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Neil Davidson

Abstract

This article is a response to some of the criticisms made of How Revolutionary were the Bourgeois Revolutions? by Gerstenberger, Post and Riley. In particular, it focuses on two issues of definition – that of capitalism and the capitalist nation-state – which arise from the book’s ‘consequentialist’ claim that bourgeois revolutions are defined by a particular outcome: the establishment of nation-states dedicated to the accumulation of capital.

Luis Tapia Mealla

Abstract

René Zavaleta set out to deepen the explanation of the history of Bolivia by developing a set of ideas about long-term structures of pre-Hispanic and colonial origin and their forms of overlap. This paper analyses the conceptual structure of Zavaleta’s proposal and the place of history within it.

Brian Kelly

Abstract

For more than a generation, historical interpretations of emancipation in the United States have acknowledged that the slaves played a central role in driving that process forward. This is a critically important advance, and one worth defending. But it is also a perspective whose influence seems increasingly precarious. This article explores the complex relationship between the slaves’ ‘revolution from below’ and the bourgeois revolution directed from above, in part through an appraisal of W.E.B. Du Bois’s argument about the ‘slaves’ general strike’ and the wider revolutionary upheaval encompassing civil war and reconstruction. Grounded in a close familiarity with sources and interpretive trends, the article offers a detailed reading of shifting perspectives in current historiography, a comprehensive review of left engagement with Du Bois’s work, and an extended ‘critical and sympathetic’ appraisal of his major work from within the framework of the Marxist tradition.

Motley Society, Plurinationalism, and the Integral State

Álvaro García Linera’s Use of Gramsci and Zavaleta

Anne Freeland

Abstract

This article examines Bolivian vice president Álvaro García Linera’s use of concepts originating in the work of Antonio Gramsci and Bolivian sociologist René Zavaleta Mercado. Zavaleta’s concept of sociedad abigarrada (usually translated as ‘motley society’) has a history of misappropriation in which García Linera participates by articulating it with the related concept of the estado aparente to claim that the merely ‘apparent’ state which does not effectively represent the heterogeneous social reality of a country like Bolivia is abolished with the official establishment of the Plurinational State in 2009. This ideologeme of the Plurinational State as one that faithfully represents Bolivia’s abigarramiento is equated with the Gramscian stato integrale, which in Gramsci refers to the state proper plus civil society where these are thoroughly integrated to function as an organic whole (the modern capitalist nation-state). Beyond merely misusing the borrowed terms of this discursive operation, García Linera gives a prescriptive value to concepts developed for an analytical purpose to validate the existing regime.

The Central Office of Factory Councils in 1919–20

A Forgotten Chapter in the German Council Movement

Axel Weipert

Abstract

This article is a shortened version of a chapter from Axel Weipert’s 2015 book, Die zweite Revolution.

Self-Knowledge and Self-Determination at the Limits of Capitalism

Introduction to René Zavaleta Mercado’s Towards a History of the National-Popular in Bolivia: 1879–1980

Sinclair Thomson

Abstract

This text is an introduction to the new English translation of critical theorist René Zavaleta Mercado’s Towards a History of the National-Popular in Bolivia: 1879–1980. It surveys principal themes in the book and discusses why Zavaleta (1935–84) is a pertinent thinker for the global South and capitalist periphery today.

Esther Leslie

Abstract

Avant-garde filmmakers in the Soviet Union argued over the merits of the played film and the documentary film. They argued about the duration of shots, long or short. They questioned what constituted filmic material, camera subjectivity, the objective fact and whether film extended the eyes, and the capacity to see, or whether it wielded a fist, augmenting or bashing feelings. Shub contributed to these discussions, not least through her own film work, produced out of a combination of commitment and necessity. This paper traces these discussions and Shub’s role within them through a focus on two objects and the way in which they come to appear in film and film-discourse: strawberries and cream. The strawberries are drawn initially from Shklovsky’s comments on the inequities of US agriculture in his Journey to the Land of Movies (1926) and the cream stems from Eisenstein’s mechanical separator in The Old and the New (1929). Shub’s particular take on the object in her film work will emerge through the dialectical tensions of two objects.

From the Demise of Social Democracy to the ‘End of Capitalism’

The Intellectual Trajectory of Wolfgang Streeck

Jerome Roos

Abstract

Over the past decade, Wolfgang Streeck has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in the debate on the crisis of democratic capitalism. This article provides a critical appraisal of Streeck’s recent writings in light of his wider intellectual trajectory, tracing the evolutions and continuities in his work over time; highlighting its important contributions to our understanding of the present crisis; and presenting a fourfold critique of his latest book on the end of capitalism. The main argument is that Streeck’s work, while very valuable for its elucidation of the dynamics behind the demise of social democracy, ultimately remains plagued by a corporatist residue that keeps him from drawing his increasingly radical critique of capitalism to its logical conclusions. As a result, Streeck’s embrace of an exceedingly catastrophist worldview, devoid of any emancipatory potential, has tempted him to veer dangerously close to the welfare chauvinism of the nationalist right.

Cat Moir

Abstract

Ernst Bloch’s recourse to speculative philosophy has guaranteed him the position of a perpetual outsider in the history of Western Marxism. When Jürgen Habermas described Bloch’s philosophy in 1960 as a ‘speculative materialism’, it was to denounce him for crossing the boundaries of critical thought set down as much by Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as by Marx’s critique of political economy. This article argues that Bloch’s speculative materialism deserves to be re-assessed. Contrary to Habermas’s assertion that speculation is divorced from critique, I argue with Bloch that (1) the speculative hypotheses we unavoidably use to interpret the world around us inform our political beliefs and actions, and (2) to stifle speculative thinking as that creative and inquisitive enterprise which questions and transgresses the given is not only a ‘crime against reason’, as Hilary Putnam once claimed, but also a crime against freedom.

Rick Kuhn

Abstract

Characterisations of Henryk Grossman as a theorist of capitalism’s automatic collapse and political passivity are false. Even before the publication of his principal work, Grossman had linked his recovery of Marx’s account of capitalism’s tendency to break down to his own, interventionist, Leninist politics. This is apparent in his substantial critique of Fritz Sternberg’s influential 1926 book, Imperialism. Grossman’s article (DOI 10.1163/1569206X-12341756) also restates fundamental aspects of Marx’s value theory, class analysis and account of wages.