Introduction to the Study of Militant Workers’ Inquiry

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This text sum­ma­rizes the view­point adopt­ed by the Groupe de Recherch­es Matéri­al­is­tes (GRM, Group for Mate­ri­al­ist Research) to ana­lyze dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal “cas­es” rel­e­vant to the prac­tice of mil­i­tant inquiry – Quaderni Rossi and the work­erist tra­di­tion in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, Social­is­me ou Bar­barie in France, rev­o­lu­tion­ary syn­di­cal­ism in France dur­ing the 1930s.

The study of the­se “cas­es” was the object of the first part of the 2011-2012 Sem­i­nar that GRM orga­nized at the École Nor­male Supérieure in Paris.1 It would be impos­si­ble to sum­ma­rize here the results of this work, which con­sist­ed prin­ci­pal­ly in reopen­ing the dossier of the cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, and address­ing the ques­tion of the con­tem­po­rary forms of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion.2 Here we aim only to for­mu­late cer­tain ques­tions which moti­vat­ed our study of inquiry, start­ing from the work that GRM direct­ed in its first years, essen­tial­ly devot­ed to to the notion of the “con­junc­ture,” and to the analy­sis of the his­tor­i­cal cor­pus of com­mu­nist, social­ist, and anar­chist thought.3 For us it was a mat­ter of con­tin­u­ing to delim­it the always het­eronomous con­di­tions of the­o­ret­i­cal reflec­tion and polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion, and to reaf­firm that con­tem­po­rary eman­ci­pa­to­ry thought can­not ignore this cor­pus – tex­tu­al and con­cep­tu­al, orga­ni­za­tion­al and dis­cur­sive, of the polit­i­cal sequences from the 19th to the 20th cen­tu­ry – the­se sequences which there­fore seem to us to always take hold in this dou­ble inscrip­tion: of dis­cours­es and con­cepts in polit­i­cal prac­tice, and polit­i­cal prac­tices in the dis­cur­sive tex­tures of its (self-)reflection. In this sense, it is there­fore not only a mat­ter of affirm­ing the impu­ri­ty of the­o­ry, its overde­ter­mi­na­tion by pol­i­tics, but equal­ly the nec­es­sary overde­ter­mi­na­tion of pol­i­tics itself by his­tor­i­cal con­di­tions which can nev­er be exhaust­ed by strate­gies, insti­tu­tions, ide­o­log­i­cal and orga­ni­za­tion­al for­ma­tions; con­di­tions whose irre­ducible excess rep­re­sents at once the lim­it of the pol­i­tics of eman­ci­pa­tion, but also their pos­si­bil­i­ty of inter­ven­ing in the ensem­ble of social rela­tions and the spheres of human exis­tence. What we call the improp­er of pol­i­tics.

So if there is only pol­i­tics in (or under) deter­mi­nate con­di­tions, into which indi­vid­u­als and groups “enter” because they are always already insert­ed with­in them, it is nec­es­sary to engage in “a return to the mate­ri­al con­di­tions of pol­i­tics itself.”4 Return­ing to mate­ri­al con­di­tions, that is to say, to non-polit­i­cal con­di­tions to short-cir­cuit the polit­i­cal itself in its effects of ide­o­log­i­cal inter­pel­la­tion, and by doing so exit­ing the chi­as­mus between the improp­er becom­ing of pol­i­tics and the becom­ing-polit­i­cal of the improp­er. Now the con­di­tions which the polit­i­cal can­not exhaust are from the begin­ning given by the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion itself in its rela­tion to the pro­le­tari­at, whose effect is “that of the form of the work­ing class’s polit­i­cal exis­tence with­in the lim­its of the cap­i­tal­ist ‘sys­tem,’ and of its effects on the very ‘func­tion­ing’ of the sys­tem,” and ten­den­tial­ly the stakes of com­mu­nism itself.5

In this sense, our goal is to study the sites where the pol­i­tics of eman­ci­pa­tion have encoun­tered, guid­ed by the imper­a­tive of a fideli­ty to its con­di­tions, the ques­tion of the sta­tus of the nature of the pro­le­tari­at in its rela­tion to polit­i­cal strug­gle. Such is, rough­ly, the prob­lem­at­ic to which the work of GRM has led, and whose ulte­ri­or elab­o­ra­tion is con­cen­trat­ed in the ques­tion: “What is the pro­le­tari­at?”

What, then, is “the pro­le­tari­at”? And first, how many names does it have? Pro­le­tari­at, work­ing class, labor­ing class­es, labor­ers, waged work­ers, pop­u­lar class­es… are all the­se “divine names” equiv­a­lent? And if they are not, by which dif­fer­ences can they be dis­tin­guished? To lim­it our­selves to the Marx­i­an cor­pus, is the pro­le­tari­at of the Man­i­festo the same thing as the work­ing class of Cap­i­tal? And what rela­tion links the class which has noth­ing more to lose, which is entire­ly dis­pos­sessed, to the col­lec­tive labor­er evoked in the most vision­ary pas­sages of the Grun­dris­se and the unpub­lished six­th chap­ter? What rela­tion between the demi­urge-labor­er in the 1844 Man­u­scripts, whose con­di­tion is that of the loss of the object, and the “real­ly sub­sumed” labor­er of Cap­i­tal, who only exists as an orga­nized col­lec­tive, which is the con­di­tion of all social objec­ti­va­tion of human activ­i­ties (to the extent that the col­lec­tive pow­er of said activ­i­ties can only be devel­oped by the eclipse of every imme­di­ate rela­tion­ship of appro­pri­a­tion of the social con­di­tions of labor)? What rela­tion, final­ly, between the “con­scious” pro­le­tari­at, sub­ject of the over­com­ing of cap­i­tal­ism, and the empir­i­cal pro­le­tari­at, sub­ject to “trade-union con­scious­ness” – what is the con­scious­ness prop­er to pro­le­tar­i­ans, sep­a­rat­ed and opposed, vis-à-vis that of the pro­le­tari­at?

