deleuzium tremens…

                                               …and guattaridity

A critique of Deleuze & Guattari

Translated by SamFanto from Le fantôme de Deleuze

(Original published on Friday, May 13, 2016; translation published on June 25th 2018)

“The difference between the common people and university professors is that the latter have arrived at ignorance after long and painful study”

– Oscar Wilde

Translator’s introduction

This was written at the time of the “Nuit Debout” (literally “Night standing up”) assemblies in Place de la Republique in Paris that took place, apparently against Hollande’s Labour Laws i . Many of the references will be obscure to anglophones, but I hope I have clarified most of them in the footnotes.

It seems worthwhile making a very brief resumé, here in this introduction, of some of the essential critical facts the author reveals about Deleuze :

1. He’s a direct product of the Gaullist state’s attempt to recuperate the movement of ‘68 by creating a university (Vincennes) where all the ‘radical’ academics could develop their abstract ideas in a ghetto separate from other student ghettoes.

2. In 1977 in Bologna, Italy, 6 months after the Communist Party had crushed the social movement with tanks, Deleuze and Guattari helped the Communist Party organise a cultural event over several days designed to recuperate that movment and show youth that it was into officially-defined «fun» to distract them from the repression of the revolutionary fun that had erupted in parts of Italy up till then.

3. From the end of 1977 till Mitterand’s election in 1981, Deleuze and Guattari did all they could to help Mitterand become president. Following his election they refused to back those who opposed Mitterand’s indifference to the crushing of the social movement in Poland, and Guattarri even accepted an award from Jack Lang, Mitterand’s Minister of Culture.

4. Both of them supported the more conventional state-oriented section of the liberation movement in the French department of New Caledonia and did nothing to condemn Mitterand’s order to kill in cold blood sections who’d taken French soldiers hostage, even when Mitterand’s government was cohabiting with the right.

The following is the main body of the text, which goes into some detail about the relation between Deleuze’s ideology, his social role, his practice  and his influence on modern movements and discourse.

***

There is something deeply corrupt in the realm of French radical thought. I use the term “corrupt” not in the moral sense, but in the sense of “spoiled” goods, spoiled as soon as they are manufactured, “corrupted”. The phenomenon obviously does not date from today, and the political and cultural spectacle offered by the Place de la Republique is only its most recent manifestation. In the supermarket of ideologies that has set up its stalls, postmodernism occupies a special place. More particularly Deleuzism, which, obviously, is one of the common denominators of citizenist ideology, recycled a thousand times and adapted to the tasteoftheday, reigning around the statue of the tutelary goddess of the French stateii, and which punctuates the speeches of fashionable politicians, starting with those of Lordon[iii]. Given the advantageous mythology that has ennobled Deuleuzism, attributed to it the title of subversive thought, and the role it currently plays, it seems useful to return briefly to the career of Deleuze and his acolytes, without pretending to be definitive, but noting what their positions were at the pivotal moments in history that they were confronted with. Because Deleuze is one of those people who, in the aftermath of May ’68, pretended to be philosophers engaged in original activities, pretended to open up avenues for reflection and action beyond the boundaries drawn and locked up by traditional activism. Although the positions he took do not exhaust the critical analyses and questions that we can apply to his conceptual “toolboxes”, the first depends on the second and reveal, in many cases, their meaning. Which is what today’s recyclers prefer to hide.

The university ghetto of Vincennes, prototype of the one currently situated in Saint-Denis, was instituted by the Gaullist government in order to neutralize the attempts of revolts which shook the policed world of the facultiesiv and to offer folding seats to somewhat atypical ideologues, atypical measured at least by the yardstick of the curates who at that time regulated the activity of the inner sanctums of the university. So Vincennes was plagued with those who were to become the quartermasters of postmodernism: Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari to take only the most known and most recognized in the circles of polymorphous militancy that appeared in the wake of May ‘68. Deleuze, until then a simple historian of philosophy, participated, beneath the curious look of an anti-establishment dissident dressed in blue jeans and refusing to give lectures, in the recovery operation. He could unrestrainedly deploy his conception of “committed philosophy, summed up in “What is philosophy? a pamphlet written later on with Guattari: “Concepts are not at all a given thing. Moreover, concepts are not the same as thought: we can very well think without conceptualising and, even, all those who do not produce philosophy, I think they think, that they think fully, but that they do not think through concepts – if you accept the idea that concepts are a term for activities or original creations. I would say that concepts are systems of singularities taken from thought flows. The philosopher is someone who makes concepts. Is it intellectual? In my opinion, no.

Such remarks, at first sight directed against the universally professed doctrinaire ideologies that prevailed at the university, did not question the role of the mandarins but renewed it under the pretext of accompanying the multiplication of the particular “fields” which, after May ‘68, were to constitute the objects of their research. A justification, therefore, for the same role, but more subtle and apparently more modest, thanks to the introduction of notions of flux and singularity, which have since become the tiresome banalities of postmodernist philosophy. Nevertheless, from the point of view of Deleuze and Guattari, if mere mortals were likely to think, thanks to them, they did not conceptualize to the extent that they did not philosophize! It was a great insanity, when revolutionaries of that epoch brought to mind the notion that to think in the full sense of the term, to think about the revolutionary transformation of the world, it was necessary to abandon the field of philosophy, to abandon the terrain of the sole successive interpretations and reinterpretations of the world which constituted the essential work done in prestigious faculties such as the Sorbonne, and the source of their notoriety. When the two accomplices then affirmed, in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, “that there is not, and never has been, ideology, they defended in reality their role of postmodernist ideologues. They unveiled what they were and what was the conceptual proliferation to which they devoted most of their activity, in the pure tradition of the French university, a squirrel cage spinning in freewheel, which you had to avoid entering for fear of losing all sense of reality. Unfortunately, this happened to a lot of people contesting this world who had begun to desert official courses in May ‘68. By filling the halls of Vincennes so as to listen to the latest fashionable jargon-spinner and to collaborate with them in the manufacture and polishing of their conceptual “war machine”, allegedly opposed to “the state apparatus”, they accepted being locked up once again in the university enclosure, and they abandoned even the minutest critical activity, in theory and in practice.

