More on Taking Apart Hardt

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Feb 22 07:48:02 MST 2003

Patrick Bond:
>"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.

What are overaccumulation, US hegemony and oil about except US imperialism?
For example, Burkina Faso does not have an issue with overaccumulation,
does it?

>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.

The question as to the driving forces behind the war in Iraq has been
debated here as well, with a hothead named David arguing along Cyrus Bina's
lines that it is not about oil. In any case, each side in the debate tried
to deploy data to support their arguments. That, unfortunately, is missing
altogether in Hardt and Negri. It is all empty theorizing. One does not
have to write an Ernest Mandel-like tome to understand and to state openly
that Michael Hardt has nothing useful to say.

>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.

Patrick, I don't think the outburst over Hardt's is just about whether he
failed to put together a convincing analysis of the world economic system.
Rather it seems about his pique over a war in Iraq getting in the way of
his political agenda. Sort of reminds me of Frank Furedi's complaint in a
U. of Kent faculty newsletter about the Intafada competing with issues more
important to him, like marital infidelity or the right to hunt foxes.

>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?

With all due respect to Leo and Sam, what they share with Hardt and Negri
is skepticism about the need for proletarian revolution, to use a term that
might seem antiquated in some quarters. I think the looming catastrophe
once again poses the question in terms of socialism versus barbarism, to
use another antique phrase. The mobilization around this approaching war
and wars surely to come in its wake are a challenge to young radicals today
to build revolutionary parties that can wipe the capitalist system off the
face of the earth. One of the main purposes of this mailing list, as
opposed to both Socialist Register and aut-op-sys, is to focus on the
questions of how to make such a party possible.

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

I have no idea what "communism" is supposed to mean outside the context of
Marx and Lenin's writings on the dictatorship of the proletariat. With
their hostility to the living reality of the Cuban revolution, Hardt and
Negri certainly remind me of the traditional enemies of Marxism, despite
their rhetorical flourishes about revolution, etc.

>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.

Patrick, what other interpretation can you give to this:

However, there is an alternative to US imperialism: global power can be
organised in a decentred form, which Toni Negri and I call "empire". This
is not merely a multilateral coalition of leading nation states. Think of
it as multilateralism squared. Empire is a network composed of different
kinds of powers, including the dominant nation states, supranational
organisations, such as the United Nations and the IMF, multinational
corporations, NGOs, the media, and others. There are hierarchies among the
powers that constitute empire but despite their differences they function
together in the network.

This decentred network power of empire corresponds to the interests of
global elites because it both facilitates the potential profits of
capitalist globalisation and displaces or defuses potential security
threats. Once empire is firmly established as the prevailing form of global
rule, those who oppose the domination of global elites in the name of
equality, freedom, and democracy will certainly find ways to struggle
against it. But that does not mean that we prefer imperialism today.

(Guardian Dec. 18, 2002)

This is a call to support Empire, isn't it? We need neither US imperialism
or this kind of lesser-evilism.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

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