Printing organized and paid for by Monsieur Dupont
No ISBN no future
In the old style this book is completely anti-copyright. Please feel free to use whatever of it you wish, in any way you wish, we would be especially pleased if you turned it into a West End musical. All we ask is that you read it carefully, thoughtfully and use it as a tool for self-reflection. If we truly want to get beyond the limits of all politics and all tyrant ideology then we have to understand what is written in this book.
Monsieur Dupont 2003
Monsieur Dupont can be contacted at[??]
MD Box A Arjuna Mill Road Cambridge England
Red and Black Notes PO Box 47643 939 Lawrence Avenue East Don Mills Ontario M3C 3S7 Canada
Also recently published: Wind-down of the Clockwork Lips Available from the above addresses
More on anti-imperialism................................138
We're all Claire Short now...............................141
Glossary:....................................................150 Base Becoming Human Communism Consciousness Culture Do Do nothing Events and effects Experience Freedom Ideas and the limits of ideas in numbers Imperialism
Interest Movement and movements Nihilism Owners of consciousness Politics Pro-revolutionary Revolutionary The spectacle State Capitalism
Cruelty or The Inclusion of the Distributive Sphere
Feint.................................................165 Thrust..................................................168 Parry.....................................................170 The inescapable condition...............................172 Cost effective individuality: Expressivity..............185 How many of you are there?.................................198 Stop thinking Expressivity, start thinking Transcendence..201
Death appears as the harsh victory of the law of our ancestors over the dimension of our becoming. It is a fact that, as productivity increases, each succeeding generation becomes smaller. The defeat of our fathers is revisited upon us as the limits of our world. Yes, structure is human, it is the monumentalization of congealed sweat, sweat squeezed from old exploitation and represented as nature, the world we inhabit, the objective ground. We do not, in our busy insect-like comings and goings, make the immediate world in which we live, we do not make a contribution, on the contrary we are set in motion by it; a generation will pass before what we have done as an exploited class will seep through as an effect of objectivity. (Our wealth is laid down in heaven.) The structure of the world was built by the dead, they were paid in wages, and when the wages were spent and they were dead in the ground, what they had made continued to exist, these cities, roads and factories are their calcified bones.
The had nothing but their wages to show for what they had done and after their deaths what they did and who they were has been canceled out. But what they made continued into our present, their burial and decay is our present.
This is the definition of class hatred. We are no closer to rest, to freedom, to communism than they were, their sacrifice has brought us nothing, what they did counted for nothing, we have inherited nothing, we work as they worked, we makes as they made, we are paid as they were paid. We do not possess either our acts or the world that conditions us, just as they owned nothing of their lives.
Yes they produced value, they made the world in which we now live. The world that now weighs down upon us is constructed from the wealth they made, wealth that was taken from them as soon as they were paid their wage, taken and owned by someone else, owned and used to define the nature of ownership and the class domination that preserves it.
We too must work, and the value we produce leaks away from us, from each only a trickle but in all a sea of it and that, for the next generation, will thicken into wealth for others to own and as a congealed structure it will be used as a vantage point for the bourgeoisie to direct new enterprises in new and different direction but demanding always the same work.
The class war begins in the desecration of our ancestors: millions of people going to their graves as failures, forever denied the experience of a full human existence, their being was simply canceled out. The violence of the bourgeoisie's appropriation of the world of work becomes the structure that dominates our existence. As our parents die, we can say truly that their lives were for nothing, that the black earth is thrown down onto them blacks out our sky.
There has been an increasing tendency within the pro- revolutionary milieu towards theoretical error since the 1960's. it is our intention to hammer in to the milieu some theoretical nails to halt this slide. To this end we have produced two essays in the hope that the trend may be reversed. The first essay deals with the decline of revolutionary perspective into political activism. It is our intent to strongly delineate the limits we have observed in practical activity, revolutionary ambition, the make-up of the revolutionary subject and the role of the pro-revolutionary minority. The second essay deals with the manufacture of pseudo- subjectivities and how they have been contained within capitalism as elements of its own self-organization and maintenance (spectacular forms, as the Situationists would say), it also considers the alleged role of consumerism and the consequences of prioritizing the anti-capitalist struggle in commercial and financial spheres.
Above all it is our intent to restate the character of the real struggle against capital. Capitalism is not an idea and it cannot be opposed by ideas or by ideas-driven action. There is no debate to be had with it, it has no ideas of its own except to say that all ideas are its own, it has no ideas intrinsic to itself.
Capitalism is, at its most basic level, a social relation of force. Capitalist society is made up of conflicting forces and it is only at this level that it can be undone, firstly in the collapse of its own forces and then in the revolutionary intervention of the proletariat. If capitalism is to collapse then it will do so at the level of the relation of economic forces, all of which (for the moment at least), and including the proletariat, can be said to be capitalist forces. It is during the collapse that revolutionary ideas begin to take hold.
Long ago in a southern country there lived a crow of determined character. One hot summer's day this crow was flying over the baking land of that country and felt the fire of thirst in its throat. It had flown this way many times before and knew of a river nearby where it cold safely drink. But when it landed beside the river it found not even a trickle of water for its need, the river had not flowed there for many weeks.
the land about was so hot and dry, nobody could hope to find even a drip of water there, but the thirsty crow had to drink or it would die for the heat of the day. It hopped desperately about the river bank in search of water, if only it could just fine one drop, one drop in that terrible desert, one drop to keep it alive.
The thirsty crow was about to five up its search when it saw with its black eye a stone jar set on a wall beneath an olive tree. At once the crow flew to the lowest branch of the tree so it could look down in the jar, and with excitement it found that the jar did indeed hold some water.
Quickly the bid hopped onto the wall and thrust its head into the stone jar but, alas, the water was too shallow and jar too deep, the water was just out of reach.
Luckily the thirsty crow was an intellectual, it knew that if it knocked the jar over, the water would soon be absorbed into the dusty earth. So it became the crafty crow and performed an old trick known since the beginning of the world by all the crafty, thirsty crows. In its beak it carried small pebbles from the ground to the jar. by dropping the pebbles into the jar it would make the level of the water rise and when the water had risen high enough the crow would be able to drink. The industrious crow dropped one, two, several stones into the water, again it tried to drink from the jar but still its beak did not reach the water. So, it brought more stones, many more stones, each of them was patiently carried in the thirsty crow's eak and dripped hopefully into the jar. The crow was at a loss. It has no explanation. The water did not increase, the trick of
the pebbles did not work. Was it not well known that the stones always made the water rise? In accordance with this law it had brought stones. Had the laws been suspended? If not then why had the water not rise? The silly crow could make no sense of it. Crows may be crafty, industrious, credulous and even thirsty but they know only one trick on hot, waterless, sun-blistering days. So the stubborn crow brought more stones. Many more stones. In fact, so many stones that soon the jar was overflowing with stones and they began building up beside it but never did one drop of water rise up to meat that dry and eager beak.
Angry and despairing, the thirsty crow looked ever further afield for more stones to pile around the jar, it was determined not to give in. Soon its desire for water was forgotten, it cared for nothing but the bringing of stone to the jar. In this way the wall beneath the olive tree grew taller.
It is not certain if this unfortunate crow died of thirst, or if its is how religion first began.
Introducing Monsieur Dupont
We are two communists who, for several years, have been engaging with the anarchist and communist milieu in Britain.
Monsieur Dupont is the name we have decided to use for our joint theoretical activity.
This book is a composite of texts that attempt to outline our discontent with the concept of consciousness and in particular the way this concept is generally used by those who regard themselves as revolutionaries. It follows that these texts are also a critique of the roles that 'revolutionary experts' and activists have given themselves.
