Issue 4: The State




Materials for a Revolutionary Theory of the State | Asad Haider and Salar Mohandesi

“I believe that the sta­tus of the state in cur­rent think­ing on the Left is very prob­lem­at­ic,” Stu­art Hall wrote in 1984, in the midst of Mar­garet Thatcher’s war on the “ene­my with­in.” He reflect­ed on the lega­cy of the post­war peri­od, which saw the exten­sion of pub­lic ser­vices with­in the con­text of a vast expan­sion of the state’s inter­ven­tion in social life.


Seven Theses on Workers’ Control (1958) | Raniero Panzieri

In the work­ers’ move­ment there has been for a long time, and in suc­ces­sive peri­ods, a dis­cus­sion of the ques­tion of the modes and tem­po­ral­i­ties of the tran­si­tion to social­ism. One ten­dency, which occurred in var­i­ous forms, believed it was pos­si­ble to schema­tize the tem­po­ral­ity of this process, as if social­ist con­struc­tion had to be pre­ceded, always and in every case, by the “phase” of con­struc­tion of bour­geois democ­racy.

Theses on the Transformation of Democracy and the Extraparliamentary Opposition (1968) | Johannes Agnoli

These the­ses serve as a sup­ple­ment to my book Trans­for­ma­tion of Democ­ra­cy and a cor­rec­tion to some mis­quo­ta­tions made at the remark­able del­e­gates con­fer­ence of the SDS. I am gen­er­al­ly of the opin­ion that rather than inter­pret texts, rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies should change rela­tions. As mea­sured by the state’s actu­al pow­er rela­tions and by the actu­al rela­tions of dom­i­na­tion in soci­ety, the famil­iar expres­sion for the mod­ern bour­geois state – “par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy” – rep­re­sents a para­dox.

Crisis and Strategy: On Daniel Bensaïd’s “The Notion of the Revolutionary Crisis in Lenin” | Patrick King

The Eng­lish trans­la­tion of Daniel Bensaïd’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Une lente impa­tience, is a wel­come event in the Anglo­phone Marx­ist world. Not only does it con­tain a rich his­to­ry of some of the most deci­sive moments for the French Left from the ’60s to the present, it also deep­ens our under­stand­ing of the het­ero­dox sources that coex­ist­ed with­in Bensaïd’s unique form of Marx­ism.

The Notion of the Revolutionary Crisis in Lenin (1968) | Daniel Bensaïd

In sev­eral places through­out his work, Lenin tries to define the notion of a “revolution­ary cri­sis,” espe­cially in Left-Wing Com­mu­nism: An Infan­tile Dis­or­der and The Col­lapse of the Sec­ond Inter­na­tional. How­ever, he out­lines a notion more than he estab­lishes a con­cept, as the descrip­tive cri­te­ria that he enu­mer­ates remain sub­jec­tive assess­ments.

Hans-Jürgen Krahl: From Critical to Revolutionary Theory | Michael Shane Boyle and Daniel Spaulding

Hans-Jür­gen Krahl died in a car crash in 1970, at the age of twen­ty-sev­en. By that time he had weath­ered the rise and decline of the Social­ist Ger­man Stu­dent Union (Sozial­is­tis­ch­er Deutsch­er Stu­den­ten­bund, or SDS), among whose ranks he was, arguably, both the most sophis­ti­cat­ed the­o­rist and, after Rudi Dutschke, the most incen­di­ary ora­tor. The SDS had been found­ed short­ly after World War II as the youth wing of the Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (SDP) of Ger­many. As the lat­ter moved towards the cen­ter, how­ev­er, the SDS rad­i­cal­ized, even­tu­al­ly lead­ing to expul­sion from its par­ent orga­ni­za­tion in 1961. It would soon become the most impor­tant stu­dent group in Ger­many, even as its offi­cial pol­i­cy shift­ed fur­ther towards rev­o­lu­tion­ary Marx­ism.