Indeed, in the courses given by Deleuze, the kernel of the ideology that had been formatted in “A Thousand Plateaus” and which was announced in his early works devoted to the history of philosophy, was already clear: the pretension of having gone beyond the dialectic of the negative in favor of plural affirmations, a priori carrying partial ruptures, whose “horizontal” networks and convergence should facilitate the emergence of something new, beyond the “vertical” horizon imprisoned by the traditional hierarchy of thought and action, formalized by the action and organization of the parties. A “Reversal of perspective” which was unparalleled, if you were to listen to the words of our two modest inventors, who “forgot” that, concerning matters dealing with appreciation of the role of parties, Simone Weil had expressed at the dawn of the 1940s, in “Notes on the general suppression of political parties”, far more interesting criticisms. In short, from their point of view, such “rhizomes”v were in themselves carriers of radicality, even without us really needing to question the objectives pursued. In May ‘68, the rebels had thrown out “Be realistic, demand the impossible!”. With a casual attitude, through their history of “rhizomes”, Deleuze and Guattari regressed towards conceptions reminiscent of the “possibilism” of yesteryear, defended by reformists like Bernstein, on the eve of the Great War: “The movement is everything, the end goal is nothing”. In fact, by the end of the 1960s, the two accomplices, without daring to crudely assert it as such, were already rather hostile to attempts at global subversion. They considered them generators of totalitarianism, as heirs of the “transcendence” appropriate to theology, taken up by rationalism, then by statism. As a result, they called for the creation of “planes of immanence”vi, in other words – spaces, networks and circles that, given their alleged radical positivity, did not even need to criticize the world of parties. It was enough for them to ignore them in some way. A posture that allowed the famous tandem to conceal the counter-revolutionary role held in May ‘68 by the French Communist Party and its subordinate mass organizations, with the CGT in the lead. The following will confirm this.

When the grotesque adventure of Vincennes in France was not even over, in Bologna, Italy, from the spring of 1977 onwards, the situation became explosive. State power, in the person of the communist mayor of the city, intervened with the armored trucks of the carabinieri (see, for instance,  this and this) [see footnote Z, not linked to but listed at the bottom of the footnotes].

Tanks for the memory, Bologna, 1977

In the autumn of the same year, with order essentially restored, all circles, groups and parties hostile to the revolution, including the Italian Communist Party, organized the huge political and cultural spectacle that delivered the final death blow to all that remained subversive in the still-living expressions of opposition. Many critical texts on the subject have existed for decades, for example “Proletarians if you knew” and, henceforth, the collective article: “Brief relationship on the decomposition of the counterculture in Italy”, dating from the mid-1980s, which shows the role played by Deleuzian ideology in putting a brake on movements.

As such, “The Declaration of French intellectuals” invited to participate in the show of that autumn, written essentially by Deleuze, is uplifting: We have never compared Italy and the Gulag. We have never claimed to take systematic action against the PCI[Italian Communist Party]. We have absolutely nothing to do with the new philosophers nor with their anti-Marxism nor with any anti-Marxism. We only see that the PCI is the first communist party in Western Europe to no longer be in opposition. We do not oppose the spontaneity of the masses to the organization of the party, but we believe in the constructivist character of certain leftist agitations which do not necessarily occur through the historical compromise.”

For years, the “sowers of plague”, in Bologna and elsewhere, were fighting the PCI, the party of order all the more dangerous because it still enjoyed the trust of many proletarians. The “historic compromise” had the function of facilitating the liquidation of the endemic subversive outbreaks that shook the country, including unleashing against them the most implacable state coercion. However, in “The Declaration”, the counter-revolutionary function of the “historic compromise” is hidden. The party that expresses it, supposed to be ignored by the apostles of “molecular revolutions,” reappears brutally as a force, which it is advisable to coexist with since it’s impossible to by-pass. Real antagonisms were thus repressed or even denied. Starting with the one between the party hierarchy and the spontaneity of the “plague sowers”. In Bologna, constructivist ideology having just been born was already dead. Its promoters, Deleuze in the lead, actually played the role of touts for the PCI and for all the groups that, like “Lotta Continua“, tried to avoid the return of the flames of revolution. “I believe that Guattari and I remained Marxists,” Deleuze said later in Deleuze’s “Negotiations”.vii The term “Leninist” would be more appropriate, given the positions they adopted in Bologna and subsequently after their return to France. Yet it was during the Bolognese period that the myth that the mechanics of the various postmodernist “toolboxes” Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, or even Derrida appeared as lighthouses of subversive thought. A myth created and amplified by leaders of autonomy like Negri.

From 1977 to 1981, Deleuze and Guattari turned most of their criticism against the ruling right. In 1977, in Le Monde”, they accused the Interior Minister, Bonnet, of preparing for the extradition of “German leftists”, starting with Croissant, the RAF’s lawyer at the time, as demanded by Bonn [ie the German government]. As early as 1980, on the eve of Mitterrand’s election, while giving their support to Coluche’s “scandalous” candidacy viii, they campaigned behind the scenes for the left [ie Mitterand]. Witness the “talks” at Vincennes, as well as solicitations in leftist and ecologist meetings conducted by Guattari, much more present in the field of militancy than Deleuze. At the same time, the most lucid revolutionaries, in perfect contradiction with the attitude of the handymen of the “molecular revolutions”, stigmatized the planned arrival of the left in power as an operation intended to facilitate the modernization of capital and the State, which the disconcerted right was no longer able to realize.

The pinnacle of opportunism was achieved with the remarkable presence of Deleuze, enthralled, at the enthronement of Mitterrand at the Pantheon. Then with the participation of Guattari, through Lang the demagogue, the setting up of political-cultural shows and mediations, such as “La Fête de la Musique”ix, intended to amuse the supporters of the left and to offer them circuses in the absence of bread. A story to make them swallow the bitter pill being prepared. In 1981, Deleuze caused another sensation by refusing to sign the petition launched by some “committed intellectuals” like Bourdieu, denouncing the “neutralist” position of Mitterrand during the coup in Poland by General Jaruzelski. The establishment of the state of emergency was intended to crush those insubordinates who were beginning to consider Walesa, the leader of Solidarnosc, as a strike breaker. It was categorised by the Elyseex as a “Polish domestic affair”. Deleuze, via “Libération” confirmed his intention not to “embarrass the socialist government that had just been installed.” Individuals pursued in Poland and who believed in the myth of France as a “Land of asylum” just had to go elsewhere! This has been well known since Henry IV: Paris is worth a Mass or two! And the Elysee is worth some Jesuitic mental restrictions and some adaptations of the ideology of “molecular revolutions” to the injunctions of the reason of State!xi As a reward, Deleuze received only grimaces of sympathy from Mitterrand. Guattari, on the other hand, more involved in the activities of circles close to the presidency, received from Lang’s hands, in 1983, the medal of Commander of the Arts and Letters. He accepted it “not as a reward for services rendered to the state”, but “because it was one of his close friends who gave it to him”. The unparalleled “subjectivity” of our opponents of “the objectivism of Reason” reached its final stage: the pure hypocrisy that characterizes the state’s minions.

