Wednesday, 31 March 2010
CRITIQUE OF CALL (L'APPEL) 2
This critique of “Call”was written because it is being talked about among comrades, sometimes not too critically. For the sake of the article’s size, I will refer only to some crucial points that I see as the basis of their proposal.
According to Call, the main problem is capitalism. The State is a mere accessory that we can ignore, put in parenthesis. So, don’t expect to find anything in this text pointing to suggestions for an attack on the State. And don’t even bother looking for an analysis of any other structures and institutions of domination; in fact, for the Call the latter are desirable and even necessary. So long as they are managed by the “political force” they call “the party”, of course – “What would be of a political force, under empire, that didn’t have its farms, its schools, its arms, its medicines, its collective houses, its editing desks, its printers, its covered trucks and its bridgeheads in the metropolis?” (pg. 67). We realise on reading the whole of Call that a critique of production, technology, industrialization, the submission of the individual will to the collective will, militarization, politics, etc… is totally absent from the interests of its authors.
But, what about capitalism? What is the analysis and proposal of the Call?
According to the authors of Call, the objective and method of capitalism is “to ruin all community” (pg 30). And we’re given some examples of communities persecuted by capitalism: sects, revolutionary parties, secret societies… If we had already recognized the individual misery existent wherever the reproduction of a group feeds on the theft of the individual’s capacity to decide over his/her own life for some time now, the authors of Call seem to see a problem precisely in the disappearance of alternative societies. What they don’t seem to understand is that those alternative societies reproduce the same individual domination existent in mainstream society: only the form changes. Everything is about an image of radicality. But perhaps they are not concerned about this: their analysis doesn’t come from the individual. The autonomy they’re sorry about having lost is the autonomy of communities.
Obviously, for those for whom capitalism isn’t the reproduction of forced social relations not chosen by the individuals who reproduce them, but rather a formality where it seems to be sufficient to cast aside a symbol (the capitalists) for everything to be alright, that which is reproduced will be ok, if those who reproduce it are seen as the revolutionary subjects of the modern times. “[…] communisation means depriving only the agents of the empire from it” (pg. 69).
So, if the problem is the disaggregation of all community, the solution will logically be the aggregation and constitution of new communities. And this is the way that, in opposition to capitalism, the Call proposes communism. But what is Call’s conception of communism? “So, communism starts from the experience of sharing. […] The practice of communism, as we live it, we call “the Party” (pgs. 64/65). And, somewhere else: “[…] everyone has access to a certain amount of resources and knowledge made available by the simple fact of living in these lands of the old world; and can communize them.” (pg. 33). What is proposed is the sharing of that which we have and generate; the goal is the sharing of structures and resources, and the flux of experiences, knowledge and emotions of the “worlds” involved in those structures (pg. 66). And this is their communism. Along with “In a way it is existential liberalism itself that pushes us to communism, by the very excess of its triumph.” (pg. 63), you can see Marxism is just around the corner; even if they explicitly discard Marx. As in the past, dialectical materialism will find a way…
What the authors of the call intend is to live in communism in the midst of capitalism, “to start from the situation and not dismiss it. To take sides within it.” (pg. 9). Therefore, their project is one of building and managing infra-structures which, they hope, will aggregate “the deserters” and let them survive outside capitalism. But it seems to me that there are some things its authors don’t recognize: in this world, there is nowhere outside capitalism. If, instead of being destroyed, the technological and productive resources of this social order were to be occupied/taken/shared and managed without the intervention of capitalists, the exploitation and domination of individuals would continue the same as now, but without the intervention of capitalists.
If at some point one can read in the Call that “those who pretend to split material autonomy from the sabotage of the imperial machine show that they want neither” (pg 70), it seems to me that those who claim to build an autonomous community in the midst of this society are simply perpetuating the reproduction of this society. After all, if their desires are met through the sharing of existent infra-structures, why should they preoccupy themselves with organizing the attack on and destruction of those same infra-structures? That attack would be an attack on the very things they are proposing.
