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Invisible Politics – An Introduction to Contemporary Communisation

“In the wake of the organized left and the demise of working class self-identity, communization offers a paradoxical means of superseding capitalism in the here and now whilst abandoning orthodox theories of revolution. John Cunningham reports from the picket line of the ‘human strike’

As we apprehend it, the process of instituting communism can only take the form of a collection of acts of communization, of making common such-and-such space, such-and-such-machine, such-and-such-knowledge.
- The Invisible Committee, Call, 2004i

The critique of capital, and speculation around the form and content of communism, always seems to oscillate between a historical materialist science on the one hand and the elaboration of new forms of subjectivity and affectivity on the other. Even Marx, while infinitely more familiar as a close analyst of capital, had early moments of Fourier style abandon when he attempted to elaborate the more mutable subjective content of a communist society. The dissolution of wage labor would make

it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner…ii

This suggests a society wherein circuits of affectivity are established that are no longer based upon the exigencies of value production – even if I personally prefer communist utopia as idleness to Marx’s endless activity. Of course, this is one of the rare instances where Marx speaks in the future tense, leaving aside the messiness of the transition from capitalism. Recently, a series of texts from the milieu around the French journal Tiqqun – primarily Call, How is to be done?, The Coming Insurrection – have reintroduced this question of the subjective content of communism in a way that might restore a speculative aspect to the critique of capital.iii These are not theoretical texts per se, more inspirational ‘How To’ manuals for the elaboration of communization as subjective and conceptual secession from both capital and the Left. As Call states, ‘Nothing can happen that does not begin with a secession from everything that makes this desert grow.’iv This discursive distance from the more traditional ultra-left positions on communization is also reflected in dense, poetic prose that establishes an affinity with possible precursors in revolt such as Dada, Surrealism and Bataille. The development of the thesis of communization within the ultra-left was always part of an attempt to shift away from the traditional programmatic forms of the party and the union towards an engagement with forms of resistance rising immanently from the social relation of capital, such as wildcat strikes. What might be at stake in a restating of the question of communization as radical subjectivist secession against the often discredited ideological formulas of anti-capitalist milieus?

It’s best to consider this question alongside the series of texts presented by Endnotes that ably document the continued elaboration of communization within the French ultra-left by presenting a series of texts by Gilles Dauvé and Theorie Communiste.v Both are rooted in the diverse groupuscles of the French far left in the 1970′s that shared a fidelity to 1968 of whom Debord and the Situationists remain the most renowned.vi Dauvé and Theorie Communiste retain a commitment to communization but diverge sharply around questions of agency and history. What remains under-theorized in both Dauvé’s humanist Marxism and Theorie Communiste’s more recently formulated Marxist structuralism is any real problematization of the production of subjectivity within capital. An insertion of this question might illuminate the impasse faced by these more hermetic theoretical critiques of capital. In sketching out the contours of contemporary theories of communization, a constellation composed of questions around subjectivity, negation, history and utopia emerges. Does a reconsideration of communization open up new perspectives and different possibilities, given the gap between the cramped space revolutionary milieus find themselves in and any genuine expectations of radical change? Or is even discussing communization at this time akin to scraping a toothache with a fingernail, pointless utopianism in the face of the constantly mutating social relation of capital?

Before answering this question, though, what is communization? The term immediately evokes various social experiments and revolutionary endeavors from the Paris Commune and utopian socialist communities in the 19th century through to various counter-cultural attempts to reconstitute social relations on a more communitarian basis such as the squatting scene in the 1970s and ’80s. The Tiqqun strand – henceforth to be known as ‘The Invisible Committee’ after the eponymous signatories of The Coming Insurrection – draws upon this long history of secessionist antagonism. They posit communization as essentially being the production, through the formation of ‘communes’, of collective forms of radical subjectivity. This destabilizes the production of subjectivity and value within both capital and more traditional forms of political organisation, eventually leading to an insurrectionary break. ‘Commune’ in this instance is not necessarily a bunch of hippies aspiring to a carbon free life style. In The Coming Insurrection a commune is almost anything that ‘seeks to break all economic dependency and all political subjugation’, ranging from wildcat strikes to Radio Alice in Bologna in 1977, and innumerable other forms of collective experimentation.vii”

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(Mute now offers a free copy of the Coming Insurrection with each new subscription to their journal.)

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It seems as though the state is becoming better and better at grinding down ‘unwanted people of capital’ by either convincing them to identify or behave in accordance with dominant interests or imprisoning them. Elsewhere, it is said that nothing can exist outside capital/civilization/leviathan anyway, and that individual acts of resistance to it (whether it be recycling or shoplifting) are insignificant relative to the totality. Recall the shoplifting epidemic that amounted to a 1cent increase in prices.

Anyway, it seems as though, for all the justified, reasonable bashing of “movements” and membership drives, that the human strike needs, well, more humans. Insular and small scale instances of communisation seem to amount to little beyond temporarily rushing beyond leviathan’s reach to shortly thereafter be recuperated through the aforementioned tactics of imprisonment and identification when they’re found to be a threat. (tarnac, ungdomshuset) Else they be ignored as irrelevant because of their tentative compatibility with the concentration of capital. Here I’m thinking of small scale organic farms, primitive skill camps.

It seems that contesting capital is not the difficult part of the equation. What seems the most critical for a generalized human strike is an increase in the number of people who desire such a situation. With critical intention, perhaps this can be done without falling into the horrible traps of ‘movement building’. On the other hand, events of a large magnitude (economic decline, international tensions), which few people can influence personally, may change public opinion much more broadly and quickly than any attempt to hip people to the anarchy. What seems like a question that gets asked again and again, with little devoted to critiquing proposed answers, but what are possible ways of preparing a population, preparing a neighborhood, preparing a circle of friends, for such large scale events?

The economic crisis caused many to ask it. I haven’t really heard many good answers.

Comment by Larry

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