A few jottings, bit of a ragbag really, of reminiscences, frettings, a political and/or philosophical pot pourri, taking advantage of the invitation to freely respond to ponder correlations of violence and unthink violent revolution. Kind of a diary of a contemplative activist, or rather anti-diary of an ancient proletarian...
Bearing in mind that - Velimir Khlebnikov, Guru and Greatest of Russian Revoutionary (Futurist)poets, hearing a colleague and fellow red Journalist reading aloud passages from his diary opined that in then present circumstances (creation of the Iranian Soviet Republic - true fact, for a few months 1921) it was not a diary (dnevnik - "day-nik") that was needed but a minutnik - "moment-ary" would keep both pun and sense, meaning it's the event stupid that needs tracking, not the tracing of personality as diaries (day-aries) do. Especially now, 31 January 2009. This piece of writing aims to be a Momentary.
(It is now 8.37am 1 February 2009. Gordon Brown's view yesterday from posh Davos, the globalizers' Berchtesgarten, sees wildcat actions as indefensible, as opposed to the plutocracy which must be allowed to continue to run amok. The D-notice driven corporation, having seen off Gaza victims what victims? is now prey to obsessive frettings and drips ideological menace in the face of the threat to unfettered global shifting of labour, plant, resources and piles and piles of liquidizable e-dosh by the impossible multitude biting back.) Brackets inserted at 4.50pm.
This Momentary certainly has a deeply serious purpose, a homage to amorous beings dedicated to the project of constructive global vandalism. To tear down the world and smash it to pieces - not Milton Friedman- style, cf Naomi Klein's recent Disaster Capitalism, but as a Khlebnikovian series of weak explosions, noting that the detonation depends not on the size of charge but the degree of accuracy in its placing, also, amazingly, that a weak and unintelligible word can destroy the world.
Re smashing up the place, back in the mid 80s I recall being dragged to metalbashing sessions of Einsturzende Neubauten and Sonic Youth at the Town and Country Club, and Bow Gamelan somewhere else, in the East End, by students who deserved and got paid in kind in lectures on services rendered to art by Michel Foucault, Ernst Mandel and Vladimir Ilich, Michel Serres lurked at the fuzzy boundaries of the North West Passage, as he does. Fair exchange I reckoned. Transactional pedagogy.
Foolish situationist angels daub their watchword: soyez realiste, pensez l'impossible, connecting the discursive battery terminals (not of course of the banal couple Realist || Impossible, but Realist || Think, annulling automatism or dreaming.
(Re globalizers running amok, British workers are protesting the ill-effects of a French oil conglomerate's refinery contracting a Californian Company that sub-contracts an Italian company to employ Italian and Portuguese contingents of the European proletariat to come and live in a secure floating residence to build an extension to the Linsey refinery in Lincolnshire, setting off large-scale sympathy actions, as the BBC grinds its teeth and dusts down its Denkverbot (see below) lexicon, words like Protectionist, Illegal (combined with Secondary), Court Injunctions...I've heard the word "Wildcat" uttered more times in the last two hours than in the last two decades.
6.03 pm update Alan Johnson rewrites (actually respeaks and reinvents) history: Foreign workers are being given preference over British workers due to bad European legislation. Not because legislation guaranteeing maximally free shunting around of labour and free rein to labour contractors as well as eastward expansion of cheap labour pool had originally been driven through European institutions by the gung-ho neoliberal Blair/Brown duumvirate.
Update 6.18pm (1 Feb 2009) Mandelson rewrites Johnson's rewrite, saying British workers can apply for jobs on an equal basis, so back in your hutches lads. BBC anchor tottie eggs Mandy on to say definitely the lads are breaking the law. 6.31pm, the PM says his quoted British jobs for British workers means just that British workers will be "given" the skills to compete, (thinks)the lazy stupid bastards. The political class and their BBC prompts are getting very twitchy. These are but wild and whirling words (Hamlet I/5)
7.05pm 1 Feb update. further muddying the waters and softening of brains re legality of said employment of foreign workers. (7.41am 2 Feb) Mandelson still buzzing, contracts legal, sorry, but talks etc, urges Sellafield etc not to come out. Words, words, words (Hamlet, II/2)..Twitching continues
The most fundamental theorem of soft Marxism goes so: all fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away. All that is solid melts into air.
