26 And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:
28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.
30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.
32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
33 And the Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
By this means, the Lord in his mercy, takes a left-field swerve from those conventions that are typically extracted from the ethico-logical principle of the greatest happiness. Following the intercession of Abraham, The Lord is prepared to suspend his annihilation of the city of Sodom for the sake of a minority of the righteous. The Lord’s acceptance of Abraham’s special pleading causes him to suspend, and potentially mitigate, a judgement that has already been made (Levinas cites Rabbi Akiva on the possibilities created by what he calls, ‘the after-verdict’). The relation of law to the human world, its process, thus continues beyond the point of initial judgement within a field of lesser, or secondary judgements.
Judgements in accordance with the Law may be suspended in response to further and other considerations. The Lord has acknowledged that there are already present in the human world ‘exceptions’ before whom the general application of the Law must be suspended. But Abraham pushes The Lord even further, The Law must be prepared to allow for the potentiality of exceptions. Abraham does not know that there are ten righteous men in Sodom, he is not arguing for their demonstrable special status, he is raising the hypothetical possibility that there might be such people and in doing so, he stretches the fabric of the judgement of God to include the exceptional as an unknown. In other words, by presenting his arguments in terms of quantity he has reconfigured the relation of The Law to human qualities.
If the Lord was thus capable of learning about the human world through the intercessions of Abraham and thus registered two different orders of signification, the qualitative and exceptionality of individual righteousness set against the quantitative register of all-persuasive sin then by what process do communists make judgements when they must also reconcile contradictory principles?
The problem concerns the mechanism in ethics by which loss may be measured against gain. Clearly, The Lord did not even consider the question of whether achieving the general good could or should be weighed against the proportionately minor loss of a few good men. And when Abraham intercedes, he inverts the usual logic of utilitarianism which places decisive emphasis upon what is quantitatively, ‘the greatest’... on the contrary, Abraham seeks to defend precisely that quality which is disproportionately costly. In this he looks to ‘suspend the ethical’, or perhaps more likely, reconcile incompatible ends (e.g. the annihilation of sin and the valorisation of righteousness).
If God is a heuristic device by which is recorded tribal society’s chaotic flowing into each other of Law and phenomenological exception, then by contrast the Devil appears from outside as a utilitarian who proposes a seductively simple, objective mechanism for measuring the proportions of competing goods. This probably leaves marxists as an ethical utilitarian variant; in practice marxist decisions are most likely made according to some version of consequentialism. It is necessary to qualify such claims with ‘very likely’ and ‘probably’ because ethical judgement must involve untold unconscious pressures which cause every instance of judgement, which are always certain of their own clarity, to resubmerge into an opacity of motive: the judge is incapable of understanding his own judgement, and furthermore may only pass judgement on that which he does not understand.
Where there is understanding, there can be no judgement. That is to say, understanding inhibits the practice of ethics. But in an examination of the other ground of Marxist ethics, why begin with verses from Genesis Chapter 18? The short answer is probably that it is necessary to sketch out an example of this other ground to create a distance from that space which the all-pervasive logic of consequentialism imagines itself to be drawn. More despicably, it is perhaps necessary to put one’s finger on precisely that spot which Marxism is most uncomfortable with, and intolerant of. In order to reach out to whatever soul is left to Marxism, it is necessary to partake in none of its theoretical presumptions. The foremost of these is the submission and availability of practice to the theoretically informed militant.
The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the Object, actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object, or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism — but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, differentiated from thought-objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity.
For the sake of convenience we will distinguish ‘practice’, as instances of theoretically informed activity, from ‘praxis’ (the general category of conscious interaction between consciousness and social undertakings). Marxist practice, and thus its ethics, seeks to realise the practicality of Marxist theory, and to practically and theoretically reflect upon its practice. And who could reasonably argue against such a proposition? It is the fundamental proposition of a therapeutic engagement of human faculties with the world... in terms of a project defined by the deliberate emphasis on life experience, the human community must seek always (sailing ever Worstword Ho) to fail better.
