On Hardt was Re: Comments on a Michael Hardt article in the Guardian

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Fri Feb 21 17:39:00 MST 2003

Comrades Proyect and Alam have been savagely dismissive of Hardt and
rightly so.  I am very sympathetic to Comrade Alam's way of putting things,
nevertheless as Comrade Proyect's post implicitly acknowledges there is an
important intellectual battle to be won here. So, if I may, I thought I
would piggy back on Comrade Proyect's post.

Hardt wrote: The issue is not Blair or spin, it's not even Bush, it's tyranny.

My comment: This is a classic instance of undialectical thought.  First
Hardt sets up an opposition:  Blair or spin versus tyranny. He then opts
for the more abstract of the two pairs - tyranny - as the key explanatory
factor. To begin with the opposition is unnecessary.  We are dealing with a
stratified phenomenon - American imperialism where the elements of spin and
tyranny are mutually supportive.

Why though is Hardt drawn to the abstract pole - tyranny?  In part this is
his anarchist or libertarian instinct at work.  One key fits all within
this paradigm. The problem is that the analysis is too general and
reductive here.  It is night and all the cows are black. We cannot just
fall back on an abstraction like tyranny - we need to proceed much further
in our analysis. To take just one example an understanding of the
mechanisms and modes of operation of 'spin' is vital to an understanding of
the New Labour phenomenon.

But abstractions also serve another vital purpose within neo-libertarian or
to be precise neo-Nietzschean thought.  They seek to prevent us from
identifying the enemy or getting to grips with the centres of power, by
denying there is any actual identifiable enemy occupying a particular
centre, which we could storm.

There is also of course linked to the other strand in neo-Nietzschean
thought which would have it that we are dealing not with a centre of power
but rather with the will to power and that cannot be confronted because it
is a natural rather than a political phenomenon.

By contrast with the Hardt's categories of Globalisation and Empire which
both flow from and reinforce the tendency to abstraction, Marxists insist
that we are confronting a particular historical phenomenon - American
Imperialism - and that it can be identified, confronted and overcome.

The world wide protest movements have instinctively recognised the truth of
the latter statement and that is why they are being characterised as

Hardt wrote: The globalisation protest movements were far superior to the
anti-war movements in this regard. They not only recognised the complex and
plural nature of the forces that dominate capitalist globalisation today -
the dominant nation states, certainly, but also the International Monetary
Fund, the World Trade Organisation, the major corporations, and so forth -
but they imagined an alternative, democratic globalisation consisting of
plural exchanges across national and regional borders based on equality and

Again another opposition - the anti-globalisation movement versus the peace
movement -and it is a mistake to buy into this opposition. It is the same
movement.  Of course the tactic of the black bloc has seemingly vanished
for the present and by and large I think that is both a good and a
necessary thing. But the peace movement is international.  It is also
heavily dependent on the new media.  All of which help to distinguish it in
a minor way from previous mass peace movements.  But what is most important
to grasp here is that Hardt's remarks represent nothing less than a slander
on the current peace movement.  There is for a start the suggestion it is
not international - absolute transparent nonsense.  Similarly it is noxious
rubbish to suggest that the peace movement does not care about a future
based on equality and freedom.

We are moving into a very decisive phase.  I will try not to sound like
Jack Barnes here.  But the irrelevance of post-structuralist
neo-Nietzschean thought is always clearest when there is real struggle and
not just despair and apathy.  And it is because he knows that the dust-bin
of history and theory awaits him that Hardt, yesterday's super star, is
squealing so loudly.



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