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<nettime> A review of Negri and Hardt's Empire from an anarchist perspec
John Armitage on Tue, 12 Mar 2002 20:33:49 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> A review of Negri and Hardt's Empire from an anarchist perspectiv e



[Enjoyed this -- well worth a read. The backlash against Hardt and Negri,
it appears, is aleady well under way. John.]

-------------------------------------
A review of Negri and Hardt's Empire from an anarchist perspective
IS THE EMPEROR WEARING CLOTHES?
ANDREW FLOOD
http://struggle.ws/andrew/empirereview.html
-------------------------

The publication of Empire in 2000 created an intense level of discussion
in left academic circles that even spilled over at times into the liberal
press. This should please the authors, Antonio Negri, one of the main
theoreticians of Italian 'autonomous Marxism' and a previously obscure
literature professor Michael Hardt. It is clear that they see Empire as
the start of a project comparable to Karl's Marx's Das Kapital. The
Marxist Slavoj Zizek has called Empire "The Communist Manifesto for our
time".

Whether or not you think Empire will be as useful as Capital it has
certainly made an impact. The web is full of reviews of Empire from all
angles of the political spectrum. Orthodox Marxists gnash their teeth at
it, while right wing conspiracy theorists around Lyndon la Rouche see it
as confirmation [1] of the existence of a plan for globalisation that
unites the 'left and right'. After S11 numerous US liberal and
conservative reviews [2] made a big deal out of Negri's 'terrorist past'
(he is under house arrest in Italy for being an ideological influence on
the Red Brigades). They eagerly seize on Negri and Hardt's description of
Islamic Fundamentalism as post rather then pre modern and their claim that
it is a form of resistance to Empire as if this description was intended
as a justification for the attack.

Empire rapidly sold out after publication and the paperback edition I have
(bought in October 2001) is the seventh printing. Empire doesn't mention
the Seattle protests at all and one suspects that, like Naomi Klein, the
authors have had the good fortune to write a book that would be seized on
to 'explain' the new movement before the movement itself had come to the
publics attention. To an extent Empire probably deserves this more then No
Logo <../rbr/rbr5/logo.html> as Negri is one of the major 'historical'
influences on the section of the movement around 'Ya Basta!'

Like Marx in Capital Hardt and Negri admit that most of what they write is
not original, indeed a lot of the book is taken up with a discussion of
the philosophical sources that have led up to it. Like Capital its
strength is in bringing together into a unified whole theories and
discussion from many different areas. As Hardt and Negri put it their
"argument aims to be equally philosophical and historical, cultural and
economic, political and anthropological" [3]. It is also an attempt to
make Marxism relevant once more to the revolutionary project, often by
fundamental re-interpretation of areas of the writings of Marx and Lenin.
A lot of this is also not original, anyone who has tried to read Negri's
previous works in English, in particular Marx beyond Marx will be aware
one of his major projects is to rescue Marx from historical Marxism.

For instance Negri spends part of a chapter explaining how although
Lenin's Imperialism may appear wrong it is in fact right because Lenin
"assumed as his own, the theoretical assumptions" of those he appears to
be arguing against [4]. Now while this may be useful for those who have an
almost religious attachment to the label of Marxism it is a big barrier
for any anarchist reading the book. But thankfully, although this is part
of Empire and indeed one of its major flaws, it is only part; Empire
contains much else besides. Later I'll look specifically at what
anarchists can gain from this book. But let us start by looking at what it
actually argues.

A criticism that has to be made right from the start is that this is not
an easy book to read; In fact large sections of it are almost
unintelligible. Empire is written in an elitist academic style that is
almost designed to be understood only by the qualified few. The subject
matter and broad scope of the book would, in any case, make it difficult
but the authors also delight in obscurity, a very simple example being the
common use of Latin quotations without any adequate translation or
explanation.

This is particularly off putting because they are quite capable of writing
in a clear fashion. Indeed, their strongest arguments seem to be by far
the ones that are expressed in the clearest language. It is when they are
on their weakest ground that it becomes increasingly difficult to unwind
what is actually being said.

