Classe / seg­men­ta­tion / raci­sa­tion. Notes

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(Below, english trans­la­tion and cor­rec­tions by ROSS WOLF)

Il y a tou­jours eu seg­men­ta­tion de la force de tra­vail, il faut la prendre comme une déter­mi­na­tion objec­tive de la force de tra­vail face au capi­tal, cela tient natu­rel­le­ment à la divi­sion du tra­vail, mais là on pour­rait n’avoir que le décou­page dans un maté­riau homo­gène et une simple gra­da­tion quan­ti­ta­tive de la valeur de cette force de tra­vail (tra­vail simple ou tra­vail com­plexe, osmose dans le MPC entre contrainte au sur­tra­vail et tra­vail spé­ci­fique de direc­tion de la coopé­ra­tion, etc.). Mais la seg­men­ta­tion n’en serait pas une si elle n’était qu’un décou­page quan­ti­ta­tif dans un maté­riau homo­gène. Deux pro­ces­sus inter­viennent alors qui s’entrecroisent : d’une part, le MPC est mon­dial, il peut s’approprier et détruire tous les modes de pro­duc­tion tout en conser­vant en lui des carac­té­ris­tiques de ces modes de pro­duc­tion qu’il redé­fi­nit ; d’autre part la valeur de la force de tra­vail com­porte une com­po­sante morale, cultu­relle et his­to­rique. Parce que l’exploitation capi­ta­liste est uni­ver­selle, parce que le capi­tal peut s’emparer de tous les modes pro­duc­tions ou les faire coexis­ter avec lui, en exploi­ter la force de tra­vail ou la déta­cher de ses anciennes condi­tions d’existence, le mode de pro­duc­tion capi­ta­liste est une construc­tion his­to­rique qui fait coexis­ter dans son moment pré­sent les dif­fé­rentes strates de son his­toire. La seg­men­ta­tion n’est pas une « mani­pu­la­tion ». Il existe une acti­vité volon­taire de la classe capi­ta­liste et de ses pro­fes­sion­nels de l’idéologie, mais cette acti­vité met en forme et agit sur un pro­ces­sus objec­tif, une déter­mi­na­tion struc­tu­relle du mode de production.

Si la classe ouvrière a tou­jours été seg­men­tée, il faut tou­jours contex­tua­li­ser cette seg­men­ta­tion, c’est-à-dire la situer dans la forme géné­rale de la contra­dic­tion entre pro­lé­ta­riat et capi­tal dans un cycle de luttes. Sans cela, l’opposition aux iden­ti­tés, iden­ti­fiées à tort aux com­mu­nau­tés, est seule­ment nor­ma­tive. Même si l’on confère à cette seg­men­ta­tion une grande impor­tance cir­cons­tan­cielle, l’être est ailleurs, dans une pureté acces­sible ou non. On ne sort pas d’une oppo­si­tion réci­pro­que­ment exclu­sive ce qui est à ce qui devrait être.

Sur la rela­tion entre seg­men­ta­tion et raci­sa­tion, il existe deux posi­tions uni­la­té­rales qui se font face. Pour la pre­mière, le maté­ria­lisme se limite à rame­ner l’identité à sa base sans consi­dé­rer son effi­ca­cité et sa logique propres. La seconde, tout autant maté­ria­liste, s’arque-boute sur un refus de consi­dé­rer les faits et dit : si la raci­sa­tion se ramène en tota­lité à sa base elle n’est alors qu’une construc­tion volon­taire et mal­fai­sante et ce qui en font un objet ne font que divi­ser la classe et pro­mou­voir la bar­ba­rie (je cari­ca­ture à peine). Ce qui échappe aux uns et aux autres, c’est tou­jours la ques­tion de l’idéologie qui n’est pas reflet mais ensemble de réponses pra­tiques et cré­dibles, sous lequel opèrent des pra­tiques. Il y a iden­tité quand il y a décou­page et auto­no­mi­sa­tion d’un domaine d’action propre. Chaque idéo­lo­gie – au sens employé ici - ou iden­tité a son his­toire et son fonc­tion­ne­ment propres, repé­rables par les pra­tiques opé­rant sous cette idéo­lo­gie. L’identité est alors une essen­tia­li­sa­tion défi­nis­sant un indi­vidu comme sujet.

Une déné­ga­tion nor­ma­tive de la seg­men­ta­tion raci­sée ne cherche pas de contra­dic­tions dans ce qui existe, mais se contente de se poser en contra­dic­tion à ce qui existe : la classe contre sa seg­men­ta­tion, sans consi­dé­rer que la classe, dans une contra­dic­tion entre pro­lé­ta­riat et capi­tal qui porte sur la repro­duc­tion, n’existe que dans sa seg­men­ta­tion. L’opposition nor­ma­tive à la seg­men­ta­tion réelle du pro­lé­ta­riat abou­tit à une occul­ta­tion idéo­lo­gique de cette réa­lité que le PIR, inver­se­ment, tra­vaille à sa façon.

Répé­tons que toute lutte du pro­lé­ta­riat se pro­duit et se déve­loppe dans les caté­go­ries de la repro­duc­tion et de l’autoprésupposition du capi­tal. La lutte de classe n’existe tou­jours que « sur­dé­ter­mi­née » parce qu’elle est lutte de classe, c’est le rêve pro­gram­ma­tique qui veut une classe qui se dégage de son impli­ca­tion réci­proque avec le capi­tal et s’affirme en tant que telle dans une pureté auto­dé­ter­mi­née, une classe sub­sis­tant par elle-même. Dans ce « plus », cette « sur­dé­ter­mi­na­tion », ce n’est pas un manque ou un détour­ne­ment qui réside, mais c’est l’existence et la pra­tique en tant que classe que l’on trouve, c’est-à-dire la repro­duc­tion réci­proque du pro­lé­ta­riat et du capi­tal dans laquelle c’est tou­jours le second qui sub­sume le pre­mier qui agit alors à par­tir des caté­go­ries défi­nies dans la repro­duc­tion du capi­tal. Les frac­tions du pro­lé­ta­riat, sa seg­men­ta­tion appa­raissent sur le mar­ché du tra­vail comme des condi­tions préa­lables, parce que le mode de pro­duc­tion capi­ta­liste, au-delà même du mar­ché du tra­vail, se meut à l’intérieur des formes concrètes qu’il a créées, et que ces formes qui en sont le résul­tat, l’affrontent dans le pro­cès de repro­duc­tion, comme des condi­tions préa­lables toutes faites, déter­mi­nant le com­por­te­ment aussi bien des capi­ta­listes que des pro­lé­taires, leurs four­nis­sant leurs motifs d’agir et leur conscience.

La seg­men­ta­tion déve­loppe « ensuite » sa propre effi­ca­cité idéo­lo­gique qui découpe une popu­la­tion, soli­di­fie les dif­fé­rences, c’est là où les Indi­gènes appa­raissent comme des entre­pre­neurs en raci­sa­tion, comme il y a des entre­pre­neurs en natio­na­lisme, c’est une élite qui se consti­tue un racket, heu­reu­se­ment sans grande effi­ca­cité jusqu’à main­te­nant. Là, la cri­tique doit être sans conces­sion. L’homophobie tac­tique, l’antisémitisme latent, la « com­pré­hen­sion » du « pro-Saddam » pen­dant la guerre du Golfe, la mise au ren­cart (« pour le moment ») des luttes fémi­nines etc. ne sont pas des « dérives », ce qui pré­sup­po­se­rait un point de départ plus ou moins « sain » ; ces posi­tions sont consti­tu­tives de l’activité d’entrepreneurs en raci­sa­tion qui est la rai­son d’être du PIR. Ils découpent même un seg­ment par­ti­cu­lier dans la popu­la­tion « immi­grée » sous le vocable de « post­co­lo­nial ». Il leur faut défi­nir une iden­tité essen­tielle. Même si le PIR est insi­gni­fiant dans les quar­tiers, son tra­vail idéo­lo­gique est en phase avec la situa­tion qui y pré­do­mine main­te­nant : « Depuis le milieu des années 1970, nous pou­vons dis­tin­guer trois confi­gu­ra­tions suc­ces­sives, trois âges de la ban­lieue : un monde désor­ga­nisé mais encore proche, des ter­ri­toires requa­li­fiés par les tra­fics et vio­lences urbaines, un uni­vers mar­qué par la fer­me­ture et la séces­sion. » (Michel Koko­reff et Didier Lapey­ron­nie, Refaire la cité, l’avenir des ban­lieues, Ed. Le Seuil). On peut par­ler d’un sen­ti­ment d’impuissance devant son propre rap­port à la société, qui fait face à l’individu comme contrainte col­lec­tive cho­si­fiée. Nous avons là la forme et le contenu d’une conscience indi­vi­duelle de soi pro­pre­ment reli­gieux : la consi­dé­ra­tion de l’aliénation de l’individu vis-à-vis de la com­mu­nauté (qui n’est plus un mode de pro­duc­tion comme ensemble de rap­ports de pro­duc­tion) comme un état : la misère inhé­rente à la nature humaine. Dans la consti­tu­tion capi­ta­liste de l’exclusion, l’aliénation du pro­lé­taire vis-à-vis de l’ensemble des rap­ports sociaux et de sa propre repro­duc­tion n’apparaît plus comme le pro­duit de sa propre acti­vité, et l’aliénation comme le rap­port contra­dic­toire qu’il entre­tient avec l’ensemble de cette société, mais comme une don­née inhé­rente à son indi­vi­dua­lité, c’est le pauvre, la plèbe. Deve­nue inhé­rente à l’individualité, la sépa­ra­tion d’avec les autres indi­vi­dua­li­tés et d’avec la com­mu­nauté ne se résout que dans une rela­tion qui trans­cende ces indi­vi­dua­li­tés et se pose face à elles comme radi­ca­le­ment exté­rieure. C’est la struc­ture reli­gieuse même et sa pro­duc­tion. La reli­gion peut alors deve­nir la réunion de toutes les déter­mi­na­tions de l’individualité et un puis­sant levier pour les entre­pre­neurs en identités.

Toutes les iden­ti­tés se donnent une généa­lo­gie ima­gi­naire qui est effi­cace et réelle de par sa recons­truc­tion et c’est tout le pro­blème des iden­ti­tés, mais aussi leur carac­tère très labile, plas­tique et fra­gile (mal­gré les appa­rences), car la contra­dic­tion de cette phase de la sub­somp­tion réelle est aussi au niveau de la reproduction.

Mais alors entre les entre­pre­neurs en raci­sa­tion et le déni nor­ma­tif, la voie des contra­dic­tions du réel est étroite.

