Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Interesting Stuff.

Silent no longer: confronting sexual violence in the left - Anarchist Affinity

"Perpetrators are frequently defended as being a ‘good person’ or a ‘good organiser’, as though this should excuse their violence. People attempt to justify their inaction by saying that they don’t want to act based on ‘rumours’ and that we should presume that a person accused of perpetrating sexual violence is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Some activists tell survivors not to go to the police, because of their role in supporting state oppression, but all too often provide no alternative forms of support. These attitudes are used to justify a status quo within the left and within broader society in which the interests of those who perpetrate sexual violence are prioritised over those who are survivors of sexual violence"

" Part of the problem with many responses to sexual violence is that we have absorbed various legalistic ideas from state criminal ‘justice’ systems which are sexist and are used to justify legal inaction. For instance, the idea that we shouldn’t rush to judge a person accused of committing violence and should instead presume that they are innocent. This flawed idea is used by many to argue that we should not take the word of survivors when they tell us they have experienced sexual violence. However, as Lisbeth Latham comments in a recent piece on the SWP, “If we think of the refrain ‘people accused of rape are innocent until proven guilty’ then the opposing logic also at play is that those marking allegations of rape ‘are guilty of lying about the allegation until proven innocent.’ Defendants and their supporters (both legal and extra-legal) focus their energy not on proving innocence, but on undermining the credibility of the survivor.” We need to reject the state’s narrative about how we should deal with accusations of sexual violence. "

"It is crucially important for us to point out that when we perpetuate these ideas about sexual violence we are making a political choice which has disastrous consequences for survivors of sexual violence. We know that false accusations of sexual violence are incredibly rare. We know that forcing survivors to jump through endless hoops by demanding they provide ‘proof’ before we listen to and believe them is incredibly harmful and makes it extremely difficult or them to speak out about sexual violence. We know that our continual inaction allows perpetrators to continue abusing people within our communities with impunity. And we know that how we respond to sexual violence currently is killing our political organisations and movements, and frustrating their capacity to challenge sexism, racism, capitalism, and other forms of oppression and exploitation. "

"And more than this, we need to make a choice to prioritise survivors in our political work. This means that we should have survivor-centred responses to sexual violence – where the needs and desires of survivors determine our response. We need to be open to excluding people responsible for sexual violence, at the discretion of the survivor, from our political spaces, or ganisations, and movements. And we need to be prepared to support survivors in engaging with the people who harmed them through accountability processes, if that is what they’d like to do. Most of all, though, we need to make it a political priority to actively support sexual violence survivors through all of the personal and political challenges that come in the aftermath of being assaulted. "

"Asking a perpetrator to leave an organisation or political space on the word of a survivor is often a point which divides people within the left. We have to remember that people are not entitled to be involved in our political spaces. Many of us would accept the need to reject an active Liberal Party member who wanted to join a radical political group based on their oppressive ideology. We need to be open to taking the same approach to those whose actions are a form of violent oppression. In my experience, knowing that I am unlikely to run into the person who raped me at a political space has made a world of difference to my ongoing recovery, especially in environments where I know I would be supported by those around me if I did see him. Asking someone to leave our spaces does not deny them their freedom or safety. But if we refuse to ask perpetrators to leave our spaces we are effectively risking the safety of survivors and forcing many survivors to self-exclude. Moreover, as women are a significant majority of sexual violence survivors, not dealing with sexual violence has the effect of reinforcing women’s oppression in our movements. "

Gendered violence does not occur in a social vacuum – any response we make within our organisations and movements will be limited in scope. We will never be truly safe or free from violence while we live in a society fundamentally shaped by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Excluding perpetrators from our spaces can enable survivors to feel relatively safe in our movements, but it doesn’t prevent sexual violence from being committed in the first place or in other areas of society. To create a society in which sexual violence is no longer a tool of misogynist and racist oppression we need structural systemic change – in short, a revolution. "

What is rape apologism?

Capitalism is a system of relationships, which go from inside to out, from outside to in, from above to below, and from below to above. Everything is relative, everything is in chains. Capitalism is a condition both of the world and of the soul.
(Kafka, in Janouch 1971: 151-2)
If in its beginning the factory came out of the social body and tended to separate itself from it in order to elaborate its own rules of operation, it must now reincorporate this social body in order more than ever to dominate it.
(de Gaudemar 1985: 285)

" In this 'automaton' - which Deleuze and Guattari would call a 'machinic' relation, in so far as technical, human, and social relations function as an integrated or machinic whole - the governing power or unity ceases to be the rhythms of labour, and becomes the rhythm of capital itself, under the temporality of the machine, which technically embodies the cooperation and socialization of labour and thus 'constitutes the power of the "master"' (Marx 1976: 549).21"

