Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The grace particle

Dear JS,

Please accept the following as a sort of epistolary response to your comments. You have voiced concerns about how it might be possible within a closed system of determination for new relations to develop. I am not a propagandist and therefore the prospect of replying to you in the terms of Nihilist Communism, from which you are drawing your queries and objections, gives me no pleasure. Therefore, my response is set in a slightly ‘other’ register to that of the original text, but I think it is compatible with it; I hope you are able to make the leap easily from the content of what was written in Nihilist Communism to the relevance of this response to your concerns. I hope to demonstrate to you in my exposition, a communist-materialist theology in action. 

The living thing escapes change either by correcting change or changing itself to meet the change or by incorporating continual change into its own being. ‘Stability may be achieved either by rigidity or by continual repetition of some cycle of smaller changes, which cycle will return to a status quo ante after every disturbance Nature avoids (temporarily) what looks like irreversible change by accepting ephemeral change.
Gregory Bateson Mind and Nature
First, lets begin with a theorem: the rate of live engagement with the idea of communism (i.e. the rate of non-ideological engagement with the idea of communism) can be measured, and this measurement indicates the crisis of capitalism. That is to say, the rate of the appearance of the idea of communism as a live problem at the level of conscious engagement with the problem of the rate of appearance of communism, indicates the level at which capitalism is in crisis. 

At present, at most, the global rate of manifest engagement is perhaps a few hundred individuals thinking reflexively about the communist problem. It could be that the actual rate  is much less than this but we can safely set the magnitude in the hundreds without too much exaggeration in either direction. This indicates that capitalism, as it involves 7 billion individuals, is something like 4 orders of magnitude greater (or more real) than the magnitude of living engagement with communism (please do the maths for me if I’ve got the terminology wrong). 

From this, we can deduce a situation which Camatte called real domination. Real domination is a self-correcting system in steady state. That is to sat that although the general social relation experiences some turbulence, its problems and the solutions to the problems are still generated within its parameters. This would suggest that all elements within the system have become stabilised (or embedded) and are not likely to cause too much of a problem in the foreseeable future. 

In other words, there is no reason to suppose that any of the following, individually or in combination, are likely to lead to imminent capital’s collapse within the next few years: 1. proletarian revolution; 2. a real historical movement of communism; 3. the tendency of the rate of profit to fall; 3. the collapse of markets; 4. the obsolescence of technologies; 5. the running out of raw materials. 

In fact, the capitalist system is so well stabilised that we are more able to envisage it as a continuous form of domination that has freed itself from Value  than we are able to imagine its systemic collapse. Very often, as Camatte suggests, communist thought is actually the thought of continuity-capitalism minus value rather than communism as such. 

Under conditions of real domination the capitalist relation persists as a form of naturalised environment, it is expressed in its units as a sort of introjected abstraction (a for-itself abstraction), the unity of abstraction and matter. It is at this point we intersect Camatte’s comments concerning the capitalised community, the realisation of communism on capitalist territory. He discovered, and we rediscover, that there are no barriers to capital’s infinite becoming:
Capitalised human activity becomes the standard of capital, until even this dependence on value and its law begin to disappear completely. This presupposes the integration of human beings in the process of capital and the integration of capital in the minds of human beings.... Since capital is indefinite it allows the human being to have access to a state beyond the finite in an infinite becoming of appropriation which is never realised, renewing at every instant the illusion of total blossoming.

The situation of real domination, of the total integration of the abstract relation with all individual social interaction indicates the impossibility of social change. Capitalism appears as an objective and absolute barrier to change which cannot be overcome by those subject-units which have been generated within that territory contained by that barrier. 

However, counter-intuitively, it is only by theorising this barrier, and exploring the objective impossibility of change that we are able to allow in our formula the possibility for change. At least, that is the inverted underside of the theory which takes it as historically given that the pursuit of the possibility of change is inhibitive of its realisation. 