Disappointment succeeded the enthusiasm. But heartburn sometimes accompanied by moral indignation, on the extraditions of Basques for example, were due to the fact that our incomparable philosophers, who had favored the coming to power of the PS [Socialist Party], supported by the PCF [French Communist Party], were not recognized at their true value as advisers to the prince. In their philosophy, there were certainly many “scales”, “variations” and “refrains”, to repeat the musicological metaphors they used to justify the opportunistic turns they negotiated depending on the circumstances. But, as far as their assessments of the signatories of the “Joint Program” were concerned, it was still essentially the same repetitive sound of the bell that resounded, despite the infamies they had committed in opposition, and then in power, in just four years.
In 1985, in the interview given to “The Other Journal”, part of “Negotiations”, Deleuze said: Many people were waiting for new types of discourse from a socialist regime, discourses very close to the real movements, and able to reconcile these movements, by constituting the arrangements compatible with them. New Caledonia, for example. When Pisanixii said, “In any case, it will be independence”, it was already a new type of discourse. This meant: instead of pretending to ignore the real movements so as to make them the object of negotiation, we will immediately recognize the ultimate point, the negotiation being done under the angle of this ultimate point, agreed to in advance . […] The role of the left, whether or not in power, is to discover the types of problems that the right hides. Unfortunately, it seems that we can speak in this respect of a real lack of power to inform. There are certainly things that excuse the left a lot: it is that the institutions of the civil service, the institutions of those responsible, have always been on the right in France. […] The socialists did not have the men to transmit and even to elaborate their information, their ways of posing problems. They should have made parallel circuits, adjacent circuits. They would have needed the intellectuals to intercede. But all that was done in this direction was friendly but very vague contact. […] The left needs free interceders, as long as it makes them possible. Which had been devalued, because of the Communist Party, under the ridiculous name of “fellow travelers”. “

In 1985 then, Deleuze was still looking for “excuses” for the left, on the eve of the first “cohabitation” with the right, under the presidency of Mitterrand, and to deplore the fact that state power does not do enough to appeal to him and his acolytes, for example on the colonial question in New Caledonia. He found nothing better to do than to support the Pisani [Mitterand’s Minister of New Caledonia] plan which aimed to negotiate autonomy with the opportunist leaders of the FLNKS and to isolate, or even liquidate, the radicals who were moving away from it. In addition, he ignored the fact that Guattari continued to play the role of politico-cultural interceder at the Elysee. Which led the same Guattari in 1987, in the middle of “cohabitation”xiii, to write, in the vein of a “multiculturalism” that is allegedly “specific” to the French nation state, the speech of Mitterrand at the Sorbonne on relations between culture and power, on “culture as a source of power” according to the head of state! A few months away from the Ouvéa xiv affair, where the shock commandos sent by the Elysee were instructed, through the implementation of the terror with neither phrase nor refrain, to remind the hotheads of the archipelago of the reason for the republican state.In the last years of his life, Foucault had predicted that “someday, the century may be deleuzien,” hoping that it might be Foucauldian too. Unfortunately, he was largely right and the following decades, the dreams of the postmodernists, which are our nightmares, took shape. The use of their conceptual “toolboxes” far exceeded the circle of French universities. They were recognized and recycled at will by not only many of the so-called protesters around the world, in academia in the first place, under the brand name “French Theory”, but also by managers of capital and the State, including by generals, members of military think-tanks. This is logical because Deleuzism had only ever examined the most rigid and traditional modes of domination that had been weakened and, in part, were already obsolete. In this sense, rather, it forecast what constitutes today one of the most sophisticated modes of organization of capital and the State, thanks to the creation and the multiplication of the miniaturized technologies allowing the linking of the atomized citizens and even the institutions that oversee them on the model of networks. Networks whose proliferation at the base of the social and statist pyramid in no way undermines the foundations nor the summit, the seat of power. On the contrary.


The editors of
A Thousand Plateauxwere half aware of it, as the following note shows: “The main characteristic of the system without centre is that local initiatives are coordinated independently of the central body. […] It even happens that generals, in their dream of appropriating guerrilla technologies, resort to multiplicities of synchronous modules, containing only the minimum of central power and hierarchical relays.” What they concealed was that Lenin, in the context of the Party’s conquest of power through insurrection, had already advocated this mode of organization since the revolution of 1905, the importance of which had, moreover, been pointed out by Clausewitz, in notes concerning the Spanish resistance at the time of the Napoleonic invasion. A mode or organisation that had been generalized at the time of the proliferation of nationalist guerrillas around the world, starting with the Maoist guerrillas in China in the late 1920s, “a nomadic war machine” par excellence as shown by “The Long March”.

In other words, contrary to what our two conceptual do-it-yourselfers claim, “war machines” do not constitute “arrangements” prior to the constitution of the “state apparatus” or who would be foreign to them and, consequently, who would be preferable to them xv. This was something already believed by Bataille, the main creator of the myth about the wild warrior without faith nor law, hostile to civilization and morality of Christian origin. Today, even IDF thinkers are furiously Deleuzian, like General Naveh: “Several concepts elaborated in “A Thousand Plateaux “ have become essential to us. […] They allowed us to account for contemporary situations that we could never have explained otherwise. […] The most important is the distinction that Deleuze and Guattari have established between the concepts of smooth and striated spaces […] that refer to the organizational concepts of the war machine and the state apparatus. The Israeli military now often uses the term “smooth space” to talk about how to approach operations in spaces as if they had no boundaries.” Something Palestinians will appreciate.

In fact, Deleuzism has never had the slightest subversive character. Contrary to what is affirmed by the attractive mythology that prevails today, and which is recycled and diffused unceasingly, as a predigested mish-mash, destined to be eaten by rebellious individuals, who are certainly sincere but generally young and naive, searching for ideas and experiences off the beaten track. This way of stuffing up the brain is intended to defuse preemptively any attempt to effectively break with the world of domination. On the contrary, it facilitates its maintenance under new, more presentable, costumes. Lordon, the philosophers of the bazaar and the politicians who surround him contribute knowingly to it, in the Place de la Republique, in faculties and in assemblies, with trade union leaders in the Trades Councils, starting with those from SUD. To varying degrees, they play the role of touts for the left of the official left, for politicians like Mélenchon who, of course, move behind the scenes of the puppet theater. Their call, “Why we support youth” which appeared in Lundi Matin”, criticized in “Hazan and the police, from Bolshevism to postmodernism” is the most obvious manifestation of this.

Moreover, “Lundi Matin” [Monday morning] is currently the site that repeats Deleuzian themes in constant loops to justify the unjustifiable. Its sulphurous reputation is perfectly usurped, like that of the defunct magazine “Tiqqun” from which it obviously recycles a lot of theses. One example amongst a thousand, taken from the article “Some axioms for Nuits debout”: The crowds at Nuit Debout do not turn their actions towards the media, the institutions or the public of the legal democracies; they tend on the contrary to constitute themselves as immanent strategic forces, with varied practices, whose organization and structures are gradually emerging.” A false statement, in the mind of the master of thought, which camouflages the sinister reality of the Place de la Republique. Namely, as “multitudes” that “emerge”, from multiple ideologies, each one more indefensible than the other, including the racialism of the PIR and the anti-Semitism that goes with it. All coexist and proliferate, under the pretext of not imposing anything unique to anyone, even as their mouthpieces accept and often renew the most shared discourse, that of sovereignism and statism, presenting the French nation-state as a bulwark against the rava0ges attributed to “neoliberalism”, “world finance”, etc.


“Lundi Matin” is the perfect expression, under a Deleuzian facade, of an over-ripe dish that intoxicates a lot of heads, which includes the appreciation of religions, above all of Islam. Bataille, the amoralistic adept of a dark and cruel mysticism “without God”, reviewed by Deleuze and Foucault, is thus mobilized in “The Real War” xvi, dated November 2015. According to the author, “we are not the first here to defend the ancient thesis that freedom begins with the fact of not fearing death, and that in this matter it seems that the assailants of last Friday are a little more emancipated than “us”. “ “Viva la muerte!” – in some way like the Falangists. To present the tech-savvy Daesh gunslingers as the heirs of the warriors of yesteryear, foreign to the cult of merchandise which “we” are subjected to as soon as we listen to rock music or drink beer on the terrace – to suppose that these warriors existed elsewhere than in the morbid imagination of Bataille – they’ve really not got an ounce of shame! They’ve written off the criticism of ascetic morality, well characterized by Nietzsche, in “Beyond Good and Evil”, as “the narcotic of priestly castes” aspiring to “the extermination of life”.

Since the majority of the articles appears to have been written by scribes who painstakingly recounted and copied Deleuze’s manuscripts, the managers of Lundi Matin used some famous people specialized in the art of evading questions and reconciling opposites, something aimed at raising the tone, at least that of the style. Hence the remarkable presence of Colson, the academic from Lyon who tries to rebuild anarchism on philosophy, with deleuzism occupying the place of honor, in the same way that Marx founded Marxism on Newtonian science. Colson already participated in the theoretical journal “Refraction”, officially libertarian, as an apologist for the Deleuzian “immanence plans”. Which enables him to justify his opportunistic stances, on Islam included – in Lundi Matin. And to cover up the enormities and even the racialist infamies displayed on this site.

To conclude, I know that the difference between the current era and the one in which Deleuze was rife is significant. Firstly, today, it is in some way the champagne socialists in power who have taken the place of the right following May ’68, and secondly there are no subversive surges to be liquidated, but, at best, manifestations of effervescence to calm down and handfuls of restive young people to whom the state has decided to inculcate a sense of civic duty, by force if necessary, as we’ve seen in recent weeks. Yet, without making easy analogies, it is necessary to recall what Deleuzism, which reappears in the Place de la Republique and elsewhere xvii , represents. Certainly, “experience is the lantern that illuminates the path already traveled,” according to the Chinese proverb. It cannot in any case serve as a substitute for the creative imagination in the best sense of the term, the subversive imagination, which is sorely lacking today. But at least it can be used not to fall back into known, well-known ruts. It is in this spirit that I have written these few paragraphs. Hoping to be able to share them with other individuals that can’t bear the world of domination and who wish to annihilate it.

Julius

Email: julius75@free.fr

Footnotes

i I wrote the following about Nuit Debout in Montpellier:

‘‘The first Nuit Debout in Montpellier was organized mainly by the CGA [Co-ordination of Anarchist Groups, a name which implies that all anarchist groups are affiliated to them, when in fact they represent only themselves]. There was a “stage” – that is to say everyone was facing the front and if we wanted to talk we had to go there and take the microphone (without cable) to stand up and address people as in the theater. The first 30 minutes concerned only the form of this Nuit Debout (commissions, etc.). After this boring discussion, someone took the microphone to suggest a change in form: everyone in a circle and the microphone passed to each person who wanted to talk, whist sitting down if they wanted to. He immediately proposed a vote, and a large majority agreed. It was only a change in form, a change that would have allowed people who are not used to political roles, people who were not experts in monologuing, to feel less anxious about speaking in front of a crowd. But the anarcho-bureaucrats of the CGA – ideologues of a so-called “horizontalism” that they do not practice – had already decided that we could not vote right away or even change the form of their bullshit, and refused to be diverted from the plan they’d already decided among themselves. Which shows that – even if these people talk about autonomy – they have, in practice, more connection with bourgeois-bureaucratic citizenship than with those who want to independently overcome the miserable separations of this citizenist shit. Their roles (anarchist preachers with a message to convert the middle class to anarchist critique, to recruit people to their organization – an organization that organizes the organization and its image) must always be preserved if they want to preserve the idea that they are indispensable to the movement in which they transform nothing, especially not themselves.” – from here  .

