“What is to be Done under Real Subsumption?”
Workshop and meeting
28th, 29th & 30 November, 2014
Bulegoa z/b. Solokoetxe 8 bajo. 48006 - Bilbao

Following the financial crisis and the ongoing social struggles all over the world, we
witness the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, but don't seem to have a
credible political horizon able to prevent this from continuing.. We’re aware that we
urgently need to intervene in social reality, and that in order to do so we first have to
understand it; but social reality is becoming increasingly sophisticated, accelerated and
changeable. What theoretical tools would allow us to think adequately about this
particular time in history? Where could we find such tools in this cultural landscape of
ruins? Once again, we come to the same question: what is to be done? Or, to put Lenin’s
famous question and Marx’s concept together, what is to be done under real
“What is real subsumption? Marx defines ‘formal subsumption’ as the process in
which capital integrates an existing labour process: techniques, markets, means
of production, workers, etc. But the development of capital inexorably
transforms social relations and modes of labour in accordance with its own
requirements. The real subsumption of the labour process occurs once every
aspect of the latter has been subordinated to capitalist production, whose end is
simply the self-valorisation of value”.
Ray Brassier, ‘Wandering Abstraction’
Real subsumption is an important concept in that it acknowledges one of the
fundamental conditions of advanced capitalism. Under real subsumption, capital has an
absolute hold on society; and as Jacques Camatte has asserted, capital tends to become
society. This means that the famous question is harder than ever to answer today, when
even thought itself is possibly undergoing a process of subsumption and being
completely taken over by ideology 1 . We obviously have no convincing narrative for this
crisis, but still have a need for theory as a background to common action. On one hand,
social action is more urgent than ever, but on the other, dominant ideology is tending to
atomize and fragment us collectively. The Internet has given us increased connectivity,
but is also generating more and more individual forms of subjectivation. Working
collectively appears to be very difficult, and when it does occur, it does so under very
generic terms and demands, such as we are the 99% or ¡Democracia real YA!
In April this year, we started up a reading group, which we intended to be a tool
for collective thinking on this and other current preoccupations. In it, we attempted to
analyze the state of contemporary capitalism and ask what kind of politics could be
critical, desirable and effective under real subsumption. At the same time, we tried to
explore implications and consequences of these politics in relation to contemporary art
practices 2 .
“Wandering Abstraction”, a text by philosopher Ray Brassier, was our starting
point for a series of readings and discussions. His text analyses and interrogates theories
of Communisation and Acceleration, two heterodox tendencies in current Marxist
thought on the present situation. Although both theories draw from Marx, however,
both of them call into question the idea of the proletarian as a revolutionary subject
under real subsumption. Communisation here differs from its deployment
by Tiqqun and Invisible Committee and revolves instead around its theorisation by
collectives such us Théorie Communiste, Endnotes, Blaumachen, Riff-Raff which
together run SIC- International Journal for Communisation.
Communisation as understood by the collective Endnotes is the direct
destruction of capital as self-valorising value and the destruction of the relationship of
reproduction of workers as workers. This notion of Communisation is against the notion
of Programatism: a theory and practice of class struggle in which the proletariat finds, in
its drive toward liberation, the fundamental elements of a future social organisation
which become the programme to be carried out. Accelerationist politics instead thinks
that a certain Programatism is not only possible but necessary in order to preserve the
gains of late capitalism and its technologies while progressing beyond its value system
and governance structures. We see two different views here on how to think about our
future. From them emerge several crucial questions: is thought entirely instrumentalised
for capitalist self-valorisation (as Son-Rethel claimed it was) or can we use it in order to
comprehend the processes which lead to our own commodification? Or, to put it
differently, does thought still hold any potential for emancipation? If so, what types of
thinking would we need? How necessary is the concept of real subsumption? And
finally, how can we consider the link between the conceptual and the social at a
practical level?
Our intention now is to carry on looking at these issues and take them beyond
the reading group into a three-day workshop which will be attended by Federico
Corriente, Anthony Iles, Rob Lucas and Zoe Sutherland (Endnotes), Anna O’Lory (SIC)
and Marina Vishmidt. We have also asked Ray Brassier to respond to Anna O’Lory’s
presentation, which will consist in a critique of “Wandering Abstraction” from a
communizing perspective. Each of the speakers will provide a different theoretical
viewpoint on and approach to the issues in question. The title of the workshop is
contradictory considering that we will mainly be dealing with the ideas of
Communisation. Theories of the Communisation hold that there is no need to answer
the question “What is to be done?” (which would imply a need for a programme or to
assume an intellectual avant garde stance, which is considered to be obsolete), and it
would seem absurd to approach it from the precepts of Communisation. We think,
though, that the idea of the question is useful as a starting point for the types of
discussion we would like to provoke.
These are confusing times, and it is hard to see a direction for the future.
Communisation groups offer a strong message:
“Revolution cannot be the mere expropriation of capital, the seizing of the
means of production by or on behalf of the working class. It must be the direct
destruction of the self-reproducing relation in which workers as workers — and
capital as self-valorising value — are and come to be. The revolution will be
communist, or it will not be. We call the revolution thus conceived
Endnotes: “Crisis in the class relation”
In 2011, it seemed like things would begin to change. Events in Egypt, though,
serve to illustrate the fact that what promised to become a true popular revolution never
materialised because it came face to face with the harsh reality of the army. Taking the
quote above into account, how can a military situation determined by a professional
army be negotiated without any kind of previous strategy or programme? Can
revolutionary movements simply give in to spontaneity, or should we be previously
prepared? Would a programme be necessary in that case? From another perspective,
many people who no longer had any faith in politics have regained their enthusiasm
with a new party, Podemos. Much of the 15M movement has ended up being channelled
into the party, who propose a reformist programme from within the system. In the
Basque Country we also find the historically confrontational Izquierda Abertzale
seeking change within the institutions of representative democracy. But is it really
conceivable to generate equality in an intrinsically exploitative system? Communisation
would say that it is not. This gives rise to other difficult questions concerning how to
generate collectivity, the validity of democracy, and what it means to act politically in
states whose sovereignty is being undermined by economics; how individuals define
themselves, the role of feminism, and what kind of revolution might lead to a more
egalitarian situation.
“If the abolition of capitalism is possible, our questions are now forced to
go beyond a defensive dialectisation of history. We have to produce
theory based on the struggles that take place today, when this notion of
progress has lost all social validity. The failure of past revolutions, the
decline of the workers’ movement, the failure of social movements to
make any significant gains in the past 40 years that would add up to a
unifying ‘dynamic’, have killed off any delusion that history is on the
side of proletarians. History has to be produced, everything has to be
reconsidered.”Anna O'Lory: “Keepsakes”

