written by André Dréan, April 2015
translated by the author and SamFanto (Sam chose the 2 illustrations)
A sequel to “The Minister of Sic” and this vital in-depth analysis
(followed by an afterword by SamFanto, dealing with some criticisms of this text and other stuff related to communisation and the Woland affair)
pdf in French: Woland Final A4
Greece: from the class struggle to the square struggle
This has a better chime to it in French as it rhymes: “Grèce : de la lutte des classes à la lutte pour les places”
(for which he thanks Calembour, a close Spanish anarchist friend)
In the second half of March, the Greek revolutionary circle “TPTG” announced that Woland, whose real name is Manousos Manousakis, one of the principal editors of the communising journal “Sic” and a member, until recently, of “Blaumachen”, a Greek group of like-minded people, was participating in the current SYRIZA government, as Secretary General of the Ministry of Economy, Infrastructure, Maritime Affairs and Tourism. Readers may be aware of the case in the text written by “TPTG”, “60 days older and deeper in debt” available, among others, on the website “Dialectical Delinquents”. Faced with the scandal, the first reaction, and most reassuring for aficionados of communisation, has been to say that the accession of Woland to the summit of the state is probably due to more or less troubled, personal motives, unpredictable up until now.
Of course, the most diverse individual motives can play their part when such people install themselves in the upper echelons of the state apparatus. Why the networks and circles of communization host such vipers in their midst (including in the editing of “Sic”, which was supposed to represent at least their initial ideas in common beyond state borders) remains to be understood. I recall that such networks and circles, starting with “Theorie Communiste” were presented most recently as the most revolutionary and innovative in the world in terms of a critique of capital and the state. And praised for their presumed ability to clear the runway so as to begin the revolutionary transformation of society. The “communization process”, in their patois. In “Reflections on communization” I started to analyze what constituted their alleged theoretical and practical advances. I’ll start from there to show how communising ideology was able to cover up and facilitate the ascent of one of its leading lights to the summit of state power.
Let’s just return to the role of “Theorie Communiste”. The journal has provided for several years, particularly in France, the essential for what constitutes a suggestion box, or , to use the communising microcosm, the metaphor of the toolbox. As their collective name suggests, the activity of the founder members of this circle consists in essentially formulating what they think in the form of “theory.” As a result, their “practice” was always reduced to a minimum, even in more favorable situations than the one we are experiencing today. But when people get used to not confronting the real world, to lose interest in confrontations that appear without their knowledge, sometimes almost right under their nose, their thoughts end up going round and round in circles in the straitjacket of ideology. “Theorie Communiste” has come to “theorize” this also. It takes up a lot of the ideas of the Marxist-Leninist philosopher and structuralist Althusser, including that of “theoretical practice”.
More broadly, it is the ensemble of the theses of “Theorie Communiste” which pose enormous problems. For decades, our followers of “theoretical practice” were impervious, indifferent or even hostile to almost all ideas, concepts, struggles, etc., that had arisen in the wake of May 68 and went beyond the rigid framework of their orthodox Marxist Scrabble. Especially when they touched one of the pillars of their doctrine, namely the alleged contradiction between “productive forces” and “relations of production” and the revolutionary role they attributed to the proletarians of mass industry, privileged carriers of communization dressed in the colors of industrialism and, even if not explicitly, also those of statism. For the simple reason that there is no large industry without the State. For them it’s a taken-for-granted notion which largely explains their hostility towards previous opposition to nuclear power, including towards its revolutionary fractions. Since nuclear power in France, more than elsewhere in Europe, comes out of reasons of state. It is this which also explains their recent hostility to opposition to biotechnology. Thus, in Number 17 of their revue, the author of “About Riesel” uses as a pretext their rejection of the reductionism of “The Encyclopedia of Nuisances” to spit on the opposition as a whole. Without even taking into account the criticisms already made of this reductionism, even within this movement of opposition (they were presented, among others, by myself in “Industrial society – myth or reality”). The author even rejoiced in the disappearance of the last smallholding peasants, treated without the slightest nuance as followers of the counter-revolution, as Marx presented them in a caricaturial manner at the time of the “Communist Manifesto”. This is the apology for the capitalist juggernaut, led by the European Commission, the French state and agrarians that “Theorie Communiste” presents here in the colors of communization.
