Wildcat Economics The Supramodern Shaking Uncontrollably
we are at war...
critical analysis
disemboweled poetry
street media
the movement
Search DU


Enter your email to receive DU's Dispatches from the Supramodern

La Revolution Mode D'Emploi
Revolution: Directions for Use

By Jake Bellone

Finding myself discontent with the present notions of revolution, especially the way the term is brought up in a trendy, pretentious, off-hand manner, I found it necessary to expound upon the notion of revolution, to search for what notions and concepts are helpful if the notion of revolution is to be preserved, or reborn, or continued to be used, talked about, and thought.

Too often when asked the question “What is revolution?” the common tactic is to fall back on poetics and romanticism, without ever touching on the political, the economic, and the social; that is, without touching on actual, concrete conditions.  Within the Lacanian triad we can discover the notions and differences of the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real.  While plenty has been done in the realm of the imaginary, the emphasis of this project is an attempt to elaborate the implications for the symbolic and Real.

It appears that the word “revolution” is only valid as a signifier without signified, and is used precisely in a way that deprives it of any signified.  This mean it tends towards a usage that is without definition, goal, or anything Real.  It is used precisely because it does not refer to anything.  One must make the distinction here between Revolution tout court and “Revolution of…”  That is, I have the intention of speaking of Revolution and not of a revolution of the education system, or a revolution of the economic system.  “Revolution of…” falls under the category of reform, and I am considering revolution contra reform.

I. Introduction

Today’s predominant form of ideological “closure” takes the precise form of mental block which prevents us from imagining a fundamental social change, in the interests of an allegedly “realistic” and mature attitude”
Today…it is more important than ever to hold this utopian place of the global alternative open, even if it remains empty, living on borrowed time, awaiting the content to fill it in.
—Slavoj Zizek, “Holding the Place” in
Contingency, Hegemony, Universality

Enough of this complicity in degradation which welds the generations, one with another, enough of tacit understandings, of shameful solutions, of a rendezvous fixed for ultimate common ruination.  Enough of this long-term speculation, of this old-age pension-scheme that goes by the name of education.  Cease to address, by way of the child that confronts you, the humiliated and degraded man he must finally become.  Enough of this “You’ll understand later on,” and “When you’re a grown-up,” to the person in whose eyes, at this very moment, and irremediably, you are degrading yourself.
—Entry for “Education”, Le Da Costa Encyclopédique

Verily, I also do not like those who consider everything good and this world the best.  Such men I call the omni-satisfied.  Omni-satisfaction, which knows how to taste everything, that is not the best taste.  I honor the recalcitrant choosy tongues and stomachs, which have learned to say “I” and “yes” and “no.”  But to chew and digest everything--that is truly the swine’s manner.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The greatest threat at present is not being able to envision anything beyond the current and merely apparent “end of history,” beyond the liberal-democratic consensus functioning as the illusory end of politics proper, beyond any reference to the status quo.  It seems inappropriate nowadays to envision anything beyond that which exists, and the originary antagonism between the world as it is presented to us, and politics as having an inborn hostility to any status quo, has been lost. 

Within supposedly communist countries, there seems to be a lack of political dreaming since the revolution has already occurred, and henceforward there can be nothing to look forward to.  But with bourgeois apologists like Francis Fukuyama we are obliged to view liberal democracy as the end of politics as well, as the goal of history itself.  This is how it has become fashionable, among all other post-isms, such as postmodern, post-communication, to define our era as the ‘post-political.’  For our part, we must continue to speak about possibilities, about projects even amongst criticism that anything different from the existing form will lead to totalitarianism or the gulags, or worse. 

The function of such phrases is immediately to hush up the mind that has not learned to acclimatize itself properly to “the way things are.”  Concepts such as “post-political” or “post-ideological” in fact are ideology.  This is precisely when Zizek speaks of “Denkverbot,” the prohibition on thinking.  In fact, ideology is precisely this prohibition on thinking, this delimiting of the contours of what functions effectively as (symbolically-mediated) “reality.”  The purpose of revolution is to precisely change these parameters and coordinates of what constitutes reality.

