More on Taking Apart Hardt

Patrick Bond pbond at
Sat Feb 22 08:26:50 MST 2003

----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at>
> What are overaccumulation, US hegemony and oil about except US

Comrade, that says everything and therefore nothing. Getting beyond
semantics, which of several early 20th century marxist theorists do you want
to refer to here? (I like the Lenin/Grossmann tagteam, but as you know there
are many many.)

> 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
> might seem antiquated in some quarters.

Maybe but I doubt the right qualifier is "need". I admit, I'm in the SR
camp, but what those two comrades are doing quite scientifically, you'll
have to concede, is mapping contours of late 20th century macropolitical
class struggle -- definitely part of the big story of imperialism today. I
don't know who is doing it better than Leo and Sam.

> 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.

Instead, one thing it *could* mean, which we in SA try to explore in
practise and which unfortunately has also taken on aspects of autonomism (as
you'll see from Ashwin Desai's writing, e.g. last month's MR and his 2002 MR
book We are the Poors), is a prefigurative politics of decommodification, in
which the community struggles and HIV/AIDS activists and church/labour
comrades are all coming together (whether they like it or not) to
essentially steal/demand free stuff: water, electricity, antiretroviral
medicines, fee-less education, income grants and the like.

This is the sort of thing that the wobblies and italian autonomarxists and
others have done for decades, and that we absolutely must give socialist
content to... so that the wooliness and deprogrammatised sense of "autonomy"
that one gets from Hardt/Negri don't prevail. That means taking what they
say seriously, since there's a layer of sharpies here that swear by it. I'm
probably the only one in SA who actually teaches Empire in the universities,
as I'll do next month, but that doesn't mean it hasn't gotten around... you
get a taste of its influence in Desai's work and at ... so in taking it seriously, we've got to
get beyond misreadings (like below) and moral angst, and transcend the
autonomist sensibility, no?

> 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
> 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.

Of course making this distinction -- "imperialism" and Empire -- is silly,
they're the same.

But no, where do you read "a call to support Empire"? I read the opposite,

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