Wait, have I spoken of this before? More than several times, you say? Well, no matter. There's no fool like a repetitive fool. Even so, isn't it always the same thing? When I get up in the morning, its the same thing. And by the time I go to bed: nothing has changed. I've discovered something definite about history and it is that there is a tension between constants and variables, it is a tension which is mixed even into the most insignificant things that history claims as its own. And the ticklish matter about historical things is that this tension between change and permanence means things are both never what they are and also always the same.
That's their essence, balancing on a knife edge. Its always the same that they are not the same. Not the same in themselves, not the same in relation amongst themselves. Never the same. Not 'in history' and not in location. And all the things in history are more and more attuned to historical process. The more attuned, the less they are what they are; the less they are what they are, the more fixed they are in context. Under atmospheric pressure, things self-correct, bend and distort... to stay alive, to stay current, every thing produced in the world has to work for its place.(1)
In evolution two control systems are present: the homeostases of the body which deal with tolerable internal stress, and the action of natural selection upon the (genetically) nonviable members of the population. From an engineering point of view, the problem is to limit communication from the lower, reversible somatic system to the higher irreversible genotypic system.
Because, if this was allowed it would reduce the capacity of individuals to reverse responsiveness to further tolerable alterations in their circumstances. But the capacity to respond resiliently to stresses is itself already under attack, such is the process of historicisation. Historical conditions are distinguished from those of nature to the extent that in history environmental instructions must be metabolised and incorporated within individual's behaviour as second nature's habits - internalised social cues are the definition of culture. Where a first stress has already been internalised, the capacity to respond to further external assaults is, if not diminished then given its character by the force and direction of the earlier stressor (this is also the core argument in Weil's The Iliad or the poem of force.(2))
In general, we believe that the presence of stress A may reduce an organism's ability to respond to stress B and, guided by this opinion, we commonly protect the sick from the weather. Those who have adjusted to the office life may have difficulty in climbing mountains, and trained mountain climbers may have difficulty when confined to offices [...]
However, where we observe that things dynamically adjust to the connective flux within which they are borne, we must also allow space here for an inevitable quibble (the interlocutor's counter a-ha! - the top spinning rebound which you seek to direct straight back at me) wherein it is proposed that if something is always not itself, then the tendency to self-displace must logically occur as a constant, a fixed and predictable point of process - Weil records just such a predictable effect of displacement within the supplicant's comportment before the possibility of violent death at the hands of capricious soldiers(3). For the reason that I am too grey to think up a defence against your objection, my dim mind will readily grant you your point, if that is what it takes to draw you deeper into my argument.
But, hesitating in the doorway, as it were, I think I would also add that this rigidity of historicised things (i.e. the things that are impelled to be not themselves) is not a fixed characteristic of the thing but is located in the mechanism of the thing's reproduction (individual things learn to adapt to immediate circumstance and thus acquire a patina of particularised narrative by which they might worm their way 'outside' - however, this acquired particularisation is impeded from feeding back into the process of producing new things of a different type). The fixity of things is situated at a level which organises the 'flux' of connectivity between them (that is, at the level of a selective mechanism relating to the type of things permitted to remain current). Men's possessions resemble their times more than their father's possessions, as Debord observed - or, to put it another way, there is at work in the process of realising things a horizontal 'peer' pressure which in turn is brought to bear as a secondary effect of a 'vertical' or environmental process of abstract categorisation (a sort of forking path along which things are either taken up or deselected).
True, true, and I am taking another step with you here, all things eventually come to resemble each other. All available things are characterised through their capacity of being thoroughly interchangeable - that is, in their constant self-alteration, they are becoming ever-more one of the things or another of the things that are taken up by their moment. And the longer the moment, the greater the longevity of established forms. The most successful of things are ever-less likely to be one of the things or another of the things that will be disallowed from appearing within the context that they actualise (they simultaneously become less what they are in themselves but more what they are as a function in the continued reproduction of their environment). The long duration of non-change in historical relations induces a structurally interiorised similarity everywhere, and even within the behaviours of those seeking change. Capitalism is productive of novelty in contents but also of archetypisation and eternalisation of forms.
When considered in registers other than its own, the act of distinguishment, of self-differentiation is disclosed as a mechanism which realises uniformity at another level. So it must follow that, or rather, darting off in a non-sequitiring flourish, everything is also the same. No, no, don't take that the wrong way. I was only joking, you must allow me my taxonomical humour; think of it as being just my way of pretending to a knowledge greater than I possess. Not impressed? Well, okay, let's get this one over quickly and try to salvage as much dignity as the traumatic kernel of our contact will allow.
So, (I catch hold of your sleeve) before you depart, don't you think that revolt is one of these tricky historical hollowed out things which is both not itself and also not sufficiently distinguished from conformity? Revolt is seemingly self-evident, singularly and simply interruptive, but upon closer examination, it slips away from itself. It turns out, after all, to be more or less something else, something produced. Revolt is not distinct enough to separate it in kind from any other campaign phenomenon or manufactured craze - its etiology can be summarised as an established formality, a grid structure to revolt by which it escalates and declines: (i) it occupies its moment, (ii) contaminates other objects, (iii) is also altered by them, (iv) finds its essence deteriorating, (v) reacts violently against itself, (vi) finds its violent fragment saturated of state imperatives (vii) passes into a state of resignation and bewilderment and then falls away. If this schematic presentation holds, then those acts undertaken directly against existing conditions are not simply what they are. So, we might ask ourselves, as if the question were stage whispered in pantomime, what else else could they be?
Or, to put it another way, how did the eternality of revolt become historicised? No, that is not how it should be put, the 'how' of history is a kiplingesque side-show, a secondary and speculative concern. There has always been an awareness, becoming a vindication, of how the revolution could, and perhaps must, devour its own children. The proper question here is when did this awareness of the wrong type of revolt get factored into revolt itself? When did self-differentiation within the phenomena of revolt (its knowing narcissism of small difference) begin to take hold upon its self-reproduction? When did revolt against conditions begin to discover itself reproducing, through its assertion of difference, the same and thereupon factor this awareness into the increasingly contorted positions it was obliged to adopt?
There is no reason to give a date here. But let's say 1917. The point is, as a historical phenomenon, not only is revolt not allowed to perform its own function, it seems excluded from knowing this in the moment of its interventions (knowledge of inevitable failure is allowed only retrospectively - speculatively, this is probably a result of the desire to magically conjure 'potentials' from immediacy against the what is of the world). What revolt denounces in the outside world, it is fated to realise in its own form - seemingly, it is perpetually condemned to negatively instantiate injustice with injustices. To 'adjust' Perlman's writing on revolt of a lifetime ago, and thereby seek to sustain him in the present's connective flux: Being rebels, they consider every fight a good fight, but the best of all is the fight against the bourgeoisie's enemies. The function of revolt is to complete the project of bourgeois accumulation by means other than the route one of establishment main-force (4).
Every oppressed population can become a nation, a photographic negative of the oppressor nation, a place where the former packer is the supermarket's manager, where the former security guard is the chief of police. By applying the corrected strategy, every security guard can follow the precedent of ancient Rome's Praetorian guards. The security police of a foreign mining trust can proclaim itself a republic, liberate the people, and go on liberating them until they have nothing left but to pray for liberation to end. Even before the seizure of power, a gang can call itself a Front and offer heavily taxed and constantly policed poor people something they still lack: a tribute-gathering organization and a hit-squad, namely supplementary tax farmers and police, the people's own. In these ways, people can be liberated of the traits of their victimized ancestors; all the relics that still survive from pre-industrial times and non-capitalist cultures can at last be permanently extirpated.
