Steve Wright's Revolution from above? dealt with the 1970s writing of workerists on money. He noted how this implied attention to the capitalist power of command (rather than the usual emphasis on worker's self-creativity) and was germane to the current context of 'the mania of getting rich without the pains of producing' (Marx). The discussion ranged over work by Sergio Bologna, Christian Marazzi, and Lapo Berti, dealing with the 1970s fiscal crisis - 'One, Two, Many New Yorks' as I believe Marazzi commented on the fiscal counter-attack by capital.
On Sunday, the first session Marxism, Communism and Historical Time involved my own paper, which I won't narcissistically comment on but you can have if you email me. Andrew McGettigan gave an excellent paper on the relation of Benjamin to Bergson, arguing that in the capitalist imposition of an 'eternal present' any alternative conception of time could only appear metaphysical and speculative. He then correlated Bergon's model of the time-cone (from Matter and Memory) and Benjamin's jetzeit (now-time), as providing just such a model and articulation. Bergson's seemingly irreducibly metaphysical model finds itself re-inscribed as a model of the revolutionary re-actualisation of the past, in which the time-cone drives itself down through the field of the present (P in the above diagram).
Against this eschatological theory of an immanent self-destructive capital obeying a law, Marx moves to a more homeopathic model of crisis as cure - cyclical and restorative. In this case we can no longer rely on crisis but have to attend to how capital uses crisis to increase exploitation and to articulate a conscious political project to resist and destroy capital."These contradictions [the highest development of productive power coinciding with a depreciation of capital], of course, lead to explosions, crises, in which momentary suspension of all labour and annihilation of a great part of the capital violently lead it back to the point where it is enabled [to go on] fully employing its productive powers without committing suicide. Yet, these regularly recurring catastrophes lead to their repetition on a higher scale, and finally to its violent overthrow." [Grundrisse Notebook 7)
The final panel session I attended was The State in the Bolivarian Revolution: Marxist Analyses, where Don Kingsbury presented a sympathetic but critical analysis of the Bolivarian process. He made some common ground with George Ciccariello-Maher's analysis of dual-power, and argued that currently (pending the regional elections in November) the tension is between a reformist social-democratic Chavismo and a more radical series of base elements. He noted, anecdotally, that upper-class Venezuelan's tend to say that the standard of service has dropped since the 'revolution' (ha ha). Debate, led by Jeffrey Webber, turned on the lack of structural adjustments to wealth distribution and worker's control, as well as the national and international constraints on the process - primarily oil and financial capital. This was a fascinating debate on what we actually might mean when we say 'socialist revolution', including the part played by material and ideological changes.(exercising pannage - for IT)
The final plenary I attended was Peter Linebaugh's Mrs. Gertrude Kugelman and the Five Gates of Marxism. This was a vatic performance, which as one conference-goer commented would not have been accepted if it had been given by a woman. Taking Marx's statement from the Manifesto that 'The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims' as a mantra Linebaugh ranged over reproduction - both intellectual, productive, and of children - law, primary accumulation, and the defence of the commons. The five gates, in case you should be wondering, are the 'empirical' chapters of Capital (10 on the working day; 14 on the division of labour and manufacture; 15 on machinery; and 25 on the composition of the working class), which Linebaugh insisted needed to be read and articulated with the theoretical chapters if we were not to fall into a fascination with the logic of capital at the expense of material struggle.
More impressive in the prepared elements, the slightly revival-meeting style grated with your truly. This is a useful primer for his recent work, but in our dissident pocket the feeling seemed to be the law and constitutionalism weren't really going to cut it when it comes to 'what is to be done'.
What I missed: Ian Birchall insisting we must burn Debord, Kees van der Pijl - who seemed to be getting rated a lot, and too many papers by friends.
Props to Alberto, IT (a trooper displaying communist discipline), Drew, Don, Gail, Alex, Dhruv, Alice, Rodrigo (thanks for the issue of Turbulence), Steve Wright (buy Storming Heaven), the guy who kindly mentioned more about Arrighi to me after my paper, and Nick (for tolerance and contribution to what seemed like a massive drinks bill at dinner).
ps It's really annoying constantly being asked to subscribe to HM; there is such a thing as overselling