Through­out the his­to­ry of the posi­tion­ing of polit­i­cal prac­tice in rela­tion to the pro­le­tari­at, few rup­tures will have had the impor­tance of Lenin’s ges­ture in 1902 – the pro­le­tari­at is divid­ed and this divi­sion is a struc­tural fact; the process of polit­i­cal prac­tice con­sists in inter­ven­ing in this divi­sion to oppose, with­in the pro­le­tari­at, its class des­tiny to that which – includ­ing its own imme­di­ate exis­tence – stands in its way. This ges­ture fix­es a par­a­digm of the encoun­ter between com­mu­nist pol­i­tics and its con­di­tions of effec­tu­a­tion – it seals a des­tiny, a “send­ing”6 of com­mu­nism, whose con­se­quences mark the 20th cen­tu­ry. Many times, over the course of our work, we have encoun­tered and tak­en up the most rad­i­cal cri­tiques of the­se con­se­quences: cri­tique of the con­cen­tra­tion of polit­i­cal ini­tia­tive in the appa­ra­tus of the par­ty; cri­tique of the divi­sion of polit­i­cal labor between direc­tors and exe­cu­tants; cri­tique of the mimeti­cism of the par­ty vis-à-vis the State (which is indis­so­cia­ble from the afore­men­tioned divi­sion of labor inher­ent in the State as a “sep­a­rate appa­ra­tus”7 )… cri­tiques, all in all, addressed to the­se aspects of the Lenin­ist dis­posi­tif which, in Bol­she­vik the­o­ry and prac­tice, and lat­er that of the Com­intern, will end up play­ing the role of a coun­ter-ten­den­cy vis-à–vis the egal­i­tar­i­an process for which “com­mu­nism” is the name.

But cri­tiques of the log­ic imma­nent to polit­i­cal appa­ra­tus­es would not be suf­fi­cient to rep­re­sent a coun­ter-move­ment of polit­i­cal inven­tion with­out incor­po­rat­ing a return to the real of the pro­le­tari­at, some attempts to re-inter­ro­gate the sta­tus and the real­i­ty of the sup­posed bear­ers of the com­mu­nist process; with­out affirm­ing the pri­ma­cy, or the “cen­tral­i­ty,” of the sup­ple­men­tary or het­eronomous moment of pol­i­tics again­st vicious (since ine­gal­i­tar­i­an) autonomi­sa­tion of the orga­ni­za­tion­al and “spe­cial­ized” moment.

The moments of “return to class” – to its con­di­tions, its utter­ances, its strug­gles, and its dis­in­cli­na­tion to strug­gle, or at least to strug­gle in the way polit­i­cal direc­tors con­sid­er the most appro­pri­ate – have been, through the course of the 20th cen­tu­ry, char­ac­ter­ized by a par­tic­u­lar­ly rad­i­cal recourse to inquiry, as oper­a­tor of a polit­i­cal process and a rela­tion­ship between mil­i­tan­cy and social class­es, beyond the lim­its of sim­ple soci­o­log­i­cal research, to aim at a trans­for­ma­tion, even a con­ver­sion (in the lit­er­al sense of the reori­en­ta­tion of the mind), of the work­ers’ move­ment start­ing from a bal­ance sheet of its impass­es. By this move­ment of “return” to the con­crete of pro­le­tar­i­an exis­tence, some attempts have been able to entire­ly rethink the mean­ing of notions like “dic­ta­tor­ship of the pro­le­tari­at,” “orga­ni­za­tion,” “class strug­gle”; and some new analy­ses have been elab­o­rat­ed deal­ing with the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, on its inter­nal dynam­ics, on its capac­i­ty to trans­form col­lec­tive life and assim­i­late oppo­si­tion. Inquiry has there­fore pow­er­ful­ly con­tribut­ed to plac­ing at the cen­ter of Marx­ist, neo-Marx­ist, or post-Marx­ist the­o­ry, not only the cri­tique of tra­di­tion­al forms of mil­i­tan­cy, but above all the polar­i­ty between Cap­i­tal as per­ma­nent rev­o­lu­tion and steel cage, and Class as the irre­ducible and vir­tu­al place of a dif­fer­ent con­sti­tu­tion of social rela­tions.

This “dual­ist” for­mu­la­tion which focus­es on the oppo­si­tion and struc­tural irre­ducibil­i­ty between Cap­i­tal and Pro­le­tari­at explic­it­ly dis­tances itself from one inter­pre­ta­tion of what we are try­ing to think, which is sit­u­at­ed with­in a soci­ol­o­giz­ing approach that mil­i­tant work­ers’ inquiry, in its var­i­ous incar­na­tions, right­ly posi­tioned itself again­st: that is to say, assum­ing that the pro­le­tari­at would present itself as a class by nam­ing itself first accord­ing to the sim­i­lar­i­ty of the ele­ments of a set which it com­pos­es accord­ing to pre­vi­ous­ly fixed eco­nom­ic and juridi­cal cat­e­gories, and which could retrans­late itself in tables or sta­tis­tics, which sig­ni­fy in turn that social class­es pre­cede their rela­tions rather than being their result.

Con­verse­ly, the whole Marx­ist analy­sis tends to affirm that we can only reverse this eco­nom­ic and soci­o­log­i­cal descrip­tion, by a mate­ri­al­ist the­o­ry, if we address “the for­ma­tions of social class­es with­in a sys­tem of dif­fer­ences or divi­sions: dif­fer­ence which devel­op and change as a result of a fun­da­men­tal antag­o­nism, mate­ri­al­ly deter­mined.”8 And it affirms that in this way “in no his­tor­i­cal peri­od have social class­es appeared in any sense on their own, with their names writ­ten in front, or reject­ing their iden­ti­ty in their uni­fied ‘class con­scious­ness.’ What allows them to be iden­ti­fied is the way they act upon each oth­er in given mate­ri­al con­di­tions, the rela­tions which they estab­lish between them­selves.”9

Now if no class is ever given once and for all, this is because, in every epoch, a class is the result of a ten­den­tial process. In oth­er words, the pro­le­tari­at is defined first by its divi­sions – bet­ter, its con­tra­dic­tions – which reflect in their uni­ty itself the devel­op­ment of the forms of exploita­tion, as much in the imme­di­ate process of pro­duc­tion as in the repro­duc­tion of labor-pow­er. In short, the pro­le­tari­at “in itself” does not exist, in the same way that “it does not repro­duce itself by itself.” Bet­ter, “there is only a his­tor­i­cal pro­le­tari­at inso­far as it is the result of an uneven process of pro­le­tar­i­an­iza­tion,” and the struc­ture of the pro­le­tari­at is over­all noth­ing but the “index of ten­den­cies of pro­le­tar­i­an­iza­tion in the his­tor­i­cal­ly deter­mined con­di­tions of a given social for­ma­tion.”10 Far, then, from want­i­ng to sub­sume the­se names by deny­ing their sin­gu­lar­i­ty, or treat­ing them as the man­i­fes­ta­tion of an inabil­i­ty to define the object in ques­tion, it is con­verse­ly a mat­ter of locat­ing them in the body of Marx­i­an analy­sis as man­i­fes­ta­tions of a ten­den­tial con­tra­dic­to­ry uni­ty, whose effects must be ana­lyzed in turn as inter­pel­la­tion as much as the object and the mod­es of a pos­si­ble polit­i­cal strug­gle which they impli­cate.

