Issue 4: The State




Materials for a Revolutionary Theory of the State | Asad Haider and Salar Mohandesi

“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.


Seven Theses on Workers’ Control (1958) | Raniero Panzieri

In the work­ers’ move­ment there has been for a long time, and in suc­ces­sive peri­ods, a dis­cus­sion of the ques­tion of the modes and tem­po­ral­i­ties of the tran­si­tion to social­ism. One ten­dency, which occurred in var­i­ous forms, believed it was pos­si­ble to schema­tize the tem­po­ral­ity of this process, as if social­ist con­struc­tion had to be pre­ceded, always and in every case, by the “phase” of con­struc­tion of bour­geois democracy.

Theses on the Transformation of Democracy and the Extraparliamentary Opposition (1968) | Johannes Agnoli

These theses serve as a supplement to my book Transformation of Democracy and a correction to some misquotations made at the remarkable delegates conference of the SDS. I am generally of the opinion that rather than interpret texts, revolutionaries should change relations. As measured by the state’s actual power relations and by the actual relations of domination in society, the familiar expression for the modern bourgeois state – “parliamentary democracy” – represents a paradox.

Crisis and Strategy: On Daniel Bensaïd’s “The Notion of the Revolutionary Crisis in Lenin” | Patrick King

The English translation of Daniel Bensaïd’s autobiography, Une lente impatience, is a welcome event in the Anglophone Marxist world. Not only does it contain a rich history of some of the most decisive moments for the French Left from the ’60s to the present, it also deepens our understanding of the heterodox sources that coexisted within Bensaïd’s unique form of Marxism.

The Notion of the Revolutionary Crisis in Lenin (1968) | Daniel Bensaïd

In sev­eral places through­out his work, Lenin tries to define the notion of a “revolution­ary cri­sis,” espe­cially in Left-Wing Com­mu­nism: An Infan­tile Dis­or­der and The Col­lapse of the Sec­ond Inter­na­tional. How­ever, he out­lines a notion more than he estab­lishes a con­cept, as the descrip­tive cri­te­ria that he enu­mer­ates remain sub­jec­tive assessments.

Hans-Jürgen Krahl: From Critical to Revolutionary Theory | Michael Shane Boyle and Daniel Spaulding

Hans-Jürgen Krahl died in a car crash in 1970, at the age of twenty-seven. By that time he had weathered the rise and decline of the Socialist German Student Union (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, or SDS), among whose ranks he was, arguably, both the most sophisticated theorist and, after Rudi Dutschke, the most incendiary orator. The SDS had been founded shortly after World War II as the youth wing of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of Germany. As the latter moved towards the center, however, the SDS radicalized, eventually leading to expulsion from its parent organization in 1961. It would soon become the most important student group in Germany, even as its official policy shifted further towards revolutionary Marxism.

The Philosophy of History and the Authoritarian State (1971) | Hans-Jürgen Krahl

His­tor­i­cal materialism’s crit­i­cal eco­nomic prog­noses on the nat­ural course of the cap­i­tal­ist world order have been con­firmed. The con­di­tions for the eco­nomic break­down and cri­sis of cap­i­tal have been ful­filled; the his­tor­i­cal ten­dency of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion has long since reached the degree of con­cen­tra­tion and cen­tral­iza­tion that Marx and Engels des­ig­nated as its nat­u­rally pro­duced his­tor­i­cal ter­mi­nus. The exis­tence of the author­i­tar­ian state is just as much an expres­sion of the “final cri­sis” as it is of the tem­po­rary, polit­i­cally medi­ated suc­cess of the attempt to man­age it in the inter­ests of monop­oly capital.

The New Deal and the New Order of Capitalist Institutions (1972) | Luciano Ferrari Bravo

To speak of the New Deal as a huge qualitative leap in the development of capitalist institutions – a leap that, precisely because it functions at a crucial point in the plot of capitalist society at a global level, has itself a special historical importance – seems to be a statement by now generally taken to be wholly correct. The matter was already settled in the mind of its greatest protagonist and in the ideology created around him that enthusiastically founded the “myth” of the New Deal’s “revolution”; and, if every myth must have a real justification, this one lay in the effective dismantling of the system in the rapid course of a decade. No less significant, at this level, is the bitter opposition from various positions that the New Deal came to provoke; these were attitudes that then, and not accidentally, flowed back against it in a wide underlying consensus.