However, under more constrained conditions, Marx’s liberatory idea of practice also becomes a monster. Mechanised consciousness, or ‘artificial intelligence’, also learns by a self-correcting heuristic via the active expropriating of experience-based ‘knowledge’. Therefore, it seems that the actualisation of practice as envisaged by Marx is a fine example of how rules may function appropriately at one scale but inappropriately at another. At the level of social relations, learnt self-correcting operations are entirely appropriate because a full range of alternatives may be recorded, responded to and developed upon. However, at the level of individual or group project, an initial purposefulness tends to close down the possibility of a true engagement with alternative propositions in order to defend the ongoing integrity of the group or individual. At this level, practice is expropriative and the group or individual seeks only to possess or defeat the discourse of the other. Where expropriation is the dominant mode of relating to the world, practice (that is learning through experience) becomes distorted and even dangerous (particularly where group experience is then scaled up into the tyranny of the party form).
In this way, Marxist practice has almost always taken a proprietary form in which the jealous assertion of ownership of the objects of its discourse has taken precedence over all other modalities. Separation of means from ends resulted from a flawed application of the ideal of practice at an inappropriate scale. The small-scale purpose based project (Marxist consciousness) cannot include the full variety of social possibility within itself, and for this reason tends to present an impoverished version of both practice and social relations –– it seizes hold of representations of that which lies outside its discursive field without ever learning from, or developing in relation to, what is other to itself.
By way of a very long introduction we now arrive at the offending object, namely an illustration published in the journal Internationalist Perspective 57. The illustration is a photograph of a starving man, seemingly close to collapse, there is a hand reaching down towards him, handing something. It is captioned with the term, ‘Miss another payment and we take the blanket’... the implication is that the anonymous arm (wearing a watch) represents debt collection. The jokey tone is something like the ‘amusing caption’ competition run by newspapers, but the aesthetic is derived from ‘image macro’ internet memes. The questionability of the judgement involved in running the illustration is the main focus of this essay. Through examining it, and the justification for its publication (which I have read), it is possible to reveal the real other ground of Marxist ethical practice. An advertising image, even for a political cause, which instrumentalises a dying man is, to detourne Internationalist Perspective’s own words:
like slapping the faces of the many millions who died in wars and holocausts and of the billions who suffered and suffer miserable lives of avoidable pain.
The Marxist project, which proposes practice as a means of developing human faculties and relations, is not in itself prepared to learn from experience, but only seeks those encounters which affirm its invariable principles. For Marxism, practice is translated in the real world as an imposition of a prewritten code, a stamp of enacted principles. Marxism does not actually achieve practice in its practice. It performs only an invocation of practice, a representation of what it might mean for consciousness to relate to activity.
Whilst Marxism does participate in the general and historical working out of social relations, it cannot give an adequate account of them on its terms, it cannot embrace the world in its terms... it cannot include within its discourse its engagement with other discursive fields. So much of the world escapes it, and thus so much of its own project also evades its comprehension. The intricate but infinite process of relating the world to itself must occur at a higher order of recursion than that which Marxism is capable of bringing. Marxist practice is one outcome of the general process of social relations but social relations cannot ever emerge from a specifically Marxist practice.
It is appropriate to step back for a moment here and ask whether Marxist practice matters if all subjective purpose-based practices are naturally self-limiting or constrained by social complexity. If no practice may encompass the entire variety of possible social relations then the self-assertion inherent to such practice is not socially fatal and can even be seen as a naturally occurring and necessary component of fragmentary subjectivity. If a practice did not produce some level of cohesive allegiance it would not be worth much attention. All this may be so, but the issue still remains – the subject-fragment of Marxism, wherever it is inflated to a mass scale becomes psychotic... 9 million souls perished violently during the Russian Civil War; 20 million unnatural deaths under Stalinism (not including war dead); under Mao, more than 20 million died in the Great Leap Forward; up to 7 million in the Cultural revolution; 20 million in the Labour camps. In other words, Marxism at the level of personal opinion is tolerable enough, although like all forms of repressive consciousness it is more often than not distasteful and cranky, but on a mass scale it proved itself time and again to be a death machine.
For this reason, it is important to prefigure at the level of the subject-fragment future social relations with others wherever communist ideas occur – it is necessary for believers to actively learn not to rape and kill people before they get into positions of power. In order to inhibit the psychotic tendencies of principle-motivated groups, their members must actively practice a politics of the other. And to head in that direction, they must build up tolerances for those problematic populations which otherwise, and under other conditions, are answered with exterminating zeal. An elaborate theatre of ethics must be structured, self-consciously and ridiculously perhaps, into pro-communist consciousness. At the level of subjective practice, this would involve artificial complications of internal process alongside rituals of othering.
