Friday, 5 July 2013

Some still uncooked in the middle observations on the given form of revolt noted down on the first day of Egypt’s nascent civil war whilst becoming mildly distracted by starling fledglings on their first day after leaving the nest.


That there is an ‘upsurge’ in the ‘cycle of struggle’ as it is described by those who use such language, and that this upsurge is a result of the ‘economic crisis’, now seems indisputable in the broadest of terms – although of course, the word ‘struggle’ might imply consciously motivated actants, subjects even, so I would prefer ‘cycle of convulsions’ as the more accurate term. 

Even taking into account the fantasist wish-fulfilment which passes for analysis in ultra-left and anarchist circles, it would seem that turbulence at the level of social behaviours maps somehow onto a disruption at the level of the ordinary reproduction of social relations. However, for sanity’s sake, we should insert two provisos into this now established belief:

The first is in the form of a question: how exactly does general economic crisis determine specific behaviours?  

The second is in the form of a disclaimer: it seems more necessary than ever, in moments of crisis, to reinstate disbelief as a means of separating out revolutionary wish-fulfilment and residual critical capacity. This is particularly relevant whenever the sentimentalist concept of  current and exigent ‘struggle’ is invoked. 



To expand threefold on the first reservation. Firstly, economic ‘crisis’ does not simply ‘cause’ revolt, or set the terms on revolt, it creates a situation of increased pressure which activates and exacerbates, at the level of behaviour, certain volatile and already existing ideological tendencies. Secondly, the section of the populace most activated and exercised by economic crisis is the bourgeoisie, it is this class which is most easily thrown into panic and it is this class which perceives an opportunity for advancement. The bourgeoisie is capitalism’s most volatile class, it knows both victory and disappointment and is readily motivated by both in response to environmental triggers. Thirdly, the crisis should not be overemphasised. Capitalism’s tummy upset indicates the passage and conflict between different modes of operation and the clash of opposing factions within the bourgeoisie, rather than a general crisis of the reproduction of social relations - after all, capitalism is ‘crisis’, it appears in society as the destruction as much as the production of value. As a mechanism, it thrives on the fall of established oligarchs, war, turbulence, sequestrations, collapses, losses, disasters - all negative events feed into the recommencement of the process of abstraction from zero.  In other words, the recent ‘cycle’ of protests, revolts, coups, civil wars, terror and barbarity which mark a structural metamorphic event within reproduction as a vertical determinative factor are also horizontally assigned their manifest content by bourgeois ideology. If people are agitated by 'capitalist' disruptions, they are motivated by bourgeois ideology. 

To expand threefold the second reservation: The given form of protest is assigned by the terms of existing society and thus express the imperatives and values of that society. Bizarrely, anarchists and other ‘class struggle’ theorists have attributed a ‘revolutionary character to the social dislocations of the last few years. This is akin to attributing a revolutionary character to the tribesmen fighting ‘imperialism’ in Afghanistan. Neither internecine nor international conflict is ever ‘revolutionary’. On the contrary, conflict indicates a retrenchment of established values. It occurs where there is an unspoken accord between the antagonists on the value of what is being fought over, say this piece of land, or that oil reserve, or ‘our’ nation. The question for them is not what  should be most valued (it is not an ethical problem) but who owns what is most valued.  If people are set in motion by economic crisis they are not thereby motivated to revolt ‘against’ that which is disrupting their ordinary existence but are impelled instead to grasp hold of readymade ideological causes, ideals and prejudicial fetishes to hit each other with - it seems there must be blood, and then absolute exhaustion before new terms become available. 

The extraordinary situation in Egypt has shredded the analysis of the ‘ultra-left’ milieu which, motivated by its own unquestioned bourgeois categories, seeks to celebrate the quantity of revolt and an unexpected window of opportunity for the entrepreneurial promotion of its theories.  But despite its enthusiasm, the crowds have not referenced the ultra-left at all, communist principles are entirely absent from the streets. Even so, unpopularity is not the worst of it, the ultra-left has been consistently inconsistent in application of its own categories. The question of the class composition of those in revolt has barely troubled it. It seems that an uprising is an event, and an event is an event. Misanalysis is then allowed to cross the threshold of absurdity at the point where class definition is reinterpreted to include those orchestrating the street manifestations. The bourgeoisie in the streets thereby undergoes class-reassignment in order to become proletarian so that they then fit in with the class struggle hypothesis which locates the proletariat as ‘the revolutionary class’. 

However, it is events themselves, particularly in Egypt, which have dragged the ultra-left milieu’s theory this way and that, discrediting it at the level of the milieu’s faustian desire for involvement in and affirmation of its values. But the fantasy goes unreciprocated - if the ultra-left finds itself in the crowds, the crowds do not find themselves in the ultra-left. The ‘struggle’ or convulsion in Egypt is firstly staged between the bourgeoisie and the state, and then between factions of the bourgeoisie. At first the bourgeois factions united together and entered into an unthought through alliance with global capital (the communications corporations) against the established state but then, after one of the factions achieved power, others sought to bring them down by re-legitimising the institutions of the previously reviled state - the conflict, in the very moment of its escalation, has become part anachronism and part displacement as the real ‘struggle’ now plays out between national and international capitals. Just because this struggle is tragic, violent, convulsive and momentous it does not follow that there is any ‘communisable’ element within it, anymore than there is in Syria which, after the cannibal episode, the ultra-left have quietly ceased to ‘analyse’. 

At the end there is supposed to be attached something hopeful and rousing. In place of that I can only recommend the subjective importance of refusing the given form of protest as that might appear as denunciation of some president or in the guise of a patriotic resurgence, or as a commodity mediated notion of ‘freedom’. The given form remains a 'capitalist' form, the given form of revolt remains a capitalist form of revolt - one side of, one moment in, a multiple-sided, multiple-momented process. 

I guess I intend my recommendation concerning the given form, perhaps arbitrarily, to be hitched to the given form of Engels formula on the necessity of the ‘negation of the negation’. It seems that if communists have any role in world events, and they really don’t, and if ‘communisation’ is shown to be a piece of self-congratulatory ideological fluff, which it really is, then all that remains for them, in the midst of general bewitchment by the given and immediate form, is a pessimistic attempt to apply their intelligence, such as it is, in the form of refusing received categories of social phenomena. Again and again and again. 

Those baby starlings, they’re so funny. 

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