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... and the commoners have just a simple idea in mind: end the enclosures...

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reviews letters


journal - previous issues

debate: on primitive accumulation

ground zero



Iain Boal & Michael Watts. The Liberal International. A Review of David Harvey A Brief History of Neoliberalism

reviews are the result of an action, the action of reviewing. To review is to view again, examine or study again, look back on, take a retrospective view, give critical evaluation, pause and reflect, think. Here we review books, struggles, texts, images, and more.

letters In this section we collect written messages addressed to people or organisations in order to raise issues, voice concerns and in the attempt to establish some clarity in our thoughts.



Massimo De Angelis. There is no Alternative versus There are Many Alternatives. A review of Jai Sen, Anita Anand, Arturo Escobar and Peter Waterman (eds.) 2004. World Social Forum. Challenging Empires New Delhi: The Viveka Foundation. 402 pp. (London distribution: Global Book Marketing).


International debate on John Holloway's book, Change the World without Taking Power.

Peter Waterman. The Excessively Post-Communist Manifesto of George Monbiot

Peter Waterman. The International Labour Movement Between Geneva, Brussels, Seattle/Porto Alegre and...Utopia?

Werner Bonefeld. A Note on Cyril Smith. One of the editor of  What is to be done? Leninism, Anti-Leninist Marxism and the question of revolution today replies to one reviewer.  

Cyril Smith on `Anti-Leninism is not enough'. A review of   What is to be done? Leninism, Anti-Leninist Marxism and the question of revolution today. Edited by Werner Bonefeld and Sergio Tischler. Ashgate, 2002.

Time to revolt. Reflections on Empire  by John Holloway

Cyril Smith reviews  Change the World without Taking Power, by John Holloway

Richard Barbrook on The Napsterisation of Everything: a review of John Alderman, Sonic Boom: Napster, P2P and the battle for the future of music, Fourth Estate, London 2001

Gender and Globalization: Where, Now, are the Women, the Feminists…and the Movement? Peter Waterman reviews 'Globalisation and Gender', Signs, Vol. 26, No. 4, Summer 2001. Special Issue.

How to Successfully Take Exams… and Partially Remake the World? Peter Waterman reviews Bertell Ollman's latest book.

In the first of two parts article, Boris Kagarlitsky tells the story of Prague 2000: the People's Battle. In the second part, Lessons of Prague, he discusses the issues of violence, media, and the need for the movements to pull energies together for a positive agenda.

Peter Waterman offers sixteen propositions on International Labour Networking.



Interview with Evo Morales (president of the coca farmers' federation in Chapare, Bolivia) by Yvonne Zimmermann 

Back in the days of the 'War Against Communism' in Vietnam, a US cartoon character called Pogo, said, 'I have seen the enemy and he is us'. Why does Pogo have no monument in  Washington DC? Peter Waterman tells us in Aliens "Я" Us™ (not to mention U.S.)

10 July 2001.. Robin Goodfellow comments on the last two letters with some thoughts on form and content

24 June 2001. Goblin comments on El Viejo's letter, and reflects on the "future in the present", the question of "violence", and current strategies within the counter-globalization movement.

21 June  2001. El Viejo writes to the movement he is part of on Genoa, violence, a new world and respect for each-other.

25 May 2001. Goblin writes to Chris Harman, a British socialist, about the anti-capitalist movement.



The Commoner N.11 - spring/summer 2006

Re(in)fusing the Commons 


Angela Mitropoulos, Autonomy, Recognition, Movement [.pdf]
Nick Dyer-Witheford, Species-Being and the New Commonism [.pdf]
Precarias a la Deriva, A Very Careful Strike - Four hypotheses [.pdf]
P.M., The golden globes of the planetary commons [.pdf]
George Ciccariello-Maher, Working-Class One-Sidedness from Sorel to Tronti  [.pdf]
Silvia Federici, The Restructuring of Social Reproduction in the United States in the 1970s [.pdf]
Ida Dominijanni, Heiresses at Twilight. The End of Politics and the Politics of Difference [.pdf]

The Commoner N.11   >>> COMPLETE.pdf <<< 



From the global labour movement - 24 hours breaking news




Re(in)fusing the Commons

After ten issues, The Commoner makes the first timid steps toward changing format and organisation, towards making more explicit and visible the practices of cyber commoning it is grounded on. Watch this space, we are slow, but things will happen. Meanwhile, enjoy the edition that our two guest editors, Nate Holdren and Stevphen Shukaitis, have put together, an edition in which the different contributions are traversed by the problematic of commoning.

Commoning, a term encountered by Peter Linebaugh in one of his frequent travels in the living history of commoners’ struggles, is about the (re)production of commons. To turn a noun into a verb is not a little step and requires some daring. Especially if in doing so we do not want to obscure the importance of the noun, but simply ground it on what is, after all, life flow: there are no commons without incessant activities of commoning, of (re)producing in common. But it is through (re)production in common that communities of producers decide for themselves the norms, values and measures of things. Let us put the “tragedy of the commons” to rest then, the basis of neoliberal argument for the privatisation: there is no commons without commoning, there are no commons without communities of producers and particular flows and modes of relations, an insight we have focused on in issue 6 of this journal, entitled “What Alternatives? Commons and Communities, Dignity and Freedom.” Hence, what lies behind the “tragedy of the commons” is really the tragedy of the destruction of commoning through all sorts of structural adjustments, whether militarised or not. 

As the guest editors of this issue rightly point out, the question of commoning is linked to the question of “refusal of work,” that magic expression used in the 1970s to highlight the frontline clash of value practices. The term, however, is not meant as a refusal of doing, of commoning, of (re)producing in common, but on the contrary is an affirmation of all this in the only way possible when in the presence of a social force, capital, that aspires to couple its preservation to that of the commoners through the imposition of its measures of things. In these conditions, “refusal of work” as refusal of capital’s measures, and commoning as affirmation of other measures are the two sides of the same struggle. How can we refuse capital’s measure without participating in the constitution of other common measures?  And how can we participate in this commonality without at the same time setting a limit, refusing capital’s measure? The setting of a limit to the beast and the constitution of an “outside” are two inescapable coordinates of struggle. It is through the problematic of this polarity that we could read the very diverse contributions of this issue of The Commoner.

Massimo De Angelis


In June 2005, at the centenary celebration of the Industrial Workers of the World, historian and Midnight Notes Collective member Peter Linebaugh made a provocative remark in a talk about the commons. He said the World Bank also talks about commons.[i] An important difference in how we think about the commons, he suggested, should be that we pay attention to practices of commoning, as human activities. In light of this remark, we would like to suggest a gloss on the title of this journal. Commoner, not only as someone who dwells within and relies upon the commons, but also as someone who commons. To common: to produce and hold in common. Just as capitalist production has as its fundamental product social relations in the form of the capital relation, commoning produces social relations in the form of commons, freely associated humanity. It is in this sense that we want to link the commons with the work of Mario Tronti, linking commoning with the refusal of work.

What is the relationship between refusal of work and commons? Well, first, what do we mean by refusal of work? It has been noted before that 'refusal of work' is not simply 'refusal to work,’ but it is refusal of the work relationship. Work has at least two moments: the purchase by the capitalist of our bodies and time in the form of the commodity labor power, and the capitalist attempt to make use of our bodies and time after the purchase is made. Refusal of work spans both moments: the attempt to break out of the need to sell oneself as a commodity, and the attempt to resist or completely refuse being made use of if one has sold oneself.

How does this relate to commons? We see it this way: another name for the compulsion to sell labor power is 'enclosure.’ And it is only within the enclosed spaces of workplaces (which, to be clear, for us include homes, classrooms – potentially any moment of life) and by resort to the violent mechanisms of enclosure that the capitalist can make use of us for surplus value production. The commons, then, in these terms is two things. It is a name for spaces, times, histories, memories, moments of life that are not – or at least not fully – enclosed, ruled by and functional for capital. It is the uses of our bodies and times that are different from and antithetical to the capitalist use. We do not only mean this in an abstract and utopian sense. The commons were constructed; the new commons are being constructed. Commoning is a process of organization. In a sense the commons are always already organized. They do not exist without organization(s), sometimes formal but more often informal.

The simple fact of producing the commons is a moment of refusal of the values of capitalism. Refusal of work is simultaneously an attempt to produce new commons, new forms of commoning (we can all point to relationships, memories, styles, images, and knowledges produced through our involvements in strikes, demonstrations, and other forms of refusal), an attempt to defend existing commons, and a use of existing commons to attack – or defend ourselves against – capitalism. If we do not have a type of commons in the social relationships with our comrades then our efforts are less likely to succeed. Stan Weir recognized this when he stressed the importance of informal work groups, and emphasized their empirical existence within important struggles.

This issue of the Commoner was originally intended to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the publication of Mario Tronti's Operai e Capitale, a text which had an enormous impact on the Italian far left and whose influence is most present today in the work of Antonio Negri. Part of the project for we commoners is to analyze the facts and questions that Tronti posed: “How is the working class made, from the inside, how does it function inside capital, how does it work, how does it struggle, in what sense does it accept the system, in what way does it strategically refuse it?”

Our goal for this issue is a modest one: to show the continuing relevance of Tronti's work and to draw more attention to this neglected body of Marxist thought.[ii] We expect that we are largely preaching to the choir when it comes to the readership of the Commoner. Some of the contributors to this issue have decided to directly engage with and develop Tronti's work at a theoretical level; others carry out inquiry into trends and practices within the global movements of commoners and of capitalism. While Angela Mitropoulos opens the issue by applying ideas from Tronti’s writings to explore issues around immigration and autonomy, Ida Dominijanni closes it by exploring the relation between Tronti’s thought and the feminist politics of difference. As Nick Dyer-Witheford explores connections between species-being and the specter of commonism, George Ciccariello-Maher begins to draw together a line of thought based on the logic of separation that connects thinkers such as Sorel, Tronti, Negri, and Fanon.

In exploring the connection between refusing work and creating new commons it is important to not give the impression that this is not a difficult or in some cases even impossible task, especially for those who are engaged in forms of caring and affective labor. For as argued by Alisa Del Re, to build a conception of utopia upon refusing work that does not take into account the labors of social reproduction most often carried about by females is to base one’s notions of freedom on the continued exploitation of female labor. This issue is taken up by Precarias a la Deriva in their consideration of what form a strike from such constrained positions might take as well as a previously published article by Silvia Federici from the early 80s which elaborates on the revolt against housework that took place during the 70s coming out of campaigns such as Wages for Housework.   

What runs through all the contributions is the attempt to understand refusal and commoning in order to practice both better. To us, commoning and refusal are one and the same. Freely associated production of social relations is precisely the real movement that abolishes the present state of things. Refusal defends and produces the commons. Let us then, following the whimsical suggestion of p.m., hang golden globes all over marking points for the congealing of new planetary commons and revolt. The commons nourish and produce refusal. In the words of the IWW constitution, by the subversive practices of the global movement “we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.”

Nate Holdren + Stevphen Shukaitis

[i] Peter Linebaugh, “Magna Charta and Practical Communism,” talk delivered at the centenary of the Industrial Workers of the World, 2005. Those interested can find the text and audio of a similar presentation that he delivered to the “Contested Commons / Trespassing Publics” conference at Sarai in New Delhi here: http://www.sarai.net/events/ip_conf/ip_conf.htm.

[ii] At the time of this writing, less than 1/3 of Tronti's first book and no other work by Tronti have been translated. Interested readers can consult the available passages online (http://affinityproject.org/theories/tronti.html), and a recent electronic discussion of Tronti (http://www.long-sunday.net/long_sunday/tronti).




    dEbAtE: on primitive accumulation 

We publish here the first two contributions of a debate on the concept of "primitive accumulation."  Following our publication of a special issue of The Commoner on new and old enclosures (The Commoner, N. 2, September 2001) Paul Zarembka sent us a critical article. Werner Bonefeld offers the first reply. We hope more people will join in.

Paul Zarembka. Primitive Accumulation in Marxism, Historical or Trans-historical Separation from Means of Production? [complete]

Werner Bonefeld. History and Social Constitution: Primitive Accumulation is not Primitive. [complete]



 photograph by Steve Walker

photograph by Steve Walker

the commoner

In the beginning there is the doing, the social flow of human interaction and creativity, and the doing is imprisoned by the deed, and the deed wants to dominate the doing and life, and the doing is turned into work, and people into things. Thus the world is crazy, and revolts are also practices of hope.

This journal is about living in a world in which the doing is separated from the deed, in which this separation is extended in an increasing numbers of spheres of life, in which the revolt about this separation is ubiquitous. It is not easy to keep deed and doing separated. Struggles are everywhere, because everywhere is the realm of the commoner, and the commoners have just a simple idea in mind: end the enclosures, end the separation between the deeds and the doers, the means of existence must be free for all!





The Commoner - about us:

editor: Massimo De Angelis thanks to everyone who has contributed to the journal with writing, comments, suggestions and pictures.
web design: Gioacchino Toni
print design: James Lindenschmidt

e-mail: editor@commoner.org.uk




Midnight Notes and friends. Migration, Movements, Wages and War in the Americas: Reasons for Unity on May Day 2006 - And After

Phil McLeish. The Promise of the European Social Forum 

Massimo De Angelis. The  First London Social Forum. What have we achieved?

Massimo De Angelis. Another world is possible. How? A short talk to the First Danish Social Forum, Copenhagen, 31 October 2003.

Amory Starr.  j23. sacramento 2003. action report/fieldnotes.

Laura Corradi. Black Bloc The Ultimate Logo 

Steve Wright. Pondering Information and Communication in Contemporary Anti-Capitalist Movements

Peter Waterman. Reflections on the 2nd World Social Forum in Porto Alegre: What's Left Internationally?

Peter Waterman. The Still Unconsummated Marriage of International Unionism and the Global Justice Movement. A Labor Report on the World Social Forum, Porto Alegre

The Leeds May Day Group. Anti-Capitalist Movements.

Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis. Genoa and the Antiglobalization Movement.

Olivier De Marcellus. Against globalisation: some old problems and a new kind of movement.

Massimo De Angelis. From Movement to Society.



George Caffentzis. Is Truth Enough?

(no)war  - The purpose of this site is to provide a brief list of online materials that might prove useful if read critically. 1. Background on Iraq  2. Seeking to explain the current conflict  3. Opposition to the war 4. The military dimension  5. Uprisings in Iraq  6. Exploring further. This page edited in cooperation with Steve Wright.

George Caffentzis. No War for Oil: The Political Economy of the War on Iraq!

George Caffentzis. From Stealing to Robbing:
A Post-Script to "No Blood for Oil!"

Werner Bonefeld. Against the War and the Preconditions of War

Midnight Notes. Respect Your Enemies -- The First Rule of Peace: An Essay Addressed to the U.S. Anti-War Movement

Les Levidow. Terrorising Dissent: the Neoliberal 'Anti-terrorist' Strategy

George Caffentzis. In the US, Dreaming of Iraq. Preface 2002: The Political Economy of "the War on Terrorism"

Massimo De Angelis. W-TINA-W' (war-there is no alternative-more war)

Les Levidow. A Broad Anti-War Campaign to Oppose Fully the 'New Kind of War'

George Caffentzis. Crime or War?: The Consequences of Competing Descriptions of September 11

George Caffentzis. Essay on the Events of September 11, 2001 Addressed to the Antiglobalization Movement