II. Becoming and Temporality

It is fashionable these days to condemn the horrors of revolution.  It’s nothing new; English Romanticism is permeated by reflections on Cromwell very similar to present-day reflections on Stalin.  They say revolutions turn out badly.  But they’re constantly confusing two different things, the way revolutions turn out historically and people’s revolutionary becoming.  These relate to two different sets of people.  Men’s only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming: the only way of casting off their shame or responding to what is intolerable.
—Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations

This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never”.  We must come to see…that “justice too long delayed is justice denied”
—Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule.  We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight.  Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency[…]
—Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History (VIII)

The conflict that emerges with a concept like revolution is its means and methodology (which we will get to later); the opening of such issues concern the moment it emerges as a valid category.  The most common reproach wrought against the idea of revolution is that conditions aren’t ripe for revolution, that we must still wait, that future will reveal an opportunity, if at all.  This is most often used in a particular Leftist hegemony over the Left, that is – defining the contours of the Leftist project, and defining the rules of possible discourse.  In particular, revolution has no way of working its way into contemporary leftist dialogue in terms of formulating a project.  The revolution is always deferred.
However Lenin’s criticism, and Rosa Luxembourg’s as well, is that if we decide to wait for the revolution, it will never arrive at all.  Against Hungtington’s thesis of a “clash of civilizations’ there is, in effect, and more accurately, crises within civilization itself (an example of this being the crisis within the Left itself and attempts at ideological hegemony within acceptable leftist discourse).  This is to say that there are very few current events that do not hold their relevancy to crises of capitalism. 

The contemporary plight of Islamic fundamentalism is a mobilization of Islam qua substantive community against notions like capitalism which precisely dissolves such communal bonds.  Ethnic and religious categories are what precisely melts into air against capitalism.  The militarism of Africa, the after-effects of various tsunamis and hurricanes, the conquest of the Middle East, each of these clashes are provocations which find their meaning in capitalism.  Against a peculiar domination by the Left with a particular blinding perspective (anti-Bush, pro-Third Way conciliatory capitalism) and enforcing a particular world view, crises are occurring within the political Left itself between those who which to preserve and reform the status quo, taking more moderate and concessionist stances, regarding capitalism as here to stay, and those who demand a “Renaissance of the Enlightenment,” or perhaps more likely, a Second Enlightenment. 
In addition, Luxembourg’s criticism is that the revolution is what creates its own conditions, that is, it retroactively posits the conditions for revolution.  As seen above, we can even appropriate King’s criticism to this concept.  This is Lenin’s main critique of “opportunism” within the factions that he was dealing with at the time.  For us, in this day and age, we still have to struggle with the same form of opportunism, though now further differentiated (in the form of ideology and enforced ideological perception – that is, religious, ethnic, nationalist rather than universal).  However, within the Left, notions like Third Way economics completely glosses over the fact that there was never any “second way.”  The notion of Third Way implies that, in regards to capitalism, there never was a real alternative to capitalism.  The deconstruction of communist politics and Russia and China reveal the extent to which there has never been a real “Second Way.” 

Above all, in either country, man was never emancipated from “man as commodity” (in addition to any number of critiques equally leveled against properly capitalist countries).  In this sense, the break from capitalism wasn’t radical enough, hence a strong need for a new “Critique of Political Economy” In actuality, so-called “communism” was a dredging of the necessary and salvageable aspects of capitalism, placed in a different form of administration (in some ways reducible to a method of modernization, though more effectively a different “brand” of capitalism). 
What Marx distinguished between the bourgeois revolution (the French Revolution) and the revolution in the future is the crucial difference in the place of language.  In the bourgeois revolution it was the words “liberty, equality, fraternity” which in itself was a violent assertion of a new universality.  In the revolution to come, however, it is precisely the meaning which overwhelms the language, that is, words (mere language) are unable to contain the excess of meaning.  The degeneration of language since its radical assertion during the Enlightenment is obvious: words like “freedom” and “liberty” are tossed around as if they had no practical manifestation, or practical potentiality.  Against such a degeneration we must precisely constitute the meaning of “freedom,” that is, manifesting/actualizing it within concrete conditions.  Meaning and content must come to overflow the form.
A popular second reproach against revolution is that a democratic consensus is needed in order for a revolution to take place, a “referendum” if you will.  Here the inherent contradiction seems rather obvious.  A revolution has to take place within the bounds of the liberal-democratic consensus, within law, that is, within the bourgeois pseudo-democratic political process.  That is, the revolution requires recognition by an abstract Other, and it is the democratic process which places a concept up against this abstract entity, for which all possibilities are lost.  However, for Lenin, revolution is authorized by revolution itself, that is, it derives its authority from itself, not from the law, but by Law proper; that is, by doing one’s ethical duty, in responding to an ethical dilemma by positing a higher form of Law.  Marx reveals within the difference between German and Roman law, that they are two forms of Law-as-such. 