This is all very well and is now the Financial Times's favourite sooth-saying and the Economist's. But there is still stubborn resistance to recognize such instabilities, by the likes of diehards such as Brown, who insists on sticking to oppressive status quo shibboleths such as globalizing free trade. Watch his glazed paroxystic moves at Davos and the G-20, unmoved by President' O'bama's repeated pleadings to read Mike Davis's Planet of Slums. Brown likes to cite Slum Dog in his terrorstruck efforts to "do everything in his power" to drag the UK populace kicking and screaming back to (Third Way) Thatcherism.
Slavoi Zizek deploys the concept of Denkverbot (French- la pensee unique) in his audacious and magnificent project to reactivate Lenin ("Lenin"), which if he will permit is the subtext and mainspring for this Momentary. Denkverbot is the banning of thought (I would say thought terrorism). Especially as regards Lenin, who lurks beyond the blue horizon of The Truman Show. The logic is - Love Capitalism, if you don't you'll get the Gulag. TINA. Gulag is an interesting screen for "Lenin", a reflection of horrors whose every nook and cranny you may safely explore (we insist), but don't peer into the face of the Medusa Lenin - Do Not Go There.
Early on Churchill named the Horror, a kind of super-Kurtz - the Germans used him, the most grisly of all weapons, a plague bacillus, against our erstwhile Great - now infected - ally Russia. Like not many others of his calling, Churchill understood Lenin, whom, retrospectively, in his Aftermath, he characterised as the Grand Repudiator (with capitals): He repudiated everything, He repudiated God, King, Country, morals, treaties, debts, rents, interest, the laws and customs of centuries, all contracts written or implied, the whole structure...(exact words)
In plain language, the Bolshevik Revulution was not your common or garden revolution, to be cordoned off, bad-mouthed, blockaded, economically strangled and mopped up (or in selected and approved cases adored), but one which massively threatened the global capitalist system. The memory remains potent and always aleady needs massive and unremitting efforts to expunge it. Hence the answer to Zizek's questions: Why Lenin? Why now? The cordon sanitairewhich was first desperately instituted with heavy artillery, proxy armies and the D-Notice system (still operative) by military hawks like Churchill and Foch, only now presents weird conundrums for free globalized markets. The original memory, even as a memory of mere conceivability even now cannot be allowed to stand (Thus 7.22pm 1 Feb, 2009, Bad Guys fire rockets at Israel, hitting a large cat). The most serious diplomatic historian of the period Arno J Mayer wrote that more time was taken up by the Versailles Peace Conference (Jan-June 1919) debating what to do about (Bolshevized) Russia than on any other single issue. Now recuperable with some hassle from the National Archive and the Diplomatic papers of the Foreign Office and US Foreign relations documents.
The theoretical section of issue no5, 1924 of the celebrated avantgarde culture-theoretic periodical Lef was devoted to the recently deceased Lenin's rech' - speech, more properly discourse (Lef has been extensively mined for theoretical nuggets but not issue no5.). It included contributions by the young guns of Russian formalism and proto-structuralism. Among these, Viktor Shklovsky proposed the term raskalyvatel' - splitter or cleaver - as a structural matrix of Lenin's rhetoric. (Cleave is good, a case where English improves on the Russian, an exquisite linguistically fused antonymy - of union and division, parting and clinging.)
(As a model of good practice, Viktor Shklovsky advises taking a watch to pieces to see how it works and then do something completely different.)
