Preamble: What’s the nature of politics? An argument for the mode of ruling concept

The next three posts are an argument exploring the nature of politics, including its temporal limits, that is, when it came into being, & how it may wither away. It’s an attempt at scientific communist analysis, with a focus on this glaring fact: perversely Marx, Engels, & those using their ideas, have a deeply underdeveloped conception of the political dimension of human living. Principally there is a need for the concept of mode of ruling, the generative means of political living. This spawns, amongst others, the concepts of ruling & anti-ruling, re-ruling & de-ruling, co-governing & self-governing.

Only anti-ruling can undermine politics. The sublation of political living (& of economic living & cultural living, with which it is necessarily symbiotic) results in its opposite, integral living: alienation is sublated as authenticity. With the sublating of ruling, the universal class for-itself comes into being, & the integral is its form, & hence also the form of communist society.

Exploitation & other oppressions are the result of ruling, & politics only exists when there’s ruling. Correspondingly, opposing ruling is to be anti-political. The communising effort tries to make politics wither, stripping it from decision-making, managing, administering, governing. What remains of political matters (the encouraging of widespread participation in deciding, implementing, monitoring, and back to devising, revising and deciding), the continuity within the discontinuity, amounts to nothing other than governing matters. The political dimension of human living has morphed into the governing dimension of human living, just one necessary process of integral living; this occurs because a figuration of modes of ruling has been undermined to extinction by using the generative means of governing, namely modes of governing, those of co-governing & self-governing.

The posts are quite lengthy, & without colour pictures, videos, etc., almost certainly a strain on the eye – if anyone wants them as PDF’s please just ask.

The three posts:
Deciding? Ruling? (context – responsibility – three transitions – Macnair’s argument)
The necessary elements of political living (intro – the necessary elements (8 no.) – the abstract conception of political living)
From ruling through anti-ruling to integral living (“the ruling class does not rule” – distinguishing power, force, etc. & rule – ways of ruling & of de-ruling – communising (again) – the Gotha analysis schema)

These paragraphs from a letter sent this week to the Weekly Worker, paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain, give a further flavour of the three posts:

[. . .] achieving socialism, communism ([. . .] synonyms), is engaging in a process of communising, which starts for us as undermining the capitalising of people’s lives, and it requires the decommodifying of goods and services. It involves the development of authenticity at the expense of alienation. Call it the integral living of the universal class for itself. Socialists need to reclaim talk of freedom, fun and pleasure, individual and collective responsibility, and be their champion. We need conceptions of freedom-from and freedom-to: emancipation from exploitation and other oppressions, and the living of liberation in individual and communal projects, some even exploratory and experimental. We promote human flourishing at the expense of suffering.

We are for developing self-control, making redundant the alter-discipline of authorities; in engendering awareness that the welfare of others is a need of one’s own, the boundary of one’s self is transformed, extending and involving others; enveloping others and being enveloped develops a more collective self. It is the practising of non-erotic love: communists are philanthropists. Democracy, ie widespread participation in decision-making, is simply the means giving us the best chance to develop the good life for the whole species, all the while respecting that freedom recognises necessity. Communising means discovering how to institutionalise enthusiasm in a non-commodity form.

If a scientific understanding of economic life requires a conception of mode of production then that of political life requires a conception of mode of ruling. Power is simply one way to rule; leading society, invoking fear and hope, are others. Communising consists in developing anti-ruling at the expense of ruling, with the former harbouring a dynamic of re-ruling and de-ruling, and de-ruling itself hosting a dynamic of co-governing and self-governing. Each of these dynamics marks a phase in the prospective history of communising. In all this, communising requires the working class and its allies to use a mode of anti-ruling to govern both control of access to valued, thus significant, entities, and control over the quality of relations. In being anti-ruling, communists are anti-political; it makes us integral, not political.

Communising is an attempt to create a community of self-governors. The organisation of communist society is regulation, order, association in an integral form, and it is achieved not by ruling but by governing, self-governing. This is the sublation of alienation. Human political history is a management struggle, the management of valued entities and relations. The scientific communist aim is none other than to make us all managers, make us all governors, make us all administrators. This gives a new meaning to ‘the managerial revolution’. It is contingent whether humanity is either capable of this or indeed desires it.

