1 of 3: Deciding? Ruling?

What is the nature of politics? In the first of three articles Jara Handala takes issue with Mike Macnair

[the above sub-heading was added by the Weekly Worker editorial team]

December last year I was struck by a somewhat surprising conception of politics outlined by Mike Macnair, who posed whether it was reasonable to believe that the species could ever do without politics.1 Although this was not taken up in the paper, that is no reason why it should not be discussed now.

After offering a context I will recount Mike’s argument in some detail for the benefit of readers, given the time lag. I will comment on what it says and does not say, and in the following articles I will outline how this can be incorporated into an expanded and more adequate conception of politics, one that can be termed the political dimension of human living.


Most professed Marxists who write about capitalist and post-capitalist society are preoccupied with the economic dimension, and a narrowly conceived one at that. Their accounts usually fail to recognise that social structure is sensuous, they lack an adequate conception of the mental aspect, and, except for the work of Paul Cockshott, Allin Cottrell, and Pat Devine, we know very little of how a feasible, socialising economic living could be planned and administered with widespread participation.2

Explaining why capitalist crises break out is one thing, but we also get the most arcane and detailed discussions, which leave even most Marxists scratching whatever. We can hardly dragoon researchers into less explored areas, even whole dimensions of human living, but the division of labour is so skewed, one wonders whether we are still sleepwalking along the fantastic corridor strewn with the garland, ‘The economic crisis automatically produces first resistance, then socialist struggles’.

The result is that we cannot apply to our work anything resembling a comprehensive scientific account of political living, psychical living, motivation, including the connections they form. For more than six years, in so many countries, not least in southern Europe, 50% of under-25s are unemployed, the overall rate 25%, real wages down 10%-15%, the social wage turning to dust. Yet there is hardly a murmur, and not surprisingly our explanations are largely pedestrian, only matched by our initiatives and policies. Not to sound all Platypus here, but simply looking reality in the face, both the class and its aspiring leaders really are not doing that well.

In the last 25 years some rethinking has been provoked by the dissolution of most Stalinist states, the desiccation of almost all Stalinised parties, their wilting and turning to compost, and most crucially seeing social democrats turning against state capitalism, morphing from capitalist fundamentalists to capitalist-market fundamentalists. Social democracy, as a capitalist workers’ party, is always subject not only to the pressures of elections, workplaces and street protest, but also to the complete expression of the practical imperatives of capital, of a society sustaining and sustained by the productive forces organised by using the social relation called capital. Its ties to the trade unions (there has been little movement) remain threatened by its behavioural, ideational and affective transition from statisation to marketisation. Hence the talk of the Democratic-Party-isation of social democracy, making it a safe space for ‘business’.

We are living the tough love of ‘strivers, not skivers’, a fail culture, where failure is personal, bad choices. Messed up? Take responsibility. Suffering? Your fault. Unhappy? Blame yourself. It is the capitalist symbiosis of the state disciplining, and being funded by, the land of opportunity. David Peace: “Keith’s back. Back with his new teeth – Police State took them out, he laughs. Welfare State put them back in – Fucking country, says other lad”; Werner Bonefeld: “[c]rudely put, the purpose of capital is to accumulate extracted surplus value, and the state is the political form of this purpose”.3 So more than one way to skin a cat. Better learn quick.

And if that wasn’t enough then there is the perennial capitalist antibiosis of the state towards the slightest stirring of independent working-class action. The arch-antibiotic, Otto von Bismarck, very much with us, as enlivening and as necrotising as ever. The present, as always, a partial outgrowth of the past, the accumulation of all that dead labour, surveilling us through the eyes of corpses.

In steps a ‘new’ communism (Jodi Dean, the exasperating Žižek, etc), following on from the earlier argument of communising, that it is a process, not an end state (Théorie Communiste, etc),4 and even the thought that Lenin was not a Leninist, that Leninism, a spectre spawned by Zinoviev and Stalin, competed for by Trotskyists, has had its day and perhaps (?) should not exist (Ian Birchall).5 None of this is before time.