I already pointed out the following in “Reflections…” – to the great displeasure of communisateurs: their alleged critiques do not supersede, as a general rule, the orthodox Marxist conception of the state inherited from Saint-Simonian technocracy: the disappearance of classes and the State means that “government by men” is replaced by (gradually, in relation to the industrialisation process) “the administration of things,” “things” created and distributed almost limitlessly, without which the world of capital would not be able to be superseded. In other words, chucked out through the door, the state comes back in through the window in the form of the administrative apparatus of coercion and “men” treated as “things” in the name of the discipline and hierarchy needed to maintain and keep big industry turning. Which is what Engels spoke about with his customary brutality in his theses directed against Bakunin.
However, to the extent that our communisateurs are generally silent on such key issues, their notion of “communising measures” intended, for them, to begin the destruction of capital and the state, greatly recalls the concept that presided over the formulation of “measures” taken by the transitional state, advocated in the “Manifesto” by Marx, and by Lenin in “The State and Revolution.” I was treated as a slanderer for daring to write this. Yet number 24 of “Theorie Communiste” subsequent to “Reflections…” confirms what I thought then. In “The revolutionary moment as a set of circumstances” the author, having advised us to read Lenin, says:
“The dictatorship of the social movement of communisation is this overall process of the integration of humanity into the proletariat. The strict delimitation of the proletariat over other layers of society, its fight against all commodity production, is simultaneously a process that forces the layers of the waged petty bourgeoisie employee, of the “Class of social restriction” to join the communising class, it is therefore a definition, an exclusion and at the same time, a demarcation and an opening, the eradication of borders and the withering away of classes and distinctions between genders. Communist measures are the reality of the movement where the proletariat is defined in practice as the movement constituting the human community. “
Nothing is missing in the quoted passage. Not even the idea that the transformation in question, under the leadership of the proletariat, will force classes and intermediate layers to join it and share its goals. We know, at least since the destruction of the Russian revolution carried out by Bolshevik power, that such deterministic formulas justify the coercion that the proletarian party practices on individuals who do not accept its orders, even when the individuals in question are proletarians in revolt. This is the violence of the state that we are dealing with here, even though the term proletarian state no longer appears in the lexicon of communisateurs. This is at odds with the idea of the violence of an insurrection, driven by the wretched of the earth who are trying to break free from the yoke of capital and the state.
Available for just over 2 years on the main site dedicated to communization – “dndf” – this article has provoked, to my knowledge, only minor comments. Nothing on the question of the state. But we are advancing here on the terrain most favoured by the tenors of the communisation. One where linguistic recycling allows nothing essential to be challenged. Thanks to tricks already employed by the managers of official speech or created for the occasion. With the proliferation of terms whose meaning is elusive and can almost cover anything. And satisfying the latest generation of communisateurs, who in France, generally come from the movements of opposition amongst high school pupils and students shopping around for some kind of ready-made thinking kit. I say this without contempt. In short, trying to follow the endless process of interpretation, reinterpretation, and even interpreting interpretations, supposed to take into account any objections or desires, readers lose their sense of direction, believing they are going forward whilst in fact treading water. In some kind of way, permanent linguistic innovation has a power which serves to neutralize critique and bring back hitherto neglected issues such as questions concerning gender into already established frameworks. This is one of the great deceptions thought up, since quite some time, by the masters of the French University shared by one Mr. Althusser, which deeply permeates communization thinkers and impresses naive people, in France and elsewhere. It somehow gives a kind of elasticity to their taken-for-granted ideas which can no longer remain as rigid as before for fear of breaking.
Going back to the question of power, the transitional state – in the past called the dictatorship of the proletariat to refer to the revolutionary role assigned to it – was already achieved as a dictatorship of the proletarian party. After several decades of real life clinical experience across the planet, one can no longer use such formulas. Anyway, the idea of the single party dictatorship is not really adapted to the changes experienced by current capitalism, such as the organization of social and political networks, formal and informal. An obsolete term thus disappears from the official dictionary of our neo-Marxists to be replaced by the “dictatorship of the social movement of communisation”. In fact, “Theorie Communiste” appeals for the constitution of some kind of hierarchical power, which we could name the dictatorship of the communisateurs in the name of their supposed ability to represent the whole of historical evolution, presented as binding. In its own name, the review takes up Marx’s scientistic formula in the “Manifesto”, quoted in “Reflections”: “The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are simply the expression of the real conditions (…) of the practical movement unfolding before our very eyes . “ A terrible objectivism inherited from Newtonian science and Hegelian rationalism which shoves all positions, individual and collective, which do not form part of some universalist preconceived framework, into a limbo as just a lot of subjective delusions. The state is no longer very far away. We can even say that these individuals that function well in this manner without the slightest reflection, already accept, de facto, “the idea of the state,” (Hegel) . Of course, not in the uniform of the Prussian junker, but under the various clothes of intangible proletarian universality, invented by “Theorie Communiste.” Communisateurs that I know are also not really hostile to such dictatorial perspectives. A priori hardly practical in our time. So, by default, why haven’t they already tried to attain positions at the top of nation states, in governments like Syriza? The installation of Woland in the upper echelons of the social and state hierarchy seems, at first sight, incomprehensible, the result of some stroke of the same madness. In fact, “there is method in this madness.” This is the logic of the current communisateur ideology.
