Don’t Jump, Go Faster: A reply to our invisible friends
I am in the middle of reading clever monkey’s take on communization from an introduction to an anthology he edited in 2012: “Communization and its discontents”. Clever Monkey is my pet name for Ben Noys, the writer who coined the term “accelerationism”. In this tract, consisting of a collection of writing from the communisation school, it is quite bizarre to find the abolition of wage labor is never mentioned until page 221 of a 282 page pdf. In fact, the term wage labor itself appears in the book perhaps a dozen times out of perhaps 100,000 words. The related term, labor power, is mentioned about two dozen times.
What sort of communism is this that never speaks of wage labor, labor power or abolition of wage slavery?
In his introduction to the collection, Clever Monkey makes three very important and irrefutable points:
1. There is no class struggle, no political struggle:
“[The] final collapse of actually-existing socialism in 1989, and the widespread disenchantment with social democracy, unions, and other ‘traditional’ affirmations of the worker as means of resistance, does not seem, as yet, to have led to any rebound to a self-abolishing model of proletarian negativity or the ‘multitude’, or ‘whatever singularities’, or other ‘new’ modes of struggle.”
2. There is no room for class struggle, no room for political struggle:
“Even if we don’t think in terms of real subsumption, but rather the global dominance of capitalism or ‘Empire’, we still have to confront the issue of whether it can be defeated, and how. The ways in which capitalism permeates and modulates the whole of life (what Deleuze called ‘the society of control’) leaves us with little leverage to resist.”
3. Communization fails to show how we get to communism along any path in the absence of class (political) struggle:
“While communization insists on immediacy and the abandonment of debates about ‘transition’ or teleology, i.e. debates on what we are aiming to achieve, it’s hard to see how it can coordinate or develop such ‘moments’ of communization globally across the social field (as it would have to, to destroy or counter a global capitalism).”
As Clever Monkey explains, this is not just a problem for communization, it is a problem for every radical movement seeking to overthrow capitalism today. Communization clearly did not emerge because prospects for overthrowing capitalism by means of class struggle are good, but because prospects for overthrowing capitalism by political means are bleak. It is unlikely any political movement will emerge in the near future that has a realistic chance of getting rid of capital and no chance at all that communization can realize itself as a political movement.
While reading Noys’ anthology, I heard about the latest offering from the Invisible Committee, “Now“. It is hard to read this declaration without hearing Clever Monkey’s incisive critical comments repeating themselves in my ears.
The tract begins with a protest — a protest not directed against the bourgeois state, but against the stubborn ennui of the proletarians:
“All the reasons for making a revolution are there. Not one is lacking. The shipwreck of politics, the arrogance of the powerful, the reign of falsehood, the vulgarity of the wealthy, the cataclysms of industry, galloping misery, naked exploitation, ecological apocalypse—we are spared nothing, not even being informed about it all. “Climate: 2016 breaks a heat record,” Le Monde announces, the same as almost every year now. All the reasons are there together, but it’s not reasons that make revolutions, it’s bodies. And the bodies are in front of screens.”
“Everyone can see that this civilization is like a train rolling toward the abyss, and picking up speed. The faster it goes, the more one hears the hysterical cheers of the boozers in the discotheque car.”
An interesting metaphor.
In his criticism of Nick Land’s brand of accelerationism, Clever Monkey invoked the idea of capital as a runaway train that the social revolution had to bring to a halt to avoid an inevitable catastrophe.
“The conclusion is that the emergency brake is not merely calling to a halt for the sake of it, some static stopping at a particular point in capitalist history (say Swedish Social Democracy – which the American Republican Right now takes as the true horror of ‘socialism’). Neither is it a return back to some utopian pre-capitalist moment, which would fall foul of Marx and Engels’s anathemas against ‘feudal socialism’. Rather, Benjamin argues that: ‘Classless society is not the final goal of historical progress but its frequently miscarried, ultimately [endlich] achieved interruption.’ (Benjamin 2003: 402) We interrupt to prevent catastrophe, we destroy the tracks to prevent the greater destruction of acceleration.”
Our invisible friends, invoking the same metaphor, tell us to clasp hands all kum-ba-ya-like and jump off while we still have the time.
How little Landian accelerationism has in common with this idea of communization can be imagined if we stood, not back in the cars with the boozy revelers, but up front in the cab with the engineer, angrily screaming at him above the din of the hell-bent machinery,
“Faster, faster, you miserable bastard! Go faster!“