In support of its plans to expand gas storage in the salt caverns adjacent to Seneca Lake, the deepest lake in New York state and the longest of the Finger Lakes, Texas-based oil and gas company Crestwood-Midstream is circulating the claim that the increase in storage capacity will benefit Finger Lakers by helping control propane costs. More storage of butane, propane, and methane is supposed to protect us from shortages and price hikes. It's time to debunk this myth because the bottom line is that Crestwood's plan to expand storage is about their drive to find markets for fracked gases, not keeping prices low for Finger Lakers. The propane is not for us. We are just supposed to hold it -- and bear all the environmental consequences -- until Crestwood finds buyers willing to pay a high enough price. A Texas company makes the money, and New York's efforts to develop renewable energy is shoved onto back burners, propane burners.
The spike in propane prices last winter is offered as evidence of the urgent need for more storage -- even though the Crestwood plan goes back nearly five years (having been brought forward by Inergy, a company with which Crestwood merged). For example, the chair of the NY State Senate committee on energy sent Cuomo a letter in July 2014 urging that the DEC approve the planned expansion:
A severe propane shortage in the Northeast caused prices to spike more than 50 percent and cost more than $100 million. The Finger Lakes storage facility would create a major new hub for propane storage in the Northeast. Maziarz said those most affected by the dramatic spikes were largely rural residents and businesses who could least afford it.
But what really caused prices to spike? Was the problem lack of storage? In other words, is the "major new hub" actually because people in the Finger Lakes need it? Or is Seneca lake being used as a dumping ground such that we bear the costs that accompany expansion of the fossil fuel industry at a time when more and more voices are telling us to keep fossil fuels in the ground?
If the price hike last year was related to a lack of storage, then one explanation for the current drop in propane prices this year could be because storage has increased. But it hasn't. Crestwood's development plans have been on hold pending more thorough inquiry into hazards associated with storing LPGs next to the drinking water of 100,000 people. The price drop in propane has nothing to do with storage. It's about markets. There is a glut of propane and butane, and the oil and gas companies are looking for customers to buy it.
The drive for more storage is based on supply -- not demand. In the shale fracking boom, companies over-expanded:
“Things look pretty ugly overall,” said Francisco Blanch, commodities and derivatives strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “It really is an amazing amount of supply, and it’s very difficult to place fast. That’s created consistent selling pressure.”
According to a 2013 industry analysis,"the propane market has been grappling with an over supply situation since Spring 2012." Propane inventories were pushed into "the stratosphere" and increased even further the following year.
That the push for storage comes from over-supply and not demand is clear even in industry reports that emphasize storage. LPGs are being produced for export. According to the National Propane Gas Association, 5% of US propane was exported in 2008. By 2013, it was 20%. The excessive expansion in production, and need for storage, is happening because oil and gas companies want to sell their product overseas. According to "the propane industry's premier information source," LPGAS,
This should be a golden era for propane considering the amount of gas available domestically from various shale plays, but inadequate storage in key U.S. regions – plus the economics that have propane leaving U.S. borders at record rates – has the industry on edge as preparations are being made for the winter of 2014-15.
Leaving US borders at record rate means exports. The so-called storage problem isn't simply about domestic need. And it's not about Finger Lakers' need at all. In a way, we are the product, our lake the storage facility that Texans are trying to sell to their multinational customers. Underlying the emphasis on storage is the dynamic of moving propane and butane in the market. Andy Ronald, a Crestwood VP, is quoted in the LPGas article cited above as lamenting the "travesty" of "this tremendous growth and supply" but no storage. Translation: supply is driving Crestwood's storage expansion, not demand in the Finger Lakes.
Ronald is explicit on this point in a presentation that highlights growing supply and limited infrastructure. Propane production is increasing, exceeding existing pipeline and storage capacity. In order to take advantage of "favorable global price differentials," Crestwood needs more storage.