There is a crucial element of difference between the two manifestations of Law proper, but each of these is an incarnation of Law.  In some ways, revolution is a violent assertion of a new Law.  It is, in Heideggerian terms, the Venture (or for Badiou the Event, or the Act), which is always a risk, but it is this non-waiting in view of the act itself, an overriding of the fear of taking power which nurtures against the Act authorizing itself.  Every Venture is a risk, but without the risk we are abandoned to a static environment.  We must come to understand the necessity by which one struggles constantly, and this means a certain understanding of violence, against its own time. 
In either case, what appears from the onset of this seeming “fear” of the revolution is something a bit deeper—for all those who advocate revolution on the surface, and in public, their greatest fear is precisely that this assertion will be taken seriously.  People who speak of revolution enjoy doing so for the rebellious act of advocating revolution, but would be frightened to death if a revolution actually began to take place.  Those who advocate revolution remain blissfully aware that advocating revolution affords them notoriety, yet are also aware that a revolution will place their position in life in a certain form of jeopardy.  It seems as though one advocates revolution while at the same time relying on the seeming impossibility of its occurrence. 

This is akin to the politician who, knowing he has no chance of winning, affords himself the opportunity to speak more freely than someone who has to adjust themselves accordingly in mannerisms in order to actually be elected.  If a politician in this case were to make wild assertions, and were then to actually get elected, it would be interesting to see whether he or she would actually follow through on what he was speaking about.  Likewise, someone who speaks a lot about revolution, and come the revolution, does nothing, reveals his impotence and his interest in the notoriety of his character.
Coupled with the fear of the call actually being answered is the fear of seizing power.  It becomes easy to speak of revolution, but once it arrives, so arrives the fear of actually taking power, that is, performing the dirty work of the revolution.  The true project of the revolution means being able to “take care of business” once the revolution passes, the project of effectively changing the coordinates of politics so that a new constellation, or simplified “new ways of acting and being in the world” are effectively employed and put into place.  In short, the act of destruction that is the revolution must be repeated in the form of creation
For Lenin, the revolution is a median point this side of spontaneity against the prospect of waiting for the revolution to create itself.  The lesson learned is that history itself heals no wounds, history itself is not an autonomous abstract process, but is the result of labor in any sense: intellectual, manual, or evolutionary.  Likewise Lenin’s position when thrust into a moment of revolution is neither planning nor improvisation, but a position of careful and meticulous anticipation.  One has to consider that we cannot plan out the revolution, and understand that the emergence of such an Event radically disturbs symbolic reality.  Therefore one cannot take into account how reality will be left after the Event restructures the coordinates of reality.  Neither can one be spontaneous and allow the Act to degenerate into a simple self-destructive gesture.  Revolution entails a certain type of “feeling out” that is constitutive of anticipation.
Two forms of repetition involved with revolution should be discussed.  The repetition of revolution within a historical context, and repetition within revolution itself

Revolution, and revolutionary attempts which occur in the present appear as a means of vindicating the past, of redeeming the past.  Every revolutionary effort seeks to correct the mistakes of the past.  Revolution is the repetition of past mistakes, in a way which vindicates the present, and provides for the future.  This is readily discernible in a situation such as the events of May 1968 in France, where one of the slogans sprayed on the walls of the Sorbonne read “The Commune is not dead.”  This is already an invocation of Lenin’s comments “In Memory of the Commune.”  In many ways the events of 1968 were an example of an “explosion” of the past into the present. 

These events were viewed as a resurrection of the Paris Commune, more importantly as a repetition of the Commune itself.  The minority groups of Paris ‘68, and no doubt the more radical of the groups (destined to remain “loyal” to the concept of revolution) were historically aware of precisely what was to be lost in this repetition.  In this way, we come to an idea of the “repetition of the different.”  The Situationists were quick to note as early as 1962 the errors of the Commune, and hence would place themselves in better situation to make sure that the mistakes were not repeated:

THE PARIS COMMUNE succumbed less to the force of arms than to the force of habit. The most scandalous practical example was the refusal to use the cannons to seize the French National Bank when money was so desperately needed. During the entire existence of the Commune the bank remained a Versailles enclave in Paris, defended by nothing more than a few rifles and the mystique of property and theft. The other ideological habits proved in every respect equally disastrous (the resurrection of Jacobinism, the defeatist strategy of the barricades in memory of 1848, etc.).

So the gesture of the revolution is repeated, and the mistakes themselves, are repeated in the sense that they are precisely what is lacking in the redemptive gesture of repetition.

Within revolution itself, however, repetition also plays a crucial role.  The lesson learned from Lenin is that the revolution must strike twice: once for the form, once for the content.  In Hegelian terms, this means the negation, and then the negation of the negation.  In a revolutionary context, the content is first negated, and then the form.   This calls to mind remarks by Marx involving the dissolution of the proletariat as a class at the moment of its victory.  In a response to a questionnaire (1964), the situationists were careful of the problematic position of their own label in regards to negation:

6. Do you consider it necessary to call yourselves
In the existing order, where things take the place of people, any label is compromising. The one we have chosen, however, embodies its own critique, in that it is automatically opposed any “situationism,” the label that others would like to saddle us with. Moreover, it will disappear when all of us have become fully situationist and are no longer proletarians struggling for the end of the proletariat. For the moment, however ridiculous a label may be, ours has the merit of drawing a sharp line between the previous incoherence and a new rigorousness. Such incisiveness is just what has been most lacking in the thought of the last few decades.