Thus, the discourse of change, under capitalist conditions, is the means by which the same circumstances are best  ensured. Marxism is a discourse of change... and yet Marx and the Marxists through the first and 2nd Internationals behaved as bourgeois proprietors scheming by all means to defend their right to ownership of communist theory, which Camatte has termed repressive consciousness (i.e. the theory of communism as a project of capital): 

The French need a thrashing. If the Prussians win, the centralisation of the state power will be useful for the centralisation of the German working class. German predominance would also transfer the centre of gravity of the workers' movement in Western Europe from France to Germany, and one has only to compare the movement in the two countries from 1866 till now to see that the German working class is superior to the French both theoretically and organisationally. Their predominance over the French on the world stage would also mean the predominance of our theory over Proudhon's, etc. (Marx to Engels, July 20, 1870)
The realisation of communist theory as a property that is subject to the goals of bourgeois politics begins with Marx... the movement of change, which this theory seeks to direct, retains the historically ‘objective’ gains of the bourgeois era (i.e. Prussian military-industrial victories). Social revolution is then perceived as an, already in motion, historical procession through an objective aperture that positively gapes at the developing forces of production – and is therefore as wide as the world of trade itself. 

The conception of a transformation which is not transformation but the realisation of an already existing, if latent, set of relations and social laws, that may become directable by consciousness once relieved of irrational barriers, is a very accessible proposition. In fact, it is the bourgeois conception par excellence. The vision of a future in which the major work has already been done aside from the surgical release of a few adhesions is evidently appealing to the rationalist worldview and yet, it seems, that capital has inconveniently block-booked all the tables in the restaurant at the end of the universe:

... the "future industry" has come into its own and assumed an enormous scope. Capital enters this new field and begins to exploit it, which leads to a further expropriation of people, and a reinforcement of their domestication. This hold over the future is what distinguishes capital from all other modes of production. From its earliest origins capital's relationship to the past or present has always been of less importance to it than its relationship to the future. Capital's only lifeblood is in the exchange it conducts with labour power. Thus when surplus value is created, it is, in the immediate sense, only potential capital; it can become effective capital solely through an exchange against future labour. In other words, when surplus value is created in the present, it acquires reality only if labour power can appear to be ready and available in a future (a future which can only be hypothetical, and not necessarily very near). If therefore this future isn't there, then the present (or henceforth the past) is abolished: this is devalorization through total loss of substance. Clearly then capital's first undertaking must be to dominate the future in order to be assured of accomplishing its production process. (This conquest is managed by the credit system). Thus capital has effectively appropriated time, which it moulds in its own image as quantitative time. However, present surplus value was realized and valorized through exchange against future labour, but now, with the development of the "future industry", present surplus value has itself become open to capitalization. This capitalization demands that time be programmed, and this need expresses itself in a scientific fashion in futurology. Henceforth, capital produces time. From now on where may people situate their utopias and uchronias?
Camatte Against Domestication
As we diverge from the project of Marx, we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation of positively asserting the impossibility of capturing the future from the ground of the present. Our situation, which is defined by our having nothing to predict is a much more difficult proposition, and strangely, all the more implausible for that – as if claiming ownership of the future is a condition of political speech. We cannot claim to speak for a scientific method, we cannot point to objective historical laws, we cannot argue for the real movement of a revolutionary subject, we cannot insist on the progressive role of the development of the forces of production/destruction. 

Succinctly, even after 150 years of systematic thought of social change, all those inputs, the milieu which possesses this thought, still hasn’t arrived at a method, or an analysis, or a goal, or a viable movement. It is always at the point of returning to its original model in the conviction that something can be practically extracted from it. 

The above is the preamble, maybe we now need to think about the possibility of an escape from a room with no exits.

What is a system? How do we think about a system? But before that we should note again how we can think about change occurring in a system. As I have already noted, those discourses which are directed towards change are in fact discourses of conservation... and in reality orientate themselves towards a regulated continuity – i.e. their possession of what will happen next.  The discourses of change are sensitised to that which remains constant (if only to the role of the discourse itself within the process) and thus find the event of genuine transformation itself incomprehensible. 

