Unimaginable Weirdness: Comments on Some Comments on Desert

Recently, the anonymously written pamphlet Desert was reviewed by (the) two egoist newspapers: Cresencia Desafio (CD) in The Sovereign Self‘s sixth issue and by Apio Ludd (AL) in the very first issue of My Own. Both reviews are strikingly similar, each deploying their Stirner-inspired critique of both Hope and The Future against Desert. However, they failed to interest me for two reasons: they are responses to sentiments that, didn’t actually appear in the text, and, by focusing on the question of hope, flew straight past what I consider most exciting about the it.

I felt increasingly frustrated as the author emphasized mostly on the incumbent disasters of the future rather than focusing on potential contentions of the present. And even then, their plan of action was incredibly unclear, vapid, and even slightly confusing at times.

A Critique of Desert, CD


There are hints about who the author of Desert is addressing. I imagine that the text is primarily aimed at the anarchist who believes (or pretends to believe) that saving the world is possible: one who is attached to some version of the future (the rev, the collapse, whatever). I also imagine that the author of Desert thinks that things would be more interesting if they were surrounded by comrades who were relieved of such illusions.

Desert explores various possible futures, not with attachment, but as a way of demonstrating that insofar as we can say anything about the future, it is only that there will be one (probably) and that it will be incredibly complicated. This is one of the main points of the text: things possess an immense complexity that our politics rarely accounts for. The future will be filled with uncertainty (much like the present). In some places things will be exciting and liberatory, in others horribly oppressive. Whatever it is that we do, depends on where we are and what’s going on.

Desert is an exploratory work, not a prescriptive one. Perhaps CD found the author’s program ‘unclear’ because it lacked one. The author lays out what they think might happen in different parts of the world, they hypothesize possible ways that anarchists and radicals might respond to such shifts, and give interesting examples of what other people have done/are doing in similar circumstances. This is why the point about complexity is so important—not only does it become unimaginably difficult to develop any sort of program, prediction, or plan, but it also gives us reason to refocus our energies on what is most immediate in our lives. Desert points out that while we don’t have any capacity to completely understand, let alone save the planet we do have the capacity to interact with our local environments, to create a more expansive life project, to find accomplices, and to survive in ways that are increasingly liberating. This strikes me as a dramatic rejection of the distant for the immediate, both geographically and temporally.

The author of Desert remains such a slave; despite his/her critique, s/he has not Deserted hope.

Deserting Hope?, AL

…they did choose to focus largely on potential global chaos…which I perceive as a surrendering of themselves to the same age-old ‘when the revolution comes’ sentiment—hoping for potential future contentions as a sort-of anticipatory solution to their discontent.

A Critique of Desert, CD

The illusion of hope fills both reviews. Although, this illusion is not of having hope, but of seeing it where it isn’t. The most that can be said about Desert’s specific judgements about the future is that there will be, “of course, unimaginable weirdness.” This is not described as being a weirdness that one looks forward to; the author is merely engaged in an exploratory exercise that concerns itself with possibility. Talking about the future does not necessarily mean that we are always committed to whatever predictions we might be making. Even if we are fairly certain about our predictions, our lives and our happiness don’t have to be contingent on their realization.

The future is always only a vision, i.e., a hallucination.

Deserting Hope?, AL

Imagining the future as a fantasy or daydream, instead of as a possibility to be hoped for, can certainly be a worthwhile anarchist exercise. I can create other worlds inside my head, tweaking and changing them to suit my every fancy; their existence is completely intentional and creates no expectations or assumptions about future reality. My fantasies give me an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction, as well as making my desires more clear to me. There are many ways of relating to one’s fantasies that are, indeed, deluded. Believing in their inevitability or longing for their realization both seem to muddy the water and prevent one from living in the present as expansively as possible. Instead, I name my fantasies and daydreams for what they are and indulge them so long as doing so gives me pleasure; the problem only arises when we mistake the dreams for reality.

The future should not be allowed to foreclose on today, even if today is foreclosing some possibilities in the future. No future is worth living or fighting for that is not existent in the present.

Desert, Anonymous

Desert strikes me as a playful imaginative exercise with the purpose of bringing others in on the game. Rejecting global everything, it argues that the question ‘how do I live my life?’ might be more worthwhile than ‘how do I save the world?’ It asks us to abandon our longing for a future that we have no capacity to create, or that we have no reason to believe in, and instead use this energy to explore ourselves, our surroundings, and, if one chooses, others. Most interestingly, Desert challenges us to rethink our understanding of anarchist subcultures. Perhaps these complicated networks of individuals are best equipped to adapt to whatever the future might bring. Within them, there might be the capacity to widen the cracks in the concrete, that allow us to live out our wildness more expansively. All of this is only possible to the extent that we are open to new ways of relating to our desires, to each other, and to circumstance.

