This is the third issue of a so-far rather unperiodical magazine. The last issue was about a year ago. What's changed recently? Not a whole heck-of-a-lot. All news, even that of the great changes in Eastern Europe, takes its dazzling power from our own passivity. The real big news here: people still work; sexuality is still alienated; the world market is still here; Americans still watch TV; Women, blacks and many minorities suffer daily attacks; most people in the world live bare ahead of starvation; nearly everyone is treated with contempt. We could go on but none of this is really newsworthy; it isn't really new and most anyone could fill in more of these non-events than they would like to.
Naturally this project is an effort to escape this. But I won't follow the usual approach. I won't start at the beginning and give a distant, comforting panorama.
Part of our activity will be the critique of news. This standard product, put out by even "radical" publications, is simply a rebroadcast of our present powerlessness. When talk of American population changes, new killings in Pakistan, more investment opportunities in Japan, and Batman or Jose Conseco becomes equivalent, any real change vanishes in the gray blur of generic news.
The real rules of the system are hidden by an infinite number of facts. This isn't just confusion. The need to look for the quick changes in life hides the real, constant parts: work, school, or shopping. We have little awareness or control of these parts of our lives and News reinforces the System of Amnesia. With the rhythm of the Rock And Roll, it changes jerkily so as to return quickly to the same point (already from this we know we are looking for a fundamentally new rhythm of life).
News is the dialogue of fragmented power with itself. Notice how scientists, politicians or businessmen now complain that even they only learn about the events they manage from the news. Power breaks into pieces to smoothly defend itself, incidentally managing society. Every issue, every fact and every buzzword becomes a billy club for various managers to hit each other (and the spectators) with. When a candidate uses a calculated poll to prove "how well he can lead," what he actually says is how well has he united people's hopes and fears with the needs of the economy, how good a package deal he has sold.
All together the issues and spin doctors hide the total system within a thousand points of trivia. The need to change each evil keeps the whole intact. Ralph Nader works constantly to make sure our cars are safe. But the car is just a machine to make sure that people get to work and die slowly from boredom and carbon monoxide poisoning. Exxon can talk about its work to preserve an endangered species. We eventually find they just created an artificial environment to keep this one precious species in. (There will be more on the system of news in "The Information Age" next issue)
The critique of news is critical to escaping from this system of drabness. We could not attack the spectacle, the sealed system that produces news, if we used the same weapon that reinforces the order of our daily lives. We will start by not making this a newsmagazine, not providing a dry helping of alternative facts and events like The Socialist Worker.
To do this, one hated generality you will notice we talk about is everything, our total condition. When we talk about this everything, using awkward words like the spectacle, capitalism, or the totality, we are assuming a complete system exists out there. This system is visibly temporary. It has appeared recently and it consumes both humanity and itself in its normal workings. We upset the shut-down everyday attitude that assumes things will continue as they are. We are equally intolerable to academics who divide the world infinitely to not see a whole. But talking about it still does not destroy the system.
Like many others today, we are surveying the frozen landscape of social reality. We're not researchers with secret information about what's going on. At best, we have a view of the over-all situation, and an idea of how to (and how not to) escape it.
"It is obvious that no idea can lead beyond the spectacle but only beyond existing ideas about the spectacle. To effectively destroy the spectacle, what is needed is men [sic] putting practical force into action." We aim to help create a total critique of this society but we don't have the resources to do this ourselves.
Our general program can be outlined in a few sentences: directly democratic workers councils would take control of the system of factories, stores and neighborhoods through out the world. They would be the sole authorities and would abolish wage labour, the economy and commodity production. They would administer production for human desires and alter it immensely, eliminating production for production's sake; from personal automobiles to television.
But this says nothing yet. How could this happen? A program is useless within a strategy for carrying it out. Towards the end, we expect that these workers councils, the nucleuses of the new world, would be the means to build the entire new world.
In the present whirlpool world, we can't slowly push things our way. The system moves in a fantastic series of jumps that usually eliminate both sides of "today's issues." Our strategy starts by looking at what the economic system creates. Capital has organized every part of our daily lives. Still, it leaves itself weakest on the front of the imagination.
People thinking for and organizing themselves are the only force that can realize our vision. The mental energy that people liberate will be just as important as the terrain they might come to control. For this reason, we don't have and can't have an exact blue-print of how to get from here to there.
At the same time, we know a lot about the present world. Capital rules by the mobile terror/counter-terrorist method. It makes certain that The Enemy cannot occupy any one piece of ground for any length of time, even when the enemy controls much territory. (News and fragmented thought, is this form of warfare in the realm of ideas.)
For the last forty years, history has stagnated. Under these conditions, we cannot escape instantly from the present order. We can expect to remain within the present order for a time. We are at best a prelude to a total critique of the system.
A big focus of the magazine is how the system works. Our activity is mainly looking at the traps and possibilities that exist for those who are attempting to escape the present world. The number of people trying to escape is larger than most commentators admit. These people are often confused enough that they do not recognize their own existence and so cannot formulate their discontent in the language of responsible commentators.