Unsurprisingly our criticisms of the gestures made by pro- revolutionary activists (those who are, like us, for communist revolution) and the assumptions on which they have been based have caused us to become completely isolated in regard to that milieu. For undermining the practice that status of political activism we have been vilified for being ridiculous and slanderous and
insincere; indeed this name-calling has spread like village gossip, and no contemplation of our ideas is possible without the unintelligent repetition of exact wording of this judgment on our moral lapse and our outsider status before any consideration of our actual ideas is begun. It is enough to say that there have been sporadic attempts to have us 'expelled', shut up, and calls for others not to read our wicked ideas. These disparate communist tendencies (they rarely agree with each other) area at least united in their opposition to our critique of all of them!
Most of what appears below was developed in discussion with the Anarchist Federation (of the UK) and later posted to an international internet discussion list of communists; both groups adopted an attitude of hostility towards us; there may be the occasional reference to these groups in the texts.
It is likely that there are small contradictions in our text, this is because our ideas are not fixed but float about within a set frame; we have encountered people who have expressed their hatred of us by trawling our texts in hope of 'exposing' us, we do not think this is useful, we are, however, happy to attempt to clarify anything that seems self-contradictory in correspondence, but equally, we hope that our correspondence will put some effort in themselves and think beyond whatever problems they find.
We see ideas as a process and make no claims for the status of our writing other than it being a 'work in progress'.
Finally, although we have postal address in Cambridge, UK, we have nothing to do with the academia there, or the dreadful bohemians who grow like fungi outside its hallowed halls.
The closest that the world has ever been to communism (it probably wasn't that close) was at the end of the First World War; there has never been a time before or since when the world was so open to the possible. But what are to make of the inscrutable events of this near miss? How applicable are those facts now? And what of the context? What value should we place on our pro-revolutionary theory on the part played by the objective conditions, that is, the conditions not created by revolutionaries? Or put another way, how much of what happens in revolution is not designed or led by revolutionaries?
Many pro-revolutionaries argue that there can be no revolutionary attempt without the significant input of a revolutionary consciousness, but we are not so sure. In fact we are so unsure that we cannot grasp the precise meaning that they project onto the terms 'revolutionary consciousness' and 'working class consciousness'. We are also unsure whether these pro- revolutionaries really have a grip on the concepts they perceive to be indispensable. We try to keep an open mind about the events that will make up the revolution but we fail to see a revolutionary role for any form of political consciousness, revolutionary or otherwise. Quite the contrary, when we consider past revolutionary attempts and pro-revolutionary organization and their political interventions we see in the function of consciousness only an inhibiting influence.
In our opinion a great number of pro-revolutionaries hold onto the 'consciousness' model as part of the habit of being a pro- revolutionary, it is woven into their being: they muse sell their paper, perform actions that are designed to inspire others, and defend the integrity of their group. However, we also think that most of them (and this also includes most of those who do not belong to an official group, and who don't produce a regular paper) do not have a properly formed conception of what working class consciousness really is, or a working knowledge of how it is to be transmitted to those who do not have it
Some formulations of consciousness by pro-revolutionaries are extremely naive, one recently informed that it was 'being awake', we chose to consider and investigate this statement
seriously even though it was intended as a piece of malicious flippancy. (To illustrate the tendency to move towards absurdity in the pro-revolutionary milieu, we were then condemned by one of his colleagues for formulating revolutionary consciousness as merely 'being awake'). As a consequence of all this confusion we intend to formulate our critique of the communist objective of consciousness as slowly as we can, without, of course, abandoning the graphic an passionate qualities of our prose that so many people have told us they really enjoy...
We think revolutionary expertise, which bases itself in organizational certainty and theoretical rigidity, measures only pro- revolutionary fabrication, it has but one relation to actual social conditions, which is that it is wholly unable to escape its determinations. Predictions for the future are hypothesized out of past happenings mistake the very nature of revolution, which we all agree is an event that is precisely not conditioned by the past and is characterized as a complete transformation of humans existence out of the economic mode. If we cannot recognize the future in the present then we cannot decide which pro- revolutionary activity or value of the present should be promoted or carried through to the future. It is our contention that most pro- revolutionary activity extends existing conditions and acts to prevent the future. We think many pro-revolutionary rather enjoy the antagonism of capitalist society and the part they place by supporting a 'side'.
We cannot say for certain what is to be done. What we do know is that the past appears, in one form or another, in the present, before our eyes, and from this appearance of dead forms we can identify what we think is counter-revolutionary. For example we see that consciousness is a concept that has been consistently deployed n past revolutionary attempts and because those attempts all failed the concept of consciousness and its role must be questioned. Our critique of consciousness begins with our understanding of the failure of revolutions: we see that consciousness, as an ogranizing principle, has always been deployed by a certain section of the bourgeoisie which seeks to use working class muscle to gain political power for itself.
As an alternative to the consciousness, which is, of course, also a 'recruiting' model, we argue that once factories have been seized
by workers and capitalist production halted then through the resulting crack opened up in the structure of capitalist society humanity may find it possible to assert itself for itself. We therefore see revolution in two stages: (1) the seizure of production by the working class in pursuing its self-interest; (2)the collapse of existing forms of power brought on by the contradiction of working class ownership. The collapse of established power will bring a new material base of human society into existence, drawing from this base the mass of humanity will have the opportunity to remake itself.
How the working class goes about the first stage of the revolution we can only guess at, but we can surmise that things will follow similar patterns (positive and negative) to events that have happened before, and those who have studied such things (pro- revolutionaries) will bring their ideas (for good or ill - but will happen, as we can see in history) to the frontline of communist activity during such times.
It may appear to some readers that our consideration of the question of consciousness becomes a little obscure in places, a complete refutation of the concept is quite complex, but is should always be kept in mind that we are concerned with the second most basic activity of pro-revolutionaries: the communication of ideas and the explanation of actions taken. It may also seem that we are only concerned with old left formations and theories, and that anti-capitalism as it has recently appeared already outflanks us by its very modernity. It is true that this text does not attempt to engage anti-capitalism in the modality of its own language but our project was begun as an explicit critique of present day anti- capitalism, and has been continued as a critique with its left- communist supporters. At all times in our critique, when we refer to the concept of consciousness we are in fact addressing the actions of pro-revolutionaries on consciousness: we could equally use the words 'organization' or 'propaganda', the meaning of the deployment of which is a conjecture concerning the profound effect of directionless bodies made by the application of externally organized catalysts. What we have in our sights are the underlying motivation and assumptions of pro-revolutionary activists.
The working class, as the revolutionary body, do not require consciousness but a peculiar alignment of events, and a series of causes and effects which produces a specific economic crisis that ends up with workers holding the levers of production.
The revolution has two stages. The first is this naked, non- conscious holding of the productive power by the working class (that is to say, of course, it is conscious and some consequences are foreseen, there is a clearness of perception and a definite awareness of relative forces but there is no alignment with the archetypal codes of political consciousness: "liberty, equality, fraternity"). We see that the working class arrive at this first level of revolution by force of circumstance. In defending their own interest in an increasingly unpredictable world, and with capitalists bailing out, they end up, almost by chance, in a charge of the productive economy. We say that their brief period of ownership will occur by chance because it will not have been actively, or consciously pursued - the proletariat will have consistently asserted its own interest and this steady course, when taken with general economic breakdown, will be enough to cause a proletarian dictatorship.
A material base will begin to come into existence at this point, and all human activity will be determined by, and be reflective of these different conditions. The second stage of revolution is made by the vast mass of humanity realizing what the essential proletariat have achieved and then escaping through the hole created by events. The second phase is about becoming human and throwing off the economic model entirely, during this period the working class will cease to exist, as will all social categorizations, and humanity will organize itself and its relationship to the material base by itself and for itself.
On the role of consciousness, of course, there is reflection and understanding of what is happening but it is not consciousness in the Marxist/Hegelian sense, which we characterize as the co- ordination of pre-set values among a great many people as a preliminary stage for engaging with the world. Therefore it is possible that a world-wide consciousness could come into existence because of revolution because consciousness is not a
precondition of revolutionary action but a consequence of revolution accomplished.
Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.1984
Many pro-revolutionaries argue that revolution cannot happen without a revolutionary will propelling the revolutionary body forward. For them the revolutionary body must be conscious of its goal and of the connection between its actions and the goals, it must be aware of the consequence of what it is doing when it is engaging in revolutionary activity. For many pro-revolutionaries this means the revolutionary body must consciously embody both explicit revolutionary and post-revolutionary values. The question of consciousness is therefore absolutely central to the revolutionary project and to pro-revolutionary practice. But certain problems become apparent when consideration is paid to the specific formulations of consciousness and the means of its arrival of manifestation in the revolutionary body. The first of these is the relative but objective separation of pro-revolutionaries form the revolutionary body, there seems little in common between the political values of the pro-revolutionaries and the economic struggles of the revolutionary body. This separation is most clearly stated in class terms: all too few pro-revolutionary are proletarians, this immediate distance calls for solutions to the problem of how to reach out to the workers, what language to use, which short term goals may be pursued without compromising the revolutionary project, which revlutionary values are appropriate for expression in this situation, and so on. Most crucially there is the problem of reproducing class relations within the revolutionary movement middle class intellectuals as leaders are and workers as, well, workers. From our experience of the current pro- revolutionary milieu, we have found no serious theoretical address of this problem. Most pro-revolutionaries have no clear-cut definitions of what revolutionary consciousness is, or how it is to be transmitted by pro-revolutionaries to the revolutionary body without the contamination of class domination. We have found that pro- revolutionaries are simply not prepared to discuss why it is that revolutionary consciousness has been steadily leaking out of the
proletariat since 1945, and why after fifty years of pro- revolutionaries 'speaking the workers' language' this drift has not been reversed. They have been busily dropping pebbles in the jar but the level of the water has not risen. Why has the pro- revolutionary movement had no success in conveying its message? Why has the working class not listened to its educators?
Consciousness is a political category. A world-wide or even national conscious proletarian identity would involve a high degree of organization, which is another word for consciousness. There is no objectivity existing, separate sphere of revolutionary consciousness and certainly none that is owned by a particular section of humanity; the working class especially do not own consciousness, they do not own anything (except their playstations). So, if revolutionary consciousness does not exist objectively, that is, as an immediate determination of the material base, then organizations must bring it into the world. Organization carries consciousness into the world; as consciousness is not present 'naturally' it must be transmitted by and organizing agency, but which organization?
It is the pro-revolutionaries themselves who contribute consciousness to the revolution, but unless we understand pro- revolutionaries as being an objective expression of the negation of capitalist society then we are bound to see both their antagonism to all aspects of the existing order (and not just to some political issues) and their role of transmitting to the working class values that transcend existing conditions, as being more than a little subjective and therefore fallible. Most pro-revolutionary groups view themselves as being objectively constituted by the need of society to overthrow capital and therefore they see themselves as qualified to prescribe values and strategies to the proletariat. We completely refute this assumption; all pro-revolutionary groups are subjective bodies, created by the subjective will of their participants, their perspective therefore never escapes their subjectivity (if this were not so, then there world not be many small pro-revolutionary groups competing against each other, but only one organization. Of course, most pre-consciousness organizations have a tendency to see themselves as the one true faith, and on this basis launch their critiques of each other). Pro-
revolutionary groups are not the historic party, they have not been thrown up by the economic base, they are not an inescapable result of capitalism's contradictions. In most cases pro-revolutionary groups are created in response to purely political events and have little connection to workers' struggles. Those who argue for the transmission of revolutionary consciousness to the working class by pro-revolutionaries see their role, effectively, as one leadership. It is interesting for us to observe how those who argue for the 'transmission of consciousness' model do not practically escape from the confines of their milieu and do not reach the working class, they seem content to exhort each other to be more realistic, speak in a language the workers will understand, etc etc. But nothing ever happens, if these activists were any good then they would surely be locally recruiting five or more new adherents every week. The fact that the message is not getting through is, for us, the final critique of the concept of 'messages'. To see in advance what ideological requirements are to be met by the proletariat, despite all experience of the failure of this method, is putting the cart before the horse and is a good example of impatience, this is as true for 'councilists' as it is for vanguardists.
Because pro-revolutionaries have to learned how to wait, have not learned to engage at the level of their experience - they are always wanting to lead the way, wishing forward their hot- brained solutions - they are forever looking back and wondering why nobody is following them. Theories of consciousness and organization are always attempts to impose past reflective forms onto living struggles - consciousness in these schemes becomes a stage, a precondition for the revolution. These pro- conscious/pro-revolutionaries think that no matter how intense a specific struggle might be, it is not explicitly political then it is lacking in essence and therefore not wholly real - to the struggle they bring always the political dimension but never consider how the political dimension may, in reality, be lagging behind the economic struggle.
"In capitalist society the true contradiction is not one of ideas - revolutionary, reformist, conservative reactionary, etc. - but one of interests. No kind of will or desire can overthrow commodity production or abolish the wage system. This will only break down as a result of class struggle arising from the very position of the working class in the system of capitalist production. According to a widespread opinion "class consciousness" and "unity" are seen to e the main and necessary conditions for what is considered as "revolutionary behavior" or as "working class action". This view overlooks or miniterprets how action and consciousness are influencing each other. Workers don't act as a "revolutionary class" because first of all they are or become "conscious" of what they want. "Unity" is not a precondition for, but is crated in, and as a result of, struggle. Workers are a "revolutionary class" because their position as a class inside the capitalist system makes it inevitable that the mere defense of their own interests brings them into direct opposition to the fundamentals of the existing order. Such struggles are fought continuously in the factories and elsewhere, and potentially they are revolutionary. The development of class struggle with all its changing forms is therefore far more important than the development of the so-called "revolutionary movement", regardless of the meaning given to this word. The break with any form of exploitation of political practice and thought (reformism, etc.) is not a matter of theoretical discussion and conceptions but a matter of class struggle and workers' practice, a practice which is the result of their daily conditions of exploitation."
The text continues elsewhere:
"The bulletin [Echanges] was started as a means of spreading and receiving information. Those participating in this project decided not to bother with the clarification of standpoints held in common (which usually accompanies the birth of a new group) but to accept the exisiting tacit agreement. The basic implicit agreement which
underlay the content and form of the information published was still badly defined at the start, but as the project developed, it revealed a sufficiently unified approach among participants even f participants were very diverse as explained above. "This tacit agreement expressed itself in the analysis of various phenomena of the class struggle taking place every day and placed in the context of a more general understanding of the world. These phenomena include what many other people think to be individual forms of protest which are in fact part of a collective movement (e.g. absenteeism, turnover, refusal of work, etc). This is necessarily linked to the critique of the existing theories of modern society. "To do this, we must have information about these conflicts and theories. If inside Echanges we sometimes draw different conclusions from a specific fact or from a set of facts, we still think that the information which describes these facts should have certain qualities. Here too, a few simple principles guide our way of selecting the information published in the bulletin... "The raison d'etre of the bulletin is directly determined by the double inadequacy of the official means of information: lack of information on class conflicts, exaggeration of the importance of political and economic information (two ways of making reality). "Hence the double task of looking for information concerning the experience of struggle of all sorts and of making a meaningful choice from the mass of political, diplomatic and economical news. ... "Class stuggle exists and develops independently of these "revolutionary groups" or "movements". The level and size of the so-called "intervention of revolutionary groups in the struggles" never determine or fundamentally influence the level and size of working class struggle. We may be individually involved in a particular struggle or because we participate in one or another of the host of temporary organisms created during a particular struggle and for that struggle alone. We consider that outside these struggles and exchange of information, discussions and the seeking of theoretical insights are an essential instrument of our own activity which eventually might serve others as well."
