Mass death, and genocide, the deliberate and systematic extermination of whole groups of human beings, have become an integral part of the social landscape of capitalism in its phase of decadence. Auschwitz, Kolyma, and Hiroshima are not merely the names of discrete sites where human beings have been subjected to forms of industrialized mass death, but synecdoches for the death-world that is a component of the capitalist mode of production in this epoch. In that sense, I want to argue that the Holocaust, for example, was not a Jewish catastrophe, nor an atavistic reversion to the barbarism of a past epoch, but rather an event produced by the unfolding of the logic of capitalism itself. Moreover, Auschwitz, Kolyma, and Hiroshima are not "past", but rather futural events, objective-real possibilities on the Front of history, to use concepts first articulated by the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch. The ethnic cleansing which has been unleashed in Bosnia and Kosovo, the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, the mass death to which Chechnya has been subjected, the prospect for a nuclear war on the Indian sub-continent, are so many examples of the future which awaits the human species as the capitalist mode of production enters a new millenium. Indeed, it is just such a death-world that constitutes the meaning of one pole of the historic alternative which Rosa Luxemburg first posed in the midst of the slaughter inflicted on masses of conscripts during World War I: socialism or barbarism!
            Yet, confronted by the horror of Auschwitz, Kolyma, and Hiroshima, Marxist theory has been silent or uncomprehending. While I am convinced that there can be no adequate theory of mass death and genocide which does not link these phenomena to the unfolding of the logic of capital, revolutionary Marxists have so far failed to offer one. Worse, the few efforts of revolutionary Marxists to grapple with the Holocaust, for example, as I will briefly explain, have either degenerated into a crude economism, which is one of the hallmarks of so-called orthodox Marxism, or led to a fatal embrace of Holocaust denial; the former being an expression of theoretical bankruptcy, and the latter a quite literal crossing of the class line into the camp of capital itself. Economism, which is based on a crude base-superstructure model (or travesty) of Marxist theory, in which politics, for example, can only be conceived as a direct and immediate reflection of the economic base, in which events can only be conceived as a manifestation of the direct economic needs of a social class, and in the case of the capitalist class, the immediate need to extract a profit, shaped Amadeo Bordiga's attempt to "explain" the Holocaust. Thus, in his "Auschwitz ou le Grand Alibi"  Bordiga explained the extermination of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis, as the reaction of one part of the petty bourgeoisie to its historical demise at the hands of capital by "sacrificing" its other -- Jewish -- part so as to save the rest, an undertaking welcomed by big capital, which could thereby liquidate a part of the petty bourgeoisie with the support of the rest of that same class. Quite apart from an economism which simply ignores the dialectic between the economy on the one hand, and the political and ideological on the other (about which more later), such an "explanation" asks us to conceive of genocide not as the complex outcome of the unfolding of the operation of the law of value in the diverse spheres of social life, but as the direct outcome of the utilitarian calculation of segments of the petty bourgeoisie and big capital. Auschwitz, the veritable hallmark of the fundamental irrationality of late capital, is transformed by Bordiga into a rational calculation of its direct profit interests on the part of the capitalists. However, an undertaking which fatally diverted the scarce resources (material and financial) of Nazi Germany from the battlefields of the imperialist world war, simply cannot, in my view, be comprehended on the basis of a purely economic calculus of profit and loss on the part of "big capital."