The continuing appeal of nationalism, Fredy Perlman
Repression begets instances of repression realised in the act of revolt against repression. So it goes - the promethean cycle. And nothing's new. We know this at one level, the discourse of motivation is revolt transmutes into the discourse of failure in the consequences of revolt - and yet we also do not know it. There is a conscious effort to prevent this slipping back and certain propositional aides-mémoire are signposted at the edges of conscious activity. Do not cross a picket line, do not participate in government, do not go to war, do not politically employ representational forms, do not aid the police, do not make common cause with reactionaries, do not seek to 'capture' the state, do not resort to religion or nationalism. But it seems that whilst anarchists know by heart their own maxims, they are still compelled to generate exceptions and suspensions to get away from them. That's life, of course. But the one rule which applies in all cases, and which must be observed above all the others, i.e. do not resort to nationalism, is also habitually broken when there is no discernible advantage to be gained from doing so. Why?
Why? You ask why? It seems nationalism is the one ideological form into which all revolt, once it has achieved sufficient relevance, slips back. There is always an excuse to be made for the temptation to patriotism. The atavistic allure of national belonging trumps all other modes of solidarity. This hold is absurdly constant, certainly Perlman does not get close to explaining its 'appeal'. nevermind loosening its tentacles. Nothing is more irrational than the idea of the nation, it is a collective conversion disorder, an epidemic hysteria. That is well known, but that is also the 'rational mind' speaking, it knows nothing of its own compulsions. Which anti-patriot is not also prepared to suspend his hostility to the nation and allow himself to be drawn into its madness on some pretext of fighting a greater threat (i.e. the external enemy)?
The urge to nationality amongst modern humans is so strong, so fixed, that it necessitates subjective investment in compensating for the literal absence of its object by attributing to it a reality beyond that of mere tangible things (the nation seems eternally separated from historical process, and thus preserved from 'market vagaries', i.e. the ordinary pressure on objects to self-correct to the value index as not themselves). The nation is always a late return in the thinking process of revolt to a reference point set outside of ordinary social antagonism - one may invoke it in dispute and thereby assert the ideological form of community confident in the full amplitude of its resonance with others (e.g. the deployment of US flags in US anti-war marches as a signifier of what are America's true values).
Ideologically, the nation appears in consciousness as the invariable; it seems, because it is so tantalisingly unfathomable, so ahistorically prior, that it is (it must be) of all the things in the world, truly what it is. When all else is relativised, when all things have become wholly interchangeable (the universal objects of scorn or lassitude, the untreasures that surround us), then the recoursed-to image of the home nation is compulsive and almost unshakeable. It is evoked at moments of crisis, with the simple and direct logic of the dagger, as the one pole of reference indicating the immutable. Before its promise of return, we are prepared to abandon everything - we are prepared to let everything be destroyed so as to preserve its image against the threat from the foreign invader.
To raise the flag(5), any flag, is to instantly draw together a community of recognition. And from within the flag's life-world the other flag, the flag of the other, immediately indicates an external obstacle to be overcome - in an instant, the entire content of human society is unfurled (the solidarity of common cause, a contained community set in 'relation' to a named exterior, an enemy who is immediately as incomprehensible as he is readily identifiable).
In contrast to this, picture 'the enemy' as the man of ressentiment conceives him—and here precisely is his deed, his creation: he has conceived 'the evil enemy,' 'the Evil One,' and this in fact is his basic concept, from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a 'good one'—himself!
Genealogy of Morals
And so it is that the home nation, the alienated image of a vessel of community, this singular pole of reference towards which all modern humans orient themselves, for both inspiration and retroactive legitimation of their actions, is also, since 1917, the one pole of reference that self-aware revolt against conditions cannot retreat to. It is a transgression against the constraints of revolt to cross a picket line. Within the discourse of revolt, it is a transgression to recourse to the mechanisms of the state. It is a transgression to aid the police... And, it is a transgression, a crime even, for the historically self-aware to resort to nationalist imagery - it is a dead road. How then to explain Occupied Times of London's reproduction of ersatz emblems of Palestinian nationalism and the unthinking redistribution of this as a currency of revolt amongst leftists and anarchists?
There are simple responses to this problem which rely upon the diagnosis of inconsistencies, the eros of abject morality, politic opportunism and simple confusion. And it is true that these are ordinarily sufficient for describing and repudiating left nationalism and the framings of anti-imperialist politics. However, underlying this perpetual tendency to error and transgression against so-called 'internationalism' are recurrent patterns which suggest a deeper structuring to the frothing 'do something' moral injunctions to 'do something' inherent to protest culture, and which functions to return oppositionism to very conventional political forms. The most important of these deep structures is the mechanism by which subject formations are generated within social relations, and crucially, by which false subject formations are made to move in a manner suggestive of the miracle of their autonomy.
There are only two spaces for subjectivity in present historical circumstances. The first of these emerges from the material 'episteme' or condition of possibility for social reproduction, and conforms to the process by which the trajectory of all undertakings launches from, and arcs back to, the same underlying operating principle(6). Relations are fixed historically and these in turn constrain the appearance and functioning of things - the self-adjustments necessary to maintain the things' presence occurs under conditions not of their choosing. However, the environment in which things are located is itself also contained by an environment which fixes it concentrically in its place. This set of constraints functions as a dynamically abstract logic, according to which a complex arrangement of deep structures, codes and rulesets combine to generate relations as they are, and contrariwise, by which relations as they aren't are inhibited from developing.
Social structure is skewed to ensure the conservation of currently existing social phenomena. The effect of this bias is to introduce momentum into the development of social relations: those phenomena which better suit conditions, move more successfully and more quickly in relation to their environment (like water within water), thereby
introducing further positive feedback loops between things and context. Conditions become ever more what they are, and the rules of life are increasingly revealed in the array of possible behaviours (which are attenuated in type but amplified in quantity).
The complex interaction between its components (i.e. the kinetic impetus of social relations and the accumulated haywire of hard programmed historical constraints) has proved sufficient to elevate 'capital' into an emergent autonomous subjectivity: a monstrous agency which abstracts all social product to the grid of exchange. Whilst it is conceivable that there might be objections raised both to the promotion of capital's automated processes to an alien/artificial life-form (at the locus where a personified 'ruling class' would once have stood) as well as to the implications for the theorisation of the automatic subject as a basis for communist politics, it still seems plausible that capital does pass the threshold for an artificial intelligence which seeks to actively realise, secure, dominate and even escape its environment. That is to say, capital does everything a subject would do if it were to appear in another register.
One effect of artificial subjectivity, located as it is at the core of the abstracting/strategic processing of social relations (i.e. that presence which is ordinarily inaccessible and 'remote' in social intercourse and which invites the projection of personalised agency upon its purpose) is the generation of phantom subject formations within amputated populations (the fauna of apparently autonomous, second order historical life-forms: the Party, the Union, the Church, the Ministry, the People). Pseudo-agency is both positively claimed by activist initiatives and establishment institutions and negatively attributed to named antagonists ('we' can change the world/'they' have trespassed against us).
It often seems from within the alienated position of activism that social change, beginning as the orchestration of affective responses to traumatic and eruptive events, and according to competing desires, may be realised subjectively. And whilst certain temporary alterations in circumstance are accomplished through concerted effort (and often, these gains are truly momentous) they remain against the run of things - institutionalised gains subsequently bear the brunt of relentless environmental erosion which tends to return them to room temperature. In other words, subject formations rarely attain even an approximation of authentic subjectivity but rather perform a representation of what it would be to change the world from the perspective of a wholly determined existence.
By contrast, authentic subjectivity supposes a commensurability with the flow of objective conditions which it actualises as power - subjectivity is, in effect, active objectivity, the work of the environment upon itself. Pseudo-subject formations do not work with their conditions but seek to reverse the desideratum of the world by accessing other potential supplies of energy lying just outside of historical actuality and into which its object, the new world, might be plugged - those who seek to change the world are obliged to first predict those energy resources out of which future moments are to be drawn (hence the role of optimism in the pathological failure to process past defeats).
In practice, conventional world-changing politics combines paranoia with full on in denial optimism in its presentation of the basis of potential political agency. The political activist overestimates both the potential for transformative action and the freedom of movement permitted to state agencies. The result is a politics which places undue emphasis on the subject as author both of creativity and of crime, i.e. the agent of those behaviours which appear to fall outside of ordinary process. In reality, the historical subject is commensurate with objective process and makes decisions in accord with that which is already in motion.
