Saturday, 20 August 2011

Down town: 10 exercises upon the idea that rioters are produced by riots

Faustus: Stay Mephastophilus, and tel me, what good wil
my soule do thy Lord?
Mephastophilus: Inlarge his kingdome.
Faustus: Is that the reason he tempts vs thus?
Mephastophilus: Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.

It is no longer feasible to sustain the revenge motif of ‘expropriate the expropriators’  as the defining myth of liberation. The seizure of the properties of the ruling class merely re-initiates the same sets of relations amongst other populations. And the strategic argument for social war and exacerbation of contradictions to their breaking point can only ever result in further barbarism. According to its own logic, its own integrity, it is not permissible to achieve liberation by means of dehumanisation. And yet it is likely that crisis and what expresses it, i.e. the breaking down of existing relations amongst people, is the necessary objective precondition of change. 

Social violence breaks out as an expression of contradiction taken to crisis point – however, this is categorically different to the strategic deciding upon 'break-down' as a policy of change.  The introduction of decision making, of strategy, and therefore of subjectivity into the class war returns the party of change to the conventionalities of expropriation and colonisation. Would-be revolutionary expropriators can only ever expect to be expropriated by their conditions. They must and they will express more of what has produced them, than what they think they are producing.

We cannot argue that this rioting, or some other grotesquery, has not been in vain without being further absorbed into the logic of domination. We cannot claim that something good will come of it all, that it will be worth it in the long run. We cannot add our end to the means of determinations that we have not set in motion.

Dehumanisation, and the identification with one or other moment in the cycle of general dehumanisation, whilst looking for an escape from it, cannot thereby open spaces for the engendering of tendencies to re-humanisation.  

Those who have attempted to understand rioting as an immediate form of liberatory politics run into the problem of how revolt is actually linked to communism... the one set of behaviours and organisation is not compatible with the other.

On the one hand ultraleft apologists for rioting feel obliged to defend ‘looting’ because their theory is partially based on the idea of expropriation... and of the determination of activity by dominant conditions (i.e. looting is both an expression and rejection of the form of crisis.) On the other hand, they explicitly argue in favour of a ‘prefigurative’ politics (i.e. a political practice of agreed social relations which brings revolutionary/communist structures into being via direct practice). 

Evidently, looting is not an example of a prefigurative communist politics... communism is very far from a social relation of perpetual transgression. Communism is generally understood as a sympathetic reciprocation between production and need... looting, i.e. uncontrolled acts of expropriation and consumption, would play no part in a communist society.

Generally, this contradiction between excusable transgressive behaviours under capitalism and integrated communist discipline is resolved in an authoritarian manner. At some point the violence would have to be met with further violence. But in the moment of revolt this is not mentioned.

It seems that communist apologists for transgression can ride two horses in opposite directions for a while but at some point the contradiction between revolt and communist order is going to manifest itself in the real world (e.g. if their organisation was big enough it would at certain points have been unavoidably brought into direct conflict on the streets with rioters). It is exactly the problem that 'The Party' runs up against when it deploys the conceptual entity of 'The People' – somewhere along the line, the interests of Party and People diverge.  

For this reason, it seems inappropriate to celebrate and privilege specific sets of behaviour, for example the behaviours associated with revolt...  particularly when these behaviours will eventually become a fetter on the attempt to construct a benign social organisation. Communism is not looting, nor is it 'revolt'. 

Communism is the result of a rising spiral in therapeutic effects found in the disposal of the products of the individual’s activities used to benefit society and the individual (without generating a negative contradiction between them), then the project of re-humanisation stands in contradistinction to individual human beings becoming the projectiles of the ideologised left ‘side’ in the class war. Therefore, communism, we must surmise, lies precisely in not adopting the dehumanising gestures of expropriation. 

Faustus: Did not he charge thee to appeare to mee?
Mephastophilus: No, I came now hither of mine owne accord.
Faustus: Did not my conjuring speeches raise thee? speake.
Mephastophilus: That was the cause, but yet per accident,