Despite their brilliant, simple and clear wariness of "consciousness" a problem remains with the approach of
Echanges. This is that they are too, as it were, polite, and they seem hesitant about the possible concrete role of left and pro- revolutionary individuals and groups in moments of intense class struggle (and even revolution). In their introductory text and elsewhere Echanges appear coy about what they are doing themselves and what practical effect they might have. It is clear that their journals are only read by those who might understand them, that is, a thin scattering of radicals across various countries. Their journals are read by people who are like themselves, and not by the working class in general or even by the workers involved in the struggles that Echanges report and analyze. Echanges are absolutely right about how the working class might become revolutionary, but they seem to fail to acknowledge the role that their readership and themselves (those who might understand what they are talking about) could have in present class struggles and future ones.
Because their modesty forbids them to give this scattering of radicals, themselves included, any real importance in the development of events they fail to see, or explain, just what it is they are doing, or think they are doing. Of course, they are right to understand that they have no (or extremely little) effect on class struggle in the present time, but their modesty seems to have led them to deny the role they have now and might have in the future.
What we have to understand is that the effect that we might have on left radicals (that is, the only people who are able to listen to us) is very important because, whether we like it our not, many of these individuals will come to the fore in the times of revolutionary upheaval. This will be due to their prolonged interest in "changing the world", their knowledge of what might happen in certain situations and their general silver-tongue-edness. Thus it is most important and a matter of constant urgency that we engage this disparate group in dialogue in order to get as many of them as possible to ditch their leftist/liberalist/statist/managerial, etc, convictions and take on communist positions. The process of development must be done by engaging people bot on paper, in jouranls, and at discussion meetings, and also in areas of practical struggles. [It goes without saying that we can also engage, as a separate activity from "political" work, with our fellow workers in struggles at our
workplaces, in the knowledge that we may also be listed to in these situations, where rather than trying to install "consciousness" we will provide, or suggest, concrete tactics and strategies.]
Echanges say that their "activity... eventually might serve others as well", but they do not explore what this means in any real depth. One reason why Echanges do not seem to explore this aspect of their activity might be because the truth of what they must do, by their own logic, is to actually go against most of the "revolutionary" communist and anarchist milieu. The difference between Echanges and the rest of the communist milieu is over the concept of "consciousness", which Echanges almost completely reject. To take the logic of their position into the arena of the communist milieu, as an explicit argument, creates the risk of being totally rejected by that milieu. To examine the concept of consciousness in any depth leads to the equating of that concept with leadership and organization of the working class by "revolutionary experts". To go down this theoretical road leads to the realization that in an important aspect there is little real difference between the projects of anarchism and most of communism and their supposedly deadly enemy, Leninism. If one is going to make this conclusion then one is going to lose most of ones "friends" in the political milieu. Echanges seem to have tried to avoid this, and, indeed, because of this they have had some limited continuing respect amongst the communist milieu down the years. [Monsieur Dupont have no wish to be so circumspect.]
1) The reason MD advocate the possibility of revolution via the intervention of a relatively, numerically, small section of the proletariat is very simple, we see that only a relatively small section (a vast minority) of the proletariat have potential power over the process of capitalist production.
The acts of most people do no effect the world but function at a level wholly contained effects of the world's turning. In contrast the proletariat's anti-act, the act of non-production or of ceasing work, instantly has effect (like in a dream) on capitalism as a whole (in the past few months, lorry drivers, postmen, tube workers and now railway guards have stopped sectors of the British economy). Most workers are now employed in sectors that are peripheral to the economy's well being., if they take industrial action it causes inconvenience only to the immediate employer and perhaps a few companies up and down the supply chain. In contrast the essential proletariat is that group of workers who can halt vast areas of the economy by stopping their work.
These workers are employed in the economy's core industries, industries that can only operate with a relatively high level of labor input into their processes, which give to those workers an already existing control over process; core workers' latent power can be demonstrated immediately in industrial action which spreads its knock-on effect to all businesses in the locality and beyond, producing spiraling repercussions in society. Core-workers include factory workers, dustmen, power workers, distributions workers (post, rail, road haulage, ferries, dockers, etc); in all of these examples the cessation of work causes immediate and widespread problems for the economy, and this is why it is precisely in these industries that wildcat action is more frequent, quite simply, industrial action in these industries has a history of success.
Our certainty concerning the revolutionary potential of the essential proletariat is not at all founded upon a presumption of the superiority of life lived as a proletarian, or that working class existence is an end itself that should be pursued by pro- revolutionaries. We do not see the modes of working class organization as an indicator of a possible, post-revolutionary
future, nor as an inherently preferable, that is, more morally pure, existence in the present, as compared with middle class life. We say this because these are the pretended presumptions of many inverted snobs in the 'class struggle' movement, they tick off proletarian characteristics like naturalists identifying a separate species. We do not pointedly prefer football to opera, we do not think it is better, more pure, more human to be poor than to be rich. We do not think it is inevitable that human kindness is more likely to be encountered in working class individuals than in middle class individuals. We do not think working class people are better than anybody else because they have been defined as belonging to one or other social category. We are not interested in working class culture. We don not accept that you can be working class if you are not employed as a worker no matter what your family history (this is not intended as an insult or slight on people's sense of themselves and where they come from, but we are bored with university lectures who use 'life was hard back then' as a means of asserting their authority). Quite simply, we see the working class as being an economic function organized as part of capitalism and not an ethnic identity, if you are no longer employed as an industrial worker then you are not and industrial worker. The same goes for industrial workers when they are on holiday, off sick, in the pub, or indeed anytime when they are not present on the actual production line, that is, anytime they are not working or having an effect on their work (in official or unofficial industrial action, when they are preventing production).
We are not interested in theoretical expanding the working class to include all militant formation from blacks, gays, women, disabled peasants; we are not interested in the working class becoming more human (that is, more political) by means of a raising up through consciousness. We do not celebrate the working class: working class life is rubbish, it is not a condition to be aspired to, and the past thirty years of pro-revolutionary fetishization of the proletariat as a thing in itself (the legend has it that the leftists group Militant, used to force its activists to war flat caps and donkey jackets on their paper sells so as to 'fit in') has mistaken and confused the actually power of the working class and reduced the proletariat to the status of just another oppressed minority. Finally we do not endorse the delinquency of the underclass or interpret it as rebelliousness, we see permanent delinquency as the psychological absorption of dehumanization, no
more than a v-sign offered by one who is standing in quicksand. Underclass delinquency fulfills the function ascribed to it by the state: it causes life, particularity that lived on the housing schemes, to be even more constrained than it is already employment.
The working class is nothing but the collective position of those who are brought closest to the machinery of the capitalist system; a human function in the capitalist machine; the working class are the revolutionary body because of, and only because of, their position in the capitalist economy, they are the one social body that can close the system down.
From our experience we see the proletariat as being made up of many individuals, all different, and with just one thing shared by all of the - they have the same economic position, they all have the same functional status (labor) and all have the same economic value (wages). If general circumstances force you to work in an essential industry (and by essential we mean those industries that will make the continuation of capitalist society impossible by their absence) then you are a proletarian, this social status is not something to be fetishized, it's just a fact. The working class is merely a function of the capitalist economy. We are interested in the proletariat only to measure that the proletariat literally has in its hands the levers of capitalism's power. Only those who can be effective will be effective.
As for the left, everywhere we see unresurrectable and useless acts, which no matter the intention connect only with institutions that were formed ages ago: revolution has become, for too many, the smashing of mirrors - at the moment this is called anti- capitalism. There are no revolutionary means of connecting to society, there are no means of escaping absolute containment by institutional determinations, except in the locus of production; factory production is where society's power originates and it is the only place where it can be directly engaged for certain; outside the factories all is spectacle, all is mirrors. Every non-productive social form is more of less unreal and engaging with them in political terms is always a move into falsity.
