Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Tinned chunks - an introduction to the rejection of everything through moments in the description of deep opposition (part 5 in an extended series)

We can live without thinking anything and pretend we're not us
Platonov, Soul

The state's monopoly on violence was finally and irreversibly secured around 1985. There have been some tests of this possession and more rarely the occasional loosening of its grip, but otherwise it has held firm and now passes unchallenged - only equivalent state-like formations may wield force equivalent to its own.


Monopoly is the only true outcome of a conflictual process. Where there is no monopoly, there is no outcome. Where there is no outcome, process continues. Where there is process, the state or condition of monopoly is still to be achieved, indicating the historical exhaustion of a particular combination of forces, or, where  the state or condition of monopoly is perpetually deferred, an exit may be opened into another combination of forces.

The state or condition of monopoly is achieved wherever the entries and exits to a life-world are managed and coordinated by a regulating apparatus. Monopoly of violence refers to the absence of competitive violences within a given life-world. However, a monopoly of violence is only workable where monopoly of process has already been established at a higher level. There can be no monopoly of violence where the productive mechanism of the life-world is contestable.

A monopoly of violence occurs downstream where a monopoly of social forces has occurred upstream - the lower reaches may be strategically channelled because of the brute fact of the damming of the upper reaches. The enforcement of quiesence at one level supposes the successful binding of energy into productive process at a more fundamental level.

It is because social power, or social forces, are successfully bound into institutions, that destructive and transformational energies are metabolised as reforms rather than directed into revolutionary discontent.  Binding refers to the conversion of negative energies or forces into world-building process in cirrcumstances where social conflict has been sublated by monopoly ownership. Institutionalised negativity under conditions of monopoly separates negation from any representative function for an actual or potential challenger to the establishment. In monopoly, negation is a contained moment in the process of totalisation.

The year of the state's achievement of a monopoly on violence may be set at 1985 because this is also the year of the event known as 'domestication'. By domestication, it is understood that i. the apparatus of power devloped past a threshold of usefulness to revolutionary forces (that is to say, if a revolutionary force were to seize the apparatus, it would find itself, in turn, seized and employed as a function of power) and ii. it was in this year that any dwindling resources or citadels of counter-power belonging to the workers' movement suddenly shifted their value and became liabilities, traps, poisoned wells.

In 1985, the terrain of social struggle shifted. And whilst combatant social forces continued to fight each other, they found that they were no longer to be distinguished at the level of different objectives but only on the status of their claims to belong to the same inevitable outcome. All forces began the fight to preserve something, or everything, of capitalism - they all became 'defenders' and 'reactionaries' and everything in the world that was defensible belonged to this, which is their, world. All now fight for capitalism, especially those fighting against it. Only capitalism, fighting its own defenders, fights against itself.

Those who fight colonialist oppression, against bosses, police, patriarchy in reality fight with capital for the removal of restrictive, personalised representations of authority. In effect, fighting for the rationality of their cause, they also unwitting fight for their own exploitation in a context of faceless, abstract process. Oppression only registers where it is indexed to a personalised oppressor, but where this has been overthrown, blame for misfortunes conforms to all the other residual, minor pathways of prejudice and hostility.

Acts of 'violence' are discharges of energy and must be drawn from a build up in energy reserves. A monopoly on the use of violence is nothing but a furtherance of the monopoly upon the ownership of forces. This in turn already assumes the securing of the life-world's power supply under monopoly conditions. In monopoly, there are no other energy supplies and no other forces that may be powered up by them, and by implication, there are no other institutions in which to accumulate forces, and thus there are no power bases from which violence may be discharged. Where monopoly is established, social conflict is not fracturing or externalising but processive and containing, it expresses only the absence of competitive alternatives to the established order.

Where a life-world's power supply is, by its nature, hostile to every use except the current use (that is to say, where it is useless except in its present configuration of use, and where all users must conform to that mode of using), then no sequence of power transferring from one group to another is feasible (in the Dark Ages peasants tilled the earth in the shadow of ruined Roman architecture but with no other use for it).

The present moment is defined precisely by the given form of opposition which is structurally persuaded to reconfigure itself on the same terms as that which it opposes. Nothing opposes capitalism but the inherent limitations of the given forms. 

However, as long as the given forms continue to reproduce the same outcomes as if they were innovatory and groundbreaking, such limitations remain conceptually remote to practical consciousness.

A limit is not encountered unless the given form is put under stress. Therefore, as long as 'democracy', that is 'real democracy' (or science) performs the trick of autonomously reintroducing the same conventional imperatives, disinvestment from the given forms remains conceptually remote. It is only where the given forms of reproduction are continuously driven up against their limitations, that other modes of power are i. encountered, ii. generated.

Where historical 'becoming' within a sequence of power transference is contained within the same mechanism of capture by a fixed structure, and where the monotony of continuity is relieved only through the circulation of placeholder roles, social transformation may only occur as a 'rupture', or as the complete destruction of established power. Capitalism has developed its apparatus of exploitation to the point that there can be no passage from it to communism via the conservation of any achievements gained in this world - the totality of its relations is bound within every of its molecules.