Louis Althusser postulates something similar to the cleaver, regarding Lenin's "practice" (his quotes) of philosophy, and the consciousness of what practising philosophy means; in short the consciousness of the primary fact that philosophy divides (his italics). But divides in the void since philosophy is a theory of philosophy as a false path; necessarily false since between Lenin and established philosophy there is a peculiarly intolerable connection: the connection in which the reigning philosophy is touched to the quick of what it represses: politics. And - what philosophy cannot bear is the idea of a theory of philosophy capable of changing its traditional practice (Lenin and Philosophy - LPh).
That's enough for now. The good thing about Althusser is that contrary to received views he is anything but doctrinaire or jesuitical. Like Fermat, Althusser offers conjectures ie intelligibly challengeable theses. The outside of philosophical practice could well be named in the terms of another discursive formation: reproduction of the social relations (conditions) of production, verging on a Weberian institutional analysis or indeed the now notorious Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus (Notes etc). Traditional practices, in academic spheres, become ever more embedded and malleable as contracts are renewed, curriculae negociated, interviews formalized, funding fought for, students (and staff) selected, appointed, excluded, honoured or sacked, and so on, resulting in an ideological plasticity which is the main instrument of power.
Once, in the late1980s, I posted a notice inviting students of a famous art institution to the proposed formation of an association of working class students.
My then perception was that a sociologically imbalanced situation existed. This was marked by the on-campus proliferation of women's, gay, various ethnic groups etc. The most striking reaction to the notice was a mood verging on collective paroxysm, whose furtive but unmistakable burden was: the working class does not exist.
The invitation had three takers - one of whom was the future magnificent artist of biopolitical intervention FrankoB - see I'm Not Your Babe Part 1, ICA 1996.
I recall Franko as a student suspending himself naked and upside down from the beams of a cultural centre for ethnic minorities, once the Princelet Street Synagogue, off Brick Lane, as part of the playful reenactment, a literal and inter-media exercise in translation, of the Versailles presentation of popular grievances which was the June 1789 starting gun of the French Revolution.
The reenactment was timed exactly to celebrate the Revolution's bi-centenary. This celebration was big in France, massively resourced by the State, led by Jessica Norman. The then leader of Tower Hamlets Council's (Old) Labour opposition, Phil Maxwell, was filmed making a declaration, at an auction, in the Connaught Rooms Kingsway, of Council properties at the City's edge at knockdown prices following a spate of dodgy evictions and dubious payments.
The declaration was seriously intended, while at the same time filmed with Phil's agreement, having the Versailles Estates General grievance event in view. The prospective buyers attending the auction were publicly given notice, before the auction began, that on Labour's expected return to power in Tower Hamlets the questionable legality of the sales would be on the agenda.
The auction was reenacted with documentary exactitude as presentation of one of the grievances. Phil spoke ex cathedra.
Case lost. Why bother? City hyper-development is well on track. (8.34am 2 feb update: more lay-offs in construction and financial services, hmm..)
For now, back to splitting, in another field of theory: translation proper.
(But before this, a very vital point needs making: first Althusser again, re: Lenin's deepest and most fertile theoretical discoveries contained above all in his political texts: Lenin's political texts (analyses of the situation and its variations, decisions taken and analyses of their effects etc) give us, with dazzling insistence, in the practical state, a theoretical concept of capital importance: the concept of the "present moment" or "conjuncture". That is, in precisely locating the grain of the slate or log, the instant, kairos, prior to its being cleft.)
Cleavages in the arcanites of the practice and theory of translation, viz a paper "Translating the Enemy". The cordon sanitaire still fully manned even in the remote world of poetry: pure class war in art (1919 but even more today's):- two lines from a pro-Bolshevik poem of the Civil War by Khlebnikov, in fact a cameo of Lenin: Net ia - ne on, ia - ne takoi! No chelovechestvo - leti! Literally "I (the poet) am not he (Lenin)! But (repeat - But) mankind, fly!" A translation published (1987) by Harvard simply omits the word "But" and reads: No - I'm not like him - I'm not like that! Mankind, fly! (ie this guy is bad news). A different (and more accurate) translation, confronting this mystification, recently appearing in several unusual contexts goes: "I ain lak (like) em, not to em riddim (rhythm), But (NB!) planet bredrin (bros, brothers) flyn high!" (ie given wings). One plank of Harvard's ideological adjustment is to free great poetry from being tainted with Bolshevism - or with proletarian belligerence.
