All history comes to an end at that point at which all history comes to an end. And from the end-point, the past which leads up to it, is activated, and comes back to life. All history has lead to an infinite number of end-points. Therefore, all history has led to Nihilist Communism. From the end-point of history, there emerges the end-point’s own history, which leaks and stains the world around it. The history of Nihilist Communism appears, like exposed viscera, as a reading list, like a tether to the past. All consideration of an end-point's provenance thereby activates the constraints placed upon it – that is, those particular constraints which have caused it to be as it had to be, its outline and its content. By extension, that which is constrained to be what it is, thereby suggests certain possibilities concerning what it is not.
The historical end-point called Nihilist Communism began elsewhere and as something else. It originates, as if on an endlessly replayed loop of hasty gestures and part-conclusions, in the historical constraints placed upon the continuation of the elective revolutionary project wherever that was proposed and put into practice. Historically invariable constraints are activated in the formation of every pro-revolutionary subjectivity, but only appear as such in circumstances of self-realised decomposition. The nihilist communist reading list captures the very moment where defeat and self-disassembly is registered subjectively.
The listed authors record the unique experience of self-managed immiseration as they catch themselves wriggling recursively on the barbed hook of themselves. These are records of auto-defeating projects in the throes of that defeat... each author captures, as in a snapshot, the point at which the hidden logic of compulsion within elective social transformation begins to overtake its protagonists, and thus reveals to them the limits of their organising capacity. A mirror has fallen from the sky and its fractured pieces, small as a grain of sand, have since become lodged in every human eye:
My Universities – Maxim Gorky
The Foundation Pit – Andrei Platonov
Lip and the self-managed counter-revolution - Négation
The Impotence of the Revolutionary Group - Sam Moss
On Organisation - Jacques Camatte
Moominvalley in November – Tove Jansson
Provisional Theses for the Discussion of New Theoretico-Practical Orientation in the SI - Paolo Salvadori
Third Generation - Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Untitled Text - Guy Debord 28 January 1971
The movement of the logic of ultra-leftist critique is towards self-dissolution. Those groups that are holding on and have not yet leapt into the abyss of their particular non-being are still to apply their idea rigourously enough. Those ultra-leftist groups which still survive, survive inappropriately. The movement of the logic of the critique of existing organisations, and the involvement of consciousness in the practice of organising, is (and often despite its bearers’ intentions) compulsively towards total disassembly. Why should critique hold back? Why should it suspend its theory in this place and not another? Why should it direct its rigour there but not here? The movement of the logic of ultra-left critique tends towards totalisation and a blanket application. Its critique of existing organisations leads to the critique of the idea of possible organisations, which in turn leads to the critique of the role of the organiser, which by extension leads to the critique of the function and nature of subjective consciousness in organisations. The historical movement of ultra-leftism is towards its own unique progressive non-appearance in history – the theoretical performance of its absence actualises a particular spiritual quality which suggests a near identity with that circumstance where it might not have existed at all. Ultra-leftism’s progressive absence is almost equivalent to its possible absolute non-existence, almost but not quite. The record of its disappearance is therapeutically necessary – the one who has abolished himself thereby produces the relinquished space where he could have been. By means of its critique, the ultra-left lineage seeks to expunge the counter-communist tendencies that were expressed in the organisations it once advocated. The logic of ultra-leftism therefore enacts a historical penance for the sins accumulated by the left-wing of capitalism: for the 9 million deaths of the Russian Revolution, for Stalinism, and for the craven optimised regulation of variable capital by social democracy. Those ultra-leftist groups still extant, have not yet consciously encountered the deep programme of self-extirpation they are nonetheless implementing. They are erasing the world around themselves as if in a waking dream.
Anarcho-syndicalists and other species of organisationalists shrink before the shard of perversity which they also carry forward into the world, which begins with the critique of present society but must end in the act of absolute secession from themselves. They want to hold back. Their practice is directed almost entirely at containing the ruptures set in motion by critique. They seek to direct their opposition selectively towards appropriate targets. For them, the capitalist social relation is not categorically located in the realisation of the abstract ‘activity’ of variable capital – they are certain that capitalism is not themselves. But it is – the distorting mirror reflects all their efforts as so much faustian hubris. Capitalist relations are as realised in organisationalist actions as anywhere else. The critique which they carry forward, and despite their best efforts at containment and externalisation, perversely continues to locate faultlines in their own projects. Organisationalist history is no more than the aggregated uncovering of fatal flaws in realised organisations which were present from the moment of formation, but only become apparent in crisis. The tragedy of pro-revolutionary organisation lies in the subjective discovery that it is merely a vehicle for that which it had previously imagined it was the opposition. Into the downward spiral of their own decomposition organisationalists have tried to re-introduce circuits of a counter-logic by which the principle of self-organisation confronts its dependency on prevailing conditions... it is as if they were releasing a creature bred in captivity, that is otherwise already extinct, back into the wild.
The organisationalists have hitherto sought to realise an enclave of precisely that which the logical progression of their consciousness has demonstrated impossible. They have tried to suspend material reality’s absolute determination of the applicability of ideas, and within that interregnum create, by their own activity, a gated community of self-organising practice, which they imagine will thereafter expand indefinitely. The organisationalists’ argument against any subjective registering of the logic of self-decomposition is that ‘theoretical knowledge’ should be kept in line by practice, and that ultra-left ‘purism’ (by which they mean consistent application of critique) is ‘unrealistic.’ It is the type of accusation that indicates an idealist conception of the role of ideas, and supposes that theory ought to provide a platform or foundation upon which life can be organised (as an extension of this, organisationalists are obliged to curtail the extent of their ideas so as to maintain the illusion of universal appeal). But life cannot be lived successfully according to plans and principles – the function of conscious ideas is purely destructive. Conscious thought is activated where it has become necessary to reveal the otherwise hidden nature of difficulties encountered in life, but it cannot supply alternatives to those difficulties. Therefore, consciousness exists in perpetual tension with reality, which it can never hope to overcome. Therefore, the practicality of ultra-leftist theory is irrelevant. The function of ultra-left discourse is to reveal the objective nature of the misfortunes of the historical workers’ movement, not to dispense practical alternative organisational models. And by extension, ‘nihilist communist’ thought seeks to direct specific critiques towards those proletarian organisational forms which do not result in the immediate abolition of labour – but it cannot otherwise offer comfort, reassurance or substitute illusions.
The logic of ultra-leftism has led historically to an end-point where life that is lived in opposition to capitalised social forms is constrained by the accumulation of certain critical discoveries made by the ultra-left and which concern leftist organising. These compounded discoveries have reappeared historically as nihilist communist precepts. The following list of precepts will necessarily influence the passage of anyone seeking out a route by which they might leave this world. Therefore, whatever such lonely wanderers attempt as their method, they must, if they are to remain in good faith, keep foremost in their thoughts the following constraints: no factories; no beliefs; no hopes; no projection; no counter-transference; no first person plural; no recourse to transcendence; no positive role for ideas; no identification with the class; no long term projects; no positive visions; no propaganda; no accumulation of achievements; no transitional stages; no plans, no models; no venerated texts; no reductionism; no practical solutions; no substitutions; no expropriations; no representation; no formality; no future; no organisations; no category errors; no instrumentalisation; no self as living example; no lessons or lectures; no negotiations; no demands; no programme; no objectives; no fixed principles; no political organs; no specialised discourse; no history; no tradition; no final analysis; no allegiances. And above all these, no factories, no hopes and no beliefs. Then, what remains?