Species Being and other stories
he is an active natural being ... he is a suffering, conditioned creature
Ah, Them Homunculi
But atheism and communism are no flight, no abstraction, no loss of the objective world created by man—of man’s essential powers born to the realm of objectivity; they are not a returning in poverty to unnatural, primitive simplicity. On the contrary, they are but the first real emergence, the actual realisation for man of man’s essence and of his essence as something real.
Inky scratchings everywhere, unintelligible marks, like skatings on ice. A personal calendar inscribed on the cell wall. I finish these last sentences now with a sense of dread recognition—this is the concrete, this is what I must stand by. I am aghast, rocked back by what confronts me here. Have I really consumed these last three years in such a manner?
So, I have not proof-read it, I cannot bear to face what I have written—bad faith dogs me. I cringe. I have scanned through the words of course, randomly, page 5, and pages 59, 115, 145, 160, 182. That was more than enough to fill me with revulsion.
What a lonely book. There are places where I don’t even see myself in it. I do recognise some or other passion at work, a scrambling to retrieve something, perhaps in vain, perhaps not—but the content and the purpose is alien to me, I shy away, it is not who I am.
And so the claim for this book’s relevance stretches only to the extent that it is a record of states, of moments. Yes, it marks a moment—just as the book Nihilist Communism, which I co-authored, marked the moment when I found I was no longer interested in trying to be with those people, act with those people, who apparently shared some values with me—which I did not share with them.
Species Being indicates a further retreat into the secure room. But where Nih-Com was concerned with the shedding of illusions these later efforts trample back over the scorched earth and argue, groundlessly, for a return to optimism. Then, is this willing lapse into self enchantment a move towards fiction? Is the content of this book nothing but a set of stories dressed in the guise of theory? Perhaps, but it seems to me now, as I turn again and against the fondants prepared here, that this late summer optimism is more horrible and less true than the purity of Nih-Coms critique.
These later scratchings are adorned with prefixed concepts: pre-human, for-human, pro-revolutionary, procommunist—all of which sufficiently demonstrate a position disconnected from clarity and ease. They are my last ideas, skidding and burning up in the outer atmosphere. Nothing is evident now—and what is left is encrusted with qualification.
What is the for-human? It is tempting to define it in negative terms by relating it to all that it is not. The first intuitive formulation would be “it is not myself”. In other words, what truly revolts against social conditions is not that which considers itself “revolutionary”. On the contrary, revolutionaries, responding as they do, dressed in revolutionary garb, belong too much to this world and the array of programmed responses to its totality. Despite themselves, it is through their consciousness, their belief in their revolt, that they are most bound, most committed to, the present order.
If it is not myself then the for-human must be located elsewhere, that is in others who are not me. It is nonetheless difficult to isolate it from their other traits—in other words, it is an improbable stance to adopt, this waiting upon the platform so as to announce the for-hu-man’s arrival, “here it is”. Certainly, the manifestation of the for-human as a proletarian mode is inevitably fleeting and therefore, inscrutable. That is, if it is manifested at all... perhaps it is better understood as a well from which certain occurrences are drawn up rather than as a specified shape or form to be trained into.
Investigations into the nature of the for-human began with the Monsieur Dupont group and our intuitive deployment of the concept of “species being”, a largely untheorised term inherited/used by Marx in the Economic and Philosophical manuscripts. At that time we made the observation that:
The Proletariat will not be motivated by political values in its resistance to work but by its selfish interest to assert its species being; its
bodily desire to be human floods across the barriers of separation. Nihilist Communism
I further explored the concept of species being in 2005 on the post-situationist Nothingness e-mail discussion list and with the American Anti-Politics milieu. It is enough to say here that very few contributors saw any reason to pursue the matter, presuming that my arguments indicated a regression to a-historical essentialism, and thus a position counter to the left’s appreciation of mutability and process.
During this period my ideas became increasingly, and necessarily, more fluid, as I explored the implications of what Marx had abandoned. I quickly exhausted the immediate and conventional formulations of essence which occurred to me, and moved onto stranger territories. Under pressure of argument I made it clear that I was not investing in a re-conceptualisation of some suppressed primitive nature. I was adamant that the essence I was referring to was not a template which, under optimum natural conditions. ought to be reverted to. I have never advocated a return.
In fact I am not advocating anything, but most of all I am not advocating the natural order. My main interest has always been the apparently sporadic, the random and unscientific, even lawless appearances of proletarian revolt against conditions. Both revolt’s presence and its absence in any named specific instance has increasingly occupied my mind. I have asked of particular instances where revolt has undisputedly manifested itself, “why there and not some place else?”
In pursuit of the reason for revolt I even went so far as to consider whether this essence existed outside of the bodily presence of separate human individuals, postulating that it belonged not so much to the individual hearts quickened and joined together by events as to a permanent flux that exists between them—a flux, or associative medium, which conveys, and carries as a reserve, the full range of possible individual behaviours.
If the essence of revolt belongs to every individual, as some active principle, then this would infer the importance of presence within external events as a condition for its animation. On the other hand, if the for-human is already, and constantly, present, belonging to the relations between individuals, then this would suggest the conditional significance of what is latent and to be expressed in relations.
Therefore, from this point, it now feels appropriate for me to investigate further whether the for-human is manifested either between proletarians subjectively as they congregate together, in the manner which Jesus foresaw the church or, objectively, between the human species and the transforming conditions of its environment, arriving at the moment where it might reach for an undetermined condition, a leaped-from present. Naturally, this fleeting, non-manifest aspect of the for-human leads me back through the looking glass in a quest for the substance of all those events which did not happen, which have not been caused to occur in the world, even when their determinant conditions, and the requisite triggers, exist many times over. With this in mind, I have often posed the following open question, “Why, when the material conditions have existed for such a long time, does the proletariat not revolt against its conditions, and keep on revolting until it is able to break free of them?”
There is no final position on this, and the tension in the question, if frequently considered, becomes disconcerting. However, in terms of resistance, the for-human reflex is present, it does act perpetually upon the world. We discern this activity from the qualities that are actu-alised, albeit quietly in the background struggles against imposition; these qualities include the for-human’s irre-ducibility, its immutability, its ahistoricalness—together they are the constants of the position of refusal.
For reason of its intransigence, it is vital that the for-human is now elevated within pro-revolutionary theory; its centrality rests, perversely, on its peripheral contribution to lives lived—it is because it currently plays no part within the world but is nonetheless active upon it, that we continually run up against the limits it sets upon activity. In other words the for-human is a group of characteristics which are not altered or reduced in response to historical events:, on the contrary, they eternally impede full historicisation. In an epoch overrun by history, the for-human becomes important because it is not in play.
It is that which exists invariably, and yet consistently goes unvalued.
Or, to reverse the formulation, the for-human is a characteristic that is so continuously manifested within the lives of proletarianised human beings that it passes as wholly insignificant. An example of this nonrecognition is found within the conventional form of prorevolutionary consciousness, which is typically geared to recognise and respond to activity. Monsieur Dupont addressed this prepared character of consciousness elsewhere, but it is probably necessary to briefly contrast this with the category of the for-human here in order to illuminate the theoretical position of both from a prorevolutionary perspective. Primarily, this distinction is realised at the level of consciousness as it is expressed through activity (in the sense it is understood in the Theses on Feuerbach). Given that capitalism is constructed from accumulated abstract human activity, prorevolutionary consciousness distinguishes revolutionary activity from all other types in terms of quality only, and thereby fails to theorise general activity as an objective quantity. It does not adequately evaluate the circumstance which supplies so much of the conditioned substance of its own intervention.
Pro-revolutionaries are sensitive to the occurrence of events that they may respond to and anticipate the end of the present social order in terms of events caused by their decided activity. By implication, they do not recognise, do not theorise, and are unable to invest in, that which does not occur, that which is not functioning within the capitalist social relation—and yet this turning of a blind eye is perversely rebellious against the rebels’ own situation, given that the “revolution” is truly an event which is not occurring, at least not within the frame of their decided activity.
The supposed identity of proposed/speculative activity and the revolutionary outcome eventually surmounts, within pro-revolutionary consciousness, the outcome as it must be in itself. Thus, it is often apparent that where there is no crisis in consciousness only the formula of the outcome, and not the outcome itself, is prized. The conception of revolution as an event within the social relation is lost to the ideology of subject intentionality. That common identity that prorevolutionaries establish between revolution and decided action means that, whatever their intention, their theory too often implies a revolutionary subject which resembles themselves in every detail—this cashes out into “life as strategy”, a curiously military perspective. Pro-revolutionaries, as entrepreneurs, explicitly oppose, and refuse to recognise “inactivity”, that is non-function, within the proletariat, despite the negative effect of nonfunction upon Value.
For this reason the manifest but undecided breaking down and disfunction of non-politicised workers as the ground of revolutionary change, rather than, say, the speculative activity of militants, goes unrecorded.
Do not say what the for-human is. For it is an element that is not included. Call it bloody-mindedness, a natural dragging back, and it is defined only by its unregistered status within ordinary processes. It goes unrecorded and its impact is neither quantified logistically nor anticipated in strategy. It is not predictable, nor measurable. It has no discernible pattern and its use-value is only either fortuitous, or the reverse.
For an undiminished constant of the night sky, this dim star comes as close as is feasible to chance, the random, in its behaviour, in its effect upon the social relation dominated as that is by the closed predictability of the Just-In-Time system. The for-human is value neutral... or, as substance, perhaps the most human aspect of the human species. Therefore, given that humans for themselves are the antagonistic pole to that of capital value as a general system, this human remainder, which holds human response to its conditions within itself, must now be actu-alised in theory as armature for the proletariat’s growing incapacity for labour.
Above, I have speculated that the revolt of the for-human is a “reflex” type behaviour which belongs subjectively to the imposed-upon rather than, say, to the projects imposed by activists, innovators and entrepreneurs. However, the for-human reflex is not possessed as such by those through whom it is manifested any more than are smiling or yawning... if the truth of capitalist society, its overthrow, is located within the proletariat, then this does not also suppose that the engine of this revolt, which it carries within itself, is present as a wieldy form of engagement that may subsequently be recruited, or deployed. For reason of its unresponsiveness to strategy the for-human has no history and therefore is not subject to transformation, or exhaustion. Simply, it is always there. As both frame and impulse for critique of conditions it is characterized by its instantaneity—it persists, outside of time, as a texture for engagement in the world, an innocence which we may take the liberty to define as spring-like.
Inevitably, the awareness of a trait, opens the possibility for its conscious deployment, and this possibility is extended further if we consider how the spring is characterised by a resting or residual shape memory. In other words, if a response is predictable in some of its details then, under certain conditions, reproduction is a matter of extrapolation via the subjective manufacture of optimised conditions—this is the argument of all strategies of tension; every avant garde has advocated situations that are intended to trigger a coherent collective response in the wider public. Certainly, there are lifestyle/tactical implications of an awareness of the for-human. That is, it is possible to gauge one’s interventions with a heightened sensitivity to its reflex, and this sensitivity may be sharpened to the point of an acute anticipation/intuition for its manifestations. However, this should not be taken too far—innate resistance is just that. By definition, what resists mutely also resists any positive reframing—it resists being carried forward. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the for-human reflex may be appropriated into directional activity as such, although this is not to say that it won’t become more coherent collectively during conducive events. In other words, the for-human may take an exaggerated, active, significant form under appropriate conditions but in its relation to the world it will never adopt the form of simple revolutionary affirmation.
For the moment, considering the for-human as it acts presently, and acting in accordance with it, involves distinguishing active from passive qualities and thereby better understanding the particular figure each resistance adopts in its engagement with conditions. Just as uncertainty does not map precisely the same coordinates as certainty, so it is that for-human revolt does not occupy precisely the same impulse/effect contours as pro-revolutionary activism. Whilst the for-human can be understood as a catastrophic, strike-from-anywhere, counterattack which undoes value from the outside, this does not imply an identity between it and, in the phrase beloved of leftists, “fighting back” . The reason for this is that a for-human reflex is, as with the example of Bartleby the scrivener, entirely unpredictable, and neither pleading nor goading may extract the called for quantity. Whilst it is true that there is prefer not to, and prefer not to, and prefer not to for ever... it is also true that there is nothing more than this—there is no tangible strategic aspect by which this disturbance might be seized hold of and thus be translated into a war machine.
The for-human must be allowed to become distinct within pro-revolutionary consciousness on its own terms. It functions against its conditions by heightening tensions and increasing sensitivity to all that is unresolvable. It negatively postulates the possibility of another world, a black world that is given no form or content but which, because of its gravitational force, is enough, under critical circumstances, to destabilise the organisation of all that is immediately present. Evidently, this law of the for-hu-man, contrasts with directional activity oriented towards solutions. The for-human revolt remains, in relation to all forms of the social and history in general, inscrutable, essential, irreducible, above all, it requires the human to be something else.
The theoretical reflex to the for-human would necessarily cause a modification in the activities of prorevolutionaries as they are related to the proletariat. This modification would involve the transferring of high significance from the instigated, consciousness-based acts staged by pro-revolutionaries which are intended to be consumed by others, thereby provoking further and escalating acts, to the recording and classification of instinctive activities undertaken by others which would then be re-presented back to them in pro-revolutionary terms. Their connection with the proletariat therefore is reversed from that which is presently conducted as a relation of transmission to a form that should be understood predominately in terms of reception and relay. The for-human is not what we do, it is what we encounter.
But that is not the whole story, not by a long way.
Marx writes, “The mystical feeling which drives the philosopher forward from abstract thinking to intuiting is boredom—the longing for content.” Let’s not confine this to theory that is little more than an alibi, particularly when biography would provide a more accurate ac-count—the question that has been set “why don’t people revolt against their conditions?” will not do, and its readied answer, “revolt is actually a constant, an essence of society, but we are unable to recognise it”, is far from honest. Such formulations are not yet conflicted enough! What do these theories disguise? What are they intended to block? Isn’t the core about which I have assembled them my own failure, and a resultant self loathing?
I mean, what is my motivation for referring to revolution? Do I even know what it is? The answer is no, I don’t know. Why is the idea of revolution here, in this book? I don’t know that either. I have tied it, and communism, to a world outside of this world, a world that resists and refuses process. I have proposed intractability against movement. The scheme states that first there is crisis, and every thing speaks the crisis, every object is made to embody crisis. And when the crisis reaches its crisis, when its energy flows away from it, and the tension is disorganised, then there is a space. Then there is the space for a revolutionary move, for speech and for objects, for acts, for a subject—a space that is not determined by Value. Following the crisis there is a moment, perhaps lasting only a few hours, where everything is floating free, where everything is released to be claimed—in the autumn, under a leaf, a different ordering of the world will mushroom.
I have held on to revolution, it operates within Species Being as a means for appraising moments and situations, it is the conjectured ground of a theoretical perspective, what would anything mean without it? What does anything mean with it? I don’t know, I see that it rears up, disguised death—a speculative and displaced suicidal intent. I have argued against communism as movement through history and so it follows that if there is no movement there is only breakdown and uncaused transformation.
I have thought, wrongly, and lived by a principle, wrongly, which states that because there is no movement I must not move. I have placed some worth on my coherence. I need revolution but it gives me nothing, it is my belief even as I struggle not to believe in it. It drains me, it drags me to the periphery, it closes the circle of my thoughts, it is a fortress against me. I do not live, I do not move, because of it, because there is no movement. Revolution is a word for nothing.
So I must attack. The very writing down of these ideas, as much as the ideas themselves, must be attacked, the entirety must be reduced into constituent parts—“it only wins to its truth when it finds itself utterly torn asunder”. And anyway, there are more appropriate matters to be considered here. I must uncover in myself, the remote location from which I derive the trite rehearsal of call and response that I have set up. I must isolate what it is that has driven me across open country and into a cul-de-sac.
My twisted motive, yes. It is always shame. And fear. “This dwelling beside it (the negative) is the magic power that converts the negative into being.” This being in despair, not facing true despair, wishing to cause in myself further injury, to incite my own downfall. This pursuit of wretchedness, the attempt to bring the edifice down upon myself. This overbearing resentiment. I connect very quickly to what is in error, and not just in Hegel’s “magical” sense. I have become wretched without thought of redemption, wretched without excuse or exit.
I have achieved it as a luxury, as an alibi. Where majesty isn’t. I am shit. I am shit. I am shit and this shit of mine trumps nothing.
Couldn’t I have been something more than that, something better? Why have I held on for so long, scorning what might have been, holding on (to what?) for the feeblest of reasons, for no reward? Krause sings, “Failure in loving, failure in living”. Yes, I see that. Thwarted at the first juncture, I was driven to seek out the capacity, the power, to magically flourish above the next (by the idiot’s logic of double or quits). That is, I wanted to achieve but only via vengeful, hateful response. It was to no purpose anyway. I encountered nothing there but my own falsity. And this is how it has been, at each subsequent crossroads, my dissociation increasing in proportion to my frustration. And still not letting go, but only redressing some unknown wound which was inflicted so long ago. All the words I have and I do not have the words.
At each step taken the conviction hardens. I have, by taking the decision for this step, thus missed out on a step more appropriate. I am aware of what has not been seized upon in each scene of my existence. I move from instance to instance of “what was not to be”, contemplating each as if it could have been, and thus sealing the fate of that which is present to me of the moment. I am thrown back, conspiring in my fall, even as I rail against it. And in further response, as in the terror of the dawn chorus, I project forward unreal alternatives, flimsy compensations. I have never known my needs.
And so it is that in this writing, and in all of my life, I am driven by an urge to claw back the existence I have already consumed, the full body of what is lost, and by these miraculous means I wish to somehow begin again, in resolution, the slate wiped. But in the act of this traitor grasping I further damage any chance I might have had to construct something more positive. Why don’t people revolt against their conditions? Why don’t I? As if I cared. I have no interest, no interest at all, in revolt configured as portal—what interests me, what obsesses me, is the condition of non-revolt and the painful space which is opened by it. I inhabit a place of dead-ends, the process I describe, the world, is myself. I have become attuned to the details of what is solutionless, I am bound to the tension of situations, I am unable to see beyond the obstacles which consume me. I am committed to no exit.
The for-human essays collected here are exercises in self-disgust, fictions, flights, exercises. They are written by a coarse, squaddie-like individual, crippled by time passing. I am a miser driven by anxiety, who should have been consumed and destroyed by process, by struggle. And yet this creature that I am still lives—its survival is a cowardly, fastidious habit; a mere quantity, it persists for no reason, and has no function but the muddying of clear pools; a creature that is bound to earthly existence; committed, in bad faith, to human attachments, in the absence of real feelings; and thus, torn again by the absence of feeling, the presence of attachment.
I understand what is “good” and “true” of human society only in the most negative, convoluted terms. I sense the spectre of communism only as a departing presence, something that has just then happened and is now disappeared or as what is about to occur but which has become endlessly deferred.
I persist, and my jaded taste seeks out the obscurer corners of the social relation, as if despite the distortion,
I might come face to face with this spectre and be redeemed by it, and all this when death and release would have been so much cleaner. Is it tension before death, the for-human I mean? A card-turning tension then, which has caused me to write an Anarchist Book of the Dead. Yes. No.
frere dupont 15/10/06
For earthen cup
If it is true to say that ritual marks the place where technology fails, then equally it should be recorded that technology appears where human feeling has been defeated.
What can it be, this pre-human, that we emerge from and run up against? What is it: arrangement; ground; law; ancestors; convention; sum of all possible modes; historical contingency; the core retreated to?
Within all human ventures, there is inevitably encountered an element that properly belongs neither to the venture itself nor to the indifferent surroundings where the venture takes place. The element is experienced as both facilitation of, and limit to, the enterprise... it has a circular character, it acts partially as a condition for the actions undertaken and partially as an active principle which diffuses the action’s focus.
For example, in marxist conceptions of revolution, the proletariat is caused to come into existence by a shift in society’s productive organisation, but it is also seen to be the agency that will end this organisation; thus, the proletariat experiences productive organisation as both the condition for its existence in the world and the limit to its possibilities. From the perspective of the proletariat
factory conditioning is a pre-human structure, and is run up against during life events as that which is always, already in place. Similarly, at an individual level, the narrator of Poe’s Imp of The Perverse experiences this circular element, the pre-human, thus: “Today I wear these chains and am here! Tomorrow I shall be fetterless!—but where?” Thus, the world is not directly experienced by the subject position which only comes to as organised within discreet local structures that are intended, expressly, to defend it against a direct experience of the entirety of the world.
If limits placed by social conditions upon experience characterise the pre-human then what is the human? What is the human in his natural state? Or rather, what is the human without influence of pre-human structuring? Rousseau writes: “I see him satisfying his hunger under an oak, quenching his thirst at the first stream, finding his bed under the same tree which provided his meal and, behold, his needs are furnished.” Rousseau demonstrated that the quality of the immediately human is an inter-subjectivity of otherwise isolated individuals who meet only by chance, in a forest that functions for them as nothing but the background to their meeting. There is nothing else. The savages organise as they agree, and their ambition stretches no further than the purpose of their encounter, which is soon forgotten as they drift apart again. There is nothing in their world beyond them, or before them. They do not have memory. They do not plan for the future. Nothing is accumulated in the storehouses of knowledge and grain. And so it is that they have never encountered the pre-human. But if two of Rousseau’s savages were to find themselves transported from the forest to a corridor in a large building, then it would be a different story.
It is a corridor, it is either dimly lit and strewn with rubbish, or it is bright and plushly carpeted. The corridor is situated within the architecture of a low-rise housing estate, or a cloister, or an office building, a public utility, or a hotel. The corridor serves a planned or adapted purpose within a wider architecture that is in itself integrated into ever-widening productive circuits. From opposite ends of the corridor Rousseau’s two savages are approaching each other. These two do not own the corridor, nor did they build it, nor do they now decide its current purpose. They merely inhabit the defined space for a particular moment, and they do so with more or less familiarity. They are walking along the corridor towards each other and the corridor is affecting them. It is quietly imposing limits and possibilities onto both their encounter, and their perception of the conventions of their encounter. This quiet arranging of interaction is how the pre-human operates. The two savages will adjust their individual habitude psychically and physically for their encounter in response to the corridor’s pre-human prompts and likelihoods that they are unthinkingly absorbing. Each asks, is the other more or less likely to greet me, shout abuse or ignore me altogether? Each is prepared to receive the other by the operating of a pre-human framework present in the corridor, a framework which to a large degree decides and enforces likely outcomes.
