Re: [OPE-L] Toni Negri on John H's _Change the World Without TakingPower_

From: John Holloway (johnholloway@PRODIGY.NET.MX)
Date: Mon Sep 18 2006 - 07:21:55 EDT

Many thanks, Jerry, I wasn't aware of this. John

> <>
> Toni Negri on John Holloway's Change the World Without Taking Power
> <>
> John Holloway's Change the World Without Taking Power
> Toni Negri
>   [Translator's note: The following review of John Holloway's Change the
> World Without Taking Power appears as an "Addenda" to Chapter 13 of
> Global: Biopower and Struggles in a Globalized Latin America, a book
> co-authored by Antonio Negri and Giuseppe Cocco's (Italian political
> scientist currently residing in Brazil) and distributed in Spanish by
> Paidos, Argentina. Due to the nature of Negri's writing and certain
> ambiguities made possible by the Spanish in which it first appears, this
> translation remains preliminary and we would welcome any suggestions for
> changes. Translation by El Kilombo Intergaláctico.]
> Change the World Without Taking Power by John Holloway is a beautiful but
> strange book. Its paradox consists of the fact that, in his critique of
> Italian operaismo (the method of which is the basis of our book), Holloway
> considers dialectical Marxism (what he calls "the problem of form") as
> predisposed to assume the fetishistic character of the world (this is his
> reality principle), and at the same time as capable of proposing an
> antagonistic foundation for action. In practice, however, Holloway
> considers reality only from its fetishistic side while critiquing
> operaismo-attacking it for having employed dialectics-exclusively from its
> antagonistic side. With this in mind, where is the principle for action
> within Holloway's perspective?
> Let us develop this thought. The words that Holloway uses are very harsh.
> According to him, operaismo would be a "radical democratic" theory and
> consequently (according to the traditional polemic), neither working class
> nor revolutionary because it is incapable of understanding Marxist
> dialectics as the discovery of the radical negativity of the world. But
> Holloway belongs only partially to this tradition-one towards which he
> shows much respect, if at times irreverence. Here we will see how.
> Holloway presumes all figures of power as solely and exclusively
> fetishistic figures. Each moment and each form in which power is
> expressed, even if it is in an antagonistic manner, never achieves its
> independence due to the effect of its fetishistic form; proletarian
> potentiality always remains homologous [to capitalist potestas]. Well
> gentlemen, there is nothing to be done, the universe is black. If you are
> a communist and you rise to power, you become (for this very reason) a
> fascist. Only the refusal is a revolutionary moment.
> Beyond the refusal, beyond "the scream" of the oppressed, reality is
> completely thingified, dialectics triumphs and its eventual negativity is
> affirmed. (Allow us to observe the ambiguous similarity that is revealed
> here between the Lucakacsian figures and all the postmodern tonalities of
> negativity: the marginal in the style of Derrida, "naked life" according
> to Agamben, etc.). But Holloway never speaks of these; perhaps he does not
> know them sufficiently.
> In addition, Holloway demonstrates a rather ambiguous relation to
> Foucault: he is fascinated by but simultaneously incapable of
> incorporating within the horizon of Foucaultian differences (better said,
> in the indifferent horizon of "resistances") the productive potential of
> antagonism (in Foucault's own language "the production of subjectivity").
> In the face of the articulated dynamic of Foucaultian resistances,
> Holloway puts forward the pure reaffirmation of absolute antagonism, the
> "scream" of the exploited. Note Bene: Holloway confronts the degradation
> that the concept of the dialectic suffers in the tradition of Engels and
> in the late Soviet Marxist perspective, where it practically becomes
> something of a natural law; despite this, Holloway believes he can
> liberate himself of these difficulties in purely negative terms. We will
> see the political effects of this choice further on.
> Let us go on to examine Holloway's critique of operaismo. What Holloway
> will not accept in any case is the constitutive power that operaismo
> attributes to the force of labor and, in general, to the class struggle.
> Holloway interprets this attribute [of a constituent power] as belonging
> to a constituted power that functions so as to taint the value of labor
> and the figure of political liberty. It is evident then, according to this
> perspective, that the concept of exploitation can hardly be posed.
> Holloway's polemic extends against the concept of self-valorization
> [autovalorizzazione] (as he finds it elaborated in the work of Harry
> Cleaver). This said, one has to recognize that Holloway is headed down the
> wrong path-he is getting ahead of himself: here, the fetishistic form of
> Marxian dialectics (interpreted in the manner of Backhaus and taken up
> again by Holloway) suffocates all dialectical elements, especially those
> which remain antagonistic (and it matters little that this is not
> Holloway's intention). All that remains is fetishism, that is, a tragic
> form of the real that can never be reclaimed. To reclaim it would be the
> absolute event, "The Revolution!"
> Let's return to the critique of operaismo. Here, the contradiction that
> was mentioned above becomes apparent in its entirety. Holloway attacks the
> constituent perspective of operaismo by characterizing it as