How is an anti-capitalist protester going to change the world? By what mean exactly? We have given our formula, yes it is simplistic, it is materialistic, mechanistic even, but even so, everything in the world is made, and power derives from the control of this making, if the making is stopped then the source of this power is interrupted, that is our formula. So now let us hear the plans of the anti-capitalist, what fro them is the source of capitalist power, how is ownership maintained? How are the anti- capitalists to engage the power they have theorized, and how to overthrow it? If it is a good recipe then we shall use it, if however, it begins: first take several million assorted people over the world and get them all angry about the conditions of their life, and induce them to catch a plane to some foreign city to march down the main thoroughfare, perhaps breaking a few windows, then we say this is not a good recipe but a continuation of miragic democracy by means other than the vote.
The world will not be changed by millions of people voting for change, or demonstrating for change, because capitalist power is not constituted with reference to human feelings: political desires and demonstrations, which are the social forms consciousness takes, cannot touch capitalist domination but are merely determined by it. We have no place for consciousness in our scheme, we see no need for a generalized formulated desire for revolution. Revolution belongs to the mute body and its resistance to, and its giving out to, the imposition of work, what is needed in the revolutionary struggle is precedence given to the needs of the body (consumer culture is a contemporary echo of this). The slogans are not inspiring or romantic: more rest, more pay, less work, no deals on productivity. However, once this demand- regime is set in motion it cannot be side-tracked except by counterfeit political demands, or formulations of radical consciousness made by those who seek to lead it. Once the body tends toward rest, it cannot rid itself of that inclination unless it is roused again to work for some political vision. In short the struggle of industrial workers against capital will be conducted entirely in selfish terms, which in the end describes itself as the struggle against work in the interest of highly paid sleep. In the present nothing has significance but the desire to extend half-hour lunch breaks into hour lunch breaks. If all pro-revolutionaries grasp this
they will stop worrying about the precondition of consciousness. It is within the political-economic figure of the imposition of work and its negation, which is comfort, that pro-revolutionaries could make a contribution to their workplace struggles. The struggle is against the maximization of productivity and for the maximization of rest, if workers could win their struggle in these terms then they will have broken up the basic mechanism for the capitalist system.
The struggle of the body for rest is not the revolution, it is merely the crisis of capital. A crisis because it brings the massed, accumulated, fossilize acts of the past and the sedimenting/accumulating dead acts of the present, along with the possible conditions for the future, together in collision and in this standstill all value ceases to be enforced, leaving the world in a kind of zero hour/zero place where everything is contestable (when the traffic stopped last September during the Fuel Protests, a man on a bicycle passed me and said, 'I can hear the birds singing' - we have heard what economic collapse sounds like). When industry stops everything in society, otherwise absolutely determined by it, floats free from its gravity. In this particular crisis of capital all hell breaks loose; then comes the time for organization, you can call that consciousness if you want. We don't care.
2) The question of consciousness is central because of the ease by which it is defined and this counterfeited. The proximity of consciousness to ideology is undeniable, a change in conditions renders a truth false. Because this is what we are talking about isn't it? Truth and Falsity, consciousness and ideology?
Our position is simple: all consciousness is in fact, by a roundabout route, ideology. Consciousness is the appearance in thought of the forms and content of objective conditions. We know that objective conditions are capitalist and are anti-human, therefore it would be naive to place any faith in the transformative properties of consciousness if it fails so easily under the command of, and exploitation by, the owners of material conditions.
Everything that appears (even the struggle against capital) is mediated through infinite filters, nothing political has a direct relation to the base. The truth and values that pro-revolutionaries assert are equally subject to the distorting pressures of the
economy as are Religions, entertainments and reformist politics (does no the 'party' or group have to be preserved as a thing in itself, kept going by small clerical acts and cash raised? The acts that uphold the group are not in themselves revolutionary and have no connection to the revolution, they are dead acts, they are labor; the group is maintained as the church is maintained: by accumulation). All pretensions to consciousness are determined by the same forces as ideology, they cannot escape their determinate conditions, and so cannot be identified except as ideology (more or less true, more or less false), these are not grounds for building a reliable foundation for revolutionary practice. In practice, the revolutionary subject (the working class) cannot recognize consciousness, or it cannot distinguish it from ideology: why, it may ask itself, is the truth of this agitator before me more true than the truth of that last one which was proved by my experience to be a lie, (and proved objectively in the ideological co-option of every revolutionary body that has so far existed).
We are interested in the critique of the concept of consciousness because many messiahs and spoonbenders are currently standing up and demanding participation in the struggle against capital on their terms (for example, the English website for the 2001 Barcelona anti-capitalist protests claimed the possibility of a pre- revolutionary situation; this has proved to be, and was always anyway, completely false). Our self-appointed task is to go around pricking these millenarian bubbles if only to save gullible individuals the costs of air travel and involvement with opportunistic and exploitative groups (Globalize Resistance, for example, rented a train - as you do- and ran an excursion down to Genoa, thus the reinvention of the package holiday, or is it the International Brigades? But this group or any other similar has no presence in the estates where we live or our workplaces, it does not touch real life; recruitment of those with disposable incomes goes on, as does the process of accumulation in the name of revolution).
No amount of anti-capitalist protest can lead to a 'pre-revolutionary situation' (by what mechanism would it force itself into a position of revolutionary subject?) but the protests are called for in terms of 'raising consciousness' or, as some say, 'political radicalization', but if the call to arms is false (that this is some pre-revolutionary preliminary, and a stage in building consciousness) then surely the
consciousness raising aspect is, in fact, a lie and is therefore a bomb-the-village-to-save-the-village ideology, which is something we cannot accept. Even for buffoons like us in MD intelligence is always negative, critical, so it is politically vital that our first reaction to pro-revolutionary manifestations is one of cynicism. Praise and affirmation of the pro-revolutionary milieu is the greatest sin of the pro-revolutionary; it is not our job to affirm anything.
One defensive definition of a revolutionary consciousness we have recently encountered is 'a definition or a tendency to action on the part of the 'working class' (meaning: consciousness arises within the workers in their daily struggles). We agree with the sentiments of this 'definition' but we do not call it consciousness - for us consciousness also includes a concept of overcoming present conditions, of having a map of where everything is going to end up, it therefore describes a position of objective authority which we do not think is possible without a lapse into ideology - we do not think the proletariat can possess consciousness until capitalism is finished, otherwise it becomes reified and establishes specific rules of behavior where certain interests are surreptitiously maintained in present conditions, the stability of which become the end of those who claim to desire their overthrow.
Consciousness, or overcoming the present situation with a 'strategy' or an intent to reorganize society as communism, must come at some second stage of revolution, after the conflagration, and from new material conditions. We said we agreed totally with the definition above but that we do not call it 'consciousness', we prefer the term 'interest'. In our scheme the working class act out of solidarity in opposition to capital because they must defend their interest, it is possible that the working class will never escape 'trade union' consciousness (ie. being selfish and without tranformative vision), that is, they will never stop seeking to defend their interest, never get past wanting more pieces of pie. This is fine by us, it is possible that the working class could drive capitalism into collapse and effect their own erasure and never get beyond a bodily, single-minded pursuit of their own selfish interest. So long as the proletariat's demands stay within 'economic' terms, that is, so long as they remain impervious to political temptation then so long do they stay on course for naked conflict with the
bourgeoisie in the factories: political demands obscure the clarity of self-interest, political compromise in the times of crisis can easily be reached: it doesn't cost the owners anything, which owner lost out when the workers got the vote?
It is possible that the dictatorship of the proletariat itself would be organized (and then left behind as unsatisfactory and self- contradictory) as a more developed form of interest. This will develop, perhaps, along a line of the social institution of efficiency and use value, basically establishing a supplier-interest by getting needed products to the populace (but then, or course, technology is not neutral and much of what it produces is not useful and will be necessarily abandoned - so the dictatorship will temporarily be over a materially much more basic standard of living).
In short we see no need to marry the proletariat to consciousness and therefore see no need to theoretically expand the proletariat to include everyone (that is everyone paid 'a wage' regardless of social status), which is the traditional means by which pro- revolutionaries can inject consciousness: industrial workers can use their revolutionary muscle and teachers and social workers can bring the ideas (as if!).