Every corridor is haunted. Every corridor collects to itself its own subcategories of whoring—every corridor arranges its doors into a polite end of good neighbours set against their enemies. How the savages encounter each other in the corridor is determined by their expectations that are informed by numerous atmospheric effects that are, in turn, determined by the previous encounters that have accumulated in that place. A place where violence has routinely occurred, for example, will cause individuals to ready themselves for likely violence.
Therefore, the pre-human should not be reduced purely to an effect of the material corridor itself; it is rather a localised arrangement of the history and system of human affects that are summoned up or accessed by individuals gathering in that location and interacting at that particular moment. Access to, or awareness of, what has gone before somehow becomes an impersonal, or spiritual, protocol for the present (there are always individuals who know the score,: professional northerners or “locals” as The League of Gentlemen would have it). Somehow the dead, the ancestors, the previous occupiers of these rooms, are experienced as having a subliminal authority over the practice of the living (present day jazz musicians are ritually hamstringed by their elders who invoke the dead,:
“I remember Miles when he played for pennies in the street”). Jesus understood the church in terms of a prehuman surplus over and above both the place of congregation and the aggregate of individuals involved, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Thus, the pre-human should now be understood as the domination of personal relations by the dictates of the supra-personal dead.
Reality, the perceived organisation of the world, has as its second source the gathering together of congregations which produce for themselves, via their internal development, peculiar and self-centred explanations of the world. Every tribe finds itself at the centre of the universe, no human society conceives of itself as not-par-ticularly-special. This self-centering is the work of the reality principle. Freud explains it as a subjective taking “into account (of) the conditions imposed by the real external world”. The reality principle is not the appearance in people’s heads of objective material conditions, nor a direct perception of the relations of production, but rather the experience of process, that is the ongoing development, of protocols of behaviour which are intended to rub alongside, facilitate, or not antagonise too much, the angry gods of material scarcity.
The pre-human, or principle of perceived reality, and the actions derived from it, are always inaccurate reflections upon actual, material conditions. And although the pre-human structure forms the basis for all social acts it is also subject to rapid change and abandonment as the productive economy dictates new scarcities and inhibitions— old gods die, new rites are developed. Fundamentalism and most protest movements in general should therefore be understood as phenomena generated by distortions of the pre-human organisation of subjectivity (that is, the falling out of favour of certain rituals and beliefs) rather than, say, a direct reflection of the drop in the price of oil.
The reality principle is accumulated by, and now inherited from, the experiences of others who are no longer present in society. The dead have bequeathed us their pain as a set of conventional behaviours and repressive codes. This is how you eat. This is how you relate. This is the position of the father in your life. In short, the pre-human is an aggregate of experiences which become transformed into communities or subject positions—it is a congregation, the function of which is to produce a sense of continuity in spite of productive developments. Our forefathers, the ancestors, appear amongst us so that we will continue to reproduce past values in the present. Their values are brought forward and must meld with our own revaluation imperatives (our urge to “get with it”) which are caused by technological developments in the present. We are asked to tear ourselves apart in our struggle to maintain the antagonism between inherited values and factory demands as a continuity, as a way of life. We must love and honour the ones designated for love and honour but we must also play for many hours on our X-box. We see in this that the pre-human element of social relations has a pathological character caused by repressed scarcity—this is best understood if we examine two situations, one where it dominates and the other where it is entirely absent.
Of course, the pre-human is never entirely absent from any given human encounter because the material framework for all such encounters are dependent not just on nature or history taken as a background but also on the human species as it realises itself in the individual, Marx writes of this:
Man, much as he may therefore be a particular individual (and it is precisely his particularity which makes him an individual, and a real individual social being), is just as much the totality—the ideal totality—the subjective existence of imagined and experienced society for itself; just as he exists also in the real world both as awareness and real enjoyment of social existence, and as a totality of human manifestation of life.
However, human beings in the particular, and unlike all life other forms (this “suffering, conditioned and limited creature, like animals and plants”), are the only creatures to experience their need in a form that is alienated from the immediate, that is as consciousness (consciousness being the collective accumulation of need-memories passed on as reflections upon technological responses to need). If a human being were to live outside of the prehuman conditioning of his existence he would have to forgo memory, and in particular memories of the death of others, which Marx describes as the harsh victory of the “species over the particular individual” and which Bataille says is “the profound truth of that movement of which life is the manifestation”. Memory, and especially memory of other people’s deaths, is the ground of all conditioned/social existence, and thus consciousness.
Socialised human beings are essentially characterised as moving forwards/looking backwards, sorrow and wrenching are the modes of our most profound connections with the world—all conceptions of change are framed in terms of memory and the wiping of memory.
The first movement that carries a retrieved surplus from death into life is located materially in the species’ physical modification of itself in evolutionary response to the needs that the world causes within it. And in the second movement this surplus carried over is located within consciousness—which may be defined in the partial reflections of consciousness on both physical adaptation and on consciousness itself. Consciousness also intervenes in the subsequent development of what has been called “second nature” or history, which is the sphere most inhabited by our wanderings in second level alienation.
The pre-human mechanism develops as an aspect of this second movement, or carry over, from death and so it appears that any existence without the pre-human would necessitate a severance of the individual from all process. Existence without the pre-human is individuation beyond context, a life without memory or names, and without even the benefit of the accumulations of one’s species. If we were to imagine individuals outside of the pre-human we would be brought up against lives born into extreme and contorting pressures such as that encountered in Rousseau and the “very cool and shady” wood in Alice Through The Looking Glass, “And now, who am I? I will remember, if I can!”
If life without pre-human conditioning, caused by the attempt to get away from society and to live as a rous-seauean savage, simply denies the relation of the individual to the species then what primitivists describe as domestication accurately conveys the existence of those for whom no aspect of their life escapes the grid set down in the present by the “harsh victory” of dead fathers over their sons,. Zerzan writes, “The start of an appreciation of domestication, or taming of nature, is seen in a cultural ordering of the wild, through ritual.” It is in ritual that the pre-human, as a residue of accumulated memories, is most directly apparent.
There have been, in the past, societies wholly oriented around ritual; in fact, it is likely that all societies began, as Zerzan says, from ritualised practices. In other words, society itself is not grounded on the directly perceived interest of self-preservation as embodied in a social contract, such as enlightenment philosophers thought. On the contrary, such self-interest was only an effect of still more primal urges. Social organisation grew out of irrational, continually repeating patterns, which in themselves develop as an unresolved or raw response to the felt certainty of precarious existence, and thus to a continued feeling for the proximity of those who were once here amongst us but who now are not—the dead. From this perspective, society always begins objectively in pre-carity, and subjectively in grief.
The actual origins of organisation, of the process of accumulating the material of the pre-human, are found in the behaviours of those currently described with the
label Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
Compulsive acts or rituals are stereotyped behaviours that are repeated again and again.
They are not inherently enjoyable, nor do they result in the completion of inherently useful tasks. The individual often views them as preventing some objectively unlikely event, often involving harm to or caused by himself or herself. Usually, though not invariably, this behaviour is recognized by the individual as pointless or ineffectual and repeated attempts are made to resist it... TheICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders World Health Organization, Geneva, 1992
They are counting and counting, they are arranging objects, they are finding importance in cleaning, they are pacing a number of steps, they are repeating a set of words, they are balancing left and right, they are holding their breath, they are making a noise to drown out a thought. They are setting boundaries and defining territories. Obsessive compulsives are trapped within the most basic mechanical gestures of inventing social rules, theirs is a perpetual volcanic activity that sometimes succeeds in causing new islands. Social organisation is first founded from compulsive, irrational, rituals, but these rituals are also performed by all currently existing people at distinctive junctures in their lives—potential new societies are being sketched out, and returned, to, all of the time. It is very rare however for any specific ritual to be communicated and become the nucleus of practical organisation.
If the rituals of obsessive compulsion lie at the heart of societal organising then what of social development? What of societies that develop a so-called objective knowledge of themselves and the world, and therefore apparently open the possibility for management and modification of their irrational core by means of application of this knowledge? Unfortunately, contrary to the claims for self-knowledge, these projects for social reform readjust society always to a hidden barbarism rather than to the ideals suggested by such knowledge. History, thus far, tells only of structures that have tended, despite their own liberatory intentions, to the worst—towards rarified and perfected barbarities, that is as tendencies towards those values most deplored by their own constitutions. Self-knowledge, thus far, has not proved itself to be a sufficiently powerful force for changing the direction of human society.
As an example, Jonathan Miller has pointed out in the documentary “A Brief History Of Disbelief” that atheism began in the Christian context through the development of alternative theist systems and postreformation branchings. In other words, atheism is a product of irrational belief reflecting on itself and not, as is often claimed by progressives, the application of more advanced knowledge classifications of the world that developed within scientific investigation—and which, incidentally, often sought to maintain the central role for god. Atheism developed passively from an entropic principle in religion, and was not an aspect of some wider, active movement (in Marx’s sense). Science served religion, the dominant social power, very well up to the realisation of the modern state and capitalism and then it began to emphasise its theory of evolution as the most appropriate ideology to reflect the new social forces.
The ideological practices of applied and social sciences, which sought to intervene in social structure and reorganise society according to reason, proceeded from the assumption that “all that is real is rational; and all that is rational is real.” In other words, for the science of governance, the imposition of scientific categories and protocols upon social organisation depends upon the truth of the dictum, “knowledge is power”; consequently, the more that is known about a set of circumstances, the more precisely and effectively an intervention might be made; and furthermore, the more integrated the knowledge of a process is with the functioning of the process itself, the more likely it is that function will submit to the guidance of knowledge. However, the continued performance of the pre-human, that is of a specifically perverse impishness, a death- oriented openness, within human organisation, has caused the consistent disruption of all rationalising systems which, because they are equally bound to refuse the irrational, are found to be, simply, inadequate to the tasks they set themselves.
Psychoanalysis and Marxism, as ideologies of Reform Science, began applying their schemes from the assumption of the world’s latent rationality, and that this ordering would be developed or revealed when manifested contradictions were resolved.
However, the history of both Marxism and psychoanalysis, in terms of their early unsullied optimism, has been one of practical failure and ideological fracture. The least ossified of both practices retreated into an activist conception, abandoning the role of speaking for the inevitable and falling back on realising the ideal alongside the irreducible perversity and resistance of the world. This was manifested in the post-bolshevist communist movement as a split between the ideologies of “socialism in one country” and “permanent revolution”, whilst the proposed “band of helpers for combating the neuroses of civilisation” as envisaged by Freud, rapidly decayed into rearguard defences of lay analysis against the growing demands by the scientific establishment for proofs.
In response to its lack of self-evidence, psychoanalysis sought the route of least possible resistance and adopted the concept of interminable analysis in which it re-caste itself in a reduced role, being that of a corrective to all that could not be eradicated. And Trotskyism, similarly, in its break-off from the self defeat of Bolshevism, embraced an orientation towards “permanent revolution”. Endless Freudianism coincided in the late Nineteen Twenties with Permanent Trotskyism. At first these appear to be intransigent positions, resolute holdings out for nothing short of total victory but in reality they are mere hollowed out surfaces.
The idea of permanence within ideology always indicates a dishonest acceptance of defeat, and involves the drawing of a boundary around the particular field of organisational specialism. At some level, within both these ideologies, the utopian outcome was retained as an ideal—but for both it was also displaced to a further-off location, to become a not in this world scenario. For the first time the fetish of The Struggle was placed over that of the End.
Practice inevitably degrades during this relinquishment: the permanence to which it is now directed, as to a receding light, causes it to fall back onto what might be called a resistance perspective—that is, the advocacy of continuation, and business as usual; the gestures of agitation, activism, intervention are retained but now without concrete expectation of an end, they become a bureaucracy of acts, a circumlocution office. Under the sign of permanence, which signals the end of the scientific method and of any change brought on by application of the method, the practice of permanence, which once was directed towards social transformation, now becomes the practice of continuity of the institution. In other words, the falling back of both Marxism and psychoanalysis onto the concept of permanence as a strategy indicates a bad faith acceptance of a political role within the world as it is, a role that must be defended permanently, and maintained as a set value. The ideologies, which once sought to reorganise the totality of the world, must now take their places within it, and therefore live with the appearance of certain contradictions, of which they are a manifestation, and which they practically accept to be wholly insurmountable. This is the high tide mark for the rationalised reformisms of the Nineteenth Century: it is where pro-human interventions have been washed up.
To begin again from a slightly different position: there has never been a time when the human being was in a position to decide together with itself what kind of society it was going to live in, and then, one step further, impose that decision as a reality. All attempts at achieving this integrated position have so far been defeated, and up to very recently, strangely, this defeat has not been engaged by those who actively seek change of conditions. On the contrary, it has been denied, it has been displaced. We are asked to embrace Movement, Process, Permanence. We have been asked to affirm that change is already occurring, that we are part of It.
However, there are now amongst us some, what we shall call post-activists, who have recorded this failure of reform, and have grasped its reasons. They have maintained their desire for social change but are no longer prepared to fall back into the arranged denial of failure. Even so, the few’s understanding of why it is that consciousness cannot be communicated in the manner that most activists imagine communication, is still only a recognition of the impasse and not its undoing. Awareness does not alter the problem, that of the communication of values, and nor has a viable model replaced that of the Twentieth Century activists’ formulations. To say, as I have done, that events determine consciousness, that consciousness of events has its moment as well as its place, does not solve the basic obstacle of the pre-human, and that which resists rational engagement. To ask of another of one’s own type, “what makes you think that s/he needs some other person, a stranger (you), to open her/his eyes? do you think that s/he is really that stupid that the oppression needs to be discovered and then presented to her/him by some smart person (you)?” is not an answer to the question of organisation. This looking for an innate spontaneity, an immediate insurrectionary upsurgence, a moment, a break—this denial of movement, of activism, of process, in no way communicates the required spontaneity to those whose role it is to rise up. There is still, I find, in my own thoughts and in the thoughts of all those who have run up against the limitations of previous thoughts of revolution, there is still a tendency to rationalise, there is still a divergence between the thought of reality and reality itself. To announce that we must not lead, because our leadership has always led to disaster, answers neither the question of why consciousness of revolutionary possibilities does not occur in others, nor that of the role of those who do have consciousness.
Perhaps, and we must consider this, perhaps the giving up of the leader role and the task of opening another’s eyes is in itself a rationalisation, and a displacement of the desired role for our consciousness within revolutionary events. In other words, the advocacy of leaderlessness is no tactical advantage when there is no reciprocation from those who are not ready either for being led, or for not being led.
To begin again from a slightly different position: those who have the idea of revolution are those who are not in the position to make it, whilst those who are in the position to materially impose it have no ideas of it; and worse than this, there is no discernible way out of the bind except through the intervention of what seems to be miraculous events. On the other hand, there is something perverse in the formulation of this mutual relinquishing between revolutionary motivation and revolutionary agency; there is something wearying in acknowledging that these two gifts cannot be exchanged. And yet, again, we cannot deny that these indeed are our findings: from nowhere in the world do we hear of values similar to our own being generated on a meaningful scale within those sections of society that must make the first stage of social revolution. This is the boundary that must be overcome—and although it is a boundary set before all people, we also cannot deny that it is those who look for revolution who are most provoked by it, and who seek for means to breach it. Even as we castigate the activist role, whilst remaining involved with the issue, we find ourselves reasserting a second order, activist supremacism.
To begin again from a slightly different position: it is the engagement with this maddening puzzle of separated components and temporalities that compels prorevolutionaries to return to the question of organisation. And if, for those who have already understood the failure of organisation, there is no alternative but organisation then the return will be oriented with the aid of a proper regard to the pre-human. If we cannot wholly escape the rationalisations of reform movements, if we are to insist on finding certain actions and reactions in society, then we must also hook into, or merge, our organisations with what is otherwise thought of as an irrational surplus, but which in fact turns out to be the actual core of all societies. To this end we should consider the basic character of human organising.
From the perspective of the outsider, the most interesting element of the structure of any organisation, and beyond that to the delivery of its function, is its unconscious adherence to the pre-human, as that is manifested in ritual. The guest, the stranger, is struck first by the strange manners and customs of his hosts. Difference, the alien, what is outside of actual function catches the guest’s eye because these apparent surplus irrationalities form the core of any critique of organisation—your clothing, your manner of address, your procedures make no sense to me, don’t they get in the way of what you want to do? The outsider, as consultant, suggests dress-downs, informalisation, sofas, flexitime because all that matters is results—but then it takes a foreigner of another sort to demonstrate the formalisation of anti-form. It takes a further step towards estrangement from the structure to understand that function is only possible because of the peculiar surplus of custom and not the other way round.
To begin again from a slightly different position: the function of ritual has always been that of perceptual filter for the members of the organisation. From the perspective of the organisation, ritual reduces the threat of the objective world whilst magnifying the importance of the actions of its members, who are placed, by their belonging, at the centre of the world. Ritual is a mechanism for editing the universe, it keeps certain phenomena of reality from impacting on consciousness, whilst overemphasising the value of others. This unrealistic, even absurd drawing of boundaries in the world and upon bodies—this making things distinct, this codification of parts and procedures—is the line that makes possible the processes of accumulation. Wealth accumulating around named bodies eventually facilitates the alteration of objective conditions so as to better suit the designs of what has become collective subjectivity, or community.
All organisations are arranged about ritualistic practices that persist beyond the stated aims of the organisation; all organisations exist, to a greater or lesser degree, antagonistically to the generality of present conditions; all organisations, because they ritualistically deny those elements that they perceive to be threatening to their integrity, refuse the totality of reality; all organisations seek to strengthen their subjective evaluating presence in the world by means of accumulating objects that resemble themselves; all organisations, using themselves as an example to the world, unconsciously seek to replace the multiple profusions of the world, with their own singular systematisation.
What is certain about this flickering of organisation within the bosom of the destroyer world is that ritual present in all human structure, even from the earliest of times. This has recently been confirmed in the unearthings of a ten thousand year old settlement at Milfield in Northumberland. The manner in which the artefacts that have been retrieved by archaeologists had been arranged suggests that contrary to what both Class War and Nike urge of us, human beings are incapable of Just Doing It.
The Milfield archaeologists have found there a curious precursor to the premise of Hitchcock’s film Rope—inside one of the buildings they unearthed a cooking pit, and beneath the pit they found human remains. Food was prepared in the hut over the buried remains of a significant individual. It seems that members of the earliest of human organisations could not simply perform everyday functions, they could not just prepare dinner for themselves, at least not without first securing the authorisation of an ancestor. The everyday intervention of the dead in the business of the living was essential to the continuation of life. An ongoing presence of the dead meant that the wealth of the ancestor’s existence was not lost upon his death but was retrieved by his descendants in their magical invocations of him. His spirit had to be retrieved because the cycle of economic accumulation depends upon social continuity, just as social continuity as guaranteed by ancestor worship depends upon a cycle of controlled accumulation (and expenditure). Dinner would not, could not, be dinner without the empty chair, without the creaking, flickering, whistling of the old one, the provider buried beneath the fire. Mere hunting-and-gathering is impossible without ritualised filtering of the practice of hunting and gathering, without its contextu-alisation, without it first being suffused with meaning.
Primitive existence is simply too precarious to bear without the stiffening, binding agency of the collective, which acts to displace the fears of all individuals, and facilitates them in their becoming less real, more alienated, less ‘up against it’. The pre-human frees individuals from a direct relation to nature and allows them to accumulate their subjectivity even beyond the grave. Death is defeated, put in its place if individuals feel they have something to pass on and a ritualised framework within which the transaction, from the dead to the living, may take place. Death is the harsh victory of the species over the individual but social organisation mitigates death by ensuring memory of the ancestors. Organisation then, and above all, is the organisation of memory. The pre-human condition for individual existence should be understood as a palliative to the existential conundrum, “how can I smile now when others have died around me and when I know I too will die.”
Consequences are too often only a response made inevitable by fear. Collective action against such consequences can render them powerless. Failures of collective action often stem from individuals allowing fear to dictate their responses.’ Concluding paragraph from a text,
The collective action, or organisation, of those who refuse their exploitation by a pseudo-objective interest appears in their consciousness as the only reasonable response. But it appears in consciousness because it does not sufficiently exist in practice. Collective action, or organisation, against the capitalist fetish of accumulation is not sufficiently real to appear as selfevident— it is not inherent, it is not immanent, it is not passed down to us as being so. The organisation that sets itself against organisation, the for-human collectivity that arranges itself against the antihuman framework, immediately encounters at least three significant obstacles to its selfrealisation:
1. Capitalism, because of the sheer weight of its accumulations, is no longer merely an organisation in the world—at many levels and junctures it has actually become the world. It has attained this status over a relatively short span of time because its move into social organisation was not consciously negative. Capital has never rejected existing reality but has succeeded in destroying other realities by binding its productive structure with what is already present on the ground; this is the colonisation caused by trade. Capitalism has taken advantage of that which, in current parlance, is written into the dna of all human organising, i.e. the tendency to accumulate objects as a function in the development of subjectivity. Capitalism now produces subject positions; it has caused many variants of human beings to come into existence (via identity practices, and niche markets) which feel completely at home within the boundaries capitalism has drawn onto them—from the perspective of its subject positions, capitalism has replaced nature. It has become, or it was always, almost impossible to consciously reject the values developed by capitalist organisation because consciousness itself is derived from the movement of its value—the refusal of capital is literally the refusal of reality.
2. It is almost impossible to replace the world as it is now by an imposed subjectively constituted value.
Too much of the world is contradictory, too much slips through the fingers. There is too much to the world for it to be dictated to in terms of mere governance, proclamations, institutions issuing from a single source.
3. Authorisation. Rebel positions struggle profoundly with a perceived lack of precedence for their perspective and absence of legitimacy for their acts—they have trouble channelling the ancestors buried beneath the cooking pit. It is the nature of human society that all of its component gestures, ideas, structures must be imbued with a past, everything is backward arranged; and so it is that those without authorisation inevitably lack authority.
Such are the barricades thrown up against revolt.
And therefore, if the boundaries of subjectivity are to be rewritten organisationally, so as to counter the antihuman traits developed by capitalism, and if these patterns are to re-connect with those aspects currently written out of human existence, then the new organisations will, like capitalism, also have to be developed from the basic pre-human mechanism. Up to this moment groups have tended to allow the existence of an untheorised prehuman element hostile to their own expressed values. Even within (or especially within) anarchist groupings you find the following: the cult of leader; sect consciousness; accumulation of recruits, funds, events, texts; cult of self-prolongation beyond all reasonable usefulness; cult of acts; cult of significance; cult of rules, ideological purity, coherence; cult of bureaucracy, etc. To counter this backwards drift the new communist structures must be grounded in some primal element that, if it is not communist, is also not hostile to communism. If capitalism has stitched itself into the accumulatory aspect of a primal arrangement of the species towards the world then communism must, similarly, entwine itself with one of the most immediate strands of organisation itself.