[Pour ce qui suit il est utile de se réfé­rer au bref texte « Ten­ta­tive de défi­ni­tion des classes » à la suite]

Le lieu de pro­duc­tion des iden­ti­tés, c’est la mul­ti­tude de rap­ports qui ne sont pas stric­te­ment éco­no­miques dans les­quels se construit et se vit l’appartenance de classe. Il faut ensuite ajou­ter leur pro­ces­sus de pro­duc­tion. Les inégaux niveaux de déve­lop­pe­ment jusqu’à leur mise en abyme dans le capi­ta­lisme actuel, la divi­sion du tra­vail, l’aspect his­to­rique de la valeur de la force de tra­vail, le jeu entre rap­ports de pro­duc­tion et rap­ports de dis­tri­bu­tion (avec la pré­do­mi­nance que ceux-ci peuvent acqué­rir sur les pre­miers), la déna­tio­na­li­sa­tion de l’Etat (voir TC 25 : Une séquence par­ti­cu­lière) consti­tuent ce pro­ces­sus de pro­duc­tion. Les méca­niques de pro­duc­tion s’appliquant dans ce lieu sont diverses : contin­gence de l’appartenance classe, seg­men­ta­tion de la force de tra­vail créa­tion de l’individu comme sujet, oppres­sion (le « moment coer­ci­tion » que contient le renou­vel­le­ment du face à face de la force de tra­vail et du capi­tal), rap­ports de dis­tri­bu­tion. Il faut voir comme les « Indi­gènes » ne parlent que d’oppression et d’opprimés, c’est, entre autres choses, leur façon de décou­per et pro­duire une iden­tité. Ils donnent forme à une vraie logique de l’identité s’adressant à des indi­vi­dus pour les­quels la défi­ni­tion pre­mière est la « mise à l’écart » de la « vraie société » et le « manque de res­pect ». Ce que l’on voit c’est une constante sur­dé­ter­mi­na­tion, constant décou­page, de la logique des classes à par­tir d’elle-même, c’est tout le pro­blème qui échappe au déni nor­ma­tif et au culte de l’être vrai et pur de la classe.

Ces méca­niques inhé­rentes à l’autoprésupposition du capi­tal tra­vaillent le maté­riau des rap­ports non stric­te­ment éco­no­miques, il sort de ce tra­vail sur ce maté­riau toute sorte de pro­duits : com­mu­nau­tés reli­gieuses, eth­nies, races, appar­te­nance ter­ri­to­riale, etc., les pro­duits pos­sibles sont qua­si­ment infi­nis. C’est tout ça la lutte des classes et ce n’est pas tou­jours joli et nous avons à y prendre parti parce que c’est là-dedans que nous vivons et non dans le monde des Idées pures. Nous sommes au fond de la Caverne.

Une erreur fré­quente consiste à rame­ner l’identité construite à sa « base », la seg­men­ta­tion, sans com­prendre que si c’est bien là la base, l’identité construite suit « ensuite » la logique propre qui est la sienne et fonc­tionne selon cette logique, elle orga­nise toute une vision du monde, et la rela­tion aux rap­ports de pro­duc­tion s’organise selon cette logique. Tous ces fac­teurs sont les agents per­ti­nents de l’invention des dis­tinc­tions et de leur varia­tion ou dis­pa­ri­tion (à Mar­seille, un Ita­lien ou un Espa­gnol ne sont plus que de sym­pa­thiques joueurs de boules). La raci­sa­tion (ou la pro­duc­tion d’identités spé­ci­fiques) n’appartient pas au concept même du capi­tal (à la dif­fé­rence de la dis­tinc­tion de genre inhé­rente au tra­vail comme force pro­duc­tive), mais celui-ci donné, elle est une forme de mani­fes­ta­tion néces­saire. La trans­for­ma­tion du rap­port social en chose, c’est-à-dire « para­doxa­le­ment » en sujet est aussi bien une trans­for­ma­tion de cette chose en rap­port social entre sujets. En quelque sorte, le sujet est lhéri­tier du mou­ve­ment qui le crée. Cette inver­sion est la façon réelle dont les rap­ports de pro­duc­tion n’agissent que dis­si­mu­lés en tant que volon­tés et déci­sions de sujets.

Mais alors toute la construc­tion sociale dont tout cela pro­vient s’efface d’elle-même. La dis­tinc­tion de races ou d’ethnie joue alors son propre rôle selon des déter­mi­na­tions pres­crites par elle-même dans l’autonomie du domaine d’action qu’elle se crée : un noir peut deve­nir pré­sident des Etats-Unis, il reste noir, et un pro­lé­taire noir n’est pas un pro­lé­taire blanc. Exis­tant pour elle-même dans son domaine d’action la dis­tinc­tion peut même être l’objet d’une acti­vité poli­tique ins­tru­men­tale comme on l’a vu en France lors de la grande vague de grèves dans l’automobile dans les années 83 – 84 et encore plus aujourd’hui. La dis­tinc­tion est une idéo­lo­gie et en tant que telle effi­cace comme assi­gna­tion et rela­tion des indi­vi­dus à leurs condi­tions d’existence et de repro­duc­tion, c’est-à-dire à leurs rela­tions aux rap­ports de pro­duc­tion. Parce que tout cela est réel, objec­tif, cela ne se nie pas par une grande invo­ca­tion rituelle de l’être vrai de la classe, comme si l’on deman­dait aux pro­lé­taires de faire sécession.

C’est toute l’autoprésupposition du capi­tal que nous avons là : la repro­duc­tion du fameux face à face entre le pro­lé­ta­riat et le capi­tal. Ins­crites dans les contra­dic­tions de l’autoprésupposition du capi­tal, dans son exis­tence de contra­dic­tion en pro­cès, et fina­le­ment dans la lutte des classes, ces iden­ti­tés sont donc plas­tiques selon les néces­si­tés de cette dis­tinc­tion (qui passe par toutes les ins­tances non direc­te­ment éco­no­miques) et fra­giles selon la capa­cité de cette dis­tinc­tion à se repro­duire elle-même.

Les iden­ti­tés sont là, elles peuvent même être des points d’appui pour la lutte (contrai­re­ment aux vœux nor­ma­tifs), mais elles ne sont jamais fixes (contrai­re­ment à ce que veulent en faire les pra­tiques entre­pre­neu­riales) et même quand elles se « fixent » en com­mu­nau­tés, elles repro­duisent alors les contra­dic­tions de classes en leur sein. Il ne faut jamais oublier que toutes les iden­ti­tés sont construites, his­to­riques et fra­giles. La révo­lu­tion, mais aussi les luttes actuelles comme les émeutes dites de ban­lieues (2005 n’a pas été une révolte eth­nique) affrontent la sclé­rose de la défi­ni­tion de la classe comme caté­go­rie socio-économique, mais aussi affrontent ou par­fois seule­ment minent, inter­rogent, remettent en cause, toutes les iden­ti­tés qui se consti­tuent sur elles — natio­nales eth­niques, raciales, etc. — comme ses sur­dé­ter­mi­na­tions, ses condi­tions d’existence. Ce n’est pas une ques­tion intel­lec­tuelle reve­nant à savoir qui est qui, car cette sclé­rose et la lutte contre elle sont la confron­ta­tion de pra­tiques intri­quant la révo­lu­tion et la contre-révolution. La classe n’apparait pas tou­jours en clair et même rare­ment (il n’est pas dans la nature de la révo­lu­tion de faire son­ner l’heure de la der­nière ins­tance) : c’est dans une mul­ti­pli­cité de pra­tiques et de contra­dic­tions avec le capi­tal et de contra­dic­tions internes, de confron­ta­tions avec toutes sortes d’identités, d’actions à par­tir d’elles et de dépas­se­ment de celles-ci, qu’elle peut s’auto-transformer en classe com­mu­ni­sa­trice, c’est-à-dire s’abolir. La révo­lu­tion ne peut plus être affir­ma­tion d’un pro­lé­ta­riat se recon­nais­sant pour lui-même en tant que force révo­lu­tion­naire dans le mode de pro­duc­tion capi­ta­liste face au capital.

Les luttes n’existent tou­jours que « sur­dé­ter­mi­nées ». Dans cette « sur­dé­ter­mi­na­tion » ne réside aucun détour­ne­ment, mais c’est l’existence et la pra­tique réelles. C’est le rêve pro­gram­ma­tique qui veut une classe qui se dégage de son impli­ca­tion réci­proque avec le capi­tal et s’affirme en tant que telle dans une pureté auto­dé­ter­mi­née, une classe sub­sis­tant par elle-même.

Quand lut­ter en tant que classe est la limite de la lutte de classe, la révo­lu­tion devient une lutte contre ce qui l’a pro­duite, toute l’architecture du mode de pro­duc­tion, la dis­tri­bu­tion de ses ins­tances et de ses niveaux se trouvent entraî­nées dans un pro­ces­sus de bou­le­ver­se­ment de la nor­ma­lité / fata­lité de sa repro­duc­tion défi­nie par la hié­rar­chie déter­mi­na­tive (cha­cune bien à sa place et « cause » de la sui­vante dans l’ordre des bases, infra­struc­tures, super­struc­tures, ces der­nières elles-mêmes hié­rar­chi­sées) des ins­tances du mode de pro­duc­tion. C’est parce qu’elle est ce bou­le­ver­se­ment et seule­ment si elle l’accomplit que la révo­lu­tion est ce moment où les pro­lé­taires se débar­rassent de toute la pour­ri­ture du vieux monde qui leur colle à la peau et les consti­tue come tels, tout comme les hommes et les femmes de ce qui consti­tue leur indi­vi­dua­lité. Il ne s’agit pas d’une consé­quence mais du mou­ve­ment concret de la révo­lu­tion où toutes les ins­tances du mode de pro­duc­tion (idéo­lo­gie, droit, poli­tique, natio­na­lité, éco­no­mie, genres, etc.) peuvent être tour à tour la foca­li­sa­tion domi­nante de l’ensemble des contra­dic­tions. Une conjonc­ture désigne le méca­nisme même d’une crise comme crise de l’autoprésupposition du capi­tal : le bou­le­ver­se­ment de la hié­rar­chie déter­mi­na­tive des ins­tances du mode de pro­duc­tion. La révo­lu­tion comme com­mu­ni­sa­tion aura à se nour­rir de l’impureté, de la non-simplicité, du pro­cès contra­dic­toire du mode de pro­duc­tion capi­ta­liste. Chan­ger les cir­cons­tances et se chan­ger soi-même coïn­cident : c’est la révo­lu­tion, c’est une conjonc­ture. Les iden­ti­tés ne sont pas des essences, même si elles se donnent et fonc­tionnent comme telles (tout le monde est à peu près d’accord là-dessus). Si on consi­dère leur lieu et leur méca­nique de pro­duc­tion, la ques­tion de leur dépas­se­ment se ramène aux ques­tions rela­tives à la révo­lu­tion comme conjonc­ture : bou­le­ver­se­ment de la hié­rar­chie des ins­tances et cir­cu­la­tion de la domi­nante.

Il serait faux de voir là quelque chose d’absolument nou­veau n’arrivant que dans « la conjonc­ture », nous avons une idée pos­sible de cette fra­gi­lité dans la construc­tion même des iden­ti­tés, qu’elles soient raciales, eth­niques, ou com­mu­nau­tés reli­gieuses, et sou­vent un mix de tout cela, mix s’originant et tra­versé par les contra­dic­tions de classes.

L’objet de la cri­tique com­mu­niste, théo­rique et, quand cela est pos­sible, pra­tique, ce n’est ni l’entreprenariat, ni le déni ou l’opposition nor­ma­tive qui ne consi­dèrent que l’exclusion réci­proque des termes entre classe et « iden­ti­tés » et encore moins une « com­pré­hen­sion dis­tan­ciée. L’objet de la cri­tique, sa cible, son point d’appui, c’est cette labi­lité, cette plas­ti­cité et cette fra­gi­lité : l’historicisation, la « décons­truc­tion », la contex­tua­li­sa­tion et, pour­quoi pas, dans cer­taines situa­tions, le fait que ces iden­ti­tés peuvent être des pro­ces­sus dyna­miques de consti­tu­tion d’une lutte spé­ci­fique et par­ti­cu­lière et par là la refor­mu­la­tion d’un rap­port de forces géné­ral entre les classes. Mais même cela est com­pli­qué. La labi­lité de la construc­tion iden­ti­taire est très dif­fé­rente selon les niveaux sociaux et cultu­rels, on constate que la labi­lité est plus forte dans les luttes qui gagnent. Ne pas oublier en outre que la dis­pa­ri­tion de la racia­li­sa­tion ne va qu’avec celle des classes, ce n’est pas un préa­lable et qu’elle est aussi la parole du capital.

