Yesterday I decided to spice up my weekend with some extreme flavors. So I visited a meeting organized by Pracownicza Demokracja (“Labor Democracy”), the local leftist movement.
And I quite succeeded with my initial goal, even though I only managed to sustain two hours of the event.
On May 1st PD organized anti-capitalist happening, which I obviously skipped, and on the next day, that is yesterday, a series of lectures and discussions.
What attracted me – other than the morning hour, helping me to mobilize to wake up early – was the first lecture by anthropology professor about organization of prehistoric cultures (which was supposedly close to communist one).
First thing I heard upon arriving was that the lecture was canceled, which was quite disappointing, but decided to stay nevertheless for the replacement presentation delivered by one of the activists.
Not once I regretted this decision in the coming hour or so. The presenter didn’t speak a very good Polish which took away from the content, and there was not much to take away in the first place.
Leaving aside the starting point – based on the assumption that current crisis somehow spells end of the capitalism – the “to be” state of the Marxists seems awfully vaguely defined. Unless by defining the future you can accept listing what’s bad about the current and saying that the promise system will be done with all of it (somehow).
You might say that this kind of living-in-the-past could be expected. And as I listened, it seemed to be the case, it seemed there was no recognition whatsoever about how work is different nowadays, as if majority of population still worked at production lines.
But I still remember the Empire book that I read (in Cuba), by Negri and Hardt, both Marxist philosophers. No need to agree with the whole premise, but I found some ideas inspiring and new.
The idea that I remember from Empire (apologies if my memory distorts it) is that it is no longer useful to analyze “imperialistic” policy of a particular country, as it was done before. What we have now is a global system of capitalist exchange, which expands into all corners of the world and all social spheres. There is no one point of control, but there is “imperial” layer of governance (Empire).
What’s characteristic of the Empire is that crises make it stronger. Crises justify the need to ramp up global imperial powers to overcome them. Isn’t current crisis used to push towards more global coordination of all countries? There is even talk about necessity to establish a common global currency.
Anyways, there was not a trace of such stuff on Saturday morning. Perhaps the later material was better, but I didn’t dare to risk another session after the first one.
What was really fun was the discussion after presentation finished. One after another people rose and asked questions. Or made statements. More often statements than questions.
One guy rose and introduced himself as a programmer and an anthropologist and declared that collective doesn’t work at all after a certain threshold.
Senior white haired bearded man explained in a quite low voice how he was taught communism (somewhere), without any obvious conclusion.
Another guy criticized the speaker in four points, of which I remember the stupidity of idea to rotate “unpleasant” jobs between people, for example having doctor doing a physical work for a change.
One peculiar looking lady called Basia – the organizers must have known her – started to explain how crises are embedded into the very nature of the capitalism which she remembers from economy lessons and that she was actually really doing well at these lessons – before organizers hushed her.
There were also a couple of homeless people which I forgot to mention, but they mostly sat looking indifferent or slept. Only the mention that lots of buildings stay unused seemed to resonate somehow with them.
As an ominous sign for revolution prospects in Poland, number of actual marxists in room didn’t seem to exceed much the number of organizers.
All in all the discussion was the greatest value of the whole event (the part I saw).
Maybe Marxist meetings wouldn’t be the first example, but I always thought of Ogito as a way to learn about such things happening around.