One of the ele­ments of the prob­lema­ti­za­tion and crit­i­cal elab­o­ra­tion of work­ers’ inquiry will con­sist then in out­lin­ing the moments when a grasp on the “real” of the pro­le­tari­at was posed in con­tra­dic­tion with the hold on Marx­i­an-Marx­ist the­o­ry itself: inquiry not only as the nour­ish­ing and sem­i­nal moment of con­cep­tu­al elab­o­ra­tion, but also as its explo­sion, its inter­nal divi­sion through con­fronta­tion with the excess of the real. Not that it is a ques­tion of an “abstract polemic again­st Cap­i­tal,” or a sim­ple case of philol­o­gy, but rather a need to rethink a renewal of the polit­i­cal strug­gle of the pro­le­tari­at, the renewal of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary prax­is. There­fore it is a mat­ter of reread­ing the the­o­rists or mil­i­tants of inquiry in light of this polit­i­cal antin­o­my in Marx­ism, a crit­i­cal and con­tin­ued rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of Marx’s mag­num opus, “the text in which Marx want­ed to con­cen­trate his the­o­ry most sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly.”11 A rein­ter­pre­ta­tion which works on the dis­place­ments-lim­its in Marx’s work, play­ing it again­st itself to find with­in it a crit­i­cal poten­tial again­st its own ten­den­cy to trans­form into rei­fied con­cepts, in which “the objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of cat­e­gories… blocks action by rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty,” and which, final­ly, “enclosed in a dialec­ti­cal total­i­ty,” can only lead to the bureau­crat­ic degen­er­a­tion of the work­ers’ move­ment.12 Now, Balibar’s text notes the dif­fi­cul­ty Marx had in mak­ing the con­cept of the pro­le­tari­at and that of the work­ing class coex­ist in texts in which the lat­ter is most thor­ough­ly expound­ed, leav­ing the irre­ducibly prob­lem­at­ic notion of the pro­le­tari­at vir­tu­al­ly open to vari­a­tion in its con­tent. So we have found in this dif­fer­en­tial gap [écart] between pro­le­tari­at and work­ing class the con­di­tions of enun­ci­a­tion of what we have called a process of pro­le­tar­i­an­iza­tion.

We will retain only two moments of Balibar’s analy­sis. The first moment is to rec­og­nize that if the pro­le­tari­at is not a soci­o­log­i­cal real­i­ty, that it can­not be reduced to this because it is first of all a polit­i­cal body, or the oth­er name for polit­i­cal analy­sis in Marx, its rar­efac­tion in the body of analy­sis of Cap­i­tal is there­fore noth­ing else but anoth­er man­ner of sig­ni­fy­ing that “Marx was nev­er able to sta­bi­lize his dis­course with respect to the con­cept of ‘pol­i­tics,’” trans­lat­ing a nec­es­sary “gap” [décalage] between “a his­tor­i­cal real­i­ty” updat­ed by the analy­ses of Cap­i­tal and its nec­es­sar­i­ly “impure”13 dis­course, caught up in what Althusser called “the full­ness of an already occu­pied world.”14

A nec­es­sary gap in the capac­i­ty of all thought in rup­ture, caus­ing the sat­u­ra­tion of a dom­i­nant ide­ol­o­gy space to vac­il­late, “must be under­tak­en with­in the same field where it must inter­vene, prac­ti­cal­ly in the very lan­guage with which this new rig­or must break.”15 If Marx there­fore makes a “short-cir­cuit” between two real­i­ties that bour­geois thought and ide­ol­o­gy have affirmed as irre­ducible or dis­joint­ed with rela­tion to each oth­er – the spaces prop­er to the eco­nom­ic and the polit­i­cal – and thus opens a whole field of rev­o­lu­tion­ary inves­ti­ga­tion through the the­o­reti­co-prac­ti­cal artic­u­la­tion of the con­cept of labor and the social rela­tion; at the same time, this short-cir­cuit had, in turn, been made by the ide­ol­o­gy of Marx’s epoch, which he would not have known how to break from entire­ly. Bal­ibar empha­sizes that “Marx’s ‘polit­i­cal’ the­o­ry and action have no prop­er space in the ide­o­log­i­cal con­fig­u­ra­tion of his time.” But here we can sig­nal a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion – Bal­ibar thinks that to con­tin­ue along the­se lines would be “too easy,” unwill­ing to per­mit that “one should be con­tent mere­ly to record and illus­trate the inscrip­tion of Marx­ism in the space of the ‘dom­i­nant ide­ol­o­gy’ and the effects in return of this ide­ol­o­gy upon Marx­ist dis­course,” pre­fer­ring to tie onto the “per­ma­nent anchor­ing points for any cri­tique of social dom­i­na­tion.”16

How­ev­er, it is to the effects of this ide­ol­o­gy on Marx’s own dis­course which we had to return, inas­much as they will deter­mine a ten­sion and coun­ter-ten­den­cy with­in Marx’s own work, that is to say, the sci­en­tist ide­ol­o­gy of the 19th cen­tu­ry and its will to total­ly com­pre­hend soci­ety and his­to­ry. In the very place where Marx “refus­es to grant [him­self] in advance the solu­tion to the prob­lem of his­to­ry and a com­plet­ed dialec­tic,”17 even where he affirms that “com­mu­nism is not an ide­al state towards which soci­ety is pro­gress­ing, but the real move­ment that sup­press­es the exist­ing state of things,” the dialec­tic of Cap­i­tal “makes Marx com­pare social evo­lu­tion to a nat­u­ral process, that stress­es eco­nom­ic deter­min­ism, hail­ing in Darwin’s the­o­ry a dis­cov­ery which par­al­lels Marx”18:

the one thing which is impor­tant for Marx is to find the law of the phe­nom­e­na with whose inves­ti­ga­tion he is con­cerned; and it is not the law which gov­erns the­se phe­nom­e­na, inso­far as they have a definite form and mutu­al con­nec­tion with­in a given his­tor­i­cal peri­od, that is impor­tant to him. Of still greater impor­tance to him is the law of their vari­a­tion, of their devel­op­ment, i.e. of their tran­si­tion from one form into anoth­er, from one series of con­nec­tions into a dif­fer­ent one… Con­se­quent­ly, Marx only con­cerns him­self with one thing: to show, by an exact sci­en­tific inves­ti­ga­tion, the neces­si­ty of suc­ces­sive deter­mi­nate orders of social rela­tions.19