Here the task of the situationist is akin to Marx’s proletariat—they negate the existing order, and then, at the moment of their victory, negate themselves as a class.

III. Revolution and Law

In the great criminal this violence confronts the law with the threat of declaring a new law, a threat that even today, despite its impotence, in important instances horrifies the public as it did in primeval times.  The state, however, fears this violence simply for its lawmaking character, being obliged to acknowledge it as lawmaking whenever external powers force it to concede them the right to conduct warfare, and classes to strike.
—Walter Benjamin, Critique of Violence

One of the most pathetic arguments against revolution is on the subject of its legality.  I’ve met a few who insist that revolution is not a valid recourse since it is quite simply illegal.  On the level of legality, one would find revolution less tolerable than rape, which is, from any rational perspective, downright horrible.  Rather than automatically assuming that a position of radical transgression of the law leads either to the gulags or to the concentration camps (as is a convenient argument for the Right and the Left) one should consider one of the interesting slogans of ’68: “un seul week-end non révolutionnaire est infiniment plus sanglant qu‘un mois de révolution permanente” (A single nonrevolutionary weekend is infinitely more bloody than a month of permanent revolution).  And here we have a sense of what “revolution or death” truly means. 

Revolution can be seen as the reconciliation of civil wars and domestic disputes in that it completely dissolves these conflicts by dissolving that which produces them (capitalism and economic opportunism, the introduction of the division that cuts through all divisions, universality against national, ethnic, religious categories).  However it should be made clear, it is capital itself which dissolves the bond among people.  This is a prime example in pre-capitalist countries, or regions where capitalism is not fully implemented.  Capitalism dissolves bonds ethnic, religious, etc.  Revolution, on the other hand, is not interested in reconstituting these former forms of solidarity, but by inserting a new one, that is, bringing a much bigger division, a division that precisely cuts across all other divisions—this is precisely the meaning of Law qua universal human subjectivity—universality.  This is exactly what is salvageable in Christianity for politics—the violent intrusion of universality—a separation which cuts across separation.
From the outset, it should clear that the revolution authorizes its own authority, that is, it authorizes itself.  While revolution may appear to be a transgression of the law, it is properly dialectical in that it asserts its own law above sanctioned public law, it asserts, in a manner of speaking, the universal.  It is not a violation, rather it is the violent assertion of a different law.  Zizek uses Lacan’s example of Antigone and her insistence that she bury her brother, even against the explicit public law.  Her insistence is an assertion of a Good above the Good posited by public legal law.  This is, precisely, desire—the Act performed
In addition, there are many forms of transgression which are perfectly accommodated and are easily and simply recuperated within the capitalist economy (and its resulting polity).  Sexualities which from the outset appeared transgressive now find their place within the economy.  You want whips and chains?  Fine.  Homosexuality?  Not a problem (and here there is an interesting notion of the transgressive aspect of homosexuality—while striving for homosexual marriage to be sanctified by the state, we approach a form of integration, or to use an accurate term, recuperation within the social order, whereas the aspect of homosexuality that is transgressive is actually what allows the possibility of homosexuality—by getting the approval of the state, one loses the object-cause of homosexuality, the transgression which sustains it). 

Every single space opened by a dispersion into a multiplicity of discourses can find its place within the social order.  Likewise, NGOs and charitable organizations are no doubt honorable, and it is good that people do them, nevertheless these programs are contained within the social order itself.  That is, nothing within this sphere is capable of effectively and properly challenging or transgressing the social order, since it is intimately bound up in it.  Reform means a bandaging of a structure whereas revolution entails the revelation that one cannot simply bandage over a rotten core.
An entire market is built upon cynicism as well.  There is no shortage of television programs or books written which profit upon peoples’ attitude towards the system, towards social, political, or economic organization.  Nearly the entire genre of comedy is built upon this form of perception.  It’s easy to see how there’s a short distance between cynicism, on the one hand, and apathy and passivity on the other. 

