Strike the Iron While it is Hot: A Review of “The Anvil”

“I should have said why I thought the Anvil was a ‘good direction to go’. I think many of us are at the stage where it is easier to talk about the thing we are really talking about (the transformation of human relations) when we talk about something else […] it has become easier to infer or extrapolate from objects and experiences than to theorise […] as you say, theory really does feel very uncomfortable now” (over_the_water_to_charlie,

“I should have said why I thought the Anvil was a ‘good direction to go’. I think many of us are at the stage where it is easier to talk about the thing we are really talking about (the transformation of human relations) when we talk about something else […] it has become easier to infer or extrapolate from objects and experiences than to theorise […] as you say, theory really does feel very uncomfortable now” (over_the_water_to_charlie,

The anvil confronts us from the extimacy of possibility and provides us with four surfaces with which to produce the tools of our trade: (1) the face, (2) the horn, (3) the step and (4) the hardy/pritchel holes. The production of four subjects which occurs on the inside, from the outside, in this shared space we call a home. The anvil as habitus, constituting the very essence of the radical subject today, suturing the symbolic system of radicalism. Four micro-tools from the master, each productive of a variant of subjectivity expressed through an epistemological schema. The answer which has only to be elaborated reveals the omnipresence of the system outlined here – the question relates only to the relationship I have to my own dogma rather than the dogma with which one relates; how could it be that I speak of anything but anarchist theory, when, anarchism has been my stumbling block for so many years? Look here, for you, but for others, they will find possibilities in other metaphors and dogmas. The answer is to begin where one stands; one must first be ready to give birth to a dancing star before one can actually dance like a star.

This is the meaning of engagement. Foolish to entertain the thought of championing subjects of “the” or “a” movement (the former rely on strategic revolutionary ends without means and the latter rely on tactical reformational means without ends – but where are those without means and without ends?)—this is the hegemonic pair passed to us from Gramsci—but this is the barrier that anti-political anarchists are up against. That one does not feel obliged to join the hegemonic movements of the past which are graft onto the present does not imply a lack of engagement. But neither does it imply detachment from the world of direct action. The basic requirement of engagement today is direct action, and this is action which occurs first in thought and then proceeds by extension to the production of difference in the existing structure: through meditative direct action I transgress the boundaries of structure, I emerge out of structure. Transgression requires that I be engaged to my own dogma according to the relationship I put myself into with it, direct action at the level of being, it requires, first, a consciousness of becoming, and then, of course, I can dance like a star. It is therefore the strategists (revolutionaries) and tacticians (micro-politicians), both of whom will be forgotten in the years to come, that suffer from a lack of engagement, they have failed to perform the most foundational of radical actions upon which all subsequent radical gestures naturally rely.

Is not freedom from structure the most foolish of propositions? There is only freedom in structure as that which transcends, transgresses, naturally, by necessity, through the excess of base matter. The battle against the State is nothing more than the particular battle against structure; are we that shortsighted? Today’s radical subject must pass through her rejection of the world of structure as it currently exists through and beyond the crucial phase of tension where she experiences hopelessness, rejection, and disillusionment. She must define herself by her ability to handle this hopelessness. This is the sadness we experience when we read the work of Max Stirner (what was not supposed to be his concern?) and Guy Debord (everything has become representation?), and is this not the reason for despair in the work of Frankfurt School Marxists – a longing to retain the subject as the locus of revolutionary consciousness in the face of a libidinal late capitalist economy? Engagement, whose meaning can only be contemplated, much less understood, implies a third stage of sacrifice to any number of structural metaphors. The tensions of our times are defined by a relationship to the tensions of all times (our tension is the human condition) but through engagement we concern ourselves finally with our own condition and give word to it through the structure of the enemy: is not language as worthy a sacrifice as any?

One can imagine an anvil at war with itself; the phallic horn is at first seduced by the hardy and pritchel cunts but is immediately blunted by the smooth surface of the face, while the step cuts the face of some shine in order to rebuild the horn once again. Upon which surface does the empty subject construct her own subjective structure? The cunt, separated twice from the cock, is ever mediated by the smooth sexual linguistic relationship – Marxists concern themselves with matters of the face, anarchists with matters of the horn. The economy of language has always been just a step away from the domain of the master (if one wanted to produce another anvil using only this anvil as a toolkit, one would begin by setting the unformed product upon the face, cutting it with the step, and bending it into shape with the horn). The question then becomes, if I am at war with myself, who is in me more than I am – who is breaking at the foundation of my own subjective structure? The answer at first appears paradoxical, for it is the hardy and pritchel cunts that are the foundation of the structure, remaining there, on the smooth face, as a token – the holes in fact surround the entire structure. Deleuze was correct, in fact, we should never trust a smooth space. Neither should we trust the facticity of the sexual relationship: the cunt and cock are always separated by the smooth surface. What have we to trust but the pritchel and hardy holes?

As anarchists we speak as if out of four mouths—layered, like a matryoshka doll set—the subject of the holes speaks through the smooth face of language which only the step can bring back to the master. It is this layering, this paradoxicality, that provides for engagement today. It most certainly is not distance from one’s dogma but rather a reconfiguration of the relationship one already has to one’s dogma. I prefer the Anvil because I enjoy the relationships I have with the people involved, it is not the movement of a mark but the mark of a movement and my anvil is too heavy, so much a burden, that it chains me to this place. And where might your anvil be? I dare not say, the anarchy within me is more than the anarchist subjectivity forced upon me and the only authority I know is my own!

She who works herself out purely on the surface of the face thinks like a tactician. She rides the smooth flows of the capitalist libidinal economy and believes that the insurrectionary perspective implies an interrogation of every structure – but she limits herself to every other structure, rather than structure itself. In other words, whatever action, platform, or problem that arises “hot-topic” deserves a response, each in its turn. Such subjects are hysterical, they proclaim as their object the holes but they, in fact, desire the horn. Through their refusal to process themselves on the holes they have selected as their object the horn. This subject “gets off” on the sexual relationship, on matters of economy, exchange, and language itself (have you read Politics is not a Banana?). The subject of the face wishes not to remove the horn but to push the horn where it is lacking, through the cut in the step, and to keep climbing back and forth – endlessly, she may say, I am a radical … endlessly. She will soon enough wither away, climbing herself to death up and down the step while the horn sits on its side without eyes to see or care.

“The Anvil is a place to temper tools for digging and cutting our way out,” it is a place, like any other, from which to mount an attack. It is not enough to rest our subjectivity upon the holes, we must occupy this place within our habitus, we must walk through the holes onto the smooth plane and speak through the hysterical language of our enemies: the revolutionaries and tacticians. Our desire is to produce subjects capable of occupying the holes and speaking through the smoothness of language. Our contest is against friendship, and our friendships are built on contestation. We have no longer to be-come, or to speak of beginnings, because we already came and we know how much more painful that has been. Without means and without ends, we return to animality as best we can. Silently.

The Anvil is not a good direction to go, it is the direction we are already facing. My Anvil is structurally proportionate to yours, and by judging my own I hence judge yours. What the Anvil provides is a shared habitus: unfortunately, it is where folks go to forge reviews in the service of an author, an image, a television show, a movie or piece of music; or is it in the service of a dogma thought through the promotion of various cultural forms? But is it not also, and primarily, a place where people go to forge new structures of the self — striking the iron while it is hot?