Speaking of which, Marx’s death is halfway between The wealth of nations and the attempted coup in the Soviet Union, and Spain 1936 the mid-point between now and Marx starting the Grundrisse. Politically we simply have not kept up. We have been living not in the end times, but out of time, treading water not above an open drain, but an open sewer. We have become irrelevant when what the world needs more than ever is capitalistic socialising growing over into communising.6

Politics, initially, is always in command: it has primacy.7 It is where it all comes out in the wash – the detritus, the residues, the blood. If war is the continuation of politics by other means, likewise economics. Of course, they reciprocally determine – and for some of us there is the base-superstructure imagery for reassurance, for orientation, if they ever get lost in the complexity of the building – but the economic dimension, even though it both sustains life and forms and re-forms classes, is one more terrain where politics is fought out. That is the difference between physical possibility and practical possibility: the former provides the entity with a capacity, but for practice to ensue a full set of enabling conditions are needed: the right contingencies have to be present. There is no need to speak of determination ‘in the last instance’: if practical imperatives are not satisfied then ‘after the event’ causal forces just carry on doing their work unopposed, unleashing a reality check, disciplining all. Just like the skiver, fail to be practically adequate and you suffer the consequences. Bankruptcy hearings, broken relationships, insolvency law, chronic illness, even structural adjustment programmes. State managers take their jobs seriously. There is a policy, a procedure for everyone, even the Greek quasi-government.

In all this heartache, in all these destroyed dreams, in all this misery, it is simply that the economic dimension of human living makes largely understandable, renders intelligible, much of what goes on in the other dimensions,8 because the latter, in being both practically adequate correlates and necessary conditions in the securing of the sustenance for human living, unavoidably have a heavy economic stamp upon them. Through reciprocal causal relationships they exert pressures and establish functional limits upon economic processes but they are not reducible to their economic involvement: they each display an identity that is surplus to this, but each is inescapably dependent in their independence because they need the other dimensions as some of their very own conditions of existence – even the luftmentschn do not really live off air. Although most of the time there is a troubled harmony between and within the dimensions – they live antagonistically, even contradictorily – the show is usually kept on the road, and, together with a kind of sex, they jointly reproduce the species, they provide babies, goods, and services – all that is enjoyed by Mr and Mrs Bagose.

Correspondingly, successful political practice is not a matter of fiat: it is regulated by realities, it has to be practically adequate, it has to satisfy not just political imperatives, but also physical (including biotic), psychical, cultural and economic ones. This perpetual regulation has causal effects; it supplies political pressure, perhaps reining in the more hare-brained schemes. Mao can initiate a ‘Great Leap Forward’ (for others), Idi Amin can ‘Africanise’ the economy (for others), but it does not mean everyone will eat (but the leaders will).9 So, yes, politics is in command, but it does not decide the success of political action – that is in the gift of all of the forces constituting the imperatives, not just political ones.


Capitalist society has developed a single social force, the social class of labourers organised capitalistically, with a societal relational-position, relatively enduring (structural), unique in human history. It confers upon the working class the potential to lead humanity in transforming exploitative and other oppressive conditions into more philanthropic circumstances, reducing the opportunity for class relations to emerge, and enacting both a current and a prospective freedom, both emancipation and liberation, freedom-from transitioning into freedom-to. (Yes, emancipation and liberation differ, and importantly so, being two kinds of freedom, of liberty.)10

With less cause for humans to be vicious, with the taming of the dark side, this is civilising, with more cause for humans to be virtuous, daring to love, with human flourishing reducing the incidence and intensity of human suffering, with authenticity growing at the expense of alienation, dignity at the expense of degradation, with the coming into being not of uniformity, but a new unity, or at least quite peaceful coexistence, of humanity’s many differences; with all this a twofold condition develops, life suffused with opportunity to care better for one another, complemented by the reality of solidarity – its living, not a mere moral appeal – a growing awareness that the healthy development of all is the necessary precondition for oneself, that the welfare of others, their faring well, is a need of one’s own.

The communist movement – and it is surprising to say this – is a supremacist movement, yet a very strange one: one with an absent object, uniquely aspiring for humanity to exercise supremacy over absence, the absence of social classes. It is the ultimate liberation movement, not perfecting humankind – a delusion because it is impossible – but testing how far humanity can allow its virtues to flourish at the expense of its vices, for philanthropy to rule misanthropy. We are the virtue squad, not the vice squad. Although we are prepared to be vicious at times, when necessary, in a revealing sense we need to recognise that communism is the living of grace, it is graceful living, the pervasive caring for each other.