(In the summer of 1990, the DJs on Warsaw's hippest music program Radio Clash, were pumping out the anti-cop anthem "Fuck Tha Police" by NWA (Niggas With Attitude) to a million listeners in Poland, Northern Czechoslovakia and the Western Soviet Union...banned from the airwaves of the US at the time. Jefferson Morley, Rap. The Lyrics.)
Unbelievable: translation as hegemonic gatekeeper in ongoing class struggle in the field of translation theory. To which point, also very related, are two translations of a single word from the same extract, khata, signifying a poor rural dwelling (hut), a figure of Ukrainian destitution, used in the context of Lenin's unqualified desire to raise up the poor, translated in the said American version as "farmstead", with Oklahoman bourgeois connotations. The "alternative" foreignizing translation replaces the metonymy by its (transposed) referent, thus "poor hood bredrin" (poor neighbourhood bros, see New Orleans). This was published in Moscow, also by Amsterdam-based Rodopi, but refused by Anglo publishers Anvil. Words, words, words...
John Reed (Warren Beatty) wrote from firsthand experience: "For the first time in history the working class has seized the power of the state for its own purposes..., and yet, as I write this, in the flush of their success, the new-born revolution of the proletariat is ringed round with a vast fear and hatred. The proletarian revolution has no friends except the proletariat."
Except for "on surovoio rukoi' ('He with uncompromising hand", or 'de Man widdim han ef iron"), depicted in the poem just mentioned.(Update 9.01am 2 Feb: wildcat strikes spread, Longannet, Grangemouth, hundreds meet at Sellafield workers. BBC twitchy. Snow still falling, roads treacherous.)
(The reception of the translation followed an interesting trajectory, relating to the theme of this piece. It was originally submitted as one of a rather large group of writings by the same poet, to represent him in a volume of poetry in translation to be published by Anvil. The group as a whole was accepted with thanks, except precisely for this poem and a companion work, kamennaia baba - Rockin' momma, both of which the editor declined for reasons never fully clarified. The translator allowed the publication of other translations of Khlebnikov's work, on condition of anonymity, so that his name did not appear in the publication. A Moscow editor was interested to have a paper published entitled "Issues raised by the hip-hop translation of etc", in a volume devoted to the Russian avantgarde, naturally along with the translations in question. Next, a short paper was read in Kiev as a contribution to a British Council symposium, "Writing Europe", held in 2005, accompanied by a 10 minute film, featuring a rap artist Cain delivering the translation, the poem's original text, synchronized with the lyrics in cyrillic script which functioned as subtitling, against a backdrop of newsreel footage of British military operations against the Bolsheviks in North Russia. The paper quoted Lenin, arguing that there are wars and wars...we are not opposed to war on principle but certainly oppose imperialist war. This dictum received a surprisingly warm reception, by the Ukrainian section of the audience, as did the film. Editors of a subsequent publication of papers delivered at the Kiev Symposium, by Third Text, an organ of multiculturalism, were happy to accept the paper, with suggested modifications. These were unacceptable to the writer, who withdrew the paper. The changes were rather clearly politically motivated, and sought to blur the confrontation of antithetical understandings of "writing" Europe, proposed by the Paris Peace Conference and the Founding Congress of the Third International held contemporaneously with the Paris Conference, in March 1919, in Moscow. Finally the editor of a projected specialist volume on translation theory, 'Translating and Interpreting Conflict' found a proposal based on this succession of events and the mode(s) of translation, well acceptable. So Rockin Momma and Night in a Trench found a good home, in 2007, courtesy of Rodopi, bloody but not bowed after bruising engagements in class warfare in the field of translation theory and practice.)