These are all sentiments that the egoist in me is very friendly towards.

I, with the author of Desert, abandon hope and despair but choose to leave the future where it is: in my imagination as a conscious fantasy. I thank the author of Desert for providing me with more fodder for my daydreams. I will continue to navigate this peculiar narrative of mine with all the information I have at my disposal. The Desert around me will sometimes allow me to see into the future so that I might prepare accordingly; other times I will be forced to ride the dunes of complete uncertainty. Either way, I will spend my time playing in the sand—all the while trying to remain indifferent to any particular outcome.

We Want to be Great Like Our Crime

We Want to Be Great Like Our Crime
The Criminal Ego and the Struggle in Society

On Isabelle Eberhardt’s “Criminal” and Renzo Novatore’s “Toward the Creative Nothing”

Quotes refer to the Eberhardt Press edition and the Venomous Butterfly Publications edition, respectively.

Crime
In “Criminal,” Isabelle Eberhardt’s memoir of land colonization in Algeria written around the turn of the last century, the farmer Mohammed Achouri cuts an interesting figure. A “tall thin old man with the face of an ascetic, his hard features set in an expression of constant preoccupation”, a quiet character who stands “a bit apart from the others”, he is not a likely hero. Though he stands out, and in fact his inability to fit in singles him out for downfall, his unheroic resistance fits well within the unheroic reality of the story; the French have colonized Algeria, and they force the people of Bou Achour to give their prime land to colonists, a double theft because the collective society of that region had never even had to buy and sell land among themselves or “resort to the system of inheritance.” They get mere pennies for their land, their complaints are rebuffed, and they have no choice but to work under the new landlords. At harvest time they watch the riches of their toil and their earth taken from them, but that night, the new barn burns down, and the harvest with it. Nonetheless, a suspect is arrested, nothing changes, and the power of colonialism continues its cruel exercises, unfazed.

We Want to Be Great Like Our Crime
The Criminal Ego and the Struggle in Society

On Isabelle Eberhardt’s “Criminal” and Renzo Novatore’s “Toward the Creative Nothing”

Quotes refer to the Eberhardt Press edition and the Venomous Butterfly Publications edition, respectively.

Crime
In “Criminal,” Isabelle Eberhardt’s memoir of land colonization in Algeria written around the turn of the last century, the farmer Mohammed Achouri cuts an interesting figure. A “tall thin old man with the face of an ascetic, his hard features set in an expression of constant preoccupation”, a quiet character who stands “a bit apart from the others”, he is not a likely hero. Though he stands out, and in fact his inability to fit in singles him out for downfall, his unheroic resistance fits well within the unheroic reality of the story; the French have colonized Algeria, and they force the people of Bou Achour to give their prime land to colonists, a double theft because the collective society of that region had never even had to buy and sell land among themselves or “resort to the system of inheritance.” They get mere pennies for their land, their complaints are rebuffed, and they have no choice but to work under the new landlords. At harvest time they watch the riches of their toil and their earth taken from them, but that night, the new barn burns down, and the harvest with it. Nonetheless, a suspect is arrested, nothing changes, and the power of colonialism continues its cruel exercises, unfazed.



It was not until I read the story the second time that I noticed it was Mohammed Achouri who played the instigating role in getting the other Arabs of Bou Achour to protest the low prices they were given for their land by the French colonizers. The author mentions no rousing speech on his part, or natural charisma. He simply cannot stomach the indignity, and suggests they protest. The gesture is unsuccessful, the colonial administrator is powerless to change the decision that has come down from Algiers, and many of them, including Achouri, must go to work for their new landlord. Achouri alone is described as “openly sullen.”
At the outset Mohammed Achouri had placed a great distance between himself and the Frenchman, to whose good-natured sallies he remained wholly impervious. When the barn was burned down, suspicion pointed to Mohammed Achouri[…] They found him guilty. He was a simple, unyielding man who had been robbed and betrayed in the name of laws he did not understand. And he had directed all his hatred and rancor against the usurping colonist.

“Crime, particularly among the poor and downtrodden,” concludes Eberhardt, “is often a last gesture of liberty.”