Time will show whether humans prove capable of this: truth is a practical matter. The communist hope is a rational, justifiable, affective correlate of the humanised world as it is – all of us living under the same sun, the same clouds, the same light.11

For the first time in history there has been the creation of a social force physically capable of all this – and we have the good fortune to be part of this force. Talk about bearing a responsibility.

The working class is a class in-itself, it is composed of workers, and in its coming into being, its genesis, its proletarian nature is unavoidably part of its social genetic identity; and, although it is unusual to say this, it is also a class for-itself from day one: for itself, that is, in it being variable capital, put to work each day. Furthermore, from that moment it is also a class for-an-other, the capitalist class: its identity, its self, is an other, it lives in the skin of someone else – in order to exist it necessarily assumes a foreign form, a form of capital, variable in its ability to produce value. This is another inescapable part of its social genetic identity: the working class is a kind of capital. Capitalists created and continue to create workers: workers do not create workers – they lack that power. What workers are exercising here is their susceptibility to become workers, a necessity because, in lacking independent access to their sustenance, they must rely on others, like Mrs Moneybags the Mediator.

So, in being organised by capitalists using the capital relation, potential labourers come into being as workers in and through the capital form, and cannot but act as capital. It means the working class immediately acts collectively in a threefold sense: as a class in-itself; as a class for-itself-as-capital; and as a class for-an-other-as-capital, for the capitalist class. And its social genetic identity, developing into its social genic identity, are lived simultaneously as both capitalist and proletarian.

Three transitions

The political challenge involves three transitions:

(1) to transform that class, the class for-itself-as-capital, into a different kind of class for-itself, unexpectedly not the particular of the working class for-itself (a necessarily chauvinistic, corporatist project) but passing through the particular of the working class for-itself-as-an-other for a second time, but now not as capital, but as a potential for the whole of humanity, to develop into the particular of the realised universal class in-itself; and

(2) at the same time, into the particular of the potential universal class for-itself, the collective agent (and patient); with

(3) the capacity to direct society in a universalising endeavour, to bring about its organic, spontaneous development on the most loving, philanthropic basis the species can achieve, for it to realise itself as the universal class for-itself. At the moment of achieving that class status its goal will be reached: the dissolution of all classes – thereby extinguishing even itself, its extant social quality. Complete communising means the communist project will transition: it will be superseded whilst being partially preserved (sublated) by a project or projects unknown.

The historical task of the working class, the proletariat throughout the world, is to realise the potential of being-becoming borne, as it is even today, by its innate social identity, its constitution as the realisable universal class both in-itself and for-itself. That is a very different kettle of identity politics. That is a very different kettle of constitutional politics. It also shows how inadequate, uninformative and misleading it is to speak of ‘the left’. The working class project is not simply different: it is qualitatively unique; it is the first class project that is not class-specific, the first one not to cultivate class chauvinism, and the first lacking a class-specific goal. This distinctiveness is because its project is the universalising of humanity, humanity devoid of class organisation. The working class’ project is not a class project, for it is a humanist project.

The uniqueness of this task, in terms of both its intrinsic difficulty and the history of the species, is rarely stressed: it would be the first time an attempt could be made to create a society that was not ruled in the interest of a minority class of property-owners. To try to transition away from private property, having been schooled for centuries in acquisition and possessive individualism, with habits ingrained and institutions laid down, poses peculiar and recalcitrant problems. Witness the experience in the 20th century of trying to develop post-capitalist societies. But this is the political challenge facing humanity, and not just the current bearer of the realisable universal class both in-itself and for-itself.

Through learning12 and hard work, humanity may develop its capacities for what may now be understood as a task, subject to planning, and adequately exercise its powers and susceptibilities. But there are no guarantees: it is inherently risky. It may not just have severe setbacks, but fail, and fail, and fail again, dwelling in Groundhog Day, eventually ending up as the mother of all compilations on YouTube. The anticipation that failed.