We will be using many different voices to upset the gray equilibrium of society's rhetoric. Documenting the system, we are often going over the same ground. Many articles describe the same system in different words. This happens as we stand at the door of history - we react as the system slowly decays.
We intentionally leave some of these writing incomplete. For a complete critique of this society itself, what must be added is people's actions; experiences coming from everyday life.
A picture of our approach in a microcosm might begin with a woman walking down the street with a painted jacket saying "DRUGS=$=TV" and end with a riot trashing the youth-consumption section of Telegraph AVE. in Berkeley.
Any revolt must begin as a separate event in space and time. Each revolt, each potentially revolutionary event, starts as a fragment. It will be limited in the types of authority that it attacks to begin with and it may not go beyond these first attacks.
Revolt speaks the language of action. This does not mean it escapes the dilemma of language in the modern world. Revolt upsets many things but it may not upset everything. Today the world's rulers live with normal revolts. The world market factors the average damage of riots, strikes, or wars into its accounting. The spectacle's system of non-communication explains its expected meanings. TV, radio, or college lectures have standard reasons for Saddam Huessein's actions even before they happen - to cite one visible example within a wholly staged "anti-imperialist" revolt.
Whether it attacks the entire system depends not on simply the forces it attacks but on way it attacks. It can either threaten the entire system by going outside it or it can strengthen the entire system by giving it a way of including further possibilities.
A revolt fails either because of not having the physical resources to continue or (more commonly) not having the understanding to continue - being surrounded and smothered by ideology. The revolt of Kronstadt failed because of a lack of physical resources. It was overwhelmed by the red army. The revolt in Spain in 1937, like others, failed because it did not attack its enemies, the Stalinists and the Anarcho-Governmentalists. It was trapped in the terrain of the dominant society.
The trap remains once a revolt is bought out. Like a coral reef, the system today is built of the failed aspirations of yesterday sold to those who could not make them real. The simplistic demands of equal rights or a world where people can peaceful, interesting lives are granted today as parodies.
The authorities that survive revolt now have a bigger piece of the power pie; Oakland or Berkeley politics today is partially controlled by former black panthers while new age gurus take part in corporate propaganda.
It is dangerous when a revolt must be put down purely with force of arms. The revolt of Krondstandt has become a part of total language of revolt. The opposite happens if a revolt can be made to collapse on its own. The failed revolts of the past, starting with the Russia Revolution and ending with Watts and the hippies, have become part of today's system of recuperation.
The Black Panthers were a middle case. They were suppressed by the FBI before their contradictions become obvious. But their program of a black revolution that could still preserve market relations had already done a good deal of damage to the struggle against the total system.
Rebellions are always happening. The question is: where will they lead. The wild-cat strikes which are never absent from world capitalism have not united into a movement against capital. The distortions of news are only one of the forces working against this. The recent revolts in eastern Europe so far seem close to being the easiest failures capital has managed for quite a while. But time is now on our side now that the black and white spot lights of "communist" and anti-communist ideology are off. The general strike in 1987 against the rulers of "self-managed" Yugoslavia was still excellent for the number of illusions it challenged.
Since the revolts that challenge the totality so far have been isolated incidents, they have not yet taken up consistently the task of creating a language that goes beyond this society. The poetry of revolution has echoed around the world many times but these echos have been repressed at this moment by the misery that requires the remnants of revolt to survive on this society's terms.
We are concerned with all revolts that have been taking place in daily life. Any revolt, especially the strike, especially the wild cat strike, that involves people directly gaining control over their lives, have a special place for us. Strikes serve to show the economic basis of the controls that are enforced in daily life over-all and attack those controls. This is not to say that we view strikes as automatically generating an attack on capital. There are many levels of militancy that still lead back purely economic struggle. Militancy on this level is simply a symptom and has no more power than other unconscious revolts, such as male drunken riots, gang fights, voting for absurd political candidates (Jello Biafra for mayor) etc..
The decoded world of modern society resembles the naive theories of science fiction authors.
Like the aliens on "They Live," there are many people in the system that do not even know their real function. Suffers, posers or giggling teenage girls exist as exhibits of their well engineered attitudes. Like the guardian in "Logan's Run," there are many obscure figures that play a critical role in maintaining the system, that are critical for guarding the exits.
Bobby Fischer (former world chess champions) believed that the Russian government could read or change his thoughts through radio broad casts. Classical paranoid delusions, like this, hide realities that are more deadly yet more banal. Mass society has no need to read thoughts when separation has reduced each person to a statistical "event" or a place in cybernetic programming. A person's behavior is predictable when it has become meaningless to them.
Mass society has moved meaning so far away that as long this society's dominant categories are followed, the system will be reproduced. (The way out is to create an insurgent culture but this cannot be constructed with some tinker-toy model of alternative culture - it must create itself or it will not exist).