Our New Reading List!

Here it is comrades, all our planned reading on….

Ideology: Ideas, Action and Material Reality

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Save the Climate: Burn Down Capitalism

They tell us, “everyone must do their part,” if we want to save our beautiful model of civilization. We have to consume a little less in order to be able to keep consuming. We have to produce organically in order to keep producing. We have to control ourselves in order to go on controlling. This is the logic of a world straining to maintain itself whilst giving itself an air of historical rupture. This is how they would like to convince us to participate in the great industrial challenges of this century. And in our bewilderment we’re ready to leap into the arms of the very same ones who presided over the devastation, in the hope that they will get us out of it

– The Invisible Committee

The most important thing about Copenhagen [was] this: in the lead up to the meeting the Danish government vastly extended police powers, giving the cops the power to break up and intervene against almost all forms of unapproved dissent. This sad fact tells us everything we need to know about the entire mainstream climate change ‘movement’. This crisis is apparently so bad, so dire, that the forces which be must be given more power to counter it.

We are all aware of the gravity of the situation. It is clear that this entire global form-of-life (which includes McMansions and shanty-towns, Google and sweatshops) functions in a manner deeply devastating to the ecological conditions of our planet. But can trying to prevent things getting worse produce a politics that can actually change things? Or do all these various efforts and campaigns simply function to hold capitalism together, despite the destruction it causes?

The debate about emissions targets, forms of cap-and-trade, renewable technology obfuscate the root cause of climate change: global capitalism. Ecological destruction is a direct by-product of capitalism’s endless drive to accumulate more value. Value, a strange beast that finds its form in money, is for Capital the ‘be all and end all’. Capitalism realises (produces) value by manufacturing and selling commodities (material and immaterial) at a greater exchange value than it takes to produce them. It pays labour x, it buys the material and means of production for y and attempts to sell at x+y+z; z being the elusive surplus value, profit. This kernel of Capital’s rationality has compelled it over the last few centuries to massively transform the world and its people. All other forms of society have been demolished and incorporated, all forms of natural abundance and human creativity transformed into commodities and work.

Energy plays a key role in this. Our labour-power, which we sell to Capital to survive, is key to the production and accumulation of value. Labour-power exists in real bodies, ours, and often we have our own dreams and desires which exceed Capital’s plans for us. We can and do rebel. Thus exploitation is an antagonistic relationship, open to contention, the possibility of insurrection, of creating alternate worlds and means of social relations.

Capital constantly searches for new ways to increase the productivity of labour, by intensifying the working day and by utilising new technology for this end, which means consuming more energy. This not only means the energy consumed to move commodities all over the world, but also the energy expelled in the work place so each of us can produce more and more whilst being paid relatively the same.

Post 1970’s Australia, we have been offered a high credit, high consumption, high work – a  deal based on the economic theories often referred to as neoliberalism. This toxic, tedious life-style has reaped untold ecological devastation. Our daily existence has reduced us to stressed-out, drugged-out, exhausted and angry individuals, lost and alone.

This deal has now collapsed. The dual ecological and financial crisis means Capital needs a ‘Green New Deal’, one that can continue if not deepen exploitation, expand even further what is commodified, and reduce the few shreds of existence that remains free and ours. For Capital then ‘climate change’ is essentially a crisis of management, how can it continue exploitation on a global level when one of its basic tools no longer works? Leaving aside the delusions about clean coal and the like, the future green capitalism which gives up on the endless cheap energy of petroleum will try to make up for its loses by increasing exploitation, more work and for less. We already see this with biofuels (a market now a favourite for speculators): the price of basic cereals has risen forcing millions into starvation, and decimated the standard of living for millions more. Indigenous populations in Northern Mexico are evicted from their land to make way for wind-turbines to produce energy for the Californian market. Carbon trading itself is little more than an attempt to privatise air, to enclose one of the last commons.

Why do we silently consent to this? Or even worse why do so many of us, who can see through the bullshit of popular campaigns run by TV stars and celebrities, go along with it? Perhaps because the future is grim, because it is so hard to imagine any change but change for the worse, that we go along with anything that attempts to prevent us falling off the precipice. Even so-called ‘Climate Justice’ has less to do with a future worth fighting for than with an equitable division of suffering.