As a method of recuperation, nothing functions quite so well as cynicism, which, in actuality, is merely another form of ideological integration.  In fact, what sustains the ideology of capitalism is the point at which it demands not to be followed.  That is, if everyone followed the logic of capitalism, capitalism itself would be the victim.  The notion of success, if applied universally, deprives capitalism of precisely its deprivation, that is, it deprives capitalism of the lack on which it is ultimately based.  Capitalism’s main component is scarcity, and without scarcity, capitalism would be economically unable to function.  This is why it’s considered that the only limit to capitalism is exactly capital itself.  The term “post-ideological,” which functions as the form of ideological closure, is then inaccurate to describe our times when a cynical attitude is able to function as the most potent form of ideology.  Cynicism is the infantile disorder of the revolutionary.
Capitalism is, without a doubt, beholden to its own religious, metaphysical, and ideological illusions of which the populous tends to remain constantly unaware.  The fact that they are unaware, and what’s more complicit, helps to explain the notion that ideology is in fact more of an unconscious phenomenon that manifests itself concretely.  That is to say, Kant himself rather explains ideology in a form which seems rather anti-Kantian—disagree all you want, but obey nonetheless.  This means precisely that, even if you disagree with everything Stalin says, nonetheless, when he is done speaking you stand up and clap. 
Here one must emphasis the spectral aspects of capital.  On the stock market and in terms of trading large decisions are made in terms of computer-generated figures without any notion of that terms and consequences this will entail concretely and actual in reality.  Decisions are made which have drastic effects for those affected in the allocation of resources.  In this sense, capitalism serves as a more contemporary form of alienation, and a radical form of alienation from the Real.  In addition one must stress how capitalism also entails a certain form of subjectivity, in the manner in which the bourgeois steps carefully and dismissively over the homeless man on the street, one can here speak of a form of “pathological narcissism” which is inimical to capitalism.

On the other side of the public law we have to delve deep into the prolongation of the public, legal law within the unconscious, that is, in the form of the super-ego.  The popular misconception of psychoanalysis is that the outside world (the world external to the mind) is merely a projection of the impulses of the mind in concrete reality.  In this form the state as enforcer and its police are an example of the father-figure, and the form of the state as that which sustains welfare is the support-seeking.  However, the real situation is actually the opposite: it is within the superego that external forces are internalized.  That is, the state in the form of the enforcer repeats that moment in humanity’s anthropological past as that of the leader of the tribe who, upon being murdered, returns in the form of guilt.  This seemingly endless form the repetition of this act, this internalization of the tribal leader in the form of the father manifests itself today within the superego and the public law at the same time.  It is this which sustains social authority—the symbolic. 
The dynamic of the superego in relation to the ego corresponds to Kant’s relationship between the individual and duty; however this form of “duty” is also split between the superego injunction and the social and political legal injunction.  One must always perform his duty to the superego.  However the prolongation, the internalization of social and public authority runs into dangers regarding revolution.  Given its transgressive nature, the Kant’s injunction of “You can, for you must” is reversed - “You cannot, for you must not,” that is, because it is not sanctioned by any public form of law, one simply must not perform the action out of duty.  The treatment in regards to extreme guilt or extreme liberty is to temper the superego; in some cases strengthening it, in some cases creating forms of reasonability (or perhaps even stronger, canceling/annulling the debt). 
However, Freud’s claim that an individual’s ability to be just is in proportion to his guilt is an idea that must be thought through more effectively.  The guilty man is the just man because he represses his primeval impulse towards transgression.  Freedom is too often considered to be the following of impulses, but more effectively freedom must be constituted as precisely the exercise of freedom against mere instinctual impulse.  This is why for Nietzsche memory is forged (and consequently built) through pain, burning, trauma.  Only something which burns is able to stay in the memory.  And the punishment for the transgression of social law brings pain (and ultimately repression, and the return of the repressed).  Certainly, within the context of revolution, there is always the risk (of harsh punishment, of another burning).
In addition one has to figure the condition of the reality-principle when one considers the use of this concept of revolution.  In regards to revolution, a popular reproach against it is in regard to its feasibility.  When one brings up the notion of revolution, it is often refused based on the aspect of its possibility.  The Act is precisely the Event which restructures the reality-principle by altering the coordinates of what constitutes, precisely, reality.  With any and every thought, there is undeniably an affect.  And likewise with any change within the coordinates of thought itself, there is a change within affect as well.  One can take opinion polls on a conceived potential event, and discern many opinions. 

However, ultimately one cannot factor in how the Event itself will alter reality after that event.  For example, prior to the Iraq War, people were very outspoken towards the war, and the US saw some of its largest protests since Vietnam, but when war was ultimately declared a common comment seemed to be “Well, I was against the war, but now that it’s started I support our troops and I support what our country has to do in order to win.”  It’s a dangerous time when the individual begins to identify himself with the successes and failures of the nation-state (or the Party).  The occurrence of such a form of subjectivity actually involves the radical desubjectivication of the individual.  The only “way out” here is the radical assertion of subjectivity.
In principle, the notion of transgression within revolution functions in a much different way than the form of transgression which sustains and strengthens public social law.  The purpose of revolution is to introduce a particular form of (in Kant’s words “diabolical”) evil—not a transgression which sustains law, a mere pathological transgression, but the form of transgression which changes the coordinates of law as such.  In contrast to “doing the right thing for the wrong reason,” revolution is the form of “doing the wrong thing for the right reason.”  There is a clear line of demarcation between these two forms of ethical criteria. 