I would suggest that if the the communist milieu is to hook into the pre-human it should organise itself at those points where human beings experience most profoundly their alienation from the world. I would suggest that organisations most fitted for developing a communist subjectivity in the face of the world will conform to the patterns laid down by brotherhoods, fraternities, the very earliest workers’ unions, chivalric orders. In other words those organisations based upon the rituals that invoke horizontally organised allegiance, mutual aid, comradeship. I would suggest that the patterns and boundaries of communist subjectivity could first be developed from a role-playing game to this purpose, a theatrical game which, like all ritual structures, will become more real the more it is played. I suppose it is my contention that the rituals of a communist game are more likely to cause disruption and organise the basis for social revolution than communist ideals and the practices of the ideals themselves.
It may be true that the poison of theatre, when injected in the body of society, destroys it, as St. Augustine asserted, but it does so as a plague, a revenging scourge, a redeeming epidemic when credulous ages were convinced they saw God’s hand in it, while it was nothing more than a natural law applied, where all gestures were offset by another gesture, every action by a reaction....This theatre releases conflicts, disengages powers, liberates possibilities, and if these possibilities and these powers are dark, it is the fault not of the plague nor of the theatre, but of life.... this theatre invites the mind to share a delirium which exalts its energies; and we can see, to conclude, that from the human point of view, the action of theatre, like that of the plague, is beneficial, for, impelling men to see themselves as they are. - Artaud
Experiment Requires Extrapolation
Experiment requires extrapolation from previous findings and the rigourous investigation of all possibilities arising, no matter how initially unlikely they appear. So, if I am anti-organisation why return to the question of organising? If I refuse the ritualised, why talk of ritual? If I do not play games and have no interest in playing games, why raise the matter? The answer in all three instances is simple, my critique is not adequate, and this invites a return. The problem is that elements of game, ritual, organisation already function within the milieu but as untheorised and largely invisible factors that are usually ignored in favour of externalised issues or abstract theories concerning wider social structure. Untheorised elements such as immediate presumptions; modes of particular behaviours; terms of address; cults of defined practices; fetishes of defined solutions; all that psycho-sexual-cultural baggage is the component that causes continued mis-recognition of the self.
I think the earthen cup game is not really a game... it is game-like—it is an attempt to imagine how we could frame people’s individual contributions, and how an organisation might hold disparate types of individual and create a unity from them, in the way chess holds both
white and black pieces, the board, the rules, the tactics, the rigmarole around it. If we look at the milieu, we see it is nothing like chess, it is characterised by short bursts of attachment, the enthusiasms of converts, followed by slow drifting and disillusion. The mistakes of previous adherents are continually repeated because the milieu’s structure (and it does have a structure—but one that is hostile to itself), is so anti-memory—those who have gone before are simply forgotten and are replaced by new adherents.
The game I am proposing would depend upon a different structure of course, one that is more in tune with its multilevel practice and principles.
Organisational structure is reliant upon ritualised defiance of extrernality and an enclosed cycle of accumulation of experiences. I therefore suggest a fraternity or masonic type structure—but equally, we could be thinking about a version of cybernetics, but one that uses feedbacks of experience in the accumulation of an identity, rather than using information as its systematising principle.
The role-playing would of course involve real world engagements. My model would go something like... individuals are initiated into the fraternity for their own reasons, they connect to the fraternity in their own manner, they choose their role, they evaluate their own effectiveness, they initiate others (either in the manner they were initiated or through procedures they develop themselves). They may choose to refuse to report to the fraternity itself, they may even denounce it, and demand its abolition. And you may ask, “what is the difference between this seemingly chaotic state of affairs and there being no game, no organisation?” I would say, the difference is one of ritual and accumulation, and thus of memory.
All organisations operate, more or less successfully, in the manner I have sketched out... the Roman Catholic Church has a highly elastic content contained within its recognisable frame; its membership has variously developed strands towards atheism and even towards pseudorevolutionary activities without actually expanding beyond the structure.
The later purpose of organisation is to accumulate wealth for itself, which guarantees its own continuance, but in this the organisation also changes. I admit, that at first sight, it does appear absurd to propose enclosure to refute enclosure, the founding of traditions to oppose the hidebound. But these are basic blocks of communality, it is what people live for: they are bringing a stone to the wall to build something which will last longer than themselves. The motivation for organising is to establish memory, the worst thing—barbarism, savagery (to return to Rousseau’s individuals) is a condition that produces separated beings who do not decide their connection to their being organised—their content is withheld, they do not connect with each other or with their circumstances because their memory of connection is continually disrupted.
My reasons for returning to what you rightly describe as belonging to the spectacular realm, are firstly, and most importantly, I am a desperate man; secondly, I am bound to develop my ideas from what I see happening around me, and from the activities people are already undertaking in their revolt against their conditions.
What is happening is a peculiar interface between desires and commodities, the situation is not quite adequate to satisfy, not quite depleted enough to cause conscious resistance. Dead times produce dead behaviours, people are playing games, whiling away their lives, they are becalmed, perhaps they are waiting. The means in which they are slipping away from their conditions, quietly precipitating a crisis, is through an increasing tendency towards enfeeblement and ill-health—like birds in cages. In response to these tendencies I am proposing their minor re-routing through consciousness, exacerbating the move against this society, and reintroducing the move towards new conditions, which is always implied in malaise. your questionable friend,
I would even say that this infection of the human which contaminates ideas that should have remained divine, far from believing that man invented the supernatural and the divine, I think it is man’s age old intervention which has ultimately corrupted the divine within him. Artaud (1938)
We like the writings of mad poets. We like how their words are made to go about naked of all nuance. There is no pausing in their stark usage, except perhaps, only a slight hesitation where they gather their resources and push on so as to achieve an even starker formulation. We are grateful to the mad poet because he extracts simple and absolute forms from that which we had previously considered to be a tangle of complication. We do not seek meaning in the mad poets’ writings, we know that their intent is meaningless, beyond even themselves.
Even so, we are drawn to them, and perhaps the reason for our attraction is because of this condition that they reach of existing/acting outside of meaning. Where meaning is absent, patterns of significant points become apparent in the scene. The pattern of points replaces the procedures of meaning and organises a different level of response. These points are the intense features of the scene, they are immediately recognised by the poets. The features draw attention at the moment meaning is suspended, they are visited and revisited as if they had been forgotten, they are compulsively returned to, rediscovered and reinvested in. They attract, over time, reinvented rituals and reinterpretations of the rituals. In the movement between these constant points there is described a territory, there is demonstrated a pattern.
It is not meaning that we find compelling in the mad poets’ words so much as a pattern of engagement with the world. Their writings uncover the basic forms of perception which we all use but from which most of us derive too complex and apparently formless impressions. The simple shadows cast by Artaud’s words are similar in effect to those that neolithic structures make upon the landscape. The shapes thrown are basic, rudimentary, primitive and therefore eternal, generative, irreducible. We find the found forms in their works, in the pattern described in their works. And in their works they found the forms they found within themselves. In their works, the stone circles and the poetic injunctions, we find what they found in them. They found the found forms, and in them, we too find the found forms. They arrived at the patterns inherent to speech and to structure from which they set out when making speech, and making structure. And we arrive back where they started before their works and find again in them the forms and patterns which we too must set out from. The circle, the excavation, the erection, the line.
We do not find meaning in patterns, we only find pattern. It is because we have pattern that we are able to construct meaning. We make in the world the forms with which we are imbued. We repeat the patterns in the world which we find within ourselves so that we might then recognise these forms and know ourselves through them.
We recognise the forms so we recognise ourselves through the forms. External construction of patterns in the world permits our further engagement with the world. From realisation of the first pattern we derive a second pattern to realise, a place from which we may return to the first. We come to recognise our function through our recognition of the patterns that we make. The shapes that we carve into the external world are the patterns through which we appropriate ourselves and the world.
earthen cup Is A Solidification of Perspective
earthen cup is a solidification of perspective and its attainment is achieved by initiatory rite. Its activities are defined by its adepts. earthen cup is antagonistic to the existing priorities and present solidification of subjectivity. The modes of its confrontations with existing values are set by it alone. earthen cup takes its organisational structure from early working class brotherhoods and unions and from romance-era chivalric orders. The adepts of earthen cup are sworn to help each other, to embark on self-defined and unprecedented adventure, and to perform good deeds. Adepts are defined by good manners, tolerance of others, foresight/anticipation, and intransigence before enemy values. Any adept may initiate others. All adepts shall be recognised by all. Adepts recognise each other by the signs that are decided upon amongst themselves. earthen cup is defined by both the antagonistic stance of its adepts to the values of existing society and its partial attempts to realise what it foresees as future human-oriented values. earthen cup is committed to the prospect of the complete transformation of social relations but does not consider itself to be the instrument of that change, on the contrary. earthen cup is understood to be the revolutionary impulse at bay; it is touched by a certain melancholy which it terms “the politics of failure”, by which it means all that may not appear as general principles: kindness, honesty, tolerance. earthen cup understands the destructive character of small group psychologies, and seeks to remedy them.
The Child Is Thirteen Days Old
The child is thirteen days old, we have each brought for it a gift so as to know it better, and in return it has given to us a stone. We do not understand the meaning of the child’s gift. We say, “it is through our gifts that we find the courage to approach god. We believe it is because of our gifts that god returns to us.” The child replies, “Because the gifts are wrongly chosen, because the giving is always falsified. Such are the reasons for god’s return.
And you would not wait for him as you do if the terms were otherwise.” We are not pleased with the child’s reply, we say, “there seems always to be discontent, and rupture in the divine. What is it that so displeases about the freely given?” The child says, “What you give is intended to set boundaries upon what may be taken from you, this is not a condition that god will accept. It is the nature of the divine to find fault with what approaches it.” We say, “But, it is god’s pressing upon us, for flawless offerings, for the augmenting of gift rituals, for ever elaborated routes to the divine, that causes religion to spoil and god himself to fall out of our thoughts.” The child says, “It is the gifts to god that cause him to demand surpassing gifts, that the men might know him better.” We say, “It is the unfolding sophistication of our gifts that causes god to recede from us. And he becomes more perfected as he recedes. And he recedes from us until he disappears. And we are left alone with our gifts.” The child says, “god’s demands cause perfection in the gifts.” We say, “perfection in the gifts causes god to disappear.” The child says, “when the cycle is broken, new terms are set before the men, that they might be provoked further.” We ask what these new terms could be. The child says, “god himself becomes a gift.” We say, “And so it is that when the elaboration of gifts reaches its natural limit so the relation to god is taken from the temples and is returned to its most simple formulation: god in a child; god in myself; god in details of the world.” The child says, “The cycle of gifts is begun again; at a higher level; amongst the most simple of people.” We smile towards the child and tell him good-bye. And, upon our returning to the cities from which we had first set out, Saveh, Hawah, Kashan, we pass a well beside the road, and into the well we throw the child’s gift, which was a stone.
Why Is earthen cup A Phantom Organisation?
Answer it with another question. Why must all prorevolutionary organisations appear in the world of others as mere shades? The answer to this conundrum lies in a different order of functioning within the perceptual-evaluation systems of revolutionaries and non-revolutionaries. Within each system there is differing emphasis placed on both the value of the transmission of ideas and the value of reception of such ideas. The transmission of ideas is accentuated for pro-revolutionaries, their system downplays the resistance to ideas in actual conditions so as to clear a theoretical space favourable to the speculative and supposed possible future they propose.
By contrast, the receivers of ideas, the nonrevolutionaries, tend to emphasise the resistance of the world to ideas and use this as justification for not being moved to adopt them as their own. The others are moved by the actuality of actuality, the influence of which is felt in their evaluations above all considerations—actuality does include the revolutionary possible but only as discounted forensics: fibres, smudges, half-prints, noise.
Revolutionary ideas are received as but one strand in an array of informations which when combined become a totality that is reimposed by receivers as a test upon each single strand of the conditions present before them. Every specified part of reality is tested by the totality of reality, from the perspective of the receiver position.
If a claim does not appear to hold true then it is deduced that this is because it has a low functionality within the determining forces of present conditions. The claims of revolutionary groups, or religious sects, are perceived as belonging to the same order, their claims are evaluated in terms of immediate applicability to present conditions. It appears that revolutionary claims and activities are of marginal interest because they belong to the transmitter perspective and not to the perspective of the receiver (social revolution only occurs in conditions where a very large number of people become transmitters; or perhaps revolution is an event in which the idea of revolution is revalued from the perspective of the receiver, that is when events become inescapable, and objective: conditions of crisis, or disaster.)
The revolutionary transmitter perspective has more in common with other visionary or extraordinary human behaviours than, say, the standardised receiver perspective (it is for this reason that most revolutionary groups are dominated by one or two significant individuals with the majority participating as mere close receivers of their leaders’ opinions and actions).
The transmitter perspective is grounded in a manoeuvre of subjective self-differentiation from competing transmissions on similar frequencies. It suppresses the array of other subjective transmissions within its field in an attempt to appear before the receiver position as the expression to the objective conditions, or the truth, of the world. The supposed access to general rules of the objective is deployed as a basis for, from the transmitter’s perspective, the direct transmission of the truth of objective conditions and its necessary/inevitable reception within the subjective realm.
It is the supposed access to the general rules of the world that, from each transmitter’s discreet perspective, sets its ideas apart from those of its lying competitors.
At this level the revolutionary has something about him of both the entrepreneur, and the religious visionary. At the level of transmission and reception the revolutionary refuses, suppresses, the world as it is. He has a unique product to promote, and he has the energy to push his idea against and into a world which is, at different levels, both indifferent and hostile. As with most entrepreneurs and religious visionaries, the claims of access to the objective fail at the point of reception; in other words, huge energies expended in transmission cause little effect upon their target audience.
Failure in others to receive the message is compensated for, within the transmitter system, by various strategies, these include the abandonment of market research and the retuning of transmissions for the ear of history. The transmitter becomes habituated or conditioned to the failure of its message, and continues to broadcast for transmission’s sake. This has been described by psychologists as pressure of speech.
Why is earthen cup a phantom organisation? Because, the information age has caused in the evaluation capabilities of the receiver position a tendency to equivalence; all informations are received equally, and are almost never valued on their own terms.
Why is earthen cup a phantom organisation? Because the previous means of communicating revolutionary ideas was dependent on very elasticised temporalities concretised in leaflets, correspondences between individuals, magazines, and books, all of which took time to produce and demanded of their readership a certain patience. The relative open/slow temporality of these phenomena allowed for isolated individuals to arrive at more or less the same conclusions within the same timeframe, which in turn helped them to organise together based upon their agreements. The speed of present information systems has closed the possibility of synchronisation at the level of ideas, agreements, and organisation—my flower opens when yours is still in bud, mine has wilted when yours comes into bloom. We are always out of synch with each other, and in seeming disagreement.
Why is earthen cup a phantom organisation? Because the chances of forming a genuine organisation based upon the values stated is small. Why is earthen cup a phantom organisation? Because it is necessary for some of us to explore the dynamics, formal structure, and possibilities for such an organisation even if it cannot exist as such—in this way certain issues might be grasped and acted on more effectively when conditions of reception become more favourable.
Why is earthen cup a phantom organisation? Because no real person has a serious interest in forming and exploring the nature of an organisation of this kind. At the level of transmission/reception present earthen cup activities mark a move into both the futures market, and into theologico-speculative activity.
Why Is It That Others Feel No Interest for Us?
That is us. We are on the verge of recognising ourselves. We inscribe the area and the activity. It is us, us, us.
We are the ones who spend our energies in the struggle against capital. We define capitalism, we define the struggle against capitalism, we define ourselves as the agent of that struggle, and we sketch out the goals that we are fighting for.
But doesn’t this involve only a very small number of people?
This only involves a very small number of people.
And capitalism is a system of social relations that conditions the existence of billions of human beings.
So, if this system of social relations is so harmful why aren’t there many, many more people involved in the struggle against it?
We don’t want to talk about that. That does not belong to our model of effort and result of effort. Typically, we, who are in struggle, say it is a problem of consciousness: if people understood how they were exploited they would join with us.
You mean, we mean, for the moment the struggle must continue without all these billions who do not grasp their situation, it must be continued by us who do understand, and it must be continued by us until the others get it at last.
Yes, and for us, burdened by the struggle, burdened by the absence of the billions, burdened by the struggle against the system of social relations which we can’t overthrow until the billions join us, a certain logic takes hold and grips.
A certain logic, a spiralling logic of insular self-regard, takes hold.
The state, the system of social relations, could not withstand the force of many millions of individuals turning against it but it easily withstands the actions of the few that consciously oppose it now.
Even so, we continue to move against it in a manner that would suggest we were about change to everything. If we are called to justify ourselves, when our first doubts begin, we say we act in the hope that it will inspire others to join with us.
But there is a moral undertow, we appropriate our own importance, we have captured and made our own a defined expertise. And we have no time to wonder why the others do not join us. We do not ask why over the passing of the years, the many past examples of our inspiring actions have yet to inspire them.
It is because they do not join us, because they are not inspired, because we are alone, that a certain logic, the spiralling logic of fuck-em-all-we’re-going-to-do-this-anyway, a solipsistic logic, takes hold.
If billions turned against capitalism, they would sweep it aside and with little destructive effort. But we are few, and because we are few we must increase the destructive character of our interventions.
From this we come to understand that there is, in the achievement of social change, a ratio between numbers in the field and the force they are required to exert.
There is an inverse ratio between numbers in the field and the force that they are required to exert. Our crude and mechanistic understanding of history shows us that the greater the number involved in any campaign the more likely it is that the campaign will realise itself in a positive outcome—this is because less and less force is required over time to manifest what subsequently emerges, within the process of manifestation, as an accumulating mass of bodies, as a forgone conclusion.
Force of numbers mitigates the need for a force of acts. By contrast, as the number of individuals involved in an action lessens so the requirement for action on each individual increases; demand is thus transformed into necessity, and numbers must be replaced by activity.
Within the struggle against existing conditions the necessity for negative force increases as consciousness of the struggle degrades and is lost; this reaches its logical conclusion in the armed struggle where the bomb and the gun replace the presence of many thousands; in this case the gesture, that is the system and array of weaponry commanded by the active fragment, now insists on the fact of its representation of a constituency that has become entirely passive. This is the logic, the logic of our force substituted into the place of others, and that takes hold of our practice.
That is the logic that takes hold of our practice. We are locked into the account we give of ourselves, and of the world as we perceive it. Despite our small numbers and lack of success we are looped into conviction-politics—too much of what we are is at stake for us.
Suddenly, and despite our efforts, the dynamic of the struggle for a better world is narrowed down to us and it—we, it is us, who are against it, the state against the agencies of the state. Our struggle is displaced into a theatre of gestures, meanings, representations.
And we forget everything but the minutiae of struggle, this struggle which has become a way of life, and an end in itself. This struggle, which we kid ourselves is about the world, is now no more than the means of legitimising a microcosm, a milieu, a particular way of life that is wholly reliant on its own defeat and the continuation of the world as it is as the condition for its perpetuation.
We cease our contemplation of the billions, and their implied veto of our position—all those others, who merely because they do not have our consciousness, become irrelevant to our engagement.
These others are no longer even a problem to us, we become indifferent to them. We forget that our actions intensify because they are not here. We never ask, what of the others? We do not ask, why is it exactly that they are not interested in us?
Why is it that others feel no interest for us?
December 18th, 2005 06:13 pm
I am pacing, there is no other word for it, I am pacing our room. I have a glass of the black stuff in my lilly white hand. I am listening to a song called, “I Know Where the Summer Goes”. My thoughts of late have been drawn to the left pole, to the original centre of human society. Inevitably. Oh, I swirl about the core image. That ugly, reactionary scene from ‘Lord of the Flies.’
A pig’s head on a stick. The left pole. It sears. The pig’s head on a stake. It trumps the man’s head. It flows past Kurtz. It is closer to the thing. It is closer to the primal ambivalence. Closer to the energy of the beginning of things. But what is it, the pig’s head on a stake? Why should it mark the border of human society? But, you must have noticed—there is something in the blank smile on the butcher’s slab. And isn’t the pig assigned the role of representing the old ways for the new order?
A pig stands beside the road that leads back to the left pole, to the codings of how all this started. A head on a stick, a hobby-pig. The way pointer, head-balloon, joker’s prompt. The rooting pig is made to represent, in the Buddhist cycle of life, desire and attachment. Where the pig is, that is where inappropriate and anachronistic attachments are. It is the pigs of Animal Farm that are most susceptible to becoming men. It is the pigs that feed without regard for order. They are fed for death. Where they go they do not return from—so it was, four thousand years ago at Durrington Henge, sacred pigs fed only on honey, until their teeth rotted. Pigs belong to the one way street, we turn to gaze at them as they stand on the street corner, as we leave them behind. They are of the past. We do not desire to go back to them. As society stabilises so pigs come to represent an old, suppressed social relation. Herds of swine are visited with deme-terite demons and Set becomes more evil the closer he approaches in representation the bristling boar. Medusa, in the cave, beside the road to the golden apple tree, she too shifts from snake to pig, from pig to snake. Snake is wheel. Pig is margin. The left pole, that reappears in anxiety at the centre of established order. The left pole, the core of upheaval, which causes revulsion, which provokes organisation. The pig’s head on a stick. It was brandished by Class War on the Wapping picket line and marked the decapitation of Keith Blakelock at Broadwater Farm. The pig’s head, the left pole. But that is not my concern now; I am looking for the right pole. I know of the left pole. I see how societies begin but how do they end? I have the first codes but what of the last? I am crawling through the scrubland, the grass is smeared and broken down with frost. I am tearing through birch, blackthorn, alder, poplar, field maple, whitebeam. I am searching for the end of civilisation, now that the leaves have fallen. I am searching here through the deciduous scrub. For the right pole, for what has been laid bare. And I find it. I have seen it. I am sliding down the brown bank, through the beech mast. I am in the church yard, squeezing glue from yew berries. I am in the oldest place. And I’ve found it, how it ends, I have found the right pole of order. It is a bleached white carrier bag hanging in the hedgerow. It is filled with dog shit. It has been hanging in the hawthorn for a thousand years. I have found it. Shit of the dog— wrapped to go. The right pole of civilisation. I have found it. And I am singing The Shangri-Las, “I can never go home anymore”, and the hairs on the back of my neck... oh, I have seen it. I have found it. The right pole.