I have explored these ideas, and the nature of politics for scientific communists, in what would have been three articles for the WW. The editorial team wanted them re-written as two, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the time to do this. They are available however at

[Three changes made: in the first paragraph, corrected to “exploitation and other oppressions” because the former, the performance of social surplus labour & the appropriation of its product, is a crucial example of (economic) oppression; & two changes made in the penultimate paragraph: it’s more exact to speak of “in an integral form”, rather than “[t]he integral organisation of communist society”, because the latter can’t be organised in any other way (the quality is necessary, not contingent), & the paragraph’s final sentence is an addition.]


Ghassan Kanafani

Mehdi Ben Barka just disappeared. Amilcar Cabral got a bullet. Eduardo Mondlane a book. Ruth First a parcel. Walter Rodney, the gift of an unwanted accessory to his car. And so did Ghassan.

That was 43 years ago today. He was 36.

In less than two years’ time, 10 June 2017, there will be a 50th anniversary, a Golden Jubilee. Quite appropriate really, as a possible etymology is yobel, Hebrew for ram, the ram’s-horn trumpet. Heralding the third capitalist religio-ethnic Jewish occupation of Palestine, a qualitative shift compared with that from 1878 until the end of the Mandate in May 1948, and then the expansion secured by war over the following 10 months.

In 2017 the Jewish-Israeli supremacist capitalist state will be 69 years old. No mutual pleasure here. First, 19 years consolidating the second occupation; then, as if that wasn’t enough, working on a third one for 50 years. That’s more than 72% of the state’s time on this earth, presiding beyond its internationally recognised borders (albeit illegitimate in terms of either a liberal or a socialist perspective). That’s one hell of a record, even for a rogue state. Its employees & supporters are surely proud of its misanthropic work.

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Note For a liberal, a socialist, an anarchist, the state of Israel, & so its borders, will always be illegitimate. This is because it originated in a violation of the principle that in deciding the post-colonial future of a territory, as with the end of the Mandate, self-determination, in the first instance, is an inalienable, indivisible collective quality of all the residents of a territory. This contrasts with both the decision of a separatist minority (30% owning 6% of the land), & the recommendation of a then 56-member UN (albeit rejected, at the US’s initiative, by Security Council resolution 44, 1 April 1948). But in life, when it comes down to it, legitimacy is neither here nor there: what matters is the capacity to rule.

Israeli politics is Red Indian politics: if it goes on long enough what the natives think becomes irrelevant. The possible fate of Jewish-Israelised Palestine is that of the Americas, the Antipodes, Algeria, South Africa, all settler-colonies. This Jewish-European emigratory nationalism has become an Asian Jewish-Israeli supremacism. As some natives remained in March 1949 (see below), the great majority of Jewish-Israelis decided that a religio-ethnic supremacism had to endure. Such state institutions were the crucial means to try to secure, & maintain, the supremacy of Jewish-Israeli society. The security state was born, a beacon to the world, a shining example of what Jewish civilisation can achieve. Israel & its shadow. Israel & the darkness. Who will be consumed? Who will survive?

(Approximately, of the 900 000 Palestinians who had been living in what became the post-March 1949 Israel, only 120k remained (13%), half of them Negev Bedouin. Of the other 60k, 20-30k were internal refugees; so less than 5% of non-nomads still lived in their homes – John Quigley, The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective, 2nd edn., Duke UP, 2005:86 citing Janet Abu-Lughod 1971:161, Zeev Schiff 1962:66-7, & Charles Kamen 1984:38. However it should be noted that the Israeli state gives not 120k but 156.0k (the 8 Nov 1948 census), 160.0k for year-end 1949, & 167.1k for year-end 1950 (Central Bureau of Statistics); this makes 18% remaining (160k/900k), not 13%. This in a context of there being, in 1882, c. 24 000 Jews in the Ottoman province (in effect Jewish-Palestinians), expanding by year-end 2013 into 6.1m Jewish-Israelis living in Jewish-Israelised Palestine – Jehuda Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann: The Making of a Zionist Leader, Oxford UP, 1985:46 citing the ‘Eretz Israel’ entry in Ha-Enziklopedia ha-Ivrit [Hebrew Encyclopaedia], v.6, col.674;

~ photo courtesy of Liberal Humanist (a former wiki editor)

Greece works – both suffering & flourishing

~ both courtesy of the informative ~

Capital doesn’t have a logic – or, not ‘ontology’, but ‘ontogenomology’ & its cognates

Ontology is the set of accounts concerned with the generic constituents of what exists – & therefore of what doesn’t exist. It doesn’t have to be abstract. In fact the more comprehensive ontologies are able to describe everyday concrete matters & explain their occurrence. It doesn’t have to be ahistorical. In fact the more adequate ontologies detail matters of all sorts of temporalities: transhistorical, historical, phasic, conjunctural, ephemeral. They are also able to differentiate between what is not just contingent or necessary but also to identify & describe the necessarily contingent & the contingently necessary, &, to go beyond Jessop, the contingently contingent & the necessarily necessary.

