Socialism? I’d Rather Not


I guess I could be convinced that the term socialism can be reclaimed, that we might still be able to redefine it so that it refers to a desirable way forward politically. But it seems to me that the term is mostly used (especially in America?) primarily to mean all those things that are the opposite of we need: centralization, disciplined organization, and a strong party with a vanguard of wise leaders whose (often implicit) objective is to win the State apparatus in order to put “the workers themselves in power.” Of course what that agenda does (as Bakunin saw from the very beginning) is not to put the workers in power but to subjugate them (and everyone else) to a new set of bosses. Here is an eloquent statement of this lamentable polical vision.

So for now, in the face of what seems to be the dominant way to understand socialism, I enthusiastically join Negri in waving goodbye to the whole steaming mess.


The Socialist Internet

You may well not be near Manchester, but I think this is worth re-blogging for the idea of a socialist internet (which I think we should work to ensure is a communist internet instead)….


From Charlie Winstanley (

Dear All,

I’m writing to inform you of an event which I’ll be organising this coming December. Raul Espejo, formerly Director of ‘Project Cybersyn’ will be coming to speak in Manchester on a radical experiment in social decentralisation enacted under Allende’s government in Chile in the early 1970s. Cybersyn was a prototype internet system designed to replace the role of the market, as a ‘central nervous system’ for the economy – allocating the distribution of raw materials and finished products automatically across the Chilean economy direct from the factory on the basis of data being constantly submitted by workers and staff in respective ‘Industrial Belts’.

Project Cybersyn aimed to connect together the social and economic infrastructure of Chile, mapping out the distribution of natural resources, raw materials, the state of mass transit and the road network and many other factors in order to organically and unconsciously involve the Chilean people in the management of their society.

After the American backed coup de tat, Cybersyn was one of the first projects of Allende’s government to be destroyed by Pinochet. The meeting aims to explore both the potential of Cybersyn itself and the geopolitical situation surrounding the demise of the project.

I hope this event sounds intriguing – there is a facebook event here with more details:

Entry will be between £4-£3 on the door, and the event will be held in the Cervantes Institute on Deansgate.

I hope to see some of you there, Charlie

Set the Prairie Ablaze


I am just revisiting the third in the series, and I expect there will be lots of nice nuggets that present themselves.  Just in the preface:

The standard view…assumes that the only alternative to the private [of the capitalist market] is the public, that is, what is managed and regulated by states and other governmental authorities…

They propose instead a third alternative, the common, which is the affects, information, knowledge, codes, language, and wealth that we produce ourselves, together, in common.  What we must do is to recognize the common, learn what it can do, win it back, and expand its powers.  It is the common we must struggle for, not capitalism or socialism:

The seemingly exclusive alternative between the private and the public corresponds to an equally pernicious political alternative between capitalism and socialism…Socialism and capitalism, however…are both regimes of property that exclude the common.  The political project of instituting the common, which we develop in this book, cuts diagonally across these false alternatives–neither private nor public, neither capitalist nor socialist–and opens a new space for politics.

They want us to focus on and expand our capacities for collective production and self-government, “not only to define an event but also to grasp the spark that will set the prairie ablaze.”

Antonio Negri: No to Socialism, Yes to Cities

Two things so far from Negri’s Goodbye Mr. Socialism (2008[2006]), which is a conversation with Raf Scelsi.  One, he lays down the law with this zinger:

Socialism isn’t anything other than the statist transformation of capitalism (p. 43).

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the sooner we can accept this point the better, so we can move on to more fruitful concepts like communism, democracy, and anarchism.

Two, he has a whole riff in Chapter 2 about the importance of the city and the urban, almost as though he has discovered Lefebvre 35 years after the fact.  “Today,” he remarks, wide-eyed,

the city is itself a source of production: the organized, inhabited, and traversed territory has become a productive element just as worked land once was.  Increasingly, the inhabitant of a metropolis is the true center of the world… (p. 35).

“Where there is mass, there is energy,” he says, and “this is a fundamental principle of the common” (p. 36).  Because cities are machines for concentrating masses in space, they have great potential to intensify the energy of the common.  In this light, he is very enthusiastic about the strikes in Paris in late 1995, which he says, “directly involved, in a participatory way with displays of solidarity, the entire metropolitan population of Paris” (p. 33).

To see a great metropolis like Paris act this way…to see it withstand (relying on itself) almost three months without public transportation–well, it’s like being confronted, really, by a small commune (p. 39).

“Long live the metropolis and its multitude!” (p. 36).  It seems he has gotten religion.  Amen.

The Specter of #Socialism2012

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

I have been using Twitter to follow the Socialism 2012 conference in Chicago. It is admittedly a strange medium to get a sense of what is going on at a conference, but it has made enough of an impression on me to want to post something. The tweets have occasionally made a point worth noting, or have alerted followers to a good book. However, in the main they have ranged from bromides (“workers and oppressed of all nations unite” being the most hackneyed) to downright dangerous (“Wisconsin defeat an example of failed Horizontilism. Must take power of the state or movement fails in long run.”). Obviously part of the problem is the medium, which only allows for slogany utterances. But my worry is that part of the problem is also the socialists. My impression from the tweets is that there remains very little evolution in the thinking, that class reductionism is still pervasive, that the disastrous seize-the-state mentality remains common. And also, it seems, there are quite a lot of young activists just discovering socialism and being energized by these dead-end ideas. Of course, again, my methodology is certainly flawed. I have only a limited glimpse of the event. But I worry that had I been there, attending all the sessions, my fears would have been confirmed. There remains, I’m afraid, a crusty and resolute Old Left, and it possesses some inexplicable but inexhaustible reserve of energy that it uses to maintain its death grip on its antiquated ideas. To the extent my fears are justified, then socialism as it is being imagined today is much more an obstacle than a path to a better world.