Ressentiment and the objet petit a of revolution

The life of one’s enemy – He who lives for the sake of combating an enemy has an interest in seeing that his enemy stays alive.
—Nietzsche, Human All Too Human 531

One of the most crucial lessons of the Weather Underground is contained in a critique by one of its former members who is careful to make explicit that it was the end of the Vietnam War which took all the energy from the movement.  It was precisely the Vietnam War which created the place for a revolutionary movement to exist.  Likewise, at this moment, in the United States, the object-cause of the Left remains George W. Bush.  At the moment of its potential victory, then, the Left may lose any impetus that it had before. 

It was the “good fight,” the plight of the underdog faced with a crushing monopoly of the political or economic system that sustained the Left as a political force.  Nowadays, when all one can hear is talk of George Bush without any reference to real politics, or when all one can hear is talk of George Bush and no talk of real political action, one can hear the death knell of the Left.  One must naturally include the supposed “war on terror” within this calculation, as it cannot be simply the aversion to this war which sustains the Left as a political choice.  The contemporary Left has degenerated into a reactive force without any concrete ideas or mobilization.  At this point, the Left has to make broad strokes, and to forgo Bush and the war as the object-cause of its place within the political sphere or it will be capable of doing nothing at all. 

Let’s be perfectly clear: ressentiment and revenge are the emptying of bile into a revolutionary digestive system.

IV. The morning after

Paradoxically, of course, the result of this Event is not atavism (“It has already happened, we are redeemed, so let us just rest and wait…”), but, on the contrary, an extreme urge to act: it has happened, so now we have to bear the almost unbearable burden of living up to it, of drawing the consequences of the Act…
—Slavoj Zizek, The Puppet and the Dwarf

As is the case with seemingly any revolution there will always be that class of individuals that seeks to create the revolution for the sake of revolution.  This is comparable to those who join protests for the sake of protests.  Their gesture is appreciated, but at the moment of the victory of the revolution these individuals will more than likely depart from getting their hands dirty, from the nitty-gritty, the “dirty work” of the post-revolution.  Unfortunately, at the moment of the victory of a revolution what’s not needed is the empty class of revolutionaries (which have fulfilled their duty); what is truly needed are legislators.  Though rather than myself pose a necessary outcome, I would prefer rather to discuss a few, but, moreover, my interest during this investigation is, at the very least, to open up the space for discussion of such an issue to take place.
With any revolution there is the risk of depoliticization.  An example of this is the United States, where, since the “victory” has been won, since democracy is established, there is nothing to fight for, there is nothing to do, and so passivity and apathy set in.  There are other examples of this.  After Cuba had won its own brand of communist revolution, there was a deep sentiment among the people that the Event itself had already passed, leaving the population complacent and in many cases disenchanted since there was no Event to look forward to.  The situation in Cuba and in the States in this case forms an accurate correspondence.  In contrast, in those areas which look towards revolution, one finds a “carrot and stick” formula that’s rather useful for lugging around the rest of humanity.  And these two seemingly opposed tactics are not mutually exclusive

The American psychoanalyst Norman O. Brown pointed out that the very dynamics of capitalism is the “postponement of joy to the constantly postponed future”, while the ex-situationist Raoul Vaneigem explained how the promises of “green grass on the other side” only serves to further “justify the rational exploitation of man today”.  In either case what we witness is precisely the lack of any form of political imagination.  Even within the United States, the epitome of capitalisme sauvage one still retains the impression that somehow we are all working towards a state where working will be less and less necessary (the irony is, this state would accurately be called “communism”—and given that if one looks high enough, one will find 5 or 6, or maybe so much as 10 people who really call the shots, returning us to an essentially state-administered form of capitalism which we can discern by the term “oligopoly,” but which functions on the notion similar to what was called communism). 
The purpose of this article is to create the space for revolution to be discussed.  I do not have the answers, I will not write on what is to be done.  The purpose of creating the space for its possibility is to open up the possibility to congregate and discuss ideas with express intent towards implementation, that is, manifestation with concrete conditions.  My particular interest hinges on prevention of any sort of Thermidor, the moment where revolution turns on itself, any sort of situation or position which will jeopardize the revolution.  The task here is to prevent the degeneration of revolution into its prior conditions—against becoming that which it was intent on destroying.
It is not enough to define revolution along the contours of the adversary.  Revolution is not a negative project, it is only negative in the sense of negating what came before it, and holding tight to that negation.  This negation however serves as the positive possibility for creation.  One has to have a vision of oneself, and a vision of what one wishes to do with a region.  The purpose of revolution is not simply to take up the mantle of power, but properly to subvert it, that is, to place power at the service of individuals, and maintain a vigilance of the individual against becoming the passive tool of power.  No doubt, to be able to accomplish such a feat requires staying to one’s principles, in certain respects, while at the same time allowing them to flow and change according to how the situation works itself out.  But a principle against the corruption of power, against the degeneration of the possibility of subversion is a necessary component, a universal principle organized against the danger of a revolution turning against itself (which it seems it has in almost every case—however, the argument needs to be made here that simply the absence of a success in the past does not necessitate the absence of success in the present/future).  What’s needed precisely in this case is a properly “ethical hero.” 