Despite our best efforts – over not even many centuries, but millennia – this endeavour may turn out to be an entelechy with a bad infinity: a perpetual process with an ending you don’t want to know about, one without development, continually driving up against the wall at the end of a cul-de-sac. Contrary to our current rationally evidenced expectations, this may be its nature. It is not that this potential proved unfulfillable: it is simply that our conception proved wrong, epistemically inadequate. The potential was something else, a potential with a different content. We had been mistaken. The gorgeous mistake.

In this scenario what we had in mind proved in practice to be an illusion, a phantom, a fantasy. It had never existed. Unwittingly it would have proved that we had been engaged in a utopian project. Yes, although at a certain phase of human development it had been physically possible for humanity to start developing towards being a realised universal class for-itself, with the opportunity to transform that potential into a realisation, to eliminate systemic (but presumably not occasional) exploitation and other oppressions, and all the rest, it had proved in practice impossible. Humanity’s efforts would have been shown insufficient. They weren’t up to the job – it was beyond them. The task was unrealistic because it was unrealisable. In the face of imperatives, the requisite forces either could not be summoned or they could not be exercised. Perhaps through a lack of adequate knowledge, including foresight, through poor performance, the species would have been seen to have wasted time and effort on the unachievable when it would have been more sensible, more rational, to have tried something that could have worked.

But this we cannot know in advance because – and this is a fundamental point – humans are involved in an open development: there are always new necessities and contingencies coming into being, others fading from the scene; the obduracy of both human and non-human imperatives, albeit sometimes changing; and the exercise of causal forces both modifying the effects, even the exercise, of extant forces. It means our condition is necessarily determined but not predetermined – more accurately, as Ernest Mandel put it, it is parametrically determined given that possibilities are constrained.13

Our knowledge is fallible, it is incomplete, but much of it is testable, can be rationally evaluated, and are corrigible. Rationally, given knowledge of both our current emancipatory potential and liberatory potential, we have a duty to try to transform that potential into reality. This is not a wager: facts secrete rational values, they confer duties, they dictate rational behaviour. It is irrational to turn our backs on this real potential, to refuse the opportunity to engage with it, to simply try to enjoy life or to fade away.14

So a unique opportunity has been presented to humanity now that it has developed the quality of being a realisable universal class both in-itself and for-itself. It is why politics since the 1850s is not simply of historical, civilisationary importance, but of species importance. And this at a time when we are sleepwalking (again), stumbling through the carnage of the Capitalocene that we ourselves, as capital, are busily creating, the terrestrial period misnamed the Anthropocene: its generative force is not humanity as such, in its nakedness, but its being cloaked, threateningly and dangerously, in a historically specific working form.15 It matters how each of us acts in the world, even how we conceptualise and offer descriptions, explanations, evaluations, justifications, prescriptions, and predictions. Our current labours, or lack of them, the presence of absence, are always the co-makers of history, and of the future. This is so independent of human recognition.

Given this, it is striking, perverse, a disgrace, that a political movement like Marxism has never discovered a practically adequate conception of politics to guide the work of communists. For all the criticisms, the time of Ralph Miliband and Nicos Poulantzas, the state derivation debate centred in Germany, all this tailing into the work of Simon Clarke and of Bob Jessop,16 this was a time of promise. Forty years on, we hardly have pieces to pick up.

Macnair’s argument

However, Mike Macnair, the Marxist, is doing his best with the Lego. He often makes surprising points and comes up with novel formulations. Back in December, in a joust with Platypus’s Big Bill, Chris Cutrone, a number of points were made by Mike on the nature of politics and whether it could ever end. Without saying so, the argument for his conception of politics developed as a sequence of four approximations, and this was the first:

… it is illusory to imagine a human future without politics. I emphasise that this is *not* a CPGB position as such. ‘Politics’ is ambiguous and the assertion of the permanence of ‘politics’ can risk ‘buying’ liberalism, or the permanence of the *state*, or – worse – some variant on Nazi lawyer Carl Schmitt’s ‘decisionism’. It is therefore necessary to specify what I mean by ‘politics’: that is, disagreements and conflicts, including sharp ones, about the common affairs of human society as a whole and/or of particular human groups and about the application of their resources, and the associated phenomena of argument, coalition-building, institutions (whether formal or customary) for decision-making in the face of disagreement, and from time to time coercion.
[paired asterisks denote emphasis]

So politics is “disagreements and conflicts”, and it has two objects: “the common affairs of human society as a whole and/or of particular human groups”, and the crucial practical matter of “the application of their resources”. Additionally, politics is about four other things: “the associated phenomena of argument, coalition-building, institutions (whether formal or customary) for decision-making in the face of disagreement, and from time to time coercion.”

