'I have definitely retired from the struggle and shall pass the rest of my days in intense intellectual activity which I hope will prove useful...Poor humanity! It is evident that it can only extricate itself from this cesspool only by an immense social revolution. But how can this revolution come about? Never was international reaction...so formidably organised against any movement of the people. Repression has become a new science...and to breach this well-nigh impregnable fortress we have only the disorganised massses. But how to organise them, when they do not even care enough about their own fate to know or put into effect the only measures that can save them?..There remains another hope: world war. These gigantic military states must sooner or later destroy each other. But what a prospect!'
Mikhail Bakunin, Lettern to Elisee Reclus, February 15th 1875
'Our ideal, as we have said, is that of the fraternal equity for which all yearn, but almost always as a dream; with us it takes form and becomes a concrete reality. It pleases us not to live if the enjoyments of life are to be for us alone; we protest against our good fortune if we may not share it with others; It is sweeter to wander with the wretched and outcasts than to sit crowned with roses at the banquets of the rich. After so much hatred, we long to love each other, and for this reason we are the enemies of private property and despisers of the law'
Elisee Reclus, An Anarchist on Anarchy, 1884
Am I retiring from the struggle? I don't know what will happen?
I'm breezing around, sometimes not, about what I have been calling 'my changes'. That's the sense of personality traits, emotional callings, attachments and weight being sloughed off...and it's unstoppable. It's fun to watch as there nothing you can do about it but watch. Watch and take notes. Observe the changes, sit with the contradictions, feel the pain, feel the freedom. Where am I going? Let myself go there. Otherwise it's just more self-infighting. And so who will I end up being this time round?
In a world of the abstracted and the spectacular, struggle is now represented by media as being there but not here. It seems so other worldly, such a cliche to be a struggler, so 70's to be a revolutionary. It seems that everything is alright with the world, apart from a few famines or natural disasters but we've been seeing them on television for years so nothing is really out of the ordinary. Not here anyway. In this Western world time and space of immediate info-tainment, struggle seems like another wacky character awaiting deportation from the Big Brother household kamp. When someone can unself-consciously trademark the words 'Revolutionary Punk Art' for their radical T-shirt designs I wonder where struggle really is in my (and your) life.
In my political scene we function well..we do what we say we will do and we meet up with other functioning well politicos from all round the world. It's a lifestyle as well as an awareness really. We try to practice what we preach and to live as autonomously as possible, some of us aware that capitalism can never be excluded by these acts from our lives even though they make our lives a little bit more liveable and interesting. Many others think that these extensions of autonomy defy capitalism's death grip on our social relations. More fool them.
But I know and trust that all these people feel the pain of modern alienation and exile from the 'enjoyments of life', from the poverty of our current humanity. But then we aren't in any position as self-conscious political stylists to change it for the better. And I feel that it will not change for the better, it will only get worse. It indeed appears to be an 'impregnable fortress'. I think this because, I'm facing up to the limits of politics, based on a common stylish outlook and because I have not felt that any real decent critique and strategy for changing things has come from this scene in 15 (since the end of the struggle against the Poll Tax). For this scene, it's all about motion. Any motion. Although some of that activity is good (social centres, some propaganda, comradeship and rebelliousness), mainly is just movement without direction. A movement that's circular. Always back to square one. Reclus's dream has not become a concrete reailty only a sleepness nightmare of more concrete.
Some answers may be found in radical theory but that often seems like a preserving machine for more strong identity formations or a love for pronouncing Foucault's name correctly. If we could apply what sounds great on paper, what sounds crazy in those heavy books, we could probably get somewere...but I guess we are overwhelmed and don't know what to do. We are over-run with crap.
Retreat to Utopia?
And for me, I get older and I change...
Having lived with no hot water for five years (I have no gas nor a decent amount of electricity to make this happen), having thoughts that fridges are a sign of bourgeois complicity in the capitalist death machine, having guilty feelings when I boil a kettle with more water than is necessary for making a single cuppa...I'm sure that my 'changes' are for the best. I reconcile my sense of self and passions for poetry as lived experience through my lover...is that a defeat in times like these? No, it seems comforting and reassuringly like what Georges Bataille may have meant by the curious affirmation 'that the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space' in 'The Accursed Share', his book about economies .
And so! Against all economics, love is the opposite of money. Love one, love all?
Am I retiring from the struggle? Have I ever struggled? I am finally drifting away from a sense of certainty, from my strong political identity, from beliefs that I have held for 25 years. I am fighting my own knowledge...like this...
'Driftworks in the plural, for the question is not of leaving one shore, but several, simultaneously; what is at work is not one current, pushing and tugging, but different drives and tractions. Nor is just one individual embarking here,or even a collection of fools, each fool being an exaggerated part of the normal subject, libido, cathected in such and such a sector of the body, blocked up in this or that configuration of desire, all the fragments placed next to each other...for an aimless voyage, a collection of fragments impossible to unify for it drifts with the Ship, its very drift giving advantage to the strongest resonance now to one Trieb-fool, now to another, in accordance with the diversity of times and sceneries wafted through...The plural, the collection of singularities, are precisely what power, Kapital, the law of value, personal identity, the ID card, responsibility, the family and the hospital are bent of repressing...Where do you criticise from? Don't you see that criticising is still knowing, knowing better. That the critical relation still falls within the sphere of knowledge, of 'realisation', and thus of the assumption of power. Critique must be drifted out of. Better still: Drifting is in itself the end of all critique'
Jean-Francois Lyotard, Driftworks, 1984
Souvarine, in Germinal , Emile Zola 1886
(Whilst stroking his pet rabbit, Poland, in the bar room, this is his reply on the debate of how best to organise the mineworkers. Souvarine favours the ideas of Bakunin, 'the Great Destroyer')
And I am fighting my own knowledge because I get the strong sense that between you and me none of us are right...