Une reprise des luttes en France, dans un rap­port de forces favo­rable est en grande par­tie sus­pen­due actuel­le­ment à la lutte par­ti­cu­lière et auto­nome des pro­lé­taires raci­sés contre leur raci­sa­tion, cela ne peut se faire en niant la raci­sa­tion comme nulle et non ave­nue. Cela ne sert à rien de som­mer les indi­vi­dus de se défendre « en tant que pro­lé­taires », comme si les seg­men­ta­tions et la raci­sa­tion ne fai­sait pas par­tie de leur exis­tence de pro­lé­taires. Mais la mise en avant d’une iden­tité peut être à la fois sa recon­nais­sance et sa dé-essentialisation qui passe par l’attaque de ce qui fait de cer­taines carac­té­ris­tiques his­to­riques, cultu­relles, une défi­ni­tion per­son­nelle et les agents d’un cli­vage socia­le­ment et éco­no­mi­que­ment opé­ra­toire, parce que choi­sies et déli­mi­tés. C’est-à-dire por­ter le fer sur la dis­tance qui sépare la Loi offi­cielle de l’égalité, de la citoyen­neté et même les abs­trac­tions sur les­quelles fonc­tionnent le capi­tal d’avec les règles réelles inverses de la Règle offi­cielle (ce que tout le monde sait) et les condi­tions réelles de tra­vail et de vie. Il ne s’agit pas d’assumer la « dif­fé­rence » (et de la gom­mer en même temps), cette « dif­fé­rence » n’est rien d’autre qu’un sta­tut d’inférieur ins­crit de façon indé­lé­bile dans la per­sonne. Il faut affir­mer que « l’intégration » est un exa­men où vous n’avez aucune chance de réus­site, d’autant plus quand elle se couple avec la « guerre contre le ter­ro­risme ». Rompre avec la règle du jeu, mon­trer que la règle offi­cielle n’est pas la règle réelle, mon­trer que la divi­sion raciale prise dans la seg­men­ta­tion de la force de tra­vail fonc­tionne selon ses propres néces­si­tés, il n’y a pas de « tous ensemble » a priori. Même si cela paraît « réfor­miste » et un « objec­tif inter­mé­diaire », ce n’est pas gagné…

Quand on pos­sède la com­pré­hen­sion géné­rale de la pro­duc­tion des iden­ti­tés, contre les entre­pre­neurs de l’identité et ceux de la norme de La Lutte de Classe, tout se ramène à l’analyse par­ti­cu­lière d’une situa­tion par­ti­cu­lière.

Pour­quoi aujourd’hui un tel sujet est-il aussi sen­sible ? Voir qua­si­ment toutes les ques­tions sociales et la plu­part des luttes ne pou­voir s’exprimer que dans le lan­gage des iden­ti­tés, des eth­nies, des reli­gions et des races suf­fi­rait à répondre à cette ques­tion. Mais cela n’explique pas la vio­lence et la cris­pa­tion que cela pro­voque dans notre « milieu ». L’opposition pure­ment nor­ma­tive à la seg­men­ta­tion réelle de la classe est là pour conju­rer ce qui serait l’anéantissement de l’identité géné­rale de pro­lé­taire dont se réclame le mili­tant et sans laquelle il implose. C’est sa propre exis­tence qu’il sait être en jeu sur cette ques­tion. Quelle bles­sure nar­cis­sique que de ne plus pou­voir s’identifier aux « las­cars de banlieue » !

Ten­ta­tive de défi­ni­tion du prolétariat

La défi­ni­tion essen­tielle du pro­lé­ta­riat est un concret de pen­sée, elle n’exclut pas les mani­fes­ta­tions, elle est tou­jours pré­sente en elles et n’existe elle-même que dans la tota­lité de ses formes, de ses attri­buts. Qu’est-ce alors qu’une classe ? Ten­tons une défi­ni­tion pos­sible du pro­lé­ta­riat comme classe. Défi­ni­tion qui a tou­jours navi­gué entre deux pôles : une défi­ni­tion socio-économique, et une défi­ni­tion comme caté­go­rie his­to­rique défi­nie par une pra­tique (dans les débuts de la cri­tique du pro­gram­ma­tisme l’ambigüité avait été arti­fi­ciel­le­ment sur­mon­tée par la dis­tinc­tion entre classe ouvrière et prolétariat).

Par­tons non pas du simple mais du plus simple : de l’impératif de vendre sa force de tra­vail. Ajou­tons que cet impé­ra­tif n’a de sens que pour la valo­ri­sa­tion du capi­tal, ce qui amène à dire que cette vente pour la valo­ri­sa­tion se défi­nit comme une contra­dic­tion pour le capi­tal et pour elle-même. La vente de la force de tra­vail ne dit pas ce qu’est le pro­lé­ta­riat si cette vente n’est pas sai­sie dans sa rela­tion à la valo­ri­sa­tion du capi­tal comme contra­dic­tion. C’est alors cette contra­dic­tion qui est la défi­ni­tion des classes. La vente de la force de tra­vail n’explique rien par elle-même si on en reste à ce niveau, elle ne défi­nit pas plus la classe même si on la relie sim­ple­ment à la valo­ri­sa­tion du capi­tal. La défi­ni­tion n’apparaît qu’au moment où cette situa­tion (la vente de la force de tra­vail) et cette rela­tion (de la vente à la valo­ri­sa­tion) sont sai­sies comme contra­dic­tion pour cela même dont elles sont la dyna­mique. C’est la contra­dic­tion entre le tra­vail néces­saire et le sur­tra­vail, c’est la baisse ten­dan­cielle du taux de pro­fit com­prise comme une contra­dic­tion entre le pro­lé­ta­riat et le capi­tal, c’est, de même, le capi­tal comme contra­dic­tion en pro­cès. Nous avons alors l’unité de la défi­ni­tion des classes comme situa­tion et pra­tique (comme « en soi » et « pour soi » si l’on veut).

Pour­sui­vons, s’il est vrai que les classes se défi­nissent comme une posi­tion spé­ci­fique dans les rap­ports de pro­duc­tion, les rap­ports de pro­duc­tion sont des rap­ports de repro­duc­tion et là en ce qui concerne la défi­ni­tion des classes tout se com­plique. Nous retrou­vons ici le déni nor­ma­tif face à la « dis­har­mo­nie » entre ce qu’il se passe à un moment donné et le fameux « ce que le pro­lé­ta­riat doit faire confor­mé­ment à son être ». Cette « dis­har­mo­nie » ne tient pas seule­ment à des cir­cons­tances momen­ta­nées liées à des moments par­ti­cu­liers, elle est inhé­rente au fait que si être une classe est une situa­tion objec­tive don­née comme une place dans une struc­ture, parce que cela signi­fie une repro­duc­tion conflic­tuelle et donc la mobi­li­sa­tion de l’ensemble du mode de pro­duc­tion, cela implique une mul­ti­tude de rap­ports qui ne sont pas stric­te­ment éco­no­miques dans les­quels les indi­vi­dus vivent cette situa­tion objec­tive, se l’approprient et s’auto-construisent comme classe.

PS : il fau­drait pro­duire cette ten­ta­tive de défi­ni­tion à par­tir de la par­ti­cu­la­ri­sa­tion de la tota­lité, là ça part d’un pôle et non du tout. Ce n’est pas très grave mais c’est un peu gênant.

English trans­la­tion:

Class / seg­men­ta­tion / racia­li­za­tion. Notes

Octo­ber 29, 2016 No Com­ments

Ori­gi­nally publi­shed by Théo­rie Com­mu­niste, a French com­mu­ni­za­tion group, here.

Trans­la­ted from the French by LNFC.

There has always been seg­men­ta­tion within labor power. We must then take it as an objec­tive deter­mi­na­tion of labor power under Capi­tal, which natu­rally leads to a divi­sion of labor, but here we have not but a divide within a homo­ge­nous mate­rial and a simple quan­ti­ta­tive gra­da­tion of the value of labor power (both simple and com­plex work undergo an osmo­sis under the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion bet­ween the constraint of sur­plus labor and spe­cia­li­zed labor under coope­ra­tive mana­ge­ment, etc.). But this seg­men­ta­tion would not be so were it not but a qua­li­ta­tive divide within a homo­ge­nous mate­rial. Two pro­cesses inter­vene as they inter­weave: in one hand, the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion is glo­bal, a mode which can appro­priate and des­troy all other modes of pro­duc­tion while still conser­ving for itself the cha­rac­te­ris­tics of the mode of pro­duc­tions which it rede­fines; on the other hand, the value of labor power makes up a moral, cultu­ral and his­to­ri­cal com­ponent. Because capi­ta­list exploi­ta­tion is uni­ver­sal; because Capi­tal can take over all other modes of pro­duc­tion or make them coexist with it and exploit the labor power with those other modes of pro­duc­tion, or detach it from their for­mer exis­ten­tial condi­tions, the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion is a his­to­ri­cal construc­tion which brings about the coexis­tence, in its cur­rent moment, all of the dif­ferent stra­tum of its his­tory. Seg­men­ta­tion is not a “mani­pu­la­tion.” It exists as a volun­tary acti­vity by the capi­ta­list class and its ideo­lo­gi­cal pro­fes­sio­nals, but this acti­vity forms and ani­mates an objec­tive pro­cess, a struc­tu­ral deter­mi­na­tion of its mode of production.

If the working-class has always been seg­men­ted, we must then contex­tua­lize this seg­men­ta­tion, which is to say we must situate it within the gene­ral form of the contra­dic­tion bet­ween the pro­le­ta­riat and Capi­tal within a cycle of struggles. With this, oppo­sing iden­ti­ties, iden­ti­ties wron­gly asso­cia­ted with com­mu­ni­ties, would solely be nor­ma­tive. Even if we were to confer on this seg­men­ta­tion a great cir­cum­stan­tial impor­tance, its being is elsew­here, within a purity that is either acces­sible or not. We do not escape a reci­pro­cally exclu­sive oppo­si­tion [of iden­ti­ties] by sim­ply pit­ting what is with what should be.

A nor­ma­tive denial of racia­li­zed seg­men­ta­tion does not seek contra­dic­tions within what exists, but pleases itself by posi­tio­ning itself in contra­dic­tion with what exists: the class against its seg­men­ta­tion, without consi­de­ring that the class, within the contra­dic­tion of the pro­le­ta­riat and Capi­tal which pro­vide its repro­duc­tion, exists but within this seg­men­ta­tion. The nor­ma­tive oppo­si­tion to the real seg­men­ta­tion of the pro­le­ta­riat leads to an ideo­lo­gi­cal eclipse of this rea­lity, which the Parti des indi­gènes de la Répu­blique [PIR], inver­sely does in its own way.

