Thursday, 18 June 2020

A steaming cauldron of horse meat; Vasily Grossman and Russian path communism

The light of evening can reveal the essence of a moment. It can bring out its emotional and historical significance, transforming a mere impression into a powerful image. The evening sun can endow patches of soot and mud with thousands of voices, the bitterness of mistakes and the eternal appeal of hope.
Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman
Grossman writes how the members of the defeated German 6th Army are returned to humanity by their defeat on the banks of the Volga. He also records a corresponding return to inhumanity, as indexed by resurgent stalinist antisemitism, in the Russian forces at the point of their victory at Stalingrad. In its political and military victories, communism loses touch with itself. It breaks with those internal constraints which function in the maintenance of a necessary reserve before its own possibilities, which had hitherto defined the ideal of humanity within Russian literature – the same constraints which we must suppose are indispensable to the essence of communism. 

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Preliminary heuristic for deciding upon the most appropriate response to electronic communications received from professors and other careerists (utilising 1 simple introductory declaration, 7 simple examples, 3 judgments, 1 general rule and 1 piece of friendly advice)

It is the function of the university to produce the true ideas of the false society. For this reason, all ideas generated as research products of university departments extend the dominion of the state over the objects of consciousness. By definition, nothing that is authored within the academy as a capitalised object of research contradicts the relation of class domination which the university both expresses and facilitates. The university’s radical ideas are falsely radical, its arguments for social transformation, mere representations. Even that research which might theorise the abolition of the university system remains within the constraints of ideology - the state’s anticipatory wargaming around the scenarios of its own demise (thus para-academic seeming communist journals such as Aufheban, Endnotes, Commune). The bourgeoisie has taken everything, now it desires to expropriate as ideology the possibility of its own overthrow - the state makes arguments through its university departments for taking possession of what comes after the state. 

Then, what is to be made of the continuing advance of academic discourse into the proletariat’s immanent critique of its conditions? At the point where the possibility of consciousness is perpetually interrupted by the academy’s diversionary stratagems, how are working class communists to respond to those who make a living from expropriating communist ideas as objects of research, the professorial mediators, these class antagonists and indirect exploiters, who make a living from metabolising class conflict into their own careers - how should we, yes at last a we, respond to supposed radicals who function as state sanctioned oppositionists and bumbling recuperators? Every radical academic is structured as dissembler for the apparat, at best they present back to the working class what has already happened, positions and arguments that are already dead but at worst, ‘communism’ begins to function as a representation and feeds back into the logic of instrumentalisation (as with ‘accelerationism’). And yet, and even so, for those outside the academy, and for those who are sufficiently dexterous with a toothpick, it is still possible to extract nourishing, if decomposing, fleshy tissue from the fangy maws of such ravenous crocodiles. Here is a basic ok/not ok heuristic for processing that enemy discourse posing as friendly: 

1. Anonymous academic employed to produce radical course content but also publishing radical opinion in accord with studies. OK.
2. Named academic employed to produce standard academic content and publishing radical opinion. OK. 
3. Named academic employed to produce radical academic content and publishing radical opinion attacking content. OK.
4. Anonymous or named academic employed to produce standard academic content and publishing non-radical opinion on academic content. OK. 
5. Named academic employed to produce radical academic content but publishing non-radical opinion on non-radical matters (what they had for dinner, their cute pet). OK. 
6. Named academic paid to produce radical course content and expressing opinion in line with course content. NOT OK.
7.  Named academic paid to produce radical course content and calling for the cancellation/de-platforming or expulsion of other named individuals from the space of the academy. COP!!
8. In all cases where it is judged that the communication falls into the set of OK, feel free to recirculate, attribute and enjoy message content. Every idea expressed by an academic is false but that’s okay as long as it’s acknowledged as such. Falsity has its uses. 
9. For banal radical contents  belonging to the set of NOT OK, do not validate or circulate. If you agree with the content or think it important, rewrite it and claim it as your own.
10. For interesting contents falling within the NOT OK set, steal it, pass it off as your own, and no regrets. 
11. At the end of the day, social managers such as academics, when considered as a subject formation rather than as a collection of nice enough individuals, are class antagonists - their job is to manipulate and direct consciousness in the interest of the productive apparatus. Their seeming controversies disguise turf wars over departmental funding and publication  schedules. 
12. If you are a radical academic employed to produce radical content, your only radical contribution to radical consciousness is to sabotage, pirate or withhold your research - this begins by anonymising your social media presence as a first step in separating your self from your career.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

What confronts also relates: innumerable short messages discoursing in desultory manner upon various matters of small concern

The workers’ council is the social form, par excellence, for which it is exigent to learn to run before it can walk. It is the exemplar of the form recuperated, parasitised, before birth. Then, it is also the epitome of the form that must become something else before becoming what it is.

The content of worker council studies has ossified since its post-war, and cybernetics inflected, reformulation by Castoriadis for SouB. Nothing has been added to it, and there seems nothing that may be added. The council, as an organ of perhaps transformation, perhaps stabilisation, now appears both as peculiarly fragile, and prone to ideological confusion - the sum and site of all symptoms.

