• A Dearth of Organisational Wisdom Leaves Us Political Orphans

  • By Birge Krondorfer | 09 Nov 10 | Posted under: Feminisms , Transformative Strategies
  • The renaissance of Marxism will occur on the soil of “the globally networked brave new world of transnational high-tech capitalism”, and “as analysis, critique, alternative praxis and resistance, … Marxism as a movement will reinvent itself. What we can do, and therefore must do, is to place on the agenda thinking about societal mutations. For this we need real debates. (emphasis B.K.) … It is impossible for us to wash our hands in innocence…. The collective memory of entire peoples precludes this, which preserves like an elephant the injuries inflicted in the name of Marxism. … Nothing is more precious than errors comprehended, nothing more lethal than a compulsion to blind repetition. Disillusioned, we are, in the words of the Manifesto, ‘at last compelled to face with sober senses’ our ‘real conditions of life’ and our relations to our kind. (MEW 4, 456)”

    (Wolfgang Fritz Haug)1

     

    1. The assertion that the (real) left has (had) “Manichean” characteristics and thus legitimised violence against human beings under the banner of a purified world is one of the commonplace statements of liberal features sections. Yet, in this way, the structural violence of the existing order slips out of sight; a collectivised mentality is taking hold that forgets the a/social preconditions of its own existence. “The leading neo-conservative and neoliberal thinkers have hoisted their flags of deregulation and globalisation for over a generation. In the current late phase of imperialism, the social liberties wrested from capital by the workers’ movement after World War II are being snatched away again in the metropolises. In the Third World a gigantic recolonisation process is in motion, which operates, in contrast to classic colonial politics, primarily by means of trade wars (Terms of Trade, IMF, World Bank, etc.), but also no longer hesitates to engage in open war over resources. The former stereotyped enemy of “Communism” has been transferred in the last decade to Islam … and since September 11th increasingly to “international terrorism”. … Under the guise of fighting terrorism, torture penetrates deeper and deeper even into the consciousness of the metropolises themselves. Against the foil of this backdrop, contemporary social Darwinism operates increasingly openly using the fear of shame, and with the direct shaming of a large portion of the population. A third of the population as a whole has been pushed into the ghetto of New Poverty (the jobless, those no longer eligible for benefits, single mothers, the working poor, invalids and many others)”.2 And this social Darwinism is not only a “right-wing” phenomenon, but also a “left” one – in relation to xenophobia and European asylum legislature, among others. It is not only populist social-democrats who share the responsibility for these inhuman politics and position themselves protectively in relation to their national workers; leftist parties not only have this reflex, but their assemblies are also clearly marked by the absence of immigrants, people of colour, so-called minorities of all kinds. “In part it [the proletariat] throws itself into doctrinaire experiments, exchange banks and workers’ associations, hence into a movement in which it renounces the revolutionizing of the old world by means of the latter’s own great, combined resources, and seeks, rather, to achieve its salvation behind society’s back, in private fashion, within its limited conditions of existence, and hence necessarily suffers shipwreck”.3 So everything repeats itself… or does it really? Marx remarked that historical life occurs twice, so to speak, once as a tragedy, then as a farce.4

     