This is the same logic that allows communisateurs to repress the agonizing contradictions in their milieus. In theory and in practice. In practice, this also means, in terms of relationships and daily activities, antagonisms remain hidden, or at least, they are regarded as secondary. Significant differences between individuals, and between the advantageous images through which such and such an individual presents him or herself, especially through writing games, and what they are in concrete reality. Here, confusion is required. It is general to the point that even communisateurs who are located at the bottom of the social and political ladder rarely raise such questions. Especially when they concern those who are fascinated by the leaders’ writing ability. In short, in the mini-world of communisation, to a great extent good old political schizophrenia reigns. The same schizophrenia that was fought in France against the traditional Sunday activism from May 68 on. It is reproduced here under the pretext that we must not fall into the type of alternativism fashionable today, no more than into typical inquisitorial moralism. In today’s world – marked by a functionalising utilitarianism and cynicism – it’s with such regressive attitudes that communisateurs make their bed of political opportunism.
Of course, the lives of individuals, even those individuals who aspire to contribute to a revolution, is made up of contradictions. Of course, alone they cannot liberate themselves from everything which overwhelms them. According to the beautiful formula of Bakunin: “My freedom is mine, but it also depends on that of others. “ However, as Malatesta pointed out against the phrasemongers of his own “party ” people who “do not even try to achieve, partially, their anarchist aspirations in their own lives” are only revolutionaries on paper. To the point where they’re prepared to maintain any relations, to accept any work, etc. Including positions and roles in the social and state hierarchy. As for myself, and without making my life the model to be followed, I have tried for decades to best reduce the “distance” between my aspirations and what I realise, even in everyday life. And yet, in the communising milieu there’s a lot of complacency about such things.
From the first issue of “Sic”, the editors claimed that communization requires the end of the separation between private life and public life. A noble intention but it is regularly contradicted, always in the name of the refusal of alternativism. I remember some meetings in the Paris region more than ten years ago, which were attended by some leading lights of “Theorie Communiste”. In essence, they argued that “as long as there is no mass revolutionary movement, revolutionaries are condemned to live normally.” And yet, first of all, amongst alleged revolutionaries, there are individuals who, because of their background and their situation, cannot live, or no longer live, “normally”. Secondly, there are some who do not want to live “normally”. Without counting those who, during their lives, combine both situations. With such conceptions concerning “normality”, it is inevitable that some communisateurs consider it “normal” to take up a career in administrative councils, in university management committees and other state agencies, as advisers, managers, etc. To the almost total indifference of their own communising milieu. To the point of acceding, when the opportunity arises, to the very top of the state.
Drury, a member of “Aufheben” one of the main ultra-left circles in Britain, was, for years, a sociologist, including specialising in crowd control for the police. Quite a few of those close to him knew but said nothing. Then, a good number of people, even à la mode libcom libertarians, tried to cover up the affair and get rid of those who were embarassing them, starting off with the “TPTG”, without hesitating to censor their texts. Woland, a longtime member of the ultra-left group “Blaumachen” in Greece, was one of the principal writers of “Sic”, including writing in the last issue, dated February 2014. He received his role as a deputy minister in Tsipras’ government in March 2015! Thirteen months after! In my opinion, he had already sufficiently introduced himself into the circles close to the administrative and state councils to be appointed general secretary of one of the major departments headed by Tsipras, head of the Bank of the Black Sea for Greece, and replacement Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development charged with financing, amongst other dirty work, the “rehabilitation” of the irradiated zone of Chernobyl. No one has access to such functions overnight. The wave of a magic wand that – hey presto! -transforms pumpkins into carriages does not exist in the world of capital and the state. How then can we explain the silence of communisateurs, starting with those of “Blaumachen”? The indifference, the spineless complicity … I still don’t know what… But soon we will know more.
