Communization, counter-revolution & the Yellow Vests

Some exchanges published in the comment section of Des Nouvelles du Front, a French-language website which serves as a clearinghouse for texts of interest to the communization current. The comments are lifted from here. Translated by our collaborator in France, Otto Mattick; edited by us at Ediciones inéditos in Los Angeles, CA.

Small contribution to continue the debate,

I would like to pick up on the fact of characterizing the limit of this movement and the coming counter-revolution as “populist”.

There is indeed a populist dimension to this movement. But is a populist counter-revolution possible? In my opinion, a counter-revolution is a little more than flags, some apéros saucissio-pinards1, protectionist statements followed by an about-face in front of an ultra-globalized capitalist mode of production, and the persecution and scapegoating of migrants and racial minorities.

A counter-revolution is also, and first and foremost, a renewal of capitalist accumulation, new foundations on which a new economic cycle can be built.

And that’s where things get stuck: the populism of the current period does not carry with it economic solutions, or very minimal ones because protectionism is inapplicable. Populism is reduced to the effects of certain announcements, then followed by a retreat from the actual consequences of protectionism (cf Brexit).

Thus, it seems to me that the populist moment, if it is undoubtedly an inevitable stage of the conjuncture, can only be of short duration, because it cannot be the foundation upon which a capitalist restructuring can be built.

Very short term even since it seems that a huge financial crisis is looming with the ongoing burst of the US stock market bubble, putting an end to the false recovery of the economy which is only driven by the states’ debts and “quantitative-easing”.

Thus, to gain a little perspective on the coming few years, the climate is likely to be very favorable to vast struggles:

  • a more massive financial crisis than in 2008 with states already over-indebted and unable to cope.
  • a proletariat which has found a very effective way of struggling, through economic blockade, wild demonstrations2, the questioning of all representatives, the search for social immediacy in its practices of struggle.

I can’t help but think about what I have right in front of me, and what I experienced on the roundabouts, is something akin to communization. Even if I have to fight with a French flag flying above the cabin I occupy, hearing from time to time macho talk, even a bit racist at times, hearing the Marseillaise at each demonstration, it doesn’t change my perception. Indeed, what is happening, if we put aside a little the remains of dirty prole ideology (machismo, racism etc), it is:

  • a movement where I have never seen Blacks, arabs or women being set aside from the struggle or considered as something other than “yellow vests”,
  • a movement where the leaders and the takeovers are immediately contested with pragmatism
  • a movement that understands that its lack of proper structure is its strength
  • a movement where ideology is not a matrix on which everyone is evaluated
  • a movement where there is no common ideological reference to join in order to be accepted
  • a movement which, in its ascending phases, is nothing more than down-to-earth pragmatism without any ideology (how we block, how we do, etc…)
  • a movement where the relationship to violence is considered with a certain pragmatism (it is not unanimous either)

To sum up, a movement that understands the social immediacy of the individual (synonymous for me with communization) is the mean by which it can fight against capital effectively, and already; I tell myself that the proletarians taking action on the roundabouts no longer really act “as a class” to defend their class interests (live with dignified labor).

Well, anyway, this set of notes are disjointed, fragmented and written in the heat of the moment, seen from a partisan eye looking to find hope everywhere, but I tell myself that it can’t hurt the debate.

Robin on December 19

In connection with this “commencement of debate”, we find that:

Thus the yellow vest movement would have “something to do with communization”. Although the idea of a fundamental social transformation, the idea of relationships not involving money, and therefore salary, economy, state, etc… never manifests itself. At no time does it consider the abolition of the social conditions which are the basis of the existing movement, and the question of how individuals reproduce themselves is never raised.