The growth of propane exports is in fact one of the reasons for last year's "shortages" in the northeast and midwest. There was propane, but not for domestic use. Exports continued even after several states declared emergencies.
Even Maine, ostensibly one of the areas of the country that needs more propane, is awash in the stuff. There is a glut and dealers are doing their best to build more export facilities. The surge in supply is driving this expansion.
Finger Lakers have been led to believe that increased storage would impact propane prices for us in the winter months. Crestwood's own materials make it clear that this is not true. Ronald's presentation says that winter propane delivery would go out the Teppco pipeline to the Selkirk gateway to the New England market. The propane isn't for the Finger Lakes. We aren't the customers. We are the dumping ground, our water supply put at risk, the quality of our lake degraded, our communities threatened, so that Crestwood can push its over supply of LPGs and diminish incentives for the development of renewable energy.
Having more storage, like having more LPGs, is not a boon to local consumers. The expansion in storage is not planned to meet need in the Finger Lakes. Instead, it is planned to take advantage of price differentials in markets.
One reason companies proceeded with exports and pipeline changes that left propane consumers vulnerable this winter is that producers of many critical commodities—including oil, natural gas, propane, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and heating oil—are not obliged to distribute those fuels in a way that benefits U.S. consumers. If it's more profitable for companies to sell those products overseas or reconfigure pipelines, then whenever possible, they will do so.
Oil and gas companies can ship or pipe their products however they want. Their goal is to make money for their investors. When they can get a better price shipping their commodites abroad, they do it. In fact, when domestic prices are low, oil and gas companies have an incentive to ship their products abroad.
Crestwood wants to expand storage in the Finger Lakes for its benefit, not ours. But we and our lake bear the real costs of the environmental harm that comes with LPG storage. Added to the damage is the build up of the infrastructure of the very industry that is destroying the planet. Energy should should be placed on renewables, not wasted on deadly fossil fuels.
There's a wind chill advisory in the Finger Lakes today and tomorrow. Tonight the temperature is supposed to drop to four degrees. Arctic winds will make the wind chill around nineteen degrees below zero.
32 civil disobedients from We Are Seneca Lake will be arraigned this evening at the Town Court in Reading, NY. They were arrested for blockading the gates of Texas-based Crestwood-Midstream, a company that wants to store methane, propane, and butane in salt caverns next to the water supply of 100,000 people. These arraignments could take a while.
If tonight is anything like December 17, a lot of us are going to be left out in the cold. On December 17, apparently under orders from the Sheriff, supporters and press were barred from the court room for the 5:00 hearing. After well-known activist Sandra Steingraber negotiated with police, the court was opened for the 7:00 hearing. Fire code was strictly enforced, so the total number of people in the court was limited to 49. Those allowed in were not allowed to bring in bags or cell-phones (even turned off). The rest of us were barred from the building, made to stand out in the cold rather than assemble in the large waiting area inside the building yet outside the courtoom.
There is plenty of room in the building for supporters to assemble. Presumably the room is large because central New York has frigid winters and the building was designed with the people in mind. The Town Hall is supposed to be a public building. Yet We Are Seneca Lake is being singled out for exclusion from this space. Local officials -- from the District Attorney to the Town Board -- are trying to suppress free speech and assembly, specifically of those fighting against Crestwood. Not only have police barred people from entering the building, but they've blocked off nearby parking, requiring cars to park long distances away from the Town Hall, along dark, unlit, rural roads, some of which also restrict parking. When the will chill is 19 below, as it will be tonight, the trek from car to court will be brutal.
In a show of the deep solidarity that the community has with We Are Seneca Lake, a local resident has offered to provide parking and to shuttle people to the Town Hall. Local officials have not received us so warmly. They want to freeze us out, to block expressions of legitimate protest, and to let the court continue with its arbitrary proceedings. Rather than overseeing fair judicial hearings, the officials associated with the Town Court of Reading, NY are using low-level tactics designed to stifle political dissent.