            While Bordiga's reaction to Auschwitz fails to provide even the minimal bases for its adequate theorization, the reaction of the militants of La Vieille Taupe, such as Pierre Guillaume, constitutes a political betrayal of the struggle for communist revolution by its incorporation into the politics of Holocaust denial. For Guillaume, Auschwitz can only be a myth, a fabrication of the allies, that is, of one of the imperialist blocs in the inter-imperialist world war, because it so clearly serves their interests in mobilizing the working class to die in the service of democracy; on the alter of anti-fascism. Hence, La Vieille Taupe's "fervor to contest the evidence of its [the Holocaust's] reality by every means possible, including the most fraudulent. For the evidence of genocide is just so many deceptions, so many traps laid for anticapitalist radicality, designed to force it into dishonest compromise and eventual loss of resolve."  It is quite true that capital has utilized antifascism to assure its ideological hegemony over the working class, and that the Holocaust has been routinely wielded for more than a generation by the organs of mass manipulation in the service of the myth of  "democracy" in the West (and by the state of Israel on behalf of its own imperialist aims in the Middle-East). And just as surely the ideology of antifascism and its functionality for capital must be exposed by revolutionaries. Nonetheless, this does not justify the claims of Holocaust denial, which not only cannot be dissociated from anti-Semitism, but which constitutes a denial of the most lethal  tendencies inherent in the capitalist mode of production, of the very barbarism of capitalism, and thereby serves as a screen behind which the death-world wrought by capital can be safely hidden from its potential victims. This latter, in its own small way, is the despicable contribution of La Vieille Taupe, and the basis for my conviction that it must be politically located in the camp of capital.
            Marxism is in need of a theory of mass death and genocide as immanent tendencies of capital, a way of comprehending the link (still obsure) between the death-world symbolized by the smokestacks of Auschwitz or the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and the unfolding of the logic of a mode of production based on the capitalist law of value. I want to argue that we can best grasp the link between capitalism and genocide by focusing on two dialectically inter-related strands in the social fabric of late capitalism: first, are a series of phenomena linked to the actual  unfolding of the law of value, and more specifically to the completion of the transition from the formal to the real domination of capital; second, are a series of phenomena linked to the political and ideological (this latter understood in a non-reductionist sense, as having a material existence) moments of the rule of capital, specifically to the forms of capitalist hegemony. It is through an analysis of the coalescence of vital elements of these two strands in the development of capital, that I hope to expose the bases for the death-world and genocide as integral features of capitalism in the present epoch.
            The real domination of capital is characterized by the penetration of the law of value into every segment of social existence. As Georg Lukács put it in his History and Class Consciousness, this means that the commodity ceases to be "one form among many regulating the metabolism of human society," to become its "universal structuring principle."  From its original locus at the point of production, in the capitalist factory, which is the hallmark of the formal domination of capital, the law of value has systematically spread its tentacles to incorporate not just the production of commodities, but their circulation and consumption. Moreover, the law of value also penetrates and then comes to preside over the spheres of the political and ideological, including science and technology themselves. This latter occurs not just through the transformation of the fruits of technology and science into commodities, not just through the transformation of technological and scientific research itself (and the institutions in which it takes place) into commodities, but also, and especially, through what Lukács designates as the infiltration of thought itself by the purely technical, the very quantification of rationality, the instrumentalization of reason; and, I would argue, the reduction of all beings (including human beings) to mere objects of manipulation and control. As Lukács could clearly see even in the age of Taylorism, "this rational mechanisation extends right into the worker's `soul'." In short, it affects not only his outward behavior, but her very internal, psychological, makeup.
            The phenomenon of reification, inherent in the commodity-form, and its tendential penetration into the whole of social existence, which Lukács was one of the first to analyze, is a hallmark of the real domination of capital: "Its basis is that a relation between people takes on the character of a thing and thus acquires a `phantom objectivity', an autonomy that seems so strictly rational and all-embracing as to conceal every trace of its fundamental nature: the relation between people." Reification, the seeming transformation of social relations into relations between things, has as one of its outcomes what the German-Jewish thinker H.G.Adler designated as "the administered man" [Der verwaltete Mensch]. For Adler, when human beings are administered, they are treated as things, thereby clearing the way for their removal or elimination by genocide. The outcome of  such a process can be seen in the bureaucractic administration of the Final Solution, in which the organization of genocide was the responsibility of desk killers like Adolf Eichmann who could zealously administer a system of mass murder while displaying no particular hatred for his victims, no great ideological passion for his project, and no sense that those who went to the gas chambers were human beings and not things. The features of the desk killer, in the person of Eichmann, have been clearly delineated by Hannah Arendt.  He is the high-level functionary in a vast bureaucratic organization who does his killing from behind a desk, from which he rationally plans and organizes mass murder; treating it as simply a technical task, no different than the problem of transporting scrap metal. The desk killer is the quintessential bureaucrat functioning according to the imperatives of the death-world. As a human type, the desk killer, that embodiment of the triumph of instrumental reason, has become a vital part of the state apparatus of late capitalism. 
