Comments on Negri

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Sep 17 09:05:51 MDT 2002

The Imperialist Backlash on Empire
Antonio Negri interviewed by Ida Dominijanni
Translated by Arianna Bove/ Erik Empson

(full interview at:

Q. How do you explain it? [9/11]

A. S11 occurred the moment when the conservatives were gaining ground in 
the U.S. through the program of safeguarding national interests that were 
penalised by the political economic and social process of construction of 
empire. The group that went to power with Bush is exquisitely reactionary, 
linked to a populist rather than ultra-liberalist ideology and to the 
maintainence of certain mega structures of American power such as control 
of energy and the development of the industrial military complex. These 
people have remained sidelined to the third industrial revolution and do 
not want to take it further, they are hostile to it since the new economy 
has gone into crisis, and they have no hypothesis of alternative in mind 
other than a return to reliance on tradition.

REPLY: This is an amazing amount of crapola coming from somebody who has 
pretensions to Marxism. For Negri the Bush presidency is the class 
expression of some beleaguered fraction of national capital holding out 
against the inexorable process of globalization in a fashion that evokes 
the protectionist bourgeoisie around Pat Buchanan, especially textile 
magnate Roger Millken. In reality, there were no class differences between 
the Bush and Gore candidacies. They both express the agenda of Wall Street 
banking, big aerospace corporations, oil, steel, computer technology and 
all the rest. From Negri's rather quaint description, one would gather that 
Bush was supported by romantic reactionaries rather than firms like 
Goldman-Sachs that was the 11th largest contributor to his campaign.

Q. Can anything happen at the electoral level? In November there will be 
elections for Congress in the U.S. It is not secondary whether Bush wins or 

A. Obviously everyone hopes that the Democrats win, however weak and 
minimal the alternative that they would be capable of is

REPLY: Really? The revolutionary left is utterly indifferent to whether 
Republicans or Democrats win. Negri's hopes for Democratic victories 
reminds me of the late 1960s, when "peace candidate" supporters mounted 
some of the most outrageous ultraleft behavior in order to pressure the 
ruling class into accepting their favorites, especially in the streets of 

Q. Last but not least. Empire is not an anti-American book even though it 
does not under estimate the weight of the U.S. in imperial strategies. We 
cannot hide though that today, also due to the stupidity of the reactionary 
strategy of Bush, on the left anti-americanism grows even amongst the 
anti-globalisation movement itself. This seems to me a confused, wrong and 
even dangerous position, to you?

A. I completely agree as it is obvious from what I have clearly said so 
far, I am extremely critical of the American government and any sensical 
person could not be otherwise. But to think that Bush's government is 
America does not make any sense. Despite all that is happening, American 
society is still a completely open machine. Therefore even if Bush's 
project is monocratic and imperialist it is wrong to regard the United 
States as such as monocratic and imperialist. But there is more: the 
anti-american position coincides with a position of reevalutation and 
defense of the nation state as the anti-imperialist trench -- this is a 
temptation not extraneous to some sections of the movement of movements, as 
we have seen in Porto Alegre. However this would really be a wrong posture 
since it would prevent an understanding of how the world is made, who has 
got the command and who can subvert it.

REPLY: How sad that our autonomist comrades would even pose the word 
"anti-americanism", especially since people like Todd Gitlin, Christopher 
Hitchens, Marc Cooper and Michael Berube use it and similar expressions 
regularly as a cudgel against the radical movement. Even sadder is Negri's 
response. Contrary to the good professor, it is completely right to regard 
BOTH Bush and the USA as imperialist. (I leave aside the question of 
whether it is 'monocratic'--this neologism does not appear in Oxford, nor 
can I really decipher what he means.) More to the point, imperialism is not 
really a policy that Bush or Gore would "carry out" after being elected. It 
is instead the latest stage of capitalism that can only be reversed by 
proletarian revolution and not by "refusal to work" nor miscegenation by 
the multitude.

Louis Proyect

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