The Philosophy of History and the Authoritarian State (1971) | Hans-Jürgen Krahl

His­tor­i­cal materialism’s crit­i­cal eco­nomic prog­noses on the nat­ural course of the cap­i­tal­ist world order have been con­firmed. The con­di­tions for the eco­nomic break­down and cri­sis of cap­i­tal have been ful­filled; the his­tor­i­cal ten­dency of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion has long since reached the degree of con­cen­tra­tion and cen­tral­iza­tion that Marx and Engels des­ig­nated as its nat­u­rally pro­duced his­tor­i­cal ter­mi­nus. The exis­tence of the author­i­tar­ian state is just as much an expres­sion of the “final cri­sis” as it is of the tem­po­rary, polit­i­cally medi­ated suc­cess of the attempt to man­age it in the inter­ests of monop­oly cap­i­tal.

The New Deal and the New Order of Capitalist Institutions (1972) | Luciano Ferrari Bravo

To speak of the New Deal as a huge qual­i­ta­tive leap in the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ist insti­tu­tions – a leap that, pre­cise­ly because it func­tions at a cru­cial point in the plot of cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety at a glob­al lev­el, has itself a spe­cial his­tor­i­cal impor­tance – seems to be a state­ment by now gen­er­al­ly tak­en to be whol­ly cor­rect. The mat­ter was already set­tled in the mind of its great­est pro­tag­o­nist and in the ide­ol­o­gy cre­at­ed around him that enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly found­ed the “myth” of the New Deal’s “rev­o­lu­tion”; and, if every myth must have a real jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, this one lay in the effec­tive dis­man­tling of the sys­tem in the rapid course of a decade. No less sig­nif­i­cant, at this lev­el, is the bit­ter oppo­si­tion from var­i­ous posi­tions that the New Deal came to pro­voke; these were atti­tudes that then, and not acci­den­tal­ly, flowed back against it in a wide under­ly­ing con­sen­sus.

Notes on the Political Over the Longue Durée | Matteo Mandarini

Writ­ten towards the end of what we might call the “sec­ond peri­od” of Tronti’s reflec­tions, that of the so-called “auton­omy of the Polit­i­cal,” sand­wiched between the more famous phase of Operais­mo and the – almost com­pletely unknown to the Anglo­phone world – “third peri­od” polit­i­cal the­o­log­i­cal phase, that of the twi­light of the polit­i­cal, the short text trans­lated here will come to many Anglo­phone read­ers of Tron­ti as a sur­prise.

The Political (1979) | Mario Tronti

The polit­i­cal has a his­tory. It is the mod­ern his­tory of rela­tions of pow­er. To recon­struct, reread, to accu­mu­late mate­ri­als, to lay out the prob­lems by fol­low­ing the unhur­ried course of time, to set out from the clas­sics is not an escape into the past, it is an exper­i­ment, a test, the attempt to ver­ify a hypoth­e­sis. Let us leave for­mu­lae to the arith­metic of pol­i­tics. Let us leave the auton­omy of pol­i­tics to the news­pa­pers. The dif­fi­cul­ties encoun­tered by the Marx­ist the­ory and prac­tice of the work­ers’ move­ment in tak­ing upon itself the fact of pow­er all stem from this absence of knowl­edge, from this lack of reflec­tion on the his­tor­i­cal hori­zon of bour­geois pol­i­tics.


The Committee Room and the Streets | Geoff Eley

The idea that one could recon­sti­tute a viable left pol­i­tics by straight­for­wardly reap­pro­pri­at­ing the ele­ments that were so effec­tive in this ear­lier peri­od is a non-starter. At the same time it does not mean that you can­not take some or even all of those ele­ments – suit­ably rethought – and com­bine them in new and cre­ative ways that can have real effi­cacy for the pur­poses of the present. You have to begin the argu­ment now rather than in rela­tion to then. You can’t recu­per­ate “then” as a way of restart­ing “now.”

Rethinking Political Power and Revolutionary Strategy Today | Panagiotis Sotiris

The ques­tion of polit­i­cal pow­er has returned to the fore­front of polit­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal dis­cus­sion. This is not a coin­ci­dence. The acute eco­nomic cri­sis, its seri­ous social con­se­quences, the open polit­i­cal cri­sis in cer­tain social for­ma­tions, and the very sight of the over­throw of gov­ern­ments and regimes under the force of polit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion – despite, in the case of the Arab Spring, the trag­ic end of such process­es – mean that such ques­tions are again urgent.