ii Marianne, a large statue of whom is at the centre of the Place de la Republique :

iv https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_8_University « It was founded as a direct response to events of May 1968. This response was twofold: it was sympathetic to students’ demands for more freedom, but also represented the movement of students out of central Paris, especially the Latin Quarter, where the street fighting of 1968 had taken place. »

vii « Pourparlers » in French

viii See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coluche#Presidential_bid In fact, the comedian Coluche was very explicitly against French nationalism and generally fairly « anarchistic » in what was considered a scandalous bid for the presidency, far more politically explicit than these kinds of candidates in other countries, like the Monster Raving Loony Party.

ix An annual day of music on the summer solstice which involves the local state giving loads of money for music festivals and lots of different bands playing for free at different locations in almost every single town and village throughout the country. Apparently since Jack Lang, Mitterand’s culture minister, initiated the first one in France this has spread to 120 other countries.

x Presidential residence-cum-palace.

xi This sentence is virtually impossible to translate, but the author has provided me with the following explanations:

1 / Concerning the reference to Henry IV: in order to be crowned King of France by the Church, Henry of Navarre decided to abjure Protestantism and become a Catholic. Which sanctioned the end of the wars of Religion in France. Hence the popular expression after his coronation; “Paris is worth a mass!” ie it’s worth being unprincipled and opportunist in order to have so much power. It’s often used as a metaphor, by Mitterand included, to justify political expediency. For example, during one of the speeches at the UN, to justify changes in France’s position on Russia, the representative of France said a few years ago: “But as a certain king said before the gates of Paris: ‘Paris is well worth a mass’.”
2 / The official definition in France of “mental restriction” consists of ignoring parts of reality, or parts of someone’s ideas, which misleads the interlocutors, something which is practiced a lot by the Jesuits (and politicians like Dauvé on the question of Holocaust denial!). In English, yet again according to the dictionary: “Mental reservation: The doctrine of mental reservation, or of mental equivocation, was a branch of casuistry developed in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and most often associated with the Jesuits. “
3 / “Some adaptations of the ideology of “molecular revolutions” to the injunctions of the reason of the State! “. The Deleuzian ideology, formulated from Vincennes, is based on the idea of ​​the multiplicity of “fields” of opposition particular to state power. One can see how that drove Deleuze to Bologna. With the election of Mitterrand, there is de facto more than just “fields” of power and Deleuze passes over the rest in silence! Hence the idea of ​​”adaptation” to “the reason of the state”. The reason of state, related to the fact that the Communist Party participated in state power in 1981, which self-same CP supported the coup in Poland, thus required the absence of condemnation on the part of Deleuze. In fact, Deleuze supported the CP’s participation in the government. Foucault himself “condemned” the coup because he was always hostile to the CP, for crappy reasons, of course! Here “injunction” is synonymous with “necessity”, “need”, etc.

xiii https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premi%C3%A8re_cohabitation This was the period of cohabitation between the Left, with Mitterand as President, and the Right, having a majority in the National Assembly, and Chirac, the right-wing Prime Minister. At that time Presidents in France were elected at different times from the National assembly (parliament).

xv “Who would be foreign to them, and, consequently, who would be preferable to them? “
Here, “foreign” is synonymous with “exterior”. This is one of Deleuze’s “big ideas”, as if the decentralized guerrilla groups, in principle, were something totally different from the army corps, and therefore “preferable”. Deleuze thus made, in conferences at Vincennes, an apology for third-world guerrillas, the Maoists included.

xviSee : https://lundi.am/La-guerre-veritable (this text appeared after the massacre by Daesh at Bataclan in Paris, November 2015, which even went so far as to claim that this massacre was a critique of consumerism). A critique in French is available here : http://www.non-fides.fr/?Remarques-au-sujet-d-un-texte-trouve-sur-le-site-de-propagande-lundi-matin

xvii In one of the Nuit Debout’s in Montpellier, a call to allow, “in principle”, fascists to participate in Nuit Debout was voted for by about 80% of the nicey nicey citizens  who believed that through words they could change fascists’ ideas. Refusing to allow fascists to speak was denounced as “fascist”. I seriously had an idea of dressing up in a KKK costume with a noose and going there calling for the hanging of homosexuals and blacks. But, like so many good ideas, it came to nothing. The ideology of “free speech” – which invariably ignores any practical consequence of such “free” speech, mainly because those who speak make little or no connection between what they do and what they say and assume that others just have abstract ‘opinions’ also – is part and parcel of citizenship ideology, which the vast majority of the population have been brainwashed with.

Z: Things blew up in Bologna in early 1977, when Lama, the leader of the Stalinist CGIL Union went to the University to lecture members of the Circollo and Autonomi (who used it as a base) and students, arguing they should join the Communist Party. He was firstly parodied from a platform close to his and then chased from the building, and only saved from serious harm by his security team and the cops he had brought with him. The University head called in cops to restore order, sparking off a fierce battle leading to the occupation of all the university facilities, which became the focus for workers and students meeting . This soon developed into larger public demonstrations, culminating in the physical capture of Bologna for three days in March, following the shooting of a demonstrator. An eyewitness wrote that “Downtown, numerous shops and luxury restaurants were looted; side by side with young proletarians, old pensioners could be seen fleeing happily, pushing handcarts full of delicacies. For once in these streets and squares people were communicating…over the next few days police found scores of guns and rifles hidden in improbable places, the fruit of an armoury raid.”

8 Responses to deleuzium tremens…
  1. SK says:

    Comment from a South African anarchist when I showed him this article

    ” I’m not sure we need to start filing away anyone just because they’re academics. I’m especially unsure of doing so based on completely cherry-picked straw men that misrepresent both the ideas and the biographies of those in question.

    A couple of points of clarification in this regard:

    1) The author clearly knows very little about the work of Deleuze and Guattari, as evidenced by his tedious invocation of ‘conceptual toolboxes’, ‘the rhizome’ and, most amusingly, ‘postmodernism’, terms that fit their oeuvre about as well as ‘chaos’, ‘disorder’ and ‘Sex Pistols’ map to anarchism.

