Fragmentation and Reformation

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In the wake of the chaotic, confused spectacle of the presidential election, we find ourselves presented with two contradictory images of the world, both products of this frenzied display of rationalized madness. In a daze, we stumble around, grasping for points of reference. The ritualized demolition of the old political reality has birthed a new monstrosity, but it seems eerily familiar…

The first image is that of the neoliberal establishment in retreat in the face of a newly ascendant Right. The old sociocultural consensus has been torn apart, and ultra-nationalist extremism is on the rise. The curtain has been drawn back, the masks have been torn off, the lights flicker to life. The failures of the Democratic party have led to the end of their rule, and now they lie broken at the stairs of the Capitol. The liberal elite have been defeated by their own mistakes.

The second image appears to be completely at odds with the first. A vision of the continued dominance of liberalism within the public discourse persists. Across the country, people raise their voices in scornful howls, proclaiming their continued resistance to Trump, tripping over each other to denounce the latest hateful tweet. Celebrities and television hosts deliver impassioned pleas for unity in the face of hate, for together we can surely bring about a victory for love and acceptance. Articles skewering our new president and his goons are shared ad nauseum. Looking around, it seems impossible that the election could have ended in such a result, since everyone appears so loudly opposed.

What is happening? Which portrait is an accurate representation of our reality? Is this a new era of politics, or do the same old patterns remain?

Why not both?

The Left and Right are not so far apart as they like to claim. They both grow from the same twisted tree, two separate branches that often find themselves intertwined. Taking a step back, it is not difficult to find the point at which they both emerge from the trunk. As with all political formations, they both represent a tendency towards reconciliation, a rapprochment with the status quo. In fact, the nature of their apparently hostile relationship is what contains any movement within a set parameter. Presented with this binary choice, we become limited in our ability to see things as they are.

(In the context of American politics, the “Left” is often a category applied to liberals, but to a large extent we could include the “anti-capitalist” milieu in this analysis, as it too often mirrors the liberal establishment. An example close to the central point of our inquiry would be the unity we see in anti-Trump actions. Whether you call yourself a socialist or a Democrat (or both), you will probably find yourself marching downtown to chants of “not my president!”.)

We are led to believe that we are facing a terrible tragedy in the outcome of the presidential election. The ascendance of a new faction of the ruling class to power should terrify us, our former overlords say. The only responsible thing to do would be to work ourselves into a hysteric fit over the demise of our once great nation.

The victory of the Right can be attributed to an array of factors, one of which is the decline in confidence in the Democratic Party among working class voters. A backlash against neoliberal economic policies has produced this latest wave of nationalistic and protectionist sentiment. The continued intergration of global markets has led to the decay of sections of American society, namely those attached to industry. Lost in this post-industrial reality, many found themselves looking for someone to blame. It appears that a signifcant number of people have found such scapegoats in immigrants, providing an opportunity for the Republicans to take advantage of the situation. This, combined with the general inability of the Democrats to inspire, contributed a great deal to the present state of affairs.

Nothing has really changed about capitalism, of course. Not as a result of the election, anyway. We remain caught up in the machinery of living death, steadily grinding away towards the death of the planet. The essential nature of our collective predicament is still the same. But that’s boring, and we seek the thrill of political escapism. We want to believe that things are changing, and that we have a say in it. Yet, whoever the new management is, they’re still the management.

In the face of political defeat, liberalism has adapted to the new climate, manifesting itself in the role of Opposition instead of Ruler. Against authoritarianism, against the Russians, against plutocracy, the old order has returned as a resistance to the new. It retains dominance as an ideological force through its own perceived retreat. The power of nostalgic progressivism is now in full effect. No doubt, we will have to put up with incesssant whining about missing good ol’ Obama for the next four years.

Even the so-called revolt within the Democratic Party, led by left-populist Bernie Sanders, has subsided. In the aftermath of the election, it appeared that the party was on the brink of ruin, due to internal and external pressures. But their own defeat has given the Democrats a rallying point, an opportunity to re-establish unity. It is clear that they have taken full advantage of this. Even our “socialist” friends have joined this new popular front. Former divisions have disappeared in the wake of disaster, and it would seem the only pre-requisite for membership in this motley alliance is not outwardly or explicitly hating oppressed groups.

Liberals now see themselves as the brave resistance to all that is wrong in America, the focal point, of course, being a certain individual of an orange hue. There is a paradoxical combination of hysteria and aloofness that manifests itself in the forms taken by this “resistance”. Our brave freedom fighters chide the ignorant fools who have chosen to vote “against their own interests”, they ramble on about the end of the world, and every once in a while they take to the streets to signal their disapproval with signs and chants. Of course, after a few hours they’ll disperse, to shake their heads disapprovingly at the news from the comfort of their homes.

Protest politics are a dead end, a conjuration of hollow images that inevitably drift off into an empty void. They do the system a service by providing a harmless medium for people’s frustrations. Yelling at nothing doesn’t accomplish much, but that’s the point. “Taking to the streets” in such a way applies no real pressure to the state, as with all other theatrical displays.

The new Ruler of our central political institutions is abhorrent, and should be resisted, but mounting such a resistance is not possible within the system that produced it. The two major political players in America work in concert to maintain faith in this system, as they both mantain power through their eternal struggle against each other. Those desperate for guidance in this times of need shall look to the Democratic Party, flocking to its tattered banner. In doing so they will feed the cannibalistic machine of capitalist democracy, which devours itself to remain alive.

Let us consider another solution, perhaps a more sensible one: give up. The nature of politics make it impossible to use them in an emancipatory way. The horrors of capitalism will not lessen with the adjustment of the mode of governance, for it is governance itself that presents the problem. The ideal of a paticipatory democracy may initially appear to be quite attractive, and yet it is merely another ideological trap. Whether or not we vote for our masters, they will still exploit and oppress us for their own gain. Let us reject the instituitions that seek to ensnare us with promises of empowerment, for they are nothing but empty shells. Political games only mask the brutal reality of capital, and are themselves expressions of the tyranny of economy.

The system is not corrupt, and it has not failed. It is working exactly the way it should, and that is the problem. As long as we refuse to admit this simple truth to ourselves, we will remain a captive audience to the unending spectacle of electoral politics.

Not everyone seems to have gotten this yet. Many continue to seek hope in political institutions, clamoring to have their voices heard by politicians who will smile and nod, and then proceed to fuck us over. One especially relevant quote comes from Madonna, one of the many celebrities who have coalesced into a new vanguard of “resistance”. At the Women’s March in Washington DC, she told us: “Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair.”

It’s time to fall into despair.

 

Humanity Versus Work

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Communism is the movement for the negation of the present state of reality. This entails destroying the totality of capitalist society, and thus the various relations that bind it together. One of the central aspects of society is the process of alienated labor often known as work. Work is what sustains the economic system of capitalism, and allows the proletariat to enslave itself through participation in productive activity. It is a transformative process that dehumanizes and alienates those involved, and thus perpetuates social and psychological oppression.

When we speak of ending labor as we know it, it must be made clear that this means liberation from labor, not the liberation of labor. It is not enough to adjust the mode by which work is managed. Work itself must be the target of any social insurrection with the goal of human liberation. Freedom, not co-ops.

Why abolish work? Firstly, let us define it. What is this thing that occupies the majority of our lives, defines our social roles, and drives our society? When we work, we are, of course, engaging in a productive activity. The product of this activity is of a dual nature; there is the tangible, “real” utility of the creation, and there is the abstracted economic value. If you build a table, its use-value is that it serves as a surface on which to eat, write, and so on. The economic value of the table is based on its comparative worth within transactions. The table is valued as amount of chairs, or as amount of stools. In a modern capitalist economy, this is expressed monetarily, and so the table’s value becomes amount of dollars.

Now, as we know, profit is the main drive in capitalism. It is what motivates individuals and groups to act in certain ways. Profit is dependent on increasing the efficiency of the extraction of exchange-value. For this reason, the generation of abstract value, rather than use-value, is prioritized. It is the engine of economic life, and thus social life as well.

Here lies the absurdity of human existence under capitalism, for we are made slaves to the abstract, to an imaginative construct that only manifests itself in the ways in which we allow it to dictate our actions. In essence, we are producing for the sake of producing, working for the sake of working. And yet we cannot survive without doing so. In capitalism, labor is both the result and product of deprivation. We are deprived of the ability to indpendently sustain ourselves, so we are forced to work, to be able to afford sustenance for ourselves and our families. As we do so however, we continue to perpetuate the very conditions which force us to labor.

The role of the proletariat in the generation of value is a crucial, indisposable one. The position of the working class in relation to this process places great potential power at its disposal, or so it would appear. Yet this power cannot be realized through possesion, but rather rejection. As long as we continue to work, we nullify any ability to alter the system. Participation in the activity of labor is participation in self-deprivation, as it places power into the hands of the capitalists, and spells continued social ruin for the worker.

One of the great obstacles to overcoming this cycle is the way in which labor functions as an apparatus of ideological control. “All in a day’s work”, the worker mutters to themself, as they slave away to churn up more profit for the boss. The image of the independent, hard-working individual continues to haunt our collective psyche, tied to the false promises of upward mobility and personal fulfillment through labor. Our lives are defined by work. We go to schools that teach the importance of presenting yourself as an economic asset. We introduce ourselves by our job. Anyone who lives in this society finds such phenomena inescapable.

The mindset of labor manifests itself in the daily struggles of workers, containing them within the system. As long as the battle cry of the workers is “equal pay for equal work”, emancipation will remain elusive. Any vestiges of radicalism or militancy within the old labor movement and the unions it produced, are long gone. Freedom cannot be found within the context of work. Soon enough, however, the crisis of capitalism shall force the workers to reinvent their struggles against the capitalists that employ them. The emergence of the communist movement from the chaos of decaying capitalism necessarily represents a tendency for self-negation by the workers, as they seek to redefine themselves for the realization of the human community.

The true pro-worker position, then, is an anti-work one. In a sense we could even say that being pro-worker necessitates being anti-worker, for the destruction of the conditions that create the worker as a socioeconomic being is crucial to the liberation of those of that class. The abolition of alienated labor is integral to the process of revolution, to the reconstitution of humanity itself. It is not enough to seize the workplace, it must be destroyed.