The Eastern Airlines strike shows the realizations some people now have. One striker remarked how many strikers did not expect to win higher wages or even keep their jobs but that they realized they had nothing to lose; the concessions demanded by Eastern and Frank Lorenzo would make working at Eastern no privilege at all, no better than any job you could get. Why not quit? Why not make it a strike? The feeling of letting go will be tremendously important for tomorrow's revolution.
A banality that has been repeated for the last fifteen years is "America has become conservative". This has a certain grain of truth to it. But America is still not what it was 30 years ago. Instead, as more and more people have been driven to the edge, economically and socially, all social instability can more easily be papered over by the spectacle's picture of "life in America". What is missing from the spectacle's map is the number of hungry youths and children in our cities.
Today normalcy again reigns over daily life but does not rule. A larger and larger group cannot fit that normalcy. Everyone is supposed to return to "traditional values", even as they become impossible to uphold. On one level, this gives people some leeway to reconstruct their lives, on another, it creates a boiling anger.
A break-through is visible on the horizon but comes no closer. Punk Rock, Hip Hop, Rap, and Heavy Metal are all founded on anger. These movements try to merchandise an escape from normal life. But youth revolt is now normal. The "alternative culture" is growing larger and larger, even while it stays invisible or within society's bounds. The "sixties", "seventies", and "eighties" all co-exist within the merchandise; lost revolts are continually lost over-again. In Greil Marcus' pre-packaged best seller, Dada becomes punk, Surrealism becomes the Beatles, and the Lettrist International becomes an old Elvis Presley movie.
While revolutionaries must look for ways to go beyond these kinds of commodities, the extent of this anger shows how frayed the country's social fabric has become. In Berkeley, California, where "community organizing" is a cottage industry, the most notable upsurge lately came when young consumers, a group with no community, used the cover of a political rally to smash and loot stores on Friday night.
Still, going beyond normal rebellion requires that today's social dislocations come together as a conscious movement; an insurgent culture. We will be looking at various factors and methods that could come together to create a culture capable of breaking apart the illusions of the present society. At present, the more capable a group is of superseding this society, the more tentative it is. The most advanced tendencies of this society now suffer the greatest defeats. This situation is repeated in a banal way within the adolescents' search for "meaning in life". Hopes of unfettered enjoyment and imagination appear but are immediately submerged in jealousy, and merchandise.
In the following articles we will be looking at projects that the revolutionary proletariat might use to get beyond the normal traps that have already been constructed for it. These are activities that exist before a full-scale revolt takes place. They are naturally doomed to more failure than success. But these tentative actions may help ignite full scale challenges to the system.
This is where the contradictions between the means of production and relations of production appears. The revolutionary proletariat is the group that can take advantage of this. Today new ways of living and thinking exist but are used only marginally. One approach is to allow all academic subjects to be easily understandable to "outsiders"; to abolish experts this way.
Several factors stand in the way of this. One is the secret language that is used by experts. A more important problem is the incompetence that big words and education, in general, makes people feel.
The figures on the average level education of Americans are interesting if we realize that most of this education is useless. What has been created by education today is a long road which most people get thrown off of at some point. No one can respect the rote learning of school. The student's planned defeat is used to justify her (or his) future powerlessness. Workers are taught to respect education by being proven ignorant. A respect for education by itself is an impediment to actual understanding. Even simple factual learning requires taking an initiative that authoritarian schooling denies.
The calculus teacher of Stand and Deliver, who taught ghetto kids calculus better than private schools, showed the vast gulf between education and learning. This not to say that we are concerned with improving the public schools. It merely illustrates the way in which barriers to knowledge are socially-made. SAT, CTBS, and other tests are exactly the ladders of learning that cripple a students ability to play with concepts. These tests are like races in PE. Since only one person can win, the best approach is for everyone to slack off.
In America, where there is a partially "merit based" education system, the "class structure" is partially a structure of attitudes. Conforming to intellectual authority becomes, over time, having no identity but the system while rebelling gives people an identity with a place and a group; gives the working class an identity.