On the other hand, “Theorie Communiste” has already closed the matter. The magazine takes as a pretext some factual errors regarding the organization of meetings on Greece in Lyon and Marseille, in the article “The Minister of Sic” to try to muddy the waters. On the site “dndf” I read:
“Manos / Woland made a choice that is not ours, nor that of “Sic” nor that of “Blaumachen” nor that of the organizers of these meetings. Since [taking up his state position] he has not participated in any of these groups, journals or collectives (…) For the rest, if it pleases a few “Delinquents of the dialectic” or “Children of Paradise” to find in the theory of communization, or worse – in the “elitist abstractions” of “Theorie Communiste”, the origin of Manos / Woland’s becoming a deputy minister or banker, they are free to do so – we couldn’t care less”
Move along now, there’s nothing to see here, nothing to think about! Note already the measured tone used to talk about Woland’s vile behaviour: “The choice”! And then, the usual hateful bossy tone [which is clear in French but not in English], reserved here for those who dare to break the law of silence. Yet his particularly imperious posture reveals above all his panic that individuals, including perhaps his entourage, are aware of the origins and the extent of the disaster. The tendency of the chief to soliloquize and argue endlessly in a loop, on the development of the world, of classes, of the state, of groups, etc., has vanished without a trace. Obviously, his general analyses concern the world, with the exception of his little world. As a result, the Woland affair relieves all responsiblity for what happened other than that of the personality of Manousakis, the deputy minister who is now deemed persona non grata, having just a few weeks before been appreciated as a writer for Sic alongside Roland Simon himself. The leadership takes us, starting with my friend, the English writer of “The Minister of Sic”, as morons. On the contrary, the Woland case is the visible part of the iceberg of communization. Far from being just a question of the careerism of this individual, it above all reveals the bankruptcy of such a milieu and such groups whose pretensions have nothing in common with what they are in prosaic reality. It also shows that they cannot be reformed. In the near future, I do not know what positions will be taken by those who, to varying degrees, are in the same communising boat. From experience, I am not inclined to optimism. People often prefer to turn a blind eye to such unpleasant phenomena like that of the Woland affair. Otherwise, they would question their own illusions, their own relationships, etc. However, it is by doing so that they can assert themselves, by themselves and for themselves.
Finally, although I do not always agree with the analysis of “TPTG”, especially those concerning the economy, which, to my taste, are sometimes too stamped by Marxism, I should like to renew my support, as I did at the time of the Drury affair. Knowing them for a long time, I know they are not animated in their critiques by any spirit of revenge, and that they put, to use the old formula, the “general interest” of the revolution before the “individual interests” of the political cliques.
Afterword by Sam Fanto
I would have been more nuanced about some things in this text.
For one thing, when he says “there is no large industry without the State”. One could say that everything outside tribal societies – that is all class societies up until now – have not existed without the state. But in a free society there might be some element of “large industry” also, just as there will be other aspects of life that have also been part of class society in some form or another. We can’t abstractly oppose everything if this also means refusing to recognise what is desireable – despite the alienated forms that they currently take – in the vast aspects of life hitherto degraded by class society and its states. Superseding a particular social relation implies realising aspects of it as well as suppressing aspects of it – not merely just completely wiping it all away in some nihilist purge. For instance, castles are a remnant of feudal society (and of the states that existed under feudalism) that have been turned into property, usually making money for the tourist industry. But they could be transformed into playful spaces where the imagination has free rein.