The problem is not humanities relationship with ecology, but rather humanities relationship with itself. Our minds and our bodies are shackled: at work, the family, school, on the dole, in the apparent ‘freedom’ of consumption. Our own creativity exists in forms estranged from us, on the whole we are isolated from each other. It is this prison which is strangling the earth. Until we have control, collective control, over our own creativity, the places we live, our relationships, what we create and dream together, how can we possibly begin to reshape our interrelationship with the non-human sphere and create forms of life that are pleasurable, dignified, just and no longer ecocidal?

Political action is required – but not as we know it. It takes the collective practice of coming together, critiques of the existing social order and envisaging other possibilities. It takes mass disobediences against all the structures of the state and the manifestation of collective forms of self-rule. It will take force and it will take love. This does not mean joining some political sect, but rather cultivating proletarian relations, liberated relations with each other which can replace the stunted, alienating relations forced on us by Capital. Us, the multitude, need to become a we: a social block of rebellion, an archipelago of defiance, the Party of Insurrection. Molotovs are more important than emissions targets, popular assemblies far superior to solar panels and the way that we, us here, relate and organise together more important than any UN meeting.

Everything else has failed…let’s create Communism!

– By some lost children of the metropolis


The Practice of Hope

This is a paper I submitted to the reader for A Regional Anarchist Convergence: Towards a Federation.

Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from premises now in existence.[i]

Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self -activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others – even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.[ii]

The status of what we could, with reservations, call the “Left” in Australia is one of atrophy, denial, confusion and crass opportunism.[1] The various institutions of social democracy have little of their previous popular character and have been largely integrated into the neo-liberal consensus. The various tendencies of the far-left (though often full of people of good intentions) remain small and marginalised and equipped with deeply outdate ideologies.  Whilst over the last decade there have been some brilliant moments, some decent manifestation and rebellions, there have been few, if any, real victories. There have been stunning defeats.

Broadly speaking revolutionaries in Australia are caught in two traps that are forced on them by the context they live in. One is that due to the intolerable conditions of capital they engage in forms of activity that seem to offer immediate solutions but conform to the general co-ordinates of the society they live in: we must “do something!” Slavoj Zizek likens this to the Amish tradition of rumspringa : apparent rebellions that actually work to solidify the power of society. To quote “all (that) is needed is a light shift in our perspective, and all the activity of ‘resistance,’ of bombarding those in power with impossible ‘subversive’ (ecological feminist, antiracist, anti-globalist…) demands, looks like an internal process of feeding that machine of power, providing the material to keep it in motion.”[iii] The other error is to maintain a kind of capital ‘R’ revolutionary purity which means you never get involved in actual struggles but are permanently immobilised waiting for a tomorrow that never comes. The challenge rather is to work out a way to act today that actually breaks with the dominate co-ordinates and thus opens the possibility of emancipation: to have both a foot in this world and to step into one that we want.

Continue reading ‘The Practice of Hope’

‘Ideology: Ideas, Action and Material Reality’ New “Semester” of Study

Hi Comrades, the Red Thread is currently working out our plans for what we are going to read next. At the moment we are looking at a whole ‘semester’ of readings and discussion around the concept of ‘Ideology: Ideas, Action and Material Reality’. Basically we want to look at the connections between the nature and structure of material and social reality and how and what we think. Considering the power of the plague of fantasies that dominate the social imagination this seems to be an important area of investigation for revolutionaries. On our Facebook Discussion page we are compiling a list of who we want to read. Please feel free to get involved.

A Spectre is Haunting paper: The Genesis of Capitalism

Do international relations precede or follow (logically) fundamental social relations? There is not doubt that they follow. Any organic innovation in the social structure, through it’s technical military expressions, modifies organically absolute or relatively relations in the international field too – Antonio Gramsci (1971: 176).