This relates to the decay of America's social structure. There has always been an anti-intellectual "rebel" attitude that merely perpetuated the status quo. Passive resistance to "learning" might be better than sucking up to the teacher. But neither way empowers a person. The more distanced students feel from ideas, the more the process of interacting with ideas becomes a matter of work, of sacrificing yourself for an abstract ideal.
America's intelligentsia is becoming more and more diffuse. We can see a more reactionary feeling of privilege in the few people who actually go to college and get a job in "their" field but this is a smaller and smaller number. A slight majority of Americans (60%) have been exposed to some college but most of them find no use for it. Those who have some learning but can see that they will never be "knowledge professionals" have the possibility of putting their knowledge to a better use.
This situation creates an opportunity for those who are not willing to play this losing game any more. Instant information retrieval confirms the same theories of dialectics. The use of intelligence must be its value.
Relative to present day education, there is possibility of creating a new type of learning. It is easy enough to see how homework, practice exercises and tests are merely socialization the information factory and have little to do with learning.
Looting, the most reflexive act of many rebellions going on around the world, exemplifies the play of things that will be mandatory in a new society. All past production can be taken to used as we will. Rap's use of existing sound illustrates the plagiarism that will have to be the basis of future expression. The new thinkers must steal ideas openly and gleefully. There is the possibility of certain people short-circuiting the educational system. They would move up to radical theory without the standard period of educational journeymanship that often cripples most would-be radicals.
This Radical theory emerges as the will to question everything. Those who are willing to take ideas find they have far more than those accept the opportunities of todays societies.
While it is true that the struggle for liberation will take place on more than just the level of an intellectual demand, the ideas that certain feelings in themselves serve to change society is laughable. Pop psychologists have found ways to sell every imaginable type of "liberatory" emotion. But the "feel-good" therapies of the seventies were no more progressive than the horror movies of the eighties.
As an opposite we will be considering how the entire movement of affects, the ordering of the self. This, most importantly, has been transform by the same political economy that has transforming material survival for 200 to 300 years.
Capital has reached a point where all emotions have a role within the system of consumption. The extension of the rule of capital far beyond the time when it was historically progressive has had the effect of forcing capital to implement all the reforms first demanded by proletarian revolutionaries. But it has implemented them in the most reactionary manner possible. The decomposition of the family, a worthy goal in itself, is being carried out in a way that leaves people trapped in the atomized world of the commodity. At present, a large percentage of children are being raised by single mothers. Regardless of their class origin, these children will experience the same the oppression that women in general are subject to. The family's coercion has reappeared on the level of commodities and economic black-mail; the search for "relationships" combined with more and more state care for children.
Instead of people loosing their repressive ties to the sex and age roles originally defined by the family, they become tied to equivalent roles sold by the advertising and hierarchy of this society. With the crisis of capital, these roles are in constant conflict with each other. Many boys are pumped into an aggressive fury by the meanness of the situation. Girls are victimized by imagines of thinness to the point of annorexia. They can also learn the manipulations that are sold on soap operas as compensation for their general powerlessness in society.
The crisis of capital creates a situation where the various affects come into open conflict. The gut rage produced by this society is packaged into sports, gangs, and attacks on foreigners. At the same time, the system of emotional repression is ill-managed. Gang fights only benefit capital indirectly (whether the gangs are neighborhood gangs or third world revolutionary gangs). The hatred that work and consumption produce is not deeply rooted, it appears as free floating hatred, which is most visible driving on the freeway.
Social behavior is frozen into a number of separate roles. Tom boys and sissies, children who refuse to act out the dominant clichés, feel the most elemental violence. The chains of monogamy connect all the controlling roles of this society.
Social violence forms many of the bonds of these frozen relationship. The paranoia that results from the emergence of sensuality is a constant force that acts against the progression into free association. Women, especially, are only safe knowing that there will be no puncturing of social decorum. This fear is entirely justified given that social aggression is dominant motive among virtually all men in this society (being "revolutionary" makes little difference in this). This paranoia is one of the strongest forces within any ostensibly revolutionary grouping.
Overall, what we have is the inability of the implied roles of this society to integrate with each other; the outcome of a person's life is decided on an absurd auction block of jobs, relationships and TV; the disposition of jobs that are supposed to decide the direction of a person's life is decided in moments.