From Emmanuel Levinas, for example, communists might learn how to separate out the components of practice, agency, belief, realisation which tends to congeal in received notions of subjectivity. The communist assumes that it is the communists who must oppose existing conditions and also believe in a better world and enact the realisation of new conditions. Certain obvious dangers might be predicted where different faculties, powers, capabilities, rights all converge within a single body. If psychopathic personality disorder is defined by boldness, lack of inhibition and absence of empathy then the theory of communisation meets all three criteria. Therefore, in order to escape the logical escalation whereby the subject seeks to realise fantasy on his own selfish terms, real world interruptions (that is the voices of others) must be structured into his endeavours. Levinas on Justice:
It is in the name of that responsibility for the other, in the name of that mercy, that kindness to which the face of the other man appeals, that the entire discourse of justice is set in motion, whatever the limitations and rigours of the dura lex it may bring to the infinite benevolence toward the other . Unforgettable infinity, rigours always to be mitigated. Justice always to be made more knowing in the name, the memory, of the original kindness of man toward his other, in which, in an ethical disinterestedness - word of God! - the inter-ested effort of brute being persevering in being is suspended. A justice always to be perfected against its own harshness.
It is the role of the other to step in to prevent the logic of Marxist communisation escalating into the liquidation of the kulaks as a class. As Levinas says, it is the presence of the other which must correct the subject’s spiral of justice into harshness. But the other might be encountered by other means, as illustrated by Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling. For Kierkegaard it is necessary that the self-image of the subject as hero and author is separated into components or broken into fragments... the unity of theory and practice, of non-separated being, as proposed by communist theory and as centred on its own activities results in variants of insularity and chauvinism. However, for Kierkegaard, the other is not an other but is really an absence; or rather, as with Pascal, it is the process of discovering the other in the self as a means for deconstructing the self’s pride.
The tragic hero assures himself that the ethical obligation is totally present in him by transforming it into a wish. Agamemnon, for example, can say: To me the proof that I am not violating my fatherly duty is that my duty is my one and only wish. Consequently we have wish and duty face to face with each other. Happy is the life in which they coincide, in which my wish is my duty and the reverse, and for most men the task in life is simply to adhere to their duty and to transform it by their enthusiasm into their wish. The tragic hero gives up his wish in order to fulfil his duty. For the knight of faith, wish and duty are also identical, but he is required to give up both. If he wants to relinquish by giving up his wish, he finds no rest, for it is indeed his duty. If he wants to adhere to the duty and to his wish, he does not become the knight of faith, for the absolute duty specifically demanded that he should give it up. The tragic hero found a higher expression of duty but not an absolute duty.
If, for Levinas, the subject must open itself in readiness to be corrected from outside, then for Kierkegaard the ‘knight of faith’ must undo itself, and absent itself, from its own heroic role. On the threshold of its greatest triumph it must phone in sick. The knight of faith encounters the other in itself and thus interiorises its objective unworthiness. This act of self-relativisation both annihilates its sense of historic entitlement (its alibi of martyrdom and destiny) whilst preserving the possibility of a reduced but precious and essentialised involvement as an outcome of its heightened insight.
This path of self-abstraction is central to ‘nihilist communism’ where, in order to protect the idea of the human community as commensurate with the greatest amplitude of its possible variety, communist consciousness and agency are scrupulously separated, firstly on the grounds of the peripheral status of such consciousness and secondly because the representations of community by communists are most likely false. Practice is painfully relinquished by the knight of faith in order to protect insight from compromise and to leave a space open for another practice to be taken up by a higher order formation, by what could be called, the class or the moment or simply, social process itself.
However, the problem of the other’s presence in practice is the problem of the imagined other. The subject cannot directly engage the other and cannot undertake its obligation to it – the other is never reducible to or included within the subject’s calculations. Levinas and Kierkegaard may orient their ideas of engagement in the world towards the other, they may have prepared themselves for the presence of the other which will displace the psychopathological authenticity of subjective ethical assertion, but they cannot be certain that the other is there. Or even worse, they cannot be sure that in their presentation of sensitivity and reserve, they have not simply obscured a violent act of expropriation against the other.
Levinas can only work with his representation of the other, a representation which acts as placeholder for the other as other. The danger here is that the subject is using the other as an elaborate alibi for getting what it wants after all by perversely complicated route. Levinas counters this with the theory of the ‘third’ (an other other) through which a genus is established beyond the relations of individuals and to which the universality of law may be subjectively applied. However, like the spiral of ‘harsh justice’, Levinas cannot escape a spiral of his representations of otherness – an infinite regress of begotten others which may never escape the confines of their recursive constraints. Similarly, with the function of the absent other in Kierkegaard, the self-displacement by which the knight of faith appears in the world as not the tragic hero, there is only Kierkegaard’s representation of an absence, of displacement.