Zizek evokes or at least implies the need for precision in identifying the "conjuncture". The drafting of the April Theses is clocked not in calendar dates but by hours and minutes in the winding rail journey from Helsingfors by train and across the ice to the Finlandia Station. Descents from the train to speak to soldiers and railway workers at halts along the line, on the platform of the station, from the armoured car, from the balcony of the fine Kshchinskaya stil' modern town house in Petrograd. At some maybe interrupted moments during this journey, not the Theses but their draft, on a single sheet,in a single breath. A perfectly ordered plan to rock the world, a class version of the Galilean geste.
1. relation to the war; 2. Demand that the Provisional Government "reject [territorial] conquest" (ie the general thesis followed by the cleavinginto particulars, splitting the "dual power"): a) relation to the Provisional Government, b) Relation to the Soviet of Workers Deputies; (a further cleavage): 2.1 Critique of the SWD etc...(for unnecessarily ceding power to bourgeois capital, after it was seized by workers) etc...then Point 6, of topical interest (7 words): A single bank under the control of the SWD....
Zizek notes the Party CC thought Lenin had gone mad, and Krupskaya, stalwart partner, frets that "it looks as if Lenin has gone crazy". The April theses still schematic (with exact cautions, re legality etc) were published Pravda 8 April under Lenin's name, signifying the party's non-endorsement. (Update 7.01 pm Britain prepares for snow storm from Russia.)
Data for a theory of "conjuncture" might be supplied by the progressive elaboration of this draft through to September. A culminating point is reached in the pamphlet The Looming Catastrophy and How to Combat It, written in a safe house across the Finnish border. The seven points, still stark but largely expanded including Point 6:...no effective control of any kind over the individual banks and their operations is possible, because it is impossible to keep track of the extremely complex, involved and sophisticated techniques that are used in drawing up statements of current accounts, founding fictitious enterprises and so forth...Only by nationalizing the banks can the state put itself in a position to know where and how, whence and when, millions and billions of rubles flow....make it possible to organize real and not fictitious control over economic life...which otherwise is inevitably doomed to remain a ministerial phrase designed to fool the common people...Nationalization of the banks has only to be decreed...carried out by directors and employees themselves...managers and higher official would of course offer resistance, who would try to deceive the state, delay matters...for these people would lose their well-paid jobs and the opportunity of performing highly profitable fraudulent operations...confiscation of property and imprisonment for managers board members and big shareholders for the slightest delay or for attempting to conceal documents, accounts etc etc etc. (The text continues to make clear what it is not saying.The ownership of the capital wielded by and concentrated in the banks is certified by written certificates called shares, bonds, bills receipts etc. Not a single one of these certificates would be invalidated or altered if the banks...were almagamated into a single state bank.)
The extremely detailed specification is conjuncturally exact, the tone tougher, as the Bolsheviks move towards a majority in the raging all-night session of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, 25/26 October...
(Joseph Stiglitz and Christine Lagarde, French foreign trade minister, agree that the reason for the UK's shrinking economy is because a) of the disproportionately large financial sector, and b) the economy is more open than most comparable economies.)
Even as Lenin was preparing his appeal on the morrow of the insurrection to the soldiers of the belligerent nations to join Russia in bringing about a general ceasefire, Churchill as Minister of Munitions was pushing through the contract for 788,000 tons of nitrates from Chile to utilize fully our existing high-explosive plants, part of the 1919 (sic) war budget. [He coordinated this] with plans [to turn the killing fields to good use] involving the construction of proper machines and the setting up of smelting plant on the battlefields where on the Somme alone there must be 700,000 or 800,000 tons of shell-steel lying about. [He was pleased to note] the delivery in a growing stream of ammunition, guns, and above all rifles, nearly 1,200,000 from the United States, France, Italy and Japan to the Russian front, hitherto seeing a very tranquil form of trench warfare, with scarcely 100 to 150 casualties a day, but now with the ranks refilled, large numbers of unarmed men stood behind every formation ready to relieve the [clearly, dead] fighters of their rifles (His exact words except for square brackets.)
