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All Tomorrow's Parties: A Reply to Critics

All Tomorrow’s Parties: A Reply to Critics

Though my arti­cle “The Actu­al­i­ty of the Rev­o­lu­tion” cen­tered on Lenin and 1917, it was real­ly about the present. I think this became clear­er as the debate on the arti­cle pro­gressed, encom­pass­ing ques­tions with­in the Occu­py move­ment. For this rea­son, I’ve decid­ed not to quib­ble over details, but rather to review the his­to­ry in a way that more clear­ly shows how this debate, and the role the Bol­she­viks played in 1917, speaks to our cur­rent his­tor­i­cal con­junc­ture. Since the press­ing ques­tion, the one that tied all these arti­cles togeth­er, was actu­al­ly the ques­tion of the par­ty, I will try to clar­i­fy and elab­o­rate my analy­sis of the func­tion of the par­ty form, respond­ing to the three cri­tiques of my orig­i­nal argu­ment.

Lifeboat Communism – A Review of Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s After the Future

Lifeboat Communism – A Review of Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s After the Future

The future is over. This is the cen­tral, bold, and stark claim that Fran­co “Bifo” Berar­di makes in his lat­est book After the Future. Time will con­tin­ue onwards, but our col­lec­tive and per­son­al belief in a bet­ter future appears to have col­lapsed. This is a claim made all the more ter­ri­fy­ing by its instinc­tu­al res­o­nance. After sev­er­al more years of aus­ter­i­ty and cri­sis, the Invis­i­ble Committee’s rather grandiose claim that “every­one agrees that things can only get worse” appears to be meet­ing his­to­ry and mov­ing from the realm of polem­i­cal the­o­ry to com­mon sense. The mod­ernist dream of unend­ing devel­op­ment has shat­tered. While the mar­kets remain uncer­tain of future growth prospects and state admin­is­tra­tors vac­il­late between aus­ter­i­ty and neo-Key­ne­sian­ism, the rest of soci­ety seems to be in a state of paral­y­sis, punc­tu­at­ed by out­bursts of dis­or­ga­nized rage, such as the riots wit­nessed in var­i­ous British cities last sum­mer. Bifo claims we are expe­ri­enc­ing the rapid decom­po­si­tion of the Euro­pean work­ing class through the inten­si­fi­ca­tion of pre­car­i­ty, wide­spread unem­ploy­ment, and wide­spread depres­sion. Hyper-exploita­tion, hyper-ten­sion and the reced­ing hope of a mod­est pen­sion are the only things left for those still work­ing in the Prozac and caf­feine-fuelled econ­o­my of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry.

The Desert and the Oasis: May Day in New York

The Desert and the Oasis: May Day in New York

May Day was a gam­ble for Occu­py Wall Street, and a nec­es­sary one. Instead of herald­ing a nation­al renew­al, spring­time has found Occu­py short of ideas and run­ning on vapors. Life after the encamp­ments has not led to a gen­er­al­iza­tion of occu­pa­tions, and the prospect of reestab­lish­ing them in their ini­tial form is remote. The 1st of May was log­i­cal tim­ing for a revival – or at the very least, a life­line, a con­fir­ma­tion of vital­i­ty, an open door. Bol­stered by the call for an expand­ed gen­er­al strike, May Day 2012 smelled of hope, but also des­per­a­tion. Our sense at the out­set was that fail­ure in the streets – whether the result of low turnout, police out-maneu­ver­ing, or flat rep­e­ti­tion of ges­ture – would radi­ate far beyond New York, effec­tive­ly bring­ing the move­ment to an impasse. Although our fears ulti­mate­ly proved unwar­rant­ed, there was lit­tle in our expe­ri­ence of May Day that augured an esca­la­tion of strug­gle; no spark to set the sum­mer ablaze.

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.

Is There a Future for Socialism?

Is There a Future for Socialism?

