If not elections? Struggle & Miracles


On Friday 30th January I spoke at Brisbane Free University Election Eve Special: Politics, participation and the democratic process below is an edited version of the notes I based my talk on (which may diverge from what I actually said.)

  • Disillusionment with ‘politics’ (mainstream/capital-parliamentary etc.) is a good thing, especially as part of disillusionment with society as a whole. It clears the ground for something else.
  • Attempts to get people to reengage in politics is a bad thing.
    1. Explanations of our condition based on the virtues or vices of  politicians are mystifications

This is based on the an understanding that:

  • In a capitalist society politics is subordinated to the reproduction of capitalism as a society
  • In capitalism there exist conflict and antagonisms that contain the possibility of an other type of society. This is my point of orientation

Explanation: Australia is a capitalist society. What does this mean?

  • The processes of capital accumulation are the dominant organising dynamic in society – but they are not the only ones
    • This is molecular – or everyday
    • This molar – the global flows and health of capital
  • Much as capital generates and shapes society, society is a precondition for capital accumulation
    • It also contains multiple conflicts and malfunctions
  • The state is the major body for the reproduction of capitalist society as a society

Politics then:

  • Is the way that different factions attempt to direct this reproduction.
    • This matters
  • This is always subordinated to the health and the functioning of capitalism
    • Whoever wins the election in Qld will face the crisis of reproduction and the end of the mining boom
  • The history of the 20th Century is that of mass movements and parties attempting to use the state and being general disciplined to the realities of capital accumulation. This meant:
    • Substantial improvements in living conditions
    • The often violent repression of revolutionary alternatives
    • The implementation of ‘neo-liberalism’ in the wake of the crisis of the 1970s
  • The limits of this
    • Latin/South America: Social Movements + Radical Parties + Resources Boom = substantial improvements in people’s lives
    • Syriza + Podemos: Social Movements + Revolutionary Parties
    • Both are hitting the limit of what is possible within the electoral sphere (are they?) due to the movement of capital and the threat of repression

The Party of Utopia:

  • Orientates towards struggles that emerge from lived antagonisms
    • These exist within, against and beyond capitalism
    • How can these manage a relationship to the state to win specific fights without beings absorbed by its logic?
    • There currently exists activist groups but not social movements
    • We act in a way that is premised on and expects the miracle.

Whilst I couldn’t stay for all the discussion my summary of the main line of tension was as follows (though it wasn’t expressed in this language).

How independent from capital accumulation is politics? Does it have its own logics or is it subordinated to capital? How much power does the state hold? Can it be used to transform the conditions of our lives or does it transform us?


2 thoughts on “If not elections? Struggle & Miracles

  1. Yeah different kind of miracle in the election. Missed your talk on Friday and back at HM (askec Arlo about it in foyer but he didn’t have a clear line) 😊

    Wondered what you thought of Panitch I enjoyed his talks in terms of addressing problems as real and less looking for miracles.

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