His next paragraph elaborates on disagreement:

That politics, in the general sense in which I have described, will persist is nonetheless an important point. There is no ground either in anthropology or recorded human history for supposing that the supersession of *class* or, for that matter, of occupational specialisation, will lead to the disappearance of human *disagreement*. Most fundamentally, even if the result of future capitalist or socialist development was that resources became genuinely unlimited (as in the science-fiction dream of ‘my own uninhabited planet …’), everything we know about humans indicates that in spite of real diversity we are a *social* rather than an individual-territorial species. Social interactions are seriously important to human wellbeing. And social interactions imply disagreements … Secondarily, but more immediately, we are unlikely ever to arrive at abundance in the sense of ‘Anyone can have whatever they want’ (even if, as some theorists argue, aspirations to unlimited acquisition are an artefact of capitalist, or of class, society). And many individual dreams will require cooperative action to be put into effect. Plenty of space for disagreement and conflict here.

  • Politics – to repeat, “disagreements and conflict” – will persist because there is no good reason to doubt that humans will ever stop disagreeing; especially, one could add, over important matters, those necessarily involving pressing practical imperatives.
  • No argument is offered to explain why “social interactions imply disagreements”, or whether this relationship is causal and, if so, how.
  • A central claim of the socialist idea has been that humanity can create abundance at the expense of rationing, the latter’s historical means being either administrative decision or prices (which are actually the admin decisions of many authorities, the sales team of each capital, in varying conditions of competition). Achieving abundance is necessary, but insufficient, to transition from ‘to each according to their need and work’ to ‘to each according to their want’. The argument has been twofold: a significant rise in the social productivity of labour boosting supply (great ideas from newly emancipated workers, including even more scientific knowledge incorporated into technology); and demand falling through significant changes in wants (defetishising of use-values, less keeping up with the Patels, and socialist shopping being what shopping should be: boring, mere admin, not Paris Hilton on a day out). A principal weakness here is that changed circumstances, not least product and process innovation, continually create new needs and a penumbra of wants. It ensures that initially demand always exceeds supply, so distributive decisions have to be made: rationing will almost certainly always be with us – but, in the best case, only trivially so?

Mike then says: “it is a present political vice of both mainstream politics and the left to try to do politics without disagreement”. It is currently managed with a public preference for “consensus” paired with “the suppression of dissent”, and self-censoring fronting as “diplomatic unity”. It means that disagreement is practised privately as “clique intrigues”. He could have noted that this is hypocrisy, given the vogue for transparency amongst almost all advocates of democracy; and that the condemnation of factions necessarily coexists with disagreements being pursued by … de facto factions, which at least, in comparison with the official picture of atomised political subjects, has the virtue of facilitating some sorting out of proposals prior to their wider presentation – although its unavoidable vices are the institutionalising of dishonesty and secrecy. As a socialist advert, and as prefigurative political behaviour, one can only agree with Our Graham (not Norton): do I not like that.

Mike continues, making the last three approximations of his argument:

If we move from the ambiguities of ‘politics’ in the utopia of ‘social order without politics’ to the more precisely defined utopias of ‘society without disagreements’ or ‘politics without disagreements’, it should be apparent that the explanation can be much more straightforward. Politics is about disagreement in making *decisions for collective action*. ‘Politics without disagreement’ is an ideologisation of the real need to *actually be able to take and implement collective decisions*: ie, that it is necessary that the ‘losing side’ be bound by a collective decision when it comes to be implemented. The implication is that there comes a point at which dissenters have to – at least temporarily – shut up in order to get on with the common action decided on.