Initially, the path to the Industrial Revolution in England was partly paved by the State (eg in the virtual destruction of the peasantry by the movement of enclosures, forcing people into wage slavery in the factories) – but finance capital and the banks probably played a larger part. Be that as it may, in a society without classes and the commodity form, the organisation of a global coordination of the production of necessities and desires would require some element of “large industry”. Small isn’t always beautiful by any means – and often small industry can be as alienated as any other size. A factory, regardless of size, is mostly inhuman until it is transformed by the workers within it, who then begin to recognise their misery as a social relation and begin to affirm their desire for life by changing the world around them. This might necessitate the burning of factories but also maybe other forms of transformation; some industrially-produced products will still be needed in a post-revolutionary society and the hows and whys of such production will require an understanding of human necessity, which would include also evaluating the ecological cost of such forms of production. Elements of the production of nuts and bolts and other useful things will still be produced “industrially”. Equally, some aspects of production will have to be organised globally – things needed or desired but not available in one part of the world will need to be transported to those areas in an ecological manner. Not globally organising producing and transporting such things might prove to be more disastrous than producing them. To be dogmatic one way or the other means blocking out the experimentation needed to assess what is suitable and refusing to countenance overcoming the false dichotomy of a simple rejection of “Big Industry ” or a simplistic acceptance of it (and it’s an attitude that wants to work out how the new society will exist well before the material means to realise it have been created). “Big Industry” will have to sometimes be destroyed and sometimes be transformed, both in its form and content and in the breakdown of the separation between work and other aspects of life (which already happens at times when people start to take over their factories). Whilst an ideology of simply changing the use from production for profit to production for need can hide the inhuman aspects of working on machines, in horrible environments, we could apply such an understanding to everything – buildings, streets, homes, gardens, living rooms, etc.
His criticism of Theorie Communiste when it writes:
“The strict delimitation of the proletariat over other layers of society, its fight against all commodity production, is simultaneously a process that forces the layers of the waged petty bourgeoisie employee, of the “Class of social restriction” to join the communising class, it is therefore a definition, an exclusion”
needs to be clarified and developed.
Despite the ambiguity in which Theorie Communiste puts this (an ambiguity which comes from the evasive abstraction in what they say), there is a truth to it which can take on an anti-hierarchical form rather than the form which Stalin took in his collectivisation programme. Clearly those who wish to hold onto “their” land and to continue to commodify its products will have to be persuaded to recognise their common interest in no longer considering the land as their property and in participating in a movement that abolishes money and the need for money (in fact, peasants in Britanny during the May ’68 movement in France began to distribute fruit and vegetables for free as a genuine community of struggle started to push back the power of the state and of business). To be sure, given the fact that TC totally rubbished the movements against GMOs, it would probably be over-generously tolerant to assume that they meant anything other than a hierarchical form of authority towards people currently described as “peasants”, despite insisting on an anti-state stance (by the way, such idiotic arrogance is shared by anarchist ideologists of scientific “progress” such as this comment and some of those following it, as well as by the UK’s Elder Statesman of Anarchaism, Ian Bone). But there is such a thing as an “authority” which is anti-hierarchical, against external authority. A riot often imposes its “authority” against the commodity form by attacking the property of petit-bourgeois shopkeepers. Likewise, there are “peasants” who are easily bought by the state, who social movements to fundamentally transform the world will have to angrily convince, with an anti-hierarchical form of “authority”. Doing what one can to develop a rational form of power entailing a human rejection of hierarchical authority is also a power game. Whilst we can’t challenge hierarchy and alienation with hierarchical alienated means, abstaining from a power struggle submits to the irrational and inhuman. And “the dictatorship of the proletariat” has historically meant the latter (eg when the Situationists used the term) as often as it has taken on the Leninist meaning of the dictatorship of those who claim to be most conscious. It might well be that such terminological short-cuts have an archaic, over-simplistic and often totalitarian connotation which makes them uselessly imprecise, but that shouldn’t automatically lead us to reject all those who still use them.
The term “communisation” was first used, and then rightly long forgotten, by a follower of Robert Owen’s hierarchically-organised utopian communism. As an idea it was already there in Marx’s famous phrase, “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.” But it only really needed saying once. To make it THE idea of the moment indicates a lack of ideas and of practical experiment that could help create and develop ideas and subversive projects, a lack of will to really move in this “real movement”. It becomes largely something to win over other would-be theorists, and a political-type representation for oneself.
How could such abstract notions of theory come to have been taken up by some still rebellious youth searching for ideas to avoid their own? 25 – 30 years ago this verbiage would have been laughed at. But the eradication of communities of struggle and solidarity that still had some power to contest dominant normality 30 years ago has created a world which encourages the development of critical “ideas” which have lost almost all solid basis in the reality of contestation. Thought adrift without an anchor, in the global sea of troubles.
The increase in the power of the illusory warmth of religion in a world of uncontested runaway cold commodification is symptomatic of this desire for easy “one answer” explanations, the security blanket of those scared of making mistakes. The same goes for this notion of some all-embracing “theory” which covers a critique of everything above everything – incapable of making progress or of encouraging others to make progress against this world because it avoids anything concrete, or at least fits analysis of specifics into a long previously developed set of safely established ideas.