But this is not my point. If one’s analysis describes not just what is (being) but also what either can or must be (becoming), the matter of change, then it is more adequately described not as an ontology, the ‘ology’ (logos, reasoning) of ‘on’ (the Greek for being), but as an ontogenomology, the ‘ology’ of ‘onto-genome’, being-becoming. (The neologisms are necessary, as is the torrent to come.)


(1) the entity has being in virtue of its configured conditioned, & conditioning, forces (powers & susceptibilities), & becoming in virtue of some of these. Its becoming, its capacity to change, is expressed, realised, with the exercise of these change-inducing forces;

(2) in changing, the entity shows that it isn’t just its current realised being but that it is in-development, it is being realised as something different, & this is disclosed in the continuities & changes of its being-becoming, demonstrating that it has the property of ontogenomogeny, constituting it as an ontogenomogene (& not simply, in virtue of its being, as an ontogenome, with the attendant quality of ontogenomy);

(3) just to be clear, the entity has ontogenomogeny as a consequence of either external changes or internal developments, the latter being the expression – the work, the exercise – of some of its forces either (a) immediately, or after causing (b1) their re-figuration or (b2) the gain or loss of forces;

(4) the qualities of ontogenomy & ontogenomogeny separately constitute the object of inquiry of ontogenomics & ontogenomogenics;

(5) the analysts here are ontogenomologists & ontogenomogenologists (known in the trade as OG bods & OGG bods); &

(6) they do their best to produce ontogenomologies & ontogenomogenologies (although Foucaultians insist that they write ontogenomogenealogies).


(1) what exists is different from its description (call the latter a second-order existence). Marx & others are mistaken in constantly speaking of entities having a logic or of being presupposed or posited (Grundrisse). No, these are concepts of thinking, of discourse, of argument – not concepts of first-order existence. (Notwithstanding that Edgley argued for an ontologic.) Instead, each entity is an instance of its kind of ontogenome, giving it its necessary & most of its contingent ways of being, & in so far that it has the quality of developing then it is an instance of its kind of ontogenomogene, providing it with its necessary & most of its contingent ways of being-becoming, of changing.

So capital accumulation is the result of a particular ontogenome that develops; in other words, the process involving the organisation, exercise, & regulation of productive forces by the capital relation is the expression of a distinct ontogenomogene. Or to apply the other term of Fromm’s distinction between being mode & having mode, capitalist production doesn’t have a logic, rather in being the realisation of both its ontogenome & its ontogenomogene it shows that it has both an ontogenomic & an ontogenomogenic;

(2) each & every ontogenomogene has a temporal & spatial identity, living its own time & space. Instead of taking time & space as an external metric (and applying it to entities, quantifying magnitudes & rates of change of time & space), we can understand temporality & spatiality as ‘coming from within’ the entity, as qualities of both its generative & generated dimensions. A complexity is that it’s not unusual for temporal extensions to be variously directed, simultaneously, into the past, future, & the ephemeral present. And temporalness can also be either ‘stretched out’ or ‘compressed’, made dense, lived intensely, with years, even decades, ‘packed’ into weeks or days. Frozen times; heady days. In developing temporalness & spatialness from within, each ontogenomogene has the qualities of endochronogeny & endospatiogeny; &

(3) to summarise categorically, & also to apply the above to what is conventionally described as methodology & epistemology, we have a fourfold triad that is the process of applying inquiry methods to entities to generate knowledge about them: methodics – methodologists – methods & methodologies; epistemics – epistemologists – epistemologies; ontogenomics – ontogenomologists – ontogenomologies; ontogenomogenics – ontogenomogenologists – ontogenomogenologies.

Hal Draper died 25 years ago – but thanks Mrs Dubinsky!

Yes, we are mortal, but we can especially thank Mrs Dubinsky for delivering Harold into this world. The best companion one can have in trying to understand Marx’s political approach is the five-volume study by Hal Draper, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution.