I will make only a fictional contribution here, a lazy fish tail flick beneath the lily pad, a sort of nod and a wink, to the discourse of council studies - fictional, partly as a consequence of my great distance from the milieu, partly because of the milieu’s great distance from the council form and partly due to the ever greater distance between all of these and the working class.

The diagrammatic and recursive form presented by Solidarity/SouB utilised a ‘brain of the firm’ approach to autopoiesis/autonomy commonly deployed in the 1960s - it seemed clean, like a new beginning, like a ‘run a diagnostic’ command, but then straight lines sometimes lead down the garden path. 

For this reason, the council form was not sufficiently separated from the managerialist ideology of productive rationalisation organised around the principle of energy efficiency (the infamous runnings together of supply chains of that era termed the military industrial complex) which was predominant in the post-war period of re-capitalisation and the wage-inflated social pact.

The apparent rationality inherent to the representation of the councilising form as both engine of, and path into, a state of ‘production for use’ was, in itself, fundamentally uncomprehending of the intrinsic irrationality of the productive apparatus. 

And then, the efficient production of use-values must assume a minimising of the input of redundant consciousness - efficiency operates from the basis of an expulsion of human agency, and thus precludes opportunities for intervening in production for the purpose of re-purposing technology. The ideology of use, the fetish of process, fundamentally contradicts inefficient organs of human discussion and decision. In other words, every circumstance in which the council form may appear, also and already expels that form as an irrelevance. 

We have discoursed long and hard upon the variants of solutionism (both councilist and accelerationist) which, assuming the essential objectivity of production, propose a mere unfettering of productive use from exchange as exit point from relations of domination.

There is no point in rehearsing here the necessity of attacking use (and thus production). It would be more helpful to consider why the theory of communisation eclipsed that of ‘self-management’ and how this in turn became a diverticulum-like pouch in the impacted bowel of communist theory (see TC’s text: Self-organisation is the first act of the revolution; it then becomes an obstacle which the revolution has to overcome’).

The communisation milieu, now also a setting sun, sought to interpose in the space of subjectivity a placeholder of non-separation, which by means of the conjuring of monadic immanence would span the problematical here to there that is otherwise indicated in theory by the term ‘transitional stage’.

In other, other words, the workers’ council, as a form decided by productive relations, appeared, within communising critique, as one of the avatars of those relations under specific circumstance of crisis. As crisis passes so the councils must relinquish their ‘control’. 

Even so, the bad immanence of communisation theory falters precisely at the moment it proposes ‘communising measures’ as its way into conceiving free association as subjective agency. Immanence is itself also a kind of call from, bearing the brand of, alienation and so, by extension, the inseparability of communising measures from communism is also itself a kind of transitional stage. 

Communism is not a product of subjective agency any more than it is of objective conditions. Nor does it imply the immediatist overcoming of the separation between ‘means and ends’. If, in order to defend it from its own partisans, we had to describe it, then we might agree that communism would operate sur-environmentally as the perpetual responsiveness of social relations to conscious interruption and, contrariwise, not necessarily reciprocally, not necessarily commensurably, as the stochastic responsiveness of consciousness to interruption by blind social metabolisation. 

On these terms, the workers’ council is a temporary and primitive approximation of the sort of superfluous interventionist and disruptive organ that the human community would rely upon if it were to achieve its fullest realisation - superfluity, uselessness, for itself. In other words, the council form might achieve its highest development wherever it succeeds in suppressing its redundancies with production. 

Then again, the communising tendency’s critique of the council form as administrating angel of productive relations in its moment of crisis is essentially correct to the extent that the council conceives itself as a legitimate authority - appearing precisely at that juncture in ideology where representation is superseded, albeit temporarily, by delegation. The council form the self-reflexivity of the abstract concrete. 

For this reason, we may only proceed further if we set more or less arbitrary constraints upon what may be said here. If we record ten general principles or precepts, it may become possible to uncover (in this instance) the workers’ council as something other than what it is:

  1. Communist theory is not a critique of existing social relations but a flight from the adherences of oppositionist social movements. 
  2. Communist theory is not determined by its relation to a single reductive term (‘value form’, ‘the state’, ‘exchange’, ‘production’, ‘abstraction’) but causes a stirring up of the sediments wherever it finds itself simultaneously denying two or more givens - for example where it finds it must escape both representation and delegation. 
  3. The expulsion of labour is not identical to the abolition of labour and where realised arrives at two distinct, and antagonistic, life-world outputs. Then, if communist consciousness is anything, it is the struggle against every form taken by necessity.  
  4. Communist ideas are extracted, and then become incommunicable; communism refuses transmission, it does not persuade - it has no converts. Its potential instances might be recorded, and thus described, but cannot be explained.
  5. Communism is the sole entry point to communism. Or, where communism is, production is not. 
  6. The struggle may only affirm negation, or it will only affirm. 
  7. Just as every individual is constituted around its escape from the cage of its own consciousness, so all organisations adapt their particularity of form to the path of decomposition. 
  8. The communist minority may only decline - this according to the principle that no conscious entity may comprehend, and still less possess, the content of its own utterances.
  9. Practice is the eschewal of practice, a flight from flight.
  10. The tendency to derive politics reactively from events precludes any reconciliation between Americans and communism (see the leftism of Commune magazine). 