    2) Anyone who has read Dosse’s excellent biography on D&G will recognise that the author is blatantly mischaracterising their participation in left political movements. The section about Bologna is almost the reverse of what actually happened and the idea that Vincennes was a ghetto is absurd given the extent to which its participants engaged with the spaces – academic, radical, etc. – around them. There was a brief starry-eyed dalliance with Mitterand and Lang, but both Deleuze and Guattari quickly recovered from this, just as Kropotkin recovered from his support for WW1 and just as many South American radicals recovered from Chavismo.

    3) As for the banal invocation of the IDF using Deleuzian theory, well, so what? Is Nietzsche to blame for Ayn Rand? The idea that the dubious appropriation of ideas somehow invalidates those ideas is patently stupid.

    4) Yes, the world now resembles, in many ways, what Deleuze and Guattari spoke about. That doesn’t mean they were *apologists* for it, it means that they were prescient, astute diagnosticians (see Deleuze’s well-known Postscript on the Societies of Control, for instance).

    Having just returned from a D&G conference in Brazil, where over 200 politically astute, intellectually rigorous individuals from a wide range of political positions explored deeply relevant issues like resurgent fascism, identity politics, migrancy, Silicon Valley hegemony and ecological crisis through a Deleuzoguattarian lens, reactionary little rants like this just seem to be so many sad passions, pissing against the wind like a true contrarian better-than-everyone-else.

    In fact the author seems to have a long-standing bad faith penchant for firing buckshot at everyone (he hates, among countless others I’m sure, Radio Alice, Bifo, Negri, Tiqqun, Daniel Colson, anarchists, autonomists and Bataille) who isn’t part of an arbitrary tiny clique of True Political Radicals. To invoke another ‘stale’ leftover, it looks an awful lot like ressentiment or, to unfile yet another, infantile lashing out at the name of the father. It’s great to be able to simplify the world by broadly dismissing complex thought in order not to have to engage with it, but such dismissals have absolutely nothing to do with said thought itself. Perhaps, then, that’s why the anarchist library the author participated in was dismantled by a broader collective who, ironically, used a Guattarian analysis to draw out the dogmatic, ossified nature of the narrow sect that had formed around it.”

  2. It’d be better if the person wrote to the site him/herself so we could discuss this directly. Not hard to do.

    There is definitely a problem with academics who produce ideology – especially ideology that they see as original. Personally I have little or no problem with academics who are geologists or astronomists or stuff like that but once you enter into the terrain of stuff like sociology or philosophy they’re on very dodgy terrain. Show the person this: http://dialectical-delinquents.com/articles/daily-life/academia-sociology-the-muddle-class/

    As for the other points:

    I have read very little Deleuze & Guatarri, but I know that the term ‘the rhizome’ comes from them directly (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhizome_(philosophy)) . If s/he can’t get such a basic thing as this right it makes me doubt some of his/her other claims .

    Kropotkin’s support for WWI might not invalidate every other thing he said or did but it certainly vastly weakened them, and what exactly was his recovery? He supported it in 1914 and continued supporting it in 1916. Trying to minimise this iredeemably disgusting support for imperialism, nationalism and mass murder makes me very suspicious of his/her argument supporting Deleuze and Guatarri.

    As for the idea that the author hates anarchists and autonomists – this is bullshit – I know for a fact that he participates in activity with people who describe themselves as anarchists &/or autonomists. And if this person can defend Tiquun or Negri s/he can defend anything.

    I might try to get back to the rest of this later, but for the moment I’ll just send his/her comments off to the author and wait for what he says.

    • SK sent me this email, which he said i could put up on the site:

      “I think what he wrote is bullshit, like everything else he writes in connection with his academic specialisation. It is interesting that in South Africa the only anarchist groups in existence were those affiliated to the Schlidty variety of Zabalaza platformism, and then this guy’s post-left anarchism, which I critiqued in Why I Am Not An Anarchist. Both tendencies were involved in some worthwhile activities, but their limitations are far more responsible for the negligable influence of anarchism in South Africa than any theoretical underdevelopment among the other participants of social struggle in the country. And they are far more similar than they might like to think: the post-left group, for example, reproduced an unofficial hierarchy in which Aragorn tended to play the same role of ideological guru based on the authority of his abstract grasp of theory and facility with language which Schmidt played for Zabalaza. And then there is the contradiction of Aragorn’s uncritical embrace of leftist academic ideologues which completely contradicts the more intelligent post-left anarchist critique of ideology, mirroring the contradiction between Schmidt’s enthusiastic embrace of nationalism and the classic anarchist critique of nationalism which leads to grotesque contortions like a ridiculous comparison between the PLO and the sort of popular social movements these Organisations (which NEVER even pretended to be anything other than states-in-waiting) claim to represent — the revolutionary movement inlo Spain and Syria during the civil wars of those countries, the youth on the frontlines of the Intifada many of whom never even heard of the PLO, let alone endorsed its leaders as Shakespearean heros, etc (https://libcom.org/library/worldwide-intifada-issue-1-summer-1992-price-50-pence). With this disgusting revisionist logic, it would be historically excusable for anti-authoritarians to endorse the ANC during the anti-apartheid struggle rather than the truly heroic unknown youths its Stalinist-trained secret police were torturing in gulags like Quaddro, because in their star-struck eyes Mandela aqcuired the stature of a character out of Homer! But then when has ideology — whether it masquerades as revolutionary communist, post-left anarchist, situationist, or whatever — ever been anything other than a means suppress dirty reality in order to “engage” in pure thought and appearance, in other words, to excuse the inexcusable?”

  3. Received this from the author (translated); it’s edited, and elaborated a bit, from the previous post which the author didn’t tell me was merely a temporary response to the “South African anarchist”:

    “My response to “the South African anarchist” will be brief. For the good reason that, in general, most of what I advance in “The ghost of Deleuze” [SF note: original title of text] has already been discussed a thousand times over decades in revolutionary circles, including anarchist milieus. I am not alone or even the first to have made such critiques. There’s no lack of articles, reports, etc., especially on the role of Negri and his successors, for example “Negrisme & Tute bianche”, Editions Mutines Seditions.