Let us repeat that all pro­le­ta­rian struggles are pro­du­ced and deve­lo­ped within the cate­go­ries of repro­duc­tion and self-presupposition to Capi­tal. Class struggle only ever exists as “over­de­ter­mi­ned” because it is class struggle. It is the pro­gram­ma­tic dream that desires a class that breaks away from its reci­pro­cal impli­ca­tion with Capi­tal and affirms itself as such within a pure self-determination, a class which sub­stan­tiates itself. Fur­ther, this “over­de­ter­mi­na­tion” is not a defi­ciency or a détour­ne­ment which remains, rather it is within the exis­tence and the prac­tice of a class that we find it; in other words, the reci­pro­cal repro­duc­tion of the pro­le­ta­riat and of Capi­tal within which the lat­ter always sub­sumes the for­mer, which always acts accor­ding to defi­ned cate­go­ries within the repro­duc­tion of Capi­tal. The fac­tions within the pro­le­ta­riat, its frag­men­ta­tion which appears on the labor mar­ket as pre­de­ter­mi­ned condi­tions, since the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion, itself beyond the labor mar­ket, moves within concrete forms which it creates, and thus the pro­le­ta­riat confronts these resul­ting forms in the pro­cess of repro­duc­tion, as pre­de­ter­mi­ned condi­tions, deter­mi­ning the beha­vior of both capi­ta­lists and pro­le­ta­rians, pro­vi­ding them with their motives for action and their consciousness.

This seg­men­ta­tion then deve­lops its own ideo­lo­gi­cal effi­ca­cious­ness which then divides a popu­la­tion, soli­di­fies dif­fe­rences and this is where the Indi­gènes appear as entre­pre­neurs of racia­li­za­tion, just as there are entre­pre­neurs of natio­na­lism; they are an elite which consti­tute a racket, which were hap­pily without much effec­ti­ve­ness until shortly ago. Here cri­tique must be uncom­pro­mi­sing. Tac­ti­cal homo­pho­bia, latent anti­se­mi­tism, the “unders­tan­ding” of “pro-Sadaam” ele­ments during the Gulf War, the scrap­ping (“for the moment”) of women’s struggles, etc. are not “devia­tions,” which would pre­sup­pose a point of depar­ture more or less “heal­thy,”; these posi­tions are consti­tu­tive of the acti­vity of racia­li­za­tion entre­pre­neurs, the rai­son d’être of the PIR. They divide even a par­ti­cu­lar seg­ment of the “immi­grant” popu­la­tion with the term “post­co­lo­nial.” They seek to define an essen­tial iden­tity. Even if the PIR plays an insi­gni­fi­cant role in the neigh­bo­rhoods [quar­tiers], their ideo­lo­gi­cal work is in line with the situa­tion which cur­rently pre­vails: “Since the mid-70s, we have been able to dis­tin­guish three suc­ces­sive confi­gu­ra­tions, three ages of the ban­lieue: a disor­ga­ni­zed world but one close to us, ter­ri­to­ries requa­li­fied by drug traf­fi­cking and urban vio­lence and a uni­verse mar­ked by enclo­sure and seces­sion.”1 We could speak about a fee­ling of power­less­ness in regards to our own rela­tion with society, which confronts the indi­vi­dual like a thin­gi­fied col­lec­tive restraint. Here we have the form and the content of a indi­vi­dual conscious­ness of one­self which is rather reli­gious: the consi­de­ra­tion of indi­vi­dual alie­na­tion vis-à-vis the com­mu­nity (which is no lon­ger a mode of pro­duc­tion or an ensemble of modes of pro­duc­tion) as a state: the inherent misery of human nature. Within the capi­ta­list consti­tu­tion of exclu­sion, the alie­na­tion of the pro­le­ta­riat vis-à-vis the whole of social rela­tions and its own repro­duc­tion no lon­ger appears as the pro­duct of its own acti­vity, nor does it view the contra­dic­tory rela­tion of its alie­na­tion with the whole of society as its own doing, but as an inherent given found in its indi­vi­dua­lity, found in the poor, the plebs. This alie­na­tion having become inherent to indi­vi­dua­lity, the sepa­ra­tion among other indi­vi­dua­li­ties and within the com­mu­nity is only resol­ved with a rela­tion that trans­cends these indi­vi­dua­li­ties and confronts them as some­thing radi­cally exte­rior to them. This is indeed the struc­ture of reli­gion and its pro­duc­tion. Reli­gion can thus become the mee­ting of all the deter­mi­na­tions of indi­vi­dua­lity and a power­ful lever for the entre­pre­neurs of identities.

All iden­ti­ties gives them­selves an ima­gi­nary genea­logy which is both effi­ca­cious and real by way of its recons­truc­tion and this is the pro­blem of all iden­ti­ties besides their very labile, plas­tic and fra­gile nature (des­pite appea­rances), because the contra­dic­tion of this phase of real sub­sump­tion is also at the level of reproduction.

[For what fol­lows it would be use­ful to refer to the brief text, “An attempt to define class” which is for­th­co­ming]

The site of pro­duc­tion of iden­ti­ties is the mul­ti­tude of rela­tions, which are not strictly eco­no­mic, within which class belon­ging is crea­ted and lived. We must fol­low then with their pro­duc­tion pro­cess. This pro­duc­tion pro­cess includes: the une­qual levels of deve­lop­ment and their mise en abyme under cur­rent capi­ta­lism, the divi­sion of labor, the his­to­ri­cal aspect of the value of labor power, the inter­play bet­ween rela­tions of pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion (along with the pre­do­mi­nance which these could have with the pre­vious things lis­ted) and the de-nationalization of the State (see TC25: A Par­ti­cu­lar Sequence). The mecha­nics of this pro­duc­tion here applied are diverse: contin­gent on class belon­ging, seg­men­ta­tion of the labor power, crea­tion of of the indi­vi­dual as a sub­ject, oppres­sion (the “coer­cive moment” that contains the rene­wal of the face-to-face of labor power and Capi­tal), and rela­tions of dis­tri­bu­tion. We must look to how the Indi­gènes only speak of oppres­sion and the oppres­sed, which is among other things their way to divide and pro­duce an iden­tity. They give form to a real logic of iden­tity addres­sed to those indi­vi­duals for whom their defi­ning aspect is their “being cast aside” from “real society,” along with a “lack of res­pect.” What we see here is a constant over­de­ter­mi­na­tion and a divide from the logic of classes from itself: the enti­rety of the pro­blem with a nor­ma­tive and reli­gious denial of the real and una­dul­te­ra­ted nature of class.

These mecha­nisms inherent to the self-presupposition of Capi­tal works on the mate­rial of rela­tions not-strictly eco­no­mic, from this work results all sorts of pro­ducts: reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties, eth­ni­ci­ties, races, territorial-belonging, etc.; the pos­sible pro­ducts are quasi infi­nite. This is all a part of class struggle and it’s not always pretty; we have to take part in all this because it is within this that we live and not in the world of Pure Ideas. We are at the bot­tom of the Cave.

A frequent error consists of res­to­ring a construc­ted iden­tity to its “base”: its seg­men­ta­tion. This is done without unders­tan­ding that if seg­men­ta­tion is indeed its base, the construc­ted iden­tity fol­lows the logic which belongs to it and func­tions accor­ding to this logic, a logic which orga­nizes a whole world­view and the rela­tion to the pro­duc­tion rela­tions is orga­ni­zed accor­ding to this same logic. All these fac­tors are the per­ti­nent agents which create their dis­tinc­tions or their varia­tion or disap­pea­rance (in Mar­seille, an Ita­lian or a Spa­niard are but ano­ther plea­sant bow­ling mate). Racia­li­za­tion (or the pro­duc­tion of spe­ci­fic iden­ti­ties) does not belong to the concept of Capi­tal (unlike the dis­tinc­tion of gen­der inherent to work as a pro­duc­tive force), but this said racia­li­za­tion is a neces­sary form of mani­fes­ta­tion. The trans­for­ma­tion of social rela­tions into a thing, in other words “para­doxi­cally” trans­for­med into a sub­ject, is also a trans­for­ma­tion of this thing into a social rela­tion bet­ween sub­jects. In a way, the sub­ject is the heir of move­ment which creates it. This inver­sion is the real way in which rela­tions of pro­duc­tion act but in a dis­si­mu­la­ted way in the form of will and deci­sions made by subjects.

But the whole of the social construct which all this comes from effaces itself. Racial or eth­nic dis­tinc­tion plays its own role accor­ding to pres­cri­bed deter­mi­na­tions for itself within the auto­nomy of the domain of action in which it is crea­ted: a black man could become pre­sident of the Uni­ted States, but he is still black and a black pro­le­ta­rian is not a white pro­le­ta­rian. Exis­ting for itself within its own domain of action, dis­tinc­tion can also be the object of a ins­tru­men­tal poli­ti­cal acti­vity as we saw in France during the great wave of strikes in the auto­mo­bile indus­try bet­ween 1983 and ’84 and even up to today. Dis­tinc­tion is an ideo­logy and as such it works well as assi­gning and in defi­ning the rela­tion bet­ween indi­vi­duals and their condi­tions of exis­tence and repro­duc­tion, or said ano­ther way, bet­ween their rela­tion­ships with their rela­tions of pro­duc­tion. Since all this real and objec­tive, all this can­not be done away with a grand and ritua­lis­tic invo­ca­tion of the real being of class-belonging, as if we were to sim­ply call for pro­le­ta­rians to secede.

This is the self-presupposition of Capi­tal that we have here: the repro­duc­tion of the face-to-face bet­ween the pro­le­ta­riat and Capi­tal. Ins­cri­bed within the contra­dic­tions of the self-presupposition of Capi­tal, within its contra­dic­tory exis­tence in pro­cess, and finally within class struggle, these iden­ti­ties are thus plas­tic in accor­dance to the neces­si­ties of its dis­tinc­tion (that pass through all ins­tances not directly eco­no­mic) and also fra­gile in accor­dance to the capa­city of its dis­tinc­tion to suits its self-reproduction.

Here are the iden­ti­ties and they could even be points of sup­port in its struggle (contrary to nor­ma­tive wishes), but they are never fixed (contrary to what entre­pre­neu­rial prac­tices would like to make of them) and even when they are “fixed” on com­mu­ni­ties, they repro­duce at their core class contra­dic­tions. We must never for­get that all iden­ti­ties are construc­ted, his­to­ri­cal and fra­gile. Revo­lu­tion, but also cur­rent struggles like the riots in the ban­lieues (2005 was not an eth­nic revolt) confront the scle­ro­sis in the defi­ni­tion of class as a socio-economic cate­gory and also confronts or at times only under­mines, inter­ro­gates, calls into ques­tion, all iden­ti­ties built upon it – eth­ni­cal natio­na­lity, racial natio­na­lity, etc. – as their over­de­ter­mi­na­tions, their condi­tions of exis­tence. This is not an intel­lec­tual ques­tion brin­ging us back to recall who is who, since this scle­ro­sis and the struggle against it is the confron­ta­tion of prac­tices lin­king revo­lu­tion to counter-revolution. Class does not always clearly appear and any such cla­rity is rare (it is not in the nature of revo­lu­tion to announce the final hour): it is within a mul­ti­pli­city of prac­tices and of contra­dic­tions with Capi­tal and its inter­nal contra­dic­tions, of clashes among all kinds of iden­ti­ties, of actions stem­ming from the pre­vious and the over­co­ming of these that will find class self-transforming itself into the com­mu­ni­za­teur class, in other words self-abolishing. Revo­lu­tion can no lon­ger be the affir­ma­tion of a pro­le­ta­riat reco­gni­zing itself as a revo­lu­tio­nary force in the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion facing Capital.