Practice requires a further frame through which relations between the subject and the figure of the other may escape simple mechanisms of projection and introjection. Essentially, this further frame is ‘aesthetics’, a term which we can understand to mean, the mechanism by which subjective assertions of judgement are made in accordance with an intuited sense of the proper ordering of the world. Prior to any sort of implementation of ethical practice, the subject must orient itself to what it perceives to be proper and improper in the world. The subject requires objective frames of reference in order to undertake a genuinely subjective practice. The sense of aesthetic order is written into the subject formation at the moment of interpellation. That is to say, the subject is formed by objective pressures and its capacity for judgement, its sense of order, appears with its readymade consciousness.
However, the subject formation is interpellated more than once, it is the result of multiple relations of power and multiple discursive frames... it is a complex structure and therefore does not simply parrot a single dominating narrative of power. The subject formation is ‘multi-interpellated’ – that is, multiple layers of aesthetic sensibility are layered over the same figure. The subject formation thereby immediately accesses multiple orderings of the world and is thus capable of making intuitive judgements in accordance with any or all of them.
Critical distance, or reflection, in judgement becomes possible as a result of glitches, discordances and antinomies between the different orderings which press down upon the generic subjective capacity for judgement. The subject formation is always driven by objective forces, of which it is an agent. However, it is also always simultaneously driven in different directions and by incompatible imperatives. Aesthetic judgements are therefore montaged, blended and spliced, or divergent and fragmentary. Aesthetics is always a subjective involvement in the circumstance of separation; it is the means by which the generic subject becomes particularised.
By contrast, the tendency within practice is to seek out a programmatic unity – the goal of practice is to compensate for the objective flaws in subjective consciousness. Unfortunately, such flaws cannot be overcome subjectivity, except in the narcissistic imaginary, i.e. as a practice that turns from the difficulties of the world and towards ideology. The emergent properties of practice cannot escape the interpellated nature of subjective judgement, and nor can it overcome the arbitrary composite form of its aesthetic basis.
At best, practice may be consciously reintegrated into aesthetics, and thereby allow for its own own correction by aestheticised constructs such as, for example, ‘the other’. The communist must seek out engagement with such automata in order to, as Camatte writes in the 1976 Preface to Capital and Community, ‘deepen the mode of being of capital so as to be able to escape it.’ It is still necessary to increase the variety of human experience under present conditions, as opposed to, over-investing in this or that reductive political campaign.
Marxism narrows the mode of being within capitalism in order to channel it politically. It attempts to situate its practice with reference to history and the proletariat. Its external reference points are supposed to legitimise the measures taken; in accordance with this, the Marxist undertaking seeks to avoid a simple representational relation to the proletariat, it does not just describe history but makes it. However, Marxist categories are not reciprocated objectively, and whatever reflections Marxism finds of itself in the world, these remain, essentially, one-sided representations – Narcissus gazing into the pool.
Marxism’s ethical judgements remain aesthetically based... for this reason, even libertarian Marxism tends to involve itself in the same image-repertoire, the same narcissistic versions of commitment and realism. The circuitry of narcissistic self-valorisation is the root cause of a Marxist ‘tradition’; continuity within tradition is the reason why Marxist groups cannot separate themselves from their past and why they seek to accumulate their achievements within an inherited framework which supplies the necessary objective authorisation in the form of blessings from the ancestors. De-sublimated narcissism is the reason why an individual, seeking communism, and expressing opposition to the world as it is, calls himself after another individual... by doing so, he names himself heir to a lineage and thereby aggrandises his otherwise unsubstantialisable claims (his aesthetic sense is so degenerated that he immediately disregards the nature of that inheritance: the hundreds of millions of murders, the torture, the secret police, the corruption, the forced labour).
Whichever communist calls himself ‘Marxist’, thereby confesses to having murdered his own soul; he immediately relinquishes all right to practice, to judgement, to critique. Communism must have no simple relation to proper nouns... communism is to be approached only through qualifying adjectives, so as to tie it back, to anticipate and inhibit, the positive feedback runaway of self-verification of claims.