We Build Complex Assemblages
1. earthen cup builds complex objects, assemblages, from simple pieces; the compound/aggregate character of the object means no single individual or group of individuals grasps the entirety of the object.
2. earthen cup shows how the assemblage, which is our project, which is the complex object constructed from our simple contributions, is generous. The assemblage is constructed from our simple contributions and becomes complex because of the relatedness established between the contributions. But it is not our function to build a hive. earthen cup does not propose counterinstitutions, on the contrary, the assemblage is merely a heap, it is generous. The assemblage exists for us to take from it.
3. It is our intention to contribute the form that truth might take for each individual and for collectivities of individuals; earthen cup does not, as such, supply the content of truth, earthen cup do not tell you how it is.
4. It is our assumption that all individuals everywhere are already sufficiently programmed to function com-munistically. Truth exists between others, it is our task to draw it, press it, coax it, massage it into existence amongst them.
5. To the partisans of the revolution earthen cup asks only this: what is it in your adopted ideology that goes unaddressed? Because the untheorised and non-included aspects of human existence is our platform.
6. In our contact with others, earthen cup seeks always to extend the frame of their perceptions, to transform the terms of their engagements; earthen cup seeks to inspire, confound, heal, amuse, distract, to increase resonances, and thereby multiply life... the models for our practice are the wandering minstrels of old france, and perhaps the snake oil salesmen and travelling quacks of the american midwest.
7. In concentrating on nurturing what is the most human in subjectivity it might appear that earthen cup has become weak in opposing the way things are. But a quiet life is the last thing on our minds. earthen cup is in turmoil. The question of engagement is paramount, it is essential to spread ourselves in the world, to have as much influence as is feasible.
8. Furthermore, there can be no negotiations or any contact between earthen cup and existing institutions; its rejection of the state and capital forms a broad front with the most forward positions of communist theory and practice. For us, in the struggle with the way it is, there are only appropriations and resistances to appropriations. In the struggle of human beings against their institutions our role is expressed in the re-clothing of a resistant subjectivity.
9. Our purpose is to develop a feral subject, that which even if it appears under present circumstances, is actually determined, out of time, by both the most ancient past and the most distant future. The subject earthen cup seeks to invoke has its hands upon the levers of its own transformations, its mouth issues a code of metamorphoses.
Found Objects Found
It is noon on the Tenth of May. The year is Two Thousand and Six. I am crouching, my hands on the floorstone, in Pit One of Grime’s Graves, a retrieved neolithic flint mining complex in Norfolk’s Breckland.
I have chosen this place to begin my investigation into the tendency within society to modify itself through the chosen activities that it undertakes in response to the perceived limits of itself. I have asked myself whether this tendency of transformation out of stability is explicable in terms of a motivational sense of lack and/or a sense of abundance.
The name Grime’s Graves refers to a bronze age burial mound at the edge of the complex which is reputedly one of the resting places of Grim (Grimr or Wodin) the Viking god. It is important to note these occult aspects of the site because of the perverse function, or non-utilitarian aspects, of industry within prehistorical society.
The accessible pit at Thetford is a nine meter deep shaft to the black flint seam (the shaft is ten metres wide at the top, narrowing to three meters at the base). Six galleries branch outwards from the shaft and follow the slightly tilted seam, which links to five other shafts. In the neolithic period mining was done by family groups, children at the pit face, women at the base of the shaft and men above. The flint was mined using red deer antlers, and the spoil was hauled up using ropes by the men at the surface.
The surface of the surrounding area is pitted like a lunar landscape indicating the curious method of extraction used by the miners. Why did they sink so many pits? Why not one pit and then extend the galleries? And why mine at all for flint when there are so many surface deposits?
The techniques used by the miners indicate that the mining itself was not purely utilitarian, or even was not utilitarian at all. It appears that the shafts had to be illuminated by the sun, therefore work was seasonal, only undertaken during the summer months. From the modern perspective (a perspective grounded in the exigency of extracting surplus value), mining is seen as a hellish occupation, but there is evidence to suggest that this was not the case four thousand years ago. Mining was not pushed forward according to the imperative of increased yields via cutting costs, optimising resources, increasing capital investment... On the contrary.
Mining was a seasonal pursuit. At a time when it would ordinarily be expected that crops were to be tended, and reserves accumulated for winter, the miners of Breckland were underground. There is some evidence that neolithic mining at the time was not a base motor of the economy at all but a surplus, superstructural, or cultural activity.
And at the end of summer the pit being excavated was then ritually filled in. This was done either to prevent subsidence, or as a cultural marking of the end of the season. If the filling in was conducted for the first reason this would indicate, along with other evidence (not over extending galleries, the relatively relaxed pace of mining, and the relative infrequency of crush injuries on human remains) that the workforce were not slaves pushed to their limit. They might even have been considered a cultural elite. If the mines were filled in for ritual reasons then this suggests a sacred aspect to the mining itself and again would indicate an elite function to the workforce. This latter feature is apparently supported in the pattern of found flint artefacts from the period, which suggests surface-derived flints were used in everyday life as tools (whereas implements made created mined flint were not used at all, and were specially hoarded as a form of wealth).
The pits at Thetford were mined for about two thousand years from 4,000 to 2,000 bc— an incredible timeframe for the continuity of any specific endeavour. And this continuity expands further when it is considered that the flints from Breckland made up sixty per cent of the flints used in the battle of Waterloo and ninety per cent of the flints for the flintlock weapons used during the American Civil War (although of course this was a long outdated technology by that time). A further five-millennial continuity from the stone age to the present is established in the local town of Brandon’s graveyard: a continuity of industrial injury... there is grave after grave of men from the same families of flint knappers (one family called Bashem) who died in their thirties of silicosis (a disease caused by inhaled flint dust). A further heightened or separate dimension of the neolithic miners is established if one considers how they would have reappeared at the surface entirely covered in chalk dust, this white coating must have seemed very striking.
I am crouching in Pit One of the complex. It is dark because the custodians of the site have put a roof over the site, but four thousand years ago, at midday, on a day like today in bright summer light, the chalk walls would be dazzlingly intense. To increase this effect the miners built angled walls from the chalk spoil at the surface of the shaft to further reflect light down into the galleries. My first impressions are of the miners’ appreciation for the actual process of mining as an activity in itself, which they must have valued in their society above the flint that was mined. Also, I felt an awareness of their creation of an architecture, their carving out of underground spaces, and the separations and connections between these and the world above. Somewhat self-consciously, I crouch at the centre of the shaft and announce my short, prepared thesis, “organisation appears only where existence is thwarted.”
There are two essential neolithic modes expressed in structural organisation and both imply a circular or enclosed form that is then indented. The visual impression created by the shaft and galleries of Pit One if sketched out from a perspective looking down is of a cog-like form. The cog form is the first neolithic structural form, an initial enclosed central area with secondary pathways, or indentations leading outwards. The form suggests a milieu first defining itself and then moving out into the world; the form is that of the base camp, a strong focus point.
It is interesting to note here how the galleries of Pit One make subterranean connections to other galleries and shafts, which combine and become the trunks and interweaving canopy of an inverted, subterranean forest. This combined network effect thus converts the multiple shafts of the complex into nodes, or places of access to a labyrinthine world which then undoes the status of the centre.
The second neolithic structure of note is that of the causewayed enclosures (examples at Hambledon Hill, Windmill Hill, Hembury, Coombe Hill, Rams Hill). In terms of organisational form, these appear to describe the exact opposite impulse in society to that embodied by the cog form. The cog form is based upon an initial strong central element and is thus most suggestive of a culture establishing itself through structural/organisational motifs of cohesion, identity, interiority—by contrast the form realised by the causewayed enclosure implies a concern for realising the solidification of combination, meeting, and of relations between groups in neutral/non-territorial spaces.
Causewayed enclosures comprise a walled/ditched enclosure which is punctured at regular intervals by causeways or roads. This form is conventionally understood to have ceremonial rather than domestic purpose and indicates a defined place of convergence that must be arrived at by dispersed communities along specified roads. The convergence space was neutral territory where communities could encounter each other without the territorial rivalry of host and guest coming into play. These places may have served an administrative, commercial, religious or even exogamous function. The most expressive feature of the architecture, and therefore the feature that is most expressive of the concerns of the time, is its spoke-like arrangement.
The space of causewayed enclosures is solidified by means of an enclosing rim, which describes a holding area, and the spoke-like causeways that puncture it. This indicates the dynamic but controlled overcoming of a conflicted relation to the exterior. It suggests the formalisation, institution or ritualisation of a seasonal desire within society to engage in relations, at a specified place, with foreign others, who at other times and in other locations would not be so welcomed.
The concentration, or intensification, motif is very strong in these spaces; it is easy to consider them places of arrival and perhaps of expenditure. There is a temptation to suppose that the enclosed spaces acted something like the Roman amphitheatres—that is as places where surplus was burnt off from society in sacrifices to the established order as a means of ritually impoverishing lesser subjects (thereby preventing autonomous accumulations of wealth and preserving the established hierarchy). But the neolithic sites lack the bowl-like character of the Roman sports arena, and the causeways lead away from the site as much as towards them. Therefore we cannot presume that departure from the centre, the return to home territories, the dispersing of the communities, was not equally as important as arrival and convergence.
If society stumbles on its forms as concrete expressions in the organising of need then the forms themselves also effect both the definition of the character of organisation and the need itself. Organisation becomes a mirror, a lens, which reflects and exacerbates the original sense of lack which it was intended to address. Need is always confronted by itself in its organisation and does not discover the means of its supersession as it would expect to. For example, a defensive organisation formed in a climate of paranoia, anxiety, trauma would naturally seek to combat, and ideally overcome, these factors but in reality it only structures them, heightening them, emphasising their centrality. In a similar manner, military organisations and structures do not act to decrease military activity in society as would be expected but, on the contrary, they further intensify arrangements around war, and provoke increased organisational innovation along the same lines.
Even so, and despite the lines of societal development there is a primary resentment of the world expressed in society by its individuals, and this resentment causes us to respond to our circumstances by means other than those already established by society. Resentment is expressed precisely to confound the means established for their expression—yesterday, this, my life, was enough, but today it is not. I have a sense that things could be different, this sense begins at the level of insight into what is potential and then develops more concretely into desire, the desire for things to be otherwise than they are now. It is in the consciousness of lack, and awareness of our desire to change circumstances, that we adopt structure to realise what it is that we want. Organisation appears only where existence is thwarted.
The hold of organisation over need, or the structural organisation of need, is so strong on existence that it becomes almost invisible. It often takes many hundreds of years of an organisation’s institutionalisation for the thought to occur that perhaps it is the structure of the organisation itself that is the issue and not the individual or group that presently forms its leadership. It is arguable that revolt is impossible against general organisation as such without simultaneously reproducing the essence of it, that is unless the organisation has already fallen into crisis. Organisation appears only where existence is thwarted. But organisation is a one-way door. If it seeks to redress the original sense of alienation from the present ordering through discontent, it also realises, institutionalises, that alienation as a motor of existence.
The reality that organisation causes is directional, subjective, obviously relative, and is ultimately characterised as being over-responsive to further initiatives. Inevitably, the circumstances caused by organisation pricks a developing awareness of the structure’s failures to satisfy the initial needs whilst also raising new discontentments and further resentments which would otherwise never have taken shape. Organisation appears only where existence is thwarted.
So it does.
And existence appears also where organisation is thwarted. But is this because the appearance of exis-tence-in-revolt is a negatively constituted movement (a mere inversion of what is, a substantiation of the possibilities of the form), or is it an indication of a crisis within organisation, the breakdown of the holding/defining of the scene—or rather, is the recurrence of existence-counter-to-present-structure an intimation of organisation yet to come? The question here concerns capture, and return—the possibility of getting back to a previous stage where the problems of any given structure, or structure itself, have yet to appear. For both Hegel and Marx, humanity may only “return” to its most simple and immanent form at a so-called higher level, that is after the traumatic complexity of organisation. And yet this return is adequate only if human nature is seen as essentially displaceable on a developmental plane. Humans may only return to their essence, communality, if human society itself is progressively searching for this state.
Reproduction and Revolt Against Reproduction
Essence, therefore, can be comprehended only as ‘genus’, as an internal, dumb generality which naturally unites the many individuals.
The effect of capitalism on human relations is as simple or as complicated as you want. On the one hand, it is here, it is unavoidable and includes everything—on the other, it is impossible to understand because of its capacity to institute the limits of understanding.
Capitalism is the dominant social relation, it produces a society that is organised for the production of capital—it is is an organising of the world that is for the transformation of organising into capital.
Capital’s dominance of the interactions it sets in motion is characterised by the imposition of an essence called value. Value is the measure by which every discreet object and activity in the world is identified, measured, appropriated and distributed within the capitalist social relation. The attribution of value to all objects facilitates the inclusion of every detail of the world into the economy—suddenly, there is nothing that is not bought and sold.
All objects become pregnant with value, all objects and activities, from strawberries to songs, from water to
medicine, from ideas to babies, from vistas to the patch of earth on which you stand, from everything to anything. Every separated object is allocated a shifting but measurable value that may be extracted through the process of exchange and thus converted to capital.
Capitalism is a system of production derived from a class-based social relation which then re-establishes the social relation in capitalist terms. It produces the society we inhabit. And capitalist society manifests within its institutions and social relations the imperatives and dynamics of capitalist production. At the level of human interaction the world seeks to realise, fall into line with, and most closely resemble, the motor force, Value, which drives it.
The establishment of capitalist production as the dominant social relation reversed the relation of production to the world. From this point, the world ceased to function as the source, frame and ground of all natural phenomena. Its role was supplanted by that of the productive system which increasingly became the life-support machine for all life, and the arbiter of what existed and what was declared extinct. The world, as the ultimate determinant of, and structure for, life, becomes secondary, dependent, somewhat unreal, drawing its existence and significance from the threat to it imposed by the system of production. It appears now that the world is produced and maintained, only because capital requires it so.
The world is produced and maintained but only as a by-product, a concretisation of capitalist production that otherwise always tends towards purity and a nonphysical reality. Even as capital pursues the pure abstract realisation of Value, the perfect frictionless mechanism where value and only value exists, it remains limited by the world that it must reproduce as its physical realisation. Even as capital seeks to escape into abstraction it must reproduce its world concretely, messily; it is lumbered with profuse detail because-value may only be extracted from that which is otherwise valued, and desired. Capital is bound to the world, even as it negates it, even as it struggles to rationalise it, and break free.
And so the world is not real, it cannot now exist for itself. It is secondary and dependent. There is no immanent purpose to it. It is defined as a resource for capitalist expropriation and must be maintained as such, ready, like a wretched servant. Its essence is not its own—its essence leaks into value, has been supplanted by value. Production supports and gives life to the world. As its product.
The capitalist system only produces things because they transport, or give shape to, value, which is capitalism’s true product. The things of this world are accidental; they relate nebulously to human need from which they derive some degree of objectivity, but otherwise they are basically false, displaced from how they should be, hollow, unsatisfying. The necessity for their production, for their existence, is as vehicles of value, they are produced because their exterior is mutable, and thus they may be accumulated and deployed as capital, systema-tised into units of general capitalism.
The method by which capital interrupts and reproduces real inter-subjective contents as its social relations is a highly specialised inversion. A defined set of social relations is appropriated and transformed through objects, which first the relation sets in motion as symbols of the relation, but which then, through the objects’ linking into the general system of value production, become so infused with the power of the system that they become capable of setting in motion the relations between individuals. All that was specific to the relation, and thus to the symbolic objects belonging to it, is suppressed, their local significance is replaced by a universal value measurement. This causes the captured relations themselves to become exchangeable, subject to equivalence, measurable as vehicles of value.
The movement of capital into the social occurs at every location within every human interaction but usually goes undetected because this very movement is the condition of ordinary life. Today, the effect of capital is most evident in the rapid decomposition of so-called traditional societies—the overt contrast between ancient and modern forms of domination becomes, in itself , measurable by value, which responds by producing concepts such as the reservation of what is unspoiled. The chasm between human beings for themselves, acting as the condition for their own existence, and human beings organised in themselves as a vehicle, a ground, a framework, an incubator of capital’s movement into reality is so vast that the latter condition has become wholly naturalised.
Capital displaces the for-itself character of human beings and imposes its value as the essence of social activity, an essence that proclaims that there is no essence. The essence of displacement, of there being no fixed points has become in itself a fixed point, a natural ordering.
Capitalist ideology asserts that human beings make themselves and make their own history; change becomes natural and inherent, unremarkable. Change is thus changed, and transformed into stasis. The circumstance of ferment and innovation in society congeals into a moment of ceaseless transformation, movement fetishised as the ruling principle of society.
Capital asserts that everything is malleable and human beings more than anything else. Its operation, its functioning, proves that there is no human nature—its proof for this is the capacity, at the level of markets, for humans to modify themselves and be what they choose to be. From Marx’s thesis on Feuerbach onwards revolutionary theory has derived positivity from capital’s revolutionising displacement of static essence from human existence.
Ideological progressivism, or optimism, understands technological innovation and political reform as the objective, if alienated, expression of human need. Progressivism argues for the redeployment of technology away from pursuit of profit and towards serving the interest of human society. The idea of transfer of use assumes that the use-values inherent to technologies developed under capitalist dominion are accessible, if political and economic power is also transferred, to human society for-itself. By implication this position assumes that capitalism is a malign, but otherwise necessary, stage in the development of supplying to human needs. The progres-sivist critique of capitalism is one of obsolescence—from its perspective, capitalism, as the force of displacement, must in itself be displaced. Communist society, the displacement of human need from the periphery to the centre of society, is achieved through the displacement of capitalist distribution, through the imposition of communist distribution of existent technologies.
Unfortunately, this does not take into consideration the unswerving character of value. Value remains unchanged even as it imposes malleability onto the objects of its traffic. Use-value liberated from profit does not become a synonym of communism as it is itself a derivative of the capitalist social relation. The institution of use-value at the centre of communist society would preserve the antagonistic and alienated form of capitalist production—no matter who was managing it—and thus would negate communist society.
Use-value is not the manifestation of objective human need under alienating conditions; it is in fact only a vehicle of value itself, a temporary and secondary product of alienated labour, which must be constituted by capital’s dominance over production. In other words, after the brief liberation of use-value through workers’ control of industry, the inherent, objective, social relation congealed within the factories would inevitably reassert itself and commence (after the joyful interregnum) a reversion to production of value, and thus a continuance, for the majority, of the condition of alienated labour.
The tragedy of the return to production for profit under workers’ control is that the workers’ government undertakes it as a temporary necessity—that is as the means for protecting use-value. For workers’ councils use-value is itself an ideological commodity. Thus the movement for workers’ control is contained within the parameters set by the capitalist social relation; thus continuing production becomes the left wing of capital. This means that workers’ control reproduces the capitalist social relation within the very conditions that seem most manifestly hostile to capitalism.
Where is value absent? In what way do human beings organised into society by capitalism describe an alternative to it? Of course, there is no such description, an alternative to the present cannot appear within the conditions of the present. The little nut tree cannot be made to bear both silver nutmeg and golden pear. Everything existent under capitalist conditions transports value for the economy. We now perceive that even use-value, which progressivists identify as an oppositional fragment to ex-change-value, is entirely determined by the necessities of economised society. But is there something else, perhaps something located on the far side of use-value, which points to a principle of human organising entirely separated from the conventional forms of political economy, and which thus would provide a rootstock for grafting communist society onto?
The Situationist International explored the limits of use-value in its practice of detournement. Detournement is a technique of liberating reality, truth, usage from ideology, from pre-structured arrangements of objects based on exchange-value. By means of re-using existing objects in situations for which they were not designed, and with an intention that ordinarily would not be associated with them it was supposed that something other of human existence was conjured into the world. “For example, in a detournement relation to the Spanish Civil War the phrase with the most distinctly revolutionary sense is a fragment from a lipstick ad: ‘pretty lips are red’.”
The situationists imagined that they were establishing a direct connection within existing productive relations between untrammelled desire and potential, suppressed, use-value. “It is not a matter of putting poetry at the service of revolution, but rather of putting revolution at the service of poetry.”
But this cannot be. Deployment is not so easily managed as expression—Wilde had already established a position in advance of service with the slogan, “An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism.” Use-value is determined by and facilitates the interest of the productive relation, therefore the claims for the use of detournement should always be underes-timated—Wilde again, “All art is quite useless”. His affected decadence is a more accurate guide to the content of detournement than the situationists’ own advocacy. Wilde’s position suggests the fanning out from the object of a field of effects, the full realisation of human existence conceived as a city of exquisitely alienated cells, each separated room minutely detailed. The situationists on the other hand fall into earnest commitment, tying the detourned object to decided activity and thereby retreating to a desolate plain whose only occupant, a contortionist, attempts a performance of the unity of theory and practice. But then, the magic trick of detournement does illuminate something—we feel that it works, and if not use-value liberated from exchange-value then what?
What the situationists rediscover is the unquantified, ever-present, spirit of revolt. Revolt is an essence which every human may access through their natural antagonism to those conditions in which they find themselves. This essence is never overcome by any defined historical form, perhaps because it is natural, static, magical.
There is an innate capacity for revolt against conditions that is the preserve of human beings. Theirs is a revolt against nature, against second nature and every situation in which they find themselves. Human beings separate themselves from animals because they express dissatisfaction with their conditions. Revolt is theirs, it belongs to them between themselves, collectively, as a binding relation. The capacity for revolt is not in itself valued, it is not a will to communism, a rejection of injustice, a movement towards truth or understanding, or anything of that type—it is more like a primitive, hostile reaction, or reflex, to conditions which may be reverted to at any/every moment in history—the triggers for this reversion are of course unpredictable.
The reason species being or (its synonym) revolt is exterior to any given relation is because we assume that the human species is naturally social, therefore its innate capacities are always to be thought of as surplus to any given expression of them. Capacity is never exhausted. People would revolt against communism as much as against capitalism, perhaps more so, as conditions would invite a reversion to negative response which would enable their society to respond to individuals more subtly.