For us the revolutionary function of the proletariat is very mechanical, and only a relatively small number of people will be significant in the mechanism. On the other hand we think it is important that other groups also act selfishly (the disabled for example, or local communities) and so drain energy from the authorities: these other social and political struggles are marginal and cannot finish the job (they cannot seize the means of production) but they are never-ending in that they are concerned with the articulation of needs which cannot be satisfied. However, we think the damage caused to capital by the anti-capitalist is outweighed by their falsification of their own role, that is their false representation of, and hopes for, consciousness and the political sphere in general and their neglect of production.
Incidentally, it may seem that our formulations of how a revolution could take place are rather dystopian, a-human; certainly it gives us little pleasure to slowly erase our previously held leftist
tendencies but at least our concepts are clear and lay down precise criteria. This cannot be said of most pro-revolutionaries, who get extremely vague when discussing how such-and-such of their gestures will engage with, let alone overthrow, present conditions. We would, perhaps, place more trust in pro- revolutionaries and thus in a human-based, participatory revolution, if it were not for the lamentable history of ideas-led revolutions. Pro-revolutionary practice is synonymous with rivalry, personal ambition, corruption, stupidity and failure. If the supporters of these groups did not continue to predict imminent revolution because of what they are doing and did not adopt a slavishly affirmative attitude towards their groups, and if they could maintain a skeptical and critical perspective then the meaning of themselves might amount to more than the feeble attempts to alleviate their personal experience of alienation by universalizing their rebellions and resentments. It is our lot to be bequeathed a legacy of bad acts, which forecloses the possibility of all acts. It is our personal experience that 'revolutionaries', as often as not, behave very badly in ethical terms (the surrendering of the Mayday 2001 crowd to the police in London being the latest example of losses and defeats incurred through ridiculous stunts), as if their heightened political consciousness gives them the right to neglect ordinary decency; this degeneracy is characteristic as much of anarchists as Trotskyites, anybody in fact, who thinks they have consciousness and cannot bring themselves to reflect critically upon it. So there it is, revolution cannot be left to 'conscious' human actions and our only hope lies in the structural conflict of social forces created by capitalism/the economy - again, the blind mole tunneling in the dark.
Note, aside, interjection: We do not pretend articulacy in any specialized language, our position is developed through our personal experience. We, as MD, are not interested in explaining capitalism as a totality of processes and forces, which we feel is beyond our capabilities, we are content to describe capitalism as we experience it directly. This is probably the source of our 'difference' to other pro-revolutionary groups. For example, the theoretical conception of the working class in pro-conscious and political terms by many pro-revolutionaries is unacceptable to us, and we fail to see the purpose in these fantastical conjectures if
the pro-revolutionaries are in good faith. How can anyone say the working class should act politically? surely this goes to the heart of the problem of consciousness and the function of the working class; it is not for the working class to support or oppose nations, fascism, democracy, or any other political form; how could this opposition organize itself? How could the Kosovan proletariat oppose Serbia, or the Serbian proletariat oppose Slobbo, or indeed the proletariat of the West oppose NATO? To live in a European slum is surely better than dying in a concentration camp but how could the proletariat intervene and make a choice in such an alternative? The working class is not a politically constituted body, it cannot make final judgments on political question by making a bloc intervention - political strategies are more likely to divide the working class than unify it, which is the purpose of democracy. Politics always functions to obscure self-knowledge of self-interest.
Further thoughts and explanations
We do not say that consciousness is impossible although we suspect it is (otherwise why has it been forgotten? How did it pass into non-existence so that we must talk about it being resurrected before a revolution can take place?), we simply cannot see consciousness competing with ideology under present conditions. Therefore, we suspect that all pretenses at consciousness in the past shows themselves to be ideology that is, we suspect that all ideas-led revolutions in the past were not a realization of working class consciousness in society but seizures of state power by the bourgeoisie, who used 'revolutionary consciousness' as an ideology. The ruse of higher imperatives masked the illegality of their appropriations. None of this necessarily forecloses the possibility of an authentic consciousness, it is possible that the great spirit of enlightenment will descend into the clayish heads of the masses and they will at last see the truth. But we should all be very skeptical when it is claimed that this is actually occurring. It seems to us that every half-definition of consciousness given to us during the months we have been formulating our critique is precisely what we define as a leadership impulse - we have been disappointed to discover such disagreeable codes flashing though the texts of our comrades.
We think everyone we have so far encountered and who supports the consciousness figure means exactly what we accuse them of: there is always present in their theoretical models the fundamentals of force and of hierarchy. even when they abase themselves before the proletariat muttering, "we must learn from the struggle itself." The pedagogic relation of revolutionary to worker is downwardly directed. Even among, or especially among, those who appreciate the centrality of the workers to the revolution it is given that the workers' struggle must be politicized.
And then among the anarchists there is outright contempt for the working class, 'the willing slaves' who comply with their bosses and do not rebel, of these passive and useless automatons, the pro-revolutionary group substitutes itself and its direct action; the struggle becomes that of active groups against the state and so, even in the heart of libertarianism, the concept of a vanguard and substituted elite takes hold. because they have not addressed the issue of what consciousness is, anti-capitalist groups model themselves on and crudely reproduce previous authoritarian forms based upon a conceptualization of passive masses and active elites.
One of our critics wrote: "We must insist on 'opening up specific struggles', on calling for their extension, generalization, on fighting corporatism which wants to enclose workers in their little corner with their specific demands...". These sentiments form the dreary end of almost every single leaflet that emerges from the communist camp. But the deliberate expansions and connections of struggle always follow the line set by those doing the expanding and connecting, the line deployed by these revolutionaries are not purely objective but are developed subjectively and therefore carry their own cultural/political baggage (you still meet anarchists who go on about the struggles of the Irish and Palestinian 'peoples' despite anarchism's explicit refutation of national liberation struggles); in other words it is easy to vaguely call for the expansion of struggles but that expansion has to have a specific content and it is this political content which we reject - if this were not a problem then there would not be thousands of tiny revolutionary groups in the world, there would only be only be one all inclusive revolutionary party; the fact that we all disagree with each
other even though we are all more or less saying the same thing is the final disproof for consciousness, in the same way all the various religious sects in the world are the final disproof for the universal message of The Word of God.
Summary and counter-interpretation
Our main critique of the pro-revolutionary groups is simple and is the form of a question: what do pro-revolutionaries do (and what is the use of consciousness) when there is no revolution? The answer, 'make revolution', recreates the separation of 'the movement' from 'the people', the cycle of representation, leadership, the reinstitution of particular cultures as universal objectives begins again. Whilst the answer, 'build the movement up so it can force conditions of revolution' merely initiates a cycle of accumulation.
From one perspective it could be argued that we, at MD, are among the conscious, or the most pro-consciousness in the pro-revolutionary milieu: we are against the reification of consciousness, against its every political manifestation, against its ownership and definition, against its subjective organization by small groups that have no relation to the revolutionary body but are related to, determined by, and cannot escape from the economic base (as is the case for all social entities).
We are pro-consciousness if you understand our arguments as being carried by the Hegelian stream: from simplicity towards higher simplicity by route of the complexities of alienation; just as in Marx, history rise from simple communism, and ends in communism proper. We are certainly pro-human, and wish to see the return of humanity to its essence as a simple, that is as a non- alienated existence. Like Bataille said, as water moving through water.
We would re-emphasize that we do not see the working class take over of the factories as a revolution as such but simply the downfall of capital, we see the revolution (and communist consciousness) arising after this period of crisis when a a new material base of reality is coming into existence: we see revolution as being in two stages (as we believe, did Marx) and it is in the second stage, the becoming human stage, that the vast mass of human beings participate (via consciousness by which we mean organization/common values, etc, which is determined by the new material conditions). The occupations of the factories are only a means and not an end, therefore we are not 'ultra-councilist' as those who would marginalize us would have it; we do not propose workers' councils at all, we do not presume to call for any specific political institution, we leave that to the participants at the time. We say only that, for capitalist process to be suspended, the ownership of production must directly pass to the workers, without any mediation by political institutions or bodies.