An example as to how something like the Call’s “party” would look like are the Black Panthers. A Marxist-Leninist armed party, hierarchical, authoritarian, vanguardist. The goal was to set up the conditions for a future rising up of the black community. In the meantime, they served 10 thousand lunches (?breakfasts?) daily, among other services provided. One could be a militant or a “client”. Or both! Working for the organization and depending of it were perpetuated with each singular act the organization did. Rebellion was strongly discouraged, and the value of “individuals” was measured by how much they could give to the organization, or how much they needed to receive from it. Because sometimes the State isn’t the most effective structure to control people. “Until the time is ripe”, of course! Maybe it’s this that the authors of the Call mean when they write “That it might take a generation to build a victorious revolutionary movement in all its breadth does not cause us to waver. We envisage this with serenity.” (pg. 25) Maybe this is the communism they want to live, but for sure it isn’t anarchy.
Some years ago a comrade said that our goal should not be the defense of interests, but the attack on interests. Also, from my own experience, and from other comrades’, I feel that “in order to be strong at the points of attack, it is almost indispensable to be weak at those you are defending”. It’s not an ideological matter, but a logical one: if you’re preoccupied with building and defending, it’s illogical to be occupied with attacking and destroying. To this goal of building “the party”, this material community, the Call provides something new, an appealing justification: in this context it is possible to live communism. And it’s in this way that you give a positive project a revolutionary appearance.
Here we can see why is that that the only time they speak of insurrection is to say that “insurrection itself is just an accelerator” (pg. 66). Like it’s more of the same: defense, certainty, community, construction, agglomeration.
But an alternative built in this world doesn’t need to come from activists or militants to be a limitation on the desires of the rebels; it only needs to be an alternative built in this world. And I think that here we can make a connection with one other fundamental point of Call: it considers that the individual was built by existential liberalism (and, consequently, that the individual is bad and the collective is good). On this conception they rest their premise that everything must start from the collective. This totally ideological position, based upon collectivist conceptions, reduces the individual to the liberal “individual”. “Liberalism may have invented the individual, but it was born mutilated.” (pg. 38).
The individual wasn’t “created” by any one, or by any system; the individual has always existed! Even if this simple fact surprises or embarrasses the collectivists and the Marxists. If civilization has always based itself on the theft of the capacity of each person to decide how and with whom to live her life, wherever there are rebels fighting against that theft there are individuals taking back their individuality.
But it seems that the individual is an obstacle for the goals of the authors of Call. The material community they want is reached “when affects and thoughts are no longer ascribable to one or the other, when a circulation seems to be restored in which affects, ideas, impressions and emotions transmit indifferently among individuals.” (pg. 45). I’m sorry, but for me it seems that it is individuals that have ideas, affections and emotions, and I don’t feel it is desirable that these start flowing independently of the individuals who feel, develop or discard them. It sounds as though we should be getting rid of something that afflicts us and at the same time that we want to “circulate” the good things it produces/communizes…
The authors of Call, intentionally and ideologically, turn the individual into something he never was (the so-called liberal individual), and attack her on the basis of that transformation. But the critique of a caricature is the caricature of a critique… It’s not hard to see that every revolt, large or small, known or not, has started and starts from the action of individuals and groups of individuals rising up against a specific aspect of their lives.
But precisely because rebel individuals are something that those who want the creation of an alternative society would prefer not to hear about, they imagine things right from the start in such a way that they don’t have to think about them again. After all, rebellion is intrinsically related to destruction; and I don’t think that is what they want.
For those who recognize as enemies not only capitalism, but every structure of exploitation, oppression and dominion, our critique is directed against all of them; and far from proposing the autonomous self-management of those structures, we propose their destruction in an autonomous and informal way of individual and collective struggle.
For those who see the necessary characteristic of capitalism to be not the ruining of communities, but the theft of the individual’s vital activity, the logical consequence is not the constitution of communities (nor of one big community), but the attack on what robs us of our lives. Instead of an autonomous community, we desire individual autonomy.
For those who see and desire communism as nothing less than complete access to the conditions of our existence, a conception that immediately puts us in confrontation with all the structures and institutions that prevent that access, insurrection is not an accelerator, it is the physical and necessary step that can give everyone involved an opportunity to go elsewhere, to live as each one desires. The insurrectionary act breaks the present context and creates new ones, offering no certainties at all.
For those who want to live anarchy now, who struggle for individual autonomy and freedom to live as we want with those we want, the autonomous community/party that the Call claims to create is as limiting and oppressive as the existing society, which in many ways possesses autonomous characteristics!
Even if that is not what its authors intend, it seems to me that all Call is offering are new limits disguised as radicality, expressed in a sea of confusing and ambiguous words; and this is not different from what others that we know well already tried to do before.