[Marxism] 2 views on nomadism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue May 10 09:29:54 MDT 2005

(I agree strongly with the second view)

Hardt-Negri, "Empire":

Here we see once again the republican principle in the very first instance: 
desertion, exodus, and nomadism. Whereas in the disciplinary era sabotage 
was the fundamental notion of resistance, in the era of imperial control it 
may be desertion. Whereas being against in modernity often meant a direct 
and/or dialectical opposition of forces, in postmodernity being-against 
might well be most effective in an oblique or diagonal stance. Battles 
against the Empire might be won through subtraction and defection. This 
desertion does not have a place; it is the evacuation of the places of 
power. Throughout the history of modernity, the mobility and migration of 
the labor force have disrupted the disciplinary conditions to which workers 
are constrained. And power has wielded the most extreme violence against 
this mobility. In this respect slavery can be considered on a continuum 
with the various wage labor regimes as the most extreme repressive 
apparatus to block the mobility of the labor force. The history of black 
slavery in the Americas demonstrates both the vital need to control the 
mobility of labor and the irrepressible desire to flee on the part of the 
slaves: from the closed ships of the Middle Passage to the elaborate 
repressive techniques employed against escaped slaves. Mobility and mass 
worker nomadism always express a refusal and a search for liberation: the 
resistance against the horrible conditions of exploitation and the search 
for freedom and new conditions of life. It would be interesting, in fact, 
to write a general history of the modes of production from the standpoint 
of the workers' desire for mobility (from the country to the city, from the 
city to the metropolis, from one state to another, from one continent to 
another) rather than running through that development simply from the 
standpoint of capital's regulation of the technological conditions of 
labor. This history would substantially reconfigure the Marxian conception 
of the stages of the organization of labor, which has served as the 
theoretical framework for numerous authors up to Polanyi.<7>

Today the mobility of labor power and migratory movements is 
extraordinarily diffuse and difficult to grasp. Even the most significant 
population movements of modernity (including the black and white Atlantic 
migrations) constitute lilliputian events with respect to the enormous 
population transfers of our times. A specter haunts the world and it is the 
specter of migration. All the powers of the old world are allied in a 
merciless operation against it, but the movement is irresistible. Along 
with the flight from the so-called Third World there are flows of political 
refugees and transfers of intellectual labor power, in addition to the 
massive movements of the agricultural, manufacturing, and service 
proletariat. The legal and documented movements are dwarfed by clandestine 
migrations: the borders of national sovereignty are sieves, and every 
attempt at complete regulation runs up against violent pressure. Economists 
attempt to explain this phenomenon by presenting their equations and 
models, which even if they were complete would not explain that 
irrepressible desire for free movement. In effect, what pushes from behind 
is, negatively, desertion from the miserable cultural and material 
conditions of imperial reproduction; but positively, what pulls forward is 
the wealth of desire and the accumulation of expressive and productive 
capacities that the processes of globalization have determined in the 
consciousness of every individual and social group-and thus a certain hope. 
Desertion and exodus are a powerful form of class struggle within and 
against imperial postmodernity. This mobility, however, still constitutes a 
spontaneous level of struggle, and, as we noted earlier, it most often 
leads today to a new rootless condition of poverty and misery.

A new nomad horde, a new race of barbarians, will arise to invade or 
evacuate Empire. Nietzsche was oddly prescient of their destiny in the 
nineteenth century. "Problem: where are the barbarians of the twentieth 
century? Obviously they will come into view and consolidate themselves only 
after tremendous socialist crises."<8> We cannot say exactly what Nietzsche 
foresaw in his lucid delirium, but indeed what recent event could be a 
stronger example of the power of desertion and exodus, the power of the 
nomad horde, than the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the 
entire Soviet bloc? In the desertion from "socialist discipline," savage 
mobility and mass migration contributed substantially to the collapse of 
the system. In fact, the desertion of productive cadres disorganized and 
struck at the heart of the disciplinary system of the bureaucratic Soviet 
world. The mass exodus of highly trained workers from Eastern Europe played 
a central role in provoking the collapse of the Wall.<9> Even though it 
refers to the particularities of the socialist state system, this example 
demonstrates that the mobility of the labor force can indeed express an 
open political conflict and contribute to the destruction of the regime. 
What we need, however, is more. We need a force capable of not only 
organizing the destructive capacities of the multitude, but also 
constituting through the desires of the multitude an alternative. The 
counter-Empire must also be a new global vision, a new way of living in the 