But how is a sequence of capture ended? To put it another way, how does an outcome not derive from that which structurally precedes and contains it? It is in the nature of historical society to value sequentiality above all; inference, deduction, conclusion conform to processive rules and follow the earlier accumulation of propositions. If that, then, this. We are here because we're here.

Historical society does not place the out-of-sequence event, it does not value the anomaly. The non-sequitur goes under-theorised because significance by definition is a relational construct... it is difficult to process that which resists process. It has been argued that there is only one true non-sequential command, one resounding non-sequitur, in all of human history (although in prehistory equivalent injunctions are quite common): if you are struck by an enemy, ask that he strikes you again. It makes no sense, it is a command that counters every other command of 'nature' and 'civilisation' and that sets itself in relation to them as if from an impossible space.

As an anti-sequential command, it is directed towards the end of evading state power. Its purpose is to supply a heuristic for identifying and retaining that portion of life which must not be rendered unto Caesar. Only Simone Weil in Poem of Force and perhaps Platonov in texts such as Soul have attempted to think through the extraordinary anti-processive implications of this command (though many others have lived it as a path away from the state and into the Zone).

Where monopoly on violence has been secured, the possession of violence becomes incontestable. This is what monopoly means, the sealing shut of a historical cycle with the outcome clearly attributable to a single force which has become inseparable from the moment of historical closure. The threshold for this event of enclosure is set, essentially, at the level of technology - that is to say, no conceivable force within the present array of forces would be able to overcome it. No force in relation to the modern state may overcome its capacity for violence by use of violence, except a more powerful state.

All that remains for the forces fixed in relation to the state is to be ground down as they play out their routines of resistance. Such routines, by which the mechanism of capture is ideologically presented, are the means by which social reproduction fashions internalised distinctions between its parts. However, those expelled populations inhabiting the 'zone' do not exist, as such, in relation to the state.

They are sustained because they do not directly contest state power, they do not 'resist'. They are a 'deep opposition' in the sense that they do not constitute themselves as an opposition to the state, but exist below the threshold of its registering them. If it is to survive, a tribe's inhabitance of the zone must be undertaken without reference to power - it cannot afford to come to the notice of the authorities. Life in the zone is predicated, dependant upon, not going to war - hence the injunction to not strike back.

Jesus was no 'Christian', he lived outside the state. Refusing to engage state power is not a 'pacifist' gesture but both a basic pragmatics in relation to the historical fact of the state's monopoly on violence and an indication of inviolability of the will. 'Proffering the other cheek',  as this is euphemistically called,  is not an act of 'non-violence' but the ritual drawing of the boundary between the zone and state power - a rite of the powerless evading the powerful.  As an injunction, it is not addressed to the enemy at all but functions as a mnemonic for not becoming enmeshed in a conflictual relation with a more powerful force, where the only outcome would be the enemy's second free strike.

But there are other depths within the injunction. The state sets the terms of its violence, it decides what to strike and when. It cannot strike a proffered cheek, that would run counter to its logic: it would constitute a responce to an external command and thus imply acceptance of a zone of imperatives outside itself.

In fact, the ritual of the proffered cheek supposes that the cheek is not there. The one inviting himself to be struck by the state is inverting the procedure by which the state finds those it is to strike. The one to be struck is not 'handing himself in' but, on the contrary is offering terms where such terms are structurally intolerable to the state. The state is not in a position to negotiate with those living outside its domain, or with those not accepting of its authority. Where the cheek seems to be proffered, there is no cheek, in its place is a mask set on a stick planted at the boundary between the zone and the state.

The zone is the name given to the terrain and the people inhabiting it that appears beyond the borders of the state. It is a marginal land, perhaps ruined by nuclear radiation, it is infertile. It is a depressed hollow of marsh and scoured scrub. The reeds grow to fifteen feet tall and block out the sun. There is no way of identifying north. The reeds grow so densely that you cannot push your gun between them. Only wild boar may make their way through it. The men living there must crawl along the boar paths in rancid marsh water which reaches to their elbows and to their thighs. They are devoured by millions of mosquitos.

The zone is the 'place' of dear life, or soul. It is the place where the soul is located. It is where dear life is lived. The men move in wide concentric circles through the marsh basin following flocks of feral sheep which is the path of the soul. The zone is the soul. The men are also the soul. The soul is nothing but the men moving along the paths in the zone. The zone has no soul if the men are not there. The tribal nation is the men and the zone in relation of soul or dear life. The scoured zone, the men scouring the zone. The soul, or 'dear life' is the name of the joint project of the men and the zone. The zone has a purpose and it is the men. The men have a purpose and it is the zone. The means of the men is to scour the zone. The means of the zone is to scour the men.

This, after all, is the purpose of the Dzhan, a nomadic nation of Sary-Kamysh, the Ust-Yurt and the Amu-Darya. It is this tribe or nation that is the subject of Platonov's novella Soul. The narrator, Chagataev is a member of the Dzhan, he is tasked to bring them into socialism and happiness. The Dzhan are not an ethnic group but are drawn from different peoples, 'wandering in poverty'.