In weariness, and to end this at the point where the reader might begin the work of making head or tail of it, we return to the question of the council form precisely in the moment of its historical insuetude. 

The council form, as it confronts its own tendency towards governmentality, as it wrests itself away from the temptation of implementing use-value as principle of life, thereby seeks to lay down paths away from both delegation and representation as processive norms. 

The purpose of the workers’ council is not, as a mode of governence, to rationalise the expropriation of the productive apparatus - on the contrary, it is a supremely unaware organisation undertaking the work of letting go and taking leave. If it is not gravedigger, then it is chief mourner; or, perhaps a self-jilting Miss Havisham. 

If ever there was a historical task, and that could only take the form of historical non-commensurability with present conditions, then it would be to safely decommission the factory system, to put this world beyond use, and to actively barricade, as far as it is possible, the paths looping back into relations of domination. 

The workers’ council has to move quickly, in startled reflex at its own appearance, if it is to find the resources by which it might refuse to recognise itself in the borgesian mirror of its assigned function - by what obscure instinct or intuition may it wake to the knowledge that it is to self-organise its self-disorganisation? 

At the end, we begin to make out how communism is not the active creation or facilitation of new relations but a stream of negative feedbacks (re-codings, patches, corrections, checks, run-offs, pressure valves and re-formulations) directed against the pressures perpetually threatening to draw relations as a whole out of homeostatic heaven.

If communism is comprehended as the human species in steady state, then what emerges from the workers’ councils must work hard (on the principle that there are many paths leading to the sugar bowl but none leading away) against naturally occurring systemic tendencies towards the recomposition of productive relations. 

To begin with a current preoccupation, communism does not realise itself in accord with the principle of ‘no borders’ (what would that even mean?) but, contrariwise, by perversely cultivating a proliferation in borders.  Then, communism is realised, in its fullest amplitude, as nothing but borders, borders everywhere; it is, at its furthest point beyond chiaroscuro, it is all borders and no territory, all code and no programme, all repression, and no repressed. 

Friday, 27 April 2018

Techne of wax: 1. on abstract equivalence

An inadvertent bite into a decorative wax fruit was a regular comic motif in the old films. Nonchalantly taking a wax fruit showed a winning vulnerability in bravado whilst firmly situating the guest’s uneasiness within the host’s domestic setting. 
By extension of that unease, this is the first in series of short studies that take wax concepts as their object. The wax concept seems almost life-like in its adequacy to the task of theory, but upon first bite is exposed as a dummy, an imposture or defrauding of practicability. Didn’t Calvino  discover the wax method of Borges? Set the frame within a frame, and that frame in yet another. Make it so that what frames the thing goes on all the way to its heart - that’s what we mean when we talk about the socialisation of production. Then perhaps, the wax concept is already inscribed as the form that must be taken by theory, the form of terminal inapplicability, in circumstances of its inevitable error.

From this I should conclude that I knew the wax by means of vision and not simply by the intuition of the mind; unless by chance I remember that, when looking from a window and saying I see men who pass in the street, I really do not see them, but infer that what I see is men, just as I say that I see wax. And yet what do I see from the window but hats and coats which may cover automatic machines? Yet I judge these to be men.

  1. Strophe. Abstraction is the escape of unrelated things into a state of relatablity. It is the singing, the veritable heaven, of things. And of their melancholy. Abstraction preserves thing-outlines as it decants their contents, from each to each, and from all to each. And everything evolving within the same lifeworld is an equal expression of that world. And every native species is written into, and therefore gives form and process to, its lifeworld. And, by implication, the totality of the lifeworld is thereby written into its every lifeform. Everything that co-evolves has a faculty of response to, a turning towards, the speech of everything else. The forms of trees are written, in part, according to the reach of the tallest browsers. A butterfly opens its wings to display an eyespot pattern that supposedly distracts the hypothetical predator - and even though neither butterflies nor predators have tactical knowledge of the sets of behaviours that they may trigger in each other, they have still memorised the general protocol for activating the life-world’s startle/counter-startle reflex.