  • Any social order will have politics – so that includes subsistence societies, those lacking the creation of a regular social surplus product. Mike implies that all societies have a social order, a regular, a standardised (that is, institutionalised) way of proceeding – even one with a capricious dictator. Like fascists, communists and anarchists cannot but believe in order: as a human universal it needs to be recognised – accepted practically if only to make life easier. (Perhaps we should adopt the slogan on the national flag of a three-times dictatorship, ‘Order and Progress’; Auguste Comte wanted it on the flag of his hoped-for Western Republic, with, on the other side, ‘Live for Others’. Altruism and solidarity sound good too.)17
  • The second approximation: “[p]olitics is about disagreement in making decisions for collective action”.
  • And “collective” appears again, in the third step, Mike effectively prescribing that collective decisions should be the norm – it is captured in the first part of this: “the real need to actually be able to take and implement collective decisions”. In capitalist ideology, it is everyone feeling that they own the decision, even when they disagree with it.
  • It can be added that in the communising societies we envisage, decisions should (always?) be collective, and the conditions spontaneously encouraging (even ensuring?) mass participatory decision-making. (Below I mention delegation and representation; one can add, what are their limits, and when is it desirable and undesirable?)
  • To return to Mike’s argument. The final step has just been implied: as it is essential that decisions are carried out (after a presumably informed, non-threatening discussion), that they result in action, “it is necessary” that the minority does not obstruct (that they “be bound” to) what has been decided by everyone. Unity is strength; not just a trade union principle, but symbolised by a bundle of rods bound together (in Italian, fascio) – the human need for solidarity can take contradictory political forms. (I assume that when Mike says “dissenters have to – at least temporarily – shut up” he does not mean that literally: a principle established through the pages of this paper is that minorities, indeed everyone, are entitled to say whatever they want; it is just that the decision has ‘earned the right’ to be tested in practice, and that can only be done if the prescribed action has the opportunity to take place, without obstruction.)
  • Curiously, Mike does not speak of delegates, representatives, direct and indirect decision-making, or majority and minority, only of “coalition-building”, “decisions”, “the ‘losing side’”, “dissenters”.
  • There is no talk of democracy – which, anyway, is a highly ambiguous word, used to refer to so much, when more informative descriptions are readily available; in fact it usually collapses, without loss of meaning, into ‘widespread participation in decision-making’. In any case, as a bald statement, what does it mean to speak of ‘the rule of the people’ – compared to whose rule?

Next paragraph:

The ideology inflates this *valid* point into the idea that agreed collective actions without disagreement would *always* be better … the proletariat as a class needs collective action, and hence binding decisions … Hence workers’ organisations are particularly prone to ideologise common action to the point of trying to exclude disagreement; though, in reality, as Marx, Engels, Liebknecht and Bebel already saw against Lassalle, the attempt to exclude disagreement in fact *weakens* the ability to achieve common action.

  • For the anti-capitalist and communising processes to be efficacious, collective action is needed, which in turn needs binding decisions – otherwise things go off at half cock, wasting time; meaning that, for philanthropic decisions, unnecessary human suffering occurs at the expense of human flourishing.
  • But the open expression of verbal (and non-verbal) disagreement is an emancipatory and liberatory asset: as mentioned, facts secrete rational values, and people have a duty to express themselves, because when dissent is encouraged, and its work circulated, the society benefits from considering unorthodox ideas, concepts, views, evidence and arguments, which may even raise new questions and encourage the search for new evidence; disagreeing also challenges received wisdom, countering the ossifying of organisations; and, in improving the likelihood of making the most efficacious decision for collective action, it promotes the attempt to discover (practical) knowledge, to discover the decisions and means (including procedures) most consistent with the emancipatory and liberatory epistemic interest.

To summarise Mike’s argument. The idea of a “future without politics”, a “‘social order without politics’”, is examined using the conception of ‘politics as disagreements about the affairs of particular groups or of humanity as a whole’. So now it is a question of “‘society without disagreements’” – and yet the (uncited) evidence shows the impossibility of “‘politics without disagreements’”. And, given that humans act (if only because imperatives need satisfying for life to continue), and usually do so in consort, “[p]olitics is about disagreement in making decisions for collective action”. More accurately, these are “collective decisions”, and for them to be implemented properly they must be “binding” on all, especially opponents.

So the end point is this: politics consists in disagreements about the affairs of particular groups or of humanity as a whole, proceeding to make binding collective decisions about collective action that will be carried out. It is politics-as-agreeing-to-act.