Which has the pos­si­ble effect of “destroy­ing the dynamism of this process by hypo­sta­tiz­ing it, by rigid­i­fy­ing it into a total­i­ty with its own laws of devel­op­ment that one might be able to pos­sess, or dom­i­nate, or reverse.”20

Anoth­er moment which we retain in this analy­sis address­es the prob­lem of the process of the becom­ing his­tor­i­cal or the becom­ing-sub­ject of the pro­le­tari­at with­in Cap­i­tal. If the pro­le­tari­at only appears in in the analy­sis of Cap­i­tal as “con­crete­ly present but with­out a unique sig­ni­fier,”21 it’s that it rests on the polar­i­ty of two non-super­im­pos­able modal­i­ties, “two mod­es of man­i­fes­ta­tion of the same social real­i­ty”22 prop­er to the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, of which we must ana­lyze the dif­fer­en­tial gap, the name it gives for that mat­ter to “two over­lap­ping col­lec­tives of work­ers, made up of the same indi­vid­u­als (or almost) and yet incom­pat­i­ble”23: the one pas­sive, as the effect of the labor process, or a cap­i­tal-col­lec­tive (deter­mined or indi­vid­u­al­ized by the wage form and linked to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of labor-pow­er as com­mod­i­ty), the oth­er active, “inco­ercible residue,”24 the Pro­le­tari­at-mass or pro­le­tari­at-col­lec­tive char­ac­ter­iz­ing “the ele­ment of mate­ri­al impos­si­bil­i­ty” of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion itself, which, under his­tor­i­cal analy­sis of class strug­gles, is the effect of its own con­tra­dic­tion, neces­si­tat­ing then a cap­i­tal­ist man­age­ment of the­se dif­fer­ences and con­flicts which it leads and thus mak­ing, on the oth­er hand, the class strug­gle into a fac­tor of the accu­mu­la­tion of cap­i­tal. This is why in Marx’s analy­sis of Cap­i­tal, the work­ing class tends to be “pre­sent­ed as fac­ing cap­i­tal sym­met­ri­cal­ly,” as its invert­ed image.25 Quite the oppo­site, all analy­sis must rec­og­nize their essen­tial dis­sym­me­try, inas­much as it is part of the move­ment of cap­i­tal:

The fact that the pro­le­tari­at, which is both a “class” and the “mass­es,” is not a sub­ject, that it nev­er coin­cides with itself, does not mean that the pro­le­tari­at nev­er presents itself or acts as a sub­ject in his­to­ry. How­ev­er, this rev­o­lu­tion­ary action is always tied to a con­junc­ture, last­ing or not, and only exists with­in its lim­its. This the­sis opens up two prac­ti­cal ques­tions: (1) what are the con­di­tions and forms through which such an effect can occur? and (2) what enters a mass move­ment, from a deter­mi­nate class con­di­tion, that makes it capa­ble of being rec­og­nized prac­ti­cal­ly as the expres­sion of this class? Con­verse­ly, this the­sis dis­miss­es the spec­u­la­tions and puerile con­tro­ver­sies con­cern­ing the irre­ducible dif­fer­ence between the “ide­al pro­le­tari­at” and the “empir­i­cal pro­le­tari­at.” It admits that the emer­gence of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary form of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty (or iden­ti­ty) is always a par­tial effect and nev­er a speci­fic prop­er­ty of nature, and there­fore brings with it no guar­an­tees, but oblig­es us to search for the con­di­tions in a con­junc­ture that can pre­cip­i­tate class strug­gles with­in mass move­ments.26

The symp­to­matic read­ing Bal­ibar pro­pos­es seems to us to have this dou­ble ben­e­fit of clear­ing up, from a Marx­i­an antin­o­my, an inter­pre­tive path to the con­di­tions of pos­si­bil­i­ty for a the­o­ry of pro­le­tar­i­an rev­o­lu­tion, while also leav­ing open the prob­lem that this read­ing was able to iden­ti­fy. And from here to main­tain the blindspot of Marx’s the­o­ry, between the objec­tive devel­op­ment of the con­di­tions of social for­ma­tions, and the forms of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty inter­nal to this devel­op­ment; and on the oth­er hand, the the­o­ret­i­cal block­ages which can nei­ther reflect nor rec­og­nize the con­di­tions of pos­si­bil­i­ty of a pos­si­ble inver­sion of the rela­tions of deter­mi­na­tion with­in the rei­fied effec­tiv­i­ty of social real­i­ty. So the impos­si­bil­i­ty of think­ing rev­o­lu­tion as a sub­jec­tive move­ment, of self-deter­mi­na­tion and self-lib­er­a­tion of the pro­le­tari­at, is now the becom­ing his­tor­i­cal of the pro­le­tari­at in its polit­i­cal het­eron­o­my, and inter­pret­ing there­fore work­ers’ strug­gles as the sim­ple reflec­tion of an objec­tive con­flict between labor and Cap­i­tal and non as a becom­ing-sub­ject by the over­com­ing of sub­jec­tive het­eron­o­my inher­ent to the social live of the exploit­ed class­es. Now it is again­st this blindspot and block­age of Marx­ist the­o­ry that the the­o­rists of inquiry for­mu­lat­ed their most rad­i­cal the­ses, open­ing to an entire reverse-shot of crit­i­cal and mil­i­tant analy­sis of cap­i­tal in the 1960s and 1970s. We will only men­tion two. The first, that of Cas­to­ri­adis, in his 1960 arti­cle “Mod­ern Cap­i­tal­ism and Rev­o­lu­tion,” des­ig­nat­ed Cap­i­tal as a “degra­da­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry,” which derives the “basic premise” accord­ing to which, “in the cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my, indi­vid­u­als, whether pro­le­tar­i­ans or cap­i­tal­ists, are actu­al­ly and whol­ly trans­formed into things, i.e. rei­fied; they are sub­mit­ted to the action of eco­nom­ic laws that dif­fer in no way from nat­u­ral laws,” this the­sis: “the the­o­ry as such ‘ignores’ the action of social class­es.”27 In oth­er words:

[It is as] pure and sim­ple objects that work­ers and cap­i­tal­ists appear in the pages of Cap­i­tal. They are only blind and uncon­scious instru­ments real­iz­ing through their actions what is imposed upon them by “eco­nom­ic laws.” If eco­nom­ics is to become a mechan­ics of soci­ety, it must deal with phe­nom­e­na ruled by “objec­tive” laws that are them­selves inde­pen­dent of the action of peo­ple and class­es. We end up with the fol­low­ing fan­tas­tic para­dox: Marx, who dis­cov­ered class strug­gle, wrote a mon­u­men­tal work ana­lyz­ing the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism from which the class strug­gle is total­ly absent.28

In short: “this con­cep­tion is equiv­a­lent to treat­ing work­ers in the­o­ry as cap­i­tal­ism would like to treat the pro­duc­ers in actu­al prac­tice… but can­not, that is, as pure and sim­ple objects.”29

If we can­not deny the whole pages devot­ed to class strug­gle in the body of analy­sis of Cap­i­tal, what Cas­to­ri­adis puts into ques­tion here is indeed the ques­tion of the cen­tral­i­ty of the place they occu­py. Rec­og­niz­ing the his­toric­i­ty of cap­i­tal­ism, if there is strug­gle, this strug­gle can only resist effects and not the caus­es of the­se effects which, for their part, link up accord­ing to a mechan­i­cal log­ic, accord­ing to qua­si-invari­able con­nec­tions which make class strug­gle a mar­gin­al fac­tor, a sim­ple vari­able of adjust­ment but chang­ing noth­ing in the ten­den­cies of the cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my. In a dif­fer­ent man­ner, but from the same site of crit­i­cal enun­ci­a­tion, as the reverse-shot of the analy­sis of Cap­i­tal, we cite the­se lines of Negri:

Cap­i­tal is also this text which served to reduce cri­tique to eco­nom­ic the­o­ry, to anni­hi­late sub­jec­tiv­i­ty in objec­tiv­i­ty, to sub­ject the sub­ver­sive capac­i­ty of the pro­le­tari­at to the reor­ga­niz­ing and repres­sive intel­li­gence of cap­i­tal­ist pow­er. We can only recon­quer a cor­rect read­ing of Cap­i­tal (not for the painstak­ing con­science of the intel­lec­tu­al, but for the rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­science of the mass­es) if we sub­ject it to the cri­tique of the Grun­dris­se, if we reread it through the cat­e­gor­i­cal appa­ra­tus of the Grun­dris­se, which is tra­versed through­out by an absolute­ly insur­mount­able antag­o­nism led by the capac­i­ty of the pro­le­tari­at. From this point of view, the Grun­dris­se rep­re­sents the cri­tique of the cap­i­tal­ist “rev­o­lu­tion from above” in the real move­ment. It is the con­fi­dence in the “rev­o­lu­tion from below”; it bears the strongest poten­tial for the destruc­tion of every kind of the­o­ret­i­cal or polit­i­cal auton­o­my detached from the real move­ment. This is what the Grun­dris­se under­stands (through its cat­e­gories) as the only pos­si­ble foun­da­tion.30

The mil­i­tant read­ing of Marx lead in Italy by Quaderni Rossi, and lat­er by the work­erists, will come down to a divi­sion in Marx him­self (fol­low­ing the exam­ple of the pro­le­tari­at): Cap­i­tal becomes the organon of the grasp­ing of a com­plet­ed and autopo­et­ic total­i­ty, capa­ble of inte­grat­ing all oppo­si­tion in its unlim­it­ed move­ment of self-repro­duc­tion; while the Grun­dris­se becomes the nec­es­sar­i­ly frag­ment­ed tran­scrip­tion of erup­tions of pro­le­tar­i­an insub­or­di­na­tion from the phe­nom­e­nal man­i­fes­ta­tion of the process of val­oriza­tion: the Grun­dris­se as analy­sis, not of the becom­ing-sub­ject of sub­stance, but the irre­ducible oppo­si­tion of the sub­ject with­in sub­stance. It would be impos­si­ble here to fol­low in detail the con­se­quences of this divi­sion of Marx in the ide­o­log­i­cal and orga­ni­za­tion­al his­to­ry of the Ital­ian far Left, from operais­mo to Autono­mia. The red threat, or the “hot wire,” of the search for a pro­le­tar­i­an sub­jec­ti­va­tion irre­ducible to the move­ment of Cap­i­tal, will con­di­tion the lines of flight from one fig­ure of the pro­le­tari­at to anoth­er, up to the con­tem­po­rary posi­tions regard­ing immaterial/cognitive labor. If a cri­tique of the­se posi­tions is nec­es­sary, and remains to be made, it is impos­si­ble to pass over with silence their rela­tion to the search for a direct line between the the­o­ret­i­cal analy­sis of the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion and an imme­di­ate expres­sion of the pro­le­tar­i­an excess: the knowl­edge of cap­i­tal would have to imme­di­ate­ly express the dis­obe­di­ence of pro­le­tar­i­an sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, the artic­u­lat­ing self-con­sti­tu­tion of the antag­o­nis­tic sub­ject and its posi­tion­ing with­in the con­tra­dic­to­ry struc­ture of the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion.31