The results of this alienation has naturally been distorted by the increasing impoverishment of this society. Although America is not yet on the level of Mexico, the decline in the standard of living and the social support network is moving it in that direction. The same number of people run away now as ran away from home twenty years ago. This means that conditions have gotten much worse at home, since life on the streets has also gotten much harder. The murders or teen suicides tell a sad story that is "inexplicable" to today's commentators.
We wish to create projects that take advantage of the over-all mismanagement of emotions without falling into the trap of producing chaos, without being part of the anarchy of production. We are acting on the assumption that the system is producing its own grave diggers. For us, it is not important that a person is unable to adjust to the demand of this society, although it naturally can create great distress in a persons life. The new life naturally begins at the point where the old way of living becomes impossible.
When survival is impossible, life can begin. Only when relationships can reconstitute themselves outside of survival, can they become fluid again.
The SI documented how the anger of the Watts ghetto was turned into a sense of community at the point of a revolt against capitalism. We will be contributing to making the existing anger more coherent, showing ways to unify it within the present struggle (see "Good Drug/Bad Drug").
One way to escape the trap of unconsciousness is to make a systematic survey of how groups behave. Like the psychogeography of the SI, this kind of survey includes the subjective and objective experience of the group members. Although it is willing to use even the findings of standard psychology, it supersedes the laboratory and creates a new way of living.
The Lautreamonte's project, replacing subjective poetry with objective poetry, can be realized this way. This will serve to map a small part of the realm outside managed society.
Certain theses will naturally come into existence concerning the life span of informal, political groups that are not yet conscious. Here then are various unconfirmed projects and results concerning the social/psychological trajectory of these groups and how to supersede it.
1. Political arguments define a game and a territory. This territory has little to do with subject discussed but much to do with the power relations of the people involved. To supersede politics then, it is necessary to play conscious games and games of consciousness.
2. The groups main activities becomes to maintain themselves, primary on the psychological and financial level.
3. The general predictability of groups comes because of the hostility of the terrain they are on. The poverty of wage labour and exchange is reflected on every level. Even the simple danger that cars going down the street present to people walking makes up part of their frozen character.
4. The understanding of the political group will take place with its supersession. For dialectics, the questions of theory are answered by practice; the practice that will ultimately appear is the practice that will answer all the central theoretical questions as it appears.
By the reverse reasoning, the simplistic problems of an organization can only be solved by finding further problems for that organization to solve. Once a "purely organizational question" appears it is a sign that a group's practice has become reified. In other words, it is the lack of living purpose that causes the infamous "organizational problems" of leftist groups to surface. This can be seen in the ease with which the SI superseded the anarchist position and chaos the SI, faced once it's own position became ambiguous.
We must formulate problems that go beyond those formulated by the SI. We will then have a way to bypass the debates of the SI just as the SI bypassed the fruitless debates of the anarchists and ultra-leftists. Needless to say, this will involve an actual project of supersession and not the creation of imaginary goals.
At the same time an insight of the SI should be remembered; any practice that is automatic, dull and repetitive returns radicals back to the system that they think they are changing.
The power that our group can have is leverage; the ability to move large amounts of things easily. Our leverage will be in the realm of ideas; we possess the ability to treat ideas lightly, to use ideas without respect for the intellectual property rights that normally protects them.
Our group can take advantage of those areas not accessed by the power-groups, the weaknesses of this society that power-groups would be unwilling to take advantage of. We are equally prepared to allow any proletarian to use our methods for the destruction of society, by not enforcing any implicit or explicit property rights on our theory. Our goal is to be part of an emerging community of refusal. We will have to learn to address such a community even before it has the strength to attack the present society (although we recognize this community, we don't think that it is identical to the left in any way).
The power of supersession involves the desire for play. If we have a large area to work with, we can avoid the games of personal power that are otherwise the only outlets people have for their creativity. To succeed we need something of the terrain that will eventually be won by a communist revolution (while remembering how small temporary such terrain will always remain today).
What we also have even now is a desire for conscious living, living where the entire brain is occupied and not just the ostensible goals of the mind. This makes liberation is a practical necessity and not an idealistic or religious goal.