the workers’ inquiry: what’s the point?

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Joe Thorne looks at the history of the “workers’ inquiry” idea: from Marx, to Italy in the 1960s, to the present day.  This fairly long article touches on debates amongst those influenced by operaismo about how we should relate to the modern workplace.

The point of these notes is: to understand what the term ‘workers’ inquiry means; to argue that it has come to mean at least two different things; to characterise the political objective of these different projects; and to evaluate both the importance of those objectives and how well they are met by the methods in question.  The point is to articulate what place I believe the inquiry ought to have in the ideas and practice of revolutionaries.  It will also say something about research into class composition more generally.

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the conspiracy of equals and the birth of communism

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Jean Léger examines the history of Gracchus Babeuf and his ‘Conspiracy of Equals’, a communist organisation which emerged during the French Revolution. First appeared as ‘Babeuf et la naissance du communisme ouvrier’ in issue 2 of critical Marxist journal Socialisme ou Barbarie (May-June 1949).

Babeuf was the first example of a militant formulating a coherent socialist doctrine, struggling for a “plebeian” socialist revolution, in his view indispensible for the reorganisation of the economy and society as a whole. These attempts at the first communist party and doctrine are of great importance to us: they allow us to understand how revolutionary thought has developed. They moreover offer the opportunity for a concrete analysis of the link between the revolutionary militant and the working class in a given historical period [1].

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review of a classic: giovanni arrighi’s ‘the long twentieth century’

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by Dan Jakopovich

In The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (1994), Arrighi centres his attention on the examination of systemic capitalist cycles of accumulation: their immanent logic, the interplay between the emerging and old powers (elements of systemic continuity and discontinuity), and the factors of hegemonic consolidation.

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a revolution in retreat

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Adam Ford reviewsThe Russian Revolution in Retreat, 1920-24. Soviet workers and the new communist elite, by Simon Pirani, Routledge, 2008.

“I cannot be that sort of idealist communist who believes in the new God That They Call The State, bows before the bureaucracy that is so far from the working people, and waits for communism from the hands of pen-pushers and officials as though it was the kingdom of heaven.” – excerpt from the resignation letter of a Bolshevik Party member

Within what is usually labelled ‘the left’, your answer to the question ‘When did the Russian revolution go wrong?’ is a kind of touchstone. Each organisation seems to have its own One True Answer, and giving the wrong response at the wrong meeting can earn you the kind of scorn that the very religious reserve for those whose beliefs differ ever so slightly from theirs. Cue many…

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making a killing: suicide under capitalism

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Tom Denning writes on the social meaning of suicide

Some years ago when the streets were filled with red flags, I saw two comrades die at home clutching a common gas tube.  Few of us cried then, and each of us knew that they were crying for themselves, for the irreducible substance of our imaginary fears, for all the questions the political struggle left unresolved . . . Nobody thinks of waving red flags round these silent deaths.  Why?  Because we can’t attribute any ideal meaning to them?  Because we can’t abstract from the complex and confused personal reasons which caused these deaths? [1]

                                                                                – Lea Melandri, 1977

Can we not?  After all, as Erwin Stengel put it,

Suicide appears to be the most personal action an individual can take, yet social relationships play an important part in its causation and it has a profound social impact.  While…

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government coalition targets working class poor

The Coalition leaders,the Government front bench team of  David Cameron, George Osborne and Danny Alexander  are probably still laughing,at the lack of opposition from Labour, to their attack, in the autumn budget statement, on the  most disadvantaged stratum of the working class, those of working age on state benefits, says Barry Biddulph.

CapitalismIsntWorking

George Osborne defined the rules of the parliamentary game: ‘Fairness is about being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go to work and see’s their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits’. This is classic divide and rule strategy; victimize and stigmatize the poor. Blame the reserve army of workers, forced to be ready to provide cheap labour for any kind of job, even if one was available. Continue reading “government coalition targets working class poor”