More on Taking Apart Hardt

Patrick Bond pbond at
Sat Feb 22 04:45:08 MST 2003

No, this isn't good enough. I'm getting pissed off by the juvenile
approach you comrades are taking to a challenge that, right now to be frank,
the marxist left is losing: the hearts and minds of radical activists.

You're offlist Derek, you wish, but Junaid's crit is NOT on the money. It's
not taking the analysis as seriously as it has to be taken. And you're not
taking Hardt apart, you're making fun of yourself as an anti-intellectual,
aren't you?


Big ups on the Hardt critique Junaid... right on the
money. This guy embodies the worst of left
intellectual ivory tower mental masturbation.


----- Original Message -----
From: "M. Junaid Alam" <redjaguar at>
> Look at the lucidity, the clarity, the boldness of the
> proposition--here, there is no question of introducing erudite rubbish
> into the equation. The struggle, its aims, its enemy--all is targeted
> and identified.

Do you think that the autonomists who endorse Hardt's erudite rubbish (yeah,
sometimes that's exactly what it is) can't act with clarity and boldness? Of
course they do!

I happened to hear Hardt smack Chris Harman at Porto Alegre last month
(though I had to leave after their opening salvos). I wish Harman had more
ammo on the question of the working class v. the multitudes:  he didn't, he
stuck with a silly numbers game (measuring the proletariat).

Is Hardt's boldness reduced to attacking the anti-imperialists in these
terms? Come off it.

> But for Hardt this would undoubtedly just be
> "anti-American"--this is the level at which he speaks.

This is self-caricature. Engage the argument, comrade.

> The main engine, the main phenomenon behind the war drive is, as we
> know, American imperialism.

"As we know." Actually, we don't. The last couple of days I've seen very
compelling arguments from marxist perspectives about the importance of,
varyingly, overaccumulation, US hegemony, and oil in all of this from David
Harvey, Bertell Olman, Cyrus Bina and Walden Bello. The lines are all
blurry, as blurry as the book Empire.

> This is what irks Hardt to no end--he wants
> to stay on the plane of total abstraction. He wants to invoke the whole
> laundry list of WTO/IMF/nation-states/corporations etc etc.

Lots of holistic marxists do that too. I try to. Then I try to identify a
theoretically sound core process. And so far I haven't found it. But I am
forward to your seminal contribution.

> In doing so
> things come to a head, as this attempt at sophistication via inclusion
> of everything is exposed as stupidity via its exclusion of the main
> thing.

So there's a terminological problem. Hardt/Negri want both to be different
and to avoid the nation-state, so they call imperialism passe. But what they
describe as Empire is what "we" call imperialism. Let's get over semantics
get into the substantive issues, eh? We all know that Time, NYT, etc gave
top billing because he's against blaming US imperialism. But surely that's
trivial now?

> And as usual, where the hell is Hart's evidence? We know about American
> need for energy reserves, we know about concrete economic and political
> questions - Kurds, OPEC, the Euro, Zionism, and can thus account for the
> behavior of Turkey, America, France, Israel, etc.

And is that your conclusive evidence?

> So where is the meat
> on Hart's overarching scheme of "the complex and plural nature of the
> forces that dominate capitalist globalization today"? The problem is
> that these "forces" are not all moving in tandem as one united unit; in
> reality they are in contradiction with one another. There is no grand
> ultra-imperialism so Hardt is grasping at straws spitted out of a
> camel's ass.

Ok, what binds all the concrete political-economic questions together? I
don't know, but I suspect combined and uneven development is the answer,
depending upon what that means at any given time. Hardt/Negri don't do that
yet, but it may simply be because our team hasn't done such a good job of
putting a definitive story out there.

> But this is not all. As Mac Lennan further points out, Hardt extends his
> mindlessness even further when he writes, "they [anti-globalization
> movement] imagined an alternative, democratic globalisation consisting
> of plural exchanges across national and regional borders based on
> equality and freedom."

Yes, he's TERRIBLY weak on the real meanings of anti-capitalist activism,
which I (personally, with experience mainly in Johannesburg) think HAS to
retain the nation-state as the primary unit of political analysis. But ok,
that's also, like avoiding the I word, pretty trite critique so far. Check
the attacks on Hardt/Negri in Historical Materialism (esp. by
Panitch/Gindin) for that argument. Shall we move on, then?

> So what is the anti-war movement imagining? Was it jumping up and down
> in favor of tyranny and singular exchanges based on authoritarianism?

No need for false divisions. It's looks like a pretty nice merger right now
(at least it does in South Africa).

> Hardt's flight into abstraction ones again makes nonsense out of
> reality. The character and composition of the protests objectively
> renders it an international character; of course it aims at the goal of
> freedom and equality, because it was on behalf of the Iraqi people, some
> of whom are about to lose their lives due to the action of criminal
> gangsters.

Would Hardt disagree? Your moral tone is a real distraction, com.