Zizek supplies a vital proviso: Indispensable as Lenin's personal intervention was, however, we should not change the story of the October Revolution into the story of the lone genius confronted with the disorientated masses and gradually imposing his vision. Lenin succeeded because his appeal, while bypassing the Party nomenklatura (dodgy - anachronism?), found an echo in what I am tempted to call revolutionary micropolitics (more than tempted I hope): the incredible explosion of grass-roots democracy, of local committees sprouting up...ignoring (I would say "challenging") the authority of the "legitimate" government, taking matters into their own hands. (Update 10.19am 2 Feb, Mandelson toughens his stance, saying the Linsey contract is legally binding and justifies lower wages that the Italian and Portuguese workers are paid. Walk-outs are spreading.)
I have three global grouses with Lenin Reloaded (LR - nevertheless an heroic collection) and generally analyses of the "revolutionary conjuncture": in three respects and three absences: the Working Class, the Outside, Laughter.
Laughter: Revolution seems such a grim humourless business in its theoreticians' discourse; this gloom itself, albeit unconsciously, ideologically vehicles the Denkverbot injunction. Lighten up guys. Even the "jesuitical" Althusser wants to comment today on Lenin's laughter, which is a thesis in itself (LPh). Viktor Shklovsky - again, him - reminiscing in an issue of Novy Lef late in 1927 complains about the poor quality of film of October which fails to convey the everyday texture of living through Civil War. In the face of the most terrible privation, it was as though a festival was going on; he speaks of a feeling of weightlessness. The name of the game of survival is bricolage and bricolage is a form of laughter.
The reason I prefer the word "challenging" re Zizek's mention of grass-roots democracy is to do with practices such as "wheel-barrowing", increasingly practiced through 1917, when workers "symbolically" wheeled out their managers, sometimes dumping them into manure heaps. More serious stuff increasingly practiced through 1917 included locking out administrators, and seizing control of enterprises, and worker control of management personnel salaries, but also constructive actions to keep supplies of production goods and fuel moving to keep industries running. A brilliant piece of agitational bricolage was created on the first of the large Free Gaza demos, when the crowd became very dense (one of Canetti's criteria, Georges Lefebvre's also) in Whitehall as people slowed and stopped to show their contempt for the pro-Israel stance of the UK government by hurling their shoes at the Downing Street gates - A shoe mountain, eat your heart out dublya. We laughed and laughed, in delight and without malice, and loved the chuckers. Police faces were interesting.
The bourgeoisie is not at ease with demos, something to do with the smell. The solemnity of the Grand anti-War demo was that of people performing an unpleasant duty, as with the Countryside Alliance's celebration of green wellies, a frame of mind similar to the French bourgeoisie's going to the polls with their noses pegged, to vote Chirac and keep Le Pen out while avoiding the unpleasant smell. I don't think they, the liberal middle classes, get it, that these events are learning machines by negation, one of whose signal lessons is that multifarious crowds overcome, in a vortical movement, their automatisms and role-playing in Vaneigem's sense of the socially initiated person who pushes papers...has a couple of drinks, eats his steak, goes home, goes to bed, makes love, falls asleep, his life reduced to a pathetic sequence of cliches, and poses chosen more or less unconsciously from the range of dominant stereotypes, the satisfaction from a well-played role in direct proportion from his distance from himself, to his self-negation...One of LR's contributors let slip that his credentials as revolutionary-theoretical thinker are bogus despite interesting tour of Lenin's reading of Hegel. He referred to Lenin's philosophical focus on the long term strategic objectives of the global socialist revolution rather than devoting his time to political wheeler-dealing to achieve immediate tactical advantage for his party. "Political wheeler-dealing" is the conjuncture, the sovereign site and union of theory and practice. Antonio Negri: The event of real knowledge is produced, in all probability, precisely at the point where the restlessness of time reveals itself as power; such a moment, Kairos, the instant in which the archer looses the arrow, leaning out over the void of the time to come - is not to be bracketed off as political wheeler-dealing.