Amongst its members, it includes 'Turkmen, Karakalpaks, a few Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Persians, Kurds, Baluchis and peple who had forgotten who they were.' The Dzhan is an expelled or surplus population of 'runaways and orphans from everywhere, and old, exhausted slaves who had been cast out. There were women who had betrayed their husbands and then vanished, fleeing to Sary-Kamysh in fear. There were young girls who came and never left because they loved men who had suddenly died and they didn't want to marry anyone else. And people who didn't know God, people who mocked the world. There were criminals.'

In one tale, the narrator-protagonist Chagataev tells of how the Dzhan invoked the ritual of 'turning the other cheek' in response to persecution by the state. 'The Khan of Khiva had long been using his power to torment' the Dzhan. He regularly sent his horsemen from his palace to Sary-Kamysh to bring back a handful of men to execute or to throw into a dungeon. He was looking for thieves, criminals and the Godless. The Dzhan lived in fear of these raids, and all strength drained out of them. They became incapable of all activity and were reduced to gazing into the desert, waiting and watching for the horsemen.

All the remaining Dzhan gathered together and decided to march upon the Khanate because they wanted the persecution to end and the surest way to end it was for them all to be killed at once. There is no suffering in death, and they could no longer tolerate being picked off. They all set off to Khiva in festive spirits, singing and chanting. Upon arrival before the Khan's soldiers, the Dzhan were asked what they were doing, they replied that they had come to be killed. 

The soldiers were baffled and did not strike them. The Dzhan moved onto the Khiva Bazaar and ate the food there without paying for it. The soldiers and merchants did not intervene. Then the Dzhan decided to return to the Sary-Kamysh, having not found death and feeling despondent. They thought they would go on living in the zone forever, living without thinking, scouring and being scoured, pretending that they were not who they were.

3 comments:

  1. I have no particular commitment to the tribal zone any more than to communism. What would my commitment signify and to whom? What importance could my commitment convey?

    A committed believer is one who amplifies, and perhaps creatively intervenes, at the level of his involvement whilst the object of his commitment ossifies before the perversity of his demonstrations of orthodoxy. The believer is baffled, chagrined, by a moving object.

    Constraint is the only true path into the infinite. There are some storytellers who are only able to create stories if their listeners supply the first sentence or some other essential component which the teller must use as a divinatory tool. Thus, I am happy to allow the other dupont to suggest to me, to lead me, in what it is that I should improvise my thinking around.

    I see my role as taking certain fixed or given objects and conjuring a relation or a path to them, into their interior. What is it possible to think in relation to the anthropological concept 'tribal zone'? In part, this is not a positive argument in favour of 'the Zone' but a. a negative presentation of what it is to live outside the state and b. a substantialised argument against the state (i.e. the name of that which is against the state is the Zone).

    One point of reference here is Marx's text on the question of the tribal zone in history, which he calls 'the Russian path'. The specificity of the Russian question becomes another way into generality. Everywhere else is also subject to the contingencies which set Russia apart... to that extent, the Russian path leads to every other place except Russia.

    Or more accurately, there is no 'Russian path' (there is no specific 'historical' Russian path which sets Russia as the exception) except to say there is always a path which leads out of the state - and in that sense every path is the Russian Path, just as every destination outside of the state is to be known as the 'Tribal Zone.'

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  3. Comment by Dummkopf Dupont!

    'As you say:

    “The present moment is defined precisely by the given form of opposition which is structurally persuaded to reconfigure itself on the same terms as that which it opposes. Nothing opposes capitalism but the inherent limitations of the given forms. However, as long as the given forms continue to reproduce the same outcomes as if they were innovatory and groundbreaking, such limitations remain conceptually remote to practical consciousness A limit is not encountered unless the form is put under stress. Therefore, as long as 'democracy', that is 'real democracy' (or science) performs the trick of autonomously reintroducing the same conventional imperatives, disinvestment from the given forms remains conceptually remote. It is only where the given forms of reproduction are continuously driven up against their limitations, that other modes of power are i. encountered, ii. generated.”

    As you say:

    “Capitalism has developed its apparatus of exploitation to the point that there can be no passage from it to communism via the conservation of any achievements gained in this world - the totality of its relations is bound within each of its molecules.”

    There is no outside, because tribes within the zone are the product of the edge of empires, and the irony is intensified, turned Catch 22, when, anthropologically, one learns that tribes are the precursors to the state… tribes being social formations which have agglomerated bands and refugees and other escapees: generating a constant elusiveness of genealogy. Tribes can be conscious of their deep opposition to the state, despite their tendency to eventually create a state, and they may show this in their refusal to keep history and writing. They achieve more success when they lie low, and can disappear at a moment’s notice, when they appear to have no strength. They are less successful, potentially doomed by internal stresses - suddenly strengths and weaknesses appear - and external pressure, when they are forced to invade the valleys and take heads in revenge against the state. The occupation of Iceland in the ninth century was an example of a fleeing from a state, the establishment of a tribal zone, and the eventual creation of a state. Iceland still retains a whiff of this legacy. So, too, does Switzerland.

    Recently, another zone has been named, Zomia. When the anarchists raise the Zomia flag, we will know that it is all over for those that once hid there too. '

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