Asad Haider

is an editor of Viewpoint.

Materials for a Revolutionary Theory of the State

Materials for a Revolutionary Theory of the State

“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. 

Workers' Inquiry: A Genealogy

Workers’ Inquiry: A Genealogy

In 1880, La Revue social­is­te asked an aging Karl Marx to draft a ques­tion­naire to be cir­cu­lat­ed among the French work­ing class. Called “A Work­ers’ Inquiry,” it was a list of exact­ly 101 detailed ques­tions, inquir­ing about every­thing from meal times to wages to lodg­ing.

Underground Currents: Louis Althusser’s “On Marxist Thought”

Underground Currents: Louis Althusser’s “On Marxist Thought”

When Per­ry Ander­son wrote in 1976 that “West­ern Marx­ism” could be con­sid­ered a “pro­duct of defeat,” he was refer­ring to the cat­a­stro­ph­es and betray­als that framed the peri­od from 1924 to 1968. In ret­ro­spect, this seems like fore­shad­ow­ing. The inter­ven­ing decades have seen not sim­ply a defeat for the work­ers’ move­ment but its total dis­so­lu­tion – the col­lapse of the insti­tu­tions that once made it an unde­ni­able social force, and the roll­back of the reforms it had won from the state. In our sit­u­a­tion it has become dif­fi­cult to say what “Marx­ism” real­ly is, what dis­tin­guish­es it as a the­o­ry, and why it mat­ters. But this is by no means a new ques­tion. And of all the def­i­n­i­tions and rede­f­i­n­i­tions of Marx­ism, Louis Althusser’s were per­haps the most con­tro­ver­sial. In 1982, just before François Mitterrand’s turn to aus­ter­i­ty, Althusser began to draft a “the­o­ret­i­cal bal­ance sheet.” He wrote “Defin­i­tive” on the man­u­script, and nev­er pub­lished it.

From Spring to Autumn: Reflections on the American May

From Spring to Autumn: Reflections on the American May

Long before the Hay­mar­ket Mas­sacre, May Day rep­re­sent­ed a time of tran­si­tion. Win­ter had reced­ed; in antic­i­pa­tion of the wealth of sum­mer, the peo­ple opt­ed for leisure over work. The hol­i­day shift­ed from “green” to “red” when leisure was attacked, work vio­lent­ly imposed, and wealth expro­pri­at­ed. May Day 2012 was anoth­er kind of tran­si­tion – to what, nobody knows.

The Night in Which All Cows Are White

The Night in Which All Cows Are White

Philadel­phia has a large pop­u­la­tion of black, dis­af­fect­ed youth. It also has a black may­or. But when some of the­se young peo­ple began to spon­ta­neous­ly protest the obscene lev­el of urban seg­re­ga­tion and sys­tem­at­ic pover­ty of the city with “flash mobs,” it was May­or Michael Nut­ter who launched the coun­ter-attack, impos­ing the dis­ci­pli­nary mea­sure of an ear­lier cur­few in wealthy white areas. Cur­fews, as George Cic­cariel­lo-Maher points out, “have his­tor­i­cal­ly served as a racist weapon for the con­tain­ment of Black bod­ies” – but Nut­ter him­self made the point by accom­pa­ny­ing this mea­sure with an ide­o­log­i­cal assault on black Philadel­phi­ans in gen­er­al.

Oakland

Oakland

A gen­er­al strike has been declared by the Oak­land Gen­er­al Assem­bly. The orig­i­nal ver­sion of this song was the num­ber one hit dur­ing the 1946 Oak­land Gen­er­al Strike.

Everybody Talks About the Weather

Everybody Talks About the Weather

It could very well be that the dura­bil­i­ty and rad­i­cal­iza­tion of this move­ment will rely on its poten­tial as a medi­at­ing ele­ment between the the var­i­ous seg­ments of the class, their par­tic­u­lar inter­ests, and their tra­di­tion­al forms of strug­gle. Achiev­ing this means going beyond a spon­ta­neous reflec­tion of changes in our work­ing lives. It has to start by under­stand­ing the sys­tem under­ly­ing them.

Deviations, Part 1: The Castoriadis-Pannekoek Exchange

Deviations, Part 1: The Castoriadis-Pannekoek Exchange

Span­ning an entire gen­er­a­tion, a lin­guis­tic divide, and a geo­graph­i­cal shift, the epis­to­lary encoun­ter between Anton Pan­nekoek and Cor­nelius Cas­to­ri­adis in many ways marks the inter­nal trans­for­ma­tion of the ultra-left. But the ultra-left, far from a his­tor­i­cal relic, is mak­ing head­li­nes again.

The Prince and the Pauper

Every­one on the left has point­ed out that the riots in Lon­don are root­ed in capital’s assault on the work­ing class, couched in the ide­o­log­i­cal lan­guage of aus­ter­i­ty – and that this was the kin­dling sparked by the racist police bru­tal­i­ty that cul­mi­nat­ed in the mur­der of Mark Dug­gan. But our task – like Marx’s task, when he defend­ed the vio­lent upheaval of the Sile­sian weavers – isn’t to give a moral eval­u­a­tion of the riots, like school­mas­ters dili­gent­ly stack­ing the pros again­st the cons, but, rather, to grasp their speci­fic char­ac­ter.