Announcement of the greek magazine Flesh Machine on the events of May the 5th in Athens
The Morbid Explosion of Ideology
Why is this age worse than earlier ages?
In a stupor of grief and dread
have we not fingered the foulest wounds
and left them unhealed by our hands?
(Anna Akhmatova “Why is this age worse?”, 1919)
On May the 5th the explosion of ideology that has plagued radical circles for some time now reached its tragic apex: 3 dead bank workers. With few honourable exceptions, in the next days knee-jerk reactions to the deaths consisted of blaming the police, the bosses, or even more abstractly Capital and the State for the carnage. Among these accusatory rituals, the lack of self-criticism is deafening. If the great silence were merely the result of some sort of existential numbness, it would be purely proof of the radicals’ inability to cope with the inevitable. Yet this silence is structural. It is an organisational component of the degeneration of the radical movement into a cult with its own oaths of secrecy, its own rules of speaking the truth, and of course its own precious totems and taboos.
After almost 16 months since December 2008 there has been an astonishing lack of critical analysis on the social uprising and the conditions of possibility and impossibility that it has opened. On this arid soil a morbid plant has cast its roots: a string of actions that can only be interpreted as ritual invocations for the return of the event, a mode of fidelity to December that both fails to recognise its historically situated uniqueness and attempts to substitute its spontaneous social dynamism with the programmatic dynasticism of some revolutionary vanguard. Such actions, focused as they are on the implementation of some absolute truth, are not only pillaging the event of December of its radical potential, but are projecting into the future the image of an evental trace which is intelligible only in terms of an impotent present, a present that contains no positivity other than an imagined negation of negation, that Hegelian double-bind that entraps the social into a dialectical circle of the return of the same: authoritarianism. Thus all that made the bourgeois criticism against the December Uprising (in terms of “nihilistic narcissism”, “a vicious sterile circle”, etc.) look like a Persian exercise of beating the sea with chains, today acquires a disturbing validity that can only make us conclude that the worst enemy of the revolution are the revolutionaries themselves.
Some people during the last general strike march, seeing 200,000 protestors roaring in rage and some even trying to storm the steps to Parliament, could only think of a means to perform their own petty identity as the vanguard of militancy. For that is what this cult has at its core: rituals of performativity, rituals of sustaining and reproducing the equilibrium of “toughness”, of “strength”, of “militancy”, of “fist-readiness”, or what may the symbolic order of rebel-masculinity consist of. Violence, so abstractly demonised by the bourgeoisie, is only a functional component of this process – not the objectified problem but the effect of an acutely problematic relation. A relation of competition for the most “advanced”, the most “dynamic” action, the most aggressive and seemingly uncompromising “attack”, the most one-dimensional being-in-the-world. What connects all these performances of “revolutionary singularity” is not their violence per se, but the vainglorious competitive culture of militaristic machoness. The establishment of a gendered hierarchy of “will” to the exclusion of the open mass-struggles that are developing throughout the country: a new Stalinism.
Voluntaristic activism, that bastard of the worst Blanquist traditions of the Left, is thus posing self-content as a spectacular substitute to the long and painful processes of self-organisation and proletarian recomposition. With the abyss of egoistic ambition as its only promise, it threatens to devour any sense of principled struggle, any sensibility of egalitarian responsibility towards social emancipation, and any value of mutual help. This militantism is growing into the symptomal kernel of an ailing society. And like all symptoms it functions only so that this society and its ailment endure.
The 5th of May signalled the final end of innocence. In its nearly four years of publication Flesh Machine has tried to introduce into the radical movement a critical perspective in the hope to sweep away the stale air of revolutionary ritualism and help equip people who genuinely care for the creation of a social and desiring rupture with tools of analysing the real in non-dogmatic ways. This was an effort based on the tradition of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Judith Butler, the great heretics of western philosophy and aesthetics. Trying to engage these in the actual social struggles of its time was the prime goal of the magazine and its auxiliary publications, a process not without its problems or contradictions, yet sincerely committed to social and desiring emancipation. If Flesh Machine was in its own terms a desiring machine, it has turned out to be a locomotive deprived of its tracks. An effort of deterritorialisation (in terms of theory, ethics and aesthetics) that can no longer relate to the ground it originally invested as a plane of immanence. Rather than degenerating into a frustrated and resentful process of intellectual exploration within an increasingly alienated environment, Flesh Machine and its human component have decided to withdraw their labour, and interrupt permanently any contribution to the radical milieu.
This move will be inevitably interpreted by professional revolutionaries as a final proof of the bourgeois nature of the project, of the weakness of intellectuals, of the treachery of academics at the “height of the struggle” and so on and so forth. We leave them at their antiquated Marxist meta-narrative to enjoy the surplus-enjoyment of their position as being eternally right on the condition that they always fail. Let them remember however that the breaking point of every revolutionary process is when subjects who have no objective class interest in the revolution but who are committed to social emancipation because of an ethical mode of inhabiting the world decide that the revolutionary process in place can only lead to a new form of tyranny. Some people will remember the murder of Kitsos Maltezos, more the Soviet invasion of Hungary, the Chinese invasion of Vietnam etc. – these were events that revealed how the revolutionaries, being so preoccupied with changing the world, had forgotten to change themselves and were thus bound to reproduce the same old world in ever more suffocating and brutal versions of authoritarianism. This does not mean that all revolutionary processes are doomed to failure – for they only do so when people forget that what lies outside the state of things is always-already part of a structural relation of that state of things. Only when people forget to walk through the Oedipal wound that constitutes them in their negation of the symbolic Other.
In its desertion Flesh Machine does not forget the readers who have supported this heretical project and pointed out at its various mistakes and weaknesses. With them lies the force of rupturing thought and critique. With them lies the force of responsibility.
FIN (En Fin)
Flesh Machine, 10 May 2010