Reloading Lenin, recall Althusser's flight of rhetoric: the dazzling insistence, in the practical state, a theoretical concept of capital importance: the concept of the "present moment" or "conjuncture". Lenin surely requires his total orientation towards and immersion in the class, the delivery of the text at the absolute point of application.
Re the Working Class: Lenin is the label for just one terminal of the revolutionary battery. The other is the working class. In its traditional embodiment, it is from a revolutionary -theoretic point of view obsolete as a social formation. It has been disappeared, regarded abstractly or as beneath contempt, and disaggregated. Its members are fat, stupid, thick, violent, fascist, chav, decayed, white, deviant. They smoke, eat rubbish, skive, watch telly, rob, brawl, lie, stab and are poor. They are unable to resist harsh ideological categorization or institutional injustice. The class's real problem however is first that its virtues - kindness, lack of egoism and greed, greenness (think about it), sense of community, inventive approaches to recycling (not trivial) - are studiously unsaid; secondly it can find no way to connect with a fully incubated, resourceful and potent new working class, seen variously as the global multitude or in historically persistent flight from labour discipline and control (in the latter version, waged and salaried labour is the tip of a labour iceberg and a superficial, recent and temporary stratum of generalized labour) Its definition is amorphous and largely suppressed. It awaits specification. The Lenin project I fear shows no great interest in these various branches and - surely the Leninist problematic - how to speak of or to them. Perhaps its proponents don't need it, but surely theory does. Perhaps it need to take a look at interestingly intersecting updates by Negri and Moulier Boutang, one possibly the inversion of the other.
On the Outside - it continues to amaze that, implicitly or even unconsciously, the OUTSIDE DOES NOT FIGURE IN THE LENINIST DISCOURSE. As though every issue connected with this and, by ideological contamination, every other subsequent revolutionary project is an internal matter, obviously a great ideological convenience. They are barbarians, nothing to do with us, noxious beings in an hermetically sealed capsule. An astonishing blind spot, by-passing some extremely ticklish matters. Might the emergence of actions and apparatuses of repression, illiberality and compulsion (of which we ourselves be it said are not free, domestically speaking) have something to do with what we have done to make it so?
I would challenge anyone apt too easily to answer no, to wait until they have read carefully the voluminous protocols of the 8th and 10th party Congresses (at least) on militarism and trade unions respectively, the diplomatic and personal papers of the likes of Wilson, Lansing, Balfour etc relating to Russia published by the UK and US, as well as Lenin's Collected Works and Sborniki, also Trotsky's war dispatches and personal papers, to scan the issues through say 1919 of The Times, Le Temps and Pravda - rather than various approved and in almost in every case massively reductive and ideologically skewed secondary accounts (taking account of some to some surprising revelations offered by the likes of Mayer, E H Carr, and yes Orlando Figes when he is doing real history) - do this and only then consider that answer, please, if only to resist the Denkverbot and the pensee unique, forcing a daft choice between neoliberalism and the Gulag
This process of internalization of conflict and the manufactured detachment of the Outside is actually not unusual. Iraq has been endlessly picked over in terms of religious frictions and factions, and even now issues of oil contracts are obscure as is the permanence of the Green Zone. Zimbabwe is referred to with no mention of the IMF, the World bank, UK funding of anti-state media, or the conditionality of corporate funding. The Democratic republic of the Congo is pictured as riven by dark tribalism, with no mention of copper, gold, Belgian corporations or Rio Tinto - not to mention the foregrounding and privileging of Israel's defencist pleas, obliging her to cordon off the Gaza Gulag in present conditions.
Here and admittedly in unsatisfactory fashion, I quote extracts from another article on related matters (even though I am not happy with some of its formulae) to illustrate the violent impingement on just one, albeit historically primary process, exemplary in its imbrication of cleavages.