First entry in an exchange with Jacobin, by Asad Haider and Salar Mohan­desi: “We all won­dered, as we watched Back to the Future, how alter­na­tive futures could change the whole uni­verse while Mar­ty McFly stayed the same. Those movies amount­ed to a Rea­gan­ite phi­los­o­phy of his­to­ry: the short-cir­cuit between the Fifties and the Eight­ies which con­verts every con­tin­gent encounter into one reac­tionary loop, cen­tered on the white man who secret­ly invents rock n’ roll, seduces his moth­er, and con­quers the space-time con­tin­u­um.”

Occupy the Russian Revolution

Occupy the Russian Revolution

Mohandesi’s pic­ture of a vac­il­lat­ing, con­ser­v­a­tive, con­fused Lenin strain­ing to hold togeth­er a divid­ed Bol­she­vik lead­er­ship caught off guard by the mature rev­o­lu­tion­ary upsurge by St. Petersburg’s work­ers and sol­diers dur­ing what came to be known as “the July Days” in 1917 is incon­sis­tent with the his­tor­i­cal record. Based on his sketch, Mohan­desi con­cludes that Lenin had to catch up the­o­ret­i­cal­ly with where the mass­es were mov­ing prac­ti­cal­ly by “artic­u­lat­ing” the “actu­al­i­ty of rev­o­lu­tion,” that is, mak­ing explic­it what was implic­it in the angry mass protests that near­ly top­pled the Pro­vi­sion­al Gov­ern­ment. Both he and Chre­tien lead us to believe that Lenin’s book, State and Rev­o­lu­tion, and the Bol­she­vik-led insur­rec­tion that over­threw the Pro­vi­sion­al Gov­ern­ment were the results of Lenin’s recon­sid­er­a­tion of the Marx­ist the­o­ry of the state.

Papers and Tigers: Was Lenin Really an Anarchist?

Papers and Tigers: Was Lenin Really an Anarchist?

Com­rade Lenin is just one in a long line of heroes I don’t know a lot about. He’s the kind of his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ter engi­neered to mod­el, made for a time when rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies pinned up news­pa­per head­shots over their beds and went to bed vow­ing to wake up and be more like Che or Mao or Gaddafhi or Car­los or Ulrike or Huey or even masked Mar­cos. The 20th Cen­tu­ry saw Com­mu­nist Par­ties and par­ty­ing com­mu­nists, but both had their icons. We are, how­ev­er, icon­o­clasts; some bold sans-serif lulz-text in place of a black line.

How Does Theory Guide Practice? A Response to Salar Mohandesi on State and Revolution

How Does Theory Guide Practice? A Response to Salar Mohandesi on State and Revolution

This exchange grew out of a pan­el that Salar and I took part in at the Left Forum in New York in March 2012 called “State and Rev­o­lu­tion: Is Lenin Still Rel­e­vant?” Salar hap­pened to speak first at the pan­el and put for­ward such a thought-pro­vok­ing analy­sis of the rela­tion­ship between the­o­ry and prac­tice, using Lenin’s writ­ing of State and Rev­o­lu­tion as an exam­ple, that I large­ly set aside my pre­pared remarks and decid­ed to address some of the points he raised. What fol­lows is a ver­sion of those respons­es. I will present brief sum­maries of Salar’s case and then offer some crit­i­cal respons­es in num­bered para­graphs.

From the Front Lines of the Global Uprisings: An Interview with Brandon Jourdan

From the Front Lines of the Global Uprisings: An Interview with Brandon Jourdan

William Bran­don Jour­dan is an inde­pen­dent film­mak­er, jour­nal­ist and writer. He is cur­rent­ly based in the Nether­lands, where is work­ing on a film about reac­tions to the finan­cial cri­sis. One of his lat­est projects is the web­site Glob­al Upris­ings. In this inter­view, he dis­cuss­es his video doc­u­men­ta­tion of the last decade’s surges in pop­u­lar unrest world­wide.