Asad Haider

is an editor of Viewpoint.

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.

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.

Oakland

Oakland

A gen­eral strike has been declared by the Oak­land Gen­eral Assem­bly. The orig­i­nal ver­sion of this song was the num­ber one hit dur­ing the 1946 Oak­land Gen­eral Strike.

Everybody Talks About the Weather

Everybody Talks About the Weather

It could very well be that the dura­bil­ity and rad­i­cal­iza­tion of this move­ment will rely on its poten­tial as a medi­at­ing ele­ment between the the var­i­ous seg­ments of the class, their par­tic­u­lar inter­ests, and their tra­di­tional forms of strug­gle. Achiev­ing this means going beyond a spon­ta­neous reflec­tion of changes in our work­ing lives. It has to start by under­stand­ing the sys­tem under­ly­ing them.

The Prince and the Pauper

Every­one on the left has pointed out that the riots in Lon­don are rooted in capital’s assault on the work­ing class, couched in the ide­o­log­i­cal lan­guage of aus­ter­ity – and that this was the kin­dling sparked by the racist police bru­tal­ity that cul­mi­nated in the mur­der of Mark Dug­gan. But our task – like Marx’s task, when he defended the vio­lent upheaval of the Sile­sian weavers – isn’t to give a moral eval­u­a­tion of the riots, like school­mas­ters dili­gently stack­ing the pros against the cons, but, rather, to grasp their speci­fic char­ac­ter.