The anti-fracking movement in New York is remarkably organized and solidary. I've learned a lot as I've gotten involved in the effort to stop the storage of methane gas and liquid petroleum gas in salt caverns on Seneca Lake. Sometimes I feel like, as a political theorist, I don't have much to contribute. Since humility is not a known occupational hazard affecting political theorists, this doesn't bother me too much (just a little). Instead, it cultivates in me an appreciation for the knowledge, skills, and dedication of those around me. It is teaching me why planning and organization are so crucial in climate struggle (and of course why climate struggle is ultimately anti-capitalist): corporations rely on the fragmented and distributed regulatory environment to do their nefarious deeds. Engaged struggle brings to life the actuality of political multidimensionality as and through the generation of political power.
For example, that railroads and pipelines are private and that regulatory supervision has been dramatically cut over the last decades even as there has been a boom in oil and gas production in the US means that it is difficult to get accurate information about routes, track conditions, leakage, etc. That companies break themselves into different companies with different legal structures and then enter into various kinds of ventures and partnerships makes its hard to establish liability and responsibility.
Here's a list of some of the knowledge and skills important in the battle for Seneca Lake:
1. Knowledge of shale formations.
2. Knowledge of salt caverns. This includes comparative data on salt cavern stability and use for gas storage over time.
3. Knowledge of the eco-system of Seneca Lake. This includes the relation of the lake to the surrounding lakes, farms, and industry. It includes as well the array of lake uses (water supply, recreational, energy, waste site).
4. Knowledge about salt mining.
5. Information and data on the history of the lake: geologic and human. Necessary information includes data on salinity over time.
6. Knowledge of gas and oil production, processing, transport and storage. This includes knowledge of relevant leaks, collapses, and explosions and their effects on workers as well as on their environment and communities. It also includes knowledge of carbon and methane emissions and their impacts. And it includes knowledge of the health effects associated with gas and oil production, processing, transport, and storage.
7. Knowledge of truck traffic, railroad traffic, and pipelines. This includes safety concerns as well as comparative volume over time.
8. Legal knowledge at multiple levels: laws for trespass, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest; firecode at the county courthouse (so we know how many people are allowed in); court procedures (what to ask for, what to expect in terms of penalities and adjournments, who is allowed in); processes for appeal; conventions and practices at jails in four different counties (inmates have to get a TB test and remain separate from the general population for about four days until they are cleared); the larger structure of the NY state court and appeals system; laws for the regulating of commercial businesses (a ban is different from a regulation); laws for emergency management and preparedness; environmental protection regulations; the policy apparatus as it is divided between federal and state agencies (for us, FERC and the DEC); corporate and tax law (what kinds of corporate structures are associated with what kinds of liability); how to understand corporate tax filings; regulations on the shipping of hazardous materials (how are these enforced?).
9. Local knowledge of the political apparatus in Schuyler county: who was on the Schuyler county board of legislators when they agreed to let Crestwood expand its storage facility into damaged and abandoned salt caverns? What is the relation of the Schuyler county judges to Crestwood? Who was behind giving Crestwood a tax break and why? What is the relation of Congressmen Tom Reed to Crestwood? What is the relation of the DA and ADA to Crestwood and the judges?
10. Local knowledge of the activist environment: who has worked together productively on what actions and campaigns? what did they learn? which places are good for holding events? which places are good as look out points? where do we find more allies? who knows whom in different counties and groups? which sorts of actions have gotten community support in the past? what sort of actions might help us all move a little further? Which journalists are allies? which newpapers and blogs cover and are likely to cover the issue?
11. Local knowledge of the economic environment: what sorts of state and regional development strategies have been promoted? where has there been state investment? what regional economic ventures have been recognized as vital and sustainable? which ones are in trouble? what is the economic character of the region? whom does it benefit and whom does it exploit? How many people does US Salt employ? Which local vendors work with Crestwood? What is the price of propane gas in the region? Where is the gas stored on Seneca Lake ultimately sold? Who are the buyers?