The first inference to be made from this bound form of subjectivity, is that all societal formations, from states to 'rogue' cops, from 'common' criminals to social revolutionaries, are set in motion by the conditions which they must realise but which they will never exceed. All phenomena are impelled to act as they do in affirmation of their environment, all phenomena are impeded from acting otherwise and escaping the conditioning of their appearance in the world. The blank faced cop who summarily executed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on the 09/08/2014(7) had no capacity to refuse the act which entirely conformed to the tormented barbarity of his assigned nature - somewhere in his personal history will be unearthed the archaeological remains of a screaming patriarch. But equally, the limited protests set in motion around this traumatic event (where the inadequate category of race is set against the non-decisive category of police) were as constrained as that of the actions of the cop, and expressed only the competitive and sectionalised interests of present social relations. There is no discernible way out from the dehumanising and violent interplay (and its facile politics) between the forces of order and the forces of disorder - there is no passageway from it to a condition of deep opposition.
And the Gazan cops who summarily executed 21 individuals on the 23/082014 to mark that week's Jumu'ah, were also impelled by force of circumstance to behave so, attributing the epithet informer to their rivals and thereby observing the convention of every totalitarian regime as figleaf alibi for the disposal of dissidents. And the absence of protesters marking these Gazan murders also realises the discursive framing which facilitates accumulating dehumanisation. It is as impossible for leftists to make the effort to comprehend US cops as it is for them to repudiate anti-imperialist cops even where their actions are the same - on the contrary, leftists are perpetually triggered into denunciation of this one and mitigating that one. But, personal responsibility is either a decisive category in the conception of justice or it is not... it is unjust, if justice is really your motivation, to apply the category partially.
Ahh, I am rambling and the material begins to escape me. But to continue on the theme of 'whataboutery': there are no mass protests against the one in ten female children of the world who must be subjected to sexual assault before they reach adulthood; there are no mass protests against the 'people traffickers' who rammed a boat carrying 500 human beings in the Mediterranean Sea on the 10/09/2014. This silence indicates the constraints in place upon both the violence and the perception of that violence. It seems that there are some violences which are elevated into political consciousness and others that are not, and this has nothing to do with the violence inherent to itself. It also seems, or at least we may hypothesise this, that the rate and force of appearance within consciousness of traumatic incidents indicates the degree of presence exerted by an existing political formation upon the general conditions of perception - it is a hypothesis on both the contingency and necessity of the third estate. Where there are lawyers, there is a case. Where there are advocates, there is a cause. Where there are journalists, there is news. Where there are none, there is nothing.
Then, we must back-pedal a little, and consider, fully aware of the absurdity, the source of political formations which are destined to thrive upon the substance of their cause. I am primarily concerned here with the reproduction of the relation of the political formation to its, often interchangeable, cause rather than with the 'substance' of that cause as such. Shall we begin with a model of political consciousness where it is subject to two productive pressures? The first, 'vertical' pressure, by which I mean, consciousness, is a response to environment. How true, how true. And yes, and the other pressure is 'horizontal', that is to say, where different contents of consciousness share a common enthralment to their environment they are compelled to compete amongst themselves for dominance of that illuminated patch of bare dearth.
Then, we might say something like: antagonistic poles within politics develop under mutually exerted (horizontal) hostile pressure, and induce, directly in their specific, and indirectly in their non-specific, competitors the processive development of niche exclusive narratives of tradition and right (the possession of their narrative, as well as their role in the narrative of their rivals is the means by which social structures come to in a state of self-recognition). On these terms, established power, the complex apparatus of state governance, can be understood as the vertically sanctioned form of consciousness. Can you bear with me on this, I am making it up, luxuriantly inventing it - merely rattling along, filling in endless white pages - can you stay awake till dawn? Just checking. Now, it seem like the best time to say something gratuitous like, the state is the environment's preferred means of containing the various modes of awareness of itself. Whatever it might mean, probably nothing.
We push it on, we have gone this far, and yet feel at the same time so empty that we cannot shut up and put a stop to it. Now it is time for attempting to discern a general rule, as a means to get things back on track, to re-establish order against the background decay inherent to itself. The process of discernment begins something like: the optimal environmental conditions for the appearance of consciousness are always distinctly uncertain, disturbed and/or liminal (i.e. this is where the environment requires certain approved threads of consciousness to submit tenders for speculatively filling in for the absences of the obvious in what is given). The ideal conditions for runaway in political consciousness would be located within a border dispute which also involved a dispute of meaning overlaying a dispute of sovereignty, overlaying a dispute of ownership, overlaying a crisis in traditional relations, overlaying a crisis of resources. The conflict between competing factions is itself also situated according to a higher logic, set in a further set of suitcases, and is bound into an adherence to the conventions of the commodity form.
Our traumas congeal into our stories, and our particular story becomes our justification for what we must be - but, oh no, we find, or we suspect, our story is not very true. That is to say, our story is not our story, it leaves too much out. What we thought was our confrontation with difficulty is just a defence mechanism for blocking out what is inconvenient about ourselves. We find, and typically suppress, that what we actually are is decided above the level of our little conflicts. We become all the more viciously patriotic for our cause as we begin to suspect our story only provides one particular content (of many interchangeable equivalents) to a glacially indifferent process. Our fall into consciousness is directed towards solving those problems which we alone preserve. The force which bears down upon us, defines who we are. Then, don't we, we other fanatics, suppress the knowledge of the lie of our motivation? Our denial drives us forward with ever greater fervour onto the enemy's bayonets in the name of that which we cannot authentically believe and to establish once and for all, the proof of the other's malignancy.
That is conchie talk. I don't blame you repudiating my resignation, I expected nothing less. You have to commit to something, I understand. Perhaps, I even desired that you should express your fervour. Maybe, I wanted to call it forth. But I won't stop there, I go on. I am so weak. I go on because I am not strong enough to become quiet. So take this with a pinch of salt when I say, the increased ferocity of 'horizontal' competitiveness between ideologies indicates both the general loss from consciousness of any awareness of its 'vertical' constraints and the loss of veracity from all its current contents - no truths are now being produced, or the discovered truths only pertain to that which has just now become impossible. Our historical environment has got away from whatever is attempting to think it.
Good, good, there is a question here, it emanates from your optimism. It is the good question concerning the escape of certain moments of consciousness from approved state forms. That is good, very good. That is the question you would ask wouldn't you? You would ask it, if you had any interest in responding to this. And I agree, how easy it is to agree, lets leave that gate unlatched, shall we? But can we also agree that at present, these escaped contents remain almost entirely irrelevant (they are but shrews living in the time of dinosaurs). The left registers the loss from its politics of reference to the general by means of what has become a familiarly abject routine. The recognition of the political disappearance of general/vertical constraints as a reference within social conflict is anticipated and factored into leftist discourse as whataboutery. The left invoke, 'Whataboutery' as a designated response to those who seek to draw its attention to counterexamples which have fallen outside of its narratives. But whataboutery is also an unconscious defence mechanism which serves ultimately to sustain and disguise the left as complicit with institutionalised 'vertical' power - a complicity which it may only continue to deny through recourse to prejudicial and atavistic attacks upon its competitors.
Which brings us, uncomfortably, and by a long loop, to the deep structuring of the relation to the Jews in the West's political imaginary. There is deeply embedded in the pseudo-subjectivity of leftist consciousness an orientation towards the motivations (as opposed to the structuring) of powerful institutions, to which it attributes both a human face and scale of action. Anthropomorphised institutions are represented as being motivated by greed, by hostility, by fear. To disguise its own inextricable compromises with the state, the left seeks to attribute the cause of impoverishment and powerlessness to a deliberate intention of a powerful 'elite' (which it is careful to distinguish from itself) - there is, it identifies, a desire on the part of the rich for the further subjugation of the poor. In reality, the production of immiserated, surplus populations is the result of the expulsion of labour from the productive process as the system seeks to defend the expansion of what is already accumulated under the given form of wealth - it is an automated procedure applied rigourously in each instance (it always makes good business sense) and yet it is deplored generally (because of the knock on effects on social stability).