In this case, communism is not essence returning to itself at a higher level so much as an intensified register of negation (in other words, it is the establishment of a more near-at-hand reflexive response to the conditions of society/self).
The wretchedness of people, their unhappiness even amongst the wealth they have accumulated is a ground for hope. Their revolt does not take the form ordinarily recognised as such but even so their capacity for negative and destructive reversion is never diminished. This quick responsiveness might be called the Kurtz reflex—it both drags circumstances backwards and establishes new territories. Historically, within capitalist society, the working class comes into conflict with capital because, as a mass of human beings, it is split between its commodification and its human essence... it is forced by capitalist circumstance to go one way when its essence would incline it towards another. It is the human essence that resists capital whilst it is the social relation that determines the form essence takes. Or, to put it another way, the human capacity for revolt is what revolts against capital because it is never included within the relation of exchange. However, it is the relation of exchange that finally determines the manner in which revolt is undertaken.
Revolt exists beyond use-value, and it is manifested beyond useful revolt. It expresses what is human but not as a social value, more as the injured response. We may deduce that there is, amongst the production and exchange of commodities, a human real because of the unreconstructed register of pain that individuals preserve as the core of their existence. The essence of human experience is the recording of anguish. Revolt is the expression of response to negative experiences of the world. And identity is formulated from the record of past traumas—that is, the mingling of essence with historical conditions. For reasons of revolt’s perceptual/emotional character, it only very rarely coincides precisely with political formulations, which more often appropriate it in the name of giving it a voice. Most Revolutionary Theory thus misrepresents discontent and grievance and attempts to contain it within an ideological framework... but with, at best, only temporary success—revolt also revolts against revolution. Human essence overruns, and so thwarts, all understanding of it.
The innate, intimate struggle against society never decreases in either quantity or quality, but it does adapt itself to conditions and is expressed in many different forms. For example, at the present juncture there is a tendency amongst the proletariat to express the rejection of capitalist relations through prolonged sickness, depression, obsessions, fanaticism, drunkenness, interpersonal violence... rather than say by marching through the streets in protest. For the left this recomposition of struggle into an intimate bodily reaction feels like a retreat—but they are wrong, in fact it is an advance, it is a move closer to the proper ordering of perspective and significance. Revolt is an intimate relatedness to the world, and therefore most real at the level of immediate feeling—it is really felt, it cannot be reduced to a mere political perspective... Revolt is immediate feeling, and it is feeling, or intuition, that serves the individual as a means of orientation in a world organised as false. The function of prorevolutionaries within the sphere of gut feelings is not so much to prescribe politicisation as some form of higher response as it is to invite others to reflect upon the truth of their own personal anguish, and thereby recognise their relation to the world. By means of people attuning to their own feelings of revulsion for the organisation of the world, the stance of revolt is clarified, more fully realising a field for its engagement.
On Revolt and Complex Reproduction
The individual consumption of the labourer, whether it proceeds within the workshop or outside it, whether it be part of the process of production or not, forms therefore a factor of the production and reproduction of capital—just as cleaning of machinery does, whether it be done while the machinery is working or while it is standing. The fact that the labourer consumes his means of subsistence for his own purposes, and not to please the capitalist, has no bearing on the matter. The consumption of food by a beast of burden is none the less a necessary factor in the process of production, because the beast enjoys what it eats. The maintenance and reproduction of the working-class is, and must ever be, a necessary condition to the reproduction of capital. But the capitalist may safely leave its fulfilment to the labourer’s instincts of self-preservation and of propagation. All the capitalist cares for is to reduce the labourer’s individual consumption as far as possible to what is strictly necessary, and he is far away from imitating those brutal South Americans, who force their labourers to take the more substantial, rather than the less substantial, kind of food.
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: SIMPLE REPRODUCTION, cap 1
To place an emphasis:
The maintenance and reproduction of the working-class is, and must ever be, a necessary condition to the reproduction of capital. But the capitalist may safely leave its fulfilment to the labourer’s instincts of self-preservation and of propagation.
Evidently, this has not been the case since 1914; the complex apparatus of social control has been developed frenetically with a correspondingly massive investment in the institutions of reproduction. Training has been relocated from private enterprise to state education, there has been ceaseless welfare interventions at many levels ranging from the food workers’ eat, to inoculation programmes, to social policing of interpersonal relations; there has been a continuous re-regulation of industrial relations, including the recent reinstitution of the social wage—all this proves that the capitalist social relation finds it extremely difficult to reproduce itself when relying on the working class’s “instincts of selfpreservation and of propagation”.
In fact, the intervention of the state in ensuring reproduction of labour power suggests that the working class does not reproduce labour power at all. It seems they cannot be relied upon, they tend to drift from their role. In fact, the working class constantly prepares for its return to species being, seeking its own level through this implied rejection of itself as the working class—it is perpetually packing its cases and preparing to depart the scene but, you know, the phone rings, somebody is knocking at the door, there is constant interruption, and it is dragged back, raised up, by further complications and ensnarements.
The working class does not reproduce itself on its own initiative. On the contrary, it continually reproduces its readiness not to be the working class. Social organisation at present is based upon the assumption that both industry and proletariat have abandoned the cycle of reproduction which has now been taken on by the reforming impulse of the bourgeois state.
This means that as the reproduction of the working class is a necessary condition for the reproduction of capital, the cycle and mechanism of reproduction itself is not a simple matter, and is not easily contained within the capitalist social relation. There are other elements in play, elements that cannot be reduced to a question of the purchase of labour power.
The working class is brought into being through the imposition of the capitalist social relation, and that relation becomes entirely dependent on the continuance of its being. However, the working class does not, cannot, reproduce itself within the relation as an autonomous resource. The proletariat must be reproduced as a constant, as a value within the relation, and as a function, that is as labour power, within the apparatus of produc-tion—but for this to occur, capital must be invested, the relation must be re-imposed by expenditure of accumulated wealth.
The labour power of the working class produces nothing more than what the factory produces. Only in the factory is the worker of today a real proletarian... Outside the factory he is a petty-bourgeois... The extraction of surplus value from labour power is entirely a move undertaken by the capitalist, the worker performs no such function. The worker produces nothing but what is produced through his labour at his place of work, at other times he is not even a worker and is therefore unable to cause himself to function as a Worker. It falls to the general social relation through its institutions to reproduce its required roles and functions within its apparatus.
To ensure that the proletariat remains a constant in the relation, to ensure that it stays in its place—an increasingly difficult objective—huge resources must be invested through the state, otherwise the proletariat, and the functions/characteristics assigned to it, would naturally break the relation apart.
There is some motor other than the artificial dynamic of the social relation that is at work in the “instincts of self-preservation and of propagation”. Along with the inducements and threats of the commodity form that cause a functional coherence within the proletariat there is also an immediate reflex towards dispersal and decomposition. There is a tumbling over, an excess, a constant renewal of the departure point. There is sprouting from the base. It is an energy. It is all potential, a capacity for forgetting the historical and remembering the primordial, a blank slate, the reset button.
This other motor can only be persuaded, recruited, deployed, channelled, tricked into a continued relation with the productive form through connection of the urge for dispersal to mad schemes and lunatic endeavours—con-verting it into one or another patriotic enthusiasm.
And then, what still remains outside is seduced by carnival, to be burnt off as a gas.
See, It Is The King Charles Bound Tightly
See, it is the king Charles bound tightly by state process. And what else? Now he has escaped to Oxford with his most loyal friends who hide him in the secret passages beneath the town. How did it come to this? There has been fifteen years of restrained hostility between the king and a number of the wealthiest of his London merchants. Now, each side raises an army to defend its interest against the other’s, and the soldiers of both armies must make sense of a land at war with itself. The king’s men are constrained to ask themselves, “If the king represents god on earth, and Parliament has broken with the king, then has not Parliament broken its own authority?” Whilst, in their turn, the merchants’ men, from a subtly different position, set a similar question,
“If the king never did execute divine power on earth, then why should one man, more than any other, stand as god’s representative in the world?” Thus are the questions divided out to the opposing camps by circumstance and accident, and thus are the soldiers banded together around the answers that are supplied. All are agreed that something of the present situation should be undone, all are agreed that something should be retained... but it is precisely in the details that there is found no agreement. See now, the controversy, it is Sixteen Forty Two. A troop of horsemen from Waller’s regiment of the Parliamentarian Army have ridden into Winchester and now closely approach the cathedral. They do not dismount before the temple, which they recognise not, but ride straight on through the great doors and into the nave of that despised edifice. Here they set about burning books, destroying the communion rail and decapitating statues of christ and the saints. If any should question them as to the meaning of their actions they answer, “images alienate us from a direct relation to the sacred. Images respond, in a closed circuit, only to other images and through veneration are brought to life in that very sphere which we, as living beings, are denied”. One of the troopers levers open the stone casket that contains the remains of the king Canute. He then hurls the bones against the cathedral’s glass. The ungodly stained glass of the great west window is smashed out, and fragments of image and bone are left to lie on the grounds that surround the cathedral. All across the land, Parliamentarian soldiers make similar physical assaults upon the false unity of art, kingliness and god. There appears to be a new ascendancy in the world. But the triumph and its radical reduction of myth is troubling to itself, it cannot steady its gaze, it has no guideposts. The government finds that it is unable to reframe its transgressions as lawful, things begin to slip back to their true orientation. Eighteen years of slow spoiling from the first act and it is suddenly Sixteen Sixty, the cut-off point. Time run out. The king Charles creeps from out of the forest and approaches London, the sun setting behind him. In celebration of the return of natural order the people of
Winchester rush from their houses and collect together all the shards of glass that lie about the cathedral. They remake the great west window but now in their own manner, haphazardly and without design. Upon sealing the window, they stand quietly in the cathedral gazing upwards at the crazed pattern which cuts up the day’s light into many colours.
Brief Statements on Revolt and Structure:
1. Revolt, and thus the critique of revolt, is derived from a heightened state of wretchedness. Revolt is never a positive move. It is never a matter of revolt becoming the vehicle of a solution. And if it were, how much more simple that would be. If my revolt guaranteed me insight, and if my knowledge were realisable in structure— causing more effective, more organised revolt—then revolt itself would define the character of our world, and not be merely provoked by it.
2. Only after it has broken off in anger, then finding itself nowhere, the revolted, from a position of nowhere, must afterwards cast about for answers. Revolt has no alternatives and so must fall back into what it has just rejected.
3i. But the alienation of workers from that which they have gained, the given form of wealth, is a ground for hoping for the end of the given form of wealth. What it tells us, this misery and viciousness expressed between ourselves, is that something within our species remains disconnected from, and is preserved outside of, the given form.
3ii. There is an excess, a surplus, belonging to existence, in its relating to its conditions, which continues to cause in it a sense of discomfort. Given the exquisite development of the wealth of established conditions, given how objects are fine-tuned to the notes of desire, given the saturation of life by the nuance and niche-dis-tribution of this wealth, it is remarkable that the niggling persists. But it does.
4. What the workers have gained does not suffice— what they have been provided with can never be sufficient. They are discontented with the examples that have been supplied, but their revolt against these is also a plunging back into the general form from which the examples are derived. The given form of wealth causes the resentment against its details. It causes its workers to struggle against it—but it does not allow them to escape the frame it has set on their revolt.
5. And the character of their unhappiness does not engender insight—they are unhappy, they are discontented, but this also does not suffice. The character of their revolt against their circumstances is not a critique. Revolt does not reflect upon its own movement as revolt at all—it rejects its circumstances but also clings to them—revolt is ongoing, it is permanent but remains invisible to itself. Revolt against the given form is organised by the given form. Discontent and demands circle each other within the frame given.
6. But if it is channelled, if it is provoked and cultivated—that is, if it is thwarted or re-redirected into uselessly negative activity—then that is not to say it has been exhausted or its energy finally bound to the reproduction of the given. Revolt is permanent, irreducible. It is a spring of perversity that does not run dry. If it has been duped today, it is renewed tomorrow. It has no memory, it has no history, no value, no allegiance, it goes uncalculated and is unpredictable. Revolt persists on the other side of every fence that could be built to include it.
7. But then, this is also not to assume that revolt is something grand. On the contrary, it is petty and often ridiculous. It is impatience with others, it is hypochondria and self-obsession, it is immersal in distractions, it is hanging out on the corner and being bored. It means nothing at all. Or it means two minor things, the first being that there remains something of human nature that is not wholly historicised and determined by conditions. The profound essence of dissatisfaction cannot be expropriated; it lies beyond all exploitation, even if its expression is only ever confined to the trivial and banal.
8. The second minor thing to note, is that trivial and banal revolt is rarely recognised by pro-revolutionaries as springing from a profound source. In other words, for them, it is indicative of nothing. The specialists of revolt almost never engage revolt as it is in itself, as it appears in, as it formulates itself as a motor of, human behaviour. They are interested only in meaning, in the political use-value, of negative responses to the world as it is. They see revolt as an expression of contradictory conditions, they understand negativity as belonging to historical process, their ideal is a circumstance where the necessity for subjective revolt has been removed from objective conditions.
text unfinished: why revolt is not contained by progression; why revolt has no optimum moment
Letters to Outsurgents 2004-06
...I attempt to raise the dead of the nineteenth century before my mind’s eye; I don’t, as you appear to think, pass j'udgement on those before us, but these dead, these factory dead, that died in their millions and flooded out of London’s graveyards, these were the ones who first lived a completely false life—and then I think that they died for nothing, and also that they lived for nothing. They are dead but the material conditions they created, the things squeezed out of them, still exist. They are dead but the things extracted from them are still alive. They raced against the void (as you call it), and the void manifested itself through their existence and as the infrastructure. It is when I see the things these swallowed humans made, the things they made to enable the void’s swallowing of them, the things that have survived them and which now stand as indication of their human nothingness, it is then that I get a very clear sense of the void’s mechanics: of what is carried forward, Value; and the husk that is discarded, human life. Today, we are also racing against the void, racing against it and realising it, materialising it about ourselves as we strive to pass on our other urgencies... p.
“War no longer exists,” so says Sir Rupert Smith Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of Nato. I think I believe him. War is not conducted now as war, and its aim is no longer victory as such. War has become autonomous, both a natural condition and effect, which must be preserved in balance because it is now understood that cessation would cause terrible destruction to the cycle of economic reproduction.
But if war is not war—that is, a means to an end—but has become an end in itself that must be guarded, then this is a very perverse and incomprehensible circumstance isn’t it? What is its meaning?
Poe’s August Dupin says, “eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, regardless of how improbable, is the answer.” I would guess that the present circumstance acts as a sort of habit-forming application of ligatures to the economy (and gives shape/form to issues of investment/ loans/debt etc). However, whether this indicates crisis (or its opposite) is beyond my ability to say.
What we can say with certainty is that the stated aims are in direct contradiction to what has been pursued/ achieved. This would indicate either that the political machine has become entirely disconnected from the project of capital accumulation or it has become fully integrated. Which is the most/least improbable?
The reduction of other territories to various grades of rubble has always been in the nature of capitalism’s social relation, it has always generated recognisable areas of control and areas of decontrol, areas of license and areas of restriction, areas of destruction and areas of rebuild. Value is extracted both from crumbling social order (Russia) and from stable law-abiding workforces (China) and all stages of chaos in between...
Strategically, it makes sense, in a “don’t keep all your eggs in one basket” kind of way, to maintain a variegated productive model which is both crumbling (decadent in ICC-speak) and simultaneously resurgent. I am unhappily reminded of Chtcheglov’s idea of “quarters”, that is a patchwork of zones— another SI category, like imagination taking power, which has returned to us grotesquely realised.
When a system of war has occupied the territories of its negation, that is when the aims and objectives ordinarily underlying the pursuit of war have been abandoned, then war becomes both something else and yet still remains what it is, ie the violent cause of mass unhappiness. When a system has become capable of operating as the exact opposite of itself (manifested in wars, institutions, social objects constructed as “loss-leaders”, instantly discounted, designed not to achieve their objective), emptying itself of its supposed purpose, but is still functioning as it has always functioned, ie not progressing, not being negated, not superseding itself, not developing, but maintaining its essence in the world, then it has passed into an almost magical phase.
Capitalism’s victory over its own negation has caused it to adopt, in a curious manner, the language of the besieged and defeated. The generals and politicians on all sides of the conflict have taken up the language of resistance as their natural mode of address (Israel the first example). Bizarrely, in the moment of their total victory they talk in terms of “threat”, and are impelled to manufacture defeats and crises—twisting on the hook of themselves. The Caesars they aint.
It appears to me that the magical phase of warcapital-ism renders it both strategically invincible and randomly vulnerable. The genuine opposition to it, as opposed to the political protest it generates, equally has become inscrutable, nature-magical and all-powerful.
The end of War cannot now take the form of a cessation, as there are no channels by which to establish the peace treaty; war has no rational basis, the generals are not able to accept this piece of land in return for that reparation. Nothing will do. The situation is irreducible. And this dispute, which is not a dispute but simply a natural or inherent form of production, cannot be addressed through other means.
War is no longer an expression, it is now the rationale for all other aspects of the social relation, which have become fused into its continuation. Civil society is organised, made secure, around the presumption of a continuation in hostilities. The established balance of production is now found in conflict not in peace.
Therefore, as is the way with the marvellous appalling, the end will come unexpectedly, midbombardment. The miraculous end of it all will occur after a prolonged period of habituating noise which then will be swallowed by abrupt incomprehensible silence.
Silence will mark the end. your questionable friend, frere dupont
An open letter, to Gertrude de Civitatis and the Beguines of Schweidnitz, on the occasion of your trial that is to be conducted by the Inquisition on September 7 1332
‘The prelude to their pleasures was to take turns
sliding their tongues into one another’s mouths.”
... As you begin to see, what we are talking of here, is the ambivalence which coils within our emotional attachments.
In the process of contemplating your own movement and the prospect of a movement within the world, all that might be possible from this point on, you must ask yourselves the pertinent question, “what is it that I cannot do without?”
At the edge of all that is final, we instinctively grasp onto that which we know best. Even as we reach out, we have a sense that our reaching is driven more by familiarity than it is by love. In crisis, we refuse impulsively what we had thought we would not refuse, the unknown. We refuse it because it is unknown. In pain, under threat, when we are challenged, we choose instead what is close by, we call out the name that first occurs to us. We call it because it is the first name. We see, by last light, and with soft eyes, that which, just now, we had despised with all our being.
What is it then that you are prepared to give up? And before you answer, remember that there are habits and that there are also commitments, you must be able to distinguish between them. The goal is not so much to release yourself from things but to re-extend connections through interrogation.
It is important for you to recognise comfort, and also to find it again later. Comfort is not your enemy. However, being bound to unquestioned habit is always contrary to your spirit, and to your purpose.
You must have a clear picture, from the perspective of all that is final, of what it is that you are able to leave behind you... and from the moment of achieving this clarity, to the end of your days, you must not ever again pretend to yourself that you are attached to that for which, in reality, you have no feelings at all.
From this moment of clarity onwards you will become engaged in a ceaseless conflict against unloved objects. Be merciless to them.
It might be a long time, you are a difficult case, but don’t give up hope. Il se rabat sur!
Dear CP, On Bolshevism without a party
The only way to fight against exchange and the dictatorship of value is by undertaking communisation. Theorie Communiste
That which is missing from the claims for communisation, by which is understood a forceful appropriation of social relations on communist terms, is any awareness of the significance of the human community for-itself. The return to Bolshevism at this juncture, the question of realisation, is telling—the communist social relation is thus reconceived from an ideological, and thus bourgeois-political perspective, as a subjective imposition which is ostensibly directed against capitalist organisation but also, unfortunately, being reproductive of the class nature of subject’s capacity for imposition.
The crude relations established through the policy of communisation are the positive expression of the abolition of value production, at first, this appears as the Party’s universal employment of others in the task of communising. In grasping this relation in its universality, communisation is in its initial form only a generalisation and completion of that relation (of the class relation). As such, it appears as the domination of actual interpersonal relations in terms so general that it threatens to destroy all individuals who are not capable of living within the community as the policy of communisation demands; it wants to abstract from talent, etc., by force.
The critique of proletarian forms developed for themselves in struggle against the productive relation, assumes a cyclical relationship, or mutual dependency, and thus a common interest in the perpetuation of value production. At some point, it is argued, the workers’ antagonism to capital becomes a symbiosis, and reproduces the relation as static antagonism. A perceived condition of stasis thus requires the intervention of a consciously organised agency, hence the communising party.
The exteriorised Party’s critique of the appropriation of proletarian struggle by workerist autonomy and syndicalism, illuminating the subjectivist politics of these positions, is subsequently only outflanked but is not superseded, from the subjectivist position, by means of theoretically jettisoning the centrality of the class struggle altogether and replacing it with the role of the communising party.
This crude communisation, inasmuch as it negates the personality of man in every sphere, is simply the logical outcome of the productive relation which is this negation. The Party’s universal contempt constituting itself as a power is the hidden form in which the Party reasserts itself and satisfies itself, but in another way. The thoughts of every Bolshevik manager are turned against the proletariat-for-itself and take the form of contempt and the desire to level everything down to the political policy of communisation; hence, these feelings of contempt in fact constitute the essence of class domination through a communist prism.
Physical, immediate possession is the only purpose of
life and existence as far as communisation is concerned; the category of worker is not abolished but extended to all men, all men are employed to realise communism; the relation of production remains the relation of the community to the world of things; ultimately, this movement only opposes a conception of universalising employment as communisation to the differentiation of classes under the present form of the productive relation.
The concept of communisation thus collapses into further intensified subjectivist extremism whereby those small groups in possession of Communist Consciousness must assert communism as a social relation upon the rest who are judged incapable of escaping the capitalist social relation by themselves.
Crude communism, or “Bolshevism without a party”, is the culmination of this class contempt and the desire to level down on the basis of an ideological preconceived minimum. The role the party takes for itself is that of employer, and the relation that it imposes by force, becomes the new form capital must take under conditions of communisation, and thus the new form of the wage relation (communising capitalism instituted as the corollary of defeated state capitalism—the communising party superseding the Communist Party).
The wages paid for abstract communising activity comprise the individual worker’s partial access to communisa-tion’s products which general employment will make available—in other words, a cycle of political economy.
In terms of the class war, that is the constituted objective struggle of incompatible interests which is waged
between humanity and value, the communising party substitutes its own intense engagements in the place of the long war of attrition that has become invisible to it.