Struggles only exist as “over­de­ter­mi­ned.” Within this “over­de­ter­mi­na­tion” resides no détour­ne­ment, rather we find their real exis­tence and prac­tice. It is the pro­gram­ma­tic dream that desires a class that detaches itself from its reci­pro­cal impli­ca­tion with capi­tal and that would affirm itself as such in a pure self-determination, a class which sub­stan­tiates itself.

While strug­gling as a class is the limit of class struggle, revo­lu­tion becomes a struggle against that which pro­du­ced it: the whole of the archi­tec­ture of the mode of pro­duc­tion, the dis­tri­bu­tion of its ins­tances and of its levels find them­selves brought into the pro­cess of upen­ding nor­ma­lity / des­tiny of its repro­duc­tion defi­ned by a deter­mi­na­tive hie­rar­chy (each thing in its own place and “cause” as it fol­lows in the order of bases, infra­struc­tures, super­struc­tures, all of which are pla­ced in an hie­rar­chy) of ins­tances of its mode of pro­duc­tion. It is because revo­lu­tion is this uphea­val and only if it is suc­cess­ful does it become that moment where pro­le­ta­rians cast off all of the rot of the old world which sticks to their skin and keeps them as pro­le­ta­rians, just as men and women will do with what consti­tutes their indi­vi­dua­lity. It is not a ques­tion of pure cau­sa­tion but of a concrete move­ment of the revo­lu­tion where all the ins­tances of the mode of pro­duc­tion (ideo­logy, law, poli­tics, natio­na­lity, eco­nomy, gen­der, etc.) can be one by one the domi­nant focus of the whole of the contra­dic­tions under Capi­tal. This conjunc­ture desi­gnates the very mecha­nism of a cri­sis as a cri­sis of the self-presupposition of Capi­tal: the upen­ding of the deter­mi­na­tive hie­rar­chy of the ins­tances of the mode of pro­duc­tion. The revo­lu­tion as com­mu­ni­za­tion would have to nou­rish itself on this impu­rity, this non-simplicity, the contra­dic­tory pro­cess of the capi­ta­list mode of pro­duc­tion. Chan­ging cir­cum­stances and chan­ging one­self coin­cide: this is revo­lu­tion, this is a conjunc­ture. Iden­ti­ties are not essences, even if they offer them­selves and func­tion as such (eve­ryone pretty much agrees on this point). If we consi­der their place and their pro­duc­tion mecha­nism, the ques­tion of over­co­ming leads to ques­tions concer­ning revo­lu­tion as conjunc­ture: upen­ding the hie­rar­chy of ins­tances and cir­cu­la­tion of the domi­nant [mode of production.]

It would be false to see in this some­thing novel that would only arrive within this “conjunc­ture,” we already enter­tain the idea that the very construc­tion of iden­ti­ties as fra­gile whe­ther they are racial, eth­nic, reli­gious often inclu­ding a mix of these, a mix that ori­gi­nates and tra­verses the contra­dic­tions of class.

The object of com­mu­nist and theo­re­ti­cal cri­tique, and when pos­sible, a prac­ti­cal cri­tique, is not the entre­pre­neurs of iden­tity, nor is it nor­ma­tive denial or oppo­si­tion that only consi­ders the reci­pro­cal exclu­sion of terms like class or “iden­ti­ties” and its is even less so a “dis­tan­ced com­pre­hen­sion.” The object of the cri­tique, its tar­get, is the labi­lity, the plas­ti­city and the fra­gi­lity of iden­tity: his­to­ri­ci­za­tion, “decons­truc­tion,” contex­tua­li­za­tion and (why not) in cer­tain situa­tions, the object of cri­tique is the fact that these iden­ti­ties could be dyna­mic pro­cesses of consti­tu­tion of a spe­ci­fic and par­ti­cu­lar struggle and by way of this a refor­mu­la­tion of the rela­tion of gene­ral forces among classes. But even this is quite com­pli­ca­ted. The labi­lity of iden­tity construc­tion varies much in accor­dance with social and cultu­ral levels, we ack­now­ledge that this labi­lity is stron­ger in those classes who win. Besides we must not for­get that the disap­pea­rance of racia­li­za­tion will not be brought about without the disap­pea­rance of class society, it is not a pre­re­qui­site and racia­li­za­tion is also the voice of Capital.

A reco­very from the struggles in France, under a favo­rable balance of power, is cur­rently sus­pen­ded in the par­ti­cu­lar and auto­no­mous struggle of racia­li­zed pro­le­ta­rians, which could not have been done by denying racia­li­za­tion as just void. It is abso­lu­tely use­less to call on indi­vi­duals to defend them­selves “as pro­le­ta­rians,” as if seg­men­ta­tion and racia­li­za­tion were not a part of their exis­tence as pro­le­ta­rians. But the fore­groun­ding of an iden­tity can be at once its ack­now­led­ge­ment and its de-essentialization which becomes an attack against the making of cer­tain his­to­ri­cal and cultu­ral cha­rac­te­ris­tics a per­so­nal defi­ni­tion and see them as agents of a social and eco­no­mic ope­ra­tive, choo­sing and deli­mi­ting. In other words, to bring war to the dis­tance bet­ween Offi­cial Law, equa­lity and citi­zen­ship, and to do the same with the abs­trac­tions upon which Capi­tal ope­rates on with the real inverse rules of Offi­cial Rule (which the whole world knows) and the real condi­tions of work and life. It is not a mat­ter of sim­ply assu­ming “dif­fe­rence” (and to rub it out at the same time), this “dif­fe­rence” is nothing more than a sta­tus of infe­rio­rity ins­cri­bed in an inde­lible fashion on the per­son. We must affirm that “inte­gra­tion” is a test which you stand no chance in pas­sing, even more so when it is cou­pled along with the “war on ter­ror.” Break with the rules of the game, show that the offi­cial rule is not the real rule, show that racial divi­sion taken on as seg­men­ta­tion of labor power func­tions in accor­dance with its own needs, there is no a priori “all toge­ther.” Even if this seems “refor­mist” and as an “inter­me­diary objec­tive,” this has not even yet been achieved…

When one pos­sesses a gene­ral com­pre­hen­sion of the pro­duc­tion of iden­ti­ties, contrary to the entre­pre­neurs of iden­tity and those of the Class Struggle ilk, eve­ry­thing returns to the par­ti­cu­lar ana­ly­sis of a par­ti­cu­lar situation.

Why does such a sub­ject today make sense? Just look at almost all the social ques­tions and most struggles can­not but express them­selves in the lan­guage of iden­ti­ties, eth­ni­ci­ties, reli­gions and races, all of which would suf­fice to respond to. But this does not explain the vio­lence and ten­sion that this sub­ject pro­vokes in our “milieu.” Purely nor­ma­tive oppo­si­tion to the real seg­men­ta­tion of the class is there to conjure what the reduc­tion to nothing of the gene­ral iden­tity of the pro­le­ta­riat would be like, which the mili­tant claims as their own and without which they implode. It is their very exis­tence which they know is at play concer­ning this ques­tion. What a nar­cis­sis­tic wound it would be to no lon­ger be able to iden­tity with the “thugs of the banlieue”!

Attempt at a defi­ni­tion of the proletariat

The essen­tial defi­ni­tion of the pro­le­ta­riat is a concrete thought which excludes no single mani­fes­ta­tion, it is always present in them and which does not exist but in the tota­lity of its forms, and its attri­butes. What is a class then? Let us attempt a pos­sible defi­ni­tion of the pro­le­ta­riat as a class. A defi­ni­tion which has always navi­ga­ted bet­ween two pole: a socio-economic defi­ni­tion and a his­to­ri­cal cate­gory defi­ned by a prac­tice (in the begin­nings of the cri­tique of pro­gram­ma­tism, ambi­guity had been arti­fi­cially over­come with the dis­tinc­tion bet­ween wor­king class and proletariat).

Let’s not start from a simple but from an even sim­pler point: from the impe­ra­tive of nee­ding to sell our labor power. Let us add that this impe­ra­tive has no mea­ning out­side of the valo­ri­za­tion of capi­tal, which leads us to say that this sale for valo­ri­za­tion defines itself as the contra­dic­tion for Capi­tal and a contra­dic­tion in itself. The sale of labor power does not say what the pro­le­ta­riat is if it is not sei­zed by its rela­tion to the valo­ri­za­tion of capi­tal as a contra­dic­tion. On its own, the sale of labor power explains nothing if we remain at this level, it no lon­ger defines the class even if we sim­ply link it to the valo­ri­za­tion of capi­tal. This defi­ni­tion only appears when either this situa­tion (of the sale of labor power) or rela­tion (of the sale to valo­ri­za­tion) are sei­zed as contra­dic­tion by that which they are the dyna­mic force of. This is the contra­dic­tion bet­ween neces­sary labor and sur­plus labor, it is the ten­dency of the rate of pro­fit to fall com­pri­sed as the contra­dic­tion bet­ween the pro­le­ta­riat and Capi­tal, it is also, Capi­tal as a contra­dic­tion in pro­cess. We have then the unity of the defi­ni­tion of classes as a situa­tion and a prac­tice (as “in itself” and “for itself” if so preferred).

Conti­nuing, if it is true that classes define them­selves as a spe­ci­fic posi­tion in rela­tions of pro­duc­tion, the rela­tions of pro­duc­tion are rela­tions of repro­duc­tion and where it concerns the defi­ni­tion of classes eve­ry­thing becomes com­pli­ca­ted. Here we find the nor­ma­tive denial facing “dis­har­mony” bet­ween what hap­pens at a given moment and the famous “that which the pro­le­ta­riat must do in confor­mity with its being.” This “dis­har­mony” does not only hold to cer­tain momen­tary cir­cum­stances lin­ked to par­ti­cu­lar moments, it is inherent to the fact that if being a class is an objec­tive situa­tion expres­sed as a place within a struc­ture, that there is a conflic­tual repro­duc­tion and thus the mobi­li­za­tion of the whole of the mode of pro­duc­tion. This implies a mul­ti­tude of rela­tions that are not strictly eco­no­mic in which indi­vi­duals live this objec­tive situa­tion, which they also take on and and self-constitute as a class.

Post-script: it would be neces­sary to pro­duce this attempt at a defi­ni­tion from a par­ti­cu­la­rity of the tota­lity, here we part from a pole and not from the whole. This is not so bad but it is a bit inconvenient.