The above is important and bears repeating because human society has lived through a period of two hundred years of social progress, i.e. a period of rapid constancy. Nothing has ever been so revolutionised as the capitalist social relation in order that it might preserve itself. And therefore, against the background of this tumult of repetition, all claims for escape become suspect, as we have arrived here via 200 years that were constituted from an ensuring of a continued present into the future through nothing but claims for escape

The prevalence of the tendency to conservation within the discourse of pro-revolutionaries is soon apparent in their propaganda, which urgently seeks to reassure doubters about the continuity in institutions and services (as Camatte noted, capitalism realises the programme of communism and at the same moment, communists seek to rationalise the relations of capital). And the role of syndicalism or workers’ control is capital’s last strategic pathway/adaptation through which, when workers step in during economic crises, continued production of the same, even in a circumstance of capital flight, only functions to maintain the essence of the existing social relation. 

Given that workers’ control of production is most pro-revolutionaries’ most radical conception of social change, we are starkly presented here with the problem of the process of change as a mechanism of reproduction.

But come along now, the possibility of transformation appearing within steady state systems that admit no transformations and which would carry on indefinitely without the intervention of grace is no mystery and outside of political discourse, it is in fact a really rather common event. 

The great extinction events can certainly be thought of in these terms. For example, the function of the grace particle is played by an inconvenient asteroid in the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction. The most important factor to be considered in this extinction event is the relation of the event itself to the preceding biological systems (which evolutionary palaeontologists define as dynamically stable) and to the resulting evolutionary patterns (i.e. the rapid evolutionary development and occupation of vacated niches by the already present mammalian species which previously had been fixed in place by the general relations of the earth’s ecosystem). 

Within evolutionary biology, this relation of catastrophic events to systems which are otherwise entirely defined by their self-correcting stability is called ‘punctuated equilibrium.’ The first of the two lessons we are able to draw from this concept is that systems once well established tend not to produce radical change. Contrariwise, evolution seems to produce extremely stable forms (there is no evidence for a constant rate of slow ‘progress’), in other words, well established systems tend to become ‘closed’ and conservative. The other lesson is that when radical change does occur, it is caused by the intervention of an element already contained within the system. The function of change within well established systems and under ordinary conditions is to select and regulate permissible alterations, whilst attempting to conserve the system’s overall coherence. 

It is now necessary to examine what a system is and how it relates to other systems. For this I will use some excerpts from favourite books which have helped me investigate this question. 

A system is a self-regulating structure; it is...
... a circular organisation which secures the production or maintenance of the components that specify it in such a manner that the product of their functioning is the very same organisation that produces them. 
I said you are gods Stafford Beer
All phenomena are ‘systems’, whether small or large, natural or artificial, a virus is a system but so is what plays host to it, a limb or vital organ is a system but so is the body of which it is a component, an ant hill is a system but so is the grassland in which it is constructed, an individual, a community, a culture is a system but so is the society which supports them. 

Thus, in our definition of systems, there is a discreet, recognisable unit and its relations with others of the same or lower types, and there is also a higher order environment which supports such ‘food webs’ or patterns of input/output interactions. Therefore, to understand the concept of change with reference to systems we must examine both the discreet form and the general relation. For our purposes, I will use three related basic approaches to the concept of systems of systems all of which assume dynamic relations. 

Recursion: A system is said to be recursive when it is recognised that identifiable self-organising structures are embedded in other ‘higher’ self-organising structures. The higher system supplies the constraints or rules, by which any discreet contained structure (and the equivalents in its class) are enabled. These rules, and thus the higher order system in which they appear, are termed a metalanguage and are concerned with supplying an operating programme that linguists term a ‘discreet infinity’  by which the members of the lower order system are able to access numerous adaptive and/or regulatory strategies that allow them to reproduce themselves as themselves.