Loty Negarti y Mattin

The art world is a clear example of the expansion of real subsumption. More and more elements of
social production are given the name “art”, so that certain things that were not considered valuable before
are now given a value, first from an artistic perspective and then as capital. Critical discourses of all
kinds, including those with the greatest potential for antagonism towards the dominant system, are
assimilated into the art academy, creating a form of jargon which seems to have become a requisite for
inclusion in the international art world.

Which places us in a critical position with regard to the theoretical perspectives we have been working
with. Apart from being aware of the instrumental, ideologically strategic function normally fulfilled by art
in capitalism, many of us mutually acknowledge ourselves as artists (that is, in some way interested in
and working from situations that could be socially identified as “art”.)

Friday, 28th November
19.00 – 21.00. “Spain and the Origins of Communization Theory: From the Far-Left to
Today”. Federico Corriente. In Spanish (text will be also available in English)
Saturday 29th November
10.30 – 11.30. “This Implies Nothing”. Anthony Iles
11.30 – 12.30. “Procedures of Abolition: and several paradoxes they throw up”. Marina
12.30 – 13.30. Discussion
13.30 – 15.30. Lunch break
15.30 – 16.30. “Keepsakes”. Anna O’Lory
16.30 – 17.30. Video or written response by Ray Brassier
17.30 – 18.30. “False totalities don't have exits”. Zoe Sutherland and Rob Lucas
18.30. Discussion
Sunday 30th November
11.00 – 14.00. Final Reading Group Session with participants in the reading group and
“What is to be Done under Real Subsumption?” will continue to develop the work of
the reading group of the same name. Participants: Federico Corriente, Anthony Iles,
Rob Lucas and Zoe Sutherland (Endnotes), Anna O'Lory (SIC), Marina Vishmidt and
Ray Brassier. The meeting is coordinated by Loty Negarti and Mattin and will be held
in English. Live video streaming at TV-tron ( http://www.tea-
To take part in the meeting, please write to bulegoa@bulegoa.org