> It must be understood that the two absurdities Hardt presents here are
> linked. First, he is pissed because the war drive doesn't correspond
> with his theory of Empire. Then, he is pissed because the anti-war drive
> doesn't follow the discarded script; its response is not to Empire but
> imperialism. So Hardt has to punish this sin by smearing it as somehow
> unworthy and provincial.

Nah, there's much more going on here that requires rebuttal, not this tired
post-S11 stuff.

> His dilemma is painfully clear: in his mode of Marxism, the antagonism
> of capitalism is not solved through revolution, class war, or open
> conflict. It is more like a subsuming, or absorption: nice
> ultra-imperialism endows the world with universal, democratic features,
> which the inert masses, like sponges, absorb, and then expand so as to
> transform existing global capital into a more democratic globalization.

Different book than the one I read. What's the cite?

> This is repackaged Eurocentric Marxism. The oppressed--wait, what
> oppressed, the multitude--are not so much agents of change as
> receptacles of capitalist progress, which smoothly transmits the
> necessary ingredients for social change.

Nah, that's not a fair reading of small-c communism, comrade. You should
know that.

> So when it turns out the world's most powerful capitalist nation is led
> by swaggering, arrogant reactionaries, who are hardly any more
> interested in bourgeois democracy at home as they are abroad, the
> sandcastle of ultra-imperialism crumbles. Capital isn't transmitting a
> damn thing to Iraq other than depleted uranium and cruise missiles.
> There is no "absorbing" to be done. There is only outright resistance to
> this madness, expressed by real people at an intrinsic emotional level,
> which can develop into more full political awareness not by any
> automatic "global network connections" provided by Hardt's capitalism,
> but by organized, dedicated political leadership.

Ok, this is true, so start talking details. Unfortunately, Hardt's team --
autonomism in general, and in particular some serious youth who for bad
reasons reject the marxian tradition (ok, plus pomos getting interested in
economy, finally) -- do actually have a lot to say about this. Check the new
book Implicating Empire (editors are Aronowitz and Gautney) where the best
piece is probably Alex Callinicos's view of the anti-K movement, but which
also contains lots of other ideas that classical marxists have to grapple
with honestly, not through this trash-talking.

> The unfortunate but noteworthy example of al-Qaeda can be made here:
> none of their recruits will be beneficiaries of Hardt's non-existent
> benevolent Empire,

Comrade, are you on the same page as Hardt/Negri? It would be useful for us
if you joined us for a serious discussion of contemporary capitalism.

> but rather angry and frustrated layers of the
> oppressed sucked into fundamentalism because of a Left vacuum.

Yep, our crowd has something to do with that problem too, you know.

> "Anti-Americanism" may not "make sense" in Hardt's world, but it happens
> to make sense for people being bombed and bulldozed by Americans or
> American-funded equipment. To just brush off the actually-existing
> tactical aspects of organizing opposition to really-existing imperialism
> by ignoring the national and colonial questions is to tie our hands
> behind our backs politically.

I agree, but they don't "ignore" the state and nation, they reject them. Why
do they do that? What do we say in return? (We HAVE to.) Take it seriously.

> In the following, I may be putting the matter too crudely,

There you go. It won't do. Hearts and minds, you know, are as important to
win as the streets, fields and shopfloors.

> but it is
> worth the risk. Hardt's logic most neatly manifests itself when it
> applies to largely Western, white, middle-class protests on the global
> justice front, in which the most drama unfolding involves
> cappuccino-sipping individualists hurling their drinks at Starbucks
> windows. But it does not work out quite the same in the arena of
> imperialist war, which is like rugby compared to touch-football. Much
> more is at stake, many more dynamics are shifting and many more
> contradictions intensifying, in a situation of total war. In the latter
> situation, answers--and more importantly, opportunities--will have to be
> found not in neatly arranged Social Forums, but on the streets, in
> battles, under police repression and beneath the wings of bombers.


Chill comrade. On this purile post, when he uses the word "inevitable," do
you think Hardt means that it's wrong? The guy is influential and basically
progressive, so even if you don't dig the discourse (neither do I) you owe
it to this list to provide some coherent arguments,  Junaid... You can do

----- Original Message -----
From: "M. Junaid Alam" <redjaguar at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Friday, February 21, 2003 11:02 PM
Subject: Hardt Is A Fucking Asshole

> "It is unfortunate but inevitable that much of the energies that
> had been active in the globalisation protests have now at least
> temporarily been redirected against the war."
> I thought I was ripshit when I saw Lerner clucking and crowing about
> "anti-Semitism" in a war that will incinerate tens of thousands of Arab
> Muslims all over again, but this definitely takes the cake.
> Hardt's main complaint throughout the whole piece is that this great
> movement, this massive, worldwide, bold mobilization, does not
> correspond to all his bullshit about "globalization" this and
> "globalization" that. What a pity, imperialism's war plans are
> interfering with Hardt's fantasy vision, and--what's worse--global
> justice activists are wasting their time trying to stop the war machine.
> Fuck Hardt. Let him conduct his mental masturbation in his proverbial
> porn shop of "Cultural Studies" or wherever the hell else. We have a war
> to oppose.

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