His other significant literary contribution are his arguments against the sect form of political organisation, against those professed Marxists who put the perceived interest of their group before that of both the working class as a whole & our struggle towards creating a more socialistic society. But then arguments have never swayed these peeps from the true path, from the ever tighter spirals they contort.

Hal died 26 January 1990, having seen the Berlin Wall breached. We continue to do our best in honouring his name, his work, his life – and his ma.

Norm bares his soul

It seems in Dec & Jan Norman Finkelstein spoke for quite a few hours with Paul Jay of The Real News Network, & c. 20min segments have been posted on YouTube. There are eight in all, a total of 3hrs. It ends with Paul saying Norm might appear soon in a TRNN-hosted debate on BDS; let’s hope so.

Thankfully there are lots of Norm vids on the net, & this series started in the vein seen many times before. But then it took another route to the heart. Norm has spoken before about his parents – perhaps most notably in the film American Radical – but this time it was different.

In segment #1 Norm speaks of his eureka moment when identifying Joan Peters’ fraud concerning her historical demography of Palestine. (Poor Joan died two days before the French cartoonists; but not before the Israeli ambassador to the UN phoned, conveying sweet words from Murderer-in-Chief Netanyabu, of “how grateful he was for all she had done for Israel” – Chicago Tribune, 7Jan15.)

But after that touching interlude, back to Norm. Starting in #2 the conversation gets a lot more intimate, about his parents. Matters of the greatest import, but hilarious moments too. And by #7 we learn that for what is now seven years Norm has never received an invite from a New York university to give a lecture. Columbia has the only centre for Palestinian studies in the US, NYU has one for Near Eastern studies, both heavily populated by professed leftists in decision-making positions. No invite. Seven years. Nothing. So much for solidarność. An absolute disgrace. Simply unbelievable.; can start with #1, 24Dec,

Minor point: at the very beginning Paul says Norm had just told him he’s never seen American Radical, & says he’ll ask him to explain, but if he did unfortunately it doesn’t appear in the uploads.

In a later post I shall discuss the questions that Norm surprisingly dodged in #7. True, I haven’t known those questions to be put to him before, but given his outlook I didn’t think they were that awkward for him.

Roy Bhaskar has died

Sadly Roy Bhaskar died last Wednesday, 19 November. His scientific ontological & explanatory work warrants detailed study.

From 1993 (Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom) his work became more difficult to understand – not least coz of his writing style. His metaphysical writings from 2000 came as a great surprise to many, not least to those who used his early work to elaborate arguments that were either anti-capitalist or, for example, put the case that values can be rationally derived from scientific knowledge & rated for their philanthropy/misanthropy, i.e. that values have an existential grounding in the nature of things-in-relations rather than simply being a matter of individual choice.

A useful introduction to the relationship between Marxist ideas & Bhaskar’s critical realist ideas is this by Andrew Brown who draws upon Ilyenkov’s arguments:

The anthropologist’s nephew, head of a Jewish Stasi

Once upon a time Bernhard wrote Wittgensteins Neffe – Eine Freundschaft (W’s Nephew: A Friendship).

A little later a Jewish-British forum hosted a talk, ‘My Son, the Anthropologist’, about how the speaker had distressed his mother by choosing not to practise law, or ever be even a doctor or a capitalist. Early in his career he was recruited by a man he would greatly admire, an African, Max Gluckman. Max was the driving force behind the institutionalisation of fieldwork in British central & eastern Africa. When asked if he was a Marxist he replied, no, I’m an Engelsian.

Max’s brother, Colin, had emigrated to Asia, to Palestine, becoming Israel’s third State Attorney, the state’s chief juridical advocate, perhaps best known for the trial arising from the 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre, the slaughter by the police of tens of Palestinian-Israelis, mostly children & women.

Speaking of children, by then Colin had had a son, Carmi. Uncle Max must have been delighted. But Carmi was to become neither an anthropologist nor a lawyer. He joined the local mukhabarat, visiting the Ottoman Al-Quds jail seized by the Israeli state in 1967, observing & interrogating Palestinian prisoners. In time he was working abroad, in Lebanon, a fixture at the hell known as Khiam. He was charged with devising the interrogation – torture – training programme for their Lebanese stooges. Carmi was such a good & appreciated worker that he became head of Shin Bet’s training division in 1989. The next year he headed Northern Command, with obvious more direct responsibility for Khiam. In 1995 he became the domestic spy supremo, but he wasn’t there long, being the fall guy when Rabin was murdered.