12. Skills at keeping, designing, and maintaining databases -- particularly important for organizing petition drives and keeping a list of voters in multiple counties.
13. Skills at website design (not to mention time to keep websites and social media up to date).
14. Knowledge of national and international efforts (both for building connections that can amplify and strengthen one another and for learning from what has worked in other places). Examples here range from specific -- Crestwood's multi million gallon spill of salt brine on Native American lands in North Dakota -- to more general, like the 1800 mile march of climate activists across the country and this fall's enormous climate justice demonstration in NYC.
15. Skills at action planning and strategy (from non-violence training, to songs, slogans, and chants, to logistics -- WASL brings its own portable toilet so that we won't get charged with vandalism).
This is a preliminary list. Being surrounded by people who have developed and continued to develop this knowledge is helping me learn how understanding the relations between multiple components of complex processes enlarges the world. Because the possibilities that emerge are tied to an ongoing action, they have an actuality that lets them build from another. This building exceeds the action to build the group and ways of life. Engaged knowledge becomes active power through organized political will.
The perspective from which you look impacts what you see.
Bill Connolly looks from the dinner table and sees zombies oppressed by a future they are constrained to build.
These days, I look from the blockade line at the gates of Crestwood Midstream on the south of Seneca Lake outside Watkins Glen, New York. Next to me, I see organized activists and committed people from all over the Finger Lakes. They are teaching me a lot about what matters in the current political struggles at the intersection of climate and capitalism and about what doesn't.
Since We Are Seneca Lake began blockading the gates of Crestwood in October, there have been nearly 200 arrests. At least half a dozen people have gone to jail. The arrested range in age from 19 to 90. They include students, retirees, former military, farmers, vintners, health care workers, scientists, musicians, teachers, moms, college professors and others. On the morning of my first arrest, right after we were processed at the local sheriff's office, a former elected county official (in her late seventies), said "okay, now let's get back on the line!" These people are dedicated, steadfast. Each time I hear the organizers describe the blockade in trainings for new recruits I am moved: "and then a large truck tries to pull into the gate and not a muscle twitches, not an eye blinks; nobody moves."
The Defenders of Seneca Lake didn't emerge out of nowhere. I don't think any of them got their start in a dinner table conversation about the term "anthropocene" (although the ideas associated with the concept--as well as the debates over it, which morph into the "capitalocene" and the manthropocene--are interesting). Because their concern is focused on political organizing and not deflected into debates over gatekeeper terms like the "anthropocene," when these activists are around the dinner table, they try to figure out how many signatures they need to get in order to pressure their local townships to ban fracking and how long they should take to get them. For them, people's active impact on the climate includes their capacity to change the political climate as well as the geologic one (which they discuss actively -- explaining the fragility of shale formations, the likelihood of salt caverns to collapse, the relation between the different lakes in the region as they formed during the ice age, etc). The We Are Seneca Lake activists (and other fractivists in New York) don't see the people around them as zombies. Instead, they see them as people willing and able to struggle against a corporation and a system that, in pursuit of profit and shareholder value, creates sacrifice zones and assigns some of us to them.
The Seneca Lake Defenders came out of the convergence of different groups and efforts in the battle against the gas and oil industry. In New York state, this convergence ultimately resulted in a state-wide ban on fracking. The struggle is ongoing, now targetting the infrastructure of storage and pipelines that supports fracking elsewhere (like in Pennsylvania) and thereby enables the oil and gas industry to continue pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The story of the victory over fracking in New York state is an exciting one. Some of the parts of it that I've learned as I've been looking from the blockade line include remarkable convergences: of long-term local activists who had set up a film and lecture series that, over the course of a few years, built up a list of concerned and engaged people; a couple of lawyers working pro-bono to scour state law to come up with the municipal banning strategy; a few people going door-to-door for several months to get signatures on petitions that would pressure local officials to ban fracking within their townships; these same activists doing presentations in town after town to folks who wanted to get their communities to pass similar bans; scientists doing research on the effects of fracking; other activists working within the system to compile reports on liquid petroleum gas storage; and, journalists keeping the issue in the local papers.
