Negri's Marxism

Marcus Strom MSTROM at
Mon Feb 19 13:10:31 MST 1996

> Date:          Fri, 16 Feb 1996 01:41:09 -0500 (EST)
> From:          "Bryan A. Alexander" <bnalexan at>
> Subject:       Re: Negri's Marxism

> On Fri, 16 Feb 1996, Marcus Strom wrote:

> > The founding works of the italian autonomia movement are a breath of 
> > fresh air from the 70s which were full of 'newLeft' bollocks - their entire 
> > orientation is to working class independent organisation and overthrow 
> > of the capitalist state. Negri was one of the main activist/theoreticians 
> > of this movement and they are worth studying.
> > 
> > Much of this work has been 'postmodernised' in the 1990s. However, 
> > the ongoing thread of analysis on class composition is still useful.
> Wait - can you develop what you find useful?  You trash Negri in the 
> following lines - so why is he worth studying? to destroy and learn from 
> the ashes?

What I find useful is what you mention below. This initial work is 
clearly focussed on working class political independence. This in the 
period of 'eurocommunism' which had abandoned the working class. It treats 
*class compostion* as a *process* and part of the struggle, and not a 
given. The work challenges what I call the "productivists", those 
so-called marxists (maoists, stalinists and most trotskyists) who put 
production as the prime indicator of progress. They don't subordinate 
production to humanity and its needs and wants.

>  > > On "Communist Like Us". When I first saw it, I couldn't help 
> but 
> > laugh. It is one of the funniest books I have ever read; I got my own 
> > copy from the comedy section of my local bookstore. I advise every 
> > one else to look in their comedy sections for it.
> > 
> > As a piece of revolutionary text it has to be one of the most 
> > obfuscating, ridiculous, self-indulgent pieces of twadle I have 
> > *ever* read. It is the sort of book you read and keep laughing, 
> > underlying the funniest/ridiculous pieces and then reading them to 
> > your mates for a good laugh.
> We can use MIMNotes for the same purpose.  Chacun a son gout.

What does "chacun a son gout" mean?

> I thought I was emphasizing MARX BEYOND MARX-
> >... 
> > This is Negri's reading of the Grundrisse. I have never read 
> > Grundrisse. However, I think that THE ENTIRE BASIS OF NEGRI'S 
> > ANALYSIS IS INCORRECT. This flows on to the entire school that follws 
> > Negri - the Zerowork people, the Autopsy list and other like this.
> So, he's worth studying? why?

See above
> >... 
> > So, in the autonomia stuff, we have an overemphasis of the boycott of 
> > work, absenteesim and the like as a form of conscious class war. It 
> > is unconscious for most people.
> And so...? your point?  Consciousness is a prime topic for our study, right?

My point is the difference between work and labour and the way we 
develop slogans around these issues in relation to changing class 
consciousness of workers.

> > Any bites?
> Sure.  
> 	First of all, it's important to resist the fetishization of work 
> which is all too commonly a feature of 20th-century Marxism, from Stalin 
> to the CPUSA.  If Negri and the Autonomists (hardly the same things!) 
> critique work, they're one of the few parties doing so - and we need to 
> pursue our response further than a kneejerk "work=good, antiwork=evil" spasm.

I have in no way dismissed Negri.  What you call the fetishisation of 
work is the result of the productivist 'marxists'. We should be 
trying to make work enjoyable, even under capitalism, but not through 
tying the hands of the workers to capital.

We must abolish labour and the wages system to *begin* to do this 
properly. Alienation, consciousness, work, relationship to the state... 
 the nexus of these issues is raised directly by Negri's work and is 
why it is so valuable.

While I certainly do not agree with all his conclusions, and strongly 
oppose the 'abolish work' slogan which he and others like the 
ZEROwork, Semiotext... types propogate, that he develops these issues 
taps into a rich vein of marxist theory


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