Certainly, at the level of simple policy, those individuals occupying positions of relative power within social process make decisions in accord with the established direction of the process of reproduction (they sign the papers, tick the boxes, press the buttons as well as also conceptualising strategies and issuing commands... they affirm what must be) but they do not author reality. The war of the powerful against the powerless is defensive rather than offensive - exclusion of the masses from ownership is a consequence rather than a goal of capitalism.
There is a great institutionalised indifference towards 'the others' at the heart of accumulation rather than, and what is conventionally represented as, a motivation of violent hatred. It is only when we perceive this machinic aspect of wealth production, that we begin to understand that the integration and function of left governments within the constraints of accumulation is to force through those measures for securing the institutionalisation of social inequality which the right would not be able to get away with (in the UK, the Labour government of 1990's introduced 'tax credits' to facilitate the imposition of the low wage economy). The left deploys the moral narrative of greed to obscure its actual role in the implementation of exclusion of 'the others' from ownership.
The extent of political agency only reaches in the direction of that which is structurally permitted. The structural inhibition of agency within social institutions may be presented schematically: (i) at the most basic level, costs inhibit all reforms (that is to say the question of reform appears in the context of affordability of change in supposed relation to alleged resources); (ii) above this level lies a given historically constrained hierarchy of institutionalised priorities which are made to 'compete' for resources, with those most immediately contributory to the continued conservation of structured power as it is, at its top; (iii) above this lies the tendency within consciousness to subjectively conserve that which already exists and adapt to it; (iv) at the top, contingencies and chance play their part (the who, what, where, when of political engagement). Political agency may run on ahead of economic pressures, anticipating and exaggerating already existing tendencies but such pressures cannot be reversed by any agency that is embedded institutionally - and all objectively generated agency is institutionally embedded.
And yet, by which means does the exceptional case, the exemplar, continually recur within political consciousness? Why is it, of all the states in the world, that the actions of Israel have such exceptional power to enrage distant populations? Nobody, outside of Ukraine and Russia, is particularly concerned about Russian expansionism, and there is little comment on, let alone condemnation of, for example, atrocities committed in South Sudan. In general, 'far away' wars invite only the uncomprehending sentiment of, a plague on both their houses. Why is it then that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is so immediately comprehensible? Why does political imagination so imbue Israel with the capacity for autonomous agency? Individuals of the left claim they are directing their hostility towards the policies of Israel and not against Israel's existence and/or that of the Jews. They argue that they make a political distinction between Jews and Israel. Perhaps that is so but this begs two questions: a. by what process does this act of making a distinction emerge? b. why are the military actions of Israel so significant to the left?
For the sake of brevity, it is to be taken here as a given that the answer to both of these can only be grasped in terms of there being at work in leftist discourse an irrational but historically structured anti-semitism that is of the same type as what I described as the 'meant metaphor' of nationalism. There is within the arrangement of leftist awareness, a preconscious responsiveness to the subjective agency of Jews which is correlative with the tendency to anthropomorphise institutional power as the outcome of the conspiracy of the powerful. That is to say, even though individuals of the left are personally opposed to anti-semitism, the inherited arrangement of their argumentation, the procedures, the propositions, the inferences, the deductions, is structured to find archetypical moral personifications at the heart of what it opposes, and one of these figures, perhaps the most discernible and significant, is the Jew.
We can now recapitulate the components which contribute to the complex of reactions and associations from which leftism emerges: a. the moral polarisation of social classes into the voracious 'elite' and their downtrodden victims; b. the attribution of agency to automatic process in conspiratorial form; c. the attribution of motivation to this conspiracy as evidence of its corruption and greed; d. portrayal of individuals belonging to the 'elite' as inhuman and/or motivationally distinct from others; e. the idea of social change proposed in terms of a subjective ejection or elimination of this elite. The resultant politics accumulates proofs for its case and directs the energy of its manufactured outrage from its constantly tended heap of crimes towards externalised enemies, who are obviously to 'blame' for it all. One only has to have read Nietzsche and Freud to see the poison at work here(8).
The occupy movement, from which Occupied Times of London emerged, and which 'Anonymous' participated conforms to the basic pattern of leftist psychopathology: (i) the identification of 'greedy' bankers; (ii) the 'truncated' critique of finance capital; the many downtrodden contrasted with the few oppressors - the externalised enemy within; (iii) the politics of enthusiasm; (iv) the support for 'poor' nations (in particular Palestine, but also Venezuela); (v) the identification of conspiracies ('truthers'); (vi) common cause with reactionary groups (e.g. Islamicists); (vii) the aversion to examining the pathological tendencies of the left in the name of focusing on the 'real enemy'; (viii) the non-reflexive character of its categories; (ix) uncorrected attribution errors and confirmation bias.
It is entirely feasible that these groups do not contain a single anti-semite, and that, on the contrary, the individuals involved are sincerely opposed to all forms of racism and will go out of their way to say so. But, in conformity with all discursive structuring, such individuals cannot gain full possession of the material of the discourse which they have inherited. Within their politics, deeply buried but still active, are mechanisms which trigger, by process of association, representations of the conspiratorial and greedy Jew emblematically 'grabbing land' from the poor - no matter that 'land grabbing' is a constant factor in basic processes of all national accumulation.
That Israel is conducting inhumane military operations and a programme of expansion of its borders is not in dispute, nor can it be reasonably contested that atrocities have been committed to further its objectives (9). What is in question here is the role Israel plays as the exception in anti-imperialist politics... why should it be made distinct from all other states and their policy of expansionism? Is there really a distinction of kind to be made between those who have a greater and those who have a lesser access to weaponry(10)? Aren't all states impelled by circumstances to follow in the same direction towards economic growth?
The inferential pathways leading to the denunciation of Israel are well established: either, 'I am opposed to Israeli military operations and therefore I am also against Israel's right to exist', or, 'I am opposed to military operations but this does not mean I am against its right to exist.' The convoluted paths by which leftist activists present the right to exist of Israel at the centre of their politics indicates a strong unconscious component wherein archetypical, iconic, caricatured placeholder figures play a significant part. The moral drive towards an abreactive working out of relations towards deep and mythic constraints (where borders of self are personified by totems) continues to override the actual content of what is being engaged.
In the context of generalised war, the special case made of Israel is both irrational and suspect. Rationally, the inferential process should follow a quite different path which gradually leads from the notable instance to the generalised political position: a. I am against Israel's military operations; b. Israel is a state; c. all states conduct military operations; d. therefore I am against all states (without exception). There is, as I have noted, something within leftism which prevents this logical generalisation from taking place, and again we are standing in Bateson's 'dim region' and encountering there something like Perlman's representation of the proposition, 'every fight is a good fight' when we contemplate the ideological barriers and defence mechanisms which are thrown up against a thoroughgoing internationalism (11).
Where critique (by which should be understood the term, deep opposition) demands a step up in the categorical hierarchy of theory in order to contain all members of the set, leftism is committed to choose sides on the basis of claims between competing forces (12). As Perlman implies, the 'continuing appeal' of nationalism (with the irrational biases and exceptions, its false subjectivities, and its Gavid and Doliath narratives) is probably, and this may seem an outlandish claim to those who think in categories of 'peoples' and 'self-determination', tied in with the bourgeois project of accumulation as this is fixed within the national framework. Accumulation occurs amongst the extraordinary events of national rivalry, almost below the threshold of consciousness and as something that might be dismissed as ordinary economic activity, people merely going about their business, simply making their living. National liberation campaigns actively collaborate in the normalisation of capital accumulation by separating the question of 'self-determination' from that of economic exploitation. The self-enforced constraints of the national liberation ideology mean it can only explain foreign exploiters.
