Department of Needed Translations: Jacques Camatte

While Criticism &c. categorically and definitively rejects the position that capital is the self-developing subject of history, the French revolutionary thinker Jacques Camatte—the former Bordigist who developed ideas along this line—deserves a higher profile than the one he currently enjoys. As Loren Goldner pointed out in a review of Moishe Postone’s Time, Labor and Social Domination (New Politics, Summer 2006), Camatte developed in the 1970s some aspects of the ideas that Postone (who suffers from no similar lack of attention) is acclaimed for today. Camatte’s work has not been extensively translated into English. He was introduced to American readers by Fredy Perlman in 1975 with the publication of The Wandering of Humanity. Note that Perlman leaves the German Gemeinwesen untranslated in the text—in translations of Marx’s 1844 manuscripts it is typically translated as species being. A year later, a group called New Space (one of the many under-chronicled small U.S. libertarian left groups of the 1960s and 1970s) published an essay by Camatte and a co-thinker called On Organization. Autonomedia published a valuable collection of Camatte’s work with an introduction by Alex Trotter in 1995 (Trotter problematically translates Gemeinwesen as “human essence”) titled This World We Must Leave. This edition was described as the first of a series of three, but unfortunately, nothing else has appeared. An excellent review of the book by David Black (“Has Capital Autonomized Itself From Humanity?“) appeared in the British Marxist-Humanist journal Hobgoblin in 1999, which provoked a brief response from Camatte (“Comment From Jacques Camatte“) from France. Community and Communism in Russia, another important work by Camatte was translated and published in by David Brown in Britain in 1978. This pamphlet is mentioned in passing in Marcel van der Linden’s Western Marxism and the Soviet Union. Camatte maintains a web site with an abundance of writings from his journal, Invariance, that call out for translation into English. Who will undertake this important task?

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The HathiTrust Digital Library contains scans of On Organization and Community and Communism in Russia. Both are classified with an Open Access copyright status, so anyone should be able to download the full PDFs. Both the Marxists Internet Archive and Libcom.org feature some writings by Camatte.

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3 thoughts on “Department of Needed Translations: Jacques Camatte

  1. Pingback: Histories of the present: The riots etc « Poumista

  2. Pingback: Gey koken ahfen yam « Anti-National Translation

  3. I suggest translating something by Georgio Cesarano, who was connected with Camatte and the ultra-leftist scene of the 70s, but who is completely unknown outside Italian circles. The only information on him in English that I’m aware of are the review essay by Francesco Santini (at http://libcom.org/tags/giorgio-cesarano) and a couple of articles about/from the Italian movement of the 70s (at http://www.revoltagainstplenty.com/index.php/archive/16/32-italy-in-1977.html). From the latter:

    “One final point perhaps worth making here: When occasionally asked if there were any other books worth translating we would always suggest the writings of the Italian, Georgio Ceasarano. The response was always quizzical followed by something like, “Who’s he”. Well, only one of the most interesting guys to have come through the early and mid 1970s especially his two books, “Apocalisse e Rivoluzione” and “Critica dell Utopia Capitale” which, among other riches contains excellent critical material on the musical spectacle, despite a certain florid, diaphanous tendency, disdainful of concrete facts. True, the guy was known somewhat in France especially in the circles around Jacques Camatte, the ultra leftist cum hippy apologist strongly influenced by Bordiga. Then as the Italian events were further unfolding though beginning to lose their cutting edge, Ceasarano committed suicide. It was a quite devastating loss only for us to be completely bewildered by Camatte and the magazine Invariance’s appraisal of this final desperate act interpreting it not as a consequence of mental torture, agony, absence, loss, or whatever, but a veritable “victory” (their word) for the revolution.”

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