This elitist academic style is also part of the Italian autonomist
tradition and illustrates how their use of the word autonomy does not
carry the same meaning as that given to it by anarchists. We aim to build
working class organisations that are autonomous from the state and
political parties. They intended the working class to be autonomous only
from capital. The worker will apparently still need be led by the
intellectual elite who are the only ones, in the autonomists eyes, capable
of reading the changes in strategies needed in the battle against
capitalism.

Even other Leninist commentators have attacked the "highly elitist version
of the party that emerges" [5] although given the record of the
organisation concerned (British SWP) it is easy to suspect this is based
more on jealousy of the influence of autonomous Marxism then anything
else. But of course the autonomists views are quite consistent with
Lenin's insistence in 1918 that "there are many....who are not enlightened
socialists and cannot be such because they have to slave in the factories
and they have neither the time nor the opportunity to become socialists"
[6].. Autonomist Marxism is part of a rich history of 'left-communism' in
Italy which represented a break with the reformism of the Communist
Parties but only partly or not at all with its authoritarian politics.

But enough of the background politics. What does Empire have to say? The
opening paragraph gives a good sense of the overall argument. "Empire is
materialising before our very eyes .... along with the global market and
global circuits of production has emerged a global order, a new logic of
structure and rule - in short a new form of sovereignty". Negri and Hardt
are not presenting Empire as a future plan of the ruling class or a
conspiracy of part of it. Instead they are insisting it has already come
into being.

It's important right from the start to realise Negri and Hardt are not
arguing that Empire is simply a new stage of imperialism. Imperialism they
say was all about borders and the extension of the sovereignty of the
imperialist country over specific parts of the globe. They also reject the
idea that it is a process being controlled by the United States or that it
is even centred there. Rather they argue that it is a "decentered and
deterritoralising apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the
entire global realm within its open expanding frontiers" [7]. The idea
here is that there is no single institution, country, or place that is
becoming the command centre of Empire. Rather all the various global
bodies, from the ones with formal power like United Nations or those with
less formal power like the World Economic Forum alongside the
corporations, the military and, to a much lesser extent, the worlds people
have interacted to create a global network distribution of power. This
network has no centre and is not based in any country but is rather spread
globally.

The internet is an obvious analogy for this sort of power distribution. No
one body controls it yet it obviously exists, decisions are made on its
future and in reality control is exercised over it though national
government, service providers and cyber-censor software. Schools restrict
access to particular web sites, employers monitor the email of their
workers and parents and sometimes libraries use cyber-censor software to
prevent access to certain types of information.

There is, however, one point where Empire does give the US a privileged
position. This is the constitutional process that is part of the formation
of Empire. The opening chapters discuss how this operates both on the
formal level of international law and the informal level of the discussion
and lobbying around these bodies. Hardt and Negri see the US constitution
as representing a historical precedent and model for this discussion. They
claim for instance that Jefferson's contributions to the original
constitution actually aimed for a network distribution of power. [8]

It is easy to make a counter argument <../ws99/imperialism58.html> that
the UN and similar bodies are not really global but dominated by the old
imperialist powers [9]. The top powers have a veto at the UN security
council and without the security council the UN takes no effective action.
Every World Bank president has been a US citizen and the US is the only
country with a veto at the IMF. Hardt and Negri answer this by saying that
this very bias is what is driving the formation of Empire forward. "In the
ambiguous experience of the UN, the juridical concept of Empire began to
take shape" [10]. It is trivial to observe that the reaction of many on
the left to the bias of the UN sanction's against Iraq for instance or the
failure to take effective action over Israel is to call for a better (and
more powerful) United Nations.

