Ana Dinerstein, John Holloway and me.
These are remarks I made to introduce John Holloway before he gave his paper:
I am delighted to welcome John Holloway to the University of Lincoln to present his paper: ‘Wealth-in-Against-and-Beyond Value’. Thank you to John for coming and for all of you who are here to be a part of this event. I would like to mention someone who cannot be here, Prof Joyce Canaan, who is very unwell. I know how much she wanted to be here and how much she would have contributed to our discussions. I am so grateful to Stuart Platt who is recording John’s talk on video film so that she and others not present will be able to see what has gone on here today.
This event is hosted jointly by the School of Social and Political Sciences at Lincoln and the Marx Research Seminar Series organised by a group of PhD students. They do a great job of keeping Marxist scholarship alive at Lincoln.
‘In the beginning is the scream. We scream’ (Holloway 2002). John Holloway has been articulating the language of resistance and lessons learnt from struggles against capitalism and colonialism for more than 40 years. John taught Politics at the University of Edinburgh before moving to Mexico in the early 1990s, since when he has been teaching at the Autonomous University of Puebla. As a founder member of the journals Capital and Class in 1976 and Common Sense: a journal of a wholly new type in Scotland in 1987 he has breathed life into a sometimes moribund interpretation of Marxist social theory. He has consolidated these contributions with a series of books and papers, most notably theorising the capitalist state, In and Against the State 1979, as well as Global Capital, the National State and the Politics of Money ( 1995); State and Capital: A Marxist Debate, with Sol Picciotto (1979) and Post Fordism and Social Form with Werner Bonefeld (1991), as well as many other publications.
John Holloway was a member of the group, including Richard Gunn, Werner Bonefeld and Kosmas Psychopedis, that launched Open Marxism, initially as a three volume co-edited book series in the 1990s. The essential focus of Open Marxism, building on from previous work, is the significance of class struggle, not as a sociological category but as ‘a contradictory and antagonistic social relation’ (Holloway et al 1992 xiii) , or determinate abstraction, like labour, which in capitalist society ‘exists in the mode of being denied’ (Gunn 1992 23).
While in Mexico John made a strong connection with Zapatismo, a movement inspired by the uprising of the Zapatistas against brutal repression of the Mexican government in 1994. He published two books integrating Open Marxism and Zapatismo during this period: Change the World Without taking Power: the meaning of revolution today in 2002 and Crack Capitalism in 2010. In Change the World John takes on the most resolute of bourgeois concepts, fetishism, identity and classification, turning them on their heads and inside out while inventing new concepts, like ‘doing’ against the labour that produces capital, and ‘anti-power’, which means not to take control of the state, but to dissolve or detonate the social relations of production out of which the state is derived. In Crack Capitalism revolution is presented as a multiplicity of interstitial movements against a paranoid capitalist totality. John’s point is that Marx’s writings are not a theory of capitalism but a social theory against capitalism, not a theory of domination but a theory for emancipation. Capital is a cracked actor, revolution is having the craic, Capital is a cracked language – like a stammer. John’s work is not only about cracking capitalism, but, as Dinerstein argues, has been to make ‘a crack in Marxist thought’ (forthcoming ‘John Holloway: A theory of interstitial revolution’ 2018).