The last few years, in contrast to the period from – roughly – the mid-80s onwards – have exploded with struggles which have a richness of lessons, lessons which such “theory” is incapable of unravelling because it never wants to dirty its hands with anything precise. Sure, without a development of practical theory, without a development of a recognition of the immensity of our tasks, a conscious revolution against the forces of unconsciousness can never succeed. And this has been the genuine desire that loses its way in seeking a simplistic catch-all “key” to the cave of consciousness, but which tends to develop the practically impotent role of “Theoretician”. Above all, the serious repression of the proletariat as practically subversive subject over the years from the mid-80s onwards has reduced such notions as “proletarian subjectivity” to mere phrases within an objectivist notion of theory to which all can adhere abstractly, on the level of verbiage. In the 1960s Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, which also wanted to be a new Das Kapital explaining everything, at least had the merit of having been developed from experimental practical-critical activity, in and against a period of utter complacency. The fact that post-68 it remained far too definitive for far too many people was indicative of its weakness in trying to express this total critique without having to renew it experimentally. It too ended up as some form of absolute for pro-situs, just as now “communisation” theory seems to function for its followers (and the theorists who promote it seem to have no qualms about inspiring uninspiring imitators). But at least there is stuff in Society of the Spectacle that can be used and developed in the current endgame of commodification that has some originality (though only by looking at and attacking very precise current symptoms of alienation). Not so of the dreary verbiage of Roland Simon etc. Its determinism reads like some perfect set of ideas existing outside of the risk of struggle and making mistakes, like some all-knowing God on high telling people that the struggles of all previous epochs were doomed to failure just as the current struggles are inevitably going to win. Because the Theorist Knows Best. The dominant anti-historical conception of time that wants to freeze all sense of becoming – of losing oneself to find oneself – is also reflected in this frozen notion of “theory”. The need to analyse past struggles whose mistakes and weaknesses have to be corrected, and whose strengths have to be re-lived, in the present and then re-corrected by making new mistakes, is a process completely bypassed by such anti-historical “perfect” notions of historical struggle. In reality though, the path to a critique of the totality cannot look to One Big Theory as the shortcut to understanding the totality: comprehension of this constantly shifting totality develops from an attack on the particular without fetishising it. There is no leap into an Answer-To-Everything which can provide you with some false sense of security like a materialist Bible, no Road to Damascus of conversion to the shining light of some fixed truth. Insofar as ideas can influence events and choices it’s not through some “perfect” Grand Idea considered as a possession. What in fact happens beyond the ideological distortions of this superior notion of “theory” is a constant process relative to time, place and the dialectic of independent initiatives and the dominant social forces. Such a process also incorporates more general critiques of, say, the law of value, the spectacle, commodity fetishism, reification, the separation of men and women, art and sceince (the notion of their realization and suppression), etc. etc. but does so within a movement that both connects particulars with the totality considered as something that changes and continues to be discovered and re-discovered, and not as something finished to be handed down from on high by theoreticians who consider themselves and their “consciousness” as above and detached from the particulars of the movement of history, its advances and retreats. Rosa Luxembourg’s “The worst mistakes of the masses are far more useful than the very best correct lines of the very best of Central Committees” could be altered to read “The worst mistakes of individuals making practical-theoretical decisions without the automatic support of their collectivity are far more useful than the very best correct lines of the very best of pure “theories” “.
The repression of communities of struggle (roughly from the mid-80s onwards) has pushed people back into narrow lives where such autonomous mistakes don’t seem like worth risking. The attitude is “any relationship is better than none”. And revolt in daily life seems too scary. However, experience shows that the risk of challenging alienated scenes, though it might result in losing a tenuous hold on tenuous friendships, will also result in finding new friends, and at a more enduring level. Carried out with all honesty about one’s desires and critiques without any dogmatic rigidity, such anti-hierarchical self-assertion can only result in strengthening a sense of self and an ability to act in such a way as to be able to recognise oneself in others and others in oneself.
“The question is not to abolish the split between politics and daily life; it’s necessary to criticise politics within daily life itself, where it started from, and only afterwards came to dominate daily life in the form of the State, the parties and all the various representations. …Thus , the critique of politicians and of politics shouldn’t limit itself to a crude anarchistic attack on “political men”: it only makes full sense in its application in daily life itself, to the politicians of daily life, just as it has already been applied to the politicians of organisation. The politics of and in daily life is the last possible expression of the State – i.e. daily life and its relations led in a way similar to the way in which the State or a commercial business (it comes to the same thing) are led. And it’s no threat to Capital if, at the moment that the old separated politics can no longer impose itself on people and make them carry on like sheep, it searches for a way to maintain itself – this time in the heart of daily life itself.