The Ends of the State | Joshua Clover and Jasper Bernes

It is in no way self-appar­ent that think­ing more about the state, even if one promis­es to do it dif­fer­ent­ly, is the sen­si­ble rem­e­dy for the prob­lem of social move­ments that hurl them­selves repeat­ed­ly against the colon­nades of the Nation­al Assem­bly. If we are to con­front prac­ti­cal prob­lems in the strug­gle to remake the world, we should like to see the sit­u­a­tion right side up. For us, the prob­lem is not how to seize state pow­er but how not to be seized by it – how we might elude being hailed by the ques­tion of pow­er rather than that of social repro­duc­tion, and in turn, elude being forced to fight on ter­rain that is unfa­vor­able.

Commune, Party, State | Jodi Dean

As it forces the mat­ter of the polit­i­cal form of the peo­ple, the Paris Com­mune serves as a key ref­er­ence point in Marx­ist dis­cus­sions of the state. What form does the people’s self-gov­ern­ment take? Inso­far as the peo­ple pre­cede the state, analy­sis of the Com­mune event nec­es­sar­ily opens up to the people’s sub­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion and to the polit­i­cal process of which the peo­ple are the sub­ject. And inso­far as the peo­ple politi­cized are peo­ple divid­ed, a part of a con­sti­tu­tively open and incom­plete set, the place from which the peo­ple are under­stood is nec­es­sar­ily par­ti­san. The ques­tion of the par­ty pre­cedes the ques­tion of the state.

The State Against the State | Nina Power

As the last ves­tiges of the wel­fare state all but dis­ap­pear in the UK, we are faced with the para­dox­i­cal sit­u­a­tion of those most opposed to “the state” (either as anar­chists or as rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies com­mit­ted to its “with­er­ing away”) being forced to defend ele­ments of it against those who are in the process of pri­va­tiz­ing it into obliv­ion. Of course “the state” is not sim­ply a van­ish­ing safe­ty net or a real but ignored set of oblig­a­tions, but also pris­ons, police, courts, and mul­ti­ple oth­er forms of coer­cion, pun­ish­ment, con­trol, and vio­lence. Can we defend the “good state” against this oth­er one with­out falling into polit­i­cal con­tra­dic­tion or prac­ti­cal con­fu­sion? Can we sep­a­rate out the state and cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion?

Lessons for Building a Democratic Workers’ State | Immanuel Ness

The fail­ure of social­ism in the ear­ly 20th cen­tury is a prod­uct of the inter­nal contradic­tions of bour­geois democ­racy, which per­mit­ted inde­pen­dent work­ing-class orga­ni­za­tions on con­di­tion that they did not pose a chal­lenge to the cap­i­tal­ist state. In this way, the most sig­nif­i­cant his­toric frac­ture on the Left, one which remains with us today, fol­lowed the eager embrace of lib­eral democ­racy by Sec­ond Inter­na­tion­al reformist social­ists.


The Margins and the Center: For a New History of the Cultural Revolution | Christopher Connery

Giv­en that a mil­i­tant pol­i­tics has to date large­ly been con­fined to “the mar­gins,” and giv­en the present fair­ly bleak polit­i­cal ter­rain, an exam­i­na­tion of his­tor­i­cal manifesta­tions of polit­i­cal cre­ativ­ity at the mass lev­el might have greater than historiograph­i­cal impor­tance. Wu Yiching’s re-inter­pre­ta­tion of the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion – The Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion at the Mar­gins: Chi­nese Social­ism in Cri­sis – is such a study, and it is a sto­ry whose dynam­ic bears an impor­tant rela­tion to the his­tor­i­cal vicis­si­tudes of the local/center dynam­ic. Con­sid­er­ing its his­tor­i­cal and con­tin­u­ing polit­i­cal impor­tance, includ­ing in much recent rad­i­cal phi­los­o­phy, the Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion remains one of the most under-stud­ied phe­nom­ena of the 20th cen­tury.