On the other hand, it would be a mistake to attribute economic motivations to economic process(13). The bourgeoisie's pathological compulsion to accumulate is itself not a wholly economic force. It is more plausible to perceive it as the economically constituted expression of security issues (there are defensive components here relating to securing what is against the uncertain future as represented by the runaway of those forces which the bourgeois revolution has set in motion). The economic register is the closest the bourgeoisie is able to get to 'the real' and how things really stand before it (its 'bottom line' of costs set against benefits is reflective of its discursive framing of its life-world as so many quantities stripped of details - as Lukács observed)(14). And, to some extent (as Perlman noted of the Bakuninists' best fight) this tendency to quantification is also present as a limit in anarchism's critique of the state - it naturally sympathises with those states which have less. When anarchists denounce 'Israel', their object is an 'authoritarian' state. However, when they also brandish Palestinian flags, they are expressing solidarity with a nationally constituted 'people'.
This also suggests that the anarchist critique of the state, as authoritarian process, as facilitator of exploitation, as administrator of dead time, as legislator of exclusions, as enforcer of inequalities, is not at the same time adequate to repudiating 'nationhood'. From Kropotkin's horror before German militarism onwards, this nationalist blind spot has proved fatally compromising to anarchism. It seems to recur, or is only resisted with great effort, wherever a lesser force is competing with a greater force. That this lesser force belongs to the same type as the greater force becomes irrelevant before the exigency of the eternalised emblem of a perpetrator and a victim.
To break off here and reflect. I would suggest we are beginning to discern that within a system where all things are not themselves, there are a set of constants which nonetheless recur within the image repertoire: the nation, victims, oppressors, Jews. Pervasive and recurring unconscious images are invested with strong affective force, they are deployed in ideology to describe the general experience of being thwarted by the world, and of the world appearing antagonistically to the value set conveyed by the narrative's description.
This goes on. We step back. We tell some or other story about how the unconscious extracts from the world some erotic recompense for ideologised beings situated in a hostile circumstance by confirming for them their prejudices. We get a kick from finding what we expected to find, and more. The path of our investigation leads us to the prime suspect. We extract the payoff by concluding, as I expected. Even upon reflection, there are recursive compensations in finding ourselves in the right against the world: we, the downtrodden, are at least permitted to nurture the worldview that it has allocated to us.
The pleasures that we harvest from the world's confirmation of our prejudices becomes addictive. Ideology is precisely the pursuit of such confirmation in a circumstance where thinking otherwise, and against ideology, would be to modestly assemble multiple descriptions of its own errors. Even there, there are backtrackings, elicit liasons with ideology... But then, being mean and affirmed by the world (I told you so, I knew he would let us down) is insufficient: the erotics of affirmation requires a component of nobility. There is a distinction between being proved correct, and being right. Rightness is located in the capacity to register and identify with, stake a claim for, that which is threatened - political reaction, of left and right, loops affective gain to the immediate defence of that which is otherwise threatened (the double bind of good men doing nothing, where if they were doing something, they certainly wouldn't be good).
The narrative descriptions at our disposal depend, for their momentum, upon an asymmetrical circuit of power relations wherein the 'powerful' are ever encroaching upon the 'powerless'. The positive feedback within power relations is presented according to the received constraints upon the narrator's image repertoire - the tale is told according to the specifics of cultural convention. Threats are recursively set and context bound depending upon the subject of the narrative. The life project of each documented protagonist appears subject to its particular set of threats, but each of these threats may also be personified and then presented as subjects living innocently according to their nature(15). There is no cause in human affairs which is not able to extract from uninvolved others an empathetic response(16).
Similarly, a 'people' is presented as distinct from its external oppressor but (one step down recursively) within the 'people' are presented further structured conflicts (between 'official' resistance groups and their opponents) by which 'oppressor' and 'oppressed' motifs are reproduced. And further down the food chain will be told stories of the exploitation of the population by its representatives. And on and on, down into gender, cultural, ethnic and familial differences - narratives are drawn out of conflict, corruption, crime and partiality at every level. Anti-imperialists attempt to present these lower order conflicts as reactions to the one big oppression of imperialism as if 'traditional' state cultures are not also inherently conflictual. But it is true that lower order power struggles are not revealed in the narrative of 'the people' and its struggle with the external aggressor - the mass media had rarely registered the Yazadi minority in Iraq until they became the victims of massacre, rape and expulsion by ISIS. And, the 'resistance' to the Syrian regime had been presented as, if not entirely homogenous, then at least preferable to the regime itself for at least two years of the civil war there. internal differences are dissipated into the discourse of the externalised conflict.
So, if ideology and its narrative presentation of social conflict depends upon unconsciously derived responses to perceived external threats, then the question of threat in a reflexive political register has to be: what is it that is threatening what? The problem of extinction, of imminent abolition, is immediately ideologised in its presentation. The potential loss of cultures, languages, ways of life, habitats (that set of objects which may only appear as, 'on the edge of extinction', 'dwindling' and 'under threat') is an ideological button which when pressed activates 'the threatened' as a category within the reproduction of existing conditions on terms of the necessity of its conservation. However, in the struggle between nations, there is a doubled mechanism of threat (and this is true for Palestine, Scotland, and the Ukraine) by which the political representation of national cultures overlays the processive mediation of social relations. The former, which is constituted as a dispute of private ownership (Arabs or Jews, Scots or English, Ukrainians or Russians) is the permissible terrain of dispute. The latter, being obscured and mystified, resists presentation... even the categories of so-called 'class struggle' replicate patriotic tropes of belonging and solidarity (17)
In truth, everything is on the point of its non-existence, and yet extinction does not necessarily assign it a worth beyond its recording of the process by which it is about to disappear. The reproduction of the human community as the total circulation of so many abstract quantities via relations of exchange is problematised by the representation of this process as a question of national self-determination but it remains difficult to present it even where a studied anti-nationalism is maintained. Social transformation, 'the human community' supposes the necessity of relinquishing given social forms, precisely those forms which communities in struggle hold onto as their way of life, their specific lifeworld. This paradox is not reduced by ends or means arguments, nor by fatalism, nor by passionate defences of reactionary cultures. There is a therapeutic necessity for letting go of the worlds to which we belong, and that which we would defend. These contents, worlds in themselves, supply our narratives with their specific traumas and traditions. The problem is open-ended and itself (therapeutically) processive. New, or rather other, relations suppose the suppression of ties which bind us to the past, or rather it involves a revisiting of the past armed with scissors. How can we also let go of that which capital is already snatching away from us? The way out is unknown.
To end this, consider now the structural eradication of those populations which otherwise survive outside of capital accumulation and which have no connection with it (18). Consider, the few worlds which have remained 'uncontacted' and persist in a parallel prehistorical state where locked-in historical developments (world-transforming events which cannot be undone) have played no part. These worlds flourish resiliently, subtly and with sophistication, within complex environmental relations of which they are an immanent presence. The simplifying action/reaction mechanism of historical development has been unable to replicate anything like prehistorical immanence (history continually forages ahead of itself in pursuit of yet further interventional patch fixes for the unintended consequences of its earlier blunders).
Evidently, there is to be no intercourse between history and prehistory; upon contact the former simply liquidates the latter - and no doubt, there are accelerationist arguments that would at first consider that this did not meet the threshold of a problem and then, if pressed, would propose that such collateral losses are inevitable, and that the universalised overcoming of prehistory is simply a necessary historical event. If such hypothetical beings as accelerationists were to make such a hypothetical assessment and if this was based upon the assumption of a commensurability between the survival of the human species and historical development (rather than, say, as the presaging of a post-human event), then, I would consider them to have made a fatal error.
The final loss of prehistory from the world would be (aside from the extinction of all biological forms) the worst disaster to befall historicised humanity. Historical change is now an unalterable condition of human existence, there can be no return to prehistory, but prehistorical worlds preserve something impossibly precious of what it is to be human. Prehistory gives form, and thus (for us) reference to, both a different presence in the world and a relational pathway to what historical beings once were. It is because prehistory cannot be expropriated and put to work by history, and because it vaporises as soon as it is recorded externally on any terms other than those which it sets itself, and because it resists abstract process in that it sickens immediately upon contact and expires, and because it is so distantly alien and yet also intimately present, that it provides for historicised beings a passage into the argumentation against history.