  1. Strophe. Alongside the conformity to a species’ ‘behavioural’ systems displayed by individual members, all things are also hard-programmed with the capacity to communicate at an extra-species level. Every communication across species boundaries emerges from the substitution of rudimentary signs for the immanent connections that are routinely generated within interactions of the same species. Co-evolved species belonging to a particular life-world will draw instinctively from a set of symbols (alarm calls, flexing, arching, teeth baring, rearing, submissiveness, colour codes) that is indexed to the totality of that particular life-world’s possible forms. Cross-species sign systems operate within a field of ‘abstracted’ commonality that individuals of all species may draw from. The abstracted plane of communication, the poetry or song between things, ensures a return to steady state (balancing relations between food and feeders) within the environment as a closed totality. The capacity of different species to anticipate, and steal a march on, the ‘moves’ that will be taken against them (moves of attack, and of evasion), the notorious arms race of bats and moths, of cabbages and caterpillars, and which is the substance of the poetry in things, is a casino’s randomising intervention within inter-subject relations. Generalised precognition of the move of the other, is the house rule that, at the last moment, distributes luck evenly amongst all players. Nature cannot afford the maxim, ‘there’s a sucker born every minute’, a situation in which the gazelle always escapes, as this would imply a state of neg-tension, and thus imminent system-death. It follows then, that the danger posed by introduced and invasive forms derives from their escape from the regulatory cross-species behavioural codes that are employed by the host environment so keep open the return path to its start point. 

  1. Strophe. There is an inescapable tendency in systems that produce surpluses to transform quantities into qualities. Wherever social processes pass the point of reproducing the conditions required for their continuation, their product inevitably accumulates as a surplus. Surplus is the overproduction of a particular quality, or use-value, which by the effect of its presence, and beyond the homeostatic functionality of the system, permanently alters everything around it. Every surplus positions itself as alien, as an invasive or introduced quality, to its conditions. Every surplus is a back flowing effluent, an inefficiency, an insult, a disfiguring affliction - and thus, surplus bestows the form of social wealth that relations must adjust to. The first form of wealth is the quantitative representation of natural profusion minus exuberance; the second form of wealth is the return of abstract value to things as the measure of property ownership. Surplus diverges from simple abundance at the level of its potential for utility. Natural abundance has no use, it is merely another mode, an exceptional mode, of its lifeworld... profusion is the system-wide convulsion that results from the accidental alignment in, the perfect storm of, natural forces; and as it ‘rots on the vine’, it is forgotten the moment systemic steady state is re-established. Abundance in one year will be followed by scarcity the next. Natural systems are flexible enough to process the caprice of cosmic forces, but not sufficiently resilient to withstand human destabilisation.

  1. Strophe. If natural systems are defined by the capacity to forget perturbing events, social systems (that is surplus producing systems) are all memory. Surplus production is nothing but memory writing itself onto living process - and changing it. That is to say, surplus, as a historical quality, is inseparable from the deliberate destabilisation of a system by its own product. Every surplus is directed towards some other end than simple reproduction of its conditions. The pull exerted by a surplus draws the system, of which it is a product, towards a crisis located outside of itself, a crisis which must take the form of a crash revaluation of its operational terms. From the ecstatic destination arrived at by its surplus, the total process of the recalibration parent system immediately pivots. Every surplus introduces a regulatory predicament to the social system in which it appears: in order for the system to return to itself, either the surplus itself must be destroyed (as in premodern agricultural festivals) or, the barriers confronting and restricting surplus production must be torn down. The blind tearing down of environmental constraints is a feature of all productive systems where the surplus feeds back into the process, expanding and transforming it.

  1. Strophe. Surplus plays like a strange light over every surface, casting outlandish shadows as if scrutinising, or scanning, world process from the outside. In the history of abstraction, first there were things, then systems, then relations, then distance, then melancholy, then machines, and finally light. The redemptive illumination of productive activity by unemployed surplus is the true origin of the epoch of full abstraction - it is also where surplus unveils itself as the overriding goal of social organisation. But abstraction also lived outside of, and prior to, surplus production, functioning as a component of all interrelating systems. As a factor in preserving the outline of every discrete organisation, abstraction is called into play, wherever transitional or translating services are called upon in the encounter and engagement with external forces. Where the proportion of abstraction is considered as a factor in the reproduction of systems, it is found to be relatively small in natural forms (serving as a regulatory subroutine of inter-species relations mediated by the lifeworld as a whole) and relatively large, although still as a subsidiary function, in human forms (where it serves a historical, reflexive and deutero-learning purpose), but then goes off the scale in capitalism, where abstraction is revealed as both the journey and the destination of world production. 

  1. Strophe. In order for abstraction to progress from the regulatory function of interrelated things to the ecstatic principle of universalised world production, it must first enter a phase of further ratcheting up in the distance between itself and concrete activity. The further stage of abstraction is only accessed via a corresponding further ratcheting up in the productive system’s faculties of responsiveness to the stimulus of its own surplus - capital is another entity impelled to devour what it vomits. In natural systems, the phenomenon of super-stimuli describes the mechanism whereby discrete systems capture extra energy from the world by deploying super-intensive attractive behaviours. In social systems, capitalism emerges through the super-attraction, and incorporation, of surplus energy to the productive apparatus. Capital eschews the Sabbath of things, hitherto maintained in pre-modern societies, where surplus implied a corrective suspension of labours and the momentary repose of festival and ‘world turned upside down’ - pre-modern societies contain their own tendency to abstraction by deploying a fallow moment, or Sabbath, in their ‘pseudo-cyclical’ temporality. By escaping feudal relations, surplus, in the form of capital, seeks expansion of itself via compulsive reinvestment in the conditions of its possibility. Capital’s escape from negative feedback and return, wherein it instigates the neg-equilibrium spiral, takes it towards the ecstasy of punctuated punctuation, of interrupted interruption - ultimately, ‘capital’s’ expansion is directed beyond all constraints of physical time, and towards a fully abstract universality. At some point that is not communism, abstraction, in its full amplitude, will shed capital as an obsolete form.