The Human Frogs
In his poetic rant “Toward the Creative Nothing,” Renzo Novatore, an Italian individualist anarchist active from 1908 to his death in 1922, addresses another social tragedy, World War I, with much more heroic terms. He glorifies those who resisted, those “who died with stars in their eyes,” with a Nietzschean exuberance, while saving extreme contempt for his fellow proletarians who heeded the lies and marched off to war. “The human frogs knew neither how to distinguish their own enemy nor how to fight for their own ideas […] They fought against each other for their enemy.”

In Novatore’s writing, one finds a clear contempt for the masses, not out of any aristocratic notions of inherent worth, but because they have behaved despicably and idiotically, going even against their own interests to participate in their own meaningless slaughter. Novatore will not excuse anyone who is less than great, and he certainly will not romanticize them simply for belonging to a mass. His judgments are harsh, and he could be accused of insensitivity to the many complex reasons members of that mass had for going off to war, but also in the interests of sensitivity one must imagine the horror of his generation and understand that at bottom there was no good excuse for obedience to that degree. Populism only becomes a form of justification. Yet some people cite this antisocial contempt, this Nietzschean adulation of those few who do not follow the herd, to argue that the individualist anarchists were counterrevolutionary elitists, or even fascists.

Eberhardt, very much a kindred spirit, evinces a similarly antisocial attitude. She writes of the need “To be alone, to be poor in needs, to be ignored, to be an outsider who is at home everywhere, and to walk, great and by oneself, toward the conquest of the world.” She tersely dismisses “the slavery that comes of contact with others,” and it is precisely in such phrases that she can be written off as dangerously impractical. Useless. How could solitude possibly be applied as a social program? The conclusion is that there is nothing revolutionary in hers or similar writings.

It is precisely the hidden totalitarianism of this line of reasoning that I want to unmask.

Against What Does the Antisocial Direct Its Attack?
I’ll start with the disingenuous claim of a connection between individualist anarchism and fascism. Novatore, one of Italian fascism’s most energetic opponents and earliest victims (he was shot down by police in 1922), had some bold thoughts on the matter. In talking about how socialism functioned to control the revolt of the proletariat by promising a base material equality while stifling talk of true freedom, he writes:

Because, if when the nation, if when the state, if when democratic Italy, if when bourgeois society trembled in pain and agony in the knotty and powerful hands of the “proletariat” in revolt, socialism had not basely hindered the tragic deadly hold—losing the lamps of reason in front of its wide-opened eyes—certainly fascism would never even have been born[…] Because fascism is the stunted and deformed creature born of the impotent love of socialism for the bourgeoisie. One of them is the father, and the other the mother.

In fact, we see in fascism not the heroic ideal of Novatore but the very populism he attacks. In order to save the bourgeoisie, fascism makes them indistinguishable from the masses by replacing Nietzsche’s superior individual with a superior race, integrating labor unions and industry, combining socialism with nationalism, creating the perfect herd.

The other arguments against individualism are rigid and insensitive precisely because they do not understand these thoughts as a process, a movement, rather than a fixed position or staked territory, as ideas are taken to be by many other thinkers. When Isabelle Eberhardt talks about nomadism and denounces the sedentary life, attacks in multiple forms the very staking of territory, how could one not guess that her thoughts would be equally nomadic? In the writings collected in “Criminal,” one finds not a static view of society but a tension, a need to depart in order to arrive, to lose in order to find.

I do not know anymore[…] But the inner voice that drives and disturbs me, that will tomorrow push me again along the paths of life; that voice is not the wisest one in my soul, it is the spirit of agitation for which the earth is too narrow and which has not known how to find its own universe. Eberhardt recognizes a multiplicity of voices in her own thinking, and acknowledges that the force that sets her life in motion is also impractical. Unprogrammatic.

The parallel misogyny of both writers reflects the untenable nature of their relationship with society, with femininity standing in for passivity, nurturing, the reproduction of culture. But even more it reflects that their writings represent a spiritual quest in process, a search for peace in turmoil. The fact that Isabelle Eberhardt was born female and socialized as a woman, but passed much of her life as a man can add credibility to the hypothesis that what they hated was femininity as a social value. Are we to read Eberhardt, for her misogynistic writings, as a self-hating woman, or to consider that she hated those women who resigned themselves to their socially assigned roles rather than taking on the dress and customs of men and venturing to the far corners of the earth? The language of the time could not adequately express gender identities, so we cannot know if Eberhardt’s passing was a strategy or whether he was actually a trans man, but the question is an interesting one.