            Here, the Lukácsian concept of reification, the Adlerian concept of the administered man, and the Arendtian portrait of the desk killer, can be joined to Martin Heidegger's concept of das Gestell, enframing, in which everything real, all beings, including humans, are treated as so much Bestand, standing-reserve or raw material, to be manipulated at will. This reduction of humans to a raw material is the antechamber to a world in which they can become so many waste products to be discarded or turned into ashes in the gas chambers of Auschwitz or at ground zero at Hiroshima.
While the reification which attains its culminating point in the real domination of capital may contain within itself the possibility of mass murder and its death-world, it does not in and of itself explain the actual unleashing of the genocidal potential which, because of it, is now firmly ensconced within the interstices of the capitalist mode of production. To confront that issue, I want to elucidate two concepts which, while not directly linked by their authors to the unfolding of the capitalist law of value, can be refunctioned to forge such a link, and have already been effectively wielded in the effort to explain genocide: the concept of the obsolescence of man [Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen], articulated by the German-Jewish philosopher Günther Anders, and the concept of bio-politics, articulated by Michel Foucault.
            For Anders, the first industrial revolution introduced the machine with its own source of power as a means of production,  while the second industrial revolution saw the extension of commodity production to the whole of society, and the subordination of man to the machine. According to Anders, the third industrial revolution, in the epoch of which humanity now lives, has made humans obsolete, preparing the way for their replacement by machines, and the end of history (Endzeit). For Anders, the Holocaust marked the first attempt at the systematic extermination of a whole group of people by industrial means, opening the way for the extension of the process of extermination to virtually the whole of the human species; a stage which he designates as "post-civilized cannibalism" [postzivilisatorischen Kannibalismus], in which the world is "overmanned", and in which Hiroshima marks the point at which "humanity as a whole is eliminatable"[tötbar].  Anders's philosophy of technology is unabashedly pessimistic, leaving virtually no room for Marxist hope (communist revolution). Nonetheless, his vision of a totally reified world, and technology as the subject of history, culminating in an Endzeit, corresponds to one side of the dialectic of socialism or barbarism which presides over the present epoch. Moreover, Anders's concept of an overmanned world can be fruitfully linked to the immanent tendency of the law of value to generate an ever higher organic composition of capital, culminating in the present stage of automation, robotics, computers, and information technology, on the bases of which ever larger masses of living labor are ejected from the process of production, and, indeed, from the cycle of accumulation as a whole, ceasing to be -- even potentially -- a productive force, a source of exchange-value, in order to become an insuperable burden for capital, a dead weight, which, so long as it lives and breathes, threatens its profitability. This "obsolescence of man" can at the level of total capital thereby create the necessity for mass murder; inserting the industrial extermination of whole groups of people into the very logic of capital: genocide as the apotheosis of instrumental reason! Reason transmogrified into the nihilistic engine of destruction which shapes the late capitalist world. 
