Wisdom from a Strange Corner: Stuart Hall’s Policing the Crisis

Probably a bad sign that I am thinking about communism and organization through a book about policing!

1. In Policing the Crisis, Stuart Hall writes “traditionalism sanctions the present by deriving it from the past, empiricism shackles the future by riveting it to the present” 151.

Replace traditionalism and empiricism with communism and it explains 99% of the entire communist currents on the planet.

2. In Policing the Crisis, Stuart Hall writes, “People often maintain unrecognized contradictions in their viewpoint, contradictions expressed in different contexts…” for example, “for parents to demand that children should be better disciplined, but complain when their own children are beaten” 155.

Most communists I know always talk about how everyday people have contradictory thoughts. The implication of that statement is that communists perhaps do not. This is a powerful slippage and theoretical move.  This line of thought also implies that communists through some magical method have resolved their own contradictions between thought and action in their everyday life and their own organizations.

Once the forbidden apple of communism is biten, there is the world that is communist (read the small church) and the rest of the multitude which has yet to achieve communist consciousness. Once this happens, self-reflection and critical analysis upon oneself is finished . The realm of ideology is what we enter. This is the period we are still in.

Arguably the clearest senses of consciousness is amongst the multitude. They look at communists and see Dungeon and Dragons or LARPING….

3. Hall quotes Engels, “in all ideological domains tradition forms a great conservative force” 156.

I have taken a passage from Hall and made some edits. For the original see p 156 in Policing: We have discussed some of the central images providing communism with a degree of ideological unity around tradition. Crucially, those images cohere in a vista of stability–of solid, bedrock and unchanging habits and virtues, presenting a sense of permanence even in ‘bad times’, a kind of base-line that, no matter what, remains ‘forever (ideological-stable) communism’.

The projects of building revolutionary organization of the last decade are blocks of ice. The type of people they bring together are those who are seeking stability from the surplus flux of capital.  In this sense, the organizations are immensely helpful. For all that is solid that melts in air, the organization becomes a block of ice that melts at its own pace over purges, people quitting, splits, and other fun episodes.  In the meantime, those who remain in the organization, tend to become more and more warped as they have to justify all the nasty shit through some convoluted arguments and ideology, that further removes them from reality.

The organization which has yet to be built must be based on surplus flux.  In the future I will compare What is to Be Done with the Rand Corporation’s Net Wars and Networks. Making this transition to surplus flux is not just a set of tasks, doing things differently etc. It fundamentally requires new social subjects. It requires fundamentally a new way of thinking. I am guilty as charged on these issues. I am schooled in forming blocks of ice. That has been my training in Unity and Struggle. It is very easy to say things can be different, but to build an organization based on surplus flux will be an immense personal challenge.

Not sure if this is  true, but perhaps my difficulties with US is precisely because the organization could never stamp out fully the surplus flux dynamics about me. For them it became: I was not following this rule or that rule, that I was moving too quickly, that I was introducing too many new ideas, that I was not patient, that I was disruptive/ destructive… etc. That seems to make sense.. I am not sure..

4. Stuart Hall writes when facing immense changes in society, “that one consequence of this ‘state of flux’ into which sections of the population are thrown in times of dislocation is the emergence of a predisposition to the use of ‘scapegoats’, into which all disturbing experiences are condenseed and then symbolically rejected or ‘cast out’ 157.  This powerfully explains the feeling of being put on a trial, the accusations of not being patient etc that I felt when in US. This is an objective phenomena as I have heard other members of revolutionary organizations put through the same methodological ringer…

Hall goes on “These scapegoats have attributed to them the role of causing the various elements of disorganization and dislocation which have produced ‘social anxiety’ in the first place” 157.

5. It is the structure of thought which is interesting between capital and revolutionary organizations. They both form police like structures of thought. Stuart Hall writes, “He [the mugger] was a sort of personification of all the positive social images–only in reverse” 162. Hence we have finally arrived at accusations outlined in Decomposition’s Final Act. Hall hints that since no political solution could be found, the only option left was to personify the social problems of society onto the image of the mugger.

This makes sense in the context of GFNY.  When GFNY was formed, US members instantly raised the ante in the poker game by describing any difference as one rooted in methodology. The smallest difference could lead to a discussion on method. This made it seem that any small error meant no chance of joining US. At the time, I was not aware of this, but it created an internal mechanism to not see political issues clearly. I had my own fear of being alone in the NYC left. So, no matter what differences there were, often times, I argued that we were part of the same tradition: ultra left, JFTism, autonomism, communization etc.  That just became ideology over time. It began to hide real differences. There were in fact methodological and political differences, but I could not see those, and did not want to see those. I was in an ideological loop. Only by  breaking that loop, by leaving the group, have I achieved some clarity on this.

The logic that became built, did not allow for many clear political discussions to happen. There was US’s own hostility to operaismo, post-operaismo, communisation, etc –at times it seemed like any new thought which steered away from some weird discussion of Marxist categories always became a point of hostility. But the logical conclusions to those differences were not understood.

Without a clear political discussion, it makes sense a scapegoat in the form of a person was found. What could have happened in terms of political discussion, became a master narrative about my Illuminati like powers to manipulate and control the organization towards some fucked up end. But a political discussion seemed to be impossible with US as it instantly become about some deep methodological difference or there was lots of hostility towards any suggestions which did not fit into US’s framework.

The ideological loop could only be broken in one way–exodus.