The Social Assumptions of Individualism
Beneath all the antisocial venom and harsh criticism in Renzo Novatore’s “Toward the Creative Nothing,” a sensitive reader will notice certain social assumptions that mirror Eberhardt’s sojourn being in some ways an ultimate search for community. Deep in a passage that begins by calling for “the liberation of the individual”, Novatore has buried a pithy couplet.
To communalize material wealth.
To individualize spiritual wealth.

Novatore devotes no time to elaborate this process of communalization; he merely takes it as a given. In other words, what for social and mass anarchists is the end goal, and what they accuse is lacking in individualist anarchism, is for Novatore just a starting point.

Other indications of the communal or collective assumptions of this idea of struggle further clarify that as much as these writers posit a conflict between the individual and society, it is not a dichotomy or a choice between one and the other, and certainly not a call for annihilation and unification. Early in the text we find the following admonition: “our individual ‘crimes’ must be the fatal announcement of a great social storm.” And towards the end: “We have killed ‘duty’ so that our ardent desire for free brotherhood acquires heroic valor in life.” Far from hating any notion of community or solidarity, Novatore expresses an “ardent desire for free brotherhood”. The distinction is that for society to exist free of all the lies, conventions, and hypocrises that imprison it (and it is these corruptions that Novatore spends the most of his time addressing in this text), individuals must embark on an unending process of personal or spiritual liberation simultaneous to the material struggle for collective liberation that will destroy the state and the bourgeoisie.

Eberhardt, for her part, shows an obvious sensitivity and compassion for the tribulations of the community in her writings about the tragedy of colonization in Bou Achour, in her clear sympathy for their custom of sharing land without inheritance or title.

The Winged Monster
Around the same time Renzo was penning “Toward the Creative Nothing,” Franz Kafka wrote in his diary:
Anyone who cannot cope with life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate… but with his other hand he can jot down what he sees among the ruins, for he sees different and more things than the others; after all, he is dead in his own lifetime and the real survivor.
It is worth mentioning that I’m drawing this quote from Hannah Arendt’s essay on Walter Benjamin, another person whose life was fraught with the antisocial tension.

In my mind the most beautiful image anarchists have given to the world is that of the abundance of these ruins, whether that be in Durruti’s “new world” or in Bakunin’s “creative passion.” In one missive, Isabelle Eberhardt talks about a “winged monster, come to destroy us all” and the most striking thing about the image she paints is how beautiful it is, the fantasy of destruction. And it is immediately followed by the sound of rain in the desert. On a literary level, this is a cathartic release from the tension she has built up between creation and destruction. Symbolically, it is rebirth.

A similar monster appears in Novatore’s passages on the carnage of the War, but this is “a Death without wings”. With both of these writers, values are shifting, creation and destruction are inseparable, neither death nor life are inherently good or bad. The reason Novatore’s monster is an obscene thing is not because it is Death but because it has no wings, because the manner in which it dances, the manner in which it mows down its victims, is vulgar, and because its victims themselves are unworthy of a heroic death, not having lived heroic lives.

“I’m quite aware that this way of life is dangerous,” writes Isabelle, “but the moment of danger is also the moment of hope[…] When my heart has suffered, then it has begun to live.” Renzo echoes her: “And if our ideas are dangerous, it is because we are those who love to live dangerously.”

Again and again, Eberhardt and Novatore use similar language to tease out this contradiction, this inversion of conventional moralities. Politicians of all stripes have coined another term for that winged monster, that dangerous life. They call it “adventurism.” But it goes much deeper than that.

The Control of Madness
Eberhardt: Many times on the paths of my errant life, I asked myself where I was going, and I’ve come to understand, among ordinary folk and with the nomads, that I was climbing back to the sources of life; that I was accomplishing a voyage into the depths of my humanity.
Unsurprisingly, Novatore gives us a similar image: “In the bottom, we want to live the reality of sorrow; in the heights, the sorrow of the dream.”

The heights and depths that these two simultaneously inhabit are a guerrilla’s mountain hideout which the armies of sedentary morality arrayed on the plains can never penetrate. The antisocial, individualistic thoughts of these writers are not useful, not practical, not static, not reproducible, not programmatic. They are real, and they are threatening.

They say: because I am crazy, no stable state of being will hold me. Because I cannot hide my sullenness, no barn will be safe from me. Because I am shifting and crazy, no treaty or written law will pacify me. For this reason, they are a threat to the politicians of the mass movements as much as they are to the gatekeepers of the present order. Because as much as they will participate wholeheartedly in the revolution against the state and against capitalism, they will not be content with the commune. They will continue to rebel because they understand freedom as a process, as a constant renegotiation of itself and an unending attack on any definitional boundaries.