The struggle against fracking in New York state has been going on for about six years. It's duration has been vital, enlivening, letting it grow and spread, not like a swarm but as an organized collectivity. The length of time has brought more people into the movement, often in unexpected ways. From marches, to meetings, to rallies, to support for civil disobedients, to arrests, to jail, to more organizing -- people come into the struggle and find themselves ever more engaged. The work, the struggle, feels more real than anything else.
In the battle for Seneca Lake, one begins to see the different fronts of the struggle--policy, media, courtoom, Crestwood gates--and appreciate how they fit together--local political knowledge plus scientific knowledge plus legal knowledge plus creativity. One becomes heartened by the skills and energies of others.
In multiple sites of organized political struggle, the liveliness that Connolly doesn't see and thinks needs to be fomented is already a vibrant matter. And it's vibrant because people collectively are figuring out what to do and this collective engagement is inciting more action, more involvement. Down near Watkins Glen, people drive by the blockade at the Crestwood gates. Next time they bring hot chocolate. Next time they join the line. Then they organize another group, perhaps to get standing at an issues conference, perhaps to pressure state and federal officials, perhaps to begin another strategy.
It sometimes feels like the whole area is united against this Texas company: when people come up to us in the grocery store and shake our hands, when they send us email asking how to give money for legal support, when they say thank you. It's interesting when people begin conversations by saying "I'm not ready to get arrested yet" -- what an amazing jump! They aren't grappling with some abstraction of zombified complacency versus making a pronouncement here or there. They are already figuring out what they want to do next, how they want to be involved. They feel themselves already in the life of the collective engagement of the people around them. This becomes the crowd to be in--not a swarm or a shuffling zombie mass of individuals worried making a difference in themselves but a collective changing the world.
Those trying to fend off zombiness in the Baltimore area don't have to look very far for the kind of collective engagement that enlivens the Finger Lakes (as well as the multiple sites of organized struggle against pipelines, storage, and other parts of the fossil fuel infrastructure). An ally of We Are Seneca Lake is We Are Cove Point. They are organizing to stop the building of the first fracked gas export terminal on the east coast. It's important work: stopping the fracking infrastructure is crucial to make sure that this destructive form of extraction can itself be eliminated. A dozen Chesapeake Bay groups have converged to constitute We Are Cove Point and blockade the entrance to the Dominion Resources Cove Point construction site. At least twenty people have been arrested so far.
Instead of zombified repetition constraining them to future oppression, the protectors of We Are Cove Point are collectively creating a future conducive to a habitable and even more just and equitable planet. From where they look, they see a world they are and can actively change.
It's become striking to me over the last few weeks how people seemingly committed to social change in fact hold on to privilege and inequality -- even if it is not their own.
This is not a new insight. Activists struggle over this question all the time. I've just come across it first hand in ways that I didn't expect. It seems like some people just like to protest. When the opportunity arises to do something with the capacity that protesting enabled, they fold, providing all sorts of excuses as to why the basic order should be maintained.
I didn't expect people committed to gender equality to defend the continuation of structures premised on inequality. Somehow I didn't expect that they, too, would enjoy hierarchical power. Maybe I can be clearer on this: I am not talking about people at the top of the food chain holding on to power. I am talking about people with relatively little power wanting to maintain the status quo that they in fact critique. It's as if they enjoy what power does to others; they enjoy seeing some people hurt or injured or shamed.