Karl Marx once wrote “the economic structure of capitalist society has grown out of the economic structure of feudal society. The dissolution of the latter set free the elements of the former” (1990: 875). It has been argued, against the orthodox conceptions in the International Relations (IR) discipline, that the origins of the modern international system was bound up with the rise of capitalism in early modern England (Rosenberg 1994: 138; Teschke 2003: 11). The purpose of this presentation is to provide a Marxist interpretation of the origins the modern international system. The subject of this study is England and begins with analysing the establishment of agrarian capitalism, the “so-called primitive accumulation” of early capitalism which fostered the changing property-social relations of the land. I analyse the consequential economic, social and political transformations, that is, the reconfiguration of the English state/civil matrix. I examine how the changing social relations affected the shift from dynastic sovereignty to parliamentary sovereignty, in sharp contrast to the Absolutist state of France. I establish the transformation and duality of England’s foreign policy towards Europe, which shifted on the basis of a capitalist social property dynamic that revolutionised the British state. I demonstrate how the geopolitical pressures of British capitalism affected the course of socio-political development in the old European continent. Indeed, the aim of this presentation is to demonstrate, as Gramsci stated, how international relations are intricately linked to the correlation of social forces, in civil society and the state, both domestically and internationally. Finally, I conclude by analysing the nature of global capitalist hegemony, which had the British Empire at its core. This last section deals more with the theoretical aspect of hegemony than a empirical-historical analysis. I develop the neo-Gramscian concept of hegemony to explicate the social-cultural hegemony of a ruling class and the expression this has on international politics and the world order. In sum, I argue that the rising capitalist state/civil matrix in England “would play a pivotal role in the long-term restructuring of the European states-system” (Teschke 2003: 249). Overall, sixteenth to late seventeenth century England is the point of reference for this investigation. No single event or date can be singled out as the decisive point of the modern international system; for this is an era. International relations in this period of transformation were thus not modern, but modernising (Teschke 2003: 250). Continue reading ‘A Spectre is Haunting paper: The Genesis of Capitalism’

What is it all worth? Marx and Value

What is capitalism? It is not neo-liberalism, it is not the Right, it is not imperialism, it is not Howard or Rudd. Or it is all of these things if we grasp them as parts, elements, of its core drive: the accumulation of value

Continue reading ‘What is it all worth? Marx and Value’

‘A Spectre is Haunting’ paper: Lefebvre and urban politics

The  papers from yesterday’s ‘A Spectre is Haunting’ conference will be uploaded in due course. If for any reason anyone wishes to republish these papers please seek the permission of the author. For starters, mine is below

Henri Lefebvre; or a politics of urban space and everyday life for the 21st century – Jon Piccini (jon.piccini [at] uqconnect [dot] edu [dot] au)

In today’s green anti-capitalist discourse, the urban question is too often seen as predetermined. Cities are hives of CO2 emissions and other pollutants, we are told, centres for poverty and dispossession alongside repositories of great wealth for a select few. With the UN now indicating that 50% of the earth’s population live in the metropolis, we are told by luminaries of the ecological left that this mode of habitation is unsustainable. Some unfortunately vocal intellectuals advocate what amounts to a ‘return to the countryside’ – accompanied by a massive decrease in human population – as the only answer to our current environmental conjuncture, seemingly mirroring Engels’ quaintly 19th Century understanding that the city would simply disappear in a post revolutionary situation.[i] To change contexts briefly, in Shanghai, I was recently informed, it is possible to visit the preserved home of Zhou Enlai, leading Chinese Maoist and Foreign Minister. The building is a tribute to revolutionary austerity, containing the few meagre possessions which Enlai lived from over the decades. Problems arise, however, when one leaves the house – only to be surrounded by advertisements for Prada, Gucci, and other western commodities. Here the urban revolution has been decided firmly in global capital’s favour.

Continue reading ‘‘A Spectre is Haunting’ paper: Lefebvre and urban politics’

Communism, Hope and the Future conference

The Red Thread is hosting a day of discussion and debate on communism in the 21st century on the 13th of February at Turnstyle, 13 Laura St Highgate Hill.  A number of people will be presenting papers, with lots of space for discussion and debate, which will be followed by a social event. An agenda of sorts will be posted shortly.


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