In Chiusi a Chiavi Bonanno writes how, with the triumph of the reformers, the prisons may well be replaced by mental institutions. Those who break laws may be forgiven, but those who can never follow them cannot be trusted. After all, what better definition of craziness than the absence of self-preservation, the imperviousness to both the carrot and the stick? So conditions will improve for those who can be programmed, while those who are wholly insubmissive must be increasingly isolated.

The reason that the politicians of the mass cannot understand this antagonism between the nomadic and the sedentary is because they try to ascribe it a fixed position. And if there must be a right and a wrong, the right has to lie with the sedentary, because their programmatic existence makes possible the infrastructure and the production on which the nomads depend. So if there can only be one, it must be the ordinary folk. The nomads are marginalized, the villages with their stable families multiply and spread, the future is theirs, but they are plagued by inexplicable rebellion. Each time the rebels are cast out, to protect the social whole, which must be. That stability is scientifically proven as the base for all material existence, so what threatens it must be controlled. The administrator, a pleasant man, raised his hands in a gesture of powerlessness. “I can´t do anything. I told them in Algiers it meant the ruin of the tribe. They wouldn’t listen.”

In fact, the antagonism between the sedentary and the nomadic, between “the human frogs” and those who inhabit at once the heights and the depths, cannot be understood with fixed positions. Nomadism is relative. It defines itself in opposition to an other. Unlike ordinary folk, the nomads do not seek to erase that which does not have right on its side. The nomads trade with the villagers, just as Novatore’s “Free Man” may fight alongside others to communalize material wealth, at the same time as they turn away from society, to seek, to explore, to plumb the depths and climb the heights, because life, like rebellion, is unending. Its contradictions outnumber any dialectical process and to be crazy is simply to feel those contradictions and act on them, without permission from society. And this maligned adventurism, and nothing else, is the moment of hope.

We will avenge them.
We will avenge them because they are our brothers!
We will avenge them because they have fallen with stars in their eyes.
Because dying, they have drunk the sun.
The sun of life, the sun of struggle, the sun of an Idea.

Dedicated to Mauricio Morales, a year after his death.

The Ibn ‘Arabi effect

Dear T,

They left as night let its curtains down in folds. – Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi

I am neither an authority on, nor a partisan of, Camatte’s worldview and am thus unable to confidently recommend to you one of his works above the others. In my life, I have found that I am unable to perform either the role of teacher or student and so habitually avoid all approximates of such relations. Equally, as I do not know what questions you wish to ask in your readings of these, or any other works, I cannot even make a guess as to how to best inform your curiosity.

Instead, and I admit this is quite unlooked for, I am able to discuss other more immediate but still related matters. The question I wish to raise with you is the nature of the breaking away of individuals from the elective relations which, to a great extent, have formed their characters. The reason I have discussed Camatte here, and elsewhere, is that he fits this model very well, he is the most readily recognisable and accessible embodiment of the tendency to depart from our milieu on a personal voyage. In fact, I am almost tempted to term this tendency, ‘the Camatte effect’ but it seems a little unfair to utilise the name of someone still living for such purposes… for want of a more apt term, I have therefore settled on the almost arbitrary, ‘The Ibn ‘Arabi effect’ as he is an exemplary figure who voyaged spiritually and then was unable to return home – he is a person who found himself in a different place.

Dear T,

They left as night let its curtains down in folds. – Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi

I am neither an authority on, nor a partisan of, Camatte’s worldview and am thus unable to confidently recommend to you one of his works above the others. In my life, I have found that I am unable to perform either the role of teacher or student and so habitually avoid all approximates of such relations. Equally, as I do not know what questions you wish to ask in your readings of these, or any other works, I cannot even make a guess as to how to best inform your curiosity.

Instead, and I admit this is quite unlooked for, I am able to discuss other more immediate but still related matters. The question I wish to raise with you is the nature of the breaking away of individuals from the elective relations which, to a great extent, have formed their characters. The reason I have discussed Camatte here, and elsewhere, is that he fits this model very well, he is the most readily recognisable and accessible embodiment of the tendency to depart from our milieu on a personal voyage. In fact, I am almost tempted to term this tendency, ‘the Camatte effect’ but it seems a little unfair to utilise the name of someone still living for such purposes… for want of a more apt term, I have therefore settled on the almost arbitrary, ‘The Ibn ‘Arabi effect’ as he is an exemplary figure who voyaged spiritually and then was unable to return home – he is a person who found himself in a different place.

