NARRATIVE DESCRIPTIVE PASSAGES
The attack upon one and the same body from several quarters is generally more effectual and decisive, the smaller this body is, the nearer it approaches to the lowest limit—that of a single combatant. An army can easily give battle on several sides, a division less easily, a battalion only when formed in mass, a single man not at all. Now strategy, in its province, deals with large masses of men, extensive spaces, and considerable duration of time; with tactics, it is the reverse. From this follows that the attack from several sides in strategy cannot have the same results as in tactics.
In handicrafts and manufacture, the workman makes use of a tool, in the factory, the machine makes use of him. There the movements of the instrument of labour proceed from him, here it is the movements of the machine that he must follow. In manufacture the workmen are parts of a living mechanism. In the factory we have a lifeless mechanism independent of the workman, who becomes its mere living appendage.
The spectacle is not only the servant of pseudo-use, it is already in itself the pseudo-use of life.
Forests end where territories begin.
I might have slipped among the other animals without being noticed, among the pythons, say, who were opposite me, and so breathed out my life in their embrace
I am an ape. I am constrained in the circumstances of my capture by the prospect of an imminent adaptation, and am presented with two alternative paths in metamorphosis: If I undertook the necessary work, then I would become assimilable to history; or I could, without any work-effort, slip away into the umwelt of the pythons.
- De Kafka
AN ADDRESS TO THE ASSEMBLED COMPANY AS NARRATED OR LATER RECALLED BY THE PROTAGONIST, OR ANOTHER SPEAKING IN HIS PLACE
‘Why was it so important to the Party of Capital that its representation of the Black Lives Matter movement should be assigned fully saturated distribution across the world at the moment the world was about to exit from the first COVID-19 lockdown?
‘Before we start, and to make things clear, the question we are set is not directly concerned with the compatibility of BLM and corporate power, even though this image will constantly recur precisely because it tells us something about the nature of power. Anyway, it is a question that is simply answered, as always, it’s just a matter of advertising - images of picturesque determination are eminently transferable, by association, to marketable objects. But we are not concerned here with the question of recuperation. The preoccupation of radical consciousness with the moment at which previously healthy, honest political forms are corrupted and ‘turned’ is not only its least radical trait, it also fundamentally misunderstands the process by which dissent is manufactured as a function of domination when realised at its fullest amplitude, i.e. where every opposition contributes its participation in history.
‘Of course, this is not to say that we can assume corruption, in the ordinary sense, would be absent or that it is irrelevant to the process. There will inevitably be those who are filling their boots, and racketeering to their heart’s content: marriages of convenience, dodgy deals, quid pro quos, income stream scams, extortings, blackmailings, nepotismings, score-settlings, long-grass-kickings, kleptomaniac sprees. But disinhibitions of this order are to be expected, and perfectly normal within emergent entrepreneurial enterprises. All social and political formations, and the more discursively/practically radical the formation the more true the rule, reproduce themselves as the realising apparatus of system-dependent relations. There was never a moment where a revolutionary movement ceased its exemplary ‘revolutionary’ work and fell back into the designs of the ‘counter-revolution’. Nothing is turned, there are no false flags. All system-dependent formations are always and already auto-encrypting their own dependency - they are, and always have been, a mystery to themselves.
‘In my attempt to answer the real question, and not get too sidetracked by the irrelevance of the question of ideology and recuperation, I present here in condensed form, five more or less modified introductory detourned quotations, numerous more or less suggestive and leering inter-titles, eight alternate and counter-circulated, but not necessarily exclusive nor exhaustive found ‘speculative apprehensions’, followed by two so-called sur-fictionalisations, then three concluding remarks, and ending with two schismogenetic findings, one an excerpt, the other, as far as I know, complete.
‘All of this, when taken together is intended to present both the phenomenon itself in situ as well as the arrayed speculations at a level of problematisation one step further removed from the content, which should be understood as an effort, as it were, to gauge the room resonance. Before I move on and draw your attention to the collation of found speculative apprehensions, I want to address this question of ‘room resonance’ or how meta-system-tendencies might condition sub-systems and thus mould dependent object formations within the sets that it, as a system of systems, or a room containing rooms, succeeds in organising as itself in totality. In short, I am attempting to describe a transcendental architecture, or self-modifying apparatus, from the shape of the objects that it houses.
‘The question, as I present it, already assumes the dynamism of pre-existing environmental tendencies and constraints that act, by encouragement or inhibition, by selection or deselection, by investing or disinvesting, on social formations that are dependent upon its distribution of energy resources. The appearance of all possible randomly generated formations, by definition, is environmentally financed at a niche level (as no unconditioned formation may appear in context) but only a few such formations are promoted to a general, or environmental, scale.
‘The successful formation, because it is never not the product of the metabolisation of its capitalisation, must realise an environmentalised principle, or rather, it must realise the conditions of which it is the product. The organised world does not permit success to spontaneous forms but seeks to cultivate, and prizes above all, the representation of spontaneity. That form which represents general relations in its particularity thereby optimises its /contribution/ to the reproduction of its conditions.
‘Which brings us to a brief digression on the production and function of representation, precisely because it is a matter that is little considered given its centrality as a regulatory mechanism in the ‘totally administered world’: we might say, as a working approach, that representation is a mechanical process in which an object is seduced by the image of its own abstraction. This working idea inevitably draws us further on - representation is where the generality of the circulating image supplants the fixed particularity of what it represents in the movement of world realisation. “But even in those very moments reserved for living, it is still the spectacle that is to be seen and reproduced, becoming ever more intense. What was represented as genuine life reveals itself simply as more genuinely spectacular life.”
‘It has always been a convention of environmental equilibrium that particularised opposing forces operate as systemic allies, and contrariwise, that the function of allies is to establish the path by which the particularity of betrayal returns the whole, through collapses in subjectivity, to status quo - this is the original meaning of revolution, not change but return through the exhaustion of elaborating permutation, that is to say, it is the lesson of Coriolanus. No object sets its own value, no agent speaks his own words. The difference between the systemic function of oppositional forces today and that of previous eras is that the environment in which we now encounter each other operates on an exploitative principle where before it was organised around repression. Systems of exploitation engender a profusion of complimentary formations where systems of repression reproduce exclusive and competitive formations - these are realised historically as the American and Chinese paths in capitalism, or as the representations of the whole as a multiplicity on one side and as a unity on the other; in capital, the alternatives presented are always set up as a crisis of reduction (say, monopoly) or as a crisis of profusion (say, the anarchy of over-supply).
‘Things become interesting where the apparatus of representations proposes, in the manner of the Cretan paradox, that one of the objects it is circulating is not just real but that the object in question’s substance retains an intrinsic, fully disclosed and untrammelled, self-validating value. Where this miracle is proposed, it follows that the affirmative propositions advertising it are necessarily unambiguous, and may be understood as direct expressions, and thus the perfect realisation of the rhetorical identity intention/effect, of what the object really is. For this reason, what I present here is not a report on the Black Lives Matter phenomenon so much as on the room resonance surrounding it - the BLM event above all is an environmental assertion of a product’s intrinsic value, an object that is absolutely what it is. Again, for this reason, I am interested in discerning the register in which the objective conditions for its possibility, the neo-transcendental apparatus, operates and in how the machinery of representation manufactures forms of dissent which, through the assertion of the content of their negations (the political and social equivalent of Watt’s external condenser unit and its later double-acting cylinder adaptations) still serve to strengthen the operations of the manufacturing apparatus.’
SIX SPECULATIVE APPREHENSIONS TO THE QUESTION: WHAT USE WAS BLM AS AN EXIT FROM LOCKDOWN
Speculative Apprehension 1
Was it, as some suggest, and whatever the contingent content, conditioned as a sort of necessity-instigated spectacle of convulsive but ultimately insubstantial protests, a sort of dramatised fireworks display, facilitated and intended as a sort of post-lent, lockdown-exiting, great-resetting, Fat Tuesday festival for eliciting amongst global populations an Olympic Games scale consumption of affirmation filtered through commodity-form solidarity talismans, confessional self-critiques, reparative gestures, logic whorls of intersectionality, empathy rites, identity parades, and virtue crusades, stimulating a return to economic activity amongst populations otherwise drifting away and beyond the conventions of the designated lifeworld?
Speculative Apprehension 2
Was it, as some suggest, to block inevitable post-lockdown unrest from taking a swerve, via hashtag-No-Going-Back, into the materialisation of proletarian demands? ‘The representation of the working class radically opposes itself to the working class.’ And, was it a case of, as is suggested, that by means of accelerating the quantity of branded hashtag-Black-Lives-Matter messages past branded hashtag-Covid-19 messages, the control-net reticulating and metabolising the post-lockdown spike in seething abreactive energies, and upcycling revolt through the apparats of exploitative desublimation, the perfected means by which transference was achieved from the materiality of wages and work hours objectively suggested in the furloughing strategy to the corporate-compatible abstract ideal of anti-racism, which is not so much to be measured at the level of the wage packet but must be deployed in crowds of consumers orchestrated and interpreted by the alliance of technical experts, third estatists and social managers with their graphs, statistics and headline declarations?
Speculative Apprehension 3
Was it, as some suggest, a more or less intentional revivification of the bourgeoisie’s defunct revolutionary reform project by which the totality is ‘critiqued’ in that manner where its territorial character is preserved in its entirety other than in the detail of the progression of a designated interest group’s representatives as they are promoted into its institutions? It seems the ideological space designated for political contradiction retains its utility. Is it important that we note, as some suggest, how the bourgeoisie turns out to be not the employer class but a fragment of the employer class which, as eternal revolutionary subject, must confront the apparatus of exploitation from which it derives its agency?
Speculative Apprehension 4
Was it, as some suggest, either an unexpected spilling over, or else a deliberate export, of the American culture war onto the global stage; a war that stands as proxy for the incompatible operations of rival departmental apparats of the embedded state tied as consigliere into the interests of their corporate ‘allies’?
Speculative Apprehension 5
Was it, as some suggest, the highest stage in capital’s strategy for manufacturing dissent: on one level, an immediate counter to any tendency towards collective bargaining through /radical/ bespoke identity based employment contracts; on another level, inducing an advertising vortex where associated commodities sell an ideologised narrative, and where this narrative also sells the associated commodities?
Speculative Apprehension 6
Was it, as some suggest, the US’s first step back onto the world stage out of Trump-era insularity; a flexing of the muscle of cultural domination by which the representation of Black American revolt, signalling friendship to the world’s oppressed, is used as bait in the trap of colonisation?
Speculative Apprehension 7
Was it, as some suggest, a further development of the neo-rentnerstaat model whereby chronic systemic and departmentalised crises are manufactured on a ‘not a bug but a feature’ principle and where income streams are secured, on a sort of rent basis, around the institutionalisation of the intractability of such problems - that which first appeared in the guise of a perturbational event becomes expropriated and reproduced in its ‘found’, halted and unsolvable, neotenous even, stage as a pretext for recommencing its processive cycle (a veritable materialised dialectics at a standstill). Thus the various expropriating wars on spectacular enemies, such as pollution, drugs, terrorism, pandemics, fascism, racism are converted via the subscription model into permanentised metabolising relations. There will always be another variant of pseudo-plague, or another climate emergency, for the designated agency to monetise, as there will always be another iteration of ‘white supremacy’ to denounce. And each and every specificity of such crises, always also structured identically as an object of Clausewitzian strategy, will then be secondarily employed as a decoy for, a get out from, whatever binds are being exerted by all the others - anti-racism gets you out of plague saturation; anti-terror gets you out of climate emergency. Then, doesn’t the neo-rentnerstaat model begin to resemble, and finds its architectural exemplar within, the growing constellations of orbiting space satellites networking world production on a perpetualised subscription basis?
Speculative Apprehension 8
Was it, as some suggest, China’s counter-bankrolling of dissent in America to America’s bankrolling of dissent in Hong Kong? Or to put it another way, was it all about China all along? Was the BLM-COVID alignment a misdirection, not only from the infrastructural roll-out of 5G but from the involvement of Chinese hardware within it? Was the entirety of 2020 just an alibi for an event in an altogether other register? Will the reversal of foreign policy take the form of a political level condemnation of Chinese human rights abuses but allied to economic permission for Chinese investment/control of techno-infrastructure?
Sur-fictionalisation Approach 1
Or was it, as some suggest, the institutionalisation of a firebreak conspiracy theory, where a unitary-form, and thus state-sanctioned, paranoiac memeplex functions to immunise the transcendental operations of the socius against an otherwise unchecked reticulated profusion in other-form paranoias and hyperstitial conspiracy theories cultivated, at least in part, straight out of the /Spy vs Spy/ disinformation manual? In this way, as some suggest, isn’t the theory of white supremacy, as an underlying organisational principle, eminently deployable as a distinctly US counter to Russian/Chinese troll farm strategies in ideological decomposition? Wouldn’t this then suggest that America has, in adopting an anti-colonial modality in its strategy for colonisation, taken the masochist path by which it must exert control over the crisis of its revolt against itself as the primary mechanism for expanding its circuits of accumulation and thus sublimating its dark joy as an abstracting value?
Sur-fictionalisation Approach 2
Or was the inflationary bubble of the BLM phenomenon, as some suggest, an emergent property of institutional risk management, the cumulative effect of all those re-written licenses, training programmes, bespoke edited contracts, and lofty mission statements designed to evade potential litigation from employees on grounds of racial or gendered discrimination? And wouldn’t such constraints soon be converted into virtuous attributes that may be projected as selling points, operating on the one hand in the form of proschemata-cum-advertising opportunities in the much propagandised war against a spectral menace that may always be identified and armed against but never defeated, and on the other hand, behind the emancipatory discourse, utilised as a realpolitik enactment of the iron law of class domination to remove labour agitators discovered to have shared ‘discriminatory’ social media content? Then, wasn’t it less a case of strategy and more a matter of consequences?
AGREED GROUP CONCLUSION TO THE REPORT
1. It seems unlikely that the inflationary cyber-reticulation of the BLM event was designed and driven by a conspiracy amongst higher forces seeking to achieve predetermined strategic ends, namely economic stimulation following the lockdown downturn in productivity.
2. Ideology is not rhetoric, it does not seek converts nor to persuade the uncommitted of its mystified truth content - ideology’s objective function is to instigate feuds as intra-system attractor basins and heat-sinks that serve to regulate the steady state of the system as a whole. In this sense, the left opposition to left identitarianism, known as ‘class first’ is still realised as ideology, a mere reactive representation deployed as a counter to its rivals - representational invocations of class struggle are not in themselves class struggle. But all this is by the bye, the world has all but passed the age of ideology. For this reason, It is wrong to say the goal of institutionalised anti-racism is to produce racism. That is to say, whilst the decisive precondition for securing capitalisation for anti-racism’s self-reproduction would be an identifiable objective tendency for increasing rates in recorded racism, the system-function of anti-racism is nonetheless located elsewhere and thus inaccessible to the rivalry of ‘class first’ critiques. The use-value of anti-racism’s use-value is not dependent on the question of race at all, and for this reason it is not, as ‘class reductionists’ say, all a matter of ‘divide and rule’ and thus of generating opposing distracting ideologies which function to mystify the mytho-authentic seat of power. On the contrary, the use-value of the use-value of emancipatory movements is realised precisely as, and within, a transfer in the system modes of domination from apparatuses of repression to apparatuses of exploitation.
3. The BLM brand’s extraordinary expansion across the world is probably attributable to the basic stochastic operation of niche opportunism by which the more or less random appearance of an inconsequential object formation is serially promoted according to the levels of efficiency in its reproduction of metabolisable functions feeding through it and back into the energy nets of the host environment - whatever resists least is realised fastest. It is banal and probably tautological to observe that BLM’s success was particularly useful in that particular moment for many contingent reasons and to many correlative interests - even so, this environmental usefulness remains the decisive factor over any advertised intrinsic moral exigency. After all, it was such usefulness, rather than the wholesomeness of the object’s substance, that attracted both the rapidity and volume of investment. To take one example of the object’s system-utility: the aspirational discourse of BLM feeds into the revival of the concept of the deserving poor whereby the necessity of correcting an identifiable system error, racism, by redirecting income flows, may then be deployed, in the generality’s interest, to minimise all other registers of impoverishment and thus rationalise the deselection of every critique that is not anti-racism ( oh, boo-hoo, that’s white people’s problems...). This proprietorial character of anti-racism, who has the right to speak, who has the right to express suffering, and the privatisation of specific modes of affliction-based critiques, extends its system compatibility by feeding into renewed corporate efforts to regulate intellectual property laws within privatised public discourse as channelled by social media under the pretext of combatting ‘hate speech’. A second but related example, utilises the tendency within the general production of representations to sentimentalise abstractions, and fix affects to commodities, these may be employed to satiate the legitimised demand for emancipatory justice as the grounds for scapegoating those individuals transformed into emblems of the worst thing (racism); the virulence of exponentially reticulating attacks on identified individual ‘white supremacists’ is sufficient to drain energy from any resistance to, or indeed consciousness of, the networked abstracting processes by which the exploitative apparatus realises itself as a ‘cancel culture’.
MY RECOMMENDATIONS (AN EXCERPT)
‘Things are not determined by their use, but by how their use is used. That is how the useful object, say an ape becoming a python, is integrated into the environment as a whole. You might think deep down we are genetically driven to reproduce ‘our genes’ but that process is just basic leasehold shelling, real significance is situated in the host environment’s use of a given shell’s branded metabolism within its, the environment’s, own generalising metabolisation of available energy resources. In post-utility societies, significance will always abstract from use in its transfer to the use of use. All outputs at an experiential level, whether favourable or unfavourable, are of equal value. Everything realises, everything is realised. Reform or reaction; progression or regression; collapse or regeneration; all the same, all equally realising of the same inevitable totality. Fascism or anti-fascism, racism or anti-racism, patriarchy or feminism, capitalism or communism, all of them are strategic alternatives in the same base process of energy sequestration. Never before has domination configured itself as anti-power, as the shedding, squandering, misuse of power. Never before has power functioned as the recuperated ineptitude of power, or in the form of a riot against itself. But all of these negations, hitherto indicators of decadence and imminent collapse, are now readily deployable as pillars of the establishment. Ever before and always, what is called the good fight, even where this is understood as the good fight for healthy, naked self-interest, even where the good fight is understood as psychopathic holy war, because fighting is a sign of autonomy and of life, ever before the good fight was always, always, always, in some sense, if only to the protagonist, real, and therefore good. But all that has changed. The good fight today is just a representation of the good fight, it is only algebraically valued, it is expressed by such and such a symbol in its assigned function within the permutational work of the totality. Whatever is called ‘the good fight’ now, call it anti-racism, refers to an identifying label which may be observed and tracked in its movements like a parcel, and in its transformational states, as by Fitbit, as it is digested through the tracts of the realising apparatus. In that sense, the working out of the good as it takes on the form of the good fight, for say ‘social justice’, is only to say something like ‘good is only a moment in evil, and not even an important moment.’ What better way to realise the apparatus of exploitation than through the systemic cultivation of revolt against repression? Men desired change, but are now changed by desire. Men used tools but now machines use men. Men acted but now systems relate men through acts. Men made meanings but relations assign symbols to meanings, and values to symbols, and set symbols against values, and values against meanings, and systems against acts, and machines against tools, and tools against men, and men against their desires.’
NO! MY RECOMMENDATIONS - A MINORITY REPORT (COMPLETE EXTANT)
‘In opposition to the majority report and its all too political findings, and from which, with this addendum text, I now publicly disassociate myself, although I do not renounce our group collages, I suggest the following alternative as biography and example to others. I am not a good man. I am a tyrant. However, I prefer the company of good men to that of tyrants. I like the Billy Budd in men. I like the natural allies of the world although it is true I am not one of them, being as I am, treacherous. I am not resentful of goodness, I appreciate the finer sensibilities in others, their perception, their emotional range. The good is good, even I recognise that, though I am not of the good. I look to draw into my circle, populating my retinue with, those renaissance men who have the grace, the wit, the physical and mental dexterity, the consistent intelligence, the smiling conversation and simple companionship, the open handedness and pure heartedness, the even gaze, the healthy constancy of face and limb, ah yes, the good looking, morally good men, the natural born embodiments of natural aristocracy; I admire everything about them but most of all their grace, that they may grace me with their nearness. They are my real treasure, my true wealth. Their proximity to my person is a demonstration of my power. If the moths were flames, beings from fire, and the flame a moth, a will from deepest night, and this reversal caused something, a relational figure, that is dark at the centre with flakes of light hurling themselves at it, then that is how it is between us, my entourage and I. I am not resentful of their beauty, but I am still a tyrant. I merely like the company of those who are unlike myself. I don’t want to live in a world that reflects only what I am. I am the neg-narcissus. If I am a monster, I want to associate with those lacking monstrosity. I am always on the look out for an opportunity to enjoy the company of good men, the poets, philosophers and sportsmen, the artists, scientists and soldiers. And, if I may smooth their way, if I may entice them, and so involve them in my world, then so much the better. But even here, I am careful, very careful, not to involve them too deeply. As a personage of note, I am the greatest imaginable ally and friend, but as a vessel of might, I am a volcanic threat to whoever dwells within my shadow. I am wary and I ask them to be wary. Sometimes they mistake me for my friendship. They bring me their ideas and make the case for some good work that they think should be undertaken. Sometimes I agree and this makes them happy: at last, they think, here is the proof that things change, things progress, by alliance, the tyrant’s power mixed into the reformer’s vision. I gladly read their treatises on enlightened despotism. Things cannot go too far of course. I am a conduit of force. I am an ape fork’d in the world of pythons. I will never miss an opportunity to exploit another’s weakness. Sometimes, I will not foresee what is going to happen next, and my allies get coiled into unavoidable complications - at the last, I cannot help them, and I cannot help myself. I am driven to act to save my position, that is the essence of what a tyrant is. Everything else, whatever is caused, whatever the consequence, has rippled out of the event of my self-preservation. But I am also on my guard against my terrible power, I will always hope to head it off, to find another way as if in anticipation of a particular outcome, and so prevent it. An individual does not attack from all sides at once, but I do. I attack from all sides at once. I am the coiling. I am the constrictor. Beware of me, I tell them. I say to them, ‘if not lamb-kitten, then perhaps, ape-python’. I do not think they understand. So, I post sentries at the doors to the rooms where my allies rest, and I command the sentries not to permit my entry - it is an awkward situation, the sentries both can and cannot resist me. I have no active desire to crush good men, but I do crush, and I am indiscriminate. There are too many regrettable and wearying casualties. I have the guards roll sheets of newspaper into loose balls to be strewn around the beds of my sleeping friends, so they might be warned by the sound of papery rustling, and awaken in the moment of my move against them. It is my assertion, it is my declaration, as made from my extraordinary position, that the limit of a repressive tyranny, and you may not understand what I am saying here, is always preferable to the universal reach of emancipation. You may not understand what I am saying here, but emancipation is not always a fortuitous outcome. I will leave you to work out that mystery, but think on this, mighty as I may be, I am but a single fang in the cosmic jaw of the world serpent.