  1. Strophe. The re-investment of surplus product into production, thereby both expanding surplus producing capacity and thus transforming the nature of the metabolism, is an exemplar of a dog wagged by its tail - then, isn’t capitalism a dog-system that is becoming all tail? The ‘further stage’ accessed by surplus production in order to realise surplus-surplus production and thus the stage of surplus-surplus-surplus, and on and on, and further still, is derived from the recontextualisation, and promotion to the status of overriding principle, of the minor subroutines in abstract interrelatability that exist naturally between context dependent things. The passage of abstraction from particular servitude to universal preeminence is comparable to shrew-like creatures escaping their cretaceous niche only to re-emerge as an empire of mammals. Under fully automated luxury abstraction, the interrelatibility of co-evolving things erupts as the universal exchangeability of all things. 

  1. Strophe. The term, ‘commodity form’ refers to the capacity of a thing to speak to another thing where all such communication is mediated by the framework of a universal abstract value system. Or rather, in the expanded form, it is the speech of the representation of a thing to the representations of all other things where this is mediated by the language of abstract equivalence. The triumph of the sadness of abstraction over materiality is effected where the set of signals generated by the potential interrelatibility of some is realised as the universal language of the exchangeability of all. 

  1. Strophe. The commodity system supposes the universal exchangeability of all things. And exchangeability, at the level of use (at the level of qualities), supposes the interchangeability of all things at the level of abstract value (of linen in coats, of coats in linen). The state of abstract equivalence is the appearance of the value of one thing in the form of another. In the perfection of itself, every system must incorporate and every system must expel. What it incorporates is the content of the thing as a void. What it expels is the the outline of the thing as an activity. In its external relations, every system must attract and every system must repulse. What it attracts is the representation of things as the measure of itself. What it repulses is the measure of things as representation of itself. In its decline, every system must conserve and every system must let go. What it conserves is what it lets go. What it lets go, is what it conserves.

  1. Strophe. What does abstraction desire? In its current phase, as the commodity system, which is the perpetual impregnation by the value process of the expanded productive process as it perpetually gives birth to the expanded value process, it desires further escape from wherever it is still dependent for its realisation upon the energy that it extracts from the material world. Where abstraction returns to matter, where it returns and touches earth, then whirlwinds. The continuation of the abstract realm’s addiction to the material world, from out of which it generates its outline, by necessity takes the form of, in self-defence against a blowback of matter, domination (first by repression, then by exploitation, and finally by domestication). For the moment, the system of abstract exchangeability in the representation of all things (from which wealth takes its qualitative form: wringing acorns from lilies) is indexed to quantities of abstract labour hours, which in turn, inextricably, is a representation of bound, free, concrete, labour activity. And if it is through the domination (in its three valences) of concrete activity by the totality of abstract labour hours that (but no more ifs)... then, abstraction yearns for its transition away from the labour process. In the transports of its delirium, equivalence pursues the madness of its detoxification from, its dependency on, the constraints of matter - it dreams of not measuring things. The desire of abstraction is to to get clean, and get clean away, from the drug that is the life-world (it is the genie, chained by the ankle, taking wing from bourgeois property) -  it dreams of abstracting from itself.
  1. Anti-strophe. Of this, at least, I feel assured, that there is no such thing as forgetting possible to the mind; a thousand accidents may, and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the secret inscriptions on the mind; accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains for ever...

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Not here to be loved (brief and unrevised comments on the proposal to create zones of autonomy)

Although proposing the creation of zones for temporary autonomy appears as a practical alternative to the structural constraints bound up within both the politics of conventional reformism and of conventional revolutionising, really it remains only an idealised image of ‘real world practice.’ And if we interject, stating our reservations, right from the beginning, then the object of temporary autonomy suddenly resolves, and thus problematically, into focus. 

Very often, the purpose of proposals for alternatives to conventional practice is to suspend or evade critical awareness. We are now armed with highly developed critiques of established processes and organisations, but lapse immediately into second order naïveté when imagining other means of proceeding - one-sided investigations into structural constraints tend to reproduce all the errors of allegiant modes of involvement. Whenever we are confronted with the limits and failures of given forms of practical activity, we erroneously fall back into evangelising for alternative solutions, which in the vagueness of their presentation, at the least seem to provide a minimum definition of revolutionary engagement.