What I'm trying to describe (albeit necessarily vaguely) is not Nietzschean ressentiment. It's more like enjoying through the other. So, for example, people say they are against the exclusionary practices of group X, but when it comes down to changing the structures that let these practices persist, they balk. There are things that they admire about group X. They enjoy what the wealth and status of group X can accomplish, even when, especially when, it becomes violent and transgressive. Maybe a way to say this: class privilege sometimes persists because those who say they are against it are actually invested in it and enjoy inequality.
And the vehemence of the rhetoric and the anger that arises amidst the confusion is in part anxiety over the confrontation with enjoyment. They don't want to be people that, say, secretly tolerate an undercurrent of sexual violence--Zizek's obscene supplement or nightly law. This has to be repressed. Anger at authority is not anger over authority's failure to prevent violence. It's over authority's failure to prevent violence's exposure.
I think I have new appreciation for the power of the nightly law and how hard it is to address, how it can derail reformist as well as revolutionary energies. This may also go some way in accounting for the prevalence of 'awareness' as a left and liberal goal. By making us more aware of a variety of things, the left liberal leaves the obscene supplement in place. We get preoccupied with information and media campaigns instead of changing institutions and policies. It's one thing to be aware of inequality. Eliminating it is another thing altogether.
Excerpt from After the Protests
By ZEYNEP TUFEKCIMARCH 19, 2014
Yet often these huge mobilizations of citizens inexplicably wither away without the impact on policy you might expect from their scale.
This muted effect is not because social media isn’t good at what it does, but, in a way, because it’s very good at what it does. Digital tools make it much easier to build up movements quickly, and they greatly lower coordination costs. This seems like a good thing at first, but it often results in an unanticipated weakness: Before the Internet, the tedious work of organizing that was required to circumvent censorship or to organize a protest also helped build infrastructure for decision making and strategies for sustaining momentum. Now movements can rush past that step, often to their own detriment.
In Spain, protesters who called themselves the Indignados (the outraged) took to public squares in large numbers in 2011, yet the austerity policies they opposed are still in effect. Occupy Wall Street filled Lower Manhattan in October 2011, crystallizing the image of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent without forcing a change in the nation’s widening inequality. And in Egypt, Tahrir Square protesters in January 2011 used social media to capture the world’s attention. Later that year, during clashes in the square, four people in their 20s used Google spreadsheets, mobile communication and Twitter to coordinate supplies for 10 field hospitals that cared for the wounded. But three years later, a repressive military regime is back in power.
Thousands of people turned out in Istanbul last June to defy the government’s plan to raze Gezi Park, in spite of the fact that the heavily censored mass media had all but ignored the initial protests, broadcasting documentaries about penguins instead of the news. Four college students organized a citizen journalism network that busted censorship 140 characters at a time. I met parents at the protests who were imploring their children to teach them how to use Twitter as it became a real-time newswire, an organizing tool and a communication device for those in the park and its surroundings. One protester told me, “Internet brings freedom.”
But after all that, in the approaching local elections, the ruling party is expected to retain its dominance.
Compare this with what it took to produce and distribute pamphlets announcing the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. Jo Ann Robinson, a professor at Alabama State College, and a few students sneaked into the duplicating room and worked all night to secretly mimeograph 52,000 leaflets to be distributed by hand with the help of 68 African-American political, religious, educational and labor organizations throughout the city. Even mundane tasks like coordinating car pools (in an era before there were spreadsheets) required endless hours of collaborative work.
Negri's reading of Lenin is affiliated with what Negri calls the "so-called Marxism of the 1960s." This Marxism treated Lenin primarily as the theorist of a centralized party and instrumental relation to unions. Negri challenges this reading, recovering other possibilities in Lenin, possibilities anchored in the revolutionary working-class subject against the social democracy of the Third International. "Lenin is our new teacher."
Most broadly, what does Lenin teach? Leaps. Or, differently put, Lenin paradoxically brings together theoretical continuity and adaptability to circumstances by anchoring these in a revolutionary subject. Lenin presumes a subject.
