Autonomous Marxism

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Autonomous Marxism

Post by Entfremdung on Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:52 pm

As requested.

Where to start? Wikipedia, I guess. Autonomism

I would also recommend the book 'Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomous Marxism' for a good overview of the Autonomist and Workerist tradition. I think it is useful to us tactically in terms of building working class self-organisation and an anti-Bureaucratic, non-totalitarian Communism. In some ways it is a good bridge between the Western Maoists and New Left thought whilst eschewing the pitfalls of both.

Not strictly Autonomous... I would also recommend 'History and Class Consciousness' by Gyorgy Luckas and Anselm Jappe's critical biography of Guy Debord. The latter does a brilliant job of outlining the essentially radical Hegelian-Marxist nature of Debord's writing and reclaiming him from bourgeois post-modernists.
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Re: Autonomous Marxism

Post by Celtiberian on Sun Jul 28, 2013 3:23 pm

Thank you for the book recommendations; I will be sure to add them to my list of texts to read.

Judging from the Wikipedia entry, and what I know of Hardt and Negri's work, one of the problematic aspects of autonomous Marxism is its overly optimistic belief in the proletariat's ability to spontaneously develop a socialist consciousness and successfully execute a revolution. While I agree with the theorists who contend that humanity possesses an innate "instinct for freedom" (e.g., Mikhail Bakunin), I nevertheless believe that bourgeois false consciousness has become so pervasive and deeply ingrained that it's incumbent upon radical activists to engage in extensive efforts to align the proletariat's subjectivity with its objective material interests. This needn't be performed by an hierarchical vanguard à la Leninism, as libertarian methods can be just as effective—and, indeed, the latter are preferable for a variety of reasons—but I believe that anyone who has spent an appreciable amount of time with ordinary working people understands that the masses are going to need some direction and a vision of what they're sacrificing for when conditions conducive to revolution emerge, and that requires organization.

Please correct me if I'm mischaracterizing the autonomous Marxists' theory of revolution, though.

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Re: Autonomous Marxism

Post by Entfremdung on Sun Jul 28, 2013 4:28 pm

Your points are very valid.  In its attempt to overcome the dictatorial bureaucratic role of Party and Union organisations, Autonomism perhaps places a naive optimism in the ability of working class self-consciousness and self-organisation.  

Lukács, however, did make a serious attempt to reconcile Marxist theory with the proletariat's potential to attain consciousness of itself and role. Although, I don't think he came to any definitive conclusion and fluctuated between Leninism and Left Communism whilst trying to deal with this issue. I realise unfortunately that the problem of bourgeois false consciousness (especially in the economic sphere) may well be far worse for us today than it was then.


Last edited by Entfremdung on Sun Jul 28, 2013 4:30 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : formatting)
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Re: Autonomous Marxism

Post by Red Aegis on Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:56 pm

Holy crap, this is quite the coincidence. I've started reading some Autonomist literature lately, looking at buying Storming Heaven as well.

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Re: Autonomous Marxism

Post by Rapaille on Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:00 pm

I think its very important to make a clear distinction between the orginal concept of autonomy (Operaiaism) and the concept it eventually developed into (Autonomism).

The original concept of Autonomia Operaia as we know from Negri and the likes perfectly fits the concept of revolutionary-syndicalism and Maoïsm (mainly the concept of permanent revolution). Its especially interesting because it has developed itself as a spontanious reaction on the vanguard pretensions of the Trade Union bureaucracy and as a cry for direct action instead of consensuspolitics and party interests. Its also a perfect school example of left-communism, because it developed itself from the basis founded on a "wild" organisation that grew from the practical struggle itself rather then on theory. In that sense its very closely entangled with the syndicalist tradition, which was also build and developed on the practice of proletarian struggle as a reaction on the bourgeoisification of socialism. But this concept of autonomy was confined to those countries who knew a long tradition of class struggle and syndicalism (like Italy, France and the Iberian Peninsula).

Autonomism as we know it today is mainly a concept that grew from the new left, based around the idea of making daily needs of the individual into a political struggle. The problem I have with this revision of autonomy is that it puts the emphasis on extreme individualism instead of class struggle and in a sense completely broke with its revolutionary origin. In many cases autonomy has become as excuse to revert from revolutionary politics on the basis of a individualist, egoïst and thus chaotic "anarchism" that lacks any Marxist orientation - something I find rather typical for the counterculture of the '80s.

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Re: Autonomous Marxism

Post by Entfremdung on Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:50 pm

Yes, that is a useful distinction.  Although I take some ideas from the New Left, I am left frustrated by the lifestylism it has engendered within 'radical' circles.  I think this "anarchism" ultimately leads to a focus on demands which can be met within a liberal capitalist system, diverts us from our primary goals and leaves the existing, exploitative economic system untouched and barely challenged.
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Re: Autonomous Marxism

Post by Entfremdung on Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:25 am

The difference between Autonomism today and its origins in Operaismo also reminds me somewhat of Murray Bookchin's distinct between lifestyle anarchism and social anarchism: http://libcom.org/library/social-anarchism--lifestyle-anarchism-murray-bookchin

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Re: Autonomous Marxism

Post by Red Aegis on Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:51 am

I've been meaning to read Bookchin. Could you summarize it please? I don't have time to read that at the moment.

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Re: Autonomous Marxism

Post by Entfremdung on Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:16 pm

"In 1995, Bookchin lamented the decline of American anarchism into primitivism, anti-technologism, neo-situationism, individual self-expression, and "ad hoc adventurism," at the expense of forming a social movement."

Social Anarchism = Individual freedom as being dependent upon mutual aid.
Lifestyle Anarchism =  Individualist (narcissistic), primitivist (e.g. 'deep ecology') and post-modern forms of anarchism at the expense of class struggle or coherent and effective anarchist social organization.

The Ecology of Freedom is well worth the read too.  Here Bookchin considers class as one of several key hierarchies (including gender and race) that currently govern human social/environment relations and must be dissolved; arguing for equality whilst remaining critical of mytho-spiritual feminism and the fetishisation of 'primitive cultures'.  Crucially he defines two distinct versions of equality:

The Equality of Unequals: recognition of difference but without hierachy
The Inequality of Equals: capitalist/neoliberal meritocracy
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