Temporary Autonomy is the conceptual repackaging of avant-garde Happenings and Situations on one side, as this combines with an inherited awareness of general insurrectionary activity amongst peasants and early proletarians on the other. The continuity within avant-garde traditions alongside the severance of this constrained activity from popular insurrection is historically conclusive - ‘autonomy’ (as a temporary suspension of business as usual) becomes both a compensatory activity, a sort of obligation to perform some sort of autonomous actions as the vehicle for delivering the impossible burden of creativity (taken to its most developed form), and also a swerve off the path towards ‘revolutionary terror’ (temporary autonomy is after all, just playing) - at least we did something, at least we tried to live. 

The Temporary Autonomous Zone is, in essence, an aesthetic ideal but the autonomy of the aesthetic as a general category, clearly not grasped by autonomists, is paradoxically conditioned by its integration into the social totality. Aesthetics only escapes determination to the degree that it reflects back upon its own chained, and subordinate, condition - by opening the floodgates of over-determination, and constantly increasing the registers of description and interpretation, aesthetic activity becomes unstable: of the world but not for the world; for the world but not of the world.

We should briefly consider here some of the drawbacks of aesthetically ‘making things happen’ and of carving out a space for free expression. Not the least of these drawbacks is the association of migration, innovation, and new territory, with emancipation - the ideal of permanent festival implies both a trail of destruction in the perpetual moving on towards the new, and the separation of the function of festival itself from the relations of which it was once  a regulatory expression. Instances of misrule suppose the generality of rule which autonomy negates. What is autonomy but the unrestricted prowling of innumerable predators (all the time pretending a little touch of harry in the night) that are enabled by the creation of yet another gated community, another iteration of the masque of the red death. 

All activity, and especially the activity associated with creative autonomy, is necessarily also suppressive. That which violently occupies a space, by implication, seeks to expel what is already present and thereby secures the territory, becoming a fortress, against invasion of other forces. Then, autonomy inevitably is also the denial of autonomies. 

The situationist presentation of the subjective pole of historical movement, which they characterised as the suppression and realisation of existing historical tendencies, is presupposed in any project directed towards autonomy. Unfortunately, the driven nature of the individuals involved (driven by the psychological damage that drives them to formulate regressive notions of autonomy) will ensure that they always re-instate the constraints of the same within experiments of difference and otherness (a fatal case of ‘you can take the boy out of Newcastle...’) 

The set of ‘direct’ and participatory behaviours idealised in the conception of autonomy (by which we understand the expropriatory and secessionary manoeuvre of self-separation) supposes that the cost of realising ‘immediacy’ in direct relations amongst participants must be the suppression of the greater part (the autonomic domain) of the human community. This would include not only ‘passivity’ or non-specific, non-goal orientated and non-creative activity but also the vast reserves of shared unconscious structuring (the hooks and levers) built into and implied by human intercourse. 

Autonomy, by subduing the objective in this space, thereby severs itself from the work of every apparatus of social commonality - the autonomists, in their autonomous state, are bereaved of all reference points but those contents that they may bring immediately to their conscious praxis. 

Creativity, under autonomous circumstances, being deprived of whatever is bound into whatever is not autonomous, tends to reduce to a mere representation of, a play at, creativity. But it was never the role of anarchists to ‘be creative’. Anarchists have no purpose but first to enact their refusal of all authority, and then to refuse the terms of that refusal - the terms and register by which such refusals become possible are entirely context-specific. Idealist concepts of ‘zones’, supposing a revealed or declaratory element, deny the possible need for slipping across borders. 

Unfortunately again, we already exist in variations of that ‘strange place’ inflicted upon populations by the constant revolutionising of capital. Autonomy, paradoxically, is imposed objectively by the doubled process wherein labour is separated from its product and also expelled from the productive apparatus. We are forever being thrown out of our world into some catastrophe - then, to throw, when we are being thrown, becomes an exercise in redundancy, a demonstration only of the incapacity to defend boundaries. 

In the context of objective unhoming, subjective autonomy becomes the political equivalent of craft activity, an attempt to realise by retrieval, that which has already been suppressed. Autonomy is driven by a gentrifying nostalgia to reassert the primacy of living labour in circumstances where making do and mending (self-managed war communism) is a treadmill type activity deployed by the state of interregnum until capital floods back into the territory. 

What is Islamic State but an autonomous zone? In the cleared space of Year Zero, Robinson Crusoe, eternally shipwrecked, eternal steps upon the wet sand of some Tarkovskian island, as that might be situated on the surface of Solaris. The flight of capital from IS-type contained sets of territorialised relations (where the strategy of degrading and destroying value) operates as a regulatory homeostatic function upon the general metabolism (for example, deterritorialising a set of relations around oil reserves, putting the reserves beyond use, and securing the price of commodities in general). The creativity of capital as it generates its own autonomous zones is always far beyond the capacities of even the richest revolutionaries. 