Carmi is surely proud of his work on behalf of Jewish-Israeli supremacism. Uncle Max would view it with a marked disgust.

The need to develop both a Marxian/Marxist & a para-Marxian/Marxist scientific communist politics?

~ courtesy of 2013sedoi ~

This obelisk was erected in 1914. Four years later it had a makeover, becoming, with others on 7 November, an inaugural monument of the new society, the names of 19 communists, socialists, anarchists, & atheists engraved upon it: from the top, Marx, Engels, (Wilhelm) Liebknecht, Lassalle, Bebel, Campanella, Meslier, Winstanley, Th. More, Saint-Simon, (Édouard) Vaillant, Fourier, Jaurès, Proudhon, Bakunin, Chernyshevsky, Lavrov, Mikhailovsky, & Plekhanov. The plinth was proudly labelled ‘workers of the world unite’ (in Russian), although above it was ‘RSFSR’, the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic – unintentionally prescient. (Remarkably Vaillant was there even though he supported l’union sacrée, for social peace, whilst France waged war from 1914.)

~ courtesy of ~

Is this the sort of reasoned awareness, openness, that scientific communist politics needs today? Continually invoking Lenin & Trotsky, even Luxemburg or Kautsky, doesn’t seem to get us that far these days. Forget the talk of post-Marxism, a dead end; what we need are the paras: a para-politics of scientific communism alongside Marxian & Marxist ideas & practices. This isn’t to be eclectic, an incoherent mish-mash, just a recognition that our communist politics are grossly inadequate & that hardly anyone in the richer countries listens to us, let alone supports us. A first step is recognising that we are not Marxists as such but aspire to act, think, & feel as scientific communists.

As I said, this piece of stone went up in 1914, just before the start of World War One. And its timing? Well, it was for the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty – and it bore the names of each of the perpetrators.

~ courtesy of Paul Kulikovsky ~

As Stalinism hit the buffers the Ostalgia elsewhere in Europe has been complemented by the resurrection of older ways in Russia, this re-inauguration of a new block of granite, freshly engraved, on 4 November 2013, the Day of the People’s Unity, for the quadricentenary of Russia’s favourite family.

Воссозданный обелиск в честь 300-летия Дома Романовых открыт в Москве

~ courtesy of ~

All that’s missing is Putin.

But all this makes sense: the year before the park was blessed with a new statue, of the patriarch of the local Jesus cult c. 1600, Germogen (Grecianised as Hermogenes), his own quadricentennial, of his death. It’s all new & dynamic, forward looking, in today’s Russia.

But the point is if we can’t devise an adequate communist politics, not least in the dicey period immediately after a rupture with the capital relation, then lots more lumps of granite will be going here & there, functioning as both pathophors & symbols, not knowing what’s going on around them.

Ditch arcane Marxist political economy topics: develop a comprehensive politics

Marxists spend all this time on ‘economics’, not politics. All this energy has gone into the transformation problem, the nature of productive & unproductive labour, causes of accumulation crises, whether household labour is value-producing. Arcane topics, not surprisingly, have yielded thousands upon thousands of esoteric texts. Meanwhile Poulantzas was an interlude when politics took centre stage. It needs to be acknowledged that there is only a rudimentary Marxist or communist conception of the political dimension of today’s capitalist societies – let alone how we conceive political life in a post-capitalist society. It means very little attention has been applied to how capitalist economic difficulties can be ‘capitalised upon’ by the exploited & oppressed, both now & in the future.

Yes, even Marxists have the right to follow their curiosity, but their organisations should encourage them to focus on how to apply scientific knowledge, the knowledge we already have, to policies – strategic & tactical – that can help us do good work. Marxist labour needs to be diverted from ‘economic’ investigation to political inquiry, from use values to modes of ruling.

For example, a massive desert is the lack of a persuasive practical psychology, knowledge that can help direct propaganda & policy, tactics & strategy. Take the conception of ideology. It has been almost exclusively focused on the living of beliefs, ideas, arguments; it has been preoccupied with discourse, with the cognitive aspect of mentation. It means the two most neglected themes are the affective living of ideology, & the non-conscious living of ideology (although here Lacan has been used by some).