To paraphrase the formula “proletarians no longer want to be proletarians”

The participants in the movement certainly organize themselves in the struggle in the most direct, least mediated way possible (no leaders, representatives, subordination to external groups or individuals, etc.), but the fundamental mediation of the market-capitalist society is beyond the horizon of the struggles, and the own mode of reproduction of the individuals participating in the struggle remains outside the sphere of the struggle: the participants come to the roundabouts or demonstrations as wage earners, workers, employees, small bosses, executives, supervisors, the unemployed, the retired, what they are in life outside the struggle remains outside the struggle, outside the reach of the struggle, is not taken as an object by this struggle. To paraphrase the formula “proletarians no longer want to be proletarians”, yellow vests are not tired of being employees, unemployed, retired; they are tired of paying such and such tax, of receiving a salary of such and such amount, of not having a job, of receiving a pension that is too low, of suffering such and such [State] control, of having no control over the political system, etc. This is what it is all about in the struggle, not the “social immediacy of the individual” which is absolutely inconceivable at the moment in this movement. It is about pushing its weight on the State, about obtaining from it the satisfaction of demands, some very precise (those at the origin of the initiation of the movement), others more general, which constitute a program of political and economic reforms without any questioning of capitalism. The blockages, the attempts to paralyze the economy, are only means of struggle, tools of pressure on the State, the “soul” of the movement is political, it is not a question of blocking, of paralyzing the social relations themselves, destroying and replacing them with other social relations.

The author of the text is not stupid and we guess he knows the answer in advance. “That’s why we’re debating,” that’s the idea.

Unfortunately, it is one thing to point out in a movement its organizational radicality, its practice of a basic and autonomous democracy, opposing political mediations – at least within it, because towards the outside, market relations and the State are intangible – and another thing to project what is currently only a fantasy, the idea of a process of abolishing all mediations. We are well here in the ideology of communization.

Pepe (editor at DNDF & part of Théorie communiste)


I react here to Robin’s last text on this commentary thread.

Regarding “communization”, I broadly agree with the above comment (referred to as “we find that”).

I will therefore only clarify a few points about restructuring/counter-revolution. For the time being, the “restructuring” is still very hypothetical. But if we start thinking about it from the particular characteristics of the current crisis in the mode of production, “populism” is in no way the content of the counter-revolution/restructuring that may occur. I agree with Robin that “populism” does not carry “economic solutions” and that it “cannot be the foundation on which restructuring is built”.

We can say what we want about the State, but behind all its forms and content, its extension and dissemination, in the last instance, there is always the cop.

It will take struggles of a completely different magnitude on a global scale and they will have to be defeated (which is not obvious) for restructuring to be defined. For the moment, what the end of the Théorie communiste text said and what I come back to in my comments was only that movements such as the Yellow Vests (and many others at the moment) deal with the specificity of the crisis: the breakdown of the relationship between the valorization of capital and the reproduction of labor-power (which is only one way of describing globalization). This does not mean that these movements present a “solution”. What is important, its strength and its limit, is that the specificity of the crisis is “only” designated at the very level and in the very terms in which it occurs and appears: as distribution and redistribution (which is not unrelated to the sociological composition of the movement). Neither Macron, nor the Yellow Vests, nor even their conflict, represent a future restructuring. At the moment this conflict is concretely, “pragmatically”, the manifest and actual existence of the contradiction to be resolved, this is already very important, but that’s all. It should be added, however, that the way in which, in this case, the “contradiction to be resolved” is posed by those it designates as its bearers is accompanied by three major absences: the “downtown poor” (the majority among those below the poverty line); the proletarians of suburban cities [banlieues]; workers in companies with more than one hundred or two hundred employees (there are some but it is very marginal). As though we have with the roundabouts, a form of socialization for those for whom this socialization is impossible within the framework of their work. I do not make any hierarchy between these two forms of socialization, nor do I make a hierarchy with the form of socialization where the roundabouts break the idiocy of job titles, I remark the thing and that’s all. Starting from distribution in general, apart from professional categorizations, it is the whole of daily life that is at stake and that is its strength.

I agree with Robin that the crisis will rebound as a crisis of monetary creation as a form of value, that is, the crisis of the possibility of measuring global human activity as a continuous flow and the possibility for the products of this activity to relate to each other in an abstraction, but it will be the continuation of the wage relationship crisis and it is important because this is the crisis of value as the crisis of value as capital.

Something which we have never seen before: it is enough for the cops in the current situation to pretend to barely “strike” for half a day to get immediately between 120 and 150 euros more per month [between $130 and $170]. We can say what we want about the State, but behind all its forms and content, its extension and dissemination, in the last instance, there is always the cop.

R.S. (of Théorie communiste) On 23/12/2018

1 In reference to Islamophobic giant picnics organized by far-right groups in 2010.

2 La manif sauvage

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