction assistance in areas where there is violence.

Here resources for reconstruction are not seen as tied to a general political goal which might bring benefit to the US in the future, but as a specific strategy of subjectification, of creation of subjects behaving in certain ways. Interestingly, this was the idea for the entire of Iraq, once they got in in the first place. When they invaded, the plan was indeed to make of the whole of Iraq a “havens of opportunity” to hold as a exemplary case of a fully neoliberal state in the hearth of the Middle East.

And what to say of this other piece, in which Rumsfeld advice to use some old Saddam Hussain methods to gain support in Iraq: “Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.” Wasn’t Goring who said that the methods of propaganda, corruption and denunciation of “anti-patriotism” were applicable to all systems of government?