    2. The farce of the present is expressed in the (western) comfort zones in the fatalistic denial of the motif of “being against” in favour of maintaining a world ethos that seeks good for all people. As members of the 1,5 billion winners of globalisation, we thus play along in the “farce”5 of the “full cup” and live in this comedy, that is, “the inner world space of capital comprises … demographically barely a third of the current population of the soon-to-be seven billion people and geographically barely a tenth of land surface areas. …Those who speak of globalisation are thus talking about a dynamic and comfort-animated artificial continent in the ocean of poverty, even though in the dominant affirmative rhetoric it seems that the nature of the world system is all-inclusive. …The expression ‘globalised world’ consequently only applies to the dynamic installation that functions as a ‘life-world’ shell for that fraction of humanity represented by the owners of purchasing power. …For this reason, it is no accident that debates over globalisation are almost exclusively conducted as a soliloquy of prosperity zones…”.6 As long as there is a world market – especially the financial markets –, imaginings of a socially comprehensive inner space of humanity will be obsolete. For the sense of attention [observation] of those greenhouse-consumers (i.e. “us”), who do not want to come to terms with how very embedded their critique is – in other words all those who do not believe in the fatality of “inherent necessities” and hold that a lack of alternatives means political destruction – every fiction of abstract progressiveness must be regarded as de facto (self-)deception, if it is meant seriously: “Some aspects of the values of the Alternative List (the predecessor grouping that gave birth to the Greens in the early 1980s) more specifically some of the demands for a meta-life, whose relation to the world would be forgetting immunity, preferential towards the alien, inclusive, unselective, symmetrical, ‘duty-free’, and compressible and reversible as needed, can occasionally be realised in the real, but only those for which the first list shares responsibility … immune, self-preferential, exclusive, selective, asymmetrical, protectionist, incompressible and irreversible. …As long as the left plans to remain or to become an earthly life, it will have to come to terms, despite all love of symmetry, with these stipulations, unless, of course, it prefers an affair with eternity…“.7 It must not be a sometime or a somewhere that concerns us, but we must begin instead with ourselves. As Marx already famously noted, the critique of religion is the precondition for all critique.

     

    3. The only “religion”, it seems, that has remained not solely speculative ideology, but has, on the contrary, mutated into the materialisation of the speculators, is really existing capitalism. All ethics and aesthetics, all forms of intercourse and politics, even all forms of thinking have congealed into the money form.8 The “grand narratives” – under which Marxism has also or even especially been subsumed – are no longer valid; every reference claiming universality has been disavowed. Critique, literally an indicator of crises, has lost the ground beneath its feet and the horizon in its head. Ideas are considered good ideas today if they fit seamlessly into existing circumstances; murmurs of consensus instead of controversy, depoliticised tolerance talk instead of intolerance against postmodern liberalism; this corresponds to the ideology of a global capitalism that knows no social controls. The post-political establishment obscures the depoliticised economy of capital, which represents a fundamental fantasy (denied as such) of postmodern pseudo-politics. The antagonistic character of society is incessantly neutralised.9 The “parentage” of partisanship and political resistance are dead positions. For us orphans: powerlessness, resignation, cynicism, in other words ossified states of emotion and reflection – in the requisite permanent stress of self-optimisation – define the “dead” subject, which “celebrates” its prosthetic resurrection as a labour-consuming individual.10 Trapped in the absolute immanence of capital, orphaned from transcendental securities and ideals, homeless in thinking and in doing: role models that have become obsolete, and utopian mental images that have decayed, generate the private and the political as decals to be consumed at will. Collective proposals, on the other hand, do not correspond to the mirror relationship of individualism and post-liberalism that resides with the archaic principle of “divide and conquer” (in the farce of an evacuated autonomy and participation). Even in the early phase of liberalism it was sceptically noted that liberalism posits the principle of atoms, the individual will; “…everything should transpire through their explicit power and explicit consent. With this formality of liberty, with this abstraction, they do not allow any fixed organisation to arise”.11

     

    4. The term organisation(-al development) is occupied by economic enterprises – all the way to the profitable adaptation of grassroots democracy principles. An outstanding example of this is the “open space” procedure, which has been “gratefully” taken up in alternative scenes after dispensing precisely with those principles. This is also another example of the historical trajectory from tragedy to farce. In the same way, flexible networks are applauded especially by women as an – also political – achievement, but without questioning their “technological idealism”, when there is in fact no longer anything “solid” about them.12 Identity – even if it is one of organised women – is subject today to the suspicion of the construction of exclusionary “we”-formations and is no longer regarded as the expression of a desire for resistance and (taking a) stance. From the perspective of gender difference, however, and integrated in independent feminist women’s politics, the motif and motivation of maintaining a stance has not yet estranged me. And in and with