Up to this juncture, those who have broken from their milieu, to follow their own path, have tended to disappear from its records… how many radicals have joined and then departed from the organisations that they thought best expressed their interest? The loss of these individuals is an occurrence that is little discussed – perhaps we are more tempted to contemplate how the organisations themselves operate homeostatically and always somehow maintain the same numbers even though these numbers are constituted by a constantly replenished membership of individuals. The great problem of this breaking away of individuals is not the schism itself so much as the constant rate of loss of knowledge that these individuals have gained in their intellectual journeying – this has developed to such a level that it functions as a critique of the specifics of membership itself. And the result for the organisations concerned has been catastrophic in that they are perpetually bound to a fallback set of principles only new recruits are capable of adhering to. The endless circulation of membership and the hanging on of a grizzled old guard induces organisational inflexibility. By contrast, we know by experience that where there is a constant long term relation, there is always, tinkering and internal modification of the terms of that relation.

I mentioned above, this juncture because for the first time those who have set off on their own journeys from the milieu are being registered as a positive phenomenon by those who do not wish to see them disappear. The problem has been that those who broke from organisations had no structures to ensure the continuity of their ideas… and so the milieu has been consistently losing the insights (and occasional theoretical breakthroughs) which were not aligned to any particular group or party. For the first time, the opinions of those who break away from the milieu’s organisations are being sought out and also organised in order that they cannot be so easily lost again. But why should I presume that those who break from the party are its most intelligent elements?

My understanding of the movement of human consciousness is that it is based firstly in a tendency to band together and secondly, in contradiction, in a tendency to divergence (hence, The Ibn ‘Arabi effect). We might say that Intelligence is thus always defined in terms of divergence from what is established whereas interest is expressed in terms of a reverted to solidarity. From this understanding, it is a small step to perceive ‘organisations’ as structures whose unrecognised function is, in reality, to produce embodiments of the Ibn Arabi effect, that is, they are devices for the production of dissent and breaking away.

I belong to a speculative (i.e. non-existent) group called Forward Unit, the purpose of this group is to engage those individual bearers of fragments of consciousness who have undertaken journeys away from the milieu orthodoxies which have formed them. The purpose of this engagement is to feed their knowledge back into the milieu so that such voyages have their social content returned to them.

Camatte’s break with marxism is remarkable for two reasons: a. that he did not fall silent (which is most significant for the work of [Forward Unit as the not falling silent of those who are intellectually dissatisfied with the given forms of pro-communism is the highest of its priorities); b. his break produced a number of concrete theoretical problems (i.e. the total subsumption of the proletariat/the community of capital; the rejection of organisations and politics). Specifically, in my opinion, Camatte’s greatest contribution is found in an almost nondescript sentence in The Wandering of Humanity in which he states, (I paraphrase), communism is the return of all of human intelligence in non-traumatised form.

In other words, the invariant commitment of communism to humanity is not to be found in the adherence to a particular ‘communist’ theory (as this produces numerous unintended political, ethical and psychological side-effects, not the least of which is a destructive compulsion to heresy) but rather it is the structural and practical facilitation of other people’s intelligence within a safe and supportive environment. For myself, Camatte’s account (which he opposes to Marx’s later celebration of the development of the forces of production) was something of a revelation, as I have always found the certainty of pro-revolutionary groups embarrassing and counterproductive (i.e. the very forms they operate within are bound to produce violent and unhelpful disagreement both internally and externally)…. and the idea that communism is the realisation in the form of social relations of a set of principles is equally abhorrent as it denies the basic subjective content of all other human forms, past and present, that have appeared in the world.

What then is the status of the findings of those who break from the milieu? It seems to me that the Ibn ‘Arabi effect is some sort of embodied expression of the external world’s corrective of internal subjective formations and the sticking points of consciousness that belong to them (i.e. overvalued ideas, overvalued relations, overvalued objects, overvalued histories). Those who take an individualist turn in their activities renew the appropriate form of subjective thought within the milieu which habitually seeks an objectivist perspective despite its minority status. The individualist turn, as it expresses the generality’s corrective of small group pretensions, asks, ‘what is it of that which defines you, are you now prepared to give up?’

Up to this point in time, the pro-communist milieu has not had to actively engage with the Ibn Arabi effect, the fresh and eager enthusiasm of new recruits has simply supplanted the radical non-commitment of those departing. But now, it is possible for those have become disillusioned with the milieu to examine what it is that has caused them to undertake their voyage away from it without their having to renounce the entirety of the problems of social transformation which they previously were so engaged with.

