Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Revolutions (2009)

Book Review from the July 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard

Endnotes #1 – Preliminary Materials For A Balance Sheet Of The Twentieth Century. 216 pages. Available from Endnotes, 12 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4JA. £10

The opening issue of this new journal is based around a dialogue between contemporary French ultra-left groups Troploin (Gilles Dauvé & Karl Nesic) and Théorie Communiste (who remain anonymous). Of the contributors Dauvé is probably most well known to English speakers for his tracts written under the pseudonym ‘Jean Barrot’ – Eclipse and Re-emergement of the Communist Movement, Critique of the Situationist International and Fascism / Anti-fascism.

As Endnotes state in their introduction “…we have no wish to encourage an interest in history per se. [..] We hope [..] to undermine the illusion that this is somehow “our” past, something to be protected or preserved. [..]We would go so far as to say that with the exception of the recognition of the historical break that separates us from them, that we have nothing to learn from the failures of past revolutions — no need to replay them to discover their “errors” or distil their “truths” — for it would in any case be impossible to repeat them.”

Both groups, and presumably Endnotes, are tied to the concept of “Communisation” – communism is not something that happens after the revolution, it is the “immediate production of communism; the self-abolition of the proletariat through its abolition of capital and the state.” Notions of both a “transitional society” and “workers self-management” are rejected. Capitalism is a system of production, value accumulation can as easily be managed by workers as by private capitalists or state bureaucrats.

The structure of the journal - each chapter is a critique of the one preceding it - makes for a stimulating and engaging read. A wide range concepts and historical events are covered and subject to lively criticism. From the Paris Commune to Argentina 2002 via the Russian and German revolutions, Italian “Red Years”, the Spanish tragedy, Paris 68 and the Italian “Hot Autumn” we are taken on a radical train journey of revolution and counter-revolution, though the spirit isn’t one of nostalgic reminiscence but firmly rooted in the possibilities of the present moment.
Whilst the politics of both Troploin and Théorie Communiste don’t converge with the Socialist Party on all counts there is certainly plenty of food for thought on offer here and a good opportunity to become acquainted with a not overly well known current of contemporary European thought.

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