For Negri, crucial to this analysis is Lenin's attention to class composition and his linking of organization and insurrection to class composition.These three elements can be ordered in different ways. Sometimes Lenin's genuis comes from inverting them. (I am tempted to think of these three elements as those of the perspective of the party. In other words, when the present is analyzed from the perspective of the party, these are the elements that must be included. The implication is that the working class is the subject of history from the perspective of the party.)
The problem for today (Negri in the 1970s) is, in part, finding an organizational form adequate to the changed composition of the working class. Here attunement to cycles of struggle can be helpful, particularly insofar as we note changes in relations between capital and working class, changes in arrangements of proletarian movement, changes in relations between workers and party.
The end of the book is stirring:
Terrible times lie ahead of us. The capitalist terrorist use of crisis, the repressive transformation of the state, the definitive change in the rule of development, and the fall of the law of value: we see all this and we will see it more and more heavily turned against us. We will have to resist.We will rediscover, with Lenin, that all of the weapons of the proletariat must be used, especially those that are most heavily denied to us by a tradition of defeat and betrayals.
Rather than reconstructing the argument, I'm just going to enumerate some points relevant to my own interests in the party.
1. Part of Lenin's genius was the way he grasped his situation in terms of a subjective process. Negri writes, "It is impossible to think of a historical tendency without also conceiving of a need for a determinate historical subject. This is certainly a historical product, but it still a subject." The working class is this subject. Because Lenin sees in his setting the movement of this subject, Lenin was able to avoid economism and subjectivism. So, the working class is a subject of history. Yet, "the subject must be led and subjected to a political class leadership." This is how the party "becomes history and makes history." For the working class to be the subject it is, it has to be subjectified -- the work of the party.
2. In a way not dissimilar to Badiou and Zizek, Negri, too, highlights the element of 'anticipation' in Lenin's thought. Thinking or theorizing the revolutionary subject can only be anticipatory. Again, the party is this standpoint of anticipation -- a standpoint Negri implicitly adopts as he asks "how can the capitalist initiative be anticipated?"
Anticipation is, in a sense, affective: "Lenin expresses an absolutely preliminary emphasis on the revolutionary subject, and this is the revolutionary subject that Lenin finds before him, and whose movement Lenin feels the intensity and reality of."
3. Anticipation is linked to the hegemony of the political (which Negri views as "an absolutely fundamental moment in Marxism"): which is the hegemony of a consideration of class relations, levels of consciousness, needs and necessities, and everything that concerns, in the last instance, the political will of the masses and of the ruling class.
Anticipation is not without risk: "In Lenin we find a ponderous example of a theoretical anticipation of reality, and the failures that often occur in the shift from the theoretical to the historical party (...) do not diminish its power." (Here Negri's term theoretical would correspond to what Marx designates as the historical party.)
4. For Lenin, the leap (as in leap to communism) is not unpredictable and purely subjective; "the discontinuity of the process is embodied in reality, in the material basis, and must be recognized and analyzed."
5. Organization arises from the activity of the masses -- this is the lesson of the Paris Commune. I am tempted to read Negri as Machiavellian here: the excellence of the city (organizational form) is evidence of the virtu of the founder/lawgiver. Or, what is really significant about the Paris Commune is the fact that it demonstrated the subjectivity of the working class. It expressed "its ability as a subject to give an adequate form to its organization."
6. The concepts of revolution, state, and party are all ruptured by problems of continuity and discontinuity. In other words, all three undergo changes in Lenin's thought, changes which sometimes remain unacknowledged.
a. Revolution: sometimes insurrection as explosive moment, sometimes the result of step-by-step process of building mass power;
b. State: sometimes instrument of revolution (defeat of capitalist class and building of communism); sometimes "form of overall capital," "organizer of the exploitation of work ... as a coordinate and functional force";
c. party: sometimes bearer of the art of insurrection and sometimes miserable instrument of reform that betrays the emancipatory hopes of the masses.
