Monday, 11 February 2013

The scritch, scritch, scratching of an insatiable itch... some dull noises as if magically retrieved from an ecstasy of friction

From a communist perspective, the problem of the university is more located in the production of functions than factions. It is not a matter of toffs and elites but of cogs and levers.

The anarcho-syndicalist self-managementists are right to argue that the university has somewhat altered its function from the production of a ruling elite class to something else. The question is, what is the something else? 

It is unlikely that the university is producing 'proletarians' given that proletarians are considered those 'without reserves' who are physically interchangeable with each other within the production process. High levels of immigration (along with capital flight to cheaper labour markets) supply this undifferentiated concrete labour at a low price. 

By definition, the university produces distinctions and gradations within variable capital. Evidently, these gradations of concrete labour are significant in the production process. That is to say, it is not enough to argue that a few graduates of your acquaintance are unemployed – this is not about the low status of this or that individual. The question to be asked is, why are graduates being produced in such numbers? 

It seems to me that the modern university's function is to produce managers but as a managerial strata that is ever more embedded into the working class. It has become important to achieve productive stability to a very high rate of predictability, and this is being achieved by threading management ideology, physically embodied in graduates, through the working population. The ideal would be to merge management into the proletariat, everyone a worker, everyone a manager, everyone performing to the optimum. In some ways, with this trickle down of management, capitalism has realised the left's ideals of self-management. 

The strategic purpose of this seems to be to regulate social class in a more nuanced, less 'us and them' way. When considered in terms of income and employment contracts, we might be encouraged into thinking, as the anarcho-syndicalist self-managementists do, that the process of proletarianisation is including ever greater numbers of the population – we are all in this together. However, when the social role of graduates is considered in relation to production, the presumption of commonality becomes more questionable. The function of graduates, (and we are not referring here to the micro-numbers of pro-revolutionaries, almost all of whom are graduates) is something like an ideological commissar... they insert management ideology horizontally into the production process, even as they sentimentally announce themselves 'real' workers on account of their shrunken wage packet and their inability to get their foot on the bottom rung of the property ladder. 

In other words, the expansion of the university has the dual purpose of establishing an ideological commonality whilst at the same time instigating semi-submerged operational managerial demarcations. Again, the ideal would be that the worker need not be managed from above but be educated to instinctively anticipate and respond immediately to cybernetic commands.

2) the generalization of wage-labour (labour necessary for capital), even if it is nonproductive, but serves the realization of capital (formation of the new middle classes) or as activity tending to protect, to maintain the production process of capital. There is a proletarianization process (formation of those without reserves), while the number of proletarians falls. Put another way, today there is a class of wage-labourers in which the proletariat, in its old sense, has become a minority. The entire world is ruled by labour 
"reduced to pure abstraction" (Grundrisse), and, according to the official ideology, he who does not work is not a man. Works content is unimportant. It appears as a means of oppression and repression with the goal of conserving contemporary society, i.e. assuring the process of capital. It has to surround the whole field of "consciousness" so as to give birth in everyone the motivation to acquire which throws the individual into the vicious cycle and infamy of work (earning money) to live, living to work (to earn money). 
Remarks (on Capital and Community)
Perhaps of more interest than the integration into the proletariat of graduates as physicalised units of management ideology, is the embrace of the 'greater working class' by anarcho-syndicalists and all those others who would include professionals and managers as proletarians. Camatte gives an explanation for why this might be the case:

So now the society of capital dominates in the name of labour and not in the name of value. Paradoxically this is the achievement of the demand of the Ricardian socialists, of Proudhon and all those who wanted the victory of labour (IWW, various councillists, the whole Trotskyists and Leninist pathology).
Remarks (on Capital and Community)
The goal of such ideologies is to self-manage production and so the appearance of anthropomorphised units of management ideology within the ranks of the proletariat reflects, albeit in a distorting mirror, this goal. The objective production of cross-class solidarity, is probably sufficient to disarm leftist critics... aren't all those in struggle, self-evidently on 'our side'? 