As if trapped in a cycle where it advances into a glass wall and then immediately forgets it, the subjectivist party consistently substitutes its own activities for the being of the human community. Collective existence, the latent content of any social organisation, is denied by all subjectivist positions. And communisation, in the Party’s account, thus becomes divorced from the essence of communism because of this denial. Losing the totality of human existence whilst in pursuit of realising a mere policy facilitates a renewed intimacy with the classical bourgeois political form.
Communisation becomes a policy to be advocated, a position to be secured, an ideology to be forced forward.
How little this abolition of the wage relation, under the guise of communisation, is a true appropriation, is shown by the abstract negation of the entire world of culture and civilisation, and the imposed-upon return of others to the unnatural simplicity of the object within the productive (that is the communising) process. The mass of humanity becomes a mere consumer of the ideas of communism even as it is employed to realise this idea. In this sense the proposal for communisation as a strategic imposition has not even got to the stage of awareness of class antagonism, being merely a universal idea/goal, let alone gone beyond it.
For crude communism the community is simply a community of communising labour employed to realise the ideology of communism, their community is reidealised as after-the-fact consensus to the imposed com-munising process. Both sides of the relation are raised to an unimaginary universality—labour as the condition in which everyone is placed and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the communised community which thus forces collective agreement to its realisation.
Therefore, communism, and thus communisation, if it is to break from crude Bolshevism must not belong to those who recognise the need for it. In fact, an individual’s awareness of the lack of communism in the present, his desire for the condition of communism in the future, his ability to recognise acts of communisation (that is, forms of inter-subjective connection that break free from value’s conditioning of relations) in no way qualifies him to establish or impose communism generally.
On the contrary, his consciousness renders him passive before the task, or no more active than any other individual. The communist is compelled by his own coherence to refuse a subjective communising role as this would, by necessity, deny, through means of substitution, the human community and would thus reconnect him with the bourgeois political form.
The subject position is capable of suffering, recognising the cause of suffering, and formulating physical/ theoretical critiques of existing conditions. It is unable to move beyond negation, that is consciousness of present conditions, and adopt affirmational solutions as this would inevitably compromise the origins/source of its intelligence, ie alienation.
For this reason the communist may adopt only a negative/critical role in active struggle against capital. The pro-revolutionary is capable only of destructive acts whilst the supersession of conditions must be carried forwards by de-proletarianised humanity as a totality.
Transcendence, the elevation of humanity towards communism, is achieved when the absence of communism as it is experienced in the individual communist’s consciousness is answered by the communising activity of others in his community. It is they, the others, that become capable of raising up both him and themselves. It is they who satisfy materially what he understood as their need at the level of consciousness.
The first positive abolition of the dictatorship of value—crude communisation—is therefore only a manifestation of the vileness of continued production trying to establish itself as the positive community. fd
On recent events, clandestinity, and your comrades turning informers.
“When they had finished their confession the dogs promptly tore their throats out, and in a terrible voice Napoleon demanded whether any other animal had anything to confess.”
Before, they had not been rooted to the world. They were inebriated with the lightness of disguise. They were then enamoured because they were weak and did not un-derstand—and now, because they are weak, they change their commitments. Now that they are older they are no longer able to put on the cloak of their previous pas-sions—under new pressure they give way and renounce what now does not belong to them.
Their emerging within a social relation that is already slashing at itself and defining themselves by the proposal for attack appears to miss the genuine site of contesta-tion—this not at home feeling, this world that spurns them. They hide their real struggle beneath overreaching gestures, that are both too much and besides the point.
The weak warriors who never sat down and considered their own struggle, the fight that was theirs alone. The weak warriors who subjected themselves to the sol-dier-code of acquired ideas and causes, these mercenaries, and thus projected their disconnection outwards onto campaigning issues so as to block themselves.
Their self, their place, their connections... We should say, in fact, that the weakness which causes them to become failures of false causes, also acts to establish the ground of their true struggle.
We might say, organisation rips along its weakest seams... persuaded individuals, asked to operate outside of their own self-interest in favour of some utterly remote abstraction, bent out of shape, must, always, unexpectedly revert back and click into place ...
The objectively constituted struggle for a better life is not a moral commitment for the individual that must decisively be taken up; there is no quest. On the contrary, the battle finds him out no matter where he hides. And no matter if he was defeated before, or heroic before, he cannot choose at some point of tiredness not to be involved—it is this non-declared aspect of resistance that continues without cessation, it is always continuous and of the same intensity. How is it that you do not recognise it? Why is it that you demand it fall within the frame of some recognisable political intentionality?
Those who do not really grasp what they are fighting for and mistake their mistake for group solidarity arranged about a set of values, those who do not fight from their soul for their soul, become distorted by the struggle—it oppresses them, crushes them because it expresses ideology and not themselves.
If they are put in a place where they must betray their comrades they will betray them because what is fundamental to themselves, their self-interest, their real struggle against conditions, their striving to realise themselves as human beings, exists outside of this commitment/betrayal of superfluous and arbitrary organisations.
There is no necessary transcendence from struggle to revolution... there is no inherent quality to confrontation—and so to burden the self with more of it, to choose further engagements beyond the self’s own particular circumstances when he is already visited by destruction continuously, is, almost inevitably, always an admission of disconnection, of slipping into ideology.
“They did not know what was more shocking—the treachery of the animals who had leagued with Snowball, or the cruel retribution they had just witnessed.”
To Edward Sexby,
An individual, call him A, is not “your majesty” to another individual, B, unless the category majesty from B’s perspective takes on the physical attributes of A. And furthermore, the category majesty is transferable to every subsequent successor to the throne, and being expressed in each successive regal visage, only as long as the category retains its coherence within the relation of A and B.
May I commend you in your application of the logic of liberation. As a contribution please accept this preliminary account for the monarchy of many derived from my glances at the Burford Church, set on again from...
... our fellow-souldiers, have thus stept into the
chair of this hatefull kingship and presumption over us, in despight and defiance of the consent, choice, and allowance of the free-people of this Land the true fountain and original of all just power, (as their own Votes against kingly Government confesse) we will chuse subjection to the Prince, chusing rather ten thousand times to be his slaves then theirs, yet hating slavery under both: and to that end, to avoid it in both, we desire it may be timely and seriously weighed, Levellers vindicated kingliness, that most indefinable of authority’s commodities, that cargo of luxury contraband pillaged from the Americas but poorly secured on a drunken wagon, trundling along every rutted track of the land, spilling out rich splashes of molasses and tobacco twists at every jolt. The magical and transformative power of majesty retains its resonance despite the Protectorate’s purges.
When monarchy as a social system was decapitated and subsumed by Parliament under the guise of depersonalised order, other (unpolitical) traits were also loosened from the monarch’s grip to be dispersed and absorbed but this time, far across society and even unto the depths.
These unpolitical traits included vague notions of social being, of transcendence, authenticity, revelation, abundance and intensity. Where Parliament extracted from monarchy the essences of law and command, it was an altogether different essence that was sucked away from the nipples of power. The discontented poor were provoked by the fall of Charles into subversive speculations and rude philosophies: if the king was but a man then were not all men equally kings?
This egalitarian improvisation on the theme of the elect lilted up melodiously from the New Model ranks and necessarily conflicted with the certainties posited (albeit formed as questions) by the puritanical elite: if the king was but a man then were not all men equal in their base sinfulness? The difference in emphasis dictated, on the one hand, a conjecture on transcendence and on the other, schemes of repression and punishment.
Puritan influence on the New Model determined it towards a social facelessness and the erasure of individuality. Its consequent and much lauded conceptions of equality rested on elitist conceptions of the sinfulness of all and have been confusedly bundled up with what was genuinely revolutionary at the time.
Throughout the modern period idealised equality has been usefully compounded with and obscured by the totalitarian drive of centralised government and its rigidly bureaucratic process—from its perspective, we are all equally subject.
But beyond the opportunism of the Parliamentary party many ordinary people, suffused with scattered kingliness, pushed in quite the opposite direction: seizing on the symbolic, transformatory properties in the monarchical figure and applying it to their situation. They aspired towards an equality grounded in a shared divinity.
The thought, in vague outline, sketched by the most logical of the general populace, after witnessing the execution of the king and watching the failure of the Levellers to make reformist progress in either the army or at Westminster, was that all should be declared kings.
It was an idea sieved through some cultivation of the figure of transubstantiation—the blood and the body of kingship now belonged to everyone. The virulence of this sensibility (it was hardly yet an idea) may be remarked upon in that it followed at least two major routes with many offshoots: firstly, the Fifth Monarchy Men who upheld a millenarian version and agitated in regard to the immanence of the irrefutable king, king Jesus who would establish on arrival an Earthly Paradise.
Secondly, the sensibility of elevation may also be discerned in the nascent materialism of the early Quakers and Ranters who imagined Jesus as being already present and embodied in every individual. Both variations—one millenarian and messianic, the other personal, immediatist and semi-atheistical—necessarily primed an enthusiastic negation of earthly power whether in the form of religion, government, army or property. Each arrived at their position by means of pushing common ideas of the time to their logical conclusion.
The importance of monarchy as a form of social organisation does not rest in its significance as a political system but in the universalisation of its significances—its status as a register of symbolic social relations. The mystery of kingship is derived from three, ideally, harmonised forms: the individual (character) who sits on the throne; the job (day to day matters of state and ceremony); a projected, unquantifiable aura, or wealth.
Kingliness or majesty was a translating mechanism that supplied a dimension of exalted scale. For it, winning becomes triumph, recovery from affliction is a miracle, chance benefit is destiny. It does not matter that most of the elaborate procedures of monarchy were rather creaky, haphazard and over-determined, they succeeded because of the great imaginative investment placed in them by society (economically, monarchy is a system of expenditure not production).
The theatre of monarchy required the willing suspension of disbelief, the desire of all social strata (and each with their own reasons) that it should be so; from this perspective the boy who could not see the Emperor’s New Clothes suffered a failure of vision since no set of clothes, in reality, could be quite as glorious and magnificent as their aura demanded, an aura generated out of the popular desire for auras.
Great historic/mythic events retained or gathered around themselves a sheen of majesty because of a willed, imaginative investment by their consumers; the War of the Roses for example, the ascendancy of the Tudors, a period shimmering with tales and glory, was an ugly and brutal conflict confined to the political elite, involving surprisingly few people. Imagination compensates for the paucity of reality, it wills that the emperors clothes are splendid.
In the theatrical amusements and masques of Charles’ court of the 1630’s there is evidence for the decline of kingly magic, and the strain caused by overinvestment in one individual. There is a point during his reign when the symbolic order retreated into fantasy. The royal take on playacting involved the participation of the king, the Queen, all the court and more; masques consisted of music, illusion and elaborate special effects. Charles usually played himself or unimpeachable figures from ancient history and mythology whilst the theme was always the same: Charles 1 is great, as great as any king before and his position is guaranteed by the Order of the Universe. Masques were a good opportunity at self-mythologising, royalist-realism perhaps, but they were also at odds with reality as it was lived, even by the king.
There was no place on the palatial stage for petty squabbles with Parliament concerning his income and yet even so there is something to the modern eye that is very strange about a king dressing up and pretending to be a king. It is said that Charles very much enjoyed these masques and we can speculate that they provided a form of compensation for declining political power. He may have found some solace, as he contemplated his travails, in the belief that his theatrical gestures were echoed in the divine purpose of the universe.
At this point, Charles, by some accident or necessary process, had become separated from the magical concept of kingliness. The required investment by society in the symbolic order of his majesty had been withdrawn, and so his court was forced to construct a false or compensatory majesty for its own consumption. Masques, playacting, art filtered out the forensic evidence of experience so as to distil a higher truth—his masques were an acted-out utopia where the spheres revolved without gratings or collisions.
This aspect of royal scale, which no matter how diminished is always the size of China, is illustrated by Kafka in the parable of the imperial messenger whose task is impossible, who is defeated by the vastness of the kingly world, “No one can force his way through here, least of all with a message from a dead man to a shadow. But you sit at your window and dream up that message when evening falls.”
By the early 1640’s monarchy as a system of government, and the divine right of Charles existed probably no more than half a mile in all directions of the king’s personage. But the principle of kingliness, the symbolic order, was not so easily reduced, it continued to supply its power in the common language of transcendence.
The decapitation of Charles I suppressed monarchy but the force of monarchy was not exhausted. Something left over of the king’s continued to exist in State and in Society during Parliament’s ascendancy. Parliament did not and could not go far enough, it did not realise the need that monarchy addressed, and therefore merely suppressed that need. The will to old transcendence persisted even after Parliament’s complete victory over the royalists. History in fact had not marched forward—and Parliament failed to take Machiavelli’s advice that at all costs, should the middle course be avoided, defeated enemies ought either be eliminated or caressed.
Monarchy’s surplus was left socially unbound in kingless England where it endured as a residue in a particular style of metaphoric rhetoric. Without any formal political expression the will to transcendence floated free and attached itself in fragments to rapidly developing social critiques. The language of magisterial transcendence, of the looking for a wealth which exists beyond present conditions, fused with social discontent. Ritual and mythical explanation combined with semipoliticised tendencies that had become suddenly disenchanted by the translation of Parliament into Protectorate.
The stylistic devices of monarchy, fenced out and excluded by the straitened iconoclasts and emptied of their original relevance, became attached to themes of liberation; the rich imagery of kingliness resonated in the transforma-tory paradises aspired to in the reveries of radical agitators. Messianic religiosity exacerbated the tendency—this is the need, this is the expression of the need, to step beyond, to suffuse with light, to be lifted up. fd
We have been discussing how the milieu relates to social forces and the left in particular. I have argued that both are expressions of, and responses to, capitalist conditions.
What opposes capital is organised by capital.
The pro-revolutionary milieu does not understand itself in relation to the structure of capitalist society, it cannot see where it fits in, how it functions within the machine. It refuses its position as determined, as an expression, which is natural but at the same time it does not accept it, which is not.
This critical blindness is perhaps the cause of its own conception of the transforming of society as something similar to present political process, where everyone has their say, only without any disagreement, the democratic fantasy of the unanimous verdict. It waits for the universe to dress itself in its idea.
The milieu searches for some commonality between its political analysis and industrial struggle, it attempts to force a union between its own ideologically-motivated acts and those measures taken in self-defence by the working class.
Its desire is to discover some formal unity between itself and the people, the ideological purpose of this desire is to prove an objectively constituted holistic movement against capitalism.
But it is not the role of pro-revolutionaries to cheer-lead popular innovations in revolt, that scanning of the news in search of mere instances to celebrate. Instead it falls to the milieu to point out why such experiments must fail and how exactly capital will crush and exploit them. The negative pro-revolutionary role is to criticise rebellion, to jab its bony fingers at proud and trembling proletarian chests and incite them to further outrages and into, as Ignatus J. Reilly would put it, ever greater abominations.
Everything must be pushed further, everything must be made to teeter on the lip of itself. Why? Because there is nothing else for the milieu to do. It is not for the milieu to campaign against Bush, not for it to oppose the war, on the contrary it must attack those who oppose the war.
It must state categorically that we are not all on the same side. It must savage the left’s fawning preoccupation with democracy at the expense of life lived. It must confound the headlike impulses of latent leninism. Thwart the Cromwellians. Spill over. It must define itself in opposition to the left, separating itself out, renouncing the values, rejecting the campaigns and disrupting the fronts of popular unity.
The goal is to remove all mediating, representational and leadership oriented tendencies. Only when the left is in disarray, turning on itself in a fury of self-hatred do ideas of revolutionary value break out, only when the left despairs of itself is there room for a vaguely human becoming.
The target is not capitalism itself, which is beyond the milieu’s capacities but the left and its role within capital. And it is the destruction of the institutions of the left, the removal of those who would lead us back into predetermined forms, that is the proper objective for the most negative fragment of the milieu.
There is always the law of three to fall back onto isn’t there? It becomes a kind of haiku or sonnet, a formal theoretical exercise:
i. There should only be organisation to the degree that organisation facilitates the measures taken. Organisations should coalesce spontaneously and informally around and within events.
ii. What is the worst, the absolute worst, is a return of pro-rev theory from negation. It’s finding a form as a politics of solutions. The return to a position of providing answers is always an accommodation, a dialogue with existing non-revolutionary forms. It is a return to common sense, it abandons thinking once more for a condition of being caught up in the world’s details.
iii. The huge maggot of the movement and the tiny fly of its arrival, the staggered procession of transitionary phases, each more prolonged than the last.
We have been discussing the relation of the revolutionary subject to the proletariat. I have some further formulations.
The revolution out of capitalism necessitates the end
of work and of management, of the commodity form, of the economy generally and of all separated firms, markets and industries. Therefore, the call for the establishment of self-management is yet another example of pro-revolutionaries desperately clawing at alternative solutions and drifting towards affirmational cure-all quackery. Having said this, it is also only reasonable to add that such solutions are undoubtedly preferable to what exists in our present everyday experience. And this is the very reason why prorevolutionaries must forbid themselves the pleasures of formulating neat alternative scenarios for production.
I am not kidding you, I have no wish to outrage you either. We are exploring how humans are perceived from the perspective of capital: that is, as the embodied resource of labour power. Sometimes it is important to walk through the desolation of a supermarket thinking, this is the human species, somebody made this can (Yor-rick), it is their remains. I also have an image of Sylvester the Cat in a canning factory.
I would guess you see working class subjectivity as being realised in workers’ councils. My doubts about this are threefold, 1. I am not happy with workerist definitions of subjectivity (these restrict the full possibilities of human life within capitalist categories), 2. I would not want to dictate to the revolution what forms it should adopt in the first stages of overcoming capital.
3. deserves a paragraph to itself: the problem with councils is the problem with continuity. The seizure of production is the continuance of production; even though a new subject power is in charge of the factories the factories are essentially unchanged: that is, they continue to accumulate capital, they continue to extract value from labour power, they continue to stand as ugly clots of past human endeavour. I realise this must look as if, like that persistent Sylvester, I am sawing off the branch I am standing on—but the question of what is carried over is unavoidable.
For me, a councilist subjectivity is problematic because it takes the form of a prescribed political solution to the question of full human life, ie it is not sufficient.
I mean to argue here that the revolutionary role of the working class is its self-abolition not its recomposition as a managing class. When workers refuse work, capitalist production must collapse—theirs is a destructive, not a positive role. It is then in this moment of crisis that I see the potential for a fully human, collective subjectivity, which would be free to immediately address its own needs through its own techniques.
I think this proposition must seem quite scary (it does to me) because of how we are dependent on capitalised technologies. But that is my point—we are dependent on mediated forms; our subjectivity echoes, even desires, the reproduction of these forms. I would also add that many people of the world are already living amongst rubble so the freedom to address the ruins as a subject-power would be something of a relief.
Theorie Communiste write:
Abolishing capital is at the same time denying oneself as a worker and not self-organising as such; it’s a movement of the abolition of businesses, of factories, of the product of exchange (whatever its form). The proletariat as class and revolutionary subject abolishes itself as such in the abolition of capital. The process of revolution is that of the abolition of what is self-organisable. Self-organisation is the first act of the revolution, what follows is carried out against it.
There is a slight and lovely song by Cat Stevens called “Trouble”, I don’t know how long it has been since I heard it last. It came into my head yesterday like a coin returning from the depths. What does a Cat Stevens song have do with a seven o’clock start on the aerospace factory’s production line? Nothing. What does it have to do with the late shift at the paper mill? Nothing. What does it have to do with the hard, practical, unloving faces of our families and our piss-taking friends. Nothing. And the hard, practical, unloving girls who must be our wives? Nothing. It is just a song, a little song, it is not real. You can’t live your life based on songs. What is real is what is before you, you will know it because it is within your grasp. What is real is what is real. Yes, for a moment we listened to a little song and then we went back to work, and that is all.
And what then do I think is the significance in that little song? And all the little songs? Nothing, it has no significance. But it is because its flimsy minutes cannot resist the flat accumulations of the years that it stands in for everything which is not here. The song stands in for everything not here because from it I infer a world that is not the production line, the paper mill, the hard-faced friends, the unloving family—the piss-taking wives.
From it I infer another world of other relations where I too might be other than I have turned out. The other world, the inferred world, has a quality of abundance whilst this world, the world I inhabit, is defined by its paucity. The insubstantial and unreal counts for so much more than the material, evident, real. The illusory becomes a ground from which to launch a departure from the actual. I don’t know what I want but I also don’t know how to get it.
And if it has been written that the proletariat destroys capital only through the destroying of itself, that is (capitalism ends when the proletariat no longer functions as such) then what of those workers who have already refused work—because they projected their dissatisfaction into a slight and lovely song? They become lifestylists, and are not to be trusted, their existence is based upon unrealistic aspirations. Their dreams are absurdly slight, see-through. It is because they have disconnected themselves from real life that they cannot be taken seriously.
It is because they are utopian that their formulations are so unrealisable. It is because I am whatever you say I am. It is because I work hard to find the truth in
your accusations against me. It is because I immediately recognise myself in the names, no matter how far-fetched or cruel, that you call me. That I am able to discern the process by which the de-proletarianised are caught up in the trap of re-proletarianisation. It is because they went forward that they are thrown back. It is because they are able to see beyond this moment that they are forced down into it. It is because they have imagined that they must now live prosaically. The de-proletarianised individual is ground down because he stands out. Revolutionaries, shut your mouths. The lifestylist’s only fault was that he escaped by himself, and therefore did not escape, could not really escape. He is now thrown back on the world that he had already rejected because he was alone. And truth, his truth, the truth of visions, is real only to the degree that dreams are collectivised. But it is not because the work-world will get us, as individuals, in the end that we do not continue in our attempts to escape it. We are comforted in the certainty of our defeat by the knowledge that all that is required for a more sustained escape is that our escape coincides with the escape of others.
Debord and Sanguinetti:
... the pro-situ secretly comes to think that current society should certainly make him live in style, even though he is without work, money or talent, simply by virtue of the fact that he has declared itself to be a pure revolutionary.
And beyond that he hopes to get himself recognized as a revolutionary because he has
declared that he is one in a pure state. These illusions will quickly pass: their duration is limited to the two or three years during which the pro-situs believe that some economic miracle will save their privileged status—exactly how, they don’t know. Very few will have the energy and capacities to await the realization of the revolution, which itself will not fail to deceive them partially. They will go to work. Some will be cadres, and most will be badly paid workers. Many of the latter will resign themselves. Others will become revolutionary workers.