Michel Koko­reff et Didier Lapey­ron­nie, Refaire la cité, l’avenir des ban­lieues, Ed. Le Seuil

Source: http://www.luchanofeik.club/2016/10/29/theorie-communiste-notes/

Class, seg­men­ta­tion, racia­li­za­tion: Rea­ding notes

By Ross Wolf

Théo­rie Com­mu­niste
Lucha No Feik Club (Octo­ber 26, 2016)

Edi­to­rial note
Ori­gin­ally pub­lished by Théo­rie Com­mun­iste as «Classe/seg­men­ta­tion/raci­sa­tion. Notes». Trans­lated from the French by LNFC, with sub­stan­tial re­vi­sions by Ross Wolfe. I can’t take cred­it for the ma­jor­ity of this trans­la­tion, as I wor­ked from the one pos­ted by the Lucha No Feik Club. Nev­er­the­less, I found this trans­la­tion al­most un­read­able, and so de­cided to go over it again with my (ad­mit­tedly quite poor) French and make some modi­fic­a­tions. Right now it’s prob­ably still un­read­able, but hope­fully a lit­tle less so. Just to point out some of my own ed­its, and give a sense of my reas­ons for mak­ing them, a few words might be ad­ded here. For ex­ample, I chan­ged cho­si­fiée from “thingi­fied” to “re­ified.” Un­doubtedly the for­mer is used from time to time, but it comes across here as clunky and in­el­eg­ant. Also, I ren­de­red face à face as “faceoff,” rather than the dread­fully lit­er­al “face-to-face.” Vari­ous oth­er minor cor­rec­tions were made, some of them slight over­sights. Part of the prob­lem is in the ori­gin­al text, howe­ver, as there are a couple places where there are word-for-word re­pe­ti­tions of en­tire sen­tences. These were no doubt un­in­ten­tion­al, and have been ex­cised from the present version.

As re­gards the con­tent, I am quite in­ter­ested in see­ing how Théo­rie Com­mun­iste relates the phe­nomen­on of “ra­cial­iz­a­tion” [raci­sa­tion] to the struc­tur­al lo­gic of cap­it­al and its his­tor­ic un­fold­ing. Clearly, the art­icle takes race to be a more ar­bit­rary con­struc­tion than gen­der. Gen­der is roo­ted in the sexu­al di­vi­sion of labor with­in the oikos, whe­rein the fam­ily is the fun­da­ment­al eco­nom­ic unit. There are more bio­lo­gic­al de­term­in­ants for gen­der, at least ini­tially. Some of this is sket­ched out in an­oth­er short art­icle pub­lished by Théo­rie Com­mun­iste, “Uter­us vs. Melan­in,” which as yet re­mains un­trans­lated. Howe­ver, while race is more re­cent and based on ac­ci­dent­al fea­tures, it is no less real than gen­der. Théo­rie Com­mun­iste loc­ates ra­cial­iz­a­tion with­in the seg­ment­a­tion of the work­force, where su­per­fi­cial dis­tinc­tions such as skin col­or and dif­fi­culties of com­mu­nic­a­tion (mul­tiple lan­guages, etc.) be­come mark­ers of dif­fer­ence. Deni­al of these dif­fer­ences, in the name of some norm­at­ive ideal of what class should be, is shar­ply cri­ti­cized for ig­nor­ing the seg­men­ted real­ity of so­cial­ized labor. Loren Gold­ner put this quite nicely a while back, when he wrote that “the ‘col­orblind’ Marx­ism of many left com­mun­ist cur­rents — a pro­let­ari­an is a pro­let­ari­an is a pro­let­ari­an — is sim­ply… blind Marxism.”

Of course, race does not op­er­ate every­where uni­formly. It doesn’t al­ways fall along a col­or spec­trum run­ning from “white” to “black.” To be sure, the leg­acy of ra­cial­ized sla­very in the Uni­ted States over­shad­ows most oth­er his­tor­ic­al de­term­in­a­tions of race. But xeno­pho­bia to­ward vari­ous poor im­mig­rant groups — the Ir­ish in the 1850s, the Chi­nese in the early 1900s, Itali­ans in the 1920s-1930s, Lati­nos today — also plays a ma­jor role. Para­noia about Is­lam also in­forms a great deal of the hate­ful rhet­or­ic we’ve seen spou­ted against refu­gees since 2001. An­ti­semit­ism is less pro­nounced in the Uni­ted States than in con­tin­ent­al Europe, cer­tainly, but it’s not al­to­geth­er un­known. Ra­cial dy­nam­ics work them­selves out a bit dif­fer­ently in France, with its his­tory of co­lo­ni­al­ism. Howe­ver, I’m hear­te­ned to read that Théo­rie Com­mun­iste has no pa­tience for the re­ac­tion­ary polit­ics of race pedd­led by groups like the Parti des indi­gènes de la Répu­blique and its lead­er, Hou­ria Bou­teldja. Roughly two years ago I cri­ti­cized the cul­tur­al re­lativ­ism of this par­tic­u­lar group, which per­vades de­co­lo­ni­al dis­course in gen­er­al, its “tac­tic­al ho­mo­pho­bia” and “lat­ent an­ti­semit­ism” (as the fol­low­ing art­icle puts it). Later I re­pos­ted an ex­cel­lent piece writ­ten by Ma­lika Amaouche, Yas­mine Kateb, and Léa Nic­olas-Te­boul.. «Classe/seg­men­ta­tion/raci­sa­tion» lam­bastes the PIR, who Théo­rie Com­mun­iste calls the “en­tre­pren­eurs of ra­cial­iz­a­tion.” I don’t blame Bou­teldja et al. for pur­su­ing this en­ter­prise, though; someone had to tap the mar­ket left un­touched by Bloc Identitaire.

There has al­ways been seg­ment­a­tion with­in labor power. We must take it, then, as an ob­ject­ive de­term­in­a­tion of labor power un­der cap­it­al that nat­ur­ally leads to a di­vi­sion of labor. Here we have noth­ing more than a di­vide bet­ween a ho­mo­gen­eous ma­ter­i­al and a simple quant­it­at­ive grad­a­tion of the value of labor power. (Both simple and com­plex work un­der­go a kind of os­mos­is with­in the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, from the gen­er­al­ized con­straint of sur­plus labor to spe­cial­ized labor un­der co­oper­at­ive man­age­ment, etc.). Howe­ver, this seg­ment­a­tion would not be so if it were not but a qual­it­at­ive di­vide with­in an oth­er­wise ho­mo­gen­eous ma­ter­i­al. Two pro­cesses in­ter­vene as they weave to­geth­er: On the one hand the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion is glob­al, cap­able of ap­pro­pri­at­ing and des­troy­ing all oth­er modes of pro­duc­tion while con­serving for it­self the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of those it has re­defined. On the oth­er hand the value of labor power rep­res­ents a mor­al, cul­tur­al, and his­tor­ic­al com­pon­ent. Since cap­it­al­ist ex­ploit­a­tion is uni­ver­sal — i.e., be­cause cap­it­al can take over oth­er modes of pro­duc­tion or make them co­ex­ist along­side it, ex­ploit labor power to­geth­er with those oth­er modes or de­tach them from their for­mer ex­ist­en­tial con­di­tions — cap­it­al­ism is thus an his­tor­ic­al con­struc­tion that brings about the co­ex­ist­ence of all the dif­fer­ent strata of his­tory in a single mo­ment. Seg­ment­a­tion is not merely “ma­nip­u­la­tion.” It ex­ists as the vol­un­tary activ­ity of the cap­it­al­ist class and its pro­fes­sion­al ideo­logues, which forms and an­im­ates an ob­ject­ive pro­cess, a struc­tur­al de­term­in­a­tion of the mode of production.

If the work­ing class has al­ways been seg­men­ted, then it is still ne­ces­sary to con­tex­tu­al­ize this seg­ment­a­tion. That is to say, it must be situ­ated in the gen­er­al form of the con­tra­dic­tion bet­ween pro­let­ari­at and cap­it­al with­in a giv­en cycle of struggles. Without this, op­pos­ing iden­tit­ies — iden­tit­ies wron­gly as­so­ci­ated with com­munit­ies — would be solely norm­at­ive. Even if we were to con­fer great cir­cum­stan­tial im­port­ance on this seg­ment­a­tion, its be­ing lies else­where, with­in a pur­ity that is either ac­cess­ible or not. We do not es­cape a mutually ex­clus­ive op­pos­i­tion of iden­tit­ies sim­ply by pit­ting what is against what should be.

Re­gard­ing the re­la­tion bet­ween seg­ment­a­tion and ra­cial­iz­a­tion [raci­sa­tion], there ex­ist two uni­lat­er­al stances fa­cing one an­oth­er. Ac­cord­ing to the first, ma­ter­i­al­ism boils down to re­du­cing iden­tity to its found­a­tion — without tak­ing its ef­fect­ive­ness or its lo­gic in­to ac­count. The second, equally ma­ter­i­al­ist stance but­tresses it­self on a re­fus­al to con­sider the facts. It says that if ra­cial­ iden­tity is redu­ced in toto to its found­a­tion, it’s noth­ing but an arbi­trary [volon­taire] and det­ri­ment­al con­struct. Hence, those who turn it in­to an ob­ject merely di­vide the class and pro­mote bar­bar­ism. (I’m hardly dis­tort­ing their po­s­i­tion). What always es­capes both of these stances is the ques­tion of ideo­logy, which is not a re­flec­tion [of the base] but an en­semble of prac­tic­al and be­liev­able re­sponses. Beneath these ope­rate cer­tain prac­tices. Iden­tity comes in­to be­ing whe­re­ver there is a sep­ar­a­tion and auto­nom­iz­a­tion of a pro­per sphere of activ­ity. Each iden­tity or ideo­logy — in the sense of the term em­ployed here — has its own his­tory and mod­us op­erandi, which can be ascer­tai­ned with refe­rence to the prac­tices op­er­at­ing be­neath the ideo­logy in ques­tion. Iden­tity is the­re­fore an es­sen­tial­iz­a­tion which defines an in­di­vidu­al as a subject.

A norm­at­ive deni­al of ra­cial­ized seg­ment­a­tion does not seek con­tra­dic­tions with­in that which ex­ists, but is rather content to po­s­ition it­self in con­tra­dic­tion to that which ex­ists: class against its seg­ment­a­tion, without con­sid­er­ing that class only ex­ists with­in this seg­ment­a­tion (i.e., with­in the con­tra­dic­tion of pro­let­ari­at and cap­it­al that pro­vides for its re­pro­duc­tion). Norm­at­ive op­pos­i­tion to the real seg­ment­a­tion of the pro­let­ari­at leads to an ideo­lo­gic­al ec­lipse of this real­ity — some­thing the Parti des indi­gènes de la Répu­blique [PIR] does in­versely, in its own way.

Let us re­peat: Pro­let­ari­an struggles are always pro­duced and de­veloped with­in the cat­egor­ies of re­pro­duc­tion and self-pre­sup­pos­i­tion of cap­it­al. Struggles only ever ex­ist as “over­de­termined.” The de­sire for a class which breaks away from its re­cip­roc­al im­plic­a­tion within cap­it­al to af­firm it­self as such, sub­stan­ti­ating it­self ­in pure self-de­term­in­a­cy, is a pro­gram­mat­ic dream. Fur­ther, this “sur­plus” or “over­de­termin­a­tion” is not some resi­dual de­fi­ciency or détour­ne­ment, but rather the very ex­ist­ence and prac­tice of class as it is found. In oth­er words, it is the re­cip­roc­al re­pro­duc­tion of pro­let­ari­at and cap­it­al — whe­rein the lat­ter al­ways sub­sumes the for­mer, which then acts ac­cord­ing to cat­egor­ies defi­ned by the re­pro­duc­tion of cap­it­al. The frac­tions of the pro­let­ari­at, in its seg­ment­a­tion, ap­pear on the labor mar­ket as pre­con­di­tioned because the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion moves with­in the con­crete forms it cre­ates (even bey­ond the labor mar­ket). As a result, these forms confront the pro­cess of re­pro­duc­tion as pre­con­di­tions de­term­in­ing the be­ha­vi­or of both cap­it­al­ists and pro­let­ari­ans, provid­ing them with their con­scious­ness and motives for action.