The left's desire to find evidence of protest and identify it within a general trend to which it may pin its hopes also obscures what ends such protest is really directed at. Protesting students cannot be so simply included within a narrative of class struggle. Of much more significance is the means by which management appears via institutions within the productive process though the agency of programmed human beings. 

The defence of labour which has become 'an official ideology', even where 'labour' is no longer distinct from the management of the productive process, has in effect become a defence of capital where capital appears as the domination, and thus self-management, of labour by labour. The ideology of labour based on the definition ‘everyone who earns a wage’ obscures actual distinctions in production.

One of the issues for the left since the middle part of the C20th is that it could not envision how a complex productivist society might be run without an embedded echelon of technocratic managers... how was it to present its eminently practical vision of reality without this integral component of modern state-capitalism? The answer has been to redraw the boundary of the proletariat to include social managers. This arbitrary redefinition means that within left ideology, social managers may now unproblematically transfer their skills from 'capitalism' to 'socialism' because they are re-designated as 'workers' – and the goal of the left, after all, is all about 'workers' control of production. Those who are objectively most controlling are evidently always the best candidates for the job of worker-controllers. 

The communist critique of this is that the left ends up defending capitalist institutions under attack from 'the right'... in other words, all capital needs to do to bring the left 'on board' is to close down some social institutions, and this elicits the desired angry knee-jerk response which leads to the left defending that which previously it had denounced in terms of 'state control' and 'the social/education factory'. 

Leftism, in the face of  its construct ‘neo-liberalism’ has become little more than the frantic stamping out of fires set by a slum landlord in a building which the left itself has declared uninhabitable. The left doesn't know whether it should be defending 'progressive institutions', the social contract, jobs, 'dignity' or 'equal rights' when all of these are internally contradictory and, at best, a 'mixed blessing' to those who rely on them. Historically, the problem for the left has always been its inability to shift from its conservative defence of existing institutions to an attack on the general social relation. It has often ended up paradoxically defending 'gains' as a managerial echelon against the class struggle that is being waged against them from below.

In this case too, leftist categories are incapable of picking up on the means by which social production is now seeking to manage itself anthropomorphically. The left does not perceive that labour is the means by which labour is managed by capital. The immiseration of managers (i.e. the mass production of bankrupt graduates) effects class struggle only to the extent that management ideology disperses proletarian class consciousness – teachers on low wages do not expand the productive proletariat but in crisis they do tend to promote the ideological motifs of hard work, education, defence of services as political goal for the proletariat. 

In struggle, ‘committed’ social managers channel conflict into ‘politics’ and away from class struggle. By contrast, communists argue against educational institutions, and the ideology of education itself... the only real tasks pro-revolutionary students have is to struggle against the university as a social factory, and against their own instrumentalisation as programmed units of management implementation. They must fail their exams, or persuade their tutors to pass them even when they have done nothing. 

However, all this is of less significance than class conscious graduates recognising, beyond their individual circumstance, what their function is objectively within social process... i.e. carriers of ideology. It is important for them, as a minimum, to recognise that their interpellated role as managers (even if they are not actually employed as managers) is to communicate 'bourgeois' ideology... they must refuse to take the lead in circumstances where class conflict breaks out. They must, at the least, understand that in spite of individual good intentions, they reproduce in their being the structure of work relations with themselves at the centre. 

In the past, line-managers were always recruited from the 'ranks' of workers – the wage differential was marginal but the new status was not. Nobody was under any illusion that the function of line-managers was to enforce the management line. A line-manager on his promotion, even though in all other respects he remained a 'worker', crossed over to the other side because of his new work-function. Similarly, social managers retain an ideological function distinct from that of the proletariat, and this cannot be obscured by the commonality of poor pay and conditions. 

That anarcho-syndicalists cannot make the distinction between workers and the social production of managers only indicates to what extent they have been pulled onto the terrain of capital, and how their ideology conforms, via common sense/pragmatism/realism to the basic categories of crisis-thinking, i.e. self-management by everyone of the 'production for need.'

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