Incidentally, by factory workers we mean those employed under factory conditions and this includes distribution staff etc, we mean those workers who have the power to stop the economy (this shop-workers, teachers, politicized groups, the unemployed, ethnicities and other marginal categories).
Our experience, and the experience of proletarians, is that there is always more going on in revolutionary groups than the stated aims and principles and it is this which has so thoroughly cheesed everyone off with revolutionary consciousness (the reproduction of leadership structures and authoritarian tendencies). The non- appearance of consciousness in the working class is its critique of consciousness.
The absolute refusal of pro-revolutionary groups to recognize the failure of all pro-revolutionary groups in communicating their message can only be explained if the communication of messages
is secondary to a leadership impulse. We see Lenin everywhere, yes like Banquo's ghost, and a line of kings rising up. We cannot bury him deep enough and no matter how e pile the dirt on his head he reappears in every tuppenny-hapenny anarchist group and communist sect. We are obsessed, this is the job we have awarded ourselves.
Given the terrible history of the revolutionary movement and its betrayals of the working class surely it is imperative that every pro- revolutionary group reaches the level of integrity whereby it is able to recognize and denounce its organizing tendencies and look for other ways of acting. We do not say what pro-revolutionary groups should do, we only say what they should not do; we also say what we do, we are open to this critique, and welcome it.
Is Lenin on sale again?
When the way is lost the traveler looks up to the heavens, worlds without number.
When the nightstorm wrecks the ship, the waterspouting survivor embraces dawn's wavelapping shore.
When the gods fail and the harvest is lost, the good soud stares into the totem's eyes.
We are searching for signs.
We are waiting for the mute and closed face of the objective to speak to us.
We desire the affirmation of external forces, let the authority of history affirm the rightness of our actions, for are our acts not historical?
But only the sound is the winter wind singing in the wire, we are alone and rudderless.
But what is really going on when pro-revolutionaries begin their back to basics campaigns? Our engagements with other pro- revolutionaries on the issue of consciousness are always re-rerouted in a "going back to see what Lenin (and Kautsky said". The search for legitimizing authorities happens when there is nothing else to say, when the most important thing is to silence those people whose proposals are taking the issue terrifyingly beyond the confines of the sacred tradition. The star is Lenin, the shore is Lenin, the fetish is Lenin.
We are slightly disoriented by the need for Lenin, we do not share it, we cannot empathize. In this deity, this heavenly body, this mariners' dreamed for horizon, we see only a gaudy statue, a hole in the sky, a treacherous reef. It seems, in moments of crisis and doubt, that many communist turn for home, to where they feel most comfortable. They fall back to the fortifications of previous positions. Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be. The comfort, the authority, the harbor's arms. When communist theory degenerates it does so always along the same lines, like in timelapse films of fruit rotting in a bowl. The ecstatic rebellious moment is one thing but how long can it be sustained against the onslaught of ceaseless experience.
Is not all 'movement' the progress of decay?
Retreat is the removal of oneself under pressure of hostile circumstance to a place of relative safety. In ideological terms it is more than this: retreat is falling back onto the political frames that really shape the 'revolutionaries' ambition - retreat is the stripping away of ideological gloss and becoming what you really are. Thus the common practices of right and left totalitarianisms in the 1930's; 1960's radicals becoming stockbrokers or youthful rebels turning out like their conservative fathers; we hear the radicals talk of anti-capitalists but we see int heir actions the creation of alternative markets: we have seen many pro-revolutionary groups and individuals retreat into personal nastiness in response to our critique and thus exposing their true characters. During critical events, or over time, we see who people really are, the radical guise is dropped because of a perceived urgency or simple exhaustion at maintaining the pretence, the false prole accent
adopted by Brighton activists is given up when they give up and get on with their career.
In the fuel protests of 2000 the left and the greens forgot about 'the police state' and eagerly called for a clampdown on fascist/polluting lorry drivers who were "undemocratically holding us all ransom". And during war there are an embarrassing many who lose their cynical attitude and find a reason to become patriotic. Which is the worse spectacle, leftwingers berating the working class for their lack of enthusiasm for leftwing politics or leftwingers berating the working class for their lack of enthusiasm for war? The most repulsive attribute of the left is that first they have to blah blah blah about how radical they are and then they have to blah blah blah about their conversion to the the right. They never shut up. It is possible to perceive a common driving force in apparent adversaries: behind the rhetoric of political left and right is the orchestrating interest of the owning class. So, when we talk about consciousness and, in response, others look for quotes in the collected works of Lenin, we seem them as being in retreat, both refusing to engage with our ideas and refusing to engage with the failure to achieve the purpose of their groups. We see in the retreat to Lenin a revelation of many authoritarian characteristics in small group life, the dominant motive of which is a search for a means to shut us up. This is one source of our anti- consciousness position: consciousness, and the owners of consciousness, cannot be trusted because, quite rightly, under pressure 'beliefs' will be dropped in favor of underlying class interest. Middle class radicals will always revert to class affiliation, no matter the political content of their values. The reality of the world is that of defending the class-interests created by capitalism, the only way to get beyond 'interests' is the collapse of its determining frame.
Every 15 year old pro-revolutionary is disgusted by the figure of Lenin, only later do they learn 'realpolitik' and swallowing their bile, assert in the face of their own political defeats and disappointments, 'at least he was right', he was right because he won: and it is this achieved power, this victory, that excites admiration. The seizure of state power seems real enough; real in the sense that it appears to escape the determination of events by
conditions; by force of arms he did what he meant to do, and this is the definition, is it not, of revolution? Or is it really? Wasn't this just a case of inter-bourgeois strife, just spectacle played around the shifting techniques of exploitation.
And so it is that every year some downhearted group, lost in the desert, must turn to Lenin's writings for inspiration, so that they can cut through the mess that surrounds them, so that they can start again from the source. But there is no determinate connection between Lenin's dullard writing and his Machiavellian genius for political action. There is no example of Leninism that is not simple Garibaldism, or Robespierreism, no example that does not finish up in nationalism , does not end with lesser Lenins like Gerry Adams or Nelson Mandela, Carlos, the RAF and E. Germany and Syria, anybody for the heroic PLO against the fascist Jewish state?
In the Russian Revolution we see two movements, one the spontaneous abandonment of war and the nation, the dropping of weapons and the seizing of land and factories; the other the re- territorialization of the existent Russian revolutionary movement onto the model of 1789 via an ideology that fetishizes state power as a neutral, objective technique. Lenin belongs in world history books because he was deployed by Germany as a weapon in the Great War, without that aid he would be another Herzen, so what can he say to us now?
For Monsieur Dupont, Lenin is as far away in time as Robespierre, whereas we find Marx modern. This is because Marx failed, that is, he remains human, he did not merge himself with an existent political power, did not link into the carousel of ruling class forms. Hegel observed that falsity is a moment in truth, the ideas of Marx did not coincide with reality and therefore were in error and so fix themselves to truth because thy negated actual conditions. In the same way, we are not so harsh of pro-Leninists like Luxembourg, Gramsci or Lukacs, who railed in the manner of Marx, and not that of Lenin. They were quite wrong in their attempt to fuse their theories with Bolshevik practice, and so, regardless of their intent, and even in their affirmation of falsity, we can uncover some viable negation, something useful. The actions of Lenin on the
other hand were very appropriate for the moment, being affirmational, they belong to falsity.