The capitalist objectivity of the productive mechanism with respect to the workers finds its optimal basis in the technical principle of the machine: the technically given speed, the coordination of the various phases and the uninterrupted flow of production are imposed on the will of the workers as a 'scientific necessity' . . . The capitalist social relationship is concealed within the technical demands of machinery and the division of labour seems to be totally independent of the capitalist's will. Rather, it seems to be the simple and necessary results of the means of labour's 'nature'.
(Panzieri 1976: 9)
If the real subsumption thesis shows how capitalist relations are immanent to the machine, it also shows how social relations as a whole become increasingly subordinated to capitalist regimes of production. As the compulsion of the machine replaces the need for a human master, the social itself emerges as a vast plane of capitalized activity in the development of what Mario Tronti called the 'Social Factory'. As Tronti put it in 1962:
The more capitalist development advances, that is to say the more the production of relative surplus value penetrates everywhere, the more the circuit production "” distribution "” exchange "” consumption inevitably develops; that is to say that the relationship between capitalist production and bourgeois society, between the factory and society, between society and the state, become [sic] more and more organic. At the highest level of capitalist development social relations become moments of the relations of production, and the whole society becomes an articulation of production. In short, all of society lives as a function of the factory and the factory extends its exclusive domination over all of society.
(Tronti, in Quaderni Rossi no. 2, cited in Cleaver 1992: 137)
capital comes to represent all capitalists, and the individual capitalist is reduced to an individual personification of this totality: the direct functionary, no longer of his own capital, but of the capitalist class . . . Thus capital raises itself to the level of a 'general social power', while the capitalist is reduced to the level of a simple agent, functionary, or 'emissary' of this power.24
(Tronti 1973: 105, 107)

If the 'objectivist' approach to technology was challenged by the thesis of the immanence of capitalist relations to machines, the social factory thesis posed a direct challenge to neo-Gramscian understandings of the relative autonomy of the political, so central to the PCI's eurocommunism and its 'Historic Compromise' (cf. Negri 1979a: 112). As Bologna (n.d.: n.p.) suggests, the social factory thesis 'eliminate[d] the very bases of the concept of hegemony", for, far from tending to autonomy, the social was seen to be increasingly subordinated to capitalist regimes of production: The process of composition of capitalist society as a unified whole ... no longer tolerates the existence of a political terrain which is even formally independent of the network of social relations' (Tronti, cited in Bologna n.d.: n.p.). Indeed, for operaismo, one of the functions of social democracy, and specifically of socialism, was to naturalize the infusion of productive relations throughout the social, 'representing' "” or even, affirming "” an unproblematized labour in the social democratic political.

The 'democracy of labor' and 'social democracy' . . . consist of the hypothesis of a form of labor-power that negates itself as the working class and autonomously manages itself within the structures of capitalist production as labor-power. At this point, capitalist social interest, which has already eliminated the privatistic and egotistic expressions of single capitalists, attempts to configure itself as a comprehensive, objective social interest . . . The models of humanitarian socialism are assumed as emblems of reunification. The patriotism of common well-being in social production is the ultimate slogan of the capitalist effort at solidarity. Like soldiers, all producers are equally employed in the common sacrifice of production in order to win the battle of accumulation.
(Negri, in Hardt and Negri 1994: 62)

The 'democracy of labor' and 'social democracy' . . . consist of the hypothesis of a form of labor-power that negates itself as the working class and autonomously manages itself within the structures of capitalist production as labor-power. At this point, capitalist social interest, which has already eliminated the privatistic and egotistic expressions of single capitalists, attempts to configure itself as a comprehensive, objective social interest . . . The models of humanitarian socialism are assumed as emblems of reunification. The patriotism of common well-being in social production is the ultimate slogan of the capitalist effort at solidarity. Like soldiers, all producers are equally employed in the common sacrifice of production in order to win the battle of accumulation.
(Negri, in Hardt and Negri 1994: 62)


The account of capitalism proposed by autonomist Marxists (see for example

Hardt, 2005; Hardt & Negri, 2000, 2004; Lazzarato, 1996, 2007; Murphy &

Mustapha, 2005b; Virno et al., 2004; Virno & Hardt, 1996) differs in several

key respects from classical Marxism. It rejects the notion of history as a linear

progression through a series of different stages, leading to the final and

inevitable collapse of capitalism, brought about by declining rates of profit. In

place of an account of the power of capital, it stresses the autonomy and

creativity of labour, and workers' power to bring about change."