This is why, even in their diver­gences, the the­o­rists and mil­i­tants of inquiry will reaf­firm the neces­si­ty for an eman­ci­pa­to­ry project of resub­jec­ti­fy­ing and inten­si­fy­ing mil­i­tant polit­i­cal the­o­ry and prac­tice through a return to the mate­ri­al con­di­tions of labor­ers sur­round­ing the elab­o­ra­tion of a col­lec­tive prax­is; and thus of using “polit­i­cal prac­tice as an inten­si­fier of thought, and analy­sis as a mul­ti­pli­er of the forms and domains for the inter­ven­tion of polit­i­cal action.”32 Which calls for a last remark: resub­jec­ti­vat­ing the­o­ries and prac­tices or return­ing to the “sub­jec­tive” does not mean sup­port­ing the empiri­cist posi­tion of tra­di­tion­al soci­ol­o­gy, which under the pre­text that only the fact of indi­vid­u­al exis­tence can be observed, tends to negate the idea of social class or oth­er­wise to affirm it as a gener­ic fic­tive notion. What we will name sub­jec­tive is a return to what Claude Lefort named and iden­ti­fied as a pro­le­tar­i­an expe­ri­ence, a return to the ensem­ble of social rela­tions which this class main­tains with itself and with its own his­to­ry. There­fore this term “sub­jec­tive” does not remote­ly negate the notion of class, quite the con­trary: it best sums up “the dom­i­nant trait of the pro­le­tari­at,” its own real­i­ty. There is the “sub­jec­tive” in the sense that “its com­port­ments are not the sim­ple result of the con­di­tions of its exis­tence.”33 Bet­ter, there is a pro­le­tar­i­an “sub­jec­tive” because its con­di­tion of exis­tence for being trans­formed demand of it a con­stant strug­gle; a strug­gle again­st the irra­tional­i­ty and the con­tra­dic­tions inher­ent to the sci­en­tific orga­ni­za­tion of labor, where, “in real life, cap­i­tal­ism is oblig­ed to base itself on the people’s capac­i­ty for self-orga­ni­za­tion, on the indi­vid­u­al and col­lec­tive cre­ativ­i­ty of pro­duc­ers. With­out mak­ing use of the­se abil­i­ties the sys­tem could not sur­vive for a day. But the whole ‘offi­cial’ orga­ni­za­tion of mod­ern soci­ety both ignores and seeks to sup­press the­se abil­i­ties to the utmost.” But strug­gle also again­st the very con­tent of this life, since:

More than any oth­er social order, cap­i­tal­ism has put work at the cen­ter of human activ­i­ty – and more than any oth­er social order cap­i­tal­ism makes of work some­thing that is absurd (absurd not from the view­point of the philoso­pher or of the moral­ist, but from the point of view of those who have to per­form it). What is chal­lenged today is not only the “human orga­ni­za­tion” of work but its nature, its con­tent, its meth­ods, the very instru­ments and pur­pose of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion.34

This no soci­ol­o­gy can man­age to under­stand: only the return to direct tes­ti­monies by mil­i­tant inquiry can make it think­able, because it par­tic­i­pates itself in this strug­gle. To make it thought in the sense of an inter­ven­tion in social strug­gle. This strug­gle was named, in the course of the Sem­i­nar of the GRM, the excess of the sub­ject – the excess of the sub­ject vis-à-vis struc­tural deter­minisms, of which we must demon­strate not only the pos­si­bil­i­ty, but also the real effi­ca­cy. This is why we wish to add to the two “cat­e­gories” pro­posed by Bal­ibar – the Pro­le­tari­at-class and the Pro­le­tari­at-mass (in the block­age of the cat­e­gories of analy­sis of Marx’s Cap­i­tal) whose tra­di­tion­al vec­tor is the overde­ter­mi­na­tion under rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­junc­ture – a third which we could name: the Pro­le­tari­at-sub­jec­tive as “the anchor­ing point of sub­jec­tive refusal in the struc­ture of soci­ety which can only find artic­u­la­tion to the mate­ri­al­i­ty of social rela­tions by this inter­nal excess to the struc­ture which rep­re­sents the irre­ducibil­i­ty of labor to a sim­ple fac­tor of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion” and which con­sti­tutes the index of the repressed [refoulé] with­in Marx­ism.35 Which the implies clar­i­fy­ing and defin­ing the term “expe­ri­ence” in a very pre­cise sense, in a dou­ble sense. Not only does it iden­ti­fy the class dis­tinc­tion between pro­le­tari­at and bour­geoisie, in their real­i­ty and their prop­er­ly asym­met­ric his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ter (again­st the ten­den­cy of objec­tivist soci­ol­o­gy), but it also sig­ni­fies that this dis­tinc­tion was only able to be clar­i­fied, his­tor­i­cal­ly by the pro­le­tari­at, from the coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary fail­ure of the par­ty-orga­ni­za­tion of the Lenin­ist tra­di­tion, the one enun­ci­at­ed in 1902, mak­ing the process of polit­i­cal prac­tice an inter­ven­tion in the divi­sion of the pro­le­tari­at to oppose, in the pro­le­tari­at, its class des­tiny to that which – includ­ing its own imme­di­ate exis­tence – stands in its way. This fail­ure would then have revealed “that the pro­le­tari­at can­not divide itself, alien­ate itself in sta­ble forms of rep­re­sen­ta­tion as the bour­geoisie did. It can­not do so because it has an eco­nom­ic nature in rela­tion to which the polit­i­cal par­ties are only super­struc­tures. But the pro­le­tari­at is noth­ing objec­tive. It is a class in which the  eco­nom­ic and the polit­i­cal no longer have a sep­a­rate real­i­ty and which defines itself as expe­ri­ence… It is there­fore as a total class that it must resolve its his­tor­i­cal tasks, and it can­not rec­og­nize its inter­ests in a detached part of itself”36 in its polit­i­cal process of reap­pro­pri­a­tion of its con­di­tions of exis­tence, through the expe­ri­ence of its auton­o­my and that of its self-orga­ni­za­tion. If expe­ri­ence would seem to reject the neces­si­ty of an orga­ni­za­tion­al form insti­tut­ed as van­guard which would take hold in an exte­ri­or point, and there­fore the intro­duc­tion “from out­side” of polit­i­cal con­scious­ness; if expe­ri­ence puts into ques­tion, and per­haps dis­qual­i­fies, the very idea of the par­ty inas­much as no one can act or speak in the name of the pro­le­tari­at, it is nec­es­sary to rede­fine the sta­tus of rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry and its rela­tions with the effec­tive polit­i­cal prax­is of the pro­le­tari­at, that is, to rede­fine the very fig­ure of the mil­i­tant; with the under­stand­ing that if the pro­le­tari­at can only be its own the­o­ry, and in this unrep­re­sentable, we can­not reach it the­o­ret­i­cal­ly “but only at the lev­el of prac­tice by par­tic­i­pat­ing in its his­to­ry,” restor­ing its atti­tude inter­nal­ly; what can take form inter­nal to the pro­le­tari­at is a knowl­edge of its his­to­ry, of its dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, of its present tasks, in show­ing “how its capac­i­ties for inven­tion and pow­er of orga­ni­za­tion man­i­fest in every­day life.”37 How then to inter­vene in the direc­tion of the self-deter­mi­na­tion and there­fore the auton­o­my of labor­er, under which dialec­tic? How to think this inter­nal rela­tion between what is aimed for (the devel­op­ment of auton­o­my) and that by which it is aimed at (the exer­cise of this auton­o­my)?38

There can only be mil­i­tant inquiry, again­st all objec­tive and sup­pos­ed­ly neu­tral forms, if the inquir­ers them­selves “accept the val­ue of pro­le­tar­i­an expe­ri­ence,” on the con­di­tion that they “take root in its sit­u­a­tions and make the social and his­tor­i­cal hori­zon of the class” their own; that they them­selves break “with the imme­di­ate­ly given con­di­tions which are those of the sys­tem of exploita­tion.” The mil­i­tant must appear then as an “agent of the labor­ers,”39 and not, as Lenin want­ed, “a tri­bune of the peo­ple,” who knows how to prof­it from every occa­sion for “expos­ing before all his social con­vic­tions and demo­c­ra­t­ic demands”; “start­ing from a cri­tique or from a labor­ers’ strug­gle in a deter­mi­nate sec­tor,” usu­al­ly bor­rowed from an implic­it dis­course, frag­men­tary and more felt than reflect­ed, it “to show how it puts into ques­tion the very fact of exploita­tion and there­fore tries to extend its reach”40; to find forms of action “in the mul­ti­ple nuceli of mil­i­tants freely orga­niz­ing their activ­i­ty while tak­ing care of their con­tacts, their infor­ma­tion, their con­nec­tions, in con­fronta­tion but also in the uni­ty of work­ers’ expe­ri­ences.”41 In this sense, mil­i­tant work­ers’ inquiry could rein­tro­duce to us Balibar’s enig­mat­ic for­mu­la, of a “func­tion of col­lec­tive analy­sis.”42

The expe­ri­ence of mil­i­tant work­ers’ inquiry which we ana­lyzed in the course of the first Sec­tion of the GRM Sem­i­nar 2011-21012, were expe­ri­ences local­ized between France and Italy, the­se two coun­tries rep­re­sent­ing the Euro­pean con­texts where the process of the (self-)critique of Marx­ism had the great­est artic­u­la­tion to the effec­tive trans­for­ma­tion of mass polit­i­cal prac­tices: which implies a re-elab­o­ra­tion of the rela­tion of the­o­ry to prac­tice, through a play of decentering(s) of prac­tices which tra­di­tion­al­ly incar­nat­ed pow­er author­i­ties in the unequal Party/class rela­tion, deter­mined hier­ar­chi­cal­ly by the dis­tinc­tion directors/executants. With­in the con­junc­tures which inter­est us, the­se axes could only be for­mu­lat­ed in direct strug­gle, for­mal or infor­mal, again­st mate­ri­al con­di­tions, could only be reflect­ed by an every­day prac­tice of demands, could only be the pro­duc­tion of a process of the auton­o­my of the pro­le­tari­at. To speak of an active re-elab­o­ra­tion of the rela­tion between the­o­ry and prac­tice, by an eman­ci­pat­ed prax­is, implies then that we no longer think of inquiry in terms of objec­tive modal­i­ties and tech­niques of a knowl­edge, pre­vi­ous­ly estab­lished or acquired, whether in a frag­men­tary or par­tial fash­ion. For the scheme of knowl­edge, as means and ends of inquiry, we must sub­sti­tute a polit­i­cal prax­is, that is an active com­pre­hen­sion invit­ing a con­scious trans­for­ma­tion of the real, and, vice ver­sa, that only the pro­le­tar­i­an expe­ri­ence can real­ize. An expe­ri­ence which must be inter­ro­gat­ed by dif­fer­ent angles and begin­ning from the­se effec­tive “sites” of con­sti­tu­tion: pro­duc­tion, the work­shop, the fac­to­ry, whether it is in the very act of work­ing, or in the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion where such labor is car­ried out (imply­ing an analy­sis of the process of Fordist and Tay­lorist labor, but also a chal­lenge to the sub­jec­tive impli­ca­tions of said process).

—Trans­lat­ed by Asad Haider and Salar Mohan­desi


  1. The sem­i­nar texts are col­lect­ed on the GRM web­site.  

  2. See the blurb for the 2012-2013 sem­i­nar and the texts pro­duced on this occa­sion. 

  3. See the edi­to­ri­al for GRM’s first Cahier

  4. Accord­ing to an effi­ca­cious expres­sion of Eti­en­ne Bal­ibar. 

  5. Eti­en­ne Bal­ibar, Mass­es, Class­es, Ideas, trans. James Swen­son (New York: Rout­ledge, 1994), 128. 

  6. Trans­la­tors’ note: “Envoi his­to­ri­al,” a usu­al French trans­la­tion of Heidegger’s Ge-schick

  7. See in par­tic­u­lar the fol­low­ing meet­ings of the GRM: “Intro­duc­tion à la Révo­lu­tion Cul­turelle” and “Crise du marx­is­me et cri­tique de l’Etat. Le dernier com­bat d’Althusser.” 

  8. Eti­en­ne Bal­ibar, “Plus-val­ue et classe sociale” in Cinq études du matéri­al­is­me his­torique (Paris: Maspero, 1974), 152. Trans­la­tors’ note: trans­la­tions from French ours unless oth­er­wise not­ed. 

  9. Bal­ibar, “Plus-val­ue,” 157-158. 

  10. Bal­ibar, “Plus-val­ue,” 157. 

  11. Bal­ibar, Mass­es, 126. 

  12. Anto­nio Negri, Marx Beyond Marx, trans. Har­ry Cleaver, Michael Ryan, and Mau­r­izio Viano (New York: Autono­me­dia, 1991), 19, 8. 

  13. Bal­ibar, Mass­es, 131. 

  14. Louis Althusser, Essays in Self-Crit­i­cism, trans. Gra­hame Lock (Lon­don: New Left Books, 1976), 165; trans­la­tion mod­i­fied. A phi­los­o­phy “only exists in so far as it occu­pies a posi­tion, and it only occu­pies this posi­tion in so far as it has con­quered it in the thick of an already occu­pied world. It there­fore only exists in so far as this con­flict has made it some­thing dis­tinct, and this dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter can only be won and imposed in an indi­rect way, by a detour involv­ing cease­less study of oth­er, exist­ing posi­tions.” 