Notes on the Political Over the Longue Durée | Matteo Mandarini

Writ­ten towards the end of what we might call the “sec­ond period” of Tronti’s reflec­tions, that of the so-called “auton­omy of the Polit­i­cal,” sand­wiched between the more famous phase of Operaismo and the – almost com­pletely unknown to the Anglo­phone world – “third period” polit­i­cal the­o­log­i­cal phase, that of the twi­light of the polit­i­cal, the short text trans­lated here will come to many Anglo­phone read­ers of Tronti as a surprise.

The Political (1979) | Mario Tronti

The polit­i­cal has a his­tory. It is the mod­ern his­tory of rela­tions of power. To recon­struct, reread, to accu­mu­late mate­ri­als, to lay out the prob­lems by fol­low­ing the unhur­ried course of time, to set out from the clas­sics is not an escape into the past, it is an exper­i­ment, a test, the attempt to ver­ify a hypoth­e­sis. Let us leave for­mu­lae to the arith­metic of pol­i­tics. Let us leave the auton­omy of pol­i­tics to the news­pa­pers. The dif­fi­cul­ties encoun­tered by the Marx­ist the­ory and prac­tice of the work­ers’ move­ment in tak­ing upon itself the fact of power all stem from this absence of knowl­edge, from this lack of reflec­tion on the his­tor­i­cal hori­zon of bour­geois politics.


The Committee Room and the Streets | Geoff Eley

The idea that one could recon­sti­tute a viable left pol­i­tics by straight­for­wardly reap­pro­pri­at­ing the ele­ments that were so effec­tive in this ear­lier period is a non-starter. At the same time it does not mean that you can­not take some or even all of those ele­ments – suit­ably rethought – and com­bine them in new and cre­ative ways that can have real effi­cacy for the pur­poses of the present. You have to begin the argu­ment now rather than in rela­tion to then. You can’t recu­per­ate “then” as a way of restart­ing “now.”

Rethinking Political Power and Revolutionary Strategy Today | Panagiotis Sotiris

The ques­tion of polit­i­cal power has returned to the fore­front of polit­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal dis­cus­sion. This is not a coin­ci­dence. The acute eco­nomic cri­sis, its seri­ous social con­se­quences, the open polit­i­cal cri­sis in cer­tain social for­ma­tions, and the very sight of the over­throw of gov­ern­ments and regimes under the force of polit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion – despite, in the case of the Arab Spring, the tragic end of such processes – mean that such ques­tions are again urgent.

The Ends of the State | Joshua Clover and Jasper Bernes

It is in no way self-apparent that thinking more about the state, even if one promises to do it differently, is the sensible remedy for the problem of social movements that hurl themselves repeatedly against the colonnades of the National Assembly. If we are to confront practical problems in the struggle to remake the world, we should like to see the situation right side up. For us, the problem is not how to seize state power but how not to be seized by it – how we might elude being hailed by the question of power rather than that of social reproduction, and in turn, elude being forced to fight on terrain that is unfavorable.

Commune, Party, State | Jodi Dean

As it forces the mat­ter of the polit­i­cal form of the peo­ple, the Paris Com­mune serves as a key ref­er­ence point in Marx­ist dis­cus­sions of the state. What form does the people’s self-government take? Inso­far as the peo­ple pre­cede the state, analy­sis of the Com­mune event nec­es­sar­ily opens up to the people’s sub­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion and to the polit­i­cal process of which the peo­ple are the sub­ject. And inso­far as the peo­ple politi­cized are peo­ple divided, a part of a con­sti­tu­tively open and incom­plete set, the place from which the peo­ple are under­stood is nec­es­sar­ily par­ti­san. The ques­tion of the party pre­cedes the ques­tion of the state.