> "functionalist." But functionalism, as we understand it, avoids the
> contradictions of capitalism; it neutralizes them and it takes on
> dialectics as the sublimation of contradictions and differences.
> Functionalism is a heresy to materialism because it uses dialectics
> linearly, glorifying within it only the element of resolution. With
> respect to this presumed functionalism, operaismo simply turns this
> picture upside down; the antagonistic pressure of the force of labor
> (exactly because dialectics was pushed aside) does not avoid but rather
> deepens the contradictions. This deepening of contradictions has two
> effects. The first is to accentuate the consistency of the subjects (i.e.
> labor force, proletariat, class, multitude) and to impress upon this
> subjective reality a continual process of metamorphosis, a dispositif of
> ontological transformation. Second, and consequently, there arises the
> effect of pushing the subject (labor force, proletariat, class, multitude)
> each time further outside of capital-exodus is precisely the result of
> this process. It is a process nonetheless, a struggle, not a utopia, an
> indefinite lineage, not one that has been concluded, real, not dreamed.
> For the above reasons, what Holloway cannot accept is this: the dialectic,
> which is a weapon of capital, simultaneously becomes in his hands a death
> sentence for labor. We are then victims of this unsolvable tonality, that
> is, unsolvable from its own interior-a solution that can come only from
> outside. Our objection: if this were true, if these were the given
> conditions, the revolution would not be constituent power, but rather a
> mystical event.
> In other places it becomes very clear that in his insistence on the
> impossibility of (or better yet, on the incorrect procedure which allows)
> identifying elements or dispositifs of "constituent power" within the
> "refusal of work" -that is, elements of liberation within the process of
> the emancipation from work-Holloway obstructs any dynamic perspective of
> the class struggle and thus bangs his head up against the so-called
> concrete history of socialism. That is, Holloway cannot avoid giving the
> class struggle an institutional figure. However, it is obvious that the
> class struggle (as Holloway would like it) is a constituent process that
> can never come to an end. But our problem is not to bring it to an end or
> to close it. Neither is our problem that of leading this struggle to some
> kind of naturalist figure, or to the repetition of the same. Rather, our
> effort is that of developing, articulating, metamorphosing class relations
> in new consistencies of the potential of the proletariat (or of the
> multitude), of the different polarities of class struggle.
> The misfortune of Holloway's reasoning lies in his radical rejection of
> all structural and ontological relations between reform and revolution.
> This becomes all the more dangerous today, the very moment at which
> sovereignty is no longer able to remain concentrated in the unity of power
> but rather must accept duality, and thus the relation between movements
> and "governance," at the very nature and fundamental horizon of the
> institutions themselves. This is as Gramsci (not Togliatti's Gramsci, the
> real Gramsci-the Leninist) had already, to the contrary, taught us.
> It is beyond doubt that Holloway's position has the merit of no longer
> attempting to simply vindicate the dialectic [dialectical Marxist]
> tradition but rather promoting the fundamental effectiveness of all
> communist alternatives. There is, in reality something very Zapatista
> about Holloway's discourse. Yet, we think that what Holloway calls the
> "problem of form," or the problem of fetishism, is reduced in his
> discourse to more of a moral or ethical category than that of a critique
> or a politics. It was already difficult to be in agreement with the
> analogous theoretical and political positions produced by the dialectical
> philosophy of the communist left of proletarian Europe during the 1930's,
> but it is impossible to accept these positions within the biopolitical
> reality of the central and/or peripheral countries of the 21st century,
> that is, during the century of Empire. No one can deny
> fetishization-ontological corruption and its practical consequences-it
> both effects and negates the classed subject, in this way making the dream
> of a "rebirth" all the less possible.
> Operaismo owes its dignity to the fact of never having dissolved the
> concept of revolution within that of reform; it owes its efficacy, on the
> other hand, to the fact of always having resolved the concept of reform
> within that of revolution, and also to the fact of having understood that
> within this nexus [reform-revolution], the autonomy/independence of the
> proletarian subject that was formed in the relations of production was
> rejoined with the exodus from the relations of capital. That is, this
> subject [labor] has the capacity to destroy, along with exploitation, the
> very existence of classes themselves.
> Holloway's line represents the best of the opposition to attempts by a
> certain institutional Latin American left to flatten within the categories
> of nation and development the relation between biopower and biopolitical
> potential. Yet, it remains limited by its negative dialectical framework.
> Negativity is not just a mere "scream;" it is rather, desire, a
> multitudinary necessity to continuously affirm joy, peace, and communism.
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