[Marxism] Debating Hardt-Negri's latest

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 15 08:20:10 MDT 2004

(Over on the aut-op-sy mailing list, which is devoted to autonomism, 
council communism, anarchism and other 'libertarian' radical trends, 
there is an excellent debate in progress over the recent Hardt-Negri 
article that "counsels the aristocrats", as I put it. 
Much of the discussion takes place under the heading "Is A New Magna 
Carta Kautskyist?", a clear sign that critiques mounted by some 
bronto-Marxists like myself were finally being acknowledged as indicated 
below. Of course, Chris Wright, the author of the post, throws in the 
mandatory dig at "Leninists".)

"Our "aristocracies" are thus in the position, in return for their 
support, to demand a new social, political, and economic arrangement - a 
new global order.

What would be the content of a new global Magna Carta today? Peace and 
security are obviously important objectives. Putting an end to 
unilateralist military adventures and the seemingly interminable state 
of global war is a fundamental condition.

It is also important, however, to renew global productive forces and 
bring the entire global population into the circuits of production and 
exchange. Priorities such as eliminating poverty and absolving the debts 
of the poorest countries would not in this context be acts of charity, 
but efforts aimed at realizing the productive potential that exists in 
the world.

Another priority would be reversing the processes of privatization and 
creating common access to necessary productive resources - such as land, 
seeds, information, and knowledge. Making resources common is necessary 
for the expansion and renewal of creative and production potentials, 
from agriculture to internet technologies.

We can already recognize some movements that can indicate a path toward 
the creation of such a new Magna Carta. The demands of the "group of 22" 
at the Cancún meetings of the WTO for more equitable agricultural trade 
policies, for example, is one step towards reforming the global system. 
More generally, the international alliances tentatively articulated by 
Lula's government in Brazil within Latin America and more broadly 
indicate possible bases for global reconstruction.

Taking the lead from the governments of the global South in this manner 
is one way for the aristocracies to orient their project of the renewal 
of productive forces and energies in the global economic system."

First, it is "aristocracies" and not Our which is in quotes.  One might 
think that aristocracies was less deserving of quotes and the distance 
of quotes incumbent upon "our".  But that is small.

Secondly, the idea that a Magna Carta of capitalist states could bring 
about the elimination of poverty in the poorest (or any) countries is nutty.

Thirdly, there is a weirdly productivist turn to all this.

Fourthly, reversing privatization and creating common access?  Who?  The 

Fifthly, is it me or is the working class//proletariat/multitude very 
absent in all of this?

Lowe and Martin may defend Negri and Hardt's right to 'speak as they 
please', but I suspect that we are within our right to argue that their 
words have a meaning with which we might disagree, a political content 
in line with its form, one which hopes that the aristocracies take their 
lead from the (non-?) aristoratic states of 'the South'.

And then dragging Marx's corpus in, out of context, still fresh from 
rolling over in his grave!  122 years after Marx's death, one might well 
recognize that there is little that needs to be done by way of fostering 
the growth of the proletariat or of overcoming pre-capitalist social 
relations impeding the development of revolutionary forces.  Marx's 
arguments stemmed from considerations of what might best lead to the end 
of class society at the hands of the proletariat.  There seems scant 
trace of that in this, unless... unless... you can find a basis to argue 
that Negri and Hardt are secretly saying (because it is not explicit 
here or in earlier discussions of this same sort) that this is necessary 
for a global recomposition of labor.

If that is the case, it is an interesting point.  The question still 
remains if it is up to us to foster that growth.  Is it the task (hmmm, 
'job'?) of communists to revive capital's productive exploitation of 
labor?  But in the current situation, is not such a turn around 
important to a new sense of strength?  Or does this simply involve 
typically positivist notions of class?

In any case, whether or not this is a new Kautskyism is less 
interesting. Also, what the Leninists say is even less than less 
interesting.  Who cares? One version of state capitalism calling another 
state capitalism.

But that is more important, maybe.  Is this not what Negri and Hardt are 
calling for?  A new kind of state capitalism?  For it will not be the 
corporate cuerpo which will engender such a project.  Nay, it is a call 
for that new sovereignty to assert itself and that risks its 
consolidation into a more unified state power, into a consolidation of 
capitalist power at a more global level in the form of a globalized 
welfare state.

Are we then wrong to ask why we should support such goals?

I mean, it certainly seems more practical, but that kind of practicality 
is always the basis of a severe political regression.  When the night is 
darkest, one does not dim the fire but stoke it to burn brighter.  More 
than ever, a refusal of such chilly 'pragmatism' seems incumbent upon us.

cheers, Chris


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