This seg­ment­a­tion de­vel­ops its own ideo­lo­gic­al ef­fic­a­cy, which then di­vides the pop­u­la­tion by so­lid­i­fying dif­fer­ences. And this is where the Indi­gènes ap­pear as en­tre­pren­eurs of ra­cial­iz­a­tion, just as there are en­tre­pren­eurs of na­tion­al­ism, elites which con­sti­tute a rack­et that hap­pily was without much ef­fect­ive­ness un­til shortly ago. Cri­tique must be un­com­prom­ising on these points: tac­tic­al ho­mo­pho­bia, lat­ent an­ti­semit­ism, the “un­der­stand­ing” [«com­pré­hen­sion»] of pro-Sad­dam ele­ments dur­ing the Gulf War, the scrap­ping (“for the mo­ment”) of wo­men’s struggles, etc. — these are not “de­vi­ations,” which would pre­suppose a point of de­par­ture that was more or less “heal­thy.” Quite the oppo­site: these po­s­i­tions are con­stitutive of the activ­ity of racia­li­za­tion en­tre­pren­eurs, the rais­on d’être of the PIR, which even di­vides a par­tic­u­lar seg­ment of the “im­mig­rant” pop­u­la­tion with the term “post­co­lo­ni­al” in see­king to define an es­sen­tial iden­tity. Even if the PIR plays an in­sig­ni­fic­ant role in the neigh­bor­hoods [quart­i­ers], their ideo­lo­gic­al work is in line with the situ­ation which cur­rently pre­vails: “Since the mid-seventies, we have been able to dis­tin­guish three suc­cess­ive con­fig­ur­a­tions, three ages of the ban­lieue. A dis­or­gan­ized world, but one close to us, ter­rit­or­ies re­classified [requa­li­fiés] by drug traf­fick­ing and urb­an vi­ol­ence in a uni­verse mar­ked by en­clos­ure and se­ces­sion.”1

We can speak of a feel­ing of power­less­ness in re­gards to our re­la­tion with so­ci­ety, which con­fronts the in­di­vidu­al as re­ified [cho­si­fiée] col­lect­ive re­straint. Here we have the form and con­tent of an in­di­vidu­al con­scious­ness of itself that is pro­perly reli­gious: the con­sid­er­a­tion of in­di­vidu­al ali­en­a­tion vis-à-vis the com­munity (which is no lon­ger a mode of pro­duc­tion or en­semble of pro­duc­tive rela­tions) as a state, the in­her­ent misery of hu­man nature. In the capi­ta­list consti­tu­tion of ex­clu­sion, the pro­let­ari­at’s alie­na­tion from the web [ensemble] of so­cial re­la­tions no lon­ger ap­pears as the pro­duct of its own activ­ity. Nor does its con­tra­dict­ory re­la­tion with the rest of so­ci­ety seem to be some­thing of its own do­ing, but rather an in­her­ent fea­ture of its in­di­vidu­al­ity. These are just the poor, the plebs. Hav­ing be­come in­her­ent in in­di­vidu­al­ity, this sep­ar­a­tion from the com­munity and oth­er in­di­vidu­al­it­ies can only be re­solved through a re­la­tion which tran­scends all of them as some­thing rad­ic­ally ex­ter­i­or. This is in­deed the struc­ture of re­li­gion and its pro­duc­tion. Re­li­gion can thus reu­nite all the various de­term­in­a­tions of in­di­vidu­al­ity and become a power­ful lever for the en­tre­pren­eurs of identities.

Every iden­tit­y gives itself an ima­gin­ary gene­a­logy, which is both ef­fic­a­cious and real by vir­tue of its re­con­struc­tion. Howe­ver, this is also the entire prob­lem of iden­tity, aside from its labile, plas­tic, and fra­gile cha­rac­ter (des­pite ap­pear­ances). The con­tra­dic­tion that occurs during the phase of real sub­sump­tion also takes place at the level of re­pro­duc­tion. But then again, the path of real con­tra­dic­tions — bet­ween norm­at­ive deni­al and the en­terprise of ra­cial­iz­a­tion — is a nar­row one in­deed. [For what fol­lows it would be use­ful to refer to the brief text, “An at­tempt to define class,” forthcoming]

The site of pro­duc­tion of iden­tit­ies is thus the mul­ti­tude of re­la­tions with­in which class mem­ber­ship is cre­ated and lived. Not all of them are strictly eco­nom­ic. We must add these to the pro­cess of pro­duc­tion: un­equal levels of de­vel­op­ment and their mise en abyme un­der contem­po­rary cap­it­al­ism, the di­vi­sion of labor, the his­tor­ic­ as­pect of the value of labor power, the in­ter­play bet­ween re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion (as well as the pre­dom­in­ance they acquire in conjunc­tion with the pre­vi­ous things lis­ted), and the de­na­tion­al­iz­a­tion of the state. The mech­an­ics of pro­duc­tion ap­plied here are di­verse, con­tin­gent on fac­tors like class mem­ber­ship, seg­ment­a­tion of the labor power, cre­ation of the in­di­vidu­al as sub­ject, op­pres­sion (the “co­er­cive mo­ment,” which con­tains a re­newed faceoff bet­ween labor power and cap­it­al), and re­la­tions of dis­tri­bu­tion. Here it must be noti­ced that the Indi­gènes only speak of op­pres­sion and the op­pressed. Among oth­er things, this is their way to carve out [décou­per] and pro­duce an iden­tity. They give form to a true lo­gic of iden­tity ad­dressed to in­di­vidu­als for whom the de­fin­ing as­pect is “be­ing cast aside” from “true so­ci­ety,” along with a “lack of re­spect.” What we see here is a con­stant over­de­termin­a­tion, a constant car­ving out [décou­page], of the lo­gic of class from it­self: this, then, is the en­tire prob­lem with norm­at­ive deni­al and the cult of pure class.

These mech­an­isms in­her­ent to the self-pre­sup­pos­i­tion of cap­it­al work on re­la­tions that are not them­selves strictly eco­nom­ic, which form their mate­rial. From this work res­ults all sorts of pro­ducts: re­li­gious com­munit­ies, eth­ni­cit­ies, races, ter­rit­ori­al belon­ging [ap­par­te­nance ter­ri­to­riale], etc.; the pos­sible com­bi­na­tions are quasi-in­fin­ite. It’s is all a part of class struggle, and it’s not al­ways pretty. But we have to take part in it be­cause it’s the world in which we live. Not the world of Pure Ideas, but the bot­tom of the Cave.

One fre­quent er­ror con­sists in restor­ing a con­struc­ted iden­tity to its “base,” i.e. seg­ment­a­tion, without un­der­stand­ing that if seg­ment­a­tion is in­deed its base, then con­struc­ted iden­tity will “fol­low” the lo­gic which be­longs to it and func­tion ac­cord­ingly. This lo­gic or­gan­izes a whole world­view, and an approach to the re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion as well. All these fac­tors are per­tin­ent agents for the inven­tion of dis­tinc­tions, their vari­ation or dis­ap­pear­ance. In Mar­seille, for ins­tance, an Itali­an or a Span­iard is just an­oth­er nice bowl­ing buddy. Ra­cial­iz­a­tion, or the pro­duc­tion of spe­cif­ic iden­tit­ies, does not be­long to the concept of cap­it­al. (Un­like the dis­tinc­tion of gen­der, which is in­her­ent to work as a pro­duct­ive force). But this having been said, ra­ce is never­the­less a ne­ces­sary form of ap­pear­ance [une forme de mani­fes­ta­tion néces­saire]. The trans­form­a­tion of a so­cial re­la­tion in­to a thing — in oth­er words, a “para­dox­ic­al” sub­ject — is at the same time the trans­form­a­tion of this thing in­to a so­cial re­la­tion bet­ween sub­jects. In a sense, the sub­ject is heir to the move­ment which cre­ates it. This in­ver­sion is the way re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion really act, dis­guised [dis­si­mu­lés] as the wills and de­cisions of subjects.

But the whole so­cial con­struct out of which this arises now ef­faces it­self. Ra­cial or eth­nic dis­tinc­tion plays its own role ac­cord­ing to pre­scribed de­term­in­a­tions for it­self with­in the auto­nomy of the do­main of ac­tion in which it is cre­ated: a black man could be­come pres­id­ent of the Uni­ted States, but he is still black. And a black pro­let­ari­an is not a white pro­let­ari­an. Ex­ist­ing for it­self, with­in its own do­main of ac­tion, such dis­tinc­tion can also be made the ob­ject of in­stru­ment­al polit­ic­al activ­ity. We saw this in France dur­ing the great wave of strikes in the auto­mobile in­dustry bet­ween 1983 and 1984, even up to today. Dis­tinc­tion is an ideo­logy, and as such works well in the as­sign­ment and re­la­tion of in­di­vidu­als to their con­di­tions of ex­ist­ence and re­pro­duc­tion. Or, to put it an­oth­er way, their pos­i­tion within the re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion. Since all of this real and ob­ject­ive, it can­’t be dis­mis­sed with the grand, ritu­al­ in­voc­a­tion of class. No more than we could sim­ply deman­d that pro­let­ari­ans secede.

This is the self-pre­sup­pos­i­tion of cap­it­al we have here: the re­pro­duc­tion of the faceoff bet­ween pro­let­ari­at and cap­it­al. In­scribed ­within the con­tra­dic­tions of the self-pre­sup­pos­i­tion of cap­it­al, within its con­tra­dict­ory ex­ist­ence in pro­cess, and fi­nally within class struggle, these iden­tit­ies are thus plas­tic (in ac­cord­ance with the needs of this dis­tinc­tion, which passes through all in­stances not dir­ectly eco­nom­ic) as well as fra­gile (in ac­cord­ance with the ca­pa­city of this dis­tinc­tion to re­pro­duc­e itself).

Here iden­tit­ies can even be points of sup­port in its struggle (con­trary to norm­at­ive wishes), but they are nev­er fixed (con­trary to what en­tre­pren­eur­i­al prac­tices would like to make of them). Even when they are “affixed” to com­munit­ies, they re­pro­duce their core class con­tra­dic­tions. We must nev­er for­get that all iden­tit­ies are con­struc­ted, his­tor­ic­al and fra­gile. Re­volu­tion, as well as cur­rent struggles like the ri­ots in the ban­lieues, con­front the scler­osis of class defi­ned as a so­cioeco­nom­ic cat­egory. But they also con­front all the iden­tit­ies built upon it as over­de­termin­a­tions, its con­di­tions of ex­ist­ence: un­der­mining, in­ter­rog­ating, and cal­ling in­to doubt eth­nic na­tion­al­ity, ra­cial na­tion­al­ity, etc. (2005 was not an eth­nic re­volt). This isn’t an in­tel­lec­tu­al ques­tion bring­ing us back to re­call who is who, since this scler­osis and the struggle against it is the prac­tical con­front­a­tion that link­s re­volu­tion to coun­ter­re­volu­tion. Class does not al­ways ap­pear clearly. Any such clar­ity is rare, as it is not the nature of re­volu­tion to an­nounce the fi­nal hour. It is only with­in a mul­ti­pli­city of prac­tices and con­tra­dic­tions inter­nal to cap­it­al — in confron­ta­tions bet­ween all sorts of iden­tit­ies, the ac­tions which stem­ from and over­come them — that class can trans­form­ itself into a com­mun­izing class. Or in oth­er words, one that is self-ab­ol­ish­ing. No lon­ger can re­volu­tion be the af­firm­a­tion of a pro­let­ari­at re­cog­niz­ing it­self as the re­volu­tion­ary force fa­cing cap­it­al within the cap­it­al­ist mode of production.