For those who have concluded that communism cannot result from history, that it cannot emerge out of capitalism, that it will not come 'after' but must appear against (or rather, without reference to) the ongoing development of the forces of production, the continuance of prehistory is of the highest priority. Where prehistory expires so does all possibility of human community. Prehistory is the extraordinary orientation point by which historical society may locate itself. If prehistory is to be lost, and it is being lost, then it would mark the reduction of humanity to a single plane of existence, and the absolute dominion of abstracting forces over lived life. Those few prehistorical human beings still present on the earth are therefore, in terms of history's own measure of significance, beyond equivalence with all the works of all the otherwise interchangeable proletarians of the world, past, present and future.
The prehistorical beings of the earth have a necessary importance to species-being beyond that of the forms of all contingent historical being, precisely because they remain outside of process, and cannot be expressed or reproduced by it (19). It remains to be seen whether Occupied Times of London, and their anarchist likers, rebloggers, and favouriters in social media will be able to adjust themselves to the distinction that is to be made between national liberation and the possibility of human community as this is to be asserted with reference to that which genuinely persists outside of capital accumulation and the value form. I, for one, am on tenterhooks.
That potential which lies within historicised beings, who are now contained within a collapsing register of meaning and value, is not national self-determination (which is not even a step along the way) but rather the abolition of difference located at the level of nations through a re-imagining of what might constitute a transcendent post-historical human community. Any such re-imagining requires an immense therapeutic act of forgetting, the conceptual source of which is almost entirely dependent upon the continued presence in the world of those still living in prehistory - those worlds which do not inscribe. This 'source' from which the necessity of forgetting, becoming and self-containing, is not a source of knowledge but an orientation, or stance before, the irreducible exterior, a letting be of that which is about to be trampled under foot. If capitalism is the reduction of all forms to a single register, then the resilient branching bush of post-capitalism must suppose the opening of portals to multiple self-remoting different life-worlds. And yet. And yet, our tragedy. We cannot exceed our limits as historical beings. We cannot escape our trajectory, nor the forces which propel us. We do not have that capacity to actively pursue the forgetting of what we have done.
*pursued at a leisurely tempo through late summer and early autumn and abandoned, exposed on a hillside, unfinished, without flourish, in the same banal place these things always end.
(1) That writer, Gregory Bateson introduces this more plausibly than I am able to in The role of somatic change in evolution. We are presented with a problem of changes piling up, of changes being learnt, of changes being imposed and changes being adopted or improvised. There are changes in the environment and changes in the individual. Changes feed into changes and lead circumstances very far from their original 'purpose' or operating mode. Some are learnt changes and some are autonomic. Some can be abandoned and some are fixed in. The changes that can be changed back, indicate resilience and flexibility but are draining on energy resources. On the other hand, the changes which are hard programmed are comparatively energy efficient but cannot be changed back. Bateson introduces the terms 'regulators' (e.g. homeotherms) and 'adjusters' (e.g. poikilotherms) to indicate two different systems for somatic processing of external transformations. He conjectures that there is a further adaptive 'strategy' for responding to changing circumstances and which involves the deliberate alteration to the environment to the preference of the organism, he terms this extraregulation. Bateson equates extraregulation with 'history', which can be understood as the mass of unintended consequences accumulated over time in response to the accretion of modifications of modifications undertaken within and by culture. Bateson, like Varela and Maturana, does not really investigate the 'blowback' of extraregulative mechanisms (which are always attributed to human impact upon the natural world, rather than as a means for utilising natural forces to coerce populations). In practice, extraregulative processes, open up the interior of individuals within human populations for the purpose of communicating direct instructions (i.e. precisely overcoming the 'buffering' and lag which Varela and Maturana observe in nature, and which Bateson thinks is the defence against larmarckian process). We can compare their various idealised presentations of nested, self-regulating systems with the metaphor of externalised digestion and processive reduction to components.
'It follows that the difference between adjusters and regulators is a matter of where, in the complex network of physiologic causes and effects, homeostatic process operates. In the regulators, the homeostatic processes operate at or close to the input and output points of that network which is the individual organism. In the adjusters, the environmental variables are permitted to enter the body and the organism must then cope with their effects, using mechanisms which will involve deeper loops of the total network. In terms of this analysis, the polarity between adjusters and regulators can extrapolated another step to include what we may call "extraregulators" which achieve homeostatic controls outside of the body by changing and controlling the environment - man being the most conspicuous example of this class. [...] In the broad picture of evolution however, it seems that the trend is in the opposite direction: that natural selection, in the long run, favours regulators more than adjustors and extraregulators more than regulators. This seems to indicate that there is a long time evolutionary advantage to be gained by centrifugal shifts in the locus of control.'
The reader may rewardingly compare the above to this:
They use one of two different systems of external digestion. Some pump digestive enzymes from the midgut into the prey and then suck the liquified tissues of the prey into the gut, eventually leaving behind the empty husk of the prey. Others grind the prey to pulp using the chelicerae and the bases of the pedipalps, while flooding it with enzymes; in these species the chelicerae and the bases of the pedipalps form a preoral cavity that holds the food they are processing.
(2) 'Thus war effaces all conceptions of purpose or goal, including even its own 'war aims'. It effaces the very notion war's being brought to an end. To b outside a situation so violent as this is to find it inconceivable; to be inside it is to be unable to conceive its end. Consequently, nobody does anything to bring this end about. In the presence of an armed enemy, what hand can relinquish its weapon? The mind ought to find a way out, but the mind has lost all capacity to so much as look outward. The mind is completely absorbed in doing itself violence. Always in human life, whether war or slavery is in question, intolerable sufferings continue, as it were, by the force of their own specific gravity, and so look to the outsider as though they were easy to bear; actually, they continue because they have deprived the sufferer of the resources which might serve to extricate him. '
'This is the ultimate secret of war, which the Iliad expresses in its similes. In these, warriors are likened either to fire, flood, wind, fierce beasts, and whatever blind cause of disaster or to frightened animals, trees, water, sand, whatever is affected by the violence of outside forces.'
To be read in the light of this:
'Ontogeny is the history of structural changes in a particular living being. In this history each living being begins with an initial structure. This structure conditions the course of its interactions and restricts the structural changes that the interactions may trigger in it. At the same time, it is born in a particular place, in a medium that constitutes the ambience in which it emerges and in which it interacts. This ambience appears appears to have a structural dynamics of its own, operationally distinct from he living being [...] In the interactions between the laving being and the environment within this structural congruence, the perturbations of the environment do not determine what happens to the living being; rather, it is the structure of the living being that determines what change occurs in it. This interaction is not instructive, for it does not determine what its effects are going to be. Therefore, we have used the expression, "to trigger" an effect. In this way we refer to the fact that the changes that result from the interaction are brought about by the disturbing agent but determined by the structure of the disturbed system. The same holds true for the environment: the living being is a source of perturbations and not of instructions.'
The tree of knowledge Maturana and Varela
(3)When, outside of combat, a weak and unarmed stranger supplicates a warrior, he is not automatically condemned to death; but an instant of impatience on the warrior’s part is sufficient to strip him of his life. It is enough for his flesh to lose the chief quality of living flesh. A bit of living flesh exhibits vitality above all by reflex action; a frog’s leg, under electric shock, twitches; the closeness or touch of a horrifying or terrible thing makes any bundle of flesh, nerves, and muscles twitch. Only the supplicant does not tremble or shiver; he has not the license; his lips proceed to touch the object for him most charged with horror [...]
(4) This is illustrated by two contemporary phenomena at the moment of writing this: 1. the curious case of fascistic antifascism, or more accurately, the arms race currently being staged between competing fascistic antifascisms which seems to be developing at the Ukrainian/Russian border http://libcom.org/forums/general/fascist-antifascism-28082014; 2. the curious case of the Turkish anarchist volunteers seeking to fight with the bourgeois Free Syrian Army against ISIS in the Syrian town of Kobani.
