Undercurrent #6

Sixth issue of Undercurrent from late 1990s.


An underlying question whenever producing texts in the context of radical politics (or rather: anti-politics) is the relation between theory and practice. The complete rejection of any kind of theoretical critique, not uncommon in the broad milieu in which the undercurrent is located, is most of the time a barely disguised anti-intellectual resentment, which is not to confuse with a critique of the intellectual in his or her relation to the division of manual and intellectual labour. The incoherence of this rejection stems from the neglect of the fact that the praised practice, opposed to the useless babbling of the theorists, is always based on some "theoretical" concept of society. The reluctance to make these implicit assumptions explicit and thus make them the subject matter of a critical scrutiny ultimately prevents practice that knows itself. Marx writes somewhere that the distinct feature of proletarian revolutions is that they again and again pause to relentlessly criticise themselves. After all, while bourgeois revolution is the merely political expression of socio-economic developments - and thus blind execution of something already accomplished -the radical transformation of society, also known as proletarian revolution, is the complete upheaval of all the existing social relations which claims to end pre-history by for the first time consciously organising society. Critique, the theoretical anticipation of this transformation, is essentially negative. It seeks to destroy that which, while claiming to do the opposite, perpetuates the existing misery.

These big words, however, must seem ridiculous in the present situation. The type of self-critique Marx envisaged is necessarily obsolete given the absence of a significant movement that at least claims to be revolutionary. This touches upon the question of class on which we have sometimes conflicting views. Only some of us claim that there is a permanent "hidden" class struggle behind the appearance that the class has been incorporated into capital by transformation into ordinary wage-earners and citizens. Here is not the place to discuss these things. We are aware that as a whole, the undercurrent is remote from advancing a coherent line of argumentation. This becomes obvious when reading the piece of text on the following page and the critique of the campaign against the G8 summit in June. Ironically, some of the points made against that campaign in this issue could easily be applied to the contentious piece of text which some of us would rather not have seen printed. The poetic pathos was rejected by some as contributing virtually nothing to a political discussion while instead spreading a quasi-religious and mystic aura ("the air we breathe" etc.) that appeals to emotion and discourages critical reflection.

Put this dispute aside, we agree on the necessity to reject the notion of the all-encompassing "we" (comprised of all those involved in any kind of "oppositional" movements) that entails the demand to be always constructive (since we all want the same...) and thus inhibits the development of radical critique. In this sense, we don't expect this issue to be particularly popular, especially among animal rights activists and those in favour of spectacular global raves.