The State Against the State | Nina Power

As the last vestiges of the welfare state all but disappear in the UK, we are faced with the paradoxical situation of those most opposed to “the state” (either as anarchists or as revolutionaries committed to its “withering away”) being forced to defend elements of it against those who are in the process of privatizing it into oblivion. Of course “the state” is not simply a vanishing safety net or a real but ignored set of obligations, but also prisons, police, courts, and multiple other forms of coercion, punishment, control, and violence. Can we defend the “good state” against this other one without falling into political contradiction or practical confusion? Can we separate out the state and capitalist production?

Lessons for Building a Democratic Workers’ State | Immanuel Ness

The fail­ure of social­ism in the early 20th cen­tury is a prod­uct of the inter­nal contradic­tions of bour­geois democ­racy, which per­mit­ted inde­pen­dent working-class orga­ni­za­tions on con­di­tion that they did not pose a chal­lenge to the cap­i­tal­ist state. In this way, the most sig­nif­i­cant his­toric frac­ture on the Left, one which remains with us today, fol­lowed the eager embrace of lib­eral democ­racy by Sec­ond International reformist socialists.


The Margins and the Center: For a New History of the Cultural Revolution | Christopher Connery

Given that a mil­i­tant pol­i­tics has to date largely been con­fined to “the mar­gins,” and given the present fairly bleak polit­i­cal ter­rain, an exam­i­na­tion of his­tor­i­cal manifesta­tions of polit­i­cal cre­ativ­ity at the mass level might have greater than historiograph­i­cal importance. Wu Yiching’s re-interpretation of the Cul­tural Revolution – The Cultural Rev­o­lu­tion at the Mar­gins: Chi­nese Social­ism in Cri­sis – is such a study, and it is a story whose dynamic bears an impor­tant rela­tion to the his­tor­i­cal vicissitudes of the local/center dynamic. Con­sid­er­ing its his­tor­i­cal and con­tin­u­ing polit­i­cal impor­tance, includ­ing in much recent rad­i­cal phi­los­o­phy, the Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion remains one of the most under-studied phe­nom­ena of the 20th century.

From Subaltern to State: Toward a Left Critique of the Pink Tide | Robert Cavooris

As people throughout Latin America react to the unsparing neoliberal policies that swept the region in the 1980s and 90s, Venezuela has become the hinge of a much broader leftward turn. This shift has impelled massive political transformations in Venezuela and Bolivia, stirred more moderate resonances in the Southern Cone, and in the cases of Paraguay and Honduras, aroused reactionary coups. As one of the few left political projects of its scale in the post-Soviet era, this Latin American marea rosada, or “pink tide,” is a material testing ground for the transition from capitalism to something else – leaving open for now the question of whether this something else is communism – and it demands substantive discussion on the Left.


The Political Economy of Capitalist Labor | Heide Gerstenberger

The con­vic­tion that cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion requires labor­ers who are not only dispossessed of autonomous means of repro­duc­tion, but are also legally free to offer their capac­ity to labor on the mar­ket, has been cen­tral to Marx­ist analy­ses of cap­i­tal­ism. Any endeavor to con­front this the­sis with the actual his­tory of capitalism not only runs counter to the dom­i­nant con­tent of tra­di­tional Marx­ist analy­sis, but also to the fun­da­men­tally opti­mistic Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy of history.

The Critique of Politics | Alex Demirovic

Politics, and in particular democratic politics, is often viewed within political theory as the area in which human beings come together in order to make collective decisions and to become capable of collective action. From this perspective politics is seen – in distinction to the economy, with its power and its inherent necessities – as the sphere of autonomy and freedom. In opposition to this perspective, Marx put forward the view that politics is itself heteronomous and has its share of social unfreedom.

Remarks on Gender | Cinzia Arruzza

We often use the term patri­archy to under­score that gen­der oppres­sion is a phenom­e­non not reducible to inter­per­sonal rela­tions, but rather has a more societal char­ac­ter and con­sis­tency. How­ever, things become a bit more com­pli­cated if we want to be more pre­cise about what exactly is meant by “patri­archy” and “patri­ar­chal sys­tem.” And this move becomes even more com­plex when we begin to ask about the pre­cise rela­tion­ship between patri­archy and capitalism.