Epistle to some later Albigensians
...well, you know. We are always reverting to this talk of rats, and how their tragedy is located in the capacity to breed as a response to trauma - rats attempt to proliferate in conditions that cause their highest distress. And so we are concerned presently with how it is that informers appear as inevitable creations of clandestine activity, their betrayals germinating naturally in conditions of forced loyalty.
It is reasonable to observe that all social structures breed specified behaviours, and so it follows that the Judas character is a logical outcome for closed sects—what
I would ask you, given the possession of this knowledge, is whether it is fair to play that game at all?
Is it fair to create a structure of this type when it is certain that you are demanding of one of your group, at some future date, the assumption of, and identification with, the rat mask? Is it right that one of you, from the outset an ostensibly decent and caring human being, indistinguishable from the others, should later, as the dynamic develops, be twisted into such a shape?
The rat mask’s internal function for the group is merely to re-stress the group’s abstract righteousness—it therefore can be said with some justification that the clandestine group is marked by a will towards individual betrayals which, for its own purpose, it then represents as the moral failing of individuals. I ask you again, is that a noble purpose?
And further, on the general matter of the voluntarist perspective, I respectfully ask you to remember the internal dynamic of all activism, which—because of the assumed substitutional character of its subjectivity—tends always towards the clandestine...
...this discussion should not drift into theology. The question is not “which revolutionary organisation”, but how prorevolutionaries connect to other people.
There are two reasons to set up a sect:
1. to push a theoretical coherence within a wider milieu; 2. to huddle together and share body heat under hostile conditions. Both admirable motivations.
On the other hand, the success of any named recruiting-based organisation would depend upon on an already existing widespread acceptance of general revolutionary principles amongst the wider public, and would therefore presuppose a competitive market of similar organisations.
The undefined purpose of such an organisational brand name would be to raise capital from subscriptions, which is not in itself a heinous crime but is still worth noting as it is from out of the will to self-perpetuate that structures fall back onto received capitalist forms: mafia, institution, shop.
Recruiting organisations have continued to exist in Western countries, as a supposed critique of disorganisation, for several decades now. However, not one of these brands, at any time, has achieved sustained subscriptions of more than a few hundred individuals, and more often, many times less.
If revolutionary ideas have advanced in moments of social emergency then it has not been the organisers who have achieved this... p
The individual who has found spiritual truth in himself immediately discovers this truth to be also abundant in the world, like shells on a beach. He finds the world’s echoing of his thoughts to be adequate proof of his intuition. However, whilst the truth that he encounters is widely dispersed in the world it is also confined to things that are all of the same kind.”
A heightened quotation from Hashish in Marseilles by Walter Benjamin
I’m very interested in this “learning to let go” atti-tude—until you mentioned it in your letter I would have said that I was nearly at that stage of development, but now that you’ve written it out in black and white, I realise that I am still some way off from its attainment.
I am not indifferent enough. I still want people to have an idea of my opinions, although I am so conflicted about this that I am compelled to tease them with provocative contradictions of the following type: I feel no overt love for the human race but I like people; I enjoy my life but the world is bad; I don’t think one should have children but I have one; I don’t want a world war or global collapse but it’s the only way of removing the economy; people are interesting and people are the worst thing on the planet; I do not use mains water and have a septic tank so feel happy that I am taking care of my own waste in a harmless way but I argue against recycling because this is a participation in the Spectacle’s recycling of itself....
Why exactly do we (or rather, they, since I don’t have a view) want the planet to continue? It is not, of course, that I am confused, although I (hopefully) recognize limits to my understanding (and hopefully always state them)—I just like to confuse others so that they must then rethink their optimism. I want to cause them to take more care with the formulation of their vague prescriptions (ie speak with more rigour and honesty).
Of course, despite my wise and pompous words, most people just see me as a bit of a buffoon...
Yes, inconsistency is beneficial. It is an unhealthy reversal to try and cause the world to become a unity, when it is no such thing in-itself. I always disliked the idea that one should not have the fragmented life that people like Raoul Vaneigem and J. Krishnamurti railed against. I always thought it was useful and appropriate to have different modes to use in getting through the day. I never wanted to be at peace with the world or not feel drawn by conflicting forces—since the proposed opposite of con-flictedness is too much like life in a coma.
A friend has lent me a tape of a Krishnamurti talk (this is why I am reminded of him) because I mentioned that I read one of his books twenty years ago and liked his proposition (as I interpreted it anyway) that you should start all thought from oneself. I thought I would enjoy hearing what he had to say again, in the light of my own development over the intervening years. “Meditation is to find out if there is a field which is not already contaminated by the known.” (Krishnamurti) Unfortunately he isn’t as insightful as he obviously thinks he is. What is interesting about the tape is that although he was in his nineties when he gave this talk he was still really uptight and angry about people and the world—it is evident in the tone of his voice. So much for attaining a state of indifference!
Now, let us return more generally to discussing the modification of our comportment in the world. It appears to me, that with a certain weariness clinging to them, those who become agitated by orthodox religion, and seek out the fundamentals of the spirit, too soon fall back into a condition of complacency with everything in its place. Their indifference is achieved too cheaply; it masks a covert optimism about how things stand in the present.
All those who have wished to choose their own spirituality, that is all those who wish to select for themselves the apparatus/authority that they are prepared to submit to, and that they feel would be most appropriate for filtering their insights, are essentially protestants to a man-jack of them. And oh, how lucky for them that there are parallel religions to step across to!
All those who nail their 95 Theses onto the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg (which is now more nails than church), as a first step in finding their own path, are actually refusing to revolt against that dogmatic form of knowledge which is located universally in all religions. They do not, will not, rebel against religiosity, which they actually desperately wish to preserve—they are prepared to resist only discreet instances of its administration. The lack of indifference towards spirituality has become the major flaw in spiritual indifference.
These pathfinders oppose their innovations to, what they see as, the hidebound tradition of the established formation, and which are, allegedly, counter to the immediacy of insight. However, the genuine insight to be derived from an individual’s spiritual quest is located not so much in a carefully framed unique experience (exoticism) as it is in the realisation that all these examples of inwardness belong to the same order of experiences.
The real breakthrough occurs in the recognition that qualitative distinctions between different traditions of spiritual intuition at the surface level—distinctions presumed by the traditions themselves—are not as remarkable as the inherent quantitate similarities located at their core. In other words, inevitably, the path is always a path, the guide is always a guide.
It is true that the spiritual quest will never be abandoned, but further exploration should be grounded less in over-rehearsed encounters with the edge of what is not “contaminated by the known” as in the folding of this consciousness of margins back onto the social process. By this I mean, that the true heightened state of the spirit lies in an insight into the operation of the social mechanism as it relates to the factory production of spiritual optimism.
True indifference perceives that on the one hand the world binds the individual’s body here and now whilst simultaneously permitting soaring flights of consciousness.
The truly attained state of indifference never celebrates the indifferent state that has been provided for it. your questionable friend,
...you talk of situations as a means, and as a manifestation of what we are all about. But for me, a lot of what we organise and aspire to: provocations, events, happenings, “spontaneous” assemblies, autonomous actions—with us as the agency of these situations—really doesn’t stand up alongside the genuinely spontaneous events in which we participate as latecomers. If we take the role of author, we somehow fluff our lines, act rashly, become too heavy-handed—in contrast we are strongest when we use the energy of what is already there, when we improvise on what is already in play. It’s the same with surrealist art (as a practice) that is strongest in siting found objects but weakest when trying to create original works pointing over or beyond general reality. It is here that such practices become formulaic—trying too hard... p
...We can say that no successful society ever came into being by decision, agreement or committee—that comes after, as admin and myth. So we are looking at a dual process of unconscious accumulations and fissurings that we must identify and nurture as a practice; Freud retells the story of Tancred who “unwittingly kills his beloved Clorinda in a duel while she is disguised in the armour of an enemy knight. After her burial he makes his way into a strange magic forest... He slashes with his sword at a tall tree; but blood streams from the cut and the voice of Clorinda, whose soul is imprisoned in the tree, is heard complaining that he has wounded his beloved again.” In other words we must uncover the future everywhere, we must continually, accidentally bump into it. It, the communist future, must appear inevitable; the temporality of its appearances comes at first slowly in reflections and heightened states, and then in a sudden rush of associations and realisations. The decline of surrealism was caused by the sameness of its fantastic, its decreasing returns of association, within which it constantly bumped into the codes of macho posturing, and misogyny... the stance of surrealism was largely correct but was not open handed enough, too many tools... kind regards, p
...species being is never work, it is never work as cannot work. In other words, it is going to work and not working at work, finding oneself incapable of work and collapsing before one’s colleagues, inviting their tender attentions. In my opinion those who do not work in a factory cannot behave as revolutionaries, they have foregone their catalytic capacities, because they will not be able to perform their never work in the correct context. We must visit our frailties into the context, as did the Russian populists, but we must not provoke the peasants, through hard injunctions, into running us out of the village. On the contrary, we must cause them to tend our wounds in true pity. As they care for us with poultices and charms, we must also allow them to tell us why we are wrong, how what we propose cannot work, and when at last they fall silent and have run out of the shit that must first pour from their mouths, they will see they have become us. After the mud, it is black gold, energy from their mouths... p
Oh Mama, what is it, the left wing of the state?
Dearest kitten, mama is so very pleased to infer from this question a burgeoning reflexivity in your ideas; for, as your critique now twists upon itself, you begin to move from simple positionism and towards the central matter of the pro-revolutionary purrspective.
Oh mama, the day passes heavily and I have lost my mittens. I did hope to deflect you from chastisement with this didactic matter which I well know is so dear to your heart but now I feel I have betrayed the filial bond in not asking sooner, in not asking appropriately.
Dearest kitten, all the better. Your false question will receive a smart reply and the shame that you now feel shall act as the mnemonic contrivance by which I impose a thorough theoretical consistency upon your practice.
Oh mama, then tell me. I do hope I am equal to the question before us, though my eyes now sting with tears of chagrin.
Dearest kitten, I shall begin my account without delay. From this moment you will remember that the left wing of the state is that inauthentic, jagged little fragment which covers the embarrassment of its integration with an antagonistic political ideology. The left wing is the state’s intro-jected ill feelings for itself. More accurately, it is that fragment of the bourgeoisie, typically situated in the academy, which attempts to think and thereby undo the Event of revolution but from a seemingly revolutionary perspective.
Oh mama, isn’t it though... isn’t it that the proper allegiance of the left wing of the state is always revealed (and often too late) to be running parallel to the composition of its class character and therefore in contradistinction to its espoused political values ?
Dearest kitten you approach the matter as if walking upon rice paper. The left wing’s political function is to return the exploiter class to political power but for ostensibly divergent reasons (it proposes reason, education, justice over outdated dogmatics, traditions and the arbitrary); in the economic sphere of course, the bourgeois class does not contest its own right to dictate, it merely argues for the necessity of objective reform.
Oh mama, then that must be why the Bolsheviks short-circuited “all power to the workers' councils”and insisted on centralised ideological direction...
Dearest kitten, you are right. Of course you are right, it is because the leninist ideology guarantees to social professionals the escalation of their own managerialism into a totalised way of life, that this fraction is undone exactly by the mere reflection of itself in its ideas. The simple self-affirmation of the leadership role in practice realises itself by continually reproducing a wishful consciousness for the efficiency of jacobinist institutions....
Oh mama, then at no point might the marxistleninist turn be considered by prorevolutionaries to be anything other than an implementation of a revolutionary transformation which leaves everything as it is. Might we not characterise the Bolshevik ideology as a partially desublimated egalitarianism, but also an ideology which nevertheless cannot contain its all-consuming class hatred against the workers beyond the representations of them?
Dearest kitten, from the start the Bolshevik counterrevolution sought to channel social upheaval into its reconfiguration of political economy and thereby convert revolt into abstract labour. As its purpose was to retain class distinctions it always made its interventions count against the direct seizure, and thus the undoing of, production’s command over lived life. The Bolsheviks’ strategic goal was always to integrate the general economy with the specifics of its own political power.
Oh mama, I do think the counterrevolution is too clever for us. After all we can only go on what people say before they are in power. And if the left wing is talking of radical change, in the same way in which we are talking of radical change, then how can we ever separate ourselves from them? How can we be sure that we are not aiding them in their pursuit of consolidation?
Dearest kitten, do not become prematurely despondent. We should not resign ourselves to coming face to face with this devil only at the moment of the Supreme Soviet’s triumphant centralisation, on the contrary. The signs of the left wing’s complicity, of the determination of its ideas by its class position, occur almost at every point in its interventions, which it calls “politics”. It is simply a matter of knowing how to look.
Oh mama, then please give me the clue for even now there is an encroachment from the shadows.
Dearest kitten, then study hard these words of an intellectual, they are a common enough formulation; tell me what you find in them: But the thematics of the crowd are only a manifestation of what Lenin called spontaneism: an uprising will achieve nothing without organisation. Zizek has recently reminded us of this; recalling the Events of May 1968, Derrida will also voice a similar concern: he disliked “vibrating in unison”, he says, and even then, the Events are not yet a politics.
Communism remains etiolated unless it joins the call to go outside with a determinate political programme.
Oh mama, this is less the philosophy of the firing squad (in which, after all, one might find some merit) than it is a philosophy for the firing squad. This one makes arguments for the Committee of Public Safety like it was 1792.
Dearest kitten, one more step if you wish to become a dialectician.
Oh mamma, then it is to the details that we shall turn; the author advances with his bootlaces tied together, he purrmits hostile comment on the crowd but is unable to quote the crowd’s critique of its would-be leaders. With this omission he demonstrates his class antagonism towards the crowd itself.
Dearest Kitten, the call for organisation belongs to the organising classes, the middle managers, the social professionals, the state’s well-educated functionaries. “Organisation” is always a call for the suppression of the crowd’s key character—so it is that the purpose of the left wing is the reintegration of the crowd as a harnessed use-value, the tortoise is turned over.
Oh mamma, and the dream of the left wing is that the crowd under the stewardship ofthe party becomes a local expression of the state's will.
Dearest kitten, now pause a while and I shall reiterate. It is true that the pursuit of organisation by the left wing indicates a class hostility towards the crowd, and a fear of its crowdness. It is the eruptiveness of the masses that it wishes to undo.
Oh mama, then what is this dead bird, “a determinate political programme”?
Dearest kitten, again and again the left wing seeks to curtail the Events and bind them, reduce them, into a mere energy source for its profane politics. Such is the expedient beauty of the crowd and how it appears in great men’s resentful thoughts. But our knowledge runs against theirs, we know that communism is Events or it is nothing. We know that the crowd is always sufficiently organised within itself, as it opens itself, and becoming the vessel of the Events’ unfolding. Communism begins in the crowd and flourishes in the crowd’s spontaneous becoming towards objective events. It realises itself in the supersession of the political sphere just as communism is properly the supersession of all mystified and alienated class-based institutions...
Now, dearest kitten, tell me, what is our purpose?
Oh mama, it must be to confront the left wing for it is the left ideology and its promotion of political solutions that is most intimately bound with capital s mystification of ideas.
Dearest kitten, then what is the first of our critical tools?
Oh mama, it is that we shall identify the counterrevolutionary as the him who quotes lenin approvingly, and in full knowledge of Kronstadt. And in contradistinction to the left wing we identify ourselves as being of the crowd, and in
our resolution never to think from the position of the state's reasoning.
Dearest kitten, well done. The lenin quoter observes the crowd down the barrel of another’s machine gun. His watchword is “shoot them down like partridges.” And so to our watchword... speak it.
Oh mama, it is: no common cause.
Dearest kitten, no common cause, well done, and now you shall have some pie
Gertrude of Civitatis:
It is the field. It is the field that is decisive, not the measures taken. No act, no arrangement of acts, has a transformative significance belonging to itself. No act has sufficient power of itself to impart a meaning to the scene. No act may dictate what will and will not happen within the scene. It is the field. It is the field only that is decisive. It is the field that arranges the acts and apportions significance. And for this reason we took the measures we did in response to the field of possibilities presented to us.
Margeret de la Porete:
And when the measures have been taken and the field has apportioned significance, what then? When nothing has changed, what then? When the field has swallowed the acts and left no trace of them. When the field remains and the acts are lost.
If it falls to the field to make the final critique of the measures taken, then it is also the case that each field’s extinction is demonstrated by acts determined and arranged by succeeding fields. Therefore, the significance of acts is often only awarded long after their immediate manifestation. The future arrives in ones and twos, such early blooms are not the cause of Spring but indicate patterns of change, of which they are the first sign.
Then the measures taken are separated from the field in which they appear. The sisterhood returns significance to acts even as it insists on placing them in the field. It is the measures taken and not their field that excites us. We displace significance to future “fields” but we have no better knowledge than anybody else of the formation of these fields.
Hedwig of Bratislava:
Sister, the question concerns both transience and also the anticipation derived from previous experience. We have adopted the frame you have set for us. You said before that it is important to form a structure by which we might retain something of that which would otherwise be wholly forgotten.
I have said before that all described heretic positions are quickly overrun by more powerfully determined external fields. That the environment in which we appear is itself in motion. Because of this shifting in the landscape the positions of our sisterhood quickly function against the original intention we set for them.
Whilst we agree and understand that almost everything we now consider to be significant will later be shown to be irrelevant I am also able to see that through restricting the flow of our losses, by dismantling our structures ourselves, we are able to retain an energy, a root at least, to generate new fields.
I think here that you still mistake the nature of fields and consider them to be derived from acts. This is not how reality works, fields develop by a process beyond the scope of the measures taken. Our acts are only ever manifested at the level of responses to the field in which they appear. Even expressive spaces are developed through necessity, each new environment responding ‘naturally’ to an environment of environments. It is not possible, as you seem to suggest, to invent worlds. It is not possible to impose a fantasy world and then fill it with acts. There must be reality.
As you well know, that is not what we are talking about. This is not about inventing worlds. We are drawn towards our engagement with the field, and seek to impose our interest upon it. We are compelled to participate in spaces which must contest the dominant value permeating the field. We are driven to evaluate, in terms of resistance, the appearance of acts within their environments.
As I have said, you are bewitched by a fetish of our acts and in turn seek to conjure fantasy worlds that are more responsive to acts than they are constitutive of them.
That is how you see it... but speaking for the others,
I think we are more interested in the significance attributed to acts in the environment in which they appear. We are also interested in the acts of environments, that is the process of environments, or fields, moving against each other within the greater environment. As you have said before, I am aware that as the field is expanded our power to influence it decreases. The three of us do not disagree with this.
I have said that the wider field, ultimately, exerts the greatest pressure. Now, who will give an account of the measures taken and of the field in which they appeared.
This is my account. I begin from the assumption that natural entities seek their success within the environment in which they find themselves, whereas historical entities attempt to change those conditions which thwart them.
I will say nothing against that...
Of the wider world I say nothing. I make no pretensions to our having any effect beyond the immediate environment of which we are an immediate product.
I think that is a good decision...
The milieu of prorevolutionary practices is typically determined by the wider environment and therefore expresses its theoretical fragments in accordance with those determinations. However, upon occasion, the milieu escapes this determination and is capable of generating practices that do not simply reproduce the world as it is now.
You imagine that the measures that have been taken belong to the occasion when the milieu escapes its restrictions?
This is the twofold character of our intervention: firstly, it is our intention that the milieu’s captured residue is exposed to itself wherever this residue has been overlooked; secondly, we seek always to formulate the organisational form most prepared for escaping set conditions.
What is it then that we have done to effect this transformation of the milieu?
To those who have announced, “through commonality of purpose we will change the world”, we have advised instead that they must, “do nothing”. To those who have conceived consciousness of communist values to be constitutive of the revolutionary subject, we have argued that subject positions are not put on like a costume but are allocated by the social relation.
And what difference did that make?
It made none; so far it has made no difference to how the milieu conceives itself.
Then, to whose advantage is this intervention?
To ours firstly, as individuals, to my advantage and to all of us. Our existence has been enriched because we have engaged seriously and with true hearts. This is the process of communisation, we have instigated and sustained relations which refute our conditions. Beyond that I cannot evaluate, I cannot name the others who have benefited from our continued presence.
It is as well that we do not seek followers, there be-
ing none, but nor have we discovered others similar to ourselves...
Perhaps there are no others. Nevertheless, the significance of acts is not wholly determined in their reception by the immediate context. Often the intervention, if it is able to survive long enough, will find its place in later scenes.
If we are to speak to others who will come after us the effectiveness of our message is possible only if transmitted by human agency. Somebody must carry our acts forward.
The commitment of others is not necessary for the transmission of ideas. There is also chance. And there are resurgences, apparently from obscurity. There are, for truths, irregular, whirling orbits. There is slow movement: dry rot, rust, erosion.
But this is nothing to put your faith in.
Our interventions have material form, even if we had buried them in an earthen jar they would still persist as a possibility, to be realised in discovery. If fire is a natural el-
ement, the constant tending of our flame is not necessary.
Then, one of you, please tell me how the interventions that we have made are to our own advantages.
We have gained insight into structure. We have come to anticipate process.
You are talking of the experience of complications in life.
There was a moment, which we recognised as a verdict made by the scene upon ourselves. We have since observed the pattern of this critical verdict as it has been passed on to others. We understand the verdict of the scene as a crisis of the values which we once carried, in simple faith, out into the scene.
Our simple understanding, the story we told of the world and how a state of communism might be manifested within it, was challenged at many points. As we addressed these challenges we progressively found our understanding to be insufficient.
Both our actions and our ideas became snagged on the complexity of reality; we realised that if we were not to refuse our new understanding which our predicament caused to flourish in us we could not in good faith simply reassert our old simple ideas.
The choice then became clear, and we saw that it was a choice that is gained only from experience. We were confronted by this question: either we accepted the complexity of the world as the final defeat our ideas or we had to rethink our critique in terms of our experience.
Margeret de la Porete:
Then, how is this personal gain significant to the milieu?
We have historicised the decompositional process of the milieu, which previously has been understood as natural wasting—a loss of faith. However, we have shown that what is called burn out, resulting in the continuing loss of individuals from the milieu is neither inevitable nor is it inevitably harmful to milieu structures.
You mean that by anticipating our own disaffection we have somehow mastered and transformed it.
We have taken the energy of decay, which is the verdict of the scene enacted on our formations, and used it for our purpose.
You think this insight is applicable to the formations that are adopted within the milieu, and will aid their resistance to recuperation.
I now see our interventions as symptoms of our own decomposition. I now see that this decomposition is unavoidable within both individuals and formations but that the process of decay itself is of ambiguous significance.
