So the choir sings
Multiplied by Dialectics
Divided by Contradictions
Subtracted by Content
Added by Form
Squared by Alienation
Understood by scientific socialism
Who can sing this song may stay in the Holy Church
Sing louder so no one will doubt your heart’s desires.
Demonstrate your loyalty to marxism!
Demonstrate your belief, lest someone is peering into your soul.
Sing before the judgement of dialectics discovers the truth.
Be damned if your voice falters.
Be damned if your faith falters.
The cross of dialectics you will be buried in.
Sing through the stages of history
Sing through the stages of your life
Sing higher and higher
Sing and you will see the marxist categories
The holy categories
They are so holy
Till you must pee
The Small Church Mentality
This is a problem of all small groups. All small groups which have members who have dedicated large parts of their lives to a cause which has not panned out, develop the small church mentality, or the psychology of small groups. They develop a rigid and dogmatic belief in whatever biblical texts they adhere to. No doubt in the early days this can be, and sometimes is a strength, but over time, as the people in the group change, and just as importantly the world changes, this becomes a nightmarish burden for those who are heretical enough to take notice. Challenge that and all hell breaks loose. Sociologically this makes sense. What else holds together small groups with no success other then biblical/ ideological methodology? It makes sense that many who decide to think on their own leave such small formations. Independent thinking has no place in the small church…
This biblical methodology closes off any different readings of the sacred texts, let alone bringing in new texts into the holy church of the small group. This is another reasons small groups should not stay together for too long. The tendency to fall into the small church mentality is immense.
Professionalism and sadness
I wonder if the people who rant and rave about professionalism are often the most unprofessional. The ideology of professionalism only clouds another mystifed set of social relations. When you are so convinced that everything you do is professional, it becomes very hard to see your own mistakes. After all professionals never or rarely make mistakes. The ideology of professionalism also decontextualizes peoples’ particular lives and perhaps what are the conditions which force people to act ‘un-professionally’. The ideology of professionalism is an ideology which tries to take the energy of struggle and singularities and turn into the specific energy of organizations. I call it the organizational law of value. This is equally as terrifying as the law of value. I would argue that the organizational law of value was certainly found in Unity and Struggle and ultimately in GFNY. Out of the organizational law of value, you get abstract militant time, you get use value and exchange value of militants, you get the Militant-Recruit-Militant’ dynamic… I think reading organizations through the categories of Chapter 1 of Capital might prove fruitful. (Not sure?)
What the professional methodology did in GFNY was limit hang out time. It was made clear by US that people working together, do not have to be friends with one another. This is fair enough, but over time, this became more of an enforced principle of some sort. It is hard to put one’s finger on issues of culture. It was that the only time the group really spent any time together was in meetings which were two hours long on the average. This created an unique problem, where a group of about 8 people did not have much time to discuss politics, let alone all the questions/ dynamics of small organizations. This meant many critiques people had, did not find time to be discussed in the meetings. If they were occasionally discussed, it was met with hostility. Furthermore most of our meetings were stacked with mundane logistical issues. To be fair, some of these mundane issues could have been taken care of over email, but other mundane shit was a product of U&S micro-management of everything in the universe. All social relations cannot be boxed and filed into meeting time, formalization, etc etc. That sounds like totalitarianism and bureacracay—the irony considering this group was founded on JFT!
Out of all the places I got some courage to stand up to my own expectations of professionalism was Foucault. An unlikley palce if you know anything about me. But much has changed. I read in Anti-Oedipus, in F’s introduction, that being a militant does not mean you have to be sad. Those words struck hard when I read them for the first time. I have never looked back since.
I also gained some confidence talking to End Notes when they came for their opening launch about how miserable so many of the people are in revolutionary formations across the U.S. How these groups are just strange, self-punishing machines for the people who join them. That got me thinking more critically…
I will never forget a meeting GFNY had, where the almost resounding concensus was that everyone was miserable in meetings. How could I believe in what Delueze or Foucault had written and still participate in a group that was so antithetical to their very fiber. My 6 months or whatever in GFNY were painful times. I did not learn much, felt like we were going through the motions of building something because that is what tradition begs us to do…
What is Left of GFNY?
I can no longer work with Unity and Struggle people. Sure I will be in the same march with them. But I do not want to be in any close political coalition or other kind of work with them. I think their project has exhausted itself and needs to end at this moment. That is the best thing they can do. Like most groups which last beyond their time, they are an obstacle to struggle, theory, and subjectivity formation.
For the non-US comrades in GFNY, knowing their rich politics, it is sad to see they do not have any politics left outside of US. The public efforts of US are largely done through groups like Florence Johnson Collective. To the extent that non-US comrades have serious disagreements with Flo Jo, I do not see any change of course in that project. Ultimately, they are all in U&S whether they recognize that or not. Unfortunately they have none of the voting rights and are not part of the insider discussions in U&S. How is that for democracy…
Some More General Lessons
Maybe my most important self-criticism is that I took for granted many of the hand me down lessons from the Johnson-Forest Tendency aka CLR James, Raya, and Grace Lee Boggs among others. I thought in many ways their explanation of the world could be more or less mapped onto the world today. I saw this same mechanical mapping with the U&S method. At a time when I was messing around with Negri, End Notes, Mason, Paul Gilroy and others, I could see the limits of this more clearly then ever. In other words for the longest time, I had no clue on what even the revolutionary/ communist method was. Communism is looking at the world as it exists, using your own brain, experimenting, taking intellectual, political, and strategic risks, and then formulating a temporary theory of how it works… Most of these process are alien to 99/100 revolutionary groups. And my sense is that out of the 1/100 groups that even have the courage to all these things, 99/100 of those will get it all wrong. But the path I know I must go is that 1%. I owe much to those like End Notes, Loren Goldner, Antonio Negri, and others who helped me reach this conclusion. Based on the hostility Negri, End Notes, Sergio Bologna, Communization, Delueze/ Guattari, and much more were received, I do not believe U&S is a place where anything more then recycling the past can occur. That is fine for Museums. There is a place for that. I will not be there.
Revolutionary machines cannot be built outside of high levels of class struggle. I used to be very hostile to this point. But I see that every machine that is attempted in this period of ‘low struggle’ ends up being a bureaucratic nightmare. Ends up being an anti-subjectivity machine. Their very method and movement of thought is limited and rigid. This makes sense. We are partially products of our moment. The chaos and dynamism of revolutionary machines is not found in the mastery of marxist categories, but in the real and living breathing fire of class struggle. Organizations are founded on stability. They are inherently conservative. Can an organization be built which can ride the dynamics of surplus flux? So far it has not been accomplished.
What I want to move toward are concepts of surplus flux, subjectivity, party of insurrection, schizoanalysis, communization, to name some of the ways this disaster of the last decade, and arguably since 1968 can be broken. Many for the last decade have fought hard to preserve the best of Marxism. In doing so, new repulsions and attractions, or contradictions have developed. A new cycle has to take place to clear away the old and bring in the new. How, when, and where this will happen is yet to be seen. But I welcome it, even if it means the destruction of this subjectivity…Do you?