If communism is not the realisation of a set of principles then perhaps it is a set of recuperative practices which attempt to field and process other people’s tendency to the Ibn ‘Arabi effect… this assertion is based, as I remarked above, on the assumption that disagreement (or, the filling in of not occupied space) is fundamental to the human species and that the therapeutic relating of the components of disagreement are of greater liberatory value than the content of the disagreement itself (or put another way, there is a commensurability between the freeing up of the different levels of discourses and the maximisation of those who have access to them.)

What happens when, through the efforts of Forward Unit, the findings of those who have voyaged away from it are fed back into the milieu? The first implication, I think, will be a reduction in the over-influence of clichés in young masculinity (that cycle of initial Hotspur militancy and denunciation followed by rapid decline into indifference); the event of radical divergence will also become less traumatising (i.e. it will not be so understood as alien or as a ‘betrayal’) and will be more generally welcomed as contributive. There is also the question of commissioning those who have not yet deserted the ranks to undertake their independent divergences… Overall, after long contemplation of Camatte’s (not-complete) marginalisation within the pro-revolutionary milieu, it seems that the preferable option (if we are to include such vital intelligences within our schemes) is to construct organisations that are actively and positively productive of divergences in place of those which have previously valued conformity. Divergent ideas and themes must be re-circulated within the milieu to be always up for their reconsideration in a new light – this work of reconsideration is the very core of a living social relationship.

I view the class struggle in its most totalised form to be more productive of, rather than receptive to, conscious intervention in its great churnings. No subjective consciousness has the capacity to successfully divert the flow of the struggle at that level. The process by which ideas are circulated on the largest scale is, under stable conditions, tied to capital expenditure on communications machinery (although even this is no guarantee of success of particular ideas). But during unstable periods, the means by which a new idea becomes popular is a mystery. Nobody could anticipate the linking of Camatte with Ibn ‘Arabi for example. The territory of communist intervention therefore is extremely narrow and I have come to see it in terms of a form of pastoral care undertaken at a very small scale. Camatte was the first marxist (since Marx perhaps) to reintroduce the individual’s scale in the question of opposition to capitalism… it is the individual who most resists quantification, abstraction and his interchangeability as a unit of the economy. More precisely, it is the role of communists to re-present to the most militant anti-capitalist formations of the moment, the centrality of the individual.

The purpose of communist activity after Camatte is to increase the conscious proportion in decisionmaking process at all levels and to thereby diminish the influence of this hostile environment. And where there occurs within the milieu an identification with the forces of production and the ideology of progress, where it is demanded that some individuals will necessarily be destroyed to achieve the realisation of some greater process – the communist must step in, even where he has no power to effect the outcome and argue, ‘’not this individual and not this process.’

I also think a new theory of the proletariat becomes possible at this juncture, a theory which accepts Camatte’s insight into domestication but does not consider it as the end of the matter. Domestication, or real domination, is productive of further contestations but on a different terrain, we still find evidence of objective (i.e. non-conscious) class struggle. However, the struggle is now occurring, as a friend has put it, beyond politics and at the level of affectivity… that is at the level of the proletariat’s recent acute sensitisation to its environment, at the level of its incapacities, of its multiplying illnesses, of its dependency, its lack of agency and non-productivity, its deskilling, its flight from responsibility and politics.

It seems that capitalism cannot survive without the continual reproletarianisation of the world’s population, and yet within vast numbers of humanity this process has induced a terrible enervation and incapacity for productive work… Beginning from Camatte’s perception of a condition of total domination we see that if communism cannot now occur in the form of a supercession of and through capitalist production then it may begin materially as a collapsing away from the productive relation altogether.

If in the past the mighty workers movement could not subdue capital and bend productive forces to its will then the proletariat’s current high maintenance costs and its increasing uselessness may indicate a separation of humanity from its domination by dead labour – we see here how the Ibn ‘Arabi effect works out on a society wide scale – the proletariat is diverging from its productive role and is passing into a condition of errancy, or listless wandering.

The therapeutic attempt to realise all this unarticulated alienated drift as a radical and conscious incompatibility with capitalist forms and then link it to a project of total social transformation is central now to pro-communism’s historical role – although at first, before this therapeutic intervention may occur, it is likely that even more pain, loss and anguish (or ‘austerity’) must be passed through.