It is possible for us to imagine that the path out of the compensatory image of autonomy begins through the querying of the desire to become autonomous. At some, post-autonomous, point, it is realised that the subjective work of emancipation is not engaged via the suppression and realisation of existing forms (the human community does not suppose an ahistorical representation of the historical will to expropriate at all) but works through its therapeutic relation with the traumatised world by permitting all existing things to pass into obsolescence, and thereby putting them beyond use. 

As a principle of social organisation, communism is the suppression of use value, it relaxes the tension in the things that must be exchanged, and the revolutionary proletariat is its agency of decommission - it must not occupy, but will always vacate (thereby enacting the radical separation between the expulsion and the abolition of labour). Or rather, as a subject form, it occupies only so as to vacate this world, and at a higher level.

Only relinquish!

Monday, 4 September 2017

The dumping of a set of 87 unsent tweets on an already saturated market

Yes, antifascism suspends the critique of everything and replaces it with the denunciation of this one thing.

On its own terms, antifascism makes itself incomprehensible; it has deliberately stripped itself of theory to better access its own visceral poetics.

Even so, I sometimes get the feeling that I don’t inhabit the same moral or intellectual universe as the antifascists.

Sometimes I get the feeling that antifascists need fascism in the way that the dominant ideology has needed its succession of enemies since 1989. 

Anyway, my suspicions concerning ‘worst products’ cause me to conclude that I am not ‘on the same side’ as antifascism. 

Like the murderous aesthete Lydecker, I am constrained to the barb: ‘I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor's children devoured by wolves.’ 

Of course, I understand the ‘here be dragons’ function of liberal anti-fascism. All homeostatic structures must persuade themselves to not pass into the extremity of feedback runaway.

But ‘radical antifascism’ seems oxymoronic (in the sense that the ‘radical’ should generalise laws from, and not fetishise, the specific).

The antifascists argue that failure to confront fascists ‘emboldens’ them. There is no theory or historical evidence to back this up. 

On the contrary, all evidence and theory, (in politics, therapy, anthropology) suggests the opposite.  Extreme views are entrenched by conflict. 

Arms-race type phenomena are well understood and embraced by anti-fascists when considering problems other than fascism.

Exits from conflictual relations are always arrived at along other paths than direct confrontation (that is, unless a steady state/dynamic equilibrium type relation is being sought out).

Here is a concise example of a theory of the arms race:

If de-escalatory trends are not the route out of capitalism, there can be no hope for the human species or the natural environment. 

Then, if de-escalation is considered the modal exit from general social relations what of anti-fascist exceptionalism?

If ‘fascism’ is the worst, shouldn’t it be treated as a special case (should it be escalated against)?

I do not claim to know what antifascism is, but fascism is more comprehensible. We can list some of its traits and conditions:

  1. One of the mobilising strategies employed as the relations of production separated from the gold standard. 
  2. One of the mobilising strategies utilised by the bourgeoisie in the moment of its class decomposition. 
  3. One of the mobilising strategies of state power as it took on the function of social reproduction and became monopoly producer of labour power.
  4. One of the mobilising strategies of social being as it began to lose touch with what animated its existence.
  5. One of the mobilising strategies of ideology (as repressive re/de sublimation) when confronted with unshackled productive forces.
  6. One of the mobilising strategies of the 4th generation of those inhabiting ‘second nature’ and returning from the failure to recognise their social product.
  7. One of the mobilising strategies of those whose overriding desire was to submit to the certainty of command structures.
  8. One of the mobilising strategies of social relations that are mediated by representations (where representation articulates a specific moment).

Fascism is not distinguished by its fetishism of race and national character, as these do not exist, but by its fetishism of the imagoes (ideal representations) of race and nation.

In other words, fascism is not authentic. It does not possess the language of what really motivates it.

In other, other words, fascism’s claims cannot be taken at face value. It is always an expression of something else. 

It is a symptom, a symptom of fatality but it is not its own source. Its power is derived from elsewhere, from other traumas and ruptures.

If fascism is to be uncoupled from the social imaginary, the dreamwork has to identify terms other than fascism’s supposed commitment to ‘white supremacy’ and ‘nation’.

It is possible that fascism is a reaction formation expressing the desire for the end of certain forms of domination which it can only represent as names of the father. 

Similarly, antifascism seems to involve a libidinal investment in reframing the imagoes of race and nation without ever escaping their evident psychic power. 

But it is curious that the desire to replay this seeming clear cut battle should recur after it has been separated from its (less than clear cut) historical context. 

The neo-fascists and neo-antifascists of today are stuck in a recursive spell of representations of representations. 

Fascism appeared historically precisely at the moment that its reference points (ideological derivatives of national capitals) were overrun. 

The escape of capital from the gold standard and thus from the nation ensured the historic defeat of the bourgeoisie by the modern state as apparatus of the automatic subject.  

To that end, fascism which is one of the later forms of Bonapartism  (both realising and suppressing the bourgeoisie as historical subject)…

…was nothing but a triumphant expression of the defeat (or completion) of a prewar form of social being which was immediately superseded and then lost all currency. 

