Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Summer Chill (1)

Woody Guthrie was my last idol  
he was the last idol  
because he was the first idol
The left's search for identity also triggers its self-depletion. The ideal that it sets itself, to function as the source of its own ideas, transforms the constraint of a restricted pool of reference into a point of principle. For the left, commitment is drawn out of its refusal to recognise itself in what it opposes, a strategy that finds its perfected form in the practice of  'no platforming'. Refusal to incorporate other sources progressively debilitates its own theory: every move towards identity shrinks the ground from which it finds less arguments against taking further isolationist measures. The hygienic tendency within identity production, realised through the regressive refusal to process that which is not immediately recognisable as itself, reaches the highest point of its development in the ideology of accelerationism: where the argument for an absolute attenuation of the problematic of relations to the other is resolved in the pure identity of a community of machines. The left's aversion to non-identity has its origin in the use it makes of its library, a tendency exemplified by radical bookshops that seek to sell 'radical books', a proposition that only makes sense alongside the non-radical books which greatly outnumber them. The left's refusal to read non-leftist authors and its citation of its own authors as its authorities is later deployed as an operational procedure throughout its formations and practices. Its poverty of influence sets in motion a cloven praxis drawn from, and affirmative of, pre-existing attribution biases realised through a combination of denunciatory externalisations and the comfort readings of its holy fathers. Increasing velocity in the automated circulation of ideas has extended the leftist failure of reference into the communist milieu where knee-jerk proposals of a 'return to Marx' and the 'Capital reading group' have become the ubiquitous strategies of caution. The failure to orientate itself to references outside of its own territory seals the channels along which communists are now able to imagine human community as a structuring of relations to the other.  It is a failure which formalises the incorporation of instrumentalising logic as an emancipatory process and induces communism to seek  perpetual reduction in the amplitude of its project towards the question of sheer momentum. Of the most significant communist theoreticians in the Twentieth Century, Debord and Benjamin did not confine themselves to marxist texts, and Camatte had to first escape Marxist constraints to develop his most telling formulations. It is probable that neither Debord nor Benjamin read very far into Marx's critique of political economy, which must explain the heterodoxy of their subsequent ideas. Both compensated for the absence of a thorough grasp of Marxian categories through the processing of materials from reactionary sources: Debord read Hegel (or at least Kojève), Clauswitz, Machiavelli, Gracian; Benjamin's influences were broadly neo-kantian, Freud, Scholem, Schmitt, Strauss. Orthodoxy, or the voluntary identification with restraint on influence, is the cause of much stupidity amongst intelligent men and breaking from orthodoxy, no matter the level of sophistication, is sufficient to spark a resurgence in perception. To its own detriment, the left's constrictive reading strategy consciously separates its project from that of the reactionary's (although less so with neo-reactionaries who tend to reproduce the left's techniques of identity). It is also a policy that lays down the left path towards the fascistic. Where the left demonstrates commitment to its project through affirmative readings of its own sources, the reactionary reads omnivorously and expropriates those fragments useful to his purpose. Where the left refuses to engage enemy texts beyond anathematising them, and is routinely suspicious of any non-committed or 'neutral' author, the reactionary demonstrates his mastery by seeking always to extend his field of reference. Where the reactionary derives authority from the presentation of multiple descriptive approaches within the domain that he defends, the leftist is over-adapted to the depleted environment of commitment and consequently suffers a vitamin deficiency of discourse. The craven subservience before its own textual authorities, and the orthodoxy in the thinking that emerges from it, is strangely confronted by its own advocacies of revolt, liberation, autonomy, escape. Again, in contrast, the reactionary's broad tolerance, and appreciation, of heterogeneous literatures is the technique of his authority. Communists, properly understood as not belonging to the left/right continuum, should at least incorporate the forms of reactionary understanding if they are to grasp the proclivities of human consciousness. After all, the dynamic of communist critique, where it is understood as the active disintegration of the human community from its dependency upon autonomic processes, is driven by the non-identity of its consciousness with its texts - this is also the basic of any literate human organisation (cf. 'The map is not the territory'). The core ahistorical principle in realising sociability, a kernel of human existence to which communists cannot but refer, is not primary repression but reproductive permission. The historical counter-injunction, theory must not be realised in practice, is a lesson that has been long in the learning and is still refused at a fundamental level even amongst those in revolt against the implications where it is not followed. Thus, the concept of permission has rarely gained much ground amongst radicals where it is represented as mere laxity before the bourgeois concept of 'free speech.' Typically, radical groups feel an instinctual antipathy towards strategies of permission and instead reproduce the basic cult mechanisms of repressive desublimation and repressive consciousness as favoured paths of least resistance to group cohesion and the production of a recognisable brand. However, permission is a distinct process within all power relations by which contradictory and divergent tendencies generated within a community are allowed to develop without escalating tensions, separations and disjunctions to the point of violent confrontation and schism. The role of 'The Prince', if a title is to be assigned to the permissive subject, expands the capacity of social relations by refusing direct confrontation with hostile forces within the community so as to facilitate their development to their most radical point without also reaching critical mass, and before becoming dangerous. Proliferative growth contained within second order formations realises rather than inhibits the community's operational principles. The Prince defends the generality by permitting self separation within sub-sets. The momentum of burgeoning hostility is contained communally via the directing subject's capacity to tolerate the transgressions and infringements against itself - the subject, as a resilient entity emerging from established power relations, increases by its metabolisation of the insults directed against it. The goal of the permissive process is not conciliation so much as the common hosting of radical divergences. The subject's granting of permission to that which is not itself expands the length and breadth of the community's life-world. The permissive community facilitates segmentation, secession and movements of self-separation along lines of identitarian enthusiasms without also permitting these foundational concepts to metastasise and become generalised. Instead, it recognises their divergences as compatible with its general relations and as epiphenomenal self-managing, autonomous communities: the tribal form is always drawn directly from, not in spite of, the tensions between the multiple rivalries materialised as villages. The left's refusal of the Mir form, in favour of the abstract rationality of the enlightened state,  no doubt explains the political containment of permissive strategies to the level of good parenting, aikido and bullfighting. Debord, as the last revolutionary to understand this, was also the last revolutionary to read reactionary theory.

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