Autonomist theorist Harry Cleaver defines capitalism as 'a social

system based on the imposition of work with the commodity form' (Cleaver

2000:82), a system in which life is arranged around, and subordinated to,

work and becomes the grounds of its mode of domination (Weeks, 2005).

Given this understanding, autonomist Marxists do not call for more work, for

the right to work, or even for less alienated work, but point to the refusal of

work as a political -- potentially revolutionary -- act. This is because, as Negri

argues, to refuse work is fundamentally to challenge capitalism: 'the refusal of

work does not negate one nexus of capitalist society, one aspect of capital's

process of production or reproduction. Rather, with all its radicality, it negates

the whole of capitalist society' (Negri, 1979: 124)."


Autonomist writers are critical of some Marxists for their failure to appreciate

the significance of work as constitutive of social life, and for their tendency to

romanticise labour. Negri notes that it is sometimes treated as if it were 'a title

of nobility' rather than the central mechanism of capitalist domination. He

indicts other socialists for their commitment to ‘productivism’, seeing it both as

a retreat from critical analysis and from utopian imagination. For Negri, the

refusal of work is both 'a demand and a perspective' (Weeks, 2005: 109ff).
Refusal was a central tenet of Operaismo, the Italian workerist movements of

the 1970s, alongside the ‘leading role thesis’ and the ‘strongest link strategy’

which held that the critique of capital should start from working class struggles

and that energy be focused on the strongest parts of proletarian movements

(rather than the weakest links of capital). As a practice such a challenge may

include slacking, absenteeism, wildcat strikes and acts of refusal or sabotage

within the workplace, and it articulates an alternative to productivist values in

an affirmation of what Kathi Weeks calls 'hedonist Marxism': 'our propensity to

want more -- more time, freedom, and pleasure' -- and a 'vision of life no
longer organised primarily around work' (Weeks, 2005:133). This captures

autonomists’ emphasis on the positive, constructive aspects of refusal, and on

a kind of politics which is not only designed to change the future, but also, in

its very practice, to bring into existence new ways of being, living and relating.
In this sense it echoes the work of the situationists (Debord, 1994; Vaneigem,


This is Negri’s idea of communism as a ‘constituting praxis’. As Hardt

and Negri put it in Empire: 'the refusal of work and authority, or really the

refusal of voluntary servitude, is the beginning of a liberatory politics...Beyond

the simple refusal, or as part of that refusal, we need also to construct a new

mode of life and above all a new community' (Hardt & Negri, 2000: 204).

Other autonomists characterize this as ‘exit’ or ‘exodus’- again highlighting

less the negative aspects of such terms but rather the capacity to ‘reinvent’

the rules of the game and ‘disorient the enemy’ (Virno, 1996).

The dynamism of autonomist accounts of capitalism is striking. As Dyer-

Witheford (2005) vividly argues, it is 'a story of escalating cut and thrust, a

spiral attack and counter-attack':

‘Capital attempts to expropriate the inventive, cooperative

capacity of workers, on which it depends for production of

commodities. But labour resists. The spectre of subversion

drives capital on a relentless "flight to the future", expanding its

territorial space and technological intensity in an attempt to

destroy or circumvent an antagonist from whose value-creating

power it can never, however, separate without destroying

itself’ (Dyer-Witheford, 2005: 137).

From this perspective, the working class is 'not just made, but incessantly

remade, as its contestation brings on successive rounds of capitalist

reorganisation' (Dyer-Witheford, 2005, our emphasis), which in turn generate

new strategies and tactics of struggle. In the most recent phase of these

ongoing cycles of attack and counter-attack Hardt and Negri argue that the

industrial militancy of the European and North American working class
brought forth a devastating ‘reply’ from capital, in which all the forces of state

repression, transnationalisation and technological development were

deployed to decimate organised labour. The era of Fordist, industrial

production was all but destroyed and the mass worker was replaced by the

'socialised worker' bringing into being a new epoch in which the factory is

increasingly disseminated out into society as a whole. Tronti (1966) writes of

the 'social factory' and Negri of ‘firms without factories’ or the 'factory without

walls'. From this perspective labour is deterritorialised, dispersed and

decentralised so that 'the whole society is placed at the disposal of

profit' (Negri, 1989: 79). It is further argued that the state, in turn, has shifted

from a planner-state based on Keynesian economic principles to a 'crisis

state' or 'neoliberal' state which, as Michael Hardt (2005: 10) argues, 'does

not mean a reduction in economic and social interventionism, but, on the

contrary, a broadening of social labour power and an intensification of the

state's control over the social factory'. This is both more intense and more

globally dispersed, as centralised programmes of imperialist expansion give

way to 'a decentred, transnational regime of production and

governance' (Murphy & Mustapha, 2005a:1).


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