But the repressive codes threaded through Marxist theory cause it to shrug off any external correctives to its approach. It looks always for an identity of itself, always and only itself, with communism, and thus perceives both practice and communism in terms of certain aestheticised traits and motifs: ‘production’, expropriation, material actualisation of its project and ‘overcoming’. Marxism does not tolerate the possibility of a russian road which Marx himself acknowledged. Where an override is set in place at the most fundamental aesthetic level, this can only result in wider and wider errors at the level of practice. For example, in the recent discussion of ‘communisation’, Marxism has demonstrated itself incapable of including even a rudimentary account of what might be otherwise to the communising process.
But anti-travail [anti-labor] must be accompanied by a vision of human activity, praxis, which encompasses the realm of production, freed of its historical (including its capitalist) integument. [...]. Communization is not the cessation of production. Quite the contrary! It is the beginning of the self-production of human beings, the auto-production of communist social relations. Human action has not been limited to labor, travail, Arbeit, under the constraint of exploitative and class relations. There is a distinction, then, between techné, poiésis, work, and labor, between the labor of the slave, the serf, the proletarian, and the work [oeuvre, Werke] of the social individual. It is precisely that set of distinctions, between labor and work, and the possibilities to be created by communization which pro-revolutionaries need to begin to explore: production, work, beyond labor.
Internationalist Perspective Communization Theory and the Abolition of the Value-Form
Marxism’s account of communisation is wholly ironyless. Whilst it cleaves passionately to its tradition, it has no capacity for processing its own history. It always displaces significance to the near future, towards what is to be soon undertaken – it quietly closes the attic door on all that has gone wrong in its name. It sees no dark humour in, and makes no deprecating reference to, its murderous history of actualisation. It does not reflect wryly upon the dangers inherent in its proposal for ‘directly’ and ‘immediately’ establishing communism by means of class struggle (i.e. through the fundamental economic dynamic of capitalism). It never looks askance, never catches sight in a reflective surface of the skull beneath. Without this basic capacity for tragedy, for shrinking back in horror at what it has become, it remains toxically inhuman.
How is communist consciousness to be inserted into class struggle when the struggle itself is wholly determined by the categories of capital? By what means do avowed communists recognise communist content and distinguish it from autonomised representations of capital? There can be no answer to these. The opposition to capitalist relations is structurally prohibited from locating a communist authenticity in its practice, or even in its ideas... there are no landmarks outside of the struggle by which communist theory might orientate itself. And without such landmarks, there is no means for verifying the authentic presence of a communism content in communist practice. The saying-so of Marxist militants is a wholly inadequate level of proof.
Marxist communisers still have not escaped the trap which they identify in The Call’s version of communisation, by arguing for a categorical relocation of agency from the group to the class... by definition communisation proceeds from the particular to the most generalised, and so, also by definition, it is always to be pressed forward by someone (a someone constituted complexly and not wholly in accordance with the general process of communisation). At the level of agency, that someone will always be categorically indistinguishable from, for example, the authors of The Call.
What emerges is also what has been inserted... the echo and the reflection. How would these proponents of communisation recognise what was ‘communised’ and what was not; by which faculties does communisation know communism? Communising ‘practice’ therefore is no practice at all, it is an unreflected upon aesthetic and all the more truncated for its failure to analyse the problems of a ‘direct’ and ‘immediate’ prescriptive practice under capitalist conditions. In the assertion of subjective intent, it fails in its account of objective constraint – what it is not. There is no appearance of failure in the discourse of communisation that is not externalised onto lapsing of others.
The aesthetic of productivist Marxism is evident here but appears unselfconsciously within the register of a proposed practice (the strategist is rearranging table furniture but in his narrative he conjures up massed columns of men converging from every horizon). In reality, communism has no particular relation to the consequentialist duality of necessity and production... communists may only authentically invoke communism as a suspended community, a community without given content – a stone floor swept clean, a space that is otherwise to the battlefields of history.
We might hypothesise that at communism’s core would be ‘relatibility’, that is a perpetual conscious elaboration of the relating and re-relating between terms for the sake of those relations, and also to realise those terms in relation to other terms – but it is unclear what exactly this means. Communism is not communisation, it is not the liquidation of the Kulaks as a class, it is not productive acts... on the contrary, it is otherwise to whatever takes the form of the programme, and otherwise to the means of the party-form. Communist consciousness is highly sensitised to registering alienation, it is adept at putting its finger on what is wrong with the world. It is in no way qualified to practice that which is also not wrong.