The costs/benefits of the relation between the discrete unit that is embedded recursively into its environment is presented here by Bateson:
For change to occur, a double requirement is imposed on the new thing. It must fit the organism’s internal demands for coherence, and it must fit the external requirements of environment.
Gregory Bateson Mind and Nature
Bateson is well-known for his theory of ‘double guidance’, and how this mechanism operates to conserve systematised relations... the problem encountered by those who propose change within a social system for example is that whilst change may be attempted at the level of the discrete unit it will find no ‘confirmation’ in the immediate environment and as a result will wither, or rather, the ‘error’ of the change will be corrected by the environment (this is the problem encountered by the ‘alternative culture’ or by counter-hegemony movements); similarly, any change attempted at the level of the immediate environment will be resisted at the level of individuals (this is the problem encountered by state socialism in relation to peasants and other intractables). 

The double guidance  principle is well illustrated in John Wyndham’s novel The Day of The Triffids where the novel’s fantastical outcome becomes possible only because of the combined circumstance in which the world-wide commercial distribution of triffid plants is compounded with the blinding effects of a meteor shower; without these  events occurring simultaneously and globally, Wyndham could not hope to sustain the constraints of his preposterous tale.  Bateson describes the situation of double confirmation in a tribal setting which he terms an abductive system:
Their [a tribal culture’s] ideas about nature, however fantastic, are supported by their social system; conversely, the social system is supported by their ideas of nature. It thus becomes very difficult for the people, so doubly guided, to change their either of nature or of the social system. For the benefits of stability, they pay the price of rigidity, living, as all human beings must, in an enormously complex network of mutually supporting presuppositions. The converse of this statement is that change will require various sorts of relaxation or contradiction within the system of presuppositions.
Stafford Beer encounters the same corrective function in recursive systems (or systems of systems) in bureaucratic circumstances: 
... it means that every social institution (in several of which anyone individual is embedded at the intersect) is embedded in a larger social institution, and so on recursively – and that all of them are autopoietic. This immediately explains why the process of change at any level of recursion (from the individual to the state) is not only difficult to accomplish but actually impossible – in the full sense of the intention: ‘I am going completely to change myself.’ The reason is that the ‘I’, that self-contained autopoietic ‘it’, is a component of another autopoietic system.... Consider this argument at whatever level of recursion you please. An individual attempting to re-form his own life within an autopoietic family cannot fully be his new self because the family insists that he is actually his old self. A country attempting to become a socialist state cannot fully become socialist because there exists an international autopoietic capitalism in which it is embedded...
Stafford Beer Preface to Autopoiesis
In both ‘primitive’ and ‘advanced’ societies, the hierarchy of systems operate self-correctively, as an integrated whole, so as to reproduce by means of ‘double guidance’ both the defined lower order units and the discursive domains which supply the ‘discrete infinity’ of rules for their operations. Discrete infinity is the infinite combination of simple operational constraints embodied by those units that are bound by such constraints... whilst the constraints permit an infinity of possible interactions and behaviours they are all of the same categorical type. 

In both Beer’s and Bateson’s accounts no room is found within the system for transformative change instigated by a factor or factors already embedded within the system... such a possibility, i.e. a discourse of transformation, would negate the very nature of self-organising systems by interrupting their capacity to maintain their identity via adaptation and self-regulation. The totalised system of capitalist production formats myriad human relations but it is also preserved, corrected, dragged back by the active movement of those relations. 

In both accounts, change is the means by which stability is achieved; in fact change functions to articulate or give form to, or embody those rules of the higher order system which otherwise would remain mere potentialities. In other words, changes within lower order systems function as the means for realisation of the higher order system, renewing its boundaries and giving form to to its possibilities. It seems appropriate to reuse here the Bateson quote from the beginning of this letter:
The living thing escapes change either by correcting change or changing itself to meet the change or by incorporating continual change into its own being. ‘Stability may be achieved either by rigidity or by continual repetition of some cycle of smaller changes, which cycle will return to a status quo ante after every disturbance Nature avoids (temporarily) what looks like irreversible change by accepting ephemeral change.
Gregory Bateson Mind and Nature

