19.11.2013, 19.00 at the fridge & xaspel
Sofia, 8 Madrid. blvd

Book launch with a discussion on "Autonomist Marxism for the 21st century? On the contemporary meaning of a subversive tradition"
Autonomism and Marxism: from the Paris Commune to the World Social Forum

The book Autonomism and Marxism: from the Paris Commune to the World Social Forum (Sofia: Anarres, 2013, 528 pages, published in the Bulgarian language) will be presented by its two editors: Nikolay Karkov (lecturer in philosophy at SUNY College at Courtland, USA) and Stanimir Panayotov (PhD student in comparative gender studies at CEU, Budapest, Hungary), followed by a Q&A on the theme, “Autonomist Marxism for the 21st century? On the contemporary meaning of a subversive tradition.”
More information: the Autonomism and Marxism: From the Paris Commune to the World Social Forum anthology, part of the New Left Perspectives project and published with the generous support of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – Southeast Europe, seeks to not only introduce to the Bulgarian public a series of mostly untranslated texts from within autonomist Marxism, but also to provide a broad coverage of this minor, subversive and frequently repressed tradition within the field of Marxist praxical theory.

More than two decades after the collapse of bureaucratic/state socialism, Marxist thought continues to fall prey to two typical distortions. On the one hand, Marxism is frequently represented as a failed political theory, unfolding in a linear progression from the texts of the “founding fathers” (Marx and Engels) all the way up to the labor camps and the Stalinist GULAG. On the other hand, it is often reduced to a purely theoretical intervention, which at best offers suggestive analyses of the economy, culture, and social relations of capitalism, yet only from the ivory tower of the academy, where most “vanguards” and revolutionaries of the erstwhile proletariat seem to have withdrawn. In the one case practice compromises the theory (as the glossy wrapping of an otherwise stale and rotten product), while in the other the theory “works” (with major “buts” and only partially) insofar as it stands apart from practice: giving two distinct, if also complementary spins to the well-known saying that “Marxism/communism works fine in theory, but poorly in practice.”

The objective of this anthology is to offer an alternative to the above two distortions, by way of a “repressed” and half-forgotten (if it was ever known) tradition within Marxist theory, that of “autonomist Marxism.” Generally speaking, autonomist Marxism can be defined as the ability of working men and women (from factory to house workers, and from software operators to third sector employees) to themselves define their own struggles and objectives, not only against capital, but also and frequently against their own traditional institutions, such as the communist parties, trade unions and even the Marxist intellectuals. Yet while this tension is fundamental, it does not dismiss the role of the party or the unions as merely conservative or inimical to the struggle, or, even less, ignore the significance of organization altogether. In this sense one can read “autonomy,” a core tenet of the ideology of direct democracy today, as a reworking of this repressed undercurrent that has been compromised both from the left and from the right. On the one hand, the triumph of postsocialist ideology has pushed Marxism to the back burner, as a failed global project. On the other, (pseudo and quasi) leftist factions proselytize (working class) autonomy as irreducible and uncorruptable by politics, through an allegedly postideological and postpolitical language. In short, autonomy is being inoculated against its own politicization in struggle, reducing autonomism to separatism. The history of autonomist Marxism, however, embodies the very essence of these contradictions without closure, as a tradition for which the finest theory is only born in political struggle, with neither a divorce between nor a primacy of one over the other.  Theory does not precede practice, before being canceled by it later, nor is it severely curtailed by practice to the level of strictly academic critique, because both exist in relations of mutual interdependence and enrichment.

Linked as a rule to names and arguments of Italian post-operaist Marxism (Negri, Virno, Lazzarato, etc.), the autonomist Marxism we introduce in this volume certainly includes a wide variety of texts by Italian Autonomia from the 60s and 70s. Yet the content of the anthology goes still further, as it presents debates in the USSR from the 1920s, discussions among Socialism or Barbarism intellectuals, contributions by the Situationists in France and autonomists in the US (from IWW to the Johnson-Forest tendency to theorists of the commons today), critical analyses of Marxist feminists on the problem of social reproduction, contemporary debates over the “communist hypothesis,” etc. This unusually wide selection of readings is motivated by an effort to provide the broadest possible temporal, spatial, thematic, and methodological coverage of the intersections between autonomism and Marxism, from the 19th century to the present, from Eastern Europe to Latin America, and from the “women's problem” to the “work of translation.”

Accordingly, the volume includes texts by Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Anton Pannekoek, Herman Gorter, Otto Rühle, Alexandra Kollontai, V.I. Lenin, C.L.R. James with Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee, Martin Glaberman, Cornelius Castoriadis, Daniel Mothé, Guy Debord, Attila Kotanyi, Raoul Vaneigem, Rene Riesel, Situationist International, Franco Berardi – Bifo, Marco Jacquemet and Giancarlo Vitali, Sergio Bologna, Mario Tronti, Paolo Virno, Eddie Cherki and Michel Wievorka, Svetozar Stojanović, Paolo Freire, Selma James, Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Silvia Federici, Midnight Notes, Harry Cleaver, Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Michael Hardt, George Caffentzis, Tiqqun, Colectivo Situaciones, Boaventura de Sousa Santos.
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