Richard Barbrook on Tue, 16 Dec 1997 01:00:45 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Re: Negri, Bordiga, etc.


I'm not sure if you received the mail below which I sent you last weekend.
Our University email system was attacked by hackers who were sending out
spam advertising for naff yankee porn sites! Who says that all hackers are
anarchist revolutionaries?!





One of the main reasons why I started working on 'The Philosophy of Holy
Fools' was my initial surprise at finding how people within the cyber-scene
didn't realise that Deleuze and Guattari championed '68-style
anarcho-communism rather than a European version of the Californian
Ideology. However, since their theories have been subsequently recuperated
by neo-liberals or even by eco-fascists in the case of Hakim Bey, this poses
the question whether there are inherent weaknesses within their position
which makes this strange convergence of opposites possible. In my article, I
try to argue is that their self-proclaimed elitism in both theory and
practice opened the way for the fusion of New Left and New Right ideas among
their contemporary followers. For me, Deleuze and Guattari's attack on Hegel
is simply a philosophical symptom of a much more profound political failure.

>From St. Luther's last posting, it seems that our Italian comrade suffers
from the same problem. At a theoretical level, there is something truly
bizarre about wanting to abandon the dialectical method while simultaneously
praising 'The Grundrisse' - the most Hegelian of Marx's later works. For
instance, the blessed Blissett praises 'the general intellect' concept found
in the book without admitting that this is partially an historical
materialist inversion of Hegel's Spirit! 

However, the denial of such obvious philosophical influences on Marx is only
one part of St. Luther's disingenuous argument. Above all, she wants to deny
the political link with the 1789 French Revolution implied by Marx's
Hegelianism. Inspired by this founding moment of modernity, Marx and his
comrades called for the establishment of democratic republics inside and
outside Europe. Above all, in the late-nineteenth century, they advocated
the formation of social democratic parties which could fight and win
elections. In contrast, in 1920s, Bordiga and other Leninists claimed that
there was no real difference between a democratic republic and any other
form of government under capitalism. The practical consequence of this
disastrous assertion soon became apparent when the fascists took over Italy
- and when another form of totalitarianism emerged in the USSR.

This tragic history does have some lessons for us today. In 'Wired' and
similar publications, the cheer-leaders of hi-tech neo-liberalism proclaim
the imminent end of the nation state in the age of digital globalisation.
Although they're contemptuous of mass democracy, they do not come out as
authoritarians but rather as anarchists and libertarians. By drawing on New
Left anti-statism, the Californian ideologues have reinforced their
arguments not just for the privatisation of cyberspace, but also the
demolition of the welfare systems which were constructed in the post-war
era. In the late-1990s, it now seems very odd to be still advocating New
Left anti-parliamentarianism when the greatest threat to our freedoms and
well-being comes from New Right anarchism! 

This anachronism seems evident what has been translated of Negri's recent
work. Even if he does present an interesting analysis of the class
recomposition, he seems stuck politically in some May '68 (or autumn '77?)
timewarp. His embrace of the elitist anti-modernist fantasy of the 'nomadic
war machines' reflects this avoidance of any credible intervention within
contemporary politics. In contrast, the French economists from the
Regulation School have used their coherent analyses of post-Fordism to
support practical policies for improving the daily lives of workers in the
new sectors, such as measures to support skill acquisition and self-employment. 

Above all, the Regulation School have advocated cutting the working week
within the European Union to 35 hours without loss of wages so everyone can
gain from the introduction of new technologies whether or not they work in
these sectors. If such policies are to be implemented, this partially
depends upon the election of social democratic governments committed to
liberating free time for all employees. Although the Blair government has
resisted such moves here, the 35 hour week without loss of pay is already
the official policy of the Socialists in France and the post-Communists in
Italy. Ironically for Luther Blissett, similar policies were actively
supported by Marx himself when he lived in England. Not surprisingly, his
involvement in the reformist struggles of the English workers to cut the
working week was a major inspiration for his critique of liberal economics,
including 'The Grundrisse'. 

"Wealth is disponsible time and nothing more"




Those anglophone nettimers might like to know that Guattari and Negri's
wacky 'Les nouveaux espaces de liberte' was published in English under the
title of 'Communists Like Us' by Semiotext(e) in 1990. 
Dr. Richard Barbrook
Hypermedia Research Centre
School of Communications, Design & Media
University of Westminster
Watford Road
Northwick Park

+44 (0)171-911-5000 x 4590

"...the History of the World is nothing but the development
of the Idea of Freedom." - Georg Hegel

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