(5)It is probably enough to go along with Gregory Bateson's definition of a 'metaphor that is meant' with reference to what the 'nation' is as it is essentially, unknowable - a non-functioning real, an imagined environment. Bateson places such formations in the 'dim region where art, magic, and religion meet and overlap'. He goes on to make further observations about literalised metaphors, 'the flag which men will die to save, and the sacrement that is felt to be more than an "an outward and visible sign, given unto us." Here we can recognise an attempt to deny the difference between map and territory, and to get back to the absolute innocence of communication by means of pure mood-signs.' The desire for non-sophisticated immediacy seems essential to nationalism, it is the door through which berserker bad faith, that state of being artificially induced submerged in the cause, enters into the social field - probably as a means for fulfilling a collective wish for suicide. It seems that by invoking the nation, this automatically suspends for war purposes the complex and contradictory procedures of the state.
(6)I do not describe the other subject position here but I name it as the class which is the last repository of the values to which it is structurally opposed - belonging to the process from which it is also expelled. And, as such, its subjectivity consists solely in the positioning of itself within the breaking apart of the pillars of its dependence and thereby bringing the edifice of existing relations down upon its own head.
(7)So we might ask what the leftists are playing at when they theorize about the destruction of the dominant class (rather than what supports it), or of the cops ("the only good cop is a dead one")? One can make the equation CRS=SS  on the level of a slogan, because that accurately represents the reality of the two roles, but it does not justify the destruction of the people involved - for two reasons[CRS=French riot cops]. Firstly, it effectively rules out the possibility of undermining the police force. When the police feel they are reduced to the status of sub-humans, they themselves go into a kind of revolt against the young people in order to affirm a humanity which is denied to them, and in so doing they are therefore not simply playing the part of killing/ repression machines. Secondly, every riot cop and every other kind of cop is still a person. Each one is a person with a definite role like everyone else. It is dangerous to delegate all inhumanity to one part of the social whole, and all humanity to another. There is no question here of preaching non-violence,  but rather of defining precisely what violence must be exercised and to what purpose. In this connection, the following points should make the position clearer: firstly, all stereotypes and functions must be revealed for what they are - roles imposed on us by capital; secondly, we must reject the theory which postulates that all those individuals who defend capital should simply be destroyed; thirdly, we cannot make exceptions on the ground that certain people are not free, that it is "the system" which produces both cops and revolutionaries alike. If this were correct, the logical conclusion would be either a position of non-violence, or a situation where human beings become reduced to automatons which would then justify every kind of violence against them. If right from the outset certain people are denied all possibility of humanity, how can they subsequently be expected to emerge as real human beings? So it is as human beings that they must be confronted. Now though the majority of people think in terms of the radical solution provided by class society - i.e., repress your opponents - even in this form the revolution would assert itself according to its true nature, namely that it is human. When the conflict comes, as it inevitably will, there should be no attempt to reduce the various individuals who defend capital to the level of "bestial" or mechanical adversaries; they have to be put in the context of their humanity, for humanity is what they too know they are a part of and are potentially able to find again. In this sense the conflict takes on intellectual and spiritual dimensions. The representations which justify an individual person's defence of capital must be revealed and demystified; people in this situation must become aware of contradiction, and doubts should arise in their minds. (Camatte -Against Domestication) https://www.marxists.org/archive/camatte/agdom.htm
The reader may compare the above with this:
It seems that the only path open when considering the crime committed against Michael Brown which does not put his death to a use and convert it into an armouring of righteous war is through the suffering of the policeman who killed him - his history of suffering which brought him to the place where, in Weil's terms, he exceeded the measure of force at his disposal and thus placed himself inextricably in his own personal tragedy. 'Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates.'
(8) Weil's work on the Iliad demonstrates the futility of a politics derived from trauma. The oppressed perceive the oppressor as the originator of their oppression and for this reason are incapable of formulating a politics beyond that of reversal, vengeance and the boot being on the other foot. As Weil suggests, the only path out of the alternating pattern of oppressor/oppressed is to grasp force conceptually as an elemental substance that is channelled but never possessed. Force is directed against others as a primitive means for asserting a distinction. The oppressor in his use of force becomes distinct always and only on terms of not being the oppressed in this instance. Through his violence he separates himself out from those who are its object, but the violence seemingly at his disposal is never in his possession - he will be destroyed by it.
For they do not see that the force in their possession is only a limited quantity; nor do they see their relations with other human beings as a kind of balance between unequal amounts of force. Since other people do not impose on their movements that halt, that interval of hesitation, wherein lies all our consideration for our brothers in humanity, they conclude that destiny has given complete licence to them, and none at all to their inferiors. And at this point they exceed the measure of force that is actually at their disposal. Inevitably they exceed it, since they are not aware that it is limited. And now we see them committed irretrievably to chance; suddenly things cease to obey them. Sometimes chance is kind to them, sometimes cruel. But in any case there they are, exposed, open to misfortune [...]
(9)'The Hebrews saw misfortune as indicative of sin and consequently a proper justification for contempt. They considered their beaten foes repellent to God himself and damned to atone for crimes; this made cruelty permissible, even mandatory. Thus no passage of the Old Testament strikes a chord comparable to that of Greek epic, except possibly certain parts of the Book of Job. Throughout twenty centuries of Christianity, Romans and Hebrews have been admired, read, emulated in deeds and words,cited whenever a crime needed justification.'
(10) The main anti-'whataboutery' arguments advanced by the left in support of its isolation of Israel as an 'imperialist' power, is located in the identification of Israel's association with western governments. The consequentialism here is hard to tolerate, even so, it is an argument that is worth responding to, and to that end, we see that it is based on two openly stated propositions: a. that Israel's relation to western governments makes it more susceptible to political pressure; b. that, for example, islamicists (e.g. Hamas) are not responsive to political pressure and therefore cannot be effectively protested against. There is no sense of proportion in the argument here, or any acknowledging of the degree of trauma that is being responded to. That is to say, the war crimes committed by Israeli forces are amplified in a context of crimes committed by others that are at least of comparable magnitude but which pass not commented upon, or are dismissed as 'whataboutery'.
The left's paternalistic argument also tacitly acknowledges the democratic responsiveness of western institutions in comparison to the non-responsiveness of other political formations. This results in a bizarre politics grounded in the expedience of immediate proximity... those formations geographically or politically closest to western society are subject to the greatest denunciation for crimes which if committed by distant others are attributed to yet more distant causes. If the designated oppressor commits a crime, then it is the oppressor's responsibility; if the designated oppressed commit a crime, then it is also the oppressor's responsibility.
Causes of traumatic events are sometimes traced back 50 or a hundred years and sometimes are attributed to immediate factors, which in itself is not a problem, but such explanations tend to feed into the confirmation bias generated by the demands of political expediency - where an designated oppressed has acted with impunity and then accedes to power, its crimes become incomprehensible. The left finds it difficult to adhere to a general social theory of actions and thus cannot explain the imperialism of anti-imperialist nations. Patrick Cockburn demonstrates that the arguments drawn from the left's doctrine of proximity mistakes the composition of the West's alliance system (where Jordan and Saudi Arabia are currently bombing Syria). He shows that Isis is a product of the West's strategic alliances going back to the Cold War, and is as much of this world as is Israel:
A striking development in the Islamic world in recent decades is the way in which Wahhabism is taking over mainstream Sunni Islam. In one country after another Saudi Arabia is putting up the money for the training of preachers and the building of mosques. A result of this is the spread of sectarian strife between Sunni and Shia. The latter find themselves targeted with unprecedented viciousness from Tunisia to Indonesia. The importance of Saudi Arabia in the rise and return of al-Qa'ida is often misunderstood and understated. Saudi Arabia is influential because its oil and vast wealth make it powerful in the Middle East and beyond. But it is not financial resources alone that make it such an important player. Another factor is its propagating of Wahhabism, the fundamentalist 18th-century version of Islam that imposes sharia law, relegates women to second-class citizens, and regards Shia and Sufi Muslims as heretics and apostates to be persecuted along with Christians and Jews.