You asked for a reading recommendation and instead I have provided you with a reading of my own. Did you expect anything else?

Aimiably,

frére dupont

Another Act of Terror

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano,-
A stage, where every man must play a part;
And mine a sad one.

William Shakespeare – Merchant of Venice Act 1 scene 1

On Thursday morning 53 year old Joesph Stacks got into his plane and began to fly. His steps into a single engine Piper-Cherokee aircraft were strides off a rigged playing field of capitalist social relations. Fueled by ressentiment, the Austin, Texas resident flew his craft low over the skyline before piloting his kamikaze vehicle into the Internal Revenue Service building. Plowing into the hulking seven story building just before 10 am, Stacks’ act of terrorism brought instant reminders of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Flames shot from the building, windows exploded, a huge pillar of black smoke rose over the city and terrified workers scrambled to safety. The Pentagon scrambled two F-16 fighter jets from Houston to patrol the skies over the burning building before it became clear that it was the act of a lone pilot.

“It felt like a bomb blew off,” said Peggy Walker, an IRS revenue officer who was sitting at her desk. “The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran.”

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano,-
A stage, where every man must play a part;
And mine a sad one.

William Shakespeare – Merchant of Venice Act 1 scene 1

On Thursday morning 53 year old Joesph Stacks got into his plane and began to fly. His steps into a single engine Piper-Cherokee aircraft were strides off a rigged playing field of capitalist social relations. Fueled by ressentiment, the Austin, Texas resident flew his craft low over the skyline before piloting his kamikaze vehicle into the Internal Revenue Service building. Plowing into the hulking seven story building just before 10 am, Stacks’ act of terrorism brought instant reminders of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Flames shot from the building, windows exploded, a huge pillar of black smoke rose over the city and terrified workers scrambled to safety. The Pentagon scrambled two F-16 fighter jets from Houston to patrol the skies over the burning building before it became clear that it was the act of a lone pilot.

“It felt like a bomb blew off,” said Peggy Walker, an IRS revenue officer who was sitting at her desk. “The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran.”



Terrorism is a gesture of advertising: it’s a literary act, a form of representation before all else and Stacks with his feeble attack on the IRS that killed one (besides himself) and critically injured two others, publicized his hatred for an inept political system.
Stacks was kind enough to leave behind a suicide note before his fatal voyage that brings more depth to his act. It is in his words, that would have gone completely ignored if he had not piloted his plane into such a spectacular collision, that we see his banal motivations. Cheated by a governmental system that cost him over $40,000, ten years of his life and sent his retirement plans back to zero, he conveys his life history of miserably common working class failures. After all: “The capitalist creed (is): From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”
During his early years as a college student, still full of hope, Stacks lived next to an elderly widow. Her husband was a steel worker whose pension had been raided by corrupt unions, incompetent management, and of course the government, leaving the woman with only the pittance provided by social security to survive on. At one point he recounts a conversation between himself and the older neighbor in which “…she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread.”
Stacks goes on to list his different attempts to solve the problems he has with the government, and the different ideologies through which he passes. Having spent at least 1000 hours and $5000 “mailing any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen,” attempting to mount a campaign against the atrocity of unfair taxation, he realized the futility of his actions. Stacks finally grasped that “when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.” Having little recourse Stacks took up the decision for pointless martyrdom. Knowing that “… there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. “
It is Stacks himself that points out the madness of his actions. Saying that “…the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different.” Stacks perversely had some desire that his actions would some how wake up the “American Zombies” to the injustice of the reigning order. Yet as stated above others have thrown themselves against the Kafkaesque labyrinth of despair that is the governmental bureaucracy with equal effect, which is to say none.
Just days after his death, petty politicians of the left and the right are quick to denounce Stacks, each side pointing to the other for producing a mad man. The play of blame just quickens the process of recuperation, Stacks’ act is caught up into the order of things and quickly forgotten, after all Pamela Anderson’s new scanty outfit was a scandal and the Olympics are being played out. While pointing to the widely known fact that something is terribly amiss with the world today Stacks delusive deed becomes just another blurb in the spectacle of modern society.
What we really see in Stacks is the nihilism of his gesture. Nihilists constantly feel the urge to destroy the system which destroys them. They cannot go on living as they are. Stacks did not recognize the possibility for the transformation of the world, and so he becomes ossified into a role: in this case the “suicide.”
The nihilists’ mistake is that they do not realize that there are other with whom they can work. Consequently, they assume that participation in a collective project of self-realization is impossible.

“Take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”
Joe Stacks
1956-2010