The title of this post requires some explanation. In a recent post, I discussed an essay by Jacques Wajnsztejn of the journal Temps Critiques in which he took aim at interpretations of the November attacks in Paris by public intellectuals such as Olivier Roy and Alain Badiou. Wajnsztejn also occasionally writes for Yves Coleman’s publication Ni patrie ni frontières, hosted on the Mondialisme website.
As the editors of Internationalist Perspective explain below, in their introduction to their exchange with Wajnsztejn back in 2006, he belongs to communization current in France. Communization is not a term Wajnsztejn prefers, and he has in the decade since had his share of run-ins with the self-declared communisateurs, but for him it means basically the same thing it does for Roland Simon and the French group Theorie Communiste: an emphasis on the immediate transformation of conditions without any period of transition. Like Theorie Communiste, Temps Critiques believes that the revolutionary potential of the industrial working class has been exhausted.
One major contrast between Wajnsztejn and Simon, to take the two most prominent figures, is that the former works within a more humanist framework than the latter. Simon is decidedly an anti-humanist. You’ll see this in the article, with its emphasis on the “anthropological” dimension of capital’s periodization as opposed to its “structural” dimension, taken over from Camatte. Hence the “human face” referred to in the title: “Capitalized society tends to suppress all the human figures that were necessary for capitalism’s progress towards maturity.” Wajnsztejn and Temps Critiques also disagree with Theorie Communiste et al. about the continued validity of the law of value; whereas the latter believe programmatism’s decline to be linked to a temporal mediation immanent to the valorization process itself, the former believe the old formula of value-accumulation to have been transcended altogether.
Patlotch and assorted others fault Wajnsztejn — along with the nihilist communists (the Duponts), communizers (Simon, Mattis, Lyon), and left communists in general (Dauvé, etc.) — for not being more adamantly anti-Zionist. But this says more about the particular obsession of Western leftists with the case of Israeli nationalism than the universal anti-nationalism maintained by left communists on principle.
I disagree with the communizers, humanist and anti-humanist alike, about the permanence of proletarian decline and its potential reconstitution as a revolutionary subject. Nevertheless, this is an interesting article. Enjoy.
Temps Critiques is a review that is part of the movement of the communisateurs. What they mean by communization is that the revolution can only succeed and be emancipating if it undertakes from the very beginning a communist transformation on all levels, from the production of food and the way we consume it, to transportation, housing, learning, traveling, reading, doing nothing, loving, not loving, debating and deciding our future, etc, without any period of transition. The comrades who publish this review say that it is not an in crowd publication devoted to pure theory, but rather a place for critical activity in France and elsewhere; an effort to conceive political action, taking into account the transformations of capitalism and its new contradictions.
They take note of the changes that have occurred in the way capitalist society functions, and think that capitalism has realized the unification of its forms of domination (the institutionalization of the world market, the dissolution of classes as subjects, the generalization of the political forms of authoritarian and managerial democracy).
They also recognize that the system encounters increasing difficulties to reproduce itself on the basis of what constitutes its fundamental value: (abstract) labor. While production continues, and valorization proceeds somehow (though more and more surplus value goes to the financial sector instead of to production), capitalism’s logic of power and domination, which is not just an economic logic, also leads to a crisis of the social relation.
From this, they draw a startling conclusion: the decline of the historical role of the working class. For them, the revolutionary proletariat is a thing of the past.
What they see is a resurgence of a critical movement outside the proletariat. This movement is not just intellectual, it expresses concretely the refusal of the tyranny of capital and of the myths of the society based on labor, the refusal to let individuals be reduced to a mere economic or social value.
For Temps Critiques, this movement expresses the “becoming-otherwise” of the relations between the individual and the human community.
The slightly provocative title, indicates the historical moment from which we begin: the defeat of the last global revolutionary assault of the 1960-1970s. This assault marked the extreme limit of a classist and proletarian politics, especially in the example of the Italian “Hot Autumn” (1969).1 Nonetheless, this last assault already comprised an understanding of the need for a revolution on a human basis,2 for a critique of work and for the supersession of classes, as was noticeable in May 68 France and 1977 Italy.3
The defeat did not result in a counter-revolution as there had been no genuine revolution. Rather, a double movement ensued: the restructuring of corporations and the “liberation” of social and inter-individual practices as if, all of a sudden, all barriers to the development of the society of capital were swept away. The straitjacket of the old bourgeois society was thrown off, even though society had already lost its bourgeois character after the two World Wars, Fordism, and the real domination of capital, conservative ideas remained obstacles for the revolution. Continue reading