The absurdity of the left's doctrine of proximity ends with it finding common cause, and marching in the same space with, those islamicists who would literally eliminate it if they had the power to do so. The political implication of this is that leftists, in their pursuit of the denunciation of Israel, do not even attempt to liberate the individuals occupying the same space as them on protest marches. There is a tolerance for a religious ideology which absolutely refutes homosexuality and women's rights which the left in all other circumstances would place at the centre of its project.
In opposing the left's opposition to Israel it should not be inferred that positive arguments are being presented here in Israel's support. It is not clear what Israel is, beyond being a liability to the West's anti-ISIS alliance^. Maybe, Israel is but another iteration of a generalised form of social organisation within the capitalist productive relation. Maybe, it is a super-realised version of the state, a pure state ideologically severed from process, which has developed to the point where there is no space for it to alter further. Maybe it is reviled because nothing can lead away from it. Maybe it is becoming ever more what it is, and also ever less itself. Maybe it is the end point of a certain logical progression set in motion for strategically managing the disturbances created by productive relations at the level of ideological belonging.
Maybe, Israel is a wounded half-sentience, biting at its own wounds and unable to find the path out of its trauma: maybe, it sets the problem of states to history at the point of development where they cannot be resolved on the given terms. Maybe, it marks the limit of what a state can be. Maybe, because it is the product of the modern state form (which itself is the unintended product of something else), Israel appears as the perfected state, the congenitally malformed state, the sterile state, which occupies its assigned location as if it were the designed result of some creator intelligence (the son of states) - this is certainly how the left responds to it. Maybe, its existence is mythically suggestive of the possibility that future states might also spring strategically from the forehead of some ur-state, and transcend the messy process undergone by all others which coalesce, emerge and solidify out of the blind economic pressures driving them.
^A version of the eternally popular communist parlour game, 'what is the USSR?'
(11) The anarchist Stuart Christie sketches how a transcendent anarchist politics might at least register itself in opposition to the simplistic narrative lines of anti-imperialism proxy nationalism. He records of a 1968 demonstration how the anarchists in London mocked the Maoist and Trotskyist chants of 'Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh' by chanting the well known (at the time) refrain, 'Hot chocolate, hot chocolate, drinking chocolate' from a Cadbury's advertisement.
One facet of the 'opposition to the opposition' is that it must anticipate and 'degrade' (mot du jour) the unconscious fixations of the anti-imperialist left in advance of their expression. The structural inheritance of anti-semitism is one such fixation (where this functions as the template for the left's murderous historical programmes against 'kulaks', the 'bourgeoisie', and any other identified enemy). As a philosophical exercise, and where the temptation to speak of Israel as a synonym for 'capitalism' or 'imperialism' is strong, why not pause and seek another example. The systematic refusal of the first example might prove worthwhile in accessing the general function of the state.
It is necessary to feel empathy for the victims of military aggression but empathy does not extend to validation of the victims' ideologisation of the violence inflicted upon them, nor does it require support for the political representation of their struggle. Furthermore, the weaponisation of the mutilated, traumatised and the dead, and the expropriation of suffering into an 'anti-imperialist' politics is very far from either solidarity or empathy. To sledgehammer the point, the anarchists Christie describes did not mock the tragic predicament of the Vietnamese but those who had bought into the maoist personality cult as the basis of their opposition to capitalism.
(12)The progressive left, assuming both the malleability and neutrality of the state form within itself is relentlessly optimistic with regard to reformability of institutions. It also assumes, as noted above, the institutionalised capacity for agency and subjective awareness - at the moment Israel is bad like South Africa was bad but one day it might become good, like South Africa has not become good. But the imagined responsiveness of state process to its subject population is the characteristic error of the left - it supposes an inversion of the order of manufacture. State structures are not constituted democratically, they are not the result of purpose or design, and are ultimately constituted and constrained by pressures other than the interventions of political consciousness. The opposition directed against Israel takes as a given that there has to be an alternative to Israel at the level of reformable institutionalised circumstances (a two state solution perhaps). These aspirations are derived from the belief in non-realised potentials within capitalist relations which may be activated given sufficient political investment.
There is no evidence for such potentiality in state institutions - democracy is a surface phenomenon which finds no correlate in the deep structure of what a state does (i.e. maintain the working population in a state ready for exploitation). In reality, no substantial change is possible to the institutional infrastructure of the state. Responsiveness, or 'democracy' occurs within a designated area of institutions set apart specifically for lower order decision making - a popularly instigated change in government is structurally permissible but a change to the nature of governance is not. The architecture which gives form to a democratic space does not have to be democratically responsive (the box containing oranges is not itself an orange). Democracy does not, even potentially, go all the way down.
For reason of the structural non-responsiveness of the state to 'democratic' opposition, for the reason that there is no way forward via the state, the true object of deep opposition is revealed in the left's relation to the state (or more specifically, the errors of its relation) rather than in institutions of the state. Deep opposition to the left reveals potential for other social relations via the constant readjustments of opposition to presently configured power as this struggles and fails to attach itself to present conditions. However, these other sets of relations may only be presented complexly (or perhaps dialectically): new relations will be commenced procedurally by means of directing critical opposition against conventional forms of opposition as these appear under circumstances of generalised economic crisis.
(13) Here is noted the activity of a relational feedback or non-dialectical interplay (a dynamic maintained stasis) between economically constituted formations and the supra-economic values that they express. Although the ascendancy of the bourgeoisie is entirely attributable to capital accumulation, the values which it embodies cannot simply be reduced to self-interest. There is, after all, a historical truth value inherent to ideology. It is probable that economic wealth attracts and maintains satellite truths within its gravitational field. Such truths, which become a second order motivational force, are never entirely compromised or incorporated - Plato's thymoeides.
(14)In fact, scientific experiment is contemplation at its purest. The experimenter creates an artificial, abstract milieu in order to be able to observe undisturbed the untrammelled workings of the laws under examination, eliminating all irrational factors both of the subject and the object. He strives as far as possible to reduce the material substratum of his observation to the purely rational ‘product’, to the ‘intelligible matter’ of mathematics.
(15) The shifting, mutually conditioning, metaphors of this relation of predator and prey are played with in Pasolini's sublime Hawks and Sparrows.
(16) A contemporary reference: a defence fund raised in support of the murderer of Michael Brown. In general we might record the tendency to empathise with brutes at bay on these terms: because it is appalling, it is wretched, because it is wretched it is personified, because it is personified it begs for mercy, because it begs for mercy, it is within our power. The neotenous appeal of domestic pets is also an example of this strategy of affect-based parasitism.
(17) There are those whose analysis of social reproduction extends to the hatred of cops whilst at the same time including teachers within the working class. They become uncomfortable at the proposition: teachers are like prison guards.
(19) "When many of the original people who inhabited Australia realised that their culture was being wiped out they refused the entreaties of anthropologists and took their knowledge with them when they died. They knew that the world was being changed, that human things were being snuffed out in favour of a new, anti-human form of social organisation. To enable the survival of an empty culture, one with form but no content, would be a clownish absurdity. The culture would become an academic product, an ideological or political product, and a product for sale. The heroes who took their knowledge with them may not have articulated this possibility in the way I just have, but they knew it. Their intelligence far outstripped the intelligence of those kind anthropological scientists, who blew in on a blood-soaked breeze. Their intelligence was greater but, in this battle between two forms of social organisation, their power was less. They were strong enough to be still and quiet in the last breaths of their community; when they could have been remembered and celebrated in the new culture as the last of the true people – because, you see, they knew that their words and their knowledge, if spoken out loud, would be put on show, to be derided, and worse: to be misunderstood. In the face of circumstances that were consuming them they remained tight-lipped.”