working-class subjectivity

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Sun Feb 4 14:58:09 MST 1996

Jerry wrote:

>At issue, in part, is the question of the relationship between the logic
>of capital and the class struggle. _Capital_, of course, stresses the
>former (although, some like Harry Cleever in _Reading Capital
>Politically_, following Negri, have challenged traditional
>interpretations of _Capital_).

> Both Negri and Lebowitz were heavily influenced by a reading of the
>>From Negri's perspective, the role of working-class subjectivity was at
>the heart of Marx's project in _Capital_ and the _Grundrisse_ (although,
>Negri identifies more with the latter than the former). Both Negri and
>Lebowitz point to Marx's 6-book-plan for _Capital_ regarding the question
>of the working-class as subject.
>Lebowitz claims that Marx intended but never got around to writing the
>proposed book on _Wage-Labour_ which was to follow the publication of
>_Capital_. Lebowitz's book is, essentially, both an attempt to write that
>missing book and an attack against what Mike calls "one-sided Marxism."
>Unlike Negri, Lebowitz claims that the books that became _Capital_ are
>themselves one-sided because they only deal with the logic of capital
>and do not consider the logic of working-class self-activity.
>Anybody want to discuss these issues further?

I'd say it wasn't just a question of wanting to. Until we get a clearer
understanding of the economic and social imperatives at work in the
development of capital, in the sense of the logic of capital, we won't be
able to appreciate the constraints they place on working class
consciousness and organization.

But to take Negri and Lebowitz as a starting point rather than Capital
itself is lopsided. In particular Lebowitz's position as Jerry states it is
a fetishization of Capital as opposed to the comprehensive dynamic of the
whole activity of Marx and Engels to analyse and to organize to overthrow
and replace the capitalist system in as concrete a fashion as possible,
using both theoretical and practical methods. Don't forget that all of
their theoretical work took place in a party context, and a revolutionary
proletarian one at that by 1847 at the latest. Negri's position as Jerry
states it is unexceptionable in so far as working class subjectivity is at
the heart of any revolutionary marxist project, but it disregards the
importance of Capital for establishing limits to voluntaristic attempts to
disregard the objective processes at work within the capitalist mode of

I think it's dangerous to try and drive a wedge between the Grundrisse and
Capital. The one builds on the other, and they also supplement each other -
consider the importance of just two sections of the Grundrisse for Capital,
namely the section on pre-capitalist economic formations with the whole
emphasis on various ways of economic belonging (to the land, to means of
production etc) that had to be stripped away before a 'free' working class
was formed appropriate to the needs of capital, and the section on the
operations of the labour process with respect to the maintenance, transfer
and creation of value in a commodity. No way there's any conflict here
between the two works.

There's a difference of emphasis between Grundrisse and Capital of course.
In the former Marx is doing his thing with no holds barred and no thought
of publication, wrestling with the basic ideas to make sure the
underpinnings are as firm as can be philosophically. In the latter, on this
ascertained foundation, he presents his results. And as thorough as Capital
is, it still deals with a lot of the foundational ideas very briefly - as
results, the reaching of which can be followed in detail in the Grundrisse.

I'd like to follow this up in a discussion in which we get down to the
significance for working class action of for instance Lenin's development
of Capital and his conclusion that 'imperialism is capitalism pregnant with

Revolution as a midwife of history. Too 'deterministic' for some of you?
Why? What limits do non-'determinists' see to working-class (or
non-working-class for that matter) action?



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