What is the motive for the return to Lenin? It is a noted historical phenomenon that religions are revitalized, become fundamentalist, immediately preceding their abandonment: there is always one last great bonfire, cathedral build, sacrifice of innocents, before indifference. Groups and ideas decay always along the same lines because they always encounter the same boundaries to their effectiveness. The typical pro-revolutionary response to this frustration is to bring in an element from the outside which is intended to trump the impasse of present conditions but serves only to suppress the function of the group. A better response would be a clear eyed evaluation of failure and the limits of group effectiveness, at that point you will find the end of the expediency of consciousness. We see the return to Lenin in people's responses to us as, on the one hand, an affirmation of the need for a 'revolutionary movement' independent of the working class with the Bolsheviks as the model (because they were the winners, they are our example - there are some people who have tried to shut us up, or expel us from debate, who perhaps are our own little contemporary Lenin's. Bless them), and on the other hand it seems to 'revitalize', previously subdued, Trotskyist (Leninist) roots. More vaguely, but influencing every move the internet discussion forum of communist where we have had much of this debate, there is a Leninist urge to get to a stage of defined position; the idea of the final word and supra-historical principle are the great temptation. If we have not numbers then at least we can have truth?
MD think not. Truth is always in numbers - curse the working class - all they do is drop their guns, go home and start ploughing the landlord's land again, damn them, it's so easy for them, and here we are, revolutionary heroes, brooding on our non-connection. The defeat of the revolutionary working class, their enclosure and extermination is the truth of the Russian Revolution, and not Lenin at all: why didn't they leave any writing that we could go back to when we are presented with our own defeat?
We see the retreat by pro-revolutionaries to previous theoretical fortifications as a complete loss of nerve, and an ugly conservatism. When all pro-revolutionary theory of the Twentieth Century was about leaving Lenin, we see this absurd return to Kremlinism as anti-historical. The truth of our situation is precisely the impossibility of the return to Lenin. The ambitions of a few in seeking this reinvention of marxist-leninism, or even the pursuit of their own taking leave of Lenin, is an attempt to escape addressing actual historical conditions: it is a mad-eyed flight, a nervous taking hold of neglected idols. There are no atheists in foxholes indeed. The point is this: ever year, dozens of pro-revolutionary groups expire, they go from theorizing themselves as revolutionary vanguard, bringer of truth, to simple non-existence in months and get this: the world neither registered their presence nor placed a stone over their demise. Nobody took any notice, let alone cared.
We are not Lenin, the vari-determined Lenin, (who was only Lenin because of a long-lived Russian pro-revolutionary milieu which gave him his meaning and status, and, who was only Lenin because of the intervention of the German state). Fortunately we, the pro-revolutionary milieu, are more than Lenin, or less than Lenin, we can never repeat his entrepreneurial audacity, that market has been cornered and exhausted. It is possible that we are nothing but he dying echo of that Bolshevik, that we are figments of his cross-sectioned mind, we are becoming an exaggerated periphery, further and further removed from reality, sent on long ago issued order now irrelevant to the situation, and as his significance fades and he becomes just another Black Prince, we find ourselves mere archaeological curiosities. The pro-revolutionary milieu is becoming irrelevant and we think that this is a good thing. Our ineffectiveness means we escape the damnation incurred by all those who impose themselves and do not understand that they have been imposed upon by conditions they have not considered. We, this political milieu, are destined to become all those groups of the past that laid down and died because in their vainglorious aspirations to be a historic party they became irrelevant.
Some talk of "when such a ('revolutionary') movement gets off the ground", and in this very affirmation demonstrate their reluctance
to engage with the 'why' this movement has not got off the ground since 1939; they want to go back to a time when such movements were possible because political revolutions are the only revolutions that they can conceive.
We shall put this simply: there is no revolutionary movement. There was a revolutionary movement but it collapsed because it turned out not to be a revolutionary movement at all but an ideological mystification of social and economic relations and processes (ie., a political interpretation of capitalist social mechanisms which saw itself as the mystified solution to the mystified problem); it is possible that there will be, in the near future, a revolutionary movement of the kind some hope for but it will not really be revolutionary even though, or especially because, it says it is.
We view revolutionary and anti-capitalist movement not as mistaken forms of otherwise correct positions but as capitalist movements in themselves; revolutionary movements effect only the reorganization of capitalism and as such, at the end of their acts, words are breath, are pro-capitalist. To be a Leninist is to be as much a capitalist as a Keynesian, Trotsky was as capitalist as any other liberal reformer. There are different forms and interpretations but theoretical maintenance of the working class as workers (whether for state owners or green collectives) and the emphasis on the re-organization of production (whether in terms of nationalism or with reference to the environment) means they are always within the capitalist frame of definition.
Do these 'revolutionary experts' with their vague appeals to 'consciousness' think that nobody else has tried to build exactly what they desire to build? They want to go back to Lenin but there have been thousands of revolutionary groups, parties and individuals in the eight decades since 1917, all of which failed. Do they think their personal ardour is enough to bring billions into line? These billions have not come for Lenin, or any other 'socialism' for fifty years and nor will they. There is nothing any of us can do to bring them to consciousness. Some of us, beginning with MD, do not even wish for the 'movement', that means to an end which
always becomes the end. We wish for the opposite, for the movement not to come into existence.
Let's accept it: the pro-revolutionary groups that exist and that will come into existence will never escape the smallness of their numbers, there will never be a mass revolutionary movement. Now it is for us to understand precisely our smallness by contemplating the smallness of all the small groups that thought of themselves as a 'party', who equally awarded themselves the right to talk turkey with the objective, just as we do, those who called for the masses to join them or for the masses to join some organization not yet in existence but to be forged out of our consciousness and their number.
Let us contemplate that call for revolution in the terms it has been set, and the dearness of the ears to which it was intended. If the conditions of present reality allowed for a revolutionary movement it would come into existence because a base of mass social militancy would produce a receptivity for political messages. Even so, a self-proclaimed mass revolutionary movement would still be counter-revolutionary, but we are content that present conditions have slammed the door on the possibility of such an eventuality. There is not now and there will not be in the future a revolutionary movement that is really revolutionary, and to look for it, plant for it, or organize for it is futile and willfully ignores all past pro-revolutionary forms and their fate.
The communist milieu will never be more than a few dozen and each of us in our agitating will never contact more that a few hundred. The structure of capitalism determines that only a few dozen people will have revolutionary consciousness under these conditions. The distribution of, and possibility for, communist consciousness is something never adequately explored by the left- communist milieu, which assumes a priori that all may acquire consciousness as the Catholics believe we might all be saved, or in the same way as the American dream says we can all be millionaires. Of this were not so, in our everyday lives without even trying, we would meet at least five people every week who we could recruit into our organizations (or informal groupings), every week our organizations would be growing. That is the necessary
ground in a world of billions of people for revolutionary consciousness to form. It is because this ground does not exist, because each of us are not spontaneously encountering hundreds of would-be revolutionaries every year that the problem is not one of 'getting' a message across. Information has removed the meaning from all 'messages' and this is why we must consider concepts of crisis, collapse and economic struggle within the sphere of production, in other words, concepts that do not rely upon political forms and their distribution. [The archived contents of this discussion list should be available to anyone with internet access if they contact the group Internationalist Perspective, or the web page of Wage Slave X, or contact R&B Notes]
We do not know what anyone means when they describe the proletariat as a social category. If they are implying that the working class as a social body have something between themselves other than their experience of work then we utterly reject this. MD have a penchant for Champagne and Tarkovsky movies whereas our neighbours prefer White Lightening and WWF wrestling, our economic position, however, is identical. We refute all identity politics as ideology and we absolutely refuse to view the proletariat as a political/sociological constituency equivalent to ethnicity, gender or sexual preference. The proletariat has no existence independent of capitalism.
There is no space in the world that is not ultimately dominated by capitalism - the proletariat is always collectively determined by capitalist pressures. When/if the proletariat abolishes capitalism it will be driven into that position by capitalist imperatives. There is nothing outside the dominion of capital, perhaps occasional fleeting moments, but not culture nor social form, how could there be? To assert that there are other, as Autonomists do, processes by which value is generated independent of capital is to mystify the nature of exploitation. Activists go looking for signs, they create narratives whereby discreet events are connected togetether in a totalized movement towards revolution, they tend towards an uncritical acceptance of liberationist politics which they see as part