V.  (Lenin against) The Return of Stalin or Third Way politics

The example of Third Way politics coincides precisely with Stalin’s attitude of maintaining the party line, of avoiding any sort of Left or Right deviation.  For Lenin, however, the danger is centrism, is the comfortable middle zone, is the fear of taking sides.  Third Way politics functions as an example of ideological closure, of the death of legitimate political imagination.  Leaving any form of radically reasserting any form of Leftist politics, the Third Way is the way of concession—it is the form of the Left which no longer feels any need to challenge an encroaching form of global capitalism.  Third Way politics and Third Way economics is precisely the form of politico-economic exchange which rides the middle, the buffer zone, the “gray area” without taking a firm stand.  The irony of the Third Way is that there’s a seeming absence of a Second Way. 
The Third Way has made a basic acceptance of capitalism as the only viable form of economic organization, and at the same time that it saves capitalism as the only viable working economic system, it attempts to salvage what’s left of the welfare state as well.  In this form, the Third Way is clearly walking the middle.  The absence of the Second Way means that there has never been any opposition to capitalism.  The Third Way is precisely the return to the “First Way.”  If communism is regarded as the second way, as the only considered alternative to capitalism, then one will have to understand that communism, as it has appeared in any of its forms in the world, never emancipated itself from capitalism in the first place.  Third Way means that, not simply that “There is no alternative,” to use Thatcher’s words, the greatest threat is that Third Way is treated as the alternative.
In this case capitalism is the method of following the “steady course” of action, the safe middle, the party line.  One can see here that for this reason, among many others, communism wasn’t nearly radical enough.  Hence, we will have to formulate the real opposition to capitalism. 
V. Methodology and Blood

When it comes to revolution, several questions lay before us already answered: Who?  Those beings that desire revolution.  Where?  Anywhere and everywhere, conditions become ripe retroactively.  When?  There is certainly no time like the present, especially when increasing degradation can only end in mass violence if left to rot.  Why?  Capitalism bears the seeds of its own destruction, and we are merely the seeds which have come to bear fruit.  It’s difficult to find an antagonism that doesn’t arise within the context of global capitalism.  The question that remains to fiercely burn, is precisely “What?”  So here we need to address the issue of implementation, engagement, and practice. 
While the new practice of engagement cannot be a direct repetition of the old, there still is the necessity of evaluation and judgment of previous methods in order to derive at a proper political practice.  Naturally here we cannot argue for violence, however, where non-violence can no longer be a viable method for change, we cannot renounce our own share of violence.  Non-violence has to be pushed to its limits, but one has to be prepared to go beyond those limits if necessity dictates.  When non-violence has exhausted itself we must heed the words “Any means necessary.” There is a certain point when that threshold has been crossed.  Revolutions are no holiday, they are not parties or festivals, by nature.  Revolution can be, and may be, quite unpleasant.  But that says nothing of its necessity.

The old tactics of Bolshevism are obsolete.  To amass ourselves in a Party is mass suicide, and detrimental to real politics.  It can only lead to a non-differentiated ego mass, and we are arguing for the collective work of autonomous individuals.  This contradiction cannot be reconciled in a Party formation.  The tactics which most interest me revolve around the Event of May 1968, which seems to be the most conscious method for a revolution. 
This means of course the seizing of the means of production, intellectual as well as manual—the seizing of factories as well as press centers, means of dissemination like television, radio, and naturally the written press in order to disseminate ideas.  In addition coupled with this is the free distribution of goods (the Gift is anathema to capitalism).  As well, the ex-situationist Raoul Vaneigem formulated a rather well-constituted “step-by-step” guide to revolution, tracing a line “From Wildcat Strike to Total Self-Management” (http://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/postsi/ratgeb.html), which at the very least formulates a basic system from which possibilities (based on experimentation and trial, not contract) can be formulated and attempted.  Or one could possibly resort to the particular neo-Blanquism that affected Guy Debord in his later life, resigning oneself to conspiracy (though multiple tactics are not necessarily mutually exclusive).
In my opinion, one should take advantage of wise words, in particular I think that Marco Antonio Esteban offers good advice on the “morning after” a revolution as a primary tactic to be utilized upon any marked success.