            Michel Foucault's concept of bio-power can also be refunctioned to explicitly link it to the basic tendencies of the development of capitalism, in which case it provides a point of intersection between the triumph of the real domination of capital economically, and the political and ideological transformation of capitalist rule, while at the same time making it possible to grasp those features of capital which propel it in the direction of genocide. The extension of the law of value into every sphere of human existence, the culminating point of the real domination of capital, is marked by the subordination of the biological realm itself to the logic of capital. This stage corresponds to what Foucault designates as bio-politics, which encapsulates both the "statification of the biological", and the "birth of state racism".  Bio-politics entails the positive power to administer, manage, and regulate the intimate details of the life -- and death -- of whole populations in the form of technologies of domination: "In concrete terms ... this power over life evolved in two basic forms ... they constituted ... two poles of development linked together by a whole intermediary cluster of relations. One of these poles ... centered on the body as a machine: its disciplining, the optimization of its capabilities, the extortion of its forces, the parallel increase of its usefulness and its docility, its integration into systems of efficient and economic controls, all this was ensured by the procedures of power that characterized the disciplines: an anatomo-politics of the human body. The second ... focused on the species body, the body imbued with the mechanics of life and serving as the basis of the biological processes: propagation, births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy and longevity, with all the conditions that can cause these to vary. Their supervision was effected through an entire series of interventions and regulatory controls: a bio-politics of the population."  Such a bio-politics represents the subjugation of biological life in its diverse human forms to the imperatives of the law of value. It allows capital to mobilize all the human resources of the nation in the service of its expansion and aggrandizement, economic and military.
            The other side of bio-politics, of this power over life, for Foucault, is what he terms "thanatopolitics," entailing an awesome power to inflict mass death, both on the population of one's enemy, and on one's own population: "the power to expose a whole population to death is the underside of the power to guarantee an individual's continued existence. .... If genocide is indeed the dream of modern powers ... it is because power is situated at the level of life, the species, the race, and the large-scale phenomena of population."  Nuclear, chemical, and biological, weapons make it possible to wield this power to condemn whole populations to death. Bio-politics, for Foucault, also necessarily entails racism, by which he means making a cut in the biological continuum of human life, designating the very existence of a determinate group as a danger to the population, to its health and well-being, and even to its very life. Such a group, I would argue, then, becomes a biological (in the case of Nazism) or class enemy (in the case of Stalinism, though the latter also claimed that biological and hereditary characteristics were linked to one's class origins). And the danger represented by such an enemy race can necessitate its elimination through physical removal (ethnic cleansing) or extermination (genocide).
            The Foucauldian concept of bio-politics allows us to see how, on the basis of technologies of domination, it is possible to subject biological life itself to a formidable degree of control, and to be able to inflict mass death on populations or races designated as a biological threat. Moreover, by linking this concept to the real domination of capital, we are able to see how the value-form invades even the biological realm in the phase of the real domination of capital. However, while bio-power entails the horrific possibility of genocide, it is Foucault's ruminations on the binary division of a population into a "pure community" and its Other, which allows us to better grasp its necessity.  Such a perspective, however, intersects with the transformations at the level of the political and ideological moment of capital, and it is to these, and what I see as vital contributions to their theorization by Antonio Gramsci and Ernst Bloch, that I now want to turn in an effort to better elucidate the factors that propel capital in the direction of mass death and genocide.
            What is at issue here is not Gramsci's politics, his political practice, his interventions in the debates on strategy and tactics within the Italian Communist Party, where he followed the counter-revolutionary line of the Stalinist Comintern, but rather his theorization of the political and ideological moment of capital, and in particular his concept of the "integral state", his understanding of the state as incorporating both political and civil society, his concept of hegemony, and his understanding of ideology as inscribed in practices and materialized in institutions, which exploded the crude base-superstructure model of orthodox Marxism and its vision of ideology as simply false consciousness, all of which have enriched Marxist theory, and which revolutionaries ignore at their peril.   