Let us be clear here, on communisation and other political questions, Internationalist Perspective is thus far the most human form yet taken by Marxist groupings. Of that baleful fragment of communist consciousness which still clings onto the buoyancy aid of its proper noun, Internationalist Perspective is by a country mile the least offensive. Often, in its specifics, it is not offensive at all. It is not identifiably antihuman. The framing of its documents and engagements are quite different to all other (even ‘libertarian’ framings) of Marxism. It has an honesty to it, and perhaps a reassuring naiveté. And yet, it does not relinquish ‘Marxism’ as a framing device, and seeks to remain within that tradition. Where one is just about to congratulate it on the separation of itself from the horror of what Marxism has meant (and really there is nothing to distinguish the different strands over the terror that they are capable of), the phrase ‘Renaissance of Marxism’ as an ambition, as an ideal, floats off the page and one’s blood runs a little cooler.
True, in the first part of the essay, Internationalist Perspective and the Tradition of the Communist Left, it is encouraging to read of a proposed ‘Marxist critique of Marxism’, but this is a critique that cannot be pushed too far. And how far are its members really prepared to go in their critique, and how quickly (given that the terrain has already been scouted out far beyond them)? Similarly, their critique of ‘productivism’ goes some way to ameliorate their problematic support for communisation theory. Although, again, such a critique stops some way short of where it should be... they still imagine that communism will emerge through a different relation to really existing productive forces even though it is within those very forces that are coded the historical relations of domination. A communist factory is a self-evident contradiction in terms – it is a paradox which cannot be ignored or resolved.
It is false to claim, as IP do, that within technologised fields of specialisation (such as science) there is a ‘relative autonomy’ which ‘favour[s] the resistance’ to capitalism. In reality there are spectacularised alternatives – what may be termed a full array of ‘solutionism’ - alternatives which still retain the coding of exploitation and alienation in the dead labour from which they are derived (Marxism is one such ‘alternative’). There is no passage from the dead of history to the life of communism.
That is another paradox which must be excavated from the heart of communist practice and not covered over with some convenient pile of theoretical leaves. We arrive back at the picture of a dying man coupled with a lolcat-style caption. How is it possible for Marxists to permit themselves the right of consequentialist decisions concerning the suffering of recognisable individuals? How can they use this image of this man? What is the relation of their decision to his suffering?
Their private justification for using an other’s degradation to the point of death as a pedestal upon which might be situated a mere argument is that capitalism is really awful and such images draw the reader’s attention to this. Clearly, this a naive means and ends argument which locates a greater evil, against which Internationalist Perspective hopes to gain some leverage. But the argument itself is self-contradictory. They seem to be saying that in order to achieve their end, which is the abolition of the use of individual human beings in the fulfilment of abstract social goals (i.e. generalised instrumentalisation), goals which are set against the suffering individual’s own interest, Internationalist Perspective have the right to a similar use of suffering so as to more effectively strike against their aesthetic representation of instrumentalisation.
They are evidently unaware of the irony to be found in the argument that death from starvation is considered an acceptable cost in preserving a particular social relation whilst the use of images of starvation is also considered acceptable in the expression of opposition to that relation. In both cases, the use of suffering and death is a constant, a tool, a means of leverage.
From the evidence of IP57, the Internationalist Perspective project has a long way to go in its ‘Marxist critique of Marxism’, and in its development of a non-instrumentalising practice. It is time to leave the 'tradition's' comfort zone. To begin this, its members need to look towards other discursive registers, other ‘traditions’ from which communist forms and theories of the human can be drawn. They need to engage more critically with the underlying aesthetic assumptions of their own decisions, and investigate how ‘practice’ could be both grounded and become possible in a non-instrumentalising form (i.e. in a therapeutically, liberating form which the theory of communisation merely points towards).
Camatte often comments in his texts on how communism must engage empathetically with the entire history of the human community and not restrict itself to perfecting an established self-selecting current. This seems like advice well worth taking. It is time to explore the realm of 'the after-verdict'. We might understand this realm of exception as the place where 'real, sensuous activity' as a composite, messy practice take place. Sensitivity towards generalised exceptionality might be the best way of messily including the other without reducing it. A practice of engaging the other, if not qua other, at least can go as far as to formally (aesthetically) set a place at the table. The goal of 'practice' after all, or so it seems, is always to seek to avoid reproducing given, alienated forms in consciously directed relations and activities.