From Subaltern to State: Toward a Left Critique of the Pink Tide | Robert Cavooris

As peo­ple through­out Latin Amer­i­ca react to the unspar­ing neolib­er­al poli­cies that swept the region in the 1980s and 90s, Venezuela has become the hinge of a much broad­er left­ward turn. This shift has impelled mas­sive polit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions in Venezuela and Bolivia, stirred more mod­er­ate res­o­nances in the South­ern Cone, and in the cas­es of Paraguay and Hon­duras, aroused reac­tionary coups. As one of the few left polit­i­cal projects of its scale in the post-Sovi­et era, this Latin Amer­i­can marea rosa­da, or “pink tide,” is a mate­r­i­al test­ing ground for the tran­si­tion from cap­i­tal­ism to some­thing else – leav­ing open for now the ques­tion of whether this some­thing else is com­mu­nism – and it demands sub­stan­tive dis­cus­sion on the Left.


The Political Economy of Capitalist Labor | Heide Gerstenberger

The con­vic­tion that cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion requires labor­ers who are not only dis­pos­sessed of autonomous means of repro­duc­tion, but are also legal­ly free to offer their capac­ity to labor on the mar­ket, has been cen­tral to Marx­ist analy­ses of cap­i­tal­ism. Any endeav­or to con­front this the­sis with the actu­al his­tory of cap­i­tal­ism not only runs counter to the dom­i­nant con­tent of tra­di­tional Marx­ist analy­sis, but also to the fun­da­men­tally opti­mistic Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy of his­tory.

The Critique of Politics | Alex Demirovic

Pol­i­tics, and in par­tic­u­lar demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­tics, is often viewed with­in polit­i­cal the­o­ry as the area in which human beings come togeth­er in order to make col­lec­tive deci­sions and to become capa­ble of col­lec­tive action. From this per­spec­tive pol­i­tics is seen – in dis­tinc­tion to the econ­o­my, with its pow­er and its inher­ent neces­si­ties – as the sphere of auton­o­my and free­dom. In oppo­si­tion to this per­spec­tive, Marx put for­ward the view that pol­i­tics is itself het­eronomous and has its share of social unfree­dom.

Remarks on Gender | Cinzia Arruzza

We often use the term patri­archy to under­score that gen­der oppres­sion is a phenom­e­non not reducible to inter­per­sonal rela­tions, but rather has a more soci­etal char­ac­ter and con­sis­tency. How­ever, things become a bit more com­pli­cated if we want to be more pre­cise about what exact­ly is meant by “patri­archy” and “patri­ar­chal sys­tem.” And this move becomes even more com­plex when we begin to ask about the pre­cise rela­tion­ship between patri­archy and cap­i­tal­ism.

Primitive Accumulation and the State-Form: National Debt as an Apparatus of Capture | Gavin Walker

In a brief moment of his the­o­ret­i­cal work, the great Japan­ese Marx­ist crit­ic Tosa­ka Jun deployed a deci­sive and cru­cial phrase, a phrase that I believe con­cen­trates with­in it the his­tor­i­cal con­junc­ture we have been expe­ri­enc­ing on a world-scale in the recent years of cri­sis: he calls this ulti­mate crys­tal­liza­tion of pol­i­tics “the facts of the streets” or “the facts on the streets” (gaitō no jijit­su).


Lineaments of the Logistical State | Alberto Toscano

It has long been not­ed that the appa­ra­tuses of con­trol and accu­mu­la­tion that struc­ture the social and mate­r­ial real­ity of cir­cu­la­tion – trans­port, the ener­gy indus­try and, after World War Two, “busi­ness logis­tics” as a ver­i­ta­ble sci­ence of real sub­sump­tion – though born to break the bar­gain­ing pow­er of trans­port work­ers and accu­mu­late prof­its by anni­hi­lat­ing space and depress­ing wages, have also, espe­cially through their ener­getic dimen­sions, cre­ated dynam­ic are­nas for class strug­gle.

Disrupting Distribution: Subversion, the Social Factory, and the “State” of Supply Chains | Deborah Cowen

We have entered a time of logis­tics space. Con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ism is orga­nized as a dis­persed but coor­di­nated sys­tem, where com­modi­ties are man­u­fac­tured across vast dis­tances, mul­ti­ple nation­al bor­ders, and com­plex social and tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­tures. Geopo­lit­i­cal economies that were pre­vi­ously gov­erned large­ly at the nation­al scale – even though as part of a glob­al sys­tem of trad­ing nation states – have been reordered into transna­tional cir­cu­la­tory sys­tems.

Inside Logistics: Organization, Work, Distinctions | Sergio Bologna

Logis­tics can nev­er be under­stood from out­side the ware­house, only by com­ing inside and look­ing at the tech­niques employed, the equip­ment and the orga­ni­za­tion of work does one under­stand if we find our­selves faced with some­thing that belongs to the new econ­o­my, in the real sense of the term, or that resem­bles the sweat­shops of Bangladesh. There is there­fore no orga­ni­za­tion of stan­dard­ized labor with spe­cif­ic fig­ures, because every com­mod­i­ty sec­tor has its speci­fici­ty in indus­tri­al logis­tics, and because in dis­tri­b­u­tion logis­tics, not all goods are sub­ject to the same treat­ment (think only of per­ish­able prod­ucts, the cold chain or dan­ger­ous and tox­ic prod­ucts). Speak­ing in the gener­ic sense of “logis­tics” does not lead us any­where.


The State of Capitalist Globalization | Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson

It seems almost a para­dox, or per­haps just an anachro­nism, to sug­gest that it is possi­ble to describe the glob­al sit­u­a­tion from the van­tage point of the state. Flows and scapes, transna­tional cor­po­ra­tions, migra­tory move­ments, finan­cial­iza­tion, sup­ply chains, the “unholy trin­ity” of the World Bank, IMF, and WTO – these are the actors, process­es, and enti­ties to which analy­ses of the glob­al most fre­quently refer. Overwhelm­ingly the focus has been on oper­a­tions and dynam­ics that in some way exceed or dis­place state pow­er and bor­ders. So much is this the case that argu­ments about the decline of the state have become pre­dictable and over­fa­mil­iar.

The Reproduction of Patriarchal Hegemony: Women in Italy Between Paid and Unpaid Work | Tania Toffanin

In the sys­tem of gen­der rela­tions, the role played by women in aug­ment­ing the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the work­force has been and still remains absolute­ly func­tion­al to eco­nom­ic growth. In these terms, the role assigned to women is the out­come of the con­di­tion of sub­or­di­na­tion and depen­dence on the employ­ment sta­tus of the part­ner or hus­band, and also the cause of the repro­duc­tion of this con­di­tion. This process was a struc­tur­al fea­ture of the Fordist regime, but it is also shap­ing the post-Fordist regime – because it is pre­cise­ly through the denial of repro­duc­tive work that the patri­ar­chal sys­tem allows cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion, and state dis­en­gage­ment in pub­lic spend­ing.

State Violence, State Control: Marxist State Theory and the Critique of Political Economy | Chris O’Kane

In the wake of the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis, a num­ber of move­ments arose which in dif­fer­ent ways, opposed the sta­tus quo. At the time, many of us in our exu­ber­ance thought these events sig­naled the end – or at least the begin­ning of the end – of cap­i­tal­ism. Yet from Lon­don to Oak­land to Madrid to Athens to Cairo, each of these move­ments were met and out­ma­neu­vered by an insti­tu­tion which was gen­er­ally neglect­ed in analy­ses of the final cri­sis, and the calls to com­mu­nize every­thing by abol­ish­ing the val­ue-form: the state.

Europe Forged in Crisis: The Emergence and Development of the EU | Oisín Gilmore

These are tur­bu­lent but con­fus­ing times in Europe. The Great Reces­sion has tak­en a seri­ous toll. In Por­tu­gal, Italy, Ire­land, Greece, and Spain (the PIIGS), inter­ven­tion by the EU in domes­tic pol­icy seems unprece­dented. Por­tu­gal, Ire­land, and Greece were forced by finan­cial mar­kets into bailout agree­ments with the “Troi­ka.” In Italy, under the watch­ful eyes of Europe, the unelect­ed tech­no­cratic gov­ern­ment of Mario Mon­ti replaced the elect­ed gov­ern­ment of Sil­vio Berlus­coni – and not a sin­gle mem­ber of this new tech­no­cratic gov­ern­ment was elect­ed. Spain nego­ti­ated with the Troi­ka, but was saved by changes in the finan­cial mar­kets.


Paths of Racism, Flows of Labor: Nation-State Formation, Capitalism and the Metamorphosis of Racism in Italy | Anna Curcio

Since the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, Europe has been char­ac­ter­ized by a “dou­ble path” of racism, direct­ed against South­ern­ers on the one hand, and the African col­o­nized pop­u­la­tion on the oth­er. To under­stand the present, not just the ques­tion of racism, but of Europe’s “South­ern” prob­lem, and of under­de­vel­op­ment itself, it will be nec­es­sary to con­sid­er the meta­mor­pho­sis of Ital­ian racism through the 20th cen­tu­ry, and the shape tak­en by Euro­pean racism with­in the cri­sis. It will be just as impor­tant to iden­ti­fy new pos­si­ble antiracist prac­tices, which can both iden­ti­fy and strug­gle against the mate­r­i­al basis of racism.

The Biology of Citizenship: Immigration, DNA Testing, and the State | Torsten Heinemann and Thomas Lemke

While this under­stand­ing of bio­log­i­cal cit­i­zen­ship cer­tainly high­lights impor­tant social and polit­i­cal impli­ca­tions of biotech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions in a glob­al­ized world, it tends to down­play and ignore prac­tices of sur­veil­lance and exclu­sion, and the refusal of cit­i­zen­ship rights based on bio­log­i­cal knowl­edge. An inter­est­ing exam­ple in this respect is the use of DNA test­ing for fam­ily reuni­fi­ca­tion. By dis­cussing Ger­many as an exem­plary case, we show that the use of parental test­ing endors­es a bio­log­i­cal con­cept of the fam­ily and may lead to the exclu­sion or sus­pen­sion of cit­i­zen­ship rights.

The Deep State: Germany, Immigration, and the National Socialist Underground | Wildcat

Near­ly three years ago, in Novem­ber 2011, news of a dou­ble sui­cide after a failed bank rob­bery devel­oped into one of the biggest scan­dals in post­war Ger­man his­tory.1 Even now, it remains unre­solved. For thir­teen years the two dead men, Uwe Mund­los and Uwe Böhn­hardt, had lived under­ground, togeth­er with a woman, Beate Zschäpe. The three were part of the Nation­al-Sozial­is­tis­ch­er Unter­grund (NSU), a fas­cist ter­ror orga­ni­za­tion which is sup­posed to have mur­dered nine migrant small entre­pre­neurs in var­i­ous Ger­man towns and a female police offi­cer, and to have been respon­si­ble for three bomb attacks and around fif­teen bank hold-ups.

Letters from Readers

Dear Comrades

Part work­ers’ cen­ter and part domes­tic vio­lence resource cen­ter, the Mujeres Unidas y Acti­vas space in East Oak­land is demon­strat­ing what it means to build a Lati­na immi­grant women’s’ orga­ni­za­tion  It’s clear to those of us pay­ing atten­tion that gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is hit­ting the Bay Area par­tic­u­larly hard The idea of pro­vid­ing imme­di­ate ser­vices to those locked up in jails and pris­ons is some­times seen as a com­pelling and essen­tial way to reach peo­ple inside When I first heard the word “DREAM­er” I didn’t think it was a prob­lem­atic term, nor did I think it would have a neg­a­tive impact on our move­ment. As a Guatemalan third-world left fem­i­nist with Marx­ist ten­den­cies, I orga­nize know­ing the ene­my Sin Bar­ras is a prison abo­li­tion group based in San­ta Cruz, Cal­i­for­nia.