  15. Louis Althusser, Psy­ch­analy­se et sci­ences humaines (Paris: Stock/IMEC), 1996, 78-79. We could thus say of Marx what Althusser said of Freud, rede­ployed in Balibar’s analy­sis: “We are deal­ing with the emer­gence of a new truth, a new knowl­edge, there­fore the def­i­n­i­tion of a new object, which is in rup­ture with the ante­ri­or­ly con­sti­tut­ed field: with rela­tion to a field from the depths of which this new rig­or detach­es itself. An already occu­pied field, that is to say an ide­o­log­i­cal field in which it has no space. To the extent we are deal­ing with an epis­te­mo­log­i­cal break, a rup­ture of con­ti­nu­ity in rela­tion to the exte­ri­or field, we are deal­ing with a phe­nom­e­non of rup­ture which con­tains itself, like real vir­tu­al­i­ty, a capac­i­ty for the dis­rup­tion of that from which it emerges… But at the same time, this emer­gence in the depths of a field in which all places are tak­en, appears in such con­di­tions that the emer­gence has the ten­den­cy to be con­test­ed and revoked by the field in the depth of which it emerges. The rup­ture of a new sci­en­tific rig­or intro­duced on the field where all places are tak­en, essen­tial­ly pos­es to the thinker or the sci­en­tist who is try­ing to define his new object, cer­tain prob­lems which are prac­ti­cal­ly unsolv­able in the first instance. This rup­ture must be under­tak­en with­in the same field where it must inter­vene, prac­ti­cal­ly in the very lan­guage with which this new rig­or must break.” 

  16. Bal­ibar, Mass­es, 135. 

  17. Cor­nelius Cas­to­ri­adis, The Imag­i­nary Insti­tu­tion of Soci­ety, trans. Kath­leen Blar­ney (Cam­bridge: MIT Press, 1988), 56. 

  18. Cas­to­ri­adis, Imag­i­nary Insti­tu­tion, 57. 

  19. See Karl Marx, Cap­i­tal, vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes (New York: Pen­guin, 1976), 100. 

  20. Negri, Marx Beyond Marx, 9. 

  21. Bal­ibar, Mass­es, 143. 

  22. Bal­ibar, Mass­es, 159. 

  23. Eti­en­ne Bal­ibar, The Phi­los­o­phy of Marx, trans. Chris Turn­er (New York: Ver­so 2007), 101. 

  24. Bal­ibar, Phi­los­o­phy, 102. 

  25. Bal­ibar, Mass­es, 143. 

  26. Bal­ibar, Mass­es, 147. 

  27. Cas­to­ri­adis, Imag­i­nary Insti­tu­tion, 16. 

  28. Cor­nelius Cas­to­ri­adis, Polit­i­cal and Social Writ­ings, Vol­ume 2, 1955-1960: From the Work­ers’ Strug­gle Again­st Bureau­cra­cy to Rev­o­lu­tion in the Age of Mod­ern Cap­i­tal­ism, trans. David Ames Cur­tis (Min­neapolis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 1988), 257. 

  29. Cas­to­ri­adis, PSW 2, 247. 

  30. Negri, Marx Beyond Marx, 18-19. 

  31. On the­se ques­tions, see “Dia­logue avec Yves Duroux” in Le sujet et l’étude: Idéolo­gie et savoir dans le dis­cours maoïste (Reims: Le Clou dans le Fer, 2010).  

  32. Michel Fou­cault, “Pref­ace” to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guat­tari, Anti-Oedi­pus, trans. Robert Hur­ley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (New York: Pen­guin, 2009), xiv. 

  33. Claude Lefort, “Pro­le­tar­i­an Expe­ri­ence,” trans­lat­ed in this issue of View­point

  34. Cas­to­ri­adis, PSW 2, 93-4. 

  35. GRM sem­i­nar Novem­ber 13, 2010, “Luttes de class­es dans le cap­i­tal­is­me avancé. Les aven­tures de la dialec­tique chez Hans-Jur­gen Krahl.” 

  36. Claude Lefort, “Le pro­lé­tari­at et sa direc­tion” in Elé­ments d’une cri­tique de la bureau­cratie, (Paris: Gal­li­mard, 1979), 67. 

  37. Claude Lefort, “Pro­le­tar­i­an Expe­ri­ence.” 

  38. Here lies the ques­tion of the real polit­i­cal effec­tiv­i­ty, the­o­ret­i­cal and orga­ni­za­tion­al, of the pro­le­tari­at, and its pos­si­ble lim­its. Effects and lim­its which seem to us to have been refor­mu­lat­ed in 1967 by Mar­cuse, before Ger­man stu­dents:: “You have defined what is unfor­tu­nate­ly the great­est dif­fi­cul­ty in the mat­ter. Your objec­tion is that, for new, rev­o­lu­tion­ary needs to devel­op, the mech­a­nisms that repro­duce the old needs must be abol­ished. In order for the mech­a­nisms to be abol­ished, there must first be a need to abol­ish them. That is the cir­cle in which we are placed, and I do not know how to get out of it.” Her­bert Mar­cuse, “The End of Utopia,” reprint­ed online at marxists.org. 

  39. Claude Lefort, “Organ­i­sa­tion et par­ti” in Elé­ments d’une cri­tique de la bureau­cratie (Paris: Gal­li­mard, 1979), 104. 

  40. Lefort, “Organ­i­sa­tion,” 104. 

  41. Lefort, “Organ­i­sa­tion,” 113. 

  42. Eti­en­ne Bal­ibar, “État, Par­ti, Ide­olo­gie” in E. Bal­ibar, C. Luporini, A. Tosel, Marx et sa cri­tique de la poli­tique, Paris, Maspéro, 1979, 153. 

Authors of the article

is a professor of Philosophy and researcher at the University of Liège. He is a member of the Groupe de Recherches Matérialistes (GRM) and the Association « Louis Althusser ». He is the author of Le sujet et l'étude. Idéologie et savoir dans le discours maoiste (2010) and Enquête ouvrière et théorie critique. Enjeux et figure de la centralité ouvrière dans l'Italie des années 1960 (2013).

is a professor of philosophy who lives and works in Reims.