The Inimitable Frere Dupont
Posted by voidmanufacturing on November 25, 2008
FOR EARTHEN CUP
By Frere Dupont
The individual consumption of the labourer, whether it proceed 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 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. [ – Karl Marx chapter 23: simple reproduction, Capital, vol 1]
To place some emphasis here,
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.
This evidently has not been the case since 1914; the whole apparatus of social control from the outsourcing of “training” from private enterprise to state education, to ceaseless “welfare” interference, to continuous regulation of industrial relations, all prove 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. On the contrary, the working class constantly prepares for its “return” to species being, it is perpetually packing its cases and getting ready to depart the scene entirely, but you know, the phone keeps ringing, somebody is knocking at the door, there is constant interruption of this reverting.
The working class does not reproduce itself by itself. In fact it continually reproduces its readiness not to be the working class. Social organisation at present is based upon the abandonment of the cycle of reproduction by both industry and proletariat, and has been taken on by the reforming impulse of the bourgeois state.
This means that if 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 “use value” or “labour power”.
The working class is determined by capital, it would not exist without the imposition of the capitalist social relation, just as the relation is dependent on it. However, the working class does not, cannot, reproduce itself as a constant, as a value within the relation, or as a “function”, that is as “labour power”. The working class does not reproduce anything except capital in the factories; it is the general social relation through its institutions that reproduces roles within itself. This means that the reproduction of labour power is generated within the proletariat by the institutions that unquestioningly serve the social relation.
To ensure that the proletariat remains a constant in the relation, to ensure that it stays in its place, huge resources must be invested through the state, otherwise the working class and the functions/characteristics assigned to it would break apart and cease to exist.
There is some other motor other than the set terms of the social relation which is at work in the “instincts of self-preservation and of propagation”, 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 back into the social relation by huge investment in social institutions. It is also recruited, deployed, channelled and tricked into supplying enthusiastic involvement in mad schemes and lunatic endeavours – as one or other patriotism. And what remains outside is often seduced by carnival, and burnt off as a gas.
A Nihilist Communism
So what does ‘being against dialectics’ mean? We cannot escape the world that is for sure. But equally, we cannot accept the world. I think this where nihilism comes in. Nihilism is the non-acceptance of current terms, it supposes that if there is to be communist society, in its most utopian sense, then existing social forms firstly have to be dismantled. Unlike the Russian nihilists that we know of, I am sure there were many other strands which have subsequently been erased, I don’t praise, supra-human or objective forces, I don’t think ‘science’ will overthrow the tsar, or that human beings must bend the knee to the tyranny of nature. I think these positions are rather projective and do not accurately articulate either objective or subjective conditions. I think these ‘nihilists’ were looking for a greater power, a bigger stick, a more tsar-like force to out-tzar the tsar, and in this way they became what you might have called ‘strategic nihilists.’ I find this to be a contradiction in terms, when I think of nihilism I think at the opposite scale, when I say I believe in nothing, I don’t mean that I believe in something else that is going to give present society a crack on the head, i mean I don’t believe (in anything). I try and think in terms beyond or outside of ‘belief’, I try to think and act in the human scale, I want things to be broken down into hand-sized pieces (that is not to say that I ‘believe’ that what I do is objectively significant or an example, it’s just that I refuse the role of ‘revolutionary’ which presents self-action as the solution and thereby reproduces spectacular representations of cause and effect). In this way I reject ‘strategy’ because a strategic outlook implies hierarchy, it demands that the strategist sees things not as they are in themselves but as units functioning within the bigger picture. I absolutely refuse the bigger picture, I do not set my pieces against the pieces of my enemy, I reject the game entirely.
The only point where I do coincide with the means to the end ‘overview nihilists’ is in the debate on whether change comes by modification and reform or by break and eruption. The activist might ask, doesn’t the reliance on an outside and unpredictable agency imply quietism and disengagement? I see no reason for this, those who resist present conditions resist present conditions and that’s an end of it. It is what they do, there is no need to add on to this resistance a set of higher aims, which must in the end drag back ‘resistance’ into negotiation’. There is no teleology, there is no movement, there is no representationalism in the rebels actions, there is only the act of resistance itself which has no significance but for those engaged. They fight for themselves, for their sense of themselves and they fight because it is what they are driven to. If they fight because they believe they can overthrow present conditions they are wrong, in that belief they reproduce present conditions.
…For my part I think it is better to be rid of those delusions that we may be rid of now rather than be disappointed by supposed allies at the critical juncture just because of some hasty agreement to the terminology of others for the sake of ‘solidarity’. It is better to be true to what we think now rather than attempting to second guess what will be appropriate in the future.
…if resistance is constituted in the terms expressed, what is immediately apparent in our everyday life, what grates our soul, then insurrection is an event not constituted in everyday terms. The ‘dialectical’ understanding of ‘revolution of everyday life’ is surely the supercession, that is the abolition of everyday life and its struggles not its ‘reclaiming’ or ‘self-management’ as is so often the anarchist formulation. It is simply not good enough to explain atrocity committed in terms of atrocity endured, if our intent is to escape all this…we should exist in a manner that they might find in us a stance that is…pro-human both individually and in common. Anything else is just strategy.
Having said all this, it is well to remember here the dead ends of the pro-revolutionary position. Firstly there is an absolute disconnection between the points 1. the current situation of the world; 2. the pro-revolutionary yearnings for another future; 3. the structural impossibility of pro-revolutionaries imposing their vision under current circumstances without reproducing previous ideological recomposition’s of the basic capitalist social hierarchy. The milieu must always exist between the closing walls and ceiling of these relentless conditions. Should it go to the people? Should it withdraw altogether? Should it form secret bands and disrupt the social mechanism? These are not merely rhetorical questions and may be answered swiftly: to the first we should observe that transmitting a libertarian consciousness under present conditions has become impossible, this has something to do with ‘information’ and something to do with replicating existing hierarchies within the anti-hierarchical message; to the second, another question what is withdrawal, where in the world is there to escape to? Thirdly, the armed struggle is inherently elitist and any possible disruption could not equal in magnitude capital’s own disruptions of itself.
Lines, Tendencies and Positions of Dissent
Each defined position seeks to draw to itself only those lines that reaffirm what it is. In order to sustain itself in discussion the position must access subsidiary lines of argument which immediately become the mainstay of what it, as a position, must be. But in defining itself as a position it also inadvertently draws to itself other minor or “neutral” lines which it shares with radically different positions. These neutral lines do not immediately effect a crisis within the position as a position because they are, for that moment, neutral. Even so, no subject position ever seeks to appropriate or rehearse those lines which actively contradict itself; this capacity for aggregating all lines together lies within the generality. There are positions taken up within an antagonistic moment but the antagonism itself is held within a specified formation of space and time.
It is within this capacity for aggregation of multiple lines, this general “tendency” to determine subjective reception of lines, that society is located. The decision to emphasise a line positively or negatively is a capacity of the subject position but the possibility of the position itself is determined by the general system… the position is fated, tragic. It is this clinging to its lines, this negligence of neutral lines, this active rejection of lines not appropriate to itself, that does for it in the end. Positions are fixed by lines but the transitory intensity of lines is attributable to the moments within the social relation and not by subject positions.
As an example, a “subsistence” position will not find itself arguing for “workers control”, on the contrary, it will clearly demonstrate how “workers” control” actually reproduces capitalism at the level of objective “production”. Subsistence as an anti-capitalist position is defined to a greater degree in its rejection of the anti-capitalist potential of workers councils. The knowledge of the subsistence position”s critique of “the left wing of capital” is remarkable and prescient. On the other hand, it is fated to find its own understanding blocked on how the categories of its solutions also “reproduce” capitalism, the lines of that particular critique make up the position which defines itself against “primitivism”.
The constitutive movement of the generality can be discerned in simultaneous appropriations of the same line, e.g. on council communism, by positions which in no way can be understood to be “subsistence”, the text “Self-organisation is the first act of the revolution…” by Theorie Communiste to name one. Certainly, several different defined positions no longer find it possible to advocate “workers” councils” as most left communist groups in the “60”s and “70”s once did. Something has changed; some of the lines which defined us then have since died. At the level of lines and their distribution amongst subject positions the mechanics of the generality impose almost any combination of divergences/convergences, the unlikely mutual owning of lines, unaccountable blindspots and blockages, then track-jumpings/parallel movements.
Coincidences within theoretical findings from different positions, such as that on “workers” autonomy”, may indicate a continued impoverishment of experience amongst those who reject capitalism or it may signal a shift in the general conditions which all “revolutionary” groupings are more or less determined by. Either way the phenomenon of lines going cold and how this gives the shivers to subject positions is significant. As we become aware of the strange, otherwise incompatible alliances that are caused by it, the question of what to do about it is evidently raised.
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 ‘comes to’ as organised within discreet ‘local’ structures that are intended, precisely, to prevent 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 which 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 their engagement with each other, and with the conventions of the place. 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 which 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 which 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 a particular moment. Access to, or awareness of, what has gone before somehow becomes an impersonal, or spiritual, authority in the present (there are always individuals who ‘know the score’, ‘professional northerners’, ‘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 precisely in terms of a pre-human 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.’ 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 particularly 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 sets of rules 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 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 inherited from, the experiences of others who are no longer present in society. The dead have bequested 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 to produce a sense of continuity in spite of productive developments. Our forefathers, the ancestors, appear amongst us so that we 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 prehuman 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 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 precisely 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 pre-human 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 seems 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 rouseauean 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 orientated 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. In fact, societies grow 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 precarity, 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 ‘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…” – The ICD-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, their’s 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 an 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 seem to adjust 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 precisely to 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 ‘A Brief History Of Disbelief‘, that atheism began in the Christian context through the development of alternative theist systems and post-reformation 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 which 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 orientated 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 on 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 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 which could not be wholly 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 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 ‘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 arranged denial. Nevertheless, the understanding of this few of why consciousness cannot be communicated in the manner that most activists imagine communication, is merely 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 that 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 pro-revolutionaries 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 orientated 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 is 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 purpose 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 processes of accumulation. Accumulations of wealth 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 is present in all human structure, even from the earliest, ‘most primitive’, 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. Therefore, it seems that members of the earliest of human organisations could not ‘just do it’, they could not simply ‘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 contextualisation, 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 may take place. Death is the harsh victory of the species over the individual but social organisation mitigates death by ensuring memory of the dead. 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, ‘anchored desire…’
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 self-evident – 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 antihuman framework, immediately encounters at least three significant obstacles to its self-realisation:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ‘pre-human’ 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 which 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 roleplaying 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, it causes the mask to fall, reveals the lie, the slackness, baseness, and hypocrisy of our world…”
Introducing Forward Unit
Earthen cup described the process of accumulation as the basis for the homeostasis of the self. All practice is possible because it both generates its form within previous practice, and because its end is directed towards returning and belonging to the self. Statements of self emphasise cohesion of parts, identifiablity of parts, fittedness of parts. Primarily, organisations described by the earthen cup model are concerned with what they are, and the continuation of what they are even as they contemplate change. A structure might call for open consideration of all possibilities, it might go so far as contemplating its own disorganisation so as to anticipate what will succeed it, but it is impossible for it to advocate self-annhilation and the removal of itself from history.
Forward Unit is not concerned with statements of self. It understands that the self is devoted to the problem of how to overcome its internal circuits and thereby connect with the outside. Earthen Cup cannot but place its internal consciousness as the problem of the world. So it is that revolutionary groups set themselves the task of connecting to the working class as a precondition for social revolution. This two step model begins by asking how to include the outside within its own circuits.
But the question, ‘how to connect?’ is merely an inheritance, or device, from a structure that operates by means of first isolating itself through self-definition. For that reason Forward Unit cannot ask the question, it cannot begin from defining its own identity. It must assume that connection is already established, or rather, that multiple connections are present in the world and that its project is less formed by the understanding of what things are (and deciding whether they are mutually compatible) as it is directed towards engagement with the already established relatedness of things.
Forward Unit is not a deconstructionist project, it has no interest in loosening the corsets of the self. It takes the condition of identity to be a product of an inevitable form of ritualised accumulation. Forward Unit does not undo Earthen Cup. Its interest lies in quite another direction, namely in the relatedness between structures and structures, structures and processes, processes and processes. Its focus on what connects rather than in ‘how to connect’ necessarily invokes a tendency to judgement and moral intervention. Forward Unit is designed specifically to intensify particular sets of relations whilst relaxing others.
Forward Unit assumes relatedness. The structure and mechanism of Forward Unit’s intervention within the field of relations can be grasped heuristically via the theory of Collateral Energy.
Forward movement and organisation:
In the essay ‘for earthen cup’ I discussed how organisations are set up and how they preserve their identity through the accumulation of wealth within established territories and procedures. All organisations share this earthen cup character.
However, earthen cup does not exhaust the possibilities for organised activity and in many cases, as I pointed out, it can actually inhibit them. The reason for this is that most organisations function retrogressively in relating their activity to their identity. In other words, an activity is deemed worthwhile, or not, through backward checking – if the activity maps the co-ordinates of established aims and principles then it is continued, if not, it is abandoned.
It is possible to conceive of organisation that is not based on backward reference to selection criteria but rather to a forward moving structure which attempts to engage the parameters of selectivity for success and thus alter them.
I would term this organisation Forward Unit. The purpose of this organisation is to anticipate or somehow bring on possible future conditions favourable to the human species. It would act as a commando or advanced guard movement, and would attempt to cause events much greater than its apparent capacities would allow for; this would be achieved by interfering in categories and events that have not yet occurred. It assumes that future events are less armoured by ‘what is’ than past events and that human behaviour is more malleable and relaxed/open to suggestion, less determined by past defeats, in the future than it is in the present.
I will further outline possible scientific bases for these operations in later posts, particularly with regard to lamarckism and natural selection, homology, steady state, the concept of relays and gates, collateral energy, honest signalling (amongst others). Also it will be important to define how such an organisation is ‘organised’ and who its members might be.
To briefly look at these last to issues. It has always struck me as strange that there are so few people who are prepared to abandon everything in the present so as to commit themselves entirely to speculative activity when so many are prepared to abandon everything for unrecognised retrogressive type conformity to past forms.
It follows then that membership of Forward Unit will be based upon personally experienced crisis which will propel them forward in their search for truer or more aneable conditions. Members must forsake academic careers and take up low paid or manual work. They must commit themselves to realise forward directed real projects in real time, unreal projects in real time, real projects in unreal time. Commitment to a set of principles is less important than commitment to hook with future occurrences and processes.
The earthen cup principle by which identity and cohesion is maintained by laying down accumulating levels upon each other is projected forwards, or inverted, by Forward Unit; just as it is the aim of the space program to undertake various operations under weightless conditions so it is the purpose of Forward Unit to establish communistic connections already operating in the future to thereby aid the selection and thus success of communistic mutations in the present.
It is not about pre-history, or a primitive state as such (which I do not recognise as being separate from our everyday existence). It does not suggest we are more human now than ‘they’ were then. It is much more simple than that, it means that there is always a prior specific, unconscious, context for any specific activity; it does not denote a cause or drive or motive of activity so much as a constant availablity of all that has led to that particular moment. We could say a sufferer from Tourettes is cursed by constantly mapping his speech back into the pre-human, and onto a constant set of transgressive co-ordinates. On the other hand, by conceptualising the pre-human, we might also see that this one with Tourettes is at the point of drawing something out of the prehuman that is unprecedented and vital (‘strong in him is the pre-human’, or something) – innovation occurs through breaks from very tight accumulative cycles of ritualised (mad) acts. You may like to consider the role of the ‘drone’ in music and how melody overlays it…