Fascism was both a distracting fantasy and murderously real. It served a purpose but had no historic agency.

It burst violently into the world as a repetition compulsion directed at retrieving fantasy part-objects which could never have existed.

It contributed the component of subjective desire to the state’s reformation as monopoly producer of labour power at the moment desire became economically irrelevant. 

There never were any nations, there never were any races, except as retroactively conjured explanations for otherwise incomprehensible social relations. 

But who cares what fascism is, certainly not the antifascists who want only to essentialise their opposition to it. 

Is it possible for communists to make antifascist arguments? How might they go about exploring that possibility?

For example, if fascism is a mere epiphenomenon, a symptom of something more fundamental, what need would the state have for it?

In other words, if fascism is a ‘threat’, what does it add to the state’s umwelt that would not otherwise be present?

It is actually difficult to imagine fascism adding anything to the array of presently existing state powers or accelerating trends towards frictionless productivism.

Example 1: the programme of eradicating species imperfections is no longer described as eugenics and is all the more successful for that. 

Example 2: the self-managed separation of racial and ethnic identities is now a conventional position internalised by the left. 

Example 3: the ideology of territorial inviolability is resurgent, in inverse proportion to its delusory character.

Example 4: The authoritarian personality is more integrated into mass media than ever before. 

Example 5: We are habituated to a state of permanent war, crisis, threat and emergency powers. 

Example 6: Effective defeat of the proletariat.

Example 7: The enclosure of mass populations within a single and unified set of social relations. 

Example 8: The elevation of kitsch, knee-jerk sentimentalism to the level of emancipatory consciousness. 

Example 9: The endless procession of dumbfounding images.

Example 10: The reduction of language to Pavlovian commands. 

The state has superseded fascism as is shown by the continuity in policy between the ‘liberal’ Obama and the ‘white supremacist’ Trump. 

Fascism is now redundant in all but two areas: in conducting para-state activities and in  generating ‘antifascist’ ideologies. 

Fascism becomes useful to the state where it may be instrumentalised as an extra-judicial tool of disruption and assassination of enemies. 

It is also strategically convenient as a demonised ‘common enemy’ which may be utilised to mobilise cross-class alliances. 

The function of anti-fascism as an ideological misdirection from the class struggle is well understood historically but always forgotten in the present. 

Antifascism’s utilisation of anti-‘appeasement’ tropes draw from the cultural generalisation of mobilising imperatives that legitimise military power. 

Whilst antifascism is (by implication) opposed to state mobilisation, all of its rhetorical material replicates the crudest gambits of state propaganda.  

The greatest error of antifascism is that it is specifically structured to not recognise any barbarity that is not directly attributable to ‘fascists’.

That is to say, there is never an instance of antifascism that is not also a case of ‘The old man’s back again.’ 

To conclude, might we consider fascism as a pathology and antifascism as a palliative or symptomatic treatment that does not seek cure but containment?

It is a characteristic of the modern ideology of expertise that problems should generate solutions within a specialist discourse. 

However, I would find it strange that antifascists could believe either in the authenticity or the effectiveness of the various wars on drugs and on terror. 

It is quite clear that the afflictions of drug addiction and terrorism cannot be resolved within their own terms, they are symptoms of a ‘deeper malaise’.

Similarly, the function of the police is not to eradicate crime but to contain it at manageable levels. 

If the antifascists accept the limitations, and counter-productive function, of symptomatic responses elsewhere, then why not in their own case?

The answer would seem to be encountered precisely in the structure of its specialisation. As a police discourse, it is ambivalent about what it polices. 

It desires its own mobilisation, and therefore requires the pretext or trigger for it to realise itself but  also sincerely despises what it depends upon. 

This strange situation is illustrated if we consider the possibility of antifascists mobilising against other types of gangs that prey on impoverished communities.

Militant opposition to gangsters immediately encounters a question of generalisation. Why organise against ‘illegal’ capitalists when all capitalists are exploitative?

When this query is applied to fascism, the same question of generalisation is always suppressed - and we have begun to make out the reasons why.

Ah, one further conclusion. Today, we are familiar with an exceptionalist form of antifascism which identifies fascism as white nationalism…

…but there is an older post-war form of antifascism which (as encountered in ‘critical theory’ and Foucault) identifies capitalist institutions as inherently fascistic.

The strength and the weakness of this earlier position which perceives a generalised/internalised post-war victory of fascism is precisely its universality. 

Whilst the critical marxist theory of fascism is still in advance of today’s antifascism… 

… that is, whilst fascism is considered constitutive of social being and cannot be confronted as an exterior enemy without also reproducing it…

… the very universality of this interiorisation seems fetishistic. There are moments of seeming masochistic delight in Adorno and Foucault’s descriptions of constraining apparatuses. 

The true nature of anti-fascism remains opaque and mysterious. Its language and imagery is inherited and therefore suspect.