With respect to insurrection: insurrection "is discontinuity and an explosion of a concentrated subjective will, born out of an overall structure that allows for the continuous creation of spaces that can or cannot be used by the revolutionary brain. In this class composition, the party only crafts the revolution insofar as it plays its own initiative in the overall disequilibrium of the process of accumulation and institutional restructuring of the accumulation of the bourgeois state." So, the party can't carry out an insurrection all by itself. Insurrection is a matter of class composition. In this setting, the party is an agent of concentration.
With respect to miserable instrument of reform:
on the one hand, the development of the workers' capacity for rupture cannot rely on a mythical moment but can only sustain itself on the desire for existing wealth, on the ability to immediately reappropriate it; on the other hand, this reappropriation must be completely subordinated to the ability to destroy and the need to build new conditions for a new world. This paradox represents a huge difficulty, and the misery of the political practice that reformism accentuates is diffuclt and makes our analysis even more difficult.
The problem is a real one -- the problem of revolutionary practice (even during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat) and securing of material needs. Negri affirms Lenin's turn to the practical activity of the masses to solve the problem. Again, the Paris Commune is the referent -- a form under which the economic emancipation of labor can take place.
What if we look at all the revolts of the last few years (from 2010 on) as revolts of the knowledge class or cognitariat? So, we think of knowledge workers broadly -- teachers, adjuncts, civil servants, nurses, Verizon workers, the newly layed off, phone-center employees, programmers, the unemployed students and graduate students -- we read, in other words, the precarious in terms of the majority of knowledge workers (those who generate content and data for communicative capitalism) who have been displaced and disposed because of the very technological innovations that make them knowledge workers. My hypothesis is that all the revolts of the last three years are revolts of these e-proles. The current skirmishes around Google buses are thus absolutely key for understanding the current cycle of struggles. Likewise, university struggles aren't epiphenomenol or derivative. They are major sites of struggle, like factories were in previous cycles.
The problem with much emphasis on the cognitariat has been the focus on the entrepreneuers and billionaires. This emphasis tends to rely on rags-to-riches narratives: homegrown computers and hackers in it for the lulz. But these stories are of course capitalist fairy-tales that displace our attention from workers onto their becoming-capitalist. Success is when they are capitalists, huge amounts of venture capital, successful IPOs, etc. What matters, though, are those who remain knowledge workers.
If this inclination is correct, then the stupid media fixation on Facebook and Twitter in the revolutions is useful: it flags the activity of the cognitariat (I really hate this term, though -- is there another one? like cybertarians? digital proletariat is pretty awful, e-proles? what about e-proles? I think that sounds pretty good ...) It also explains the importance of Anonymous, both as actors and as emblems. And, it links people like Snowden and security questions into the class struggle.
So, looking at the protests and revolts of the last few years as the class struggle of the cognitariat would account for the persistence of personal media, the people protesting, the economic position of the protesters, and the political ambiguity of the protests. E-proles have a strong libertarian bent (I blame 30 years of capital resurgent). They tend to present themselves as post-political, anti-political (for example, in the Spanish movement of the squares). They are so fluid and spongy (whatever beings, imaginary identities -- I talk about this in Blog Theory) that they can be pushed, channeled in different directions (they have a hard time uniting as a class and so tend to concentrate around identity claims). So, the revolt in Ukraine would be part of the same series as Tunisia, Egypt, OWS, and Turkey.
Struggles of e-proles don't look like past struggles of the working class because of the disparate, individualized nature of media under communicative capitalism. But it is a class struggle nonetheless.
Below are excerpts from an essay by Christopher Newfield on the knowledge economy. Much of it is quite useful and interesting. I am posting it because I think it helps provide some good context for the reflections above about the cognitariat. Some folks might recall that this was big a few years ago. The discussion pretty much died down because knowledge workers weren't a revolutionary class. But, I am suggesting that maybe, in fact, we are.