The party’s over: a reply on autonomism, organisation and bad history

We’ve got a lot of time for AWW and know little about ICT so may be biased, but:
My 5 eggs (Mal C)

The labour theory of value is fine as a model to explain some aspects of capitalist production, like Newton’s theory of gravity, which is fundamentally flawed but good enough if you want to build a bridge or fire a projectile. For me, Kropotkin deconstructed the LTV in a few sentences in the Conquest of Bread over a hundred years ago. The most important things humans do – without which social production capitalist or otherwise, would be impossible – are not waged labour, or even part of any transaction, starting with our mothers.

Cautiously pessimistic

The Internationalist Communist Tendency recently published a critique of autonomism, ranging across the fields of history (which I know a bit about), economic theory (which I’m pretty shaky on), and organisation (which is one of those areas where we’re all pretty much guessing what might work or not work, if we’re being honest). I wouldn’t particularly describe myself as an autonomist, and I don’t think that autonomist theory has all the answers or anything, but I do think that some of the most useful efforts to get to grips with our contemporary situation have come from autonomist-influenced groups like the Angry Workers of the World (AWW) and Plan C. Insofar as the ICT article is a critique of those groups, it seemed worth engaging with.

The introduction states “Over the years we have had contact with a number of groups who have been influenced by the ideas of…

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  1. Oop, I’ve still never actually read Conquest of Bread, so don’t really know what I think about that one either way. The LTV mainly makes sense to me, but I would like to see more explanations of how profit and value is produced in the digital/internet age – my suspicion is that things aren’t exactly the same as they were at the time Marx wrote Capital, but I don’t know exactly what the differences are.


    • It makes perfect sense as a description of a commodity economy, in which all human doings are reduced to exchange values determined by the exchange values of things

      Understanding that much is a leap when you’re inside it, but if you want to move beyond transaction, coercion, property and status, you have to stop putting relative values on human activity.

      Imagine what your motives might be in a voluntary society. Friendship and goodwill certainly, the joy of creativity, invention and discovery, the satisfaction of materialising your own imagination.

      I’m with Kropotkin in contending that these were always the primary motives, and they are responsible for most of what we have. The commodity economy is just an overlay, like a stifling wet blanket.


      • And someone still has to clean the bogs, but we all do that, don’t we?


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