<< E H Carr characterizes 1919 as the "Year of Isolation", when what had "appeared as a civil war waged on Russian territory...now took on the shape of a war between the revolutionary Soviet regime and the principal Powers of the capitalist world", true in terms of diplomatic exclusion, blockade and starvation, but with implosive and invasive traits obsessively posted in early March, four months after the Armistice :..arrival in Estonia of transports from England with arms and munitions...Greek troops operating in Russia...yellow murderers to exterminate Europeans...Fighting in Transcaspia. Indian troops in action...Unrest in Spain...Spartacists well established in Dusseldorf...Bloody encounters on streets of Munich...clashes on streets of Budapest...[all news headlines of the first week of March 1919, from The Times, Le Temps or Pravda]....Captain Nicholas Roosevelt reported on 26 March, five days after the self-declaration of the Hungarian soviet republic, to the American Delegation, for the US Field Mission in Budapest, that "Hungary had defied the Conference and allied herself with the Bolsheviki, [offering] an encouragement to the Germans which may be disastrous", Germany, a nation state albeit (or because) reduced, in danger of succumbing to the emergent points of singularity (soviets), burning holes in the stretched fabric of its territorial continuum.
This was a quarrel of spaces, political aporiai. Reporting to the 8th Party Congress, 18 March, Lenin, answering charges of militarism and declaring himself "not against war in general", only the imperialist kind, stated with emphasis, that "we are living not only in a state but in a system of states", accepting the hard consequences of the premiss - a consolidated linear space ("territory"), equipped potentially at least with "metrics": of costing, output, command structures, and norms, rejecting an uncentred space of neighbourhoods, an issue having an urgent military translation - "partizanshchina" versus a regular (Red) army. Other reactions to the same problem are readable - in the anxieties of a secret pro-forma questionnaire issued at that same time to British Station Commanders, instructing them to ascertain whether "troops in various areas [will]respond to orders...to preserve the public peace,...parade for draft overseas, especially Russia,...assist in strikebreaking; also whether [internal or external] agitation is affecting them,..and whether soldiers' councils have been formed..."; in Woodrow Wilson's memorable image, from the minutes of the first meeting of the Council of Four on 20 March, holding the ring while British and French heads of state imperially picked over the maps and clauses of the Sykes-Picot secret understanding of 1916: "The Turkish Empire...was as much in solution as though made of quicksilver" - spatial involutions feared by all, inviting mathematical expression: "if, discarding the distance function of a metric space, we were to retain the systems of neighbourhoods of the points of the metric space, we obtain what we shall call a neighbourhood space."
The military issue was overriding at the 8th Congress. Did Congress see partizanshchina as the authentically revolutionary vehicle of bottom-up creative initiative of workers and peasants, democratic to its core, or as warlordism, random criminal gangs of ne'er-do-wells with opportunistic, fantastic or unstable loyalties? And was the systematic recruitment of military specialists (spetsy, ex-Tsarist officers) into a regularized (albeit Red) army a drift towards zubrezhka - Full Metal Jacket style drilling -, or an indispensable means of defending the proletarian revolution? The debate - prolonged, tense, often subtle in dissolving antinomies, precariously balanced military exigency and revolutionary consciousness.>>
Another investigation has led to the conclusion that postulating an Outside pressing inwards leads to a reconstruction of the concept of subjectivity and its spaces, which leads by a quasi-mathematical procedure to a model of subjectivity collapsing to a dimensionless point. This seemed to have a dual aspect: as a point of pure exteriority and as an infinitely folding and refolding entity. Leibniz's definition of Monad allowed a very suggestive modelling of this entity. This was undertaken in relation to the poet Khlebnikov, who in his writings intermittently offered himself as a subject of this kind, defining himself as a place-time point streaming through time. This is now published in a collective study of Khlebnikov's late work, The Boards of Fate ( Moscow, 2008), written precisely at moment when the even notional autonomy of an Interior subjectivity was under strain, as geopolitcal space (of Empire) was undergoing non-linear transformations, as the Russian empire imploded and the Bolshevik un-Empire moved along an outward trajectory. (For another time) (2.55pm 2 Feb update Didcot power station workers walkout.)
And so on...