How to avoid becoming the empire’s colony or protectorate? A way out is the Venezuelan one. When the left takes power supported by the people, it must neutralize global capitalism’s bases in the country, so that global capital cannot undermine it with the aid of the favored social layers of the country. For that, it is essential to take advantage of the endorsement of the majority that it acquired and immediately erect popular power structures, nationalize the main means of production, expropriate big monopolies and fortunes, uproot the influence of multinationals, democratize companies and mass media, clean the police and the secret services, create a popular army, universalize health and education at all levels, and set up a revolutionary judiciary. If these tasks are not undertaken as soon as possible, one ends up following the path of destruction taken by Lula in Brazil. Prudent reforms, calm steps, and quiet change suit social democracy very well, but, for the left, they mean failure and marginalization for many years.  (Two Forms of Resistance Against Empire, Marco Antonio Esteban)

However, I firmly maintain the stance that the purpose of this article is to open up the space whereby such things can be discussed in open forum.  I have no intention of playing vanguard to any revolution to come, nor acting as guru or overseer, and certainly not spokesperson (allow me to be vulgar, I wouldn’t piss on Daniel Cohn-Bendit if he was on fire).  The revolution will be the collective effort of autonomous individuals, with a political disposition of love.
In addition, we must be careful in not projecting some form of utopian paradise.  The revolution will be political, and we must make concrete moves to formulate concrete political and economic decisions of what we want to create post-revolution.  We can always fall back on everyday life as the yardstick of our failure.
It is upon witnessing some of the violence witnessed during the (as of this moment) ongoing manifestations/protests/riots against the controversial law CPE in France that we can bring forward some critical reflections.  Witnessing such events brings to mind another part of the graffiti of 1968:

Or, les vraies vacances, c’était le jour où nous pouvions regarder une parade gratuitement, où nous pouvions allumer un feu géant au milieu de la rue sans que les flics nous en empêchent [But the real vacation was the day when we could watch a parade freely, when we could light a fire in the middle of the street without the cops stopping us]

It’s rather difficult to express, but there was a moment when, in front of the Sorbonne, we were confronted with a massive cloud of teargas, and so a large number of us momentarily fled the scene, walking together, en masse, all along the boulevard St. Germain, where no cars would dare drive down, walking in the middle of the street, almost triumphant, almost as if the city was ours.  And of course, the more violent aspects were those wrought by the kids from the surrounding suburbs, the banlieu, mockingly referred to as racaille
Nonetheless, I am convinced that had the students and others stood up in solidarity with these kids during the riots outside of Paris, more could have been done.  Violence is a matter of energy, and energy can always be channeled in different ways.  It’s a matter of rallying such forces of energy, diverting them, directing them.  They are quite violent against the police.  Such force is utilizable.  However, the kids from banlieu will fall the hardest, the police and forces of repression already having a negative disposition in their disfavor. 
The kids from banlieu stood up and are standing up during these labor riots, but they could have been stronger had others stood up with them during their struggle as well.  It’s only a simple matter to take over printing presses and media outlets to begin the next stages.  Many of the fallbacks, many of the shortcomings here are as they were in 1968.  The ultimate condemnation of the Communist Party is necessary (which isn’t surprising, but no one has given any credence to them since they turned their backs during ‘68), the unions, the syndicates who make the call to go back to work.  Naturally we have to here reject outrightly all those tiny groupuscules from the Trotskyists to the anarchists vying for power. 
However, regardless of the original context of the situation, fuel can always be brought to the flames.  My personal opinions on the CPE are unimportant, but I maintain that every opportunity, every outburst of energy must be seized and utilized, and pushed as far as it can go.  It’s only a matter of force and energy.  A much larger project can be elaborated out of any violent passage à l’acte, it’s only a matter of disposition of force.  Outbursts of this type show the impotence of any coherent project, therefore we need only execute one.

There are pleas on all sides that the Right and the Left need to work together to make the world a better place.  However, the greatest danger is posed when both sides work together.  What we need, in the case of politics, is not more peace, more moderation, but more conflict.  I side here with Stuart Hampshire’s thesis that, precisely, “justice is conflict.”  What’s needed is more political hate.  And here we must be clear on hate.  For Bakunin and for Lukács, the opposition to capitalism arises out of a fierce hatred of it. 

The project is a repetition of Lenin in this way: we find ourselves in a deadlock, and it is up to us to formulate the new project for emancipation.

So the question then remains to be repeated, apropos of the revolution to come, precisely—

What is to be done?



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.