We can also understand the command by higher order structures of lower order structures in terms of ‘stochastic systems’. This is the term for a form of selective procedure whereby randomly generated ‘mutations’ or pathways generated within the process of realising  a lower organism’s possibilities within the constraints (or ‘discrete infinity’) of a specified domain, and in which the environment ‘selects’ and thus fixes or affirms those which best fit the continued realisation of the environment whilst ignoring those mutations/improvisations/creations that are not so well adapted to conditions. 
Stochastic (Greek, stochazein, to shoot with a bow at a target; that is, to scatter events in a partially random manner, some of which achieve a preferred outcome). If a sequence of events combines a random component with a selective process so that only certain outcomes of the random are allowed to endure, that sequence is said to be stochastic
Bateson, Mind and Nature
The stochastic system, like the recursive system, also functions by means of a ‘doubling’ mechanism (the discreet unit affirms its environment and this is reciprocated by its continued selection) which conserves the integrity of the overall system by  admitting minor improvements, or reforms, to existing units, or by selecting new units only if they fit with the constraints of the environment. 

The stochastic system tends towards ‘steady state’, or self-organisation which thus establishes the base of the reproduction of its conserved aggregate of adaptations. And as a domain of change it becomes ‘impossible’ to conceive of a radical transformative change within its processes even though, as a self-regulating system, it functions in a state of perpetual change. 

However, whilst the stochastic system ‘actively’ selects (or affirms) discrete systems which affirm its constraints, it does not actively suppress that which it does not select. This results in a ‘remainder’ aggregate of random mutations that are not actively involved in the self-production of systems; many of these are simply not affordable to the system and die off, whilst others are conserved in a potential, or neutral state... this unused but conserved material is encountered as much in social systems as it is in biological organisms (the various functions of this neutral or ‘non-coding’ material range from energy dampers or dispersers to potential building blocks for alternative pathways within a changed environment):
... the gene pool of the population is nowadays believed to be exceedingly heterogeneous. All of the genetic combinations that could occur are created, if only rarely, by the shuffling of genes in sexual reproduction. There is thus a vast bank of alternative genetic pathways that any wild population can take under pressure of selection... 
Bateson Mind and Nature
Within a constant environment this material (along with that which once was selected but no longer performs its selected purpose) may be used in exaptations, cooptions, preadaptations, ‘spandrels’ etc and where old functions are deployed for new purposes. However, within transformed environments, that is where the regulatory/selective mechanism is itself radically altered,  entirely other adaptations are selected (many of these will have previously existed in a latent state). This situation of radical alteration of circumstance, the intervention of grace, is referred to by Gould when discussing the impact of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction 65 million years ago and the knock-on effect of this event on the function of mammals within the recalibrated parameters of the natural world at that particular juncture:
Most people assume that mammals prevailed in these tough times for some reason of general superiority over dinosaurs. But such a conclusion seems most unlikely. Mammals and dinosaurs had coexisted for 100 million years and mammals had remained rat-sized or smaller, making no evolutionary ‘move’ to oust dinosaurs. No good argument for mammalian prevalence by general superiority has ever been advanced and fortuity seems far more likely. As one plausible argument, mammals may have survived partly as a result of their small size .... [But] Small size may not have been a positive mammalian adaptation at all, but more a sign of inability ever to penetrate the dominant domain of dinosaurs. Yet this ‘negative’ feature of normal times may be the key reason for mammalian survival...
Stephen Jay Gould The Evolution of Life on Earth
The failure of the mammals to develop within one fully populated environment became a decisive prerequisite for success in an entirely different set of circumstances. The material for this success existed in the previous conditions but was conserved in a latent state... even so, it would have been impossible to predict either during that earlier state, or at the moment of ‘grace’ (the great extinction) that this material would go on to develop itself as it did and thereby ‘rule the vertebrate world.’ In other words, even though the necessary materials for a mammal revolution were present during the earlier state, it was not possible to predict that revolution from the presence of those materials. 