            In contrast to orthodox Marxism which has equated the state with coercion, Gramsci's insistence that the state incorporates both political and civil society, and that class rule is instanciated both by domination (coercion) and hegemony (leadership) allows us to better grasp the complex and crisscrossing strands that coalesce in capitalist class rule, especially in the phase of the real domination of capital and the epoch of state capitalism. For Gramsci, hegemony is the way in which a dominant class installs its rule over society through the intermediary of ideology, establishing its intellectual and cultural leadership over other classes, and thereby reducing its dependence on coercion. Ideology, for Gramsci, is not mere false consciousness, but rather is the form in which humans acquire consciousness, become subjects and act, constituting what he terms a "collective will". Moreover, for him, ideology is no mere superstructure, but has a material existence, is materialized in praxis. The state which rests on a combination of coercion and hegemony is what Gramsci designates as an integral state.  It seems to me, that one major weakness of the Gramscian concept of hegemony is that he does not seem to apply it to the control exercised over an antagonistic class. Thus, Gramsci asserts that one dominates, coerces, antagonistic classes, but leads only allied classes.  Gramsci's seeming exclusion of antagonistic classes from the ideological hegemony of the dominant class seems to me to be misplaced, especially in the epoch of state capitalism, when the capitalist class, the functionaries of capital, acquire hegemony, cultural and intellectual leadership and control, not just of allied classes and strata (e.g. the middle classes, petty bourgeoisie, etc.), but also over broad strata of the antagonistic class, the working class itself. Indeed, such hegemony, though never total, and always subject to reversal (revolution), is the veritable key to  capitalist class rule in this epoch.
            One way in which this ideological hegemony of capital is established over broad strata of the population, including sectors of the working class, is by channeling the disatisfaction and discontent of the mass of the population with the monstrous impact of capitalism upon their lives (subjection to the machine, reduction to the status of a "thing",  at the point of production, insecurity and poverty as features of daily life, the overall social process of atomization and massification, etc.), away from any struggle to establish a human Gemeinwesen, communism. Capitalist hegemony entails the ability to divert that very disatisfaction into the quest for a "pure community", based on hatred and rage directed not at capital, but at the Other, at alterity itself, at those marginal social groups which are designated a danger to the life of the nation, and its population.
            One of the most dramatic effects of the inexorable penetration of the law of value into every pore of social life, and geographically across the face of the whole planet, has been the destruction of all primitive, organic, and pre-capitalist communities. Capitalism, as Marx and Engels pointed out in the Communist Manifesto, shatters the bonds of immemorial custom and tradition, replacing them with its exchange mechanism and contract. While Marx and Engels stressed the positive features of this development in the Manifesto, we cannot ignore its negative side, particularly in light of the fact that the path to a human Gemeinwesen has so far been successfully blocked by capital, with disastrous consequences for the human species. The negative side of that development includes the relentless process of atomization, leaving in its wake an ever growing mass of rootless individuals, for whom the only human contact is by way of the cash nexus. Those who have been uprooted geographically, economically, politically, and culturally, are frequently left with a powerful longing for their lost communities (even where those communities were hierarchically organized and based on inequality), for the certainties and "truths" of the past, which are idealized the more frustrating, unsatisfying, and insecure, the world of capital becomes. Such longings are most powerfully felt within what Ernst Bloch has termed non-synchronous strata and classes.  These are stata and classes whose material or mental conditions of life are linked to a past mode of production, who exist economically or culturally in the past, even as they chronologically dwell in the present. In contrast to the two historic classes in the capitalist mode of production, the bourgeoisie and proletariat, which are synchronous, the products of the capitalist present, these non-synchronous strata include the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie, and -- by virtue of their mental or cultural state -- youth and white-collar workers. In my view, Bloch's understanding of non-synchronicity needs to be extended to segments of the working class, in particular those strata of the blue-collar proletariat which are no longer materially synchronous with the high-tech production process upon which late capitalism rests, and the mass of workers ejected from the production process by the rising organic composition of capital and its comcomitant down-sizing. In addition, the even greater mass of peasants streaming into the shanty towns around the great commercial and industrial metropolitan centers of the world, are also characterized by their non-synchronicity, their inability to be incorporated into the hyper-modern cycle of capital accumulation. Moreover, all of these strata too are subject to a growing nostalgia for the past, a longing for community, including the blue-collar communities and their institutional networks which were one of the features of the social landscape of capitalism earlier in the twentieth century.