Thus, it’s necessary to stop understanding “revolutionary” politics as it wants to be understood, that is to say in the so-called struggle it proposes to lead against the dominant society, which is merely the external justification for the necessity of its existence: politics is less a relation between two opposing sides than above all a relation within each side.”
– Joel Cornualt, Pour le passage de la decomposition a des constructions nouvelles, 1978.
Almost everyone at some time or another behaves in some hierarchical manner. At times, for example, on the one hand either bossy & dominating, refusing to listen, aggressively provocative just so as to prove one can be, on the other hand, over-tolerant, compliant just for the sake of some temporary easy peace, submissive. However, in political groups and milieus the hierarchy is entrenched, solidified and petrified into definitive roles, unless it is fundamentally challenged – ie broken with, rather than reformed. The Theoreticianist role unavoidably tends towards a competitive political mentality in the intellectual projects that the Theoreticianist involves him/herself in. It builds a political character creating a hierarchy where the top is occupied by the Grand Master of Theory, with the admiring adherents, invariably complicit, placed just below; the masses in struggle who are neutral for the moment but are conceived as needing the correct theory for their struggles to be won are placed in the middle; and those who have different interpretations are conceived of as dangerous rivals and placed at the bottom, criticised, ridiculed, rubbished or ignored. Such political comportment cannot be made acceptable: part of the aim of projects attacking this world should be to incite breaks with such normal behaviour; to, as far as possible, make such business-type relations impossible. Because if you don’t, it’s not that much of a change for one amongst such a group to take a more lucrative career path to the summit of the state.
Whilst close friendship need not always be an aspect of those embarking on a written project, for those who claim to want to critique the totality, a lack of interest in the daily life of the individuals who participate in these kinds of projects implies an acceptance of separation contradicting the apparent desire to develop a total critique (for more on this, see “Frayed threads of friendship”). Thus we see the ludicrous apology for alienated “theoretical” relations in this explanation for their ignorance of Woland’s “treachery” in the history of the Sic project, from a former participant in the first 2 issues:
I have no idea how many people in Sic knew these links between Woland and SYRIZA, but I think it is a very small minority. We must not forget that SIC is an international journal, bringing together people from Europe and North America, who rarely meet and who communicate mainly via e-mail. As for myself, I only knew about this “job” because I went to Athens in 2012. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known anything about it.
Woland has not participated in any Sic meeting for several years, even if he continued for a long time to send e-mails and texts through the list. Then he also stopped sending emails on the Sic list: the last one was in March 2014, one year ago. For a year, we can say that Woland was totally inactive in Sic.
The revelation of Woland’s new position was a total surprise for Sic. The vast majority of members, including me, found out about it through the footnote 17 of the last TPTG text. I have no idea how the relationship between Woland and SYRIZA has evolved between 2012 and today. I had no information on this subject during this time.
This is not stated as a self-critique of such alienated types of projects (which are probably even more alienated than the relation between University professors and their research students,) but as some kind of “we were only doing our job”-type justification. The conclusion is not to decide never to embark on such detached relations developed on the basis of a total disinterest in the others other than in how they can “produce theory” but that it was simply Woland’s fault for not telling us. It remains at the level of blaming a particular person separated from any understanding of the tolerance for such ignorance within the group. A truly profound (ho ho) conclusion from people who pride themselves on their sophisticated ideas.
Well, enough of this topic! The real question is this.
Communisation and the Great Leap Backwards
It seems ironic that the word “communisation” so beloved by those who think of it as the key to the treasure trove of diamond-tipped theory is a word that was often used during Mao’s attempt at highly intensive primitive capital accumulation – “The Great leap Forward” (1958-61). The fact that Roland Simon, whose parodies of “theory” originated the current use of the buzzword “communisation”, has used the term in a similar manner to those who used it during the Great Leap Forward (Into Disaster) – i.e. as the process whereby the proletariat, or at least those who think they represent proletarian desires, forces its perspectives on the rest of the population – makes it worthwhile looking a bit at this period of history. Regardless of Simon’s apparent anti-statist intentions, the political mentality which aims to speak in abstract terms in order to represent proletarian desires within some notion of an absolutist generally “correct” programme & critique, existing above history has much in common with the verbal expressions of old-style Maoism that almost everybody who’s contributed to the movement that struggles to abolish the existing order of things derided long ago. The fact that current day communisaters constantly insist that they’re against the state doesn’t alter the hierarchical mentality that claims that it possesses the truth. And it’s possible that Woland himself will participate in the dispossession of Greek workers of their land, which so far has meant that they’ve had some margin of independence from the world market and wage slavery. Whether or not this happens remains to be seen, though it’s probably unlikely that he’d use the term “communisation ” to justify this, but you never know.
