If you happen to have a taste for researching esoteric technical subjects, the web naturally offers a cornucopia of material. Especially, it seems that many if not most of the PhD theses of the last thirty years are online. If find one of these theses interesting, you might be tempted to further Google the author. Naturally, you find some authors have a trajectory, winding up famous as professors or otherwise. A larger number have a shorter trajectory and many show few references beyond the initial thesis. As you would expect in capitalist academia, which sorts the masses from the celebrities in all of its competitive fields. Of course, academia is as steep a competitive “climb” as popular music or professional athletics.
But whatever approach a given young thinker might have had on a given problem naturally followed the trajectory of said thinkers’ career.
I’ve used the term “communist” to describe myself and a small group of similarly minded folks. While I’m happy with this term as a reference to the historical communist left, a tendency which arose against what most people think of a communism, I certainly understand that for the average person just wanting a quick summary of what we’re about, the term might give a wrong and even an opposite impression of what I’m aiming for. If only the goal mattered when I was talking about our small, informal tendency, then “anarchist” would be just as informative. But neither would be very informative for our average person wanting that quick summary.
And there we have the quandary. The dynamics of this society produce a situation where just about any label one comes up with is going to be distorted into something awful by the need of every active salesman to attach his product to any given term having a positive spin to it – look at how horrible almost everything that is today label “community” really is.
There is more to this situation, however. Our critique, put into a full sentence rather than a single word, is that this society involves reducing nearly everyone’s activity to labor-power to be sold and reducing each person’s condition to the point that they (very barely) satisfy their needs by buying commodities – the product(s) of this alienated labor process. This situation means that “we” are reduced to workers and consumers (often simultaneously). And the reduction to consumers part here means there is no real “we” in the sense of a collective power, a collective decision making ability. So, if we look at the “average person” trying to understand our theory, we’ll see an “idea consumer”, a person wanting a discreet, cut dried recipe for “change”. However, our aim, which naturally goes along with our critique, is not to create a small in this society but to reverse the dominant order. The reverse of this world would be a society where an empowered collective, a community-minus-the-bs-versions-of-so-called-communities, would be the way people met their needs and the project of nearly everyone in the society. Further, since the main problem is how do we get there, our answer is through something like a spark of collective power (a spark that would have to become conflagration, though the transformation seems fated to be unpredictable). And thus, the point where people are taking action to create such a new world is the point where they will begin to active collectively and will stop being workers and consumers, stopping looking to recipes to solve XYZ problem so they can go back to work or back to shopping.
We aim to engage people at the point of, on-the-verge-of, real collective empowerment. What we want to be a part of and inspiration from is this process. My speculation is that dialogue, explanation and provocation will almost go hand-in-hand here. Further, when activity begin, what will be most important for our discussions is that we lay out our ideas clearly and succinctly for those willing to make the study. However, we may have to wait till then for many people to be interested in doing that. We reconciled.
Me: I suppose that “being published” is a feather for very desperate caps too. XXX isn’t selective except politically and not much then. The thing about this, is, if these people using dodges to get published were like people talking about what lines to give the welfare office or unemployment to keep the checks coming, it would be cool.
But the academic racket is somewhat different.
Me: I’m joking and serious.
All the service industry has the question, what loyalty do you have to the racket? The question of purely quantitative versus qualitative exploitation seems large in the modern world.
At what point does the “ideological laborer” refuse their conditions of labor?
The modern production system incorporates a huge amount of people in labor whose ultimate aim is maintaining some combination of policing and propaganda – ideological labor. We expect that some portion of these folks will refuse their condition. How will we negotiate that process of refusal, which would pretty much have to involve at least biting the hand that feeds you?
Jaque Camette wrote
“Communism is not a new mode of production; it is the affirmation of a new community. It is a question of being, of life, if only because there is a fundamental displacement: from generated activity to the living being who produced it. Until now men and women have been alienated by this production. They will not gain mastery over production, but will create new relations among themselves which will determine an entirely different activity
Which is, uh, interesting. Camette was at one time a rather orthodox Bordigaist but went to create his own approach. The standard Marxian approach is that communism a mode of production and that more or less as humans exist they will produce themselves along with their material conditions. Now, what a statement like the quote above appealing to many people is that it disavows any connection between a world and present process of production with its factories, call-centers and shopping malls. And we-modern-communists certainly do not aim to self-manage this order or to build anything similar to the former Soviet Union.
At the same time, describing a communist society as involving only a return to a static community misses the way in which a communism community would involve a continuous process of self-transformation. A communist community will not be a static entity but a process of people consciously transforming their entire conditions of existence – we would not just satisfy our desires but understand and change the circumstances that give rise to our desires (a simplistic example would be creating a cuisine which could make healthy food also the most desirable food).
But this language question also relates to the question of how we communicate. What I would claim is our best communication strategy is to state our position literally and succinctly without “softening” it for one or another audience. It is appropriate to make our explanations shorter to be understanable but we shouldn’t worry too much about the sense of the terms we use since we will always offend someone. The thing is that modern ideology uses both the justification of scietism and the justification of touchy-feelly new age irrationalist mysticism. We should never pander to ideologies which say “how I feel is more important than any logical argument about subject X”.
Indeed, the present regime of alienate labour is quite able to extract and sell as a commodity, any fragment of human activity – and thus any pure quality separate from collective process of change. Thus this society can glorify mindless on one hand while making gestures of longing for the loss of a pure primitive community distinct from the real messiness that real communities.
This blog is put out by me, Red. A pseudonym but one that goes back at least twenty five years to the initial publication of my zine, Against Sleep And Nightmare.
I’ve been influenced by the Situationist International and various anti-state communist/left-communism/communization thinkers (especially Gilles Dauve).
The ideas of “The Communist Left” go back to those tendencies which broke from the Bolsheviks over the nature of the Soviet Union after 1917.
An important aspect of all these tendencies is seeing an entire arc, the entire trajectory of the struggle of dispossessed from the beginnings of an explicitly anti-capitalist, anti-wage-labor movement until the present day.
In the transformation of society that the dominance of capitalist relations has brought, one important change that has occurred is that people, working class, technocrat and capitalist all have more and more to consuming their ideas rather than gaining from an organized group. We in modern political milieus affiliate with different ideas rather than serving any kind of apprenticeship in an organized tendency. Thus the anarchist milieu is something of a model for other political milieu and also for the more sophisticated consumption milieus. So, with this process of evolution, low and behold, an anti-state communist milieu exists. I could describe our tendency, (not to be confused with what existed in the USSR), “modern communism”, as a so-far imaginary coalition of all those who refuse wage labor relations. One thing that needs to be added is that in comparison to other conceptions of struggle, we don’t claim to represent anyone, and we are doubtful of all those who claim to be authentic representatives of the struggle of the dispossessed in this era. I could say more but I believe framing a situation very simply also has value.
This blog is something like effort talk about what ideas we would-be revolutionary communists can put forward as well as, naturally, to encourage more rigor and discipline in our approach.
What can we say about realism?
Anarcho-Syndicalism has been a marginal force for the last fifty years. So have we anti-state/left communist. Anarcho-syndicalism can plausibly claim to have a plan they want to put into effect. The only thing is that we anti-state communists can claim is that we are reconciled to just working to be as effective a force as possible at historical moments when we are still a minority. That is, being a useful minority in moments when large scale revolt may be on the table but when large scale *organizing* is not. If you look struggles from the last, say, ten years, this might actually look more *realistic*. Who would have thought? Of course, either tendency has “a long way to go” to be effective even as minorities.