    To write “The Ghost of Deleuze”, I also relied on my own history, which includes confrontations, both theoretical and practical, with the ideologues of the so-called “molecular revolutions” over decades, including Italy at the end of the 1970s, especially in Bologna in September 1977. Of course, “the South African anarchist” can always say that my particular interpretation has no value as a general proof of what I am saying. Certainly. But he, as his letter proves, does not know who and what he is talking about. He prefers, it is clear, to appeal to the authority of at least questionable academics, specialists in an almost “intimate” rewriting of history. A “subjectivist” genre that, since the aftermath of May 1968, was particularly developed, on the part of the Vincennes ghetto, in the name of the necessary critique of “objectivism” in the study of history. Which is not a problem for him.

    Thus, in an attempt to denigrate “The Ghost…”, he appeals to “the excellent biography of Dosse”, who has been working at the university for more than twenty years as a privileged interpreter of Deleuze’s life, like Eribon with that of Foucault, Jordan with that of Bourdieu, etc. All these “biographers” are not going to cut through the rotten academic branch on which they are sitting. For the most part, their activity is to value this or that political position of their masters when they share them, to minimize them when they are the object of well-founded and repeated critiques, and even to hide them when they are vile. An easy task, since the masters in question had already been buried before the publication of “biographies”. For example, Eribon almost ignored Foucault’s stance in favor of Khomeini and theocratic power in Iran. Deleuze and especially Guattari, as a good neo-Leninist, leaned, at the same time, towards support for the Iranian Communist Party. And so on.

    In my article, I selected what seemed important to me depending on the situation encountered in the Place de la Republique, in Paris, and during other “occupations” of places elsewhere in France. As a result, what I advance has no claim to being exhaustive. Which does not mean that I do not know, for the most part, the “work” of the heroes of the “molecular revolutions”. In the article, I could have multiplied the examples of Deleuze and Guattari’s rotten positions on important issues, beginning with the “accursed” question of Palestine and the moronic debates of the post-May [ie May ’68] period: Foucault sometimes almost pro-Israeli and Deleuze-Guattari, unconditionally, pro-Palestinian, more exactly pro-PLO. All this has been well-known for a long time in France and the “biographer” Dosse knows it and accepts it. See, for example, his article in the journal “Cité” [“City” or “Estate”], 2009, “Deleuze politics”, chapter: “The Palestinian cause: the nomadic people exemplified.” In 1984, Deleuze and Guattari, very Leninist concerning this subject, continued to be an apologist for Arafat. See number 10 of « Etudes palestiniennes » [“Palestinian Studies”]. While even the Trotskyists and the last Maoists had no longer supported the PLO for ten years (they had preferred the “Marxist” PFLP), Deleuze says: “How it [the Palestinian people] has given itself an organism that does not simply represent it, but embodies it, without territory and without a state: if there were a great historical figure that could be said, from a Western point of view, to be almost out of Shakespeare, then that was Arafat.” Now, what had the best anarchists said for more than ten years, in the “Lanterne Noire” [“Black Lantern”], in particular? The reverse: “Fedayins – you make us vomit”, http://archivesautonomies.org/spip.php?article1086.

    In terms of outrageous statements, not to mention perfidies, which he asserts, “the South African anarchist” accuses me of “hating anarchism”. Of course, I could give a lot of examples, starting in the field of opposition to nuclear power, which prove the opposite. But this is not the essential question. For, during the occupation of the Republic Square in Paris in 2016, my criticism was turned not against anarchism, or more precisely various forms of anarchism, but against post-anarchism. That’s why I took Colson, without a doubt one of its main defenders, as a target. On this occasion, he had written with shitheads like Hazan, the publisher of Bouteldja, the “pasionaria” of the Parti des Indigènes de la République [Party of the natives of the republic], the crude judeophobe, indefensible press releases in Lundi Matin [“Monday morning”], such as: “Why we support youth”, which called for “the removal of the government”. No more no less. A critique of the State had been written off! Such beautiful anarchism, to be sure! For a long time, Colson has been trying to transform anarchism into a pure subject of university studies and, in the process, to amalgamate it with deleuzism, in theory and in practice. The amalgam in question has been fought a thousand times by revolutionaries, including anarchists, in the Lyon area where Colson has long held sway. The city is known to be one of the distribution points for post-anarchism, and even of municipalism à la Bookchin.

    That’s my answer. To elaborate the critique of post-modernism, including the one that appears under the black flag, there’s no lack of texts. To begin with a good book by Mandosio: « Longévité d’une imposture, Michel Foucault », Editions de l’Encyclopédie des nuisances [“Longevity of an imposture, Michel Foucault”, Encyclopedia of nuisances publications]. Many things said are applicable, despite the differences between Foucault on the one hand, and Deleuze Guattari, on the other hand, to the tandem of “molecular revolutions”. In particular, on the role of “the specific intellectual”, a notion invented by Foucault and taken up by Dosse.”

    SF Note:
    For a critique, on this site, of post-anarchism in French see this:
    http://dialectical-delinquents.com/textes-francais/une-critique-du-post-anarchisme/

    • I should point out that Foucault’s position on Iran changed – he supported Khomeini at one time (I think for at least 6 months) then became critical of him. Still, for a homosexual to support such a piece of scum for just one minute is pretty idiotic. Later, in the Iran-Iraq war, even 16-year-old victims of homosexual rape were executed.

  4. The author of this piece (Julius) has made some additional comments about the South African anarchist post (translated by me):

    Additional notes on “war machines”
    To justify his stance in favor of Deleuzism, “the South African anarchist” states: “As for the banal invocation of the IDF using Deleuzian theory, well, so what? Is Nietzsche to blame for Ayn Rand? The idea that the dubious appropriation of ideas somehow invalidates those ideas is patently stupid….”