full: http://prome.snu.ac.kr/~skkim/data/thinker/files/Empire02.htm


Counterpunch, May 10, 2005
Migrants, Refugees and the World's Displaced People
Nomadic Abstracts


Although most of humanity is localized, a better view into the general 
state of humanity is provided through a closer look at the conditions of 
the 'global nomads': migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, illegal 
immigrants, international seasonal/migrant workers, gypsies, sex slaves, 
imperial and mercenary soldiers, to give an incomplete list.

Luca Dall'Oglio, Permanent Observer to the United Nations, in his statement 
to the United Nations General Assembly, 3rd Committee: Questions Relating 
to Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons and the Humanitarian Question 
(New York, November 3, 2003), stated, "In today's world, international 
migration has achieved a degree of prominence on the international agenda 
never felt before. It is not only because there are 175 million 
international migrants, but because all indicators point to migration as a 
continuing and growing structural component of contemporary socio-economic 
development, whose benefit can reach out to origin and destination 
countries," (emphasis added).

This figure of 175 million humans represents roughly 3% of humanity. The 
figure includes highly skilled workers, estimated at around 1 million, as 
well as the bottom of the rungs filled with 27 million manual workers of 
all skills. The figure of 175 million also includes those trafficked across 
international borders, an estimated 2 million annually.

What this figure does not include is the number of illegal immigrants, 
estimated at between 2 to 4 million people annually.

One noteworthy point is that, of these migrants, in terms of absolute 
numbers (not percentages of total local populations) the biggest 
concentration (56.1 million) is located in Europe, the second largest (49.7 
million) in Asia, and only the third largest (40.8 million) in North America.

To the above figure, we must add another very substantial one. Although the 
official figures given for the number of worldwide refugees usually reside 
closer to about 20 million, in its annual report for the year 1997, titled, 
The State of the World's Refugees, 1997: A Humanitarian Agenda, the United 
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that, "In total, some 50 
million people around the world might legitimately be described as victims 
of forced displacement." This number can safely be taken as a standard, 
even if, after the passage of eight years and three major military 
aggressions, the numbers could easily be higher. These include the 
international refugees, as well as people 'displaced internally', meaning 
they are refugees in their own country, much like the three hundred 
thousand Iraqi residents of Fallujah living as refugees on the outskirts of 
their formerly existent city.

To this mass of humanity being thrust about the globe annually in search 
for jobs, safety, food, shelter, or whatever bit of warmth and comfort 
humanity can still afford or cares to offer, we must add the massive 
historical human displacements due to modernity's centuries-old quests in 
civil wars, wars between nations, and colonization. And this last one is by 
no means a bad nightmare from modernity's shameful past, one from which we 
have successfully been withdrawn. To borrow from another, very related 
context, 'Never Again, Never Again!' loses credit, when repeated by repeat 
offenders. Far from it; this colonial 'tendency' is still alive and kicking 
people's doors down just as shamelessly as was done in the good old times 
of the Romans and the Pharaohs. Witness the invasion and occupation of 
Afghanistan and Iraq, and, observe likewise the longest running late-modern 
colonial project, the continued colonization of Palestinian land, now into 
its 38th year at least (if you want to deny the mass exodus of 1948), and 
the brutal suffocation of the Palestinians at the hands of a colonizing and 
openly racist state.

To all of this, a final footnote has to be added: the covert interventions 
in the life of other nations, something which the sedentary citizens of the 
First World nations are on average far more comfortable with than are the 
citizens of the Third World. These interventions produce nomads of various 
stripes, from complete innocents all the way to the spooks.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/fiyouzat05102005.html



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