Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Revolt in Łódź in 1892


The events which began in Łódź on 2 May 1892 shook the city, which, at that time, was the largest industrial center in Russian-ruled Poland with a population of nearly 150,000. The factory workers who numbered around 40,000 halted their work and went on strike in ‘the leading fortress of our capitalism’—in the words of Julian Marchlewski, one of the leaders of the Polish labor movement. Soon, this protest turned into a general strike. As declared by Konstanty Miller, the governor of the Piotrków province, ‘the workers stopped working and gathered in the city in large numbers’.(1)
The strike of the Łódź proletariat was its first mass protest. It was referred to by the tsarist authorities as a bunt (‘revolt’) and it is known as such among historians. It was not a coincidental occurrence.

Louis Althusser (1962)

The concentration of industrial monopolies, their subordination to financial monopolies, had increased the exploitation of the workers and of the colonies. Competition between the monopolies made war inevitable. But this same war, which dragged vast masses, even colonial peoples from whom troops were drawn, into limitless suffering, drove its cannon-fodder not only into massacres, but also into history. Everywhere the experience, the horrors of war, were a revelation and confirmation of a whole century’s protest against capitalist exploitation; a focusing-point, too, for hand in hand with this shattering exposure went the effective means of action. But though this effect was felt throughout the greater part of the popular masses of Europe (revolution in Germany and Hungary, mutinies and mass strikes in France and Italy, the Turin soviets), only in Russia, precisely the ‘most backward’ country in Europe, did it produce a triumphant revolution. Why this paradoxical exception? For this basic reason: in the ‘system of imperialist states’ Russia represented the weakest point. The Great War had, of course, precipitated and aggravated this weakness, but it had not by itself created it. Already, even in defeat, the 1905 Revolution had demonstrated and measured the weakness of Tsarist Russia. This weakness was the product of this special feature: the accumulation and exacerbation of all the historical contradictions then possible in a single State

Fredric Jameson (1991) 

....the great Althusserian (and Lacanian) redefinition of ideology as “the representation of the subject’s Imaginary relationship to his or her Real conditions of existence.
Transcoding all this now into the very different problematic of the Althusserian definition of ideology, one would want to make two points. The first is that the Althusserian concept now allows us to rethink these specialised geographical and cartographic issues in terms of social space – in terms, for example, of social class and national or international context, in terms of the ways in which we all necessarily also cognitively map our individual social relationship to local, national, and international class realities. Yet to reformulate the problem in this way is also to come starkly up against those very difficulties in mapping which are posed in heightened and original ways by that very global space of the postmodernist or multinational moment which has been under discussion here. These are not merely theoretical issues; they have urgent practical political consequences, as is evident from the conventional feelings of First World subjects that existentially (or “empirically”) they really do inhabit a “postindustrial society” from which traditional production has disappeared and in which social classes of the classical type no longer exist – a conviction which has immediate effects on political praxis.
The second point is that a return to the Lacanian underpinnings of Althusser’s theory can afford some useful and suggestive methodological enrichments. Althusser’s formulation remobilises an older and henceforth classical Marxian distinction between science and ideology that is not without value for us even today. The existential – the positioning of the individual subject, the experience of daily life, the monadic “point of view” on the world to which we are necessarily, as biological subjects, restricted – is in Althusser’s formula implicitly opposed to the realm of abstract knowledge, a realm which, as Lacan reminds us, is never positioned in or actualised by any concrete subject but rather by that structural void called le sujet supposé savoir (the subject supposed to know), a subject-place of knowledge. What is affirmed is not that we cannot know the world and its totality in some abstract or “scientific” way. Marxian “science” provides just such a way of knowing and conceptualising the world abstractly, in the sense in which, for example, Mandel’s great book offers a rich and elaborated knowledge of that global world system, of which it has never been said here that it was unknowable but merely that it was unrepresentable, which is a very different matter. The Althusserian formula, in other words, designates a gap, a rift, between existential experience and scientific knowledge. Ideology has then the function of somehow inventing a way of articulating those two distinct dimensions with each other. What a historicist view of this definition would want to add is that such coordination, the production of functioning and living ideologies, is distinct in different historical situations, and, above all, that there may be historical situations in which it is not possible at all – and this would seem to be our situation in the current crisis.
But the Lacanian system is threefold, and not dualistic. To the Marxian-Althusserian opposition of ideology and science correspond only two of Lacan’s tripartite functions: the Imaginary and the Real, respectively.

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