The above descriptions emphasise the bound character of systems, internally and externally. This bound character is perhaps best described as ‘structural coupling’, a term introduced by Maturana and Varela:
Every ontogeny occurs within an environment; we, as observers, can describe both having a particular structure such as diffusion, secretion, temperature. In describing autopoietic unity as having a particular structure , it will become clear to us that the interactions (as long as they  are recurrent) between unity and environment will consist of reciprocal perturbations. In these interactions, the structure of the environment triggers structural changes in the autopoietic unities (it does not specify or direct them), and vice versa for the environment. The result will be a history of mutual congruent structural changes as long as the autopoietic unity and its congruent environment do not disintegrate: there will be structural coupling.  We speak of structural coupling whenever there is a history of recurrent interactions leading to the structural congruence between two (or more) systems.
The Tree of Knowledge Maturana and Varela
The co-relation, or doubled character of relations between systems in itself contributes to the continued reproduction of systemic stability, in which predominant relations, based on established pathways and high threshold tolerance for alterations, continue essentially unchanged. 

Whilst coevolution produces conditions of dependency between autopoietic unities of the same order (between particular pollinating insects and particular flowering plants for example), the structural coupling that exists vertically between environments and supported species is much less specified (as the previously mentioned example of the great extinctions indicates). Maturana and Varela do not investigate the indifference to and ready acceptance of loss of lower order systems (lower order autopoiesis and structural couplings between autopoiesis) and local environments by the higher order system/environment. 

Individuals, other species, communities, local environments etc are all contingent from the ‘perspective’ of the totalising environment and act for it as mere forms for the dispersal of energy. For the total environment, the specific forms taken by the lower orders are entirely dispensable, expendable and utterly replaceable by similar others. Thus change occurring within lower order forms has little significance, and even less impact on the higher order system. The dominance of the dinosaurs is replaced by the dominance of the mammals, the form of each is not significant because the role played is similar in the realisation of the wider total environment (e.g. grazers, scavengers, predators). 

This expandability of lower orders and their dependence on the stability of their conditions can produce situations of pathological dependence and overspecialisation. The triggering mechanism (mentioned as the fundamental characteristic of the ‘structural coupling’ relation) by which anticipated changes in the ‘other’ system are included in the operation of the ‘autopoietic unity’ and are responded to in turn are thus described by Bateson in terms of both ‘collateral energy’ and as ‘addiction’ (when passing into a pathology):
Collateral energy: In life and its affairs, there are typically two energetic systems in interdependence: One is the system that uses its energy to open or close the faucet or gate or relay; the other is the system whose energy ‘flows through’ the faucet or gate when it is open.
The ON position of the switch is a pathway for the passage of energy which originates elsewhere. When I turn the faucet, my work in turning the faucet does not push or pull the flow of the water. That work is done by pumps or gravity whose force is set free by me opening the faucet. I, in ‘control’ of the faucet, am ‘permissive’ or ‘constraining;; the flow of the water is energised from other sources. I partly determine what pathways the water will take if it flows at all. Whether it flows is not my immediate business.
The combining of the two systems (the machinery of decision and the source of energy) makes the total relationship into one of partial mobility on each side. 
Bateson Mind and Nature
This calculated mutual triggering within autopoietic systems ensures a number of benefits, the foremost of which is a wider inter-systemic stability in which the struggle for survival is ameliorated by the positive interaction and support between systems (which combined together become a platform or ecosystem of and for the established specifics of life which is set against the untried ‘potentialities’ which exist in the system). 