Central to Hardt and Negri's argument is the idea that interventions are
no longer taking place along the lines of national imperialist interest
but rather as global police actions legitimated by universal values [11].
They admit that intervention is "dictated unilaterally by the United
States" [12] but insist that "The US world police acts not in imperialist
interest but in imperial interest".[13] This, they insist, is a role
imposed on the US and that "Even if it were reluctant, the US military
would have to answer the call in the name of peace and order".[14] The
idea here is that US military intervention is no longer simply taking
place for 'US national interests' (i.e. the interests of US capital) but
instead occurs in the interests of Empire. One problem with the book is it
presents no empirical evidence for any of its claims, and here is one
point where evidence is really needed. Much of Hardt and Negri's
discussion is drawn from the 1991 Gulf War. Yet even a casual glance at
that war shows that alongside the massive US military intervention went a
political intervention designed to ensure that the profits of that war, in
re-building contracts, military arms sales and oil field repair flowed to
the US rather then to any of its 'allies'.

On the other hand during the Rwandan genocide in 1994 there was no such
compulsion on the US to intervene despite the horrific scale of the
slaughter. What intervention occurred was of the old fashioned imperialist
kind. When tens of thousands was already being killed on "April 9-10, 1994
France and Belgium send troops to rescue their citizens. American
civilians are also airlifted out. No Rwandans are rescued, not even
Rwandans employed by Western governments in their embassies, consulates,
etc." [15]

Hardt and Negri cite Bosnia (where again one can point to political
struggles between the US, Germany, France and Britain over their various
'national interests' in the region) but Rwanda passes without mention.
Surely this makes nonsense of any argument that we moved towards a set of
universal rights imposed/granted by Empire? The authors simply ignore this
glaring contradiction with their model.

The initial reaction of many Empire fans to S11 was that this was an
almost perfect example of the sort of struggle between an imperial police
action and a decentered resistance to Empire. But the Afghan war turned
almost instantly into a national war with the Afghan government (the
Taliban) squarely in the bombsights rather than the 'de centered' Al
Quada. At the time of writing that war it turning into yet another
colonial style occupation using a local government heavily dependent on
imperialist (rather then imperial) troops to maintain order. The treatment
of the prisoners at Guatanamo Bay briefly raised a discussion of universal
values (with regards to the treatment of prisoners). This was rapidly
stamped on by George Bush Jnr. and the US military, the very forces that
we might expect from Empire to be imposing such values.

The wider political row between the European imperialist powers and the US
over the planned attacks on Iraq, Iran and perhaps even North Korea on the
one hand and on US support for Israel on the other again points to a
pattern of intervention dictated by US 'national interests' alone. A
non-military example is found in the unilateralist tearing up of the Kyoto
greenhouse gas agreement by George Bush on his inauguration. In this case
he quite openly claimed US national interest as his justification stating
"We will not do anything that harms our economy, because first things
first are the people who live in America". [16]

All of this suggests that US policy, including military policy, is still
determined by what is best for US capital rather than what is best for
Empire. This is not quite to claim Empire's argument is useless, it does
offer a convincing sketch of how a truly global capitalism might exist and
perhaps even be coming into existence. But in assuming the existence of
Empire now it leaves a lot to be explained.

Much of what I covered so far is summarised quite well in the preface of
the book. Fortunately it's also the easiest part to understand. But Empire
is not simply a description of the evolution of capitalism to a new form.
It is far wider in its aim to be a post modern 'grand narrative',
providing an overarching view of how society (dis)functions and how it can
be transformed. Now I make no claim whatsoever to expertise on post
modernism because my limited forays into it have been discouraged by the
sheer weight of academic jargon one is required to try and digest. So
treat the analysis that follows with caution!

The most obvious critique of post-modernism from an anarchist perspective
is that in its rejection of revolutionary program, the centrality of the
working class, the Enlightenment, Scientific truth etc, etc it left the
revolutionary nothing to construct and nowhere to go. It may at times
offer a powerful criticism both of life under capitalism and the
traditional left but it leaves one with no alternative. Negri and Hardt
are attempting to sketch just such an alternative in Empire.

And this is where things get tricky. As anyone who has tried to approach
post-modern political writing will know that the very language it is
written in makes the ideas very difficult to grasp. You are left with the
strong suspicion that this impenetrable form of expression is intended to
disguise the fact that there is not much in the way of real ideas present.
But let us try and have a peek.

The most obvious question that arises from the idea of de centred power is
how will control over the working class will be maintained by capital?
After all strong imperialist powers played an essential role in the
development of capitalism from the conquest of the Americas and the slave
trade to containing 'national liberation' struggles so that independence
could be granted while guaranteeing capitalist stability.

Empire essentially turns to the ideas of Foucault to explain how this will
be done. Foucault argued that we have moved from a "disciplinary society"
where discipline was imposed in the school, army, factory or jail to a
"society of control" where discipline exists everywhere, in all aspects of
life, internalised by people [17]. He used the expression biopower which
"is a form of power that regulates social life from within".

Actually the basic idea of the regulation of social life from within may
be familiar to many libertarian communists. Maurice Brinton's "The
Politics of the Irrational" (1970) which drew on the work of the German
communist Willaim Reich analysed why some workers supported Fascism or
Bolshevism and other authoritarian ideologies against their own objective
interests. They attributed this to the fact that workers have internalised
the authoritarian concept of discipline. We are controlled not just by the
fascist or Bolshevik secret police but primarily from within by the ideas
formed from everything we are exposed to.

Reich, as Foucault was later to do, placed sexual repression at the heart
of this disciplining process writing "the goal of sexual repression is
that of producing an individual who is adjusted to the authoritarian order
and who will submit to it in spite of all misery and degradation.... The
result is fear of freedom, and a conservative, reactionary mentality.
Sexual repression aids political reaction, not only through this process
which makes the mass individual passive and unpolitical, but also by
creating in his structure an interest in actively supporting the
authoritarian order." [18]

The arguments in Empire also flow from the work of two other Focauldians,
Deleuze and Guattari, whom Empire says "present us with a properly
poststructuralist understanding of biopower that renews materialist though
and grounds itself solidly in the question of production of social being"
[19]. Hardt and Negri also argue that autonomous Marxists established the
importance of production within the biopolitical process.

This is built on the theory of the 'social factory' where the working
class is not simply composed of the industrial workers of orthodox Marxism
but also all those whose labour or potential labour creates and sustains
the industrial city (or social factory). This includes housewives,
students and the unemployed. Empire argues that what capitalism produces
are not just commodities but also subjectivities. This idea is not all
that original in itself, after all even Marx observed that the dominant
ideas in any era were those of the ruling class. What Empire seeks to do
is put some of the mechanisms which produce these subjectivities at the
heart of the productive process of capitalism.

Because they put this production of subjectivity at the centre of Empire
they argue that the old centre of the working class, that is industrial
workers, have been replaced by "intellectual, immaterial and communicative
labour power" [20]. This claim has been criticised by pointing out that
even in the US there are more truck drivers then computer programmers [21]
but Empire counters this criticism by pointing out that the industrial
jobs that exist are now governed by information technology. The Detroit
car factories may have moved to Mexico rather then simply vanishing but
the Mexican based industry does not simply re-create that of 1960's
Detroit. Rather in using the latest technology it creates a labour process
that is dependant on information workers as well as those on the assembly
line.

They go beyond this argument that the centre of the working class has
shifted. They essentially drop the category of 'working class' as out
dated [22]. They see the proletariat as having grown but in their
arguments shift to using the category of multitude. Although they never
clearly define what they mean by multitude [23] it appears to mean
something similar the way sections of even the Irish trotskyist left now
say 'working people' rather then working class. The need for this new term
is an artefact of Marxism and in particular the way that Marx choose to
define a working class separate from and hostile to the peasantry on the
one hand and the lumpen-proletariat on the other. That industrial working
class may now be bigger then it was when Marx wrote but it is also often
only one of a number of sections of the proletariat in the vanguard of
struggle.

This brings us back to one of the bigger flaws of the book. Many of the
better conclusions it reaches, for instance that national liberation
struggles offer no way forward, are conclusions anarchists reached 170
years ago. Similarly anarchists have no need to redefine the working class
as 'multitude' precisely because we always argued for a working class that
included those elements Marx sought to exclude. From the start anarchists
addressed both the peasantry and what is called the 'lumpen-proletariat'
as part of the working class, sometimes even as part of the vanguard of
that class rather then something outside and hostile to it. Perhaps
anarchism has now become the 'stopped clock that is right twice a day' but
I'm more inclined to argue that this demonstrates that Marxism took a
wrong turn when these arguments split the 1st International in the 1870's.
In that case much of the convoluted argument is Empire is only necessary
because the authors choose to stand within the Marxist tradition.

Many of the reviews actually call Hardt and Negri anarchists. They really
only try to address this obvious similarity with anarchist arguments at
one point, when they rejoice in the end of "big government" which "forced
the state to produce concentration camps, gulags, ghettos and the like".
Here, where there conclusions are so obviously close to anarchism, they
fudge the argument saying "We would be anarchists if we not to speak (as
did Thrasymacus and Callicles, Plato's immortal interlocutors) for the
standpoint of a materiality constituted in the networks of productive
cooperation, in other words, from the perspective of a humanity that is
constructed productively, that is constituted through the "common name of
freedom. [24]" This sentence is also a good illustration of how the
arguments and language of the authors becomes more obscure the weaker
their points are. Even leaving aside the reference to Greek philosphy it's
pretty hard to work out what Hardt and Negri are saying. They seem to be
making the ludicrous suggestion that anarchists are not materialists, but
it is hard to credit authors who go to extraordinary lengths to
demonstrate their knowledge with such an ignorant position.

On the positive side one of the interesting and indeed most refreshing
aspects of autonomous Marxism is that they turn the traditional left
analysis of the relationship between capital and the working class on its
head. In the autonomist tradition it is the success of working class
struggle that forces changes on capital. On its own, they insist, capital
contains almost no creative power. Although they often overstate there
case there is something quite encouraging in the overall picture of
capital forced to modernise by working class struggle as opposed to a
working class always being the victim of capitalist modernisation.

In this case Hardt and Negri argue that the development of Empire is
something the working class has imposed on capital. They recognise that it
is easy it fixate on ways the development of Empire makes traditional
working class organisation weaker (e.g. removing the ability of unions to
restrict capitalism on a national basis). But they claim what is more
important is that by breaking down the barrier between first and third
world so that both come to exist alongside each other everywhere capital
has lost some of the most powerful weapons it had to divide the working
class. Cecil Rhodes is quoted in relation to class relations in Britain
"If you want to avoid civil war then you must become imperialists" [25]

So if Empire means the end of imperialism it also means the end of
capitalism ability to use third world labour to buy off sections of the
first world working class. As elsewhere, though this is an argument that
you really need to able to back up with some empirical evidence. There is
no denying that the third and first world increasingly exist yards from
each other in the great cities. Washington DC is almost as famous for its
homelessness and poverty as it is for being the capital of the richest
state in the world. Anyone visiting Mexico City or a host of other 'third
world' cities is struck by the obvious wealth and the glass skyscrapers of
the few that exist alongside the shanty towns and desperate poverty of the
many. Yet wage differentials between workers in the west and elsewhere are
still enormous.

The above is a brief survey of some of the more interesting areas of
Empire. But as I've noted it is a very dense book. Hardt and Negri say at
the start Empire is not necessarily intended to be read from start to
finish, dipping in here and there is intended to carry its own rewards.
Finally let us move onto the weakest area of Empire, the way it suggests
we can move forwards. Let us start by noting that Hardt and Negri
recognise that their suggestions here are weak but see this as inevitable
at this stage. They say any new and successful opposition will be required
to define its own tactics. Returning once again to Marx they point out
that "at a certain point in his thinking Marx needed the Paris Commune in
order to make the leap and conceive communism in concrete terms as an
effective alternative to capitalist society" [26] This is not a sufficient
explanation for the weakness in their positive program. Even their
historical comparison with Marx's writing before the commune is flawed.
The Paris Commune (1871) did force Marx to reconsider his ideas of
revolutionary organisation and the state. But the early anarchist movement
predicted the form it took.

In 1868 they wrote;"As regards organisation of the Commune, there will be
a federation of standing barricades and a Revolutionary Communal Council
will operate on the basis of one or two delegates from each barricade, one
per street or per district, these deputies being invested with binding
mandates and accountable and revocable at all times.

An appeal will be issued to all provinces, communes and associations
inviting them to follow the example set by the capital, to reorganise
along revolutionary lines for a start and to then delegate deputies to an
agreed place of assembly (all of these deputies invested with binding
mandates and accountable and subject to recall), in order to found the
federation of insurgent associations, communes and provinces in
furtherance of the same principles and to organise a revolutionary force
with the capability of defeating the reaction" [27].

This may seem like a side issue but it is striking when reading Empire how
the history and writers of the anarchist movement are ignored even when
the conclusions reached seem so relevant to the arguments of our movement.
Perhaps this simply because anarchism neither sought nor achieved the
academic stardom sought by so many Marxist professors. But for an
anarchist reading Empire these omissions can only be described as a
constant source of annoyance.

More importantly, the example above suggests that like the early
anarchists we can make much better 'educated guesses' at the future forms
of struggle the Hardt and Negri claim. From the European and North
American struggles against border controls to the Zapatistas of Mexico
there are certain clues that can be read. With the emergence of the
globalisation movement and its emphasis on militant action, direct
democracy and diversity the probable methods of organisation start to
become clear. Empire may have been written before all this became very
clear after Seattle but even before Seattle numerous texts had been
written on the forms new movements, in particular the Zapatistas, were
taking. Given their political background Hardt and Negri must have been
aware of this discussion, it is curious they fail to mention it.

Leaving that aside Empires strongest point is that it rejects some of the
so-called alternatives that are around, in particular any idea of
anti-globalisation or de globalisation for a return to old style national
capitalism. At the moment of writing the reformist forces in the movement
against corporate globalisation have been arguing precisely for such a de
globalisation at the World Social Forum in Porte Algre, Brasil. Instead
Hardt and Negri argue we must "push through Empire to come out the other
side" [28]

Here, despite the flaws, Empire may have a significant role to play in
relation to the non-anarchist sections of the movement around
globalisation. Many of these sections are dependent on the theories of
earlier generation of Marxists that seem to point to a solution in the
nation state and a return to the era of protectionism. The academics
pushing this idea may be more inclined to accept correction from a couple
of fellow academics then from those they seek to dismiss as 'window
breakers' out to ruin 'our movement'.

Anarchists have generally rejected the anti-globalisation label. My
contribution to the S26 Prague counter summit demonstrates the line of the
anarchist argument: ".... the real forces of globalisation are not
gathering on Tuesday at the [Prague 2000] IMF/WB summit, rather they are
gathering here today [at the counter summit] and on Tuesday will be
blockading that summit. We are a global movement; we fight for the rights
of people and not capital and to any sane person this should be far more
fundamental. The very governments that are most pushing the idea of
'global free trade' are the same ones that are construct massive fences
along their borders and employ tens of thousands of hired thugs to prevent
the free movement of people." [ 29]

In dismissing a return to localisation what alternatives do they put
forward? The initial starting point of their alternative is an unusual
choice, St Augustine and the early Christian church in Rome. They draw
parallels with the way the early Christian church transformed rather then
overthrew the Roman empire. Hardt and Negri argue that like the early
church we need a prophetic manifesto around which to organise the
multitude [30]. Like Augustine they say we need to talk of constructing a
utopia but our utopia is simply an immediate one on earth. They praise the
early Christian project in the Roman Empire clearly with intended lessons
for today's Empire when they write; "No limited community could succeed
and provide an alternative to imperial rule; only a universal, catholic
community bringing together all populations and all languages in a common
journey could accomplish this".

One suspects they are chuckling at the fact that almost all the orthodox
Marxist reviews will be apoplectic over the religious imagery. The last
paragraph of the book contains what can only be intended as a deliberate
provocation of the left in holding up the legend of Saint Francis of
Assisi "to illuminate the future life of communist militancy" [31] A
successful windup as this quote is singled out again and again in left
reviews!

A model that will sit happier with anarchists is the Industrial Workers of
the World (IWW); "The Wobbly constructed associations among working people
from below, through continuous agitation, and while organising them gave
rise to utopian thought and revolutionary knowledge" [32]. Here again
thought they show a real weakness in their grasp of libertarian history as
they claim that while the IWW wanted to organise the whole world "in fact
they only made in as far as Mexico" [33]. In fact the IWW also organised
in several other countries including South Africa, Australia and Chile
[34] where they reached a size and influence comparable with that reached
in the USA. And if the IWW is such a useful model it's odd that they fail
to discuss what it is doing today, perhaps they are unaware that it still
exists in several countries and see only its historical past?

Hardt and Negri move on to identify the "will to be against" [35] as
central in the struggle for counter Empire. They reckon that resistance to
Empire may be most effective by subtracting from it rather then
confronting it head on. Central to this they identify "desertion, exodus
and nomadism". If you hear an echo of Bob Black's this is probably because
some of his writings are also based on the refusal of work advocated by
the autonomists in Italy at the end of the 1970s'.

Sections of their suggested methods of struggle are quite bizarre. For
instance apparently body piercing represents the start of an important
strategy which will become effective only when we create "a body that is
incapable of adapting to family life, to factory discipline, to the
regulations of a traditional sex life, and so forth" [36].

But other suggested methods bare further investigation. They point out
that labour mobility has often been a weapon against capitalism [37]. They
acknowledge that migration often means misery for those forced to move.
Yet, they say in fleeing, for instance, low wages in one region, people
are resisting capitalism. Global capitalism wants a global world where
particular regions have low labour costs but if the people of that region
flee then capitalism fails to get its cheap labour force.

This puts the current struggles for no immigration controls into a much
clearer focus, or at least provides a useful alternative way of viewing
them. Fortress Europe for instance then has the purpose of trying to keep
workers trapped in conditions of low income and living conditions, a wall
that is keeping people in rather then keeping them out.

Consider the one clear recent example where labour mobility had
revolutionary implications. The process that brought down the Berlin wall
(a barrier to labour mobility) and then the entire state capitalist east
was triggered by thousands of East German workers fleeing to Prague and
either leaving for the west, or when the border was shut, occupying the
various embassy grounds. Today Cuba also has tightly controls emigration
for similar reasons. Empire comes up with three key demands for the
construction for a new world. These are the right to global citizenship
and "a social wage and guaranteed income for all". To this is added the
right to re-approbation which first of all applies to the means of
production but also free access to and control over knowledge, information
and communication.

Of these three demands it strikes me that the demand for global
citizenship is the one that has already created an issue that is
immediately global but also local. The right to free movement without
border controls is being fiercely contested all over the globe. In Ireland
we are familiar with the struggles within the first world for papers for
all and the struggles on the borders of Fortress Europe to gain entry. On
almost every border across the world this struggle is re-created as
capital tries to control and even profit from the migration of people. On
the northern border of Mexico it is on the US side that migrants are
intercepted but on the Southern border with Guatemala the patrols of the
Mexican 'migration polices' are found on every back road.

In this closing 'what is to be done' section one can't help but notice
that the book has not really addressed what shape this future society
might take. Avoidance of this issue is part of the Marxist tradition but
given the authors repeated calls for the construction of utopian visions
and prophetic manifestos it is a little odd here. This really is the same
weakness as the one mentioned earlier, a complete absence of discussion
around the existing movements of opposition.

I suspect the problem here is again the political tradition of Leninism
from which Empire emerges and to which Negri wishes to hold onto. Lenin in
power saw that the 'utopian experiments' of the Russian revolution were
crushed in their infancy. Self-management in the factories was replaced by
"unquestioning submission to a single will ....the revolution demands, in
the interests of socialism, that the masses unquestioningly obey the
single will of the leaders of the labour process."[38]. It is very hard to
tell from Empire what the decision-making structures of a post-Empire
society might look like. Yet after the failure of socialism in the 20th
century this is the key question in constructing new 'utopian' visions of
the future. Is Empire worth reading? My answer to that question would
really depend on who is asking. For anarchists I would say that unless you
have time on your hands or are already familiar with post-modern jargon
there is not much point in doing anything but dipping in here and there to
satisfy your curiosity. Much that is said in Empire will already be
familiar from various anarchist texts, quite often expressed in a way that
are a lot easier to understand.

For those with limited time just read the preface, intermezzo and the last
chapter which will give you about 80% of the ideas in 12% of the pages! In
general Empire at first appears to be stuffed full of new ideas but then
on reflection you get the idea that the 'Emperor has no clothes'. In the
end through there are gems of insight buried amongst the mass of jargon. I
suspect Empire's real usefulness will be as a respectable academic Marxist
text that will be picked up by a lot of people who won't, for one reason
or another, seriously read anarchist material. There is rather a lot of
nonsense spoken by those active in the globalisation movement, often based
on Marxist orthodoxy. Empire for all its flaws is not at all orthodox and
should have the effect of forcing such people to challenge a number of
their basic assumptions. If this ends up with them coming over to one wing
or another of the libertarian, anti-state, anti-capitalist camp this can
only be a good thing.

Andrew Flood (March 2002)
-------------------------

References with just page numbers are from Empire (Michael Hardt and
Antonio Negri, Harvard University Press, seventh printing 2001 )

1 See for instance "Toni Negri, Profile of A Terrorist Ideologue" in
Executive Intelligence Review, August 2001 
2 The most seriously argued of these is "The Snake", by Alan Wolfe, written
for The New Republic, a lot of the other ones just rip this review off,
often without attribution! 
3 Preface XVI 
4 page 229 
5 Jack Fuller, "The new workerism: the politics of the Italian autonomists",
International Socialist, Spring 1980, reprinted at
http://www.isj1text.fsnet.co.uk/pubs/isj92/fuller.htm 
6 Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 27 page 466 
7 Preface XII 
8 Preface XIV 
9 see for instance the authors |Globalisation: the end of the age of
imperialism?", Workers Solidarity No 58, 1999,
http://struggle.ws/ws99/imperialism58.html 
10 page 6 
11 page 18 
12 page 37 
13 page 180 
14 page 181 
15 PBS Online special on Rwanda,
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/evil/etc/slaughter.html 
16 Quoted at Financial Times Biz/Ed site in
http://www.bized.ac.uk/case/case_studies/case005-fulltext.htm 
17 page 23 
18 W. Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Orgone Institute Press, New
York, 1946, pp. 25-26 
19 page 28 
20 page 53 
21 See Left Business Observer Feb 2001 review at
http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/Empire.html 
22 page 56 
23 see page 103 for the closed approach to a definition 
24 page 350 
25 page 232 
26 page 206 
27 "Program and Object of the Secret Revolutionary Organisation of the
International Brotherhood" (1868) as published in "God and the State", No
Gods, No Masters Vol 1, p155 
28 page 206 
29 talk by author delivered to Prague counter summit days before we
successfully shut down the World Bank meeting there, I quote it here because
despite its wide circulation I have yet to come across any anarchist who
disagrees with the idea that we are not 'anti-globalisation'. Full text at
http://struggle.ws/andrew/prague1.html 
30 page 61 
31 page 413 
32 page 412 
33 page 208 
34 On the history of the IWW in Chile a Chilean anarchist recommend's Peter
De Shazo's "Urban Workers and Labour Unions in Chile 1903 to 1927" to me 
35 page 210 
36 page 216 
37 This was shown right from the start of capitalism in mirror image as the
slave trade forcibly moved millions of people from Africa to the Americas
with all sorts of legal and physical restrictions to retain them in place
both during the passage but also at their destination. South Africa's pass
laws also come to mind as a capitalist strategy designed to not only control
black labour but also to keep labour costs down. 
38 Quoted in M. Brinton "The Bolsheviks and workers control" page 41 

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