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.

Building the Red Army: The Death and Forbidden Rebirth of the Oakland Commune

Building the Red Army: The Death and Forbidden Rebirth of the Oakland Commune

“Don’t fuck with the Oak­land Com­mune.” Words which will live for­ev­er in his­to­ry, to be remem­bered and repeat­ed at every glo­ri­ous defeat inflict­ed upon the heroes of the future by may­ors, police offi­cers, unions, church­es, and chil­dren. A let­ter, signed by the Occu­py Oak­land Move-In Assem­bly, promised to respond to the inevitable evic­tion of an ille­gal build­ing occu­pa­tion by “blockad­ing the air­port indef­i­nite­ly.” Tac­tics only dreamed of by al-Qae­da, with­in the reach of Occu­py Oak­land after just four months. Yes­ter­day these words were at the cen­ter of a mate­r­i­al prac­tice which brought our move­ment up against its lim­its.

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.

Is the Party Over?

Is the Party Over?

The occu­pa­tions move­ment is high­ly struc­tured, and this struc­ture is a focal point for polit­i­cal debates. Deci­sions are made by the gen­er­al assem­bly (GA) through a process of demo­c­ra­t­ic delib­er­a­tion; it also serves as the basis for the del­e­ga­tion respon­si­bil­i­ties and tasks, which are required both to keep peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing and to orga­nize polit­i­cal activ­i­ty.

Notes on Oakland 2011

Notes on Oakland 2011

We expect his­to­ry to pro­vide us with expla­na­tions – to place the imme­di­a­cy of expe­ri­ence with­in a wider sto­ry whose terms will be pro­gres­sive­ly elab­o­rat­ed and illu­mi­nat­ed. Polit­i­cal action, which aims at inter­ven­ing into his­to­ry and alter­ing its move­ment, has an entire­ly dif­fer­ent kind of truth – a sub­jec­tive truth pro­duced in the act of par­tic­i­pat­ing.