However, this interdependency may pass into pathology as a result of overspecialisation (or addiction), a circumstance where the threshold of the necessary minimum of random change within a system (which must be kept at a minimum for the system’s continued survival as a cohesive entity but which cannot be entirely suppressed) is not reached. Addiction is particularly a danger where there is a hierarchical, recursive or environmental overspecialisation, i.e. where one system plays host exclusively to another:
Over time, the system becomes dependent upon the continued presence of that original external impact whose immediate effects were neutralised by the first order homeostasis.
Bateson, Effects of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation
In terms of human society this circumstance of systematic addiction (that is, addiction of lower order units to the traits imposed upon them by their environment and which put their continued survival into question) is described by Camatte as ‘domestication’:
The explanation for this is to be found in the domestication of humanity, which comes about when capital constitutes itself as a human community. The process starts out with the fragmentation and destruction of human beings, who are then restructured in the image of capital; people are turned into capitalist beings, and the final outcome is that capital is anthropomorphised. The domestication of humanity is closely bound up with another phenomenon which has intensified even further the passivity of human beings: capital has in effect "escaped". Economic processes are out of control and those who are in a position to influence them now realize that in the face of this they are powerless: they have been completely outmanoeuvred. At the global level, capital's escape is evident in the monetary crisis;  overpopulation, pollution and the exhaustion of natural resources. The domestication of humanity and the escape of capital are concepts which can explain the mentality and activity of those who claim to be revolutionaries and believe that they can intervene to hasten the onset of revolution: the fact is that they are playing roles which are a part of the old world. The revolution always eludes them and when there is any kind of upheaval they see it as something external to them, which they have to chase after in order to be acknowledged as "revolutionaries".
Jacques Camatte Against Domestication
Evidently, the content of my letter to you is dependent on certain acts of sleight of hand and misdirection for it to ‘work’. This is not intended to deceive you or to advance an ideology; such acts are necessary only because they are the effect of the parameters of my research. Certain ghosts or spectres appear at the edges of investigation and represent irreducible values or  simply the limits of a perspective. Therefore, it is a mistake to label these limits as ‘mysticism’.

In the text For earthen cup, I wrote, ‘If it is true that ritual marks the place where technology fails, then equally it should be recorded that technology appears where human feeling has been defeated’. What you describe as mysticism, is what I perceive to be the attempt to assert  human terms where dead labour has not yet defeated those terms under unfavourable conditions. 

And so, it is useful here for me to acknowledge that there are a number of holes in my arguments which I have simply ignored and yet which I perhaps should have anticipated and addressed. This acceptance of failure in a project that is carried-on anyway only becomes ‘mystical’ if it is translated into dogmatism. I hope you accept that enquiry and not dogmatism is my main concern. 

But even my central assertion is absurd, and you would not be reading this letter correctly if you did not do so assuming my humorous intent in the addressing of this absurdity. 

The above, or the entirety of this epistle, is a fiction and I acknowledge that it would not stand a critical evaluation on scientific terms. And yet, I still think that what I  have presented here is true and not at all a mystification.  

My basic thesis stands: change is not possible where change is possible, and therefore may only appear where it is not possible.  

I think if you attempt to apply this thesis to, for example, current events in France against the Sarkozy Government, in which the full range of anarcho-syndicalist methods, from mass strikes, street demonstrations, blockades, flying pickets, occupations and general assemblies that have been co-ordinated between numerous interested groups against a background of 70 per cent public approval, you will find a useful explanation for the sense that even so, these events seem to appear in a vast territory, a sort of infinite buffer zone, that absorbs them. The argument I have made explains why the effect of the protests only feeds into the continued reproduction of the same conditions.

I also think this thesis merits further investigation because such efforts would, I have no doubt take, a very creatively stimulating form. Which is the main reason for my lightly stepping into the territory of Borges after Zeno. I think my contention serves a wider purpose and presents a set of real problems in a, I hope you will agree, different light. 

Just as the text of Nihilist Communism is a last ditch attempt to save the role of revolutionary consciousness by identifying the one moment in all of human history where it might act for itself and hold sway over the entirety of creation, so here I have attempted to re-assign a role for discourses of change by challenging their ongoing participation in the reproduction of the same. 

It seems to me that the fictive nature of my arguments is a vital element in their appearance. Without that leap into the truth that belongs to fiction, I would not have been able to access such ideas and therefore these would not have appeared at this juncture for your engagement with them (the cruciality of the material of this engagement, as we now know, is decided wholly elsewhere by our environment’s selective mechanism). 

The reason I have shown my hand here, and revealed the fictional device through which this letter is constructed, is that I hope it will provoke an equivalent theoretical leap in your response. I would conjecture that the definition of a ‘leap’ in this context would take the form of a restriction on any references to Marxist schematics and paradigms and a corresponding engagement with an entirely other discourse. I would be most interested in the means by which you would achieve such a leap into your method, should you undertake to do so. 

Be well, and may the heavenly angels protect you,