So last year, Ba Jin and myself wrote this document, Recomposing the Ultra-Left in NYC. It was one of the documents which helped jumpstart what would eventually become Gathering Forces New York. I left GFNY today. There are a lot of places I can begin this… how I feel? my thoughts about myself? my own resolve and determination? solace and terror in loneliness? fire and determination? sadness and grit? Those are all the emotions and thoughts flowing through me right now, but I must keep moving..
Surplus Flux is the most positive way I can understand this.
But my own frailty also sees that comrades are fleeting. They are not forever. Friendships come and go. Principles waver and break. Political calculus is a sucker punch. To die with one good friend is pretty amazing. I realize that all the time. To have worked with a few solid comrades is good enough. Is this the reality of singularities and the multitude as well? Are these the experiences of the old way of life, politics, and organizing? It is not clear? It is arguably too romantic, naive, and simplistic to think that…
Considering the role I played in Recomposition, it makes sense that I try to understand what has occurred. Whatever I write below are my own perspectives and NOT Ba Jin’s.
First some broad points:
I am a very different person politically today then when I co-wrote Recomposition. My encounter with Unity and Struggle helped accelerate that immensely. I found in U&S a rigidity and dogmatism of Marxism which stunned me. I found a museum like attitude towards theory–I just call it Museum Marxism. In Museum Marxism, the preservation of what is convenient and easy to grasp is the key methodology of theory and not the actual investigation of the world and figuring out new categories if need be. Or maybe to be more precise, it is not understanding how the world changes, how categories change… In U&S, I ran into a conception of professionalism and militant, which has forever turned me hostile to those subjectivities. It is was stifling. Their method could not grapple with the concrete sensuous singularity’s dimensions of what it meant to be a living singularity. In the end I believed that we were building the United States Post Office or the DMV and not a healthy, fighting, revolutionary organization.
It is strange, I have known Unity and Struggle since early 2004, when I joined its first incarnation, the League for Direct Democracy. I left the group under messed up circumstances in the summer of 2011. What I see now is a ossified sect which is holding on to its mere existence by a thread. This is hardly the space where Paul Mason’s new humans might reside…
Why does U&S matter in GFNY? There were members of U&S in GFNY. It was due to my own political failings that I could not see all of these short-comings in the U&S when we first formed GFNY. Regardless it is a time for a balance sheet of U&S and of Recomposition. While I do not see myself attempting another revolutionary project this year, I can imagine I will attempt it again in the future, or at least join one started by other singularities. What are the lessons I have learned?
Recomposition says, “Yet we don’t fetishize organization: groups fulfill these tasks to greater or lesser degrees for limited periods of time, and then become a barrier to further development if they don’t dissolve.” I have learned how static and rigid revolutionaries are. One of the laws of organizations is self-preservation at any cost. Revolutionary organizations are masters of this. It is its own dynamic. I have believed for some time that if a group has not overthrown capital within five years, it should just dissolve. Imagine what the world would look like without the ISO or Solidarity? The mutation of groups is something that perhaps no tendency has grasped really well. But it is a permanent dynamic which applies to revolutionary organizations as well. This means leaps, revolutions, collapses, contradictions etc are all part of it. The question is how well do you understand its need, its benefits? How well are the individual singularities able to maintain good relations with one another as they go through those mutations…
As I write this, a wave of calm and breeze goes over… as I realize this is what has occurred to some degree with me leaving GFNY. While I think the circumstances I left, were pretty crappy, this will not be the last recomposition and if Sergio Bologna and Antonio Negri are correct, recomposition must be applied to revolutionary organizations themselves. (Every organization from the ISO to U&S will say they agree to it, but scratch under the skin, and all of them are hostile to it, are not prepared…This is one of the self-defense mechanisms of failed machines… They must always say they are ready for change, but never able to change in the ways of recomposition outlined by Bologna, Negri, or Steve Wright.)
The specific generation of singularities I come from, which helped produce the Bring the Ruckus, Advance the Struggle, League for Direct Democracy, Unity and Struggle, Miami Autonomy and Solidarity, and Black Orchid Collective need to do a collective balance sheet. There is a giant black hole in our generation’s collective efforts to build revolutionary projects. Out of the need to hide embarrassing secrets, cluster fucks, and other misfortunes, little has been discussed, and almost nothing has been learned. In this sense, we are not different then Stalinists or the moronic Trot sects we make fun of, or the SWP in Britain right now.
The generation I speak of which started/ built all these failed projects largely came out of the Seattle 1999 or 9/11 universe. This specific tendency went on to build revolutionary organizations. That process has yet to be understood and discussed–warts and all. It is time it is no matter how difficult.
Recomposition says, “Because the most dynamic social movements appear outside of, or struggle to break free from, these forces, organization itself appears to be a block to revolutionary movement.” Most revolutionary organizations are blockages to the development of movements. For every story of an organization which which accelerated struggle, there are 50 stories/ examples of groups which blocked/ slowed down struggle. I think many of the small revolutionary groups did play important roles in broader movements occasionally. But the small groups internally were also burn out machines. No doubt some of this is a reality of ‘low’ levels of class struggle. But another problem, in my days in U&S, was the fetish of organizing which saw lots of people get burned out. This burn out happened primarily through a combination of intermediate layer and revolutionary organization drama entanglement. The same occurred in GFNY.
More conceptually, I have not seen any organizational formation in the United States, demonstrate that they know how to relate to movements. Perhaps the dissolved Bring the Ruckus and Black Orchid Collective were the two groups which had a meaningful impact in OWS. But there are much deeper problems than whether a group could temporarily relate to OWS or not. These problems relate to questions of subjectivity per End Notes, Negri, Paul Gilroy, and Paul Mason. None of the groups around today have a grasp on any of the dynamics, let alone the actual organizational and political problems and potentialities we face today.
No organization knows how to build healthy organizations. They are all sects of whatever definition you like. They are all more apparatuses of capture, anti-subjectivity machines, or anti-desire machines than anything else.
Out of all the groups it seemed U&S fell into Museum Marxism the worst. Bizzare, considering the founders of the group were coming out of the anarchist scene and were influenced by CLR James. (Unity and Struggle used to called the League…) The League for Direct Democracy was an anti-Marxist Jamesian group if that makes sense. The turn towards Marxism which began in 2011 in the group seems to have created a Marxism so bizarrely frozen, empty, and abstract at times, that it does not even grasp the real concrete dimensions of the singularity. Only a sociological and historical analysis of U&S post 2011 can answer that question. Most of its members have never been involved in mass movements. They come from small intermediate organizing projects. The post 2011 U&S missed OWS and furthermore was largely disconnected from other healthy currents in the movement. A Marxism that was once so rich via James and Marxist Humanism become largely lifeless in practice…
Marx plays a smaller and smaller role in understanding communism. It is going on 200 years since many of his concepts regarding that question were elaborated. He was a genius no doubt, but only provided a partial and highly incomplete sense of what the project is. I do not think that is controversial .. No one these days really argue that Marx is Jesus. Enough innovations have happened, where Marx is seen in a constellation of communist thinkers… I saw in U&S the tyranny and magical wand waving of dialectics, form and content to gloss over serious questions when it was not clear they understood this stuff at all. This is one of the reasons I am against Hegel. I really never thought theory and philosophy could become tyrannical or oppressive or sad when in the hands of left communists. I clearly had much to learn. It was literally the tyranny of clueless theoreticians dominating other people’s life.
I see the process of assemblages instead of dialectics as more helpful in thinking about different movements and thinkers can be pieced together to develop schizoanalysis.
To be continued…