The continued presence of all those within the milieu who have lost commitment to communism would prove harmful to it. The domination of milieu positions by cynical old men closes the circle of capture. This has happened more often than it has been avoided. It has become something of a tradition for revolutionary groups to be reduced to expressing the interest of reactionary leaders who have refused to let go. It is better for groups to disintegrate than continue as a travesty.
I do not talk of continuity, of patriotism, of loyalty. I
do not talk of maintenance of the organisation beyond the organisation’s specified purpose. I have made my opposition to the concept of the church clear.
Then, how is the process of decomposition to be contained within the milieu beyond simply articulating to the organisation the process of capture of the organisation?
The field that contains acts and apportions their significance is the most important factor at any specified juncture. The decay of actions, of individuals, of formations, of ideas, is imposed by the wider social relation. Such decay is inevitable. All positions end as positions belonging to the social relation. Even so, positions that have become aware of their conditions, that understand the process that they are a part of, are more capable of holding back internal elements from capture by the dominant relation, even as they are thrown down by it.
You counsel orderly retreat over unruly rout. But what are the specific means of controlling this decay?
Through perpetual modification of the structure of the formation.
In changing the organisation’s formal codes we inhibit its reduction to the simplified commodity/police lines through which it will be captured and made to speak for the social relation.
Through understanding the process of how formations are reduced to the terms set by the social relation, we are better placed to slow it down.
The interventions that we have made are not wholly captured by the terms of the social relation because they did not follow the path set for their decomposition.
Elements of our positions have not fallen away in the manner that would be expected; our interventions are still reproducible within and for the milieu, they are now transformed into the roots of new positions.
This is not for you to say, it is only conjecture. What you mean is that our interventions have not yet found their moment, and on your evaluation they have not fallen into ruin as expected. This is not to say that they are not recuperated... only that you cannot grasp how they might have been.
I assume that they have decayed but not on the terms set for their decay. They have decayed within the context, within the milieu, and so retain some root-like aspect. They have stayed in place. They have not been made to speak for the social relation.
Then, what does “decay” mean here? You want to separate it from capture. As if it could decay but remain free of the social relation.
I say only that the positions defined have not been overrun, even if they have fallen into disuse. They have not been put into active use by capital.
Then, they are irrelevant. It is the definition of irrelevance.
Perhaps, for others, yes they are irrelevant.
But also not irrelevant, because we have discovered positions which have not decayed as expected, which have not been overrun and made to function against their stated purpose.
It is not the content of the positions that is to be judged relevant or not but that we have found other processes in the world not included within the temporality imposed by the social relation.
Such are the lessons of marginal phenomena.
Through careful attention to the means of capture, and to the control of the decay process, something within our acts, perhaps temporarily, has been held back from capture.
You are arguing for an inherently resistant form... but in reality it is only the marginal status of our position that allows it to continue on its own terms. If it was to be moved centre stage it would be torn to pieces.
But marginal elements are only centralised in moments of social crisis. In that case our position will have found its place.
But when there is no crisis, the position remains inert, it does not antagonise the social relation, it has no traction on reality.
For the moment, these non-captured fragments have become feral, they are unpredictable, and persist, we admit, even beyond the category useful. We do not say these elements constitute a step forward because although it is true they are not dead it also cannot be said that they are truly active.
In one sense, they are mummified, in another they are merely dormant.
In either case capture has been avoided and because of this other formations have become possible. The effective significance of these next formations also will not be decided directly by the formations themselves.
“...they will be resolved again into their own roots” The Gospel of Mary
You Say, I Say
Thomas says: I am a little tired.
Simon Peter says: Wearied?
Thomas says: Yes. I am somewhat at a loss.
Simon Peter says: Because you have not made the connections you had hoped for?
Thomas says: I have not made the connections. I did not hope.
Simon Peter says: There are not many as reckless and fanatical as you.
Thomas says: I think you are wrong in that. There are many fanatics and just as many who are reckless.
Simon Peter says: It is true that anyone who embarks on credit payments, for example, is recklessly fanatical. Thomas says: Yes, that is true.
Simon Peter says: So the fanatics are not of your hue? Thomas says: They are and they aren’t.
Simon Peter says: Perhaps it is not a question of fanaticism, you are too careful.
Thomas says: Yes, perhaps the disconnection is caused by my being too careful.
Simon Peter says: And there are not many as careful as you.
Thomas says: Perhaps again.
Simon Peter says: So what is it then this earthen cup. Thomas says: I have told you before.
Simon Peter says: Tell me again.
Thomas says: earthen cup embodies that which is yet to be embodied.
Simon Peter says: All that is excluded in the discoursing of others?
Thomas says: I am too tired.
Simon Peter says: Go on, tell it again, and this time I will listen.
Thomas says: I have lost the thread of it.
Simon Peter says: I am listening.
Thomas says: I saw some hares in the distance, brown hares describing the hollows of the brown field.
Simon Peter says: A parable, but what is it about? Thomas says: You tell me.
Simon Peter says: You are talking of a solidification, the reverse of all that is melting into air?
Thomas says: You tell me.
Simon Peter says: I cannot. I cannot tell what it is that you feel is absent.
Thomas says: But it is in you too.
Simon Peter says: You are talking of rigour? Of a disciplined approach to the problem?
Thomas says: Perhaps again, I am too wearied to put it in your words.
Simon Peter says: I must put it in my own words. Thomas says: Yes, put it in your words.
Simon Peter says: A body, a solid body in the space where there was no body before.
Thomas says: If that is what you want.
Simon Peter says: Where there was no body before. And yet where the body has always been.
Thomas says: As you like it.
Simon Peter says: Am I getting closer?
Thomas says: I cannot tell what it is that you feel is absent.
Simon Peter says: Then together, your description and mine, and the descriptions of others. All of the descriptions of earthen cup combined together?
Thomas says: I am not sure now.
Simon Peter says: An enclosure, a named entity but empty, open, like a cup?
Thomas says: It is not for me to say; I am a little weary of thinking of it.
Simon Peter says: And I do not have the time to respond just now.
Thomas says: No, you do not have the time.
Simon Peter says: I am busy. You call for sacrifice but for no purpose?
Thomas says: I do not call.
Simon Peter says: You insist on self-sacrifice.
Thomas says: Perhaps, if that is what you think, a throwing of the self into commitment.
Simon Peter says: Not even the desperate will throw themselves.
Thomas says: I had thought that the desperate.
Simon Peter says: No, even for them, there must be demands and reasons, goals.
Thomas says: As you say.
Simon Peter says: And as you say. Because what you say ends discussion. You cause silence.
Thomas says: Yes. There is no time to respond to earthen cup.
Simon Peter says: You seek always to change the terms. Thomas says: I try to engage.
Simon Peter says: You seek to set the terms.
Thomas says: I try to engage.
Simon Peter says: You dictate. You force.
Thomas says: Perhaps.
Simon Peter says: earthen cup refuses the participation of others except on your terms.
Thomas says: No. earthen cup is not my earthen cup, it is not defined by terms.
Simon Peter says: It is closed by you.
Thomas says: Its form is not decided.
Simon Peter says: It is a closed form.
Thomas says: I have proposed it, I have not defined it. Simon Peter says: I can see that you have closed it. Thomas says: Its form is necessary only to the degree of its finding a shape.
Simon Peter says: It is closed.
Thomas says: It is a cloak wound about another figure.
Simon Peter says: It is closed.
Thomas says: It is a cup. An empty cup.
Simon Peter says: It is closed.
Thomas says: It is closed only to the point that closure ensures shape.
Simon Peter says: It is closed.
Thomas says: It is open.
Simon Peter says: It is closed.
Thomas says: What is open is held in place by what encloses it.
Simon Peter says: Then it is closed.
Thomas says: Yes, then it is closed.
We were saying how we would like to watch “Monty Python’s Holy Grail”. What we liked best in that film was how the knights didn’t have real horses and so the audience had to imagine them, we laughed as we thought of it. We agreed that the joke worked because of the absurd contrast between the serious faces of the knights and their silly horseriding impressions. In that moment we found the idea of it so funny that we started to pretend that we were riding horses.
Then we were sitting at the table, talking, like we don’t often do now, and we were talking then about theatre and about mental health. We talked about our kid’s production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. We had both noticed the tenderness between the members of the group and then you said you wished you could be part of something like that, the relations caused by theatre.
I said that Monty Python, and also the whole Sixties thing, had been based in a widening of the application of theatre. I mentioned “Les ballet des rues” of course and happening as the furthest end of a general social movement. I said that the middle class educated section of society learnt to de-code its received behaviour and that it livelied up itself by mocking at established authority from behind assumed masks. It was a kind of therapy for those involved. You said that a lot of people we know could do with something like that. I agreed, yes, why not?
I mentioned my idea for a brotherhood, that I had called earthen cup, the form of which would be determined by some type of ritual. You drifted into your own thoughts at this stage. You hate all that anarchist stuff, or at least the people involved. You didn’t want to talk about them. Then, as if from far away, you said, it is the deliberate investment in something that is not real that makes it work. It is the sketching out of an imaginary place and behaving within it as if it were real. It is the expenditure of all that rehearsed energy in one performance that causes the specialness. I agreed, it is its dissipation, a fog burnt off by the sun. There is no residue. It is about something special that does not last, and which is intended to be lost. It is something that cannot be repeated.
As a model of organising, you asked, what will happen to the group when all the effort and preparation has been spent in just one performance? It will have achieved nothing concrete, and isn’t struggle against the established order a long game? I said that the temporality belonging to the group, its energy capacity, could not be measured in generalised terms of necessity and anyway we could only make a decision like that when we found ourselves in that particular place. Yes, you said, but what do you think now?
I said, I think the energy field created by the group defines real territory but not at an everyday level. I said, in essence, it should be understood as the extension of possibilities for interpersonal relations under ritualised circumstances. You are talking about a magic circle, you said. I admitted, in effect, that I was. By adopting unreal personae, or masks, in a very tightly controlled environment, a laboratory for behaviours, the actants temporarily escape the economic determination of their existence. Using behaviours conditioned by imagined laws the actants are able to experience a diminishing of the control that is typically exerted over them by real determinations. Aspects of our selves that are conditioned to go unused can now be drawn upon whilst all the usual registers are momentarily disconnected. Think about it this way, I said, imagine if John Wayne had been forced to pretend to ride a horse in the manner of the Pythons... just think about that. We laughed again, we felt like celebrating.
I’ve just been picked up at the end of my round. The immediate feeling of relief. Sitting down out of the rain. And today I haven’t missed the cut-off. A good day. There are four others in the transit including Mike, the ex-union rep and tireless stickler for, and lay preacher from, the rule book. It was Mike who’d negotiated on my behalf that time, getting me back in the office, after I’d I freaked out and walked off the job. Management had been all for sacking me outright but Mike had other ideas and skewered them on my lack of training and some irregularities in their disciplinary procedure. Paul is also here. Paul reminds me sometimes of a European refugee homesteader, that mythic figure of the Western. He is the decent man whose predicament requires the intervention of an ambivalent agency, a Shane, a man with no name, someone unacceptable to defend his milk and water worldview. Both Mike and Paul are Christians.
We’re all under pressure at the moment and feeling it. The office’s new management are trying, amongst other reforms, to put the squeeze on the drivers and improve their productivity. We’re reeling a bit, not knowing where we stand. We’re up for the fight but not sure how far we can push it in the daily skirmishes. Paul, driver for four of us, is complaining about how many bags he has to drop for us, each perfectly timed or we bite his legs, and of the number of deliveries he must make in addition. He is well known for being a bit of a worrier but is not that untypical. There are very few of us who really don’t care about the job, most try and do the best they can, given such adverse conditions. We are pack-animals, says Geoff, nothing but their donkeys. That‘s us exactly, I think, we are donkeys led by lions.
Mike pours more soup from his flask and gives the agitator’s line, it’s like 1649 in our van (in response to the prevailing mood on the shopfloor, management have redesigned the throwing off frames to separate out the hard core). Mike advises Paul to “work your hours, and no more, and leave whatever is left”. It is, he reasons, the management’s problem. But Paul is not comfortable with this because, as he sees it, if you get awkward with them then management will get awkward right back. He’s right, we’ve all seen men ground down. If you take it to them you have to start watching your step, they will harass you, blackmail you, intimidate you. The niche you have carved yourself will be overrun and you’re constantly under the spotlight. An individually declared work to rule commences a war of attrition, you have little chance of winning it.
‘I don’t especially want to get involved in a confrontation,’ says Paul, on the other hand it seems not physically possible to do the job. Mike becomes all religious at this and tells us the story of Mary and her approach to the tomb of Jesus. Mary worries as she walks towards the catacomb, she is worried about how she will open it, and she must open it. The entrance is blocked by a great stone which she cannot hope to move, and yet burial custom demands she should dress Jesus’s body. She has nobody now, nobody who would be prepared to help her.
The closer she gets to the tomb the more anxious she becomes.
Shame mixes up with a sense of impending horror, she has reached a point of utter despair. Then, as she arrives at the caves, the place of burial, and is fully consumed by foreboding, she discovers the stone is already rolled away. She is confounded, amazed; her dark anticipations are suddenly removed and in a manner she could never have predicted. Mike says to Paul, “don’t worry so much about what might happen; you can rely on us to back you up.”
It makes a big impression on the four of us as we sit listening in the back. Nobody makes a joke. We are tired, Paul is choked up. It is not like conversations I am used to at work, usually banter must stand for “we’re alright”. Now it feels to me that we are at the very front edge of the class war, that our little tribulations have in this moment a world significance. Maybe the others feel something of the same, I know some are hungry for the whole thing to blow-up. The strike is all they talk about, sausages and flasks on the picket line.
As soon as I get home I look for the story in the Bible. Maybe I want to recapture what I feel is already fading and I am disappointed at first to find Mike’s version does not really correspond to the Bible’s. Only in Mark, where a psychological suspense element is briefly added to the narrative, does it converge with the way he has envisioned it for us: the anxiety is attributed to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother ofJames and Salome as they approach the tomb on the day after the Sabbath, preparing themselves for anointing the body of Jesus. In Matthew there is an account of the intervention of an earthquake, in Luke there is no discussion of agency, and in John the stone is seen by Mary Magdalene to be simply “taken away”. I discover the phrase, “even so, faith, if it has no works is dead, being alone”.
It was the day Simon Peter and Thomas, and two others visited the Hellfire Club’s caves at West Wycombe. It was the day they raised Ariadne. Thomas said, it has been tiring to play both the white and the black pieces. Simon Peter agreed and added, this is because we are always commencing our engagements from given positions. We are always playing the same first moves and never getting beyond them. But if we were to bypass these and begin in the middle of it. If we were to find the thick of it, perhaps by making a number of set assumptions about the board and the placings of the pieces in play. If we were to refuse the game as it has been presented to us, in its clean theoretical framework, and trace instead the lines we might find in the tangled wreckage. If we were to set forth, stage our intervention, already immersed. In a state of intuition. Then the game itself would appear less deadly.
Thomas saw this at once and said, when we set handicaps, stagger positions, remove pieces, invert rules, add clauses, orientate to different reference points, in short, when we twist it about its own matter, then we will escape these constantly maintained ‘introductions’ of the game to itself.
But wait, counselled Simon Peter, you may have gone too far there, you are coming close to advocating a theatre of effect and its attendant subject positions. You are thinking in terms of performance, of the world as theatre, of a new political ideology of theatre, and that is not at all in accordance with how I see it.
Thomas wanted to follow his own idea, we want to cause events where no events occur, we want to make things happen. We want to contest the spaces which were not contested before, where there were no spaces before. But that is not my thought, replied Simon Peter, that is not my idea of theatre.
But it is mine, Thomas said, we want to cause passions with our passion; we wish for the world to seem darker, duller, without us. Perhaps, said Simon Peter, perhaps that is our secret vainglory but I think you have confused two orders of theatre and are ending in advocacy of mere activism. You have simply recast current practice in different terms. For my part, I am not so much concerned with the intended effect of ‘performance’ on an audience as you have just described it. External reception of our ideas has very little significance. On the contrary, I see the effects which you wish to visit upon the world itself, a world ready and respondent to effects, a world which exists nowhere but in the theoretical conventions of activism, as having a much more restricted application.
These effects I would see as contained developments, measures to be taken for, or imposed upon, the milieu and nowhere else. And nor do I presume that the milieu, thus energised by such provocations, is in a better position to change the world. I say only that the techniques, which you wish to generally disperse but which I wish to contain within the milieu, will be effective only in causing the milieu to know itself better. And through interrupting the terms of its self-understanding the milieu would be more able to fall into line with itself, and find its proper shape.
If that is where we disagree, said Thomas, tell me where we do agree. Simon Peter replied readily, the purpose of ritualised association and the establishment of formal community amongst us, is to create both a cycle of accumulation, that we might not be condemned always to repeat basic banalities, and also to set the conditions, which become the procedures, by which our community might be ended. The rituals of association, the theatre of our community, causes us to symbolically re-member our connection amongst ourselves, and simultaneously forget the binds of the external world.
Our brotherhood, Simon Peter continued, inscribes a line which indicates an internal space over which we have power to make decision and blocks the ordinary power the world exerts over us. Thomas said, you advocate the continuity of the subject, your attachment to the accumulation of remembered pieces and names means you will surely import hidden codes that will eventually overwhelm this internal space with external impulses.
You are right, Simon Peter agreed, this is how all captured subject identities are reproduced. And this is the point at which our ideas converge. We have discovered that the reason for our creation of a group is never stronger than the reason for our attempting to dismantle it. Why? You already know why. But I will say it anyway, the purpose of initiating a cycle of accumulation is to sustain a defined internal space, the reason for then setting about dismantling the internal space is to preserve it from its capture. The overall purpose of this contradictory manoeuvre, first setting up the internal space and then undoing it, is that this is how the energy to create new internal spaces is sustained. By including a formalised moment of decomposition we maintain a certain level of control over the inevitable process of decomposition of subjects. A process which, ordinarily going untheorised and unrehearsed, ends in capture of all positions and the loss of memory of this capture.
We establish the rite of drawing the line, we establish the cycle of accumulation, and then we attack the space, we refuse the limits of our position. To put it bluntly, this is what we do anyway, this is how the milieu and the groups and positions within the milieu act upon each other but without recognising it. The milieu is defined by acts of creation and of dissolution, these are the defining characteristics of the individuals involved within the milieu.
Going to the People
In rejecting the current priorities of society, and the practices by which these are achieved, One Shoe finds himself in the predicament of having to rely upon others for both his physical and spiritual needs. He has nothing to bring to the others but his critique of the social relations that they embody, a critique which they view as unhelpful complaint. One Shoe is distinguished before the others only by the fact that he has no useful contribution to make, he is empty handed, and lame. He will slow the others down, they do not need him. The others have very far to go and it appears they must travel quickly.
The question of the burden of One Shoe causes a predicament for the others equal to that which he experiences in relation to them. If they take him with them he will slow them down—after all he has nothing positive to contribute, and worse, he continuously causes trouble amongst them. But then, even if he is a pain in the arse, he is also one of them. They find that they are bound to him.
In moments of hardship, the first thought is to lighten the load, the first thought is always in favour of abandoning burdens. But first decisions inevitably cause second thoughts. The others are confronted by the question of the intimacy of connection between them all. In ways that they cannot directly understand, it is through addressing the complications caused by One Shoe that the others discover who they really are. His reckless intransigence draws out from them their capacities for supporting each other.
Going to the People
The intervention of One Shoe is a matter of realising predicaments as ends in themselves, and of dragging others into them too. However, once the collectivity has arrived there, after One Shoe has announced that the goal is achieved, this accidental leader, the one who caused all this, merely laughs, or looks resigned, or drinks himself into oblivion. His spell is fractured. Their enchantment fades.
The others step over One Shoe’s body and go back to what they were doing. One Shoe is fated to achieve his vision, his utopia which is shared excitation. His achievement is neither a good nor bad thing, it is just what he does, it is his role. And it is the role of others to either become involved with him, or not, and it is their role then to carry on afterwards. The absurd and, to them, suddenly alien reminder of One Shoe’s folly, remains in the middle of their village ... bullet holes in the church wall; they are changed but cannot say how. The world is subsequently either smaller or bigger to them. One thing is sure, next time they will be on their guard against One Shoe. They will never respond in the same manner again.
Their good will has become precisely immune to that particular provocation.
Death appears as the harsh victory of the law of our ancestors over the dimension of our becoming. It is a fact that, as productivity increases, each succeeding generation becomes smaller in stature. The defeat of our fathers is revisited upon us as the limits of our world.
Yes, structure is human, it is the monumentalisation of congealed sweat, sweat squeezed from old exploitation and represented as nature, the world we inhabit, the objective ground. We do not, in our insect-like comings and goings, make the immediate world in which we live, we do not make a contribution, on the contrary we are set in motion by it; a generation will pass before what we have done, as an exploited class, will seep through as an effect of objectivity. (Our wealth is laid down in heaven.) The structure of the world was built by the dead, they were paid in wages, and when the wages were spent and they were in the ground, what they had made continued to exist, these cities, roads and factories are their calcified bones. They had nothing but their wages to show for what they had done, who they were and what they did has been cancelled out. But what they made has continued into our present, their burial and decay is our present. This is the definition of class hatred. We are no closer now to rest, to freedom, to communism than they were, their sacrifice has bought us nothing, what they did counted for nothing, we have inherited nothing, but they did produce value, they did make the world in which we now live, the world that now oppresses us is constructed from the wealth they made, wealth that was taken from them as soon as they were paid a wage, taken and owned by someone else, owned and used to define the nature of class domination. We too must work, and the value we produce leaks away from us, from each only a trickle but in all a sea of it and that, for the next generation, will thicken into wealth for others to own and as a congealed structure it will be used to frame new enterprises in different directions. The violence of what they produced becomes the structure that dominates our existence. Our lives begin amidst the desecration of our ancestors, millions of people who went to their graves as failures, and forever denied experience of a full human existence, their being simply cancelled out; As our parents die, we can say truly that their lives were for nothing, that the black earth that is thrown down onto them blacks out our sky.
Revolt is permanent, irreducible. It is a spring of perversity that does not run dry. If it has been duped today, it is renewed tomorrow. It has no memory, it has no history, no value, no allegiance, it goes uncalculated and is unpredictable. Revolt persists on the other side of every fence that could be built to include it.
from Brief Statements on Revolt and Structure
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