    “The argument” here is pure sophistry. For the author presupposes that the positions of Deleuze and Guattari were revolutionary, at least for the most part, and that they were recuperated. Now their ideas, especially those about the “war machines” I am referring to, were never like those of Debord, for example, on the same subject. Debord never asserted that, in principle, the guerrillas went beyond, in terms of content, other forms of warlike organization. The Situationist International even affirmed the opposite, for example during the Vietnam War. The two heroes of “molecular revolutions” lagged behind the most worn-out guerrilla ideology. I recall that, in the wake of his support for the FLN at the end of the Algerian war, Guattari wanted, after May 68, to constitute the “rizhome” composed of all the nationalist oppositions in Europe, from ETA to the IRA. In short, here as elsewhere, the ideas of the “molecular” tandem were not recuperated for the simple reason that they were, in reality, essentially recuperators, recyclers of already existing ideologies. Here, ideologies appropriate to the guerrillas of nationalist allegiance around the world, that they supported in Palestine and elsewhere, and in a more distant way, to Leninist persuasion. See, in particular, Lenin’s theses on the partisan war, including that in Moscow, during the Russian revolution of 1905, which were rewritten by the two accomplices in their own “molecular” language in “A Thousand Plateaus”. People who today do not know their “work” well and do not place them in the context of the time, do not realize it. Yet for me, who knows them only too well, historical connection is obvious. Guattari, who in a number of domains remained a Trotskyist until the end of his life, opportunistically sought to hide the genealogy of their so-called conceptual innovation. See the note in “A Thousand Plateaus”, in the introductory chapter “Rhizome” written by him. I quote: “It even happens that generals, in their dream of appropriating formal guerrilla techniques, resort to multiplicities of synchronous modules, based on numerous but independent light cells, theoretically containing only a minimum of central power and hierarchical relay “. In fact, the idea is so unrevolutionary and unoriginal that it was already there in Clausewitz’s “On War” when he analyzes, at the Berlin Military University, the Spanish resistance to the Napoleonic invasion. A tactic that he advocates in case of an invasion of Prussia by the same Napoleon. A famous passage studied and taken up by Lenin, Trotsky, Mao and many other well-known “revolutionary” leaders. Undoubtedly, Deleuze was right to say, in the interview with Negri of 1992, in the post-modernist journal “Future Past”: “I believe that Felix Guattari and I, we remained Marxists, perhaps in two different ways, but both of us did”. Leninists couldn’t agree more!

  5. More (from me, this time) on what this “South African anarchist” said – ie “As for the banal invocation of the IDF using Deleuzian theory, well, so what? Is Nietzsche to blame for Ayn Rand? The idea that the dubious appropriation of ideas somehow invalidates those ideas is patently stupid.”:

    This is obviously incorrect in relation to Deleuze & Guatarri – which, as Julius has pointed out above, avoids an understanding of D & G and what recuperation is. And as SK says, the typically intellectual mentality of this anarchist avoids any reflection on the practical use or consequence of ideas

    However, there’s a germ of an idea here that has to be looked at. The question, for those who try to avoid recuperation, is more whether what this South African “anarchist” says is correct when applied to genuinely revolutionary and innovative ideas, not whether it’s applicable to D & G, which it clearly isn’t . For example, Guy Debord’s Theory of the Derive – http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/2.derive.htm – was used by the IDF to give them ideas about moving around Palestinian areas and breaking through the walls of their houses.

    In fact, it shows the weakness of Debord’s « Theory of the Derive » , which ends up with admiring an architect in New York who designed apartments whose walls can be shifted, an apartment where “three four-room apartments can be transformed into one twelve-room apartment in less than six hours.” (I guess the IDF changed this into the idea of transforming a 2-window house into an all-window and no roof house in less than 6 seconds).

    Debord’s text was written in 1958 (long before the situs critiqued “anti-imperialist” armies) – so he can be forgiven for being too positive. And it focuses on the methodology of drift – and we all know where the emphasis on methodology rather than precise results leads: almost invariably to the university and/or intellectual careerism. In fact, Will Self, the British Oxford graduate, author and TV personality, wrote something that positively refers to the “derive” (ie “drift”) and psychogeogaphy of the SI, and even wrote a flattering introduction to one of the translations of “Society of the Spectacle” (of course, the IDF recuperated the “derive” idea into something even worse than Will Self).

    It is partly the element of positivism that allows our ideas to be used by our enemies. Thus, the notion of “workers councils” has been used even by some liberals (I remember a text advocating this, published by the Young Liberals, youth section of the Liberal Party, back in 1969). And a pamphlet I produced in 1974 ( http://dialectical-delinquents.com/articles/uncategorised/dialectical-adventures-into-the-unknown1974/ ) was used later (in the 1980s) as an art exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, perhaps because it had an excessive use of detourned images. Of course, there are some things we cannot avoid being later recuperated – for example – this text – http://dialectical-delinquents.com/articles/war-politics/for-a-dignified -and-effective-demnstration / – was reproduced in Grail Marcus’ Lipstick Traces book.

    For these reasons, it is important to think carefully about how recuperation works and to minimize the possibility of it. I suppose one of the ways would be to simply present the results of experimental activity from a negative angle – that is, not to affirm any particular form of experimentation – which, in any case, might not be possible for many people – but only affirm the critical ideas that came from the experimentation and simply indicate the need to experiment and test reality in the broadest sense, rather than going into details like Debord did in 1958 (or others did concerning sexual experimentation).

    On the other hand, excessive abstraction (as in “The Society of the Spectacle”), which comes from the role of theoretician and from the desire to be invariably applicable for decades into the future, also allows a possible recuperation, particularly by those who never consider the practical use or consequence of ideas. The point is to combine immediate relevance with concrete negative examples and theoretical reflections to minimize the chances of recuperation, which of course, can never be entirely avoided. It is interesting to note that none of the texts of the CRQS or those who came from it (Nadine Bloch, Joel Cornuault; see,for example this: http://dialectical-delinquents.com/articles/war-politics/the-situationist-international-a-critique-of-the-s-i-as-an-organisation-1977/ or this: http://dialectical-delinquents.com/articles/daily-life/reflections-on-subjectivism-and-intellectualism-1977/ or this: http://dialectical-delinquents.com/articles/daily-life/all-things-considered-1976/ ) seems to have been recuperated as far as I can see. I mention these texts because I know them – but there are obviously loads of other texts that have not been recuperated. And we need to understand the limits of recuperation, especially the limits of the recuperation of the many useful lessons of the more obviously practical revolts (wildcat strikes, riots, occupations, etc.) throughout history or in the present.

  6. Sent to inappropriate page:
    Gerald says:
    August 14, 2018 at 5:08 am (Edit)

    Your criticism of Deleuze and Guattari, reliant as it is upon an invalid ad hominem argumentative technique, is utterly worthless. D&Gs brand of relativism must be attacked directly. In my view this is best done by attacking it as a pile of structuralist shit (if sometimes disguised structuralist shit). Structuralism is an embarrassment in an age of global warming, and can be shown to be false using contemporary analyltic techniques. Only then can D&G be put behind us forever.

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