In the next two articles I will outline how Mike’s conception of politics can be incorporated into a more expansive one: the political dimension of human living. I will also show how this more adequately describes and explains political matters. My focus will be on ruling, not deciding. This is the elementary, the simplest necessary, political relation. Therefore the elementary political generative means is the mode of ruling, not the decision-making event. The elementary political behavioural dynamic is ‘order or rebellion’, not ‘eternally disagreeing, but eventually deciding before acting’. Politicisation involves the problematising of reality, generating issues to be framed and then pursued. The purpose of political behaviour (politics) is, even if unacknowledged, the attempted satisfaction of political practical imperatives, not agreeing-to-act. And there are two prizes at stake in the political contest, and they are certainly worth fighting over: the control of access to valued, thus significant, entities, and the control over the quality of relations, the first, a crucial form of the second.


1. M Macnair, ‘Fantasy history, fantasy Marx’ Weekly Worker December 18 2014: http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1039/fantasy-history-fantasy-marx/.
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Cockshott; P Devine Democracy and economic planning Cambridge 2010.
3. D Peace GB84 London 2004; W Bonefeld, ‘Free economy and the strong state: some notes on the state’ Capital and Class Vol 34, No 1 (2010), pp15-24: https://libcom.org/library/free-economy-strong-state-some-notes-state-werner-bonefeld.
4. J Dean The communist horizon London 2012; https://libcom.org/library/theorie-communiste.
5. J Bustelo, ‘Lenin was not a Leninist’, 2013: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7727; I Birchall, ‘Lenin: yes! Leninism: no?’, 2014: http://rs21.org.uk/2014/08/02/leninism.
6. I treat communising and socialising, and their cognates, as synonyms, as was the case before the First World War. Preferring communising distances the project from the much more limited aims of most of today’s professed socialists. Also, speaking of communising stresses process over momentary outcome.
7. T Mason, ‘The primacy of politics: politics and economics in national socialist Germany’ [1966 in German] in his Nazism, fascism and the working class J Caplan (ed) Cambridge 1995 pp53-76: https://books.google.com/books?id=e0Rz1ciobugC&pg=PA53&dq=mason+primacy+politics&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi254rTrObOAhWDNxQKHSrCDdAQuwUIGDAA#v=onepage&q=mason%20primacy%20politics&f=false.
8. M Fisk, ‘Feminism, socialism, and historical materialism’ Praxis International Vol 2, No 2 (1982), pp117-8, 123-30: http://www.ceeol.com/search/article-detail?id=224296.
9. F Dikötter Mao’s great famine: the history of China’s most devastating catastrophe 1958-62 London 2010.
10. Given that scientific communists are proud rational libertarians it is gratifying, whatever one thinks of their politics, that at least one organisation remembers this: the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. As with fun and pleasure, we have lost the freedom argument.
11. Paraphrase of Haim Hanegbi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWnqw4jLHyo (Amman, Jordan 2001 – date provided by Eran Torbiner).
12. G Mergner Social limits to learning: essays on the archeology of domination, resistance and experience M van der Linden (ed) W Templer (tr) New York 2005:https://books.google.de/books?id=s_W9BAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=mergner+social+limits+learning&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=mergner%20social%20limits%20learning&f=false. (Inexplicably, needs .de as .com only shows the pre-title page.)
13. E Mandel, ‘How to make no sense of Marx’ [on Jon Elster], 1989, section 4: https://www.marxists.org/archive/mandel/1989/xx/nosense.htm. Mandel died twenty years ago, July 20 1995.
14. B Springsteen, ‘Racing in the street’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLwK98Ywgto.
15. I Angus, ‘The problem with “Capitalocene”’, 2014: http://web.archive.org/web/20141207164709/http://climateandcapitalism.com/2014/09/17/problem-capitalocene/ (no longer at http://climateandcapitalism.com/2014/09/17/problem-capitalocene).
16. J Holloway and S Picciotto (eds) State and capital: a Marxist debate London 1978; S Clarke, http://homepages.warwick.ac.uk/~syrbe/Publications.html; B Jessop, http://bobjessop.org.
17. A Comte A general view of positivism [1848] J H Bridges (tr) London 1908 p431: https://archive.org/stream/generalviewofpos00comt#page/430/mode/2up.

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