Whe­ne­ver strug­gling as a class is the lim­it of class struggle, re­volu­tion be­comes a struggle against that which pro­duced it: the whole ar­chi­tec­ture of the mode of pro­duc­tion, the dis­tri­bu­tion of its in­stances and levels, which find them­selves drawn in­to a pro­cess of upen­ding [bou­le­ver­se­ment] the nor­mal­ity/fatal­ity of its re­pro­duc­tion. This, in turn, is defi­ned by a de­term­in­at­ive hier­archy of in­stances in the mode of pro­duc­tion. (Each thing in its own place acts as “cause” of what fol­lows, in the or­der of bases, in­fra­struc­tures, su­per­struc­tures, etc., all of which are pla­ced into the hier­archy). For re­volu­tion is itself this very up­heav­al [bou­le­ver­se­ment]. Only if it is suc­cess­ful can it be­come the mo­ment in which pro­let­ari­ans cast off the rot of the old world which sticks to their skin and keeps them pro­let­ari­ans. Men and wo­men will do the same with that which con­sti­tutes their in­di­vidu­al­ity. It’s not a ques­tion of pure caus­a­tion, but rather the con­crete move­ment of re­volu­tion — in which the various in­stances of the mode of pro­duc­tion (ideo­logy, law, polit­ics, na­tion­al­ity, eco­nomy, gen­der, etc.) one by one become the dom­in­ant fo­cus of the ensemble of con­tra­dic­tions. This con­junc­ture des­ig­nates the very mech­an­ism of cri­sis, as a cri­sis of the self-pre­sup­pos­i­tion of cap­it­al: the upend­ing [bou­le­ver­se­ment] of the de­term­in­at­ive hier­archy of in­stances in the mode of pro­duc­tion. The re­volu­tion as com­mun­iz­a­tion would have to nour­ish it­self on this im­pur­ity, this non-sim­pli­city, of the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion’s con­tra­dict­ory pro­cess. Chan­ging cir­cum­stances and chan­ging one­self co­in­cide: this is re­volu­tion, this is a con­junc­ture. Iden­tit­ies are not es­sences, even if they of­fer them­selves and func­tion as such. Pretty much every­one agrees on this point. If we con­sider their place and their pro­duc­tion mech­an­ism, the ques­tion of over­com­ing leads to ques­tions con­cern­ing re­volu­tion as con­junc­ture: upend­ing [bou­le­ver­se­ment] the hier­archy of in­stances and cir­cu­la­tion of the dom­in­ant.

It would be false to see some­thing nov­el in this, some­thing that would only ar­rive with­in this “con­junc­ture.” We already en­ter­tain the idea that iden­tit­ies are fra­gile in their very con­struc­tion, wheth­er these are ra­cial, eth­nic, re­li­gious, etc. Of­ten iden­tit­ies in­clud­e a mix of these fac­tors, a mix that ori­gin­ates in the con­tra­dic­tions of class and tra­verses them.

The ob­ject of the­or­et­ic­al and, when pos­sible, prac­tic­al com­mun­ist cri­tique, is not the en­te­rprise of iden­tity. Nor is it the norm­at­ive op­pos­i­tion, which con­siders terms like class and “iden­tit­ies” to be mutually ex­clu­sive. Still less is it “dis­tantiated com­pre­hen­sion” [«com­pré­hen­sion dis­tan­ciée»]. The ob­ject of cri­tique, its tar­get, is rather the lab­il­ity [labi­lité], plas­ti­city, and fra­gil­ity of iden­tity: his­tor­iciz­a­tion, “de­con­struc­tion,” con­tex­tu­al­iz­a­tion. In cer­tain situ­ations, why not, the ob­ject of cri­tique could even be the fact that these iden­tit­ies are dy­nam­ic pro­cesses con­sti­tu­ting a par­tic­u­lar struggle. And by way of this, a spe­ci­fic re­for­mu­la­tion of the gen­er­al re­la­tion of forces among classes. Why not? But even this is quite com­plic­ated. The lab­il­ity of iden­tity con­struc­tion var­ies a great deal, in kee­ping with so­cial and cul­tur­al levels. We ac­know­ledge that this lab­il­ity is stron­ger in the struggles that are won. Don’t for­get that the dis­ap­pear­ance of ra­cial­iz­a­tion will not by itself bring about the dis­ap­pear­ance of classes; it is not a pre­requis­ite. Ra­cial­iz­a­tion is also the voice of capital.

A repeat of the struggles in France is in large part cur­rently sus­pen­ded, un­der a fa­vor­able bal­ance of power, in the autonom­ous and par­tic­u­lar struggle of ra­cial­ized pro­let­ari­ans against their ra­cial­iz­a­tion [pro­lé­taires raci­sés contre leur raci­sa­tion]. This could not have been done sim­ply by decla­ring ra­cial­iz­a­tion null and void. It is ab­so­lutely use­less to call on in­di­vidu­als to de­fend them­selves “as pro­let­ari­ans,” as if seg­ment­a­tion and ra­cial­iz­a­tion were not a part of their ex­ist­ence as pro­let­ari­ans. Fore­ground­ing an iden­tity can at once bring about its re­cog­nition and de-es­sen­tial­iz­a­tion, howe­ver, which then passes on to an at­tack on cer­tain his­tor­ic­al and cul­tur­al char­ac­ter­ist­ics being made into one’s per­son­al defin­i­tion, op­er­at­ive agents of so­cial and eco­nom­ic clea­vage (because chos­en and de­lim­it­ed). Or in oth­er words, to bring war upon the dis­tance that sepa­rates the of­fi­cial Law of equal­ity, cit­izen­ship, and the other ab­strac­tions with which cap­it­al op­er­ates from the real rules (which the whole world knows are in­verse of of­fi­cial Rule) and real con­di­tions of work and life. It’s not a mat­ter of sim­ply as­sum­ing “dif­fer­ence,” so as to rub it out at the same time. “Dif­fer­ence” is noth­ing more than an in­feri­or sta­tus in­delibly in­scribed onto a per­son. We must admit that “in­teg­ra­tion” is a test no one stands a chance in pas­sing, even less so when cou­pled with the “war on ter­ror.” Break with the rules of the game, show that the of­fi­cial Rule is not the real rule, that ra­cial di­vi­sion deri­ved from the seg­ment­a­tion of labor power func­tions in ac­cord­ance with its own needs. There is no a pri­ori “all to­geth­er.” Even if this seems “re­form­ist,” or an “in­ter­me­di­ary ob­ject­ive,” this has still not yet been achieved…

Once one pos­sesses a gen­er­al com­pre­hen­sion of the pro­duc­tion of iden­tit­ies, con­trary to that of en­tre­pren­eurs of iden­tity like the PIR or that of the norm like La Lutte de Classe, eve­ry­thing re­turns to the par­tic­u­lar ana­lys­is of a par­tic­u­lar situ­ation.

Why does such a sub­ject make sense today? Just look at nearly all the so­cial ques­tions. Most struggles can­not help but ex­press them­selves in the lan­guage of iden­tit­y, eth­ni­cit­y, re­li­gion, and race, all of which would be suf­ficient cause for a re­sponse But this does not ex­plain the vi­ol­ence and ten­sion this sub­ject pro­vokes in our “mi­lieu.” Purely norm­at­ive op­pos­i­tion to the real seg­ment­a­tion of class is there to stave off what would sur­ely be the anni­hi­la­tion of the pro­let­ari­at’s gen­er­al iden­tity, which the mil­it­ant claims as his own and without which he im­plodes. He knows his very ex­ist­ence is at stake con­cern­ing this issue. What a nar­ciss­ist­ic wound it would be, to no lon­ger be able to iden­tity with the “thugs of the banlieue”!

At­tempt at a defin­i­tion of the proletariat

.
The es­sen­tial defin­i­tion of the pro­let­ari­at is a concre­tion of thought that ex­cludes no single mani­fest­a­tion. It is al­ways present in each of them; these can­not ex­ist except in the to­tal­ity of its forms and at­trib­utes. What then is a class? Let us at­tempt to pro­vide a pos­sible defin­i­tion of the pro­let­ari­at as a class. Defin­i­tions of this class have al­ways nav­ig­ated two poles: a so­cioeco­nom­ic defin­i­tion and an his­tor­ic­al cat­egory defi­ned by prac­tice (in early cri­tiques of pro­gram­mat­ism, this am­bi­gu­ity had been ar­ti­fi­cially over­come by dis­tinguishing bet­ween work­ing class and proletariat).

But let’s start from an even sim­pler point: the im­per­at­ive to sell our labor power. We might add that this im­per­at­ive has no mean­ing out­side the val­or­iz­a­tion of cap­it­al, which leads us to say that this sale for val­or­iz­a­tion defines it­self both as a con­tra­dic­tion for cap­it­al and for it­self. The sale of labor power does not tell us what the pro­let­ari­at is if not sei­zed by its re­la­tion à la cap­it­al’s val­or­iz­a­tion, as con­tra­dic­tion. On its own, the sale of labor power ex­plains noth­ing; it no lon­ger defines the class, even if lin­ked to the val­or­iz­a­tion of cap­it­al. A defin­i­tion only ap­pears when either this situ­ation (the sale of labor power) or re­la­tion (of this sale to val­or­iz­a­tion) are sei­zed as a con­tra­dic­tion by that of which they are a dy­nam­ic force: the con­tra­dic­tion bet­ween ne­ces­sary labor and sur­plus labor, the tend­ency of the rate of pro­fit to fall, the con­tra­dic­tion com­prised by pro­let­ari­at and cap­it­al. It is also cap­it­al as a con­tra­dic­tion in pro­cess. So we have a unity of the defin­i­tion of class as a situ­ation and as a prac­tice (or “in it­self” and “for it­self,” if one prefers).

Moving on, if it is true that classes define them­selves as a spe­cif­ic po­s­i­tion within the re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion, then re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion are also re­la­tions of re­pro­duc­tion. Here the defin­i­tion of class be­comes com­plic­ated. We find that norm­at­ive deni­al fa­ces a “dis­har­mony” bet­ween what is hap­pening in any giv­en mo­ment and Marx’s fam­ous phrase about “what the pro­let­ari­at must do in con­form­ity with its be­ing.” This “dis­har­mony” not only attaches to cer­tain mo­ment­ary cir­cum­stances, but is in­her­ent in the fact that class is ob­ject­ively situ­ated with­in a struc­ture whose con­flic­tu­al re­pro­duc­tion mo­bil­iz­es the whole mode of pro­duc­tion. This im­plies a mul­ti­tude of re­la­tions that are not strictly eco­nom­ic, in which in­di­vidu­als live out this objec­tive situa­tion, which they also take on as they self-con­sti­tute as a class.

P.S. — It would be ne­ces­sary to pro­duce this ten­ta­tive defin­i­tion from a par­tic­u­lar­ place within the to­tal­ity. Here we depart from a single pole, and not from the whole. This is not so bad, but it is a bit inconvenient.2

Notes

1 Michel Koko­reff et Didi­er Lapey­ron­nie, Re­faire la cité, l’avenir des ban­lieues, Ed. Le Seuil
SOURCE

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