Primitive Accumulation and the State-Form: National Debt as an Apparatus of Capture | Gavin Walker

In a brief moment of his the­o­ret­i­cal work, the great Japan­ese Marx­ist critic Tosaka Jun deployed a deci­sive and cru­cial phrase, a phrase that I believe con­cen­trates within it the his­tor­i­cal con­junc­ture we have been expe­ri­enc­ing on a world-scale in the recent years of cri­sis: he calls this ulti­mate crys­tal­liza­tion of pol­i­tics “the facts of the streets” or “the facts on the streets” (gaitō no jijitsu).


Lineaments of the Logistical State | Alberto Toscano

It has long been noted that the appa­ra­tuses of con­trol and accu­mu­la­tion that struc­ture the social and mate­r­ial real­ity of cir­cu­la­tion – trans­port, the energy indus­try and, after World War Two, “busi­ness logis­tics” as a ver­i­ta­ble sci­ence of real sub­sump­tion – though born to break the bar­gain­ing power of trans­port work­ers and accu­mu­late prof­its by anni­hi­lat­ing space and depress­ing wages, have also, espe­cially through their ener­getic dimen­sions, cre­ated dynamic are­nas for class struggle.

Disrupting Distribution: Subversion, the Social Factory, and the “State” of Supply Chains | Deborah Cowen

We have entered a time of logis­tics space. Con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ism is orga­nized as a dis­persed but coor­di­nated sys­tem, where com­modi­ties are man­u­fac­tured across vast dis­tances, mul­ti­ple national bor­ders, and com­plex social and tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­tures. Geopo­lit­i­cal economies that were pre­vi­ously gov­erned largely at the national scale – even though as part of a global sys­tem of trad­ing nation states – have been reordered into transna­tional cir­cu­la­tory systems.

Inside Logistics: Organization, Work, Distinctions | Sergio Bologna

Logistics can never be understood from outside the warehouse, only by coming inside and looking at the techniques employed, the equipment and the organization of work does one understand if we find ourselves faced with something that belongs to the new economy, in the real sense of the term, or that resembles the sweatshops of Bangladesh. There is therefore no organization of standardized labor with specific figures, because every commodity sector has its specificity in industrial logistics, and because in distribution logistics, not all goods are subject to the same treatment (think only of perishable products, the cold chain or dangerous and toxic products). Speaking in the generic sense of “logistics” does not lead us anywhere.


The State of Capitalist Globalization | Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson

It seems almost a para­dox, or per­haps just an anachro­nism, to sug­gest that it is possi­ble to describe the global sit­u­a­tion from the van­tage point of the state. Flows and scapes, transna­tional cor­po­ra­tions, migra­tory move­ments, finan­cial­iza­tion, supply chains, the “unholy trin­ity” of the World Bank, IMF, and WTO – these are the actors, processes, and enti­ties to which analy­ses of the global most fre­quently refer. Overwhelm­ingly the focus has been on oper­a­tions and dynam­ics that in some way exceed or dis­place state power and bor­ders. So much is this the case that argu­ments about the decline of the state have become pre­dictable and overfamiliar.

The Reproduction of Patriarchal Hegemony: Women in Italy Between Paid and Unpaid Work | Tania Toffanin

In the system of gender relations, the role played by women in augmenting the productivity of the workforce has been and still remains absolutely functional to economic growth. In these terms, the role assigned to women is the outcome of the condition of subordination and dependence on the employment status of the partner or husband, and also the cause of the reproduction of this condition. This process was a structural feature of the Fordist regime, but it is also shaping the post-Fordist regime – because it is precisely through the denial of reproductive work that the patriarchal system allows capital accumulation, and state disengagement in public spending.

State Violence, State Control: Marxist State Theory and the Critique of Political Economy | Chris O’Kane

In the wake of the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis, a num­ber of move­ments arose which in dif­fer­ent ways, opposed the sta­tus quo. At the time, many of us in our exu­ber­ance thought these events sig­naled the end – or at least the begin­ning of the end – of cap­i­tal­ism. Yet from Lon­don to Oak­land to Madrid to Athens to Cairo, each of these move­ments were met and out­ma­neu­vered by an insti­tu­tion which was gen­er­ally neglected in analy­ses of the final cri­sis, and the calls to com­mu­nize every­thing by abol­ish­ing the value-form: the state.

Europe Forged in Crisis: The Emergence and Development of the EU | Oisín Gilmore

These are tur­bu­lent but con­fus­ing times in Europe. The Great Reces­sion has taken a seri­ous toll. In Por­tu­gal, Italy, Ire­land, Greece, and Spain (the PIIGS), inter­ven­tion by the EU in domes­tic pol­icy seems unprece­dented. Por­tu­gal, Ire­land, and Greece were forced by finan­cial mar­kets into bailout agree­ments with the “Troika.” In Italy, under the watch­ful eyes of Europe, the unelected tech­no­cratic gov­ern­ment of Mario Monti replaced the elected gov­ern­ment of Sil­vio Berlus­coni – and not a sin­gle mem­ber of this new tech­no­cratic gov­ern­ment was elected. Spain nego­ti­ated with the Troika, but was saved by changes in the finan­cial markets.


Paths of Racism, Flows of Labor: Nation-State Formation, Capitalism and the Metamorphosis of Racism in Italy | Anna Curcio

Since the mid-19th century, Europe has been characterized by a “double path” of racism, directed against Southerners on the one hand, and the African colonized population on the other. To understand the present, not just the question of racism, but of Europe’s “Southern” problem, and of underdevelopment itself, it will be necessary to consider the metamorphosis of Italian racism through the 20th century, and the shape taken by European racism within the crisis. It will be just as important to identify new possible antiracist practices, which can both identify and struggle against the material basis of racism.

The Biology of Citizenship: Immigration, DNA Testing, and the State | Torsten Heinemann and Thomas Lemke

While this under­stand­ing of bio­log­i­cal cit­i­zen­ship cer­tainly high­lights impor­tant social and polit­i­cal impli­ca­tions of biotech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tions in a glob­al­ized world, it tends to down­play and ignore prac­tices of sur­veil­lance and exclu­sion, and the refusal of cit­i­zen­ship rights based on bio­log­i­cal knowl­edge. An inter­est­ing exam­ple in this respect is the use of DNA test­ing for fam­ily reuni­fi­ca­tion. By dis­cussing Ger­many as an exem­plary case, we show that the use of parental test­ing endorses a bio­log­i­cal con­cept of the fam­ily and may lead to the exclu­sion or sus­pen­sion of cit­i­zen­ship rights.

The Deep State: Germany, Immigration, and the National Socialist Underground | Wildcat

Nearly three years ago, in Novem­ber 2011, news of a dou­ble sui­cide after a failed bank rob­bery devel­oped into one of the biggest scan­dals in post­war Ger­man his­tory.1 Even now, it remains unre­solved. For thir­teen years the two dead men, Uwe Mund­los and Uwe Böhn­hardt, had lived under­ground, together with a woman, Beate Zschäpe. The three were part of the National-Sozialistischer Unter­grund (NSU), a fas­cist ter­ror orga­ni­za­tion which is sup­posed to have mur­dered nine migrant small entre­pre­neurs in var­i­ous Ger­man towns and a female police offi­cer, and to have been respon­si­ble for three bomb attacks and around fif­teen bank hold-ups.

Letters from Readers

Dear Comrades

Part workers’ center and part domestic violence resource center, the Mujeres Unidas y Activas space in East Oakland is demonstrating what it means to build a Latina immigrant women’s’ organization  It’s clear to those of us pay­ing atten­tion that gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is hit­ting the Bay Area par­tic­u­larly hard The idea of pro­vid­ing imme­di­ate ser­vices to those locked up in jails and pris­ons is some­times seen as a com­pelling and essen­tial way to reach peo­ple inside When I first heard the word “DREAMer” I didn’t think it was a prob­lem­atic term, nor did I think it would have a neg­a­tive impact on our move­ment. As a Guatemalan third-world left fem­i­nist with Marx­ist ten­den­cies, I orga­nize know­ing the enemy Sin Bar­ras is a prison abo­li­tion group based in Santa Cruz, California.