At the very very least (ie according to Chinese government statistics) 15 million died, with others estimating the famine as causing up to 43 million, though one man (Franz Dikotter) recntly estimated it as at least 45 million. The probable figure is round about 35 million. The man in charge of agriculture at that time was Tan Zhenlin, who in 1958 said, “Communisation is the communist revolution”. What he meant was collectivisation – forcing the peasantry into communes: The People’s Communisation Movement. http://mt.china-papers.com/2/?p=207808 . The Peitaiho Resolution of 1958 called for “communisation”. Chapter 6 of “Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine” is called “An Introduction to the ABCs of Communization: A Case Study of Macheng County”. At this time there were expressions such as “the spirit of communisation” and “the wind of communisation”. The “wind of communisation” seems more appropriate, as it’s all wind, but sadly, an ill wind that blows nobody good.
Theoretically, communisation meant forcing the merging of small collectives into huge communes, involving the immediate breaking down of the separation between production units, the abolition of property, wages and individual land patches. In practice this meant squads of Communist Party cadres went round smashing up peasant cottages, burning down villages, confiscating all peasant tools and cooking utensils. Peasants were forced into collective slave labour camps. Any independent means to collect, store or even prepare food was taken away and the cadres imposed a monopoly of food supply in the communal dining halls, used as a weapon of social control. Those who didn’t co-operate were deliberately starved to death. In Henan, for instance, from the winter of 1959 to the spring of 1960, at least one million people starved to death – 12.5% of the population.
Dikotter writes in “Mao’s Great Famine” (Bloomsbury, London, 2010): “…Tan Zhenlin, in charge of agriculture, toured the provinces to galvanise the local leadership. He shared Mao’s vision of a communist cornucopia in which farmers dined on delicacies like swallows’ nests , wore silk, satin and furs and lived in skyscrapers with piped water and television. Every county would have an airport. Tan even explained how China had managed to leave the Soveit Union in the dust: “Some comrades will wonder how we manage to be so fast, since the Soviet Union is still practising socialism instead of communism. The difference is that we have a “continuous revolution”. The Soviet Union doesn’t have one, or follows it loosely…Communisation is the communist revolution!”. In fact, the function of this brutal primitive capital accumulation was to force the peasantry into proletarianisation, working on industrial projects or in factories merely to avoid starvation. In this way, over a far shorter period of time from that of the enclosures to the 19th centruy industries of Victorian England, China was able to develop a modern economy so as to eventually compete on the world market and to sustain the class privileges of the Communist Party.
China’s Economic Reforms by Lin Wei and Arnold Chao (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982)
Village China Under Socialism and Reform: a micro-history 1948-2008 by Huaiyin Li
Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 by Yan Jisheng (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Mao’s Crusade: Politics and Policy Implementation in China’s Great Leap Forward by Alfred L.Chan (OUP, New York, 2001) (for “communisation”, check out especially pages 68-82)
The Chinese Communes by E.Zurcher (1962)
My thanks to X for all this information and much of the content of this.
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Recently leaked internal minutes from a discussion of a speech delivered by Xi Jinping to the Central Party School in 2010, prior to his ascendency to PRC President and CCP General Secretary reveal the following about the Great Leap Forwards:
” …the difficult period from 1959-61, if you officially told the commoners that our Party was in control during this period we’d be responsible for the starvation of 38 million and countless of villages, how dreadful! Even more Chinese people than the Japanese killed, even more efficiently, easily, and without losing soldiers. If the common people learned this truth they would rebel against us. Therefore, we say that Party history has a bottom line, and that crossing this line is a break of the rules and must be punished. This is the meaning of Comrade Xi Jinping’s address. ”
Apparently some of the Endnotes people have now joined the “new reformed” Labour Party (amongst some of its new reformist attitudes is to call for 10,000 extra cops) – see this:
and my reply here: