Thursday, December 15, 2011
The alarm next to my bed went off. She rolled around in the blanketing. I got dressed putting on my warmest clothes. I put on my shoes and went outside. My friend was waiting in his car. The vehicle took us to West Oakland bart. The sky was still dark from the evening.
Our arrival at the bart station for the west coast coordinated port shut down was met with about 1,000 other early morning risers. I was hoping that the event would be short and sweet; some spectacular opposition with the police and a return to my bed within two hours.
En masse we marched down to the port and picketed next to three of the berths. Two of them had ships arriving that day and thus were important to blockade, while the third was an opening for workers. A row of riot cops stood in front of the picket. The picket circled around. My friend and I milled about.
Four hours later the port was announced closed for the day. I sighed with relief. My toes and fingers were cold. We walked back to the car and I went back to bed.
The discussion got started late. I drank a free beer and chatted with the people sitting around me while we waited for the presentation to begin. The book release party for "Communization and its Discontents," lasted three hours. The presenters rambled on about communization theory. The theory, coming from a post '68 left communist mileu asks us; "What does communism look like now that there is no longer a mass worker's movement, and how do we deal with the real subsumption of capital?
Theorie Communiste, one of the groups at the heart of communization theory, identify the decomposition of a mass worker's movement as the decline of programmatism. "In brief 'programmatism' is the forms of organization (mass parties, unions) and ideologies (socialism and syndicalism) that valorized workers' power... TC argue that with an intensification of 'real subsumption' - essentially the submergence of the entirety of society within a self-positing capitalism - in the 1970s the 'old' workers' movmement and proletariat become further imbricated within the reproduction of capitalism... the worker's movment carried within itself its antagonist in the shape of a reconstitution of capitalism in the very form its resistance takes - the valorization of the proletariat. (p.198)
In the contradictory struggle of capital against labor workers movements of the past have just helped to create a new dynamic capitalism. 'Old' mass workers' movements gains were merely reconsitutions of capital. The recuperation of revolt back into the arms of capital is made more poignant when we consider the real subsumption of capital.
Capital has moved beyond formal subsumption, its general form of domination, in which it "...subsumes an existing form of production 'as it finds it'. For example, peasants may still work in the fields in the way they always have but now they are compelled to take their goods to market to realise value. In this mode of subsumption, Marx argues, capital generates absolute surplus-value and can only do so by demanding extension to the workind day. So, surplus-value can only be genereated by fordcing work beyond the amount necessary for self-reproduction, although this compulsion does not tend to happen directly but through economic funcctions, i.e. you need to produce a surplus to generate income to live... This stands in contrast to real subsumption, in which capital revolutionizes the actual mode of labor to produce the specifically capitalist mode of production (p.11)"
Capital has made all labour ingrained to valorise itself for capital thus everything we look at is a thing and its price. The workers struggles of yesteryear are no longer viable attempts to overthrow capital. "That which distinguishes real subsumption, that is, this period in which capital has in a certain manner absorbed the totality of social reality rather than remaining restricted to the productive process, is that any activity is capable of becoming a part of the process of valorisation (p.73)."
Yet if there is no point in struggle against capital anymore why all the theory? Is it merely a hobby to pass the time for graduate students and communists who wish to explain their failings of the past? Endnotes puts its clearly when it states "This arrival of 'communization' at the forefront of radical chic probably means little in itself, but the major movement so far to find its voice in this language is more interesting, for the impasse of this movement is not merely a particular lack of programme or demands, but a symptom of the developing crisis in class relation... If communization is presenting itself currently, it is the palpable sense of an impasse in the dynamic of the class relation; this is an era in which the end of this relation looms perceptibly on the horizon, while capital runs into crisis at every turn and the working class is force to wage a struggle for which there is no plausible victory. (37-38)"