            However, no matter how powerful this nostalgia for past community becomes, it cannot be satisfied. The organic communities of the past cannot be recreated; their destruction by capital is irreversible. At the same time, the path to a future Gemeinwesen, to which the cultural material and longings embodied in the non-synchronous classes and strata can make a signal contribution, according to Bloch, remains obstructed by the power of capital. So long as this is the case, the genuine longing for community of masses of people, and especially the nostalgia for past communities especially felt by the non-synchronous strata and classes, including the newly non-synchronous elements which I have just argued must be added to them, leaves them exposed to the lure of a "pure community" ideologically constructed by capital itself. In place of real organic and communal bonds, in such an ideologically constructed pure community, a racial, ethnic, or religious identification is merely superimposed on the existing condition of atomization in which the mass of the population finds itself. In addition to providing some gratification for the longing for community animating broad strata of the population, such a pure community can also provide an ideological bond which ties the bulk of the population to the capitalist state on the basis of a race, ethnicity, or religion which it shares with the ruling class. This latter is extremely important to capital, because the atomization which it has brought about not only leaves the mass of humanity bereft, but also leaves the ruling class itself vulnerable because it lacks any basis upon which it can mobilize the population, physically or ideologically.
            The basis upon which such a pure community is constituted, race, nationality, religion, even a categorization by "class" in the Stalinist world, necessarily means the exclusion of those categories of the population which do not conform to the criteria for inclusion, the embodiments of alterity, even while they inhabit the same geographical space as the members of the pure community. Those excluded, the "races" on the other side of the biological continuum, to use Foucauldian terminology, the Other, become alien elements within an otherwise homogeneous world of the pure community. As a threat to its very existence, the role of this Other is to become the scapegoat for the inability of the pure community to provide authentic communal bonds between people, for its abject failure to overcome the alienation that is a hallmark of a reified world. The Jew in Nazi Germany, the Kulak in Stalinist Russia, the Tutsi in Rwanda, Muslims in Bosnia, blacks in the US, the Albanian or the Serb in Kosovo, the Arab in France, the Turk in contemporary Germany, the Bahai in Iran, for example, become the embodiment of alterity, and the target against which the hatred of the members of the pure community is directed. The more crisis ridden a society becomes, the greater the need to find an appropriate scapegoat; the more urgent the need for mass mobilization behind the integral state, the more imperious the need to focus rage against the Other. In an extreme situation of social crisis and political turmoil, the demonization and victimization of the Other can lead to his (mass) murder. In the absence of a working class conscious of its historic task and possibilities, this hatred of alterity which permits capital to mobilize the population in defense of the pure community, can become its own impetus to genocide.
            The immanent tendencies of the capitalist mode of production which propel it towards a catastrophic economic crisis, also drive it towards mass murder and genocide. In that sense, the death-world, and the prospect of an Endzeit cannot be separated from the continued existence of humanity's subordination to the law of value. Reification, the overmanned world, bio-politics, state racism, the constitution of a pure community directed against alterity, each of them features of the economic and ideological topography of the real domination of capital, create the possibility and the need for genocide. We should have no doubt that the survival of capitalism into this new millenium will entail more and more frequent recourse to mass murder.
[from Internationalist Perspective #36, spring 2000]
--Alain Finkielkraut, The Future of a Negation: Reflections on the Question of Genocide (Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), p.28.
-- Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1971), p.85.
--See Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1977).
--Günther Anders, Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen, Band II, Über die Zerstörung des Lebens im Zeitalter der dritten industriellen Revolution (München: Verlag C.H.Beck, 1986), p.26, and Anders, Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen: Über die Seele im Zeitalter der Zweiten industriellen Revolution (München: Verlag C.H.Beck, 1961), p.243.
--Michel Foucault, "Faire vivre et laisser mourir: la naissance du racisme," Les Temps Modernes, 535 (Février 1991), pp.37-38.
-- Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol.I, An Introduction (New York: Vintage Books, 1980), p.139.
--Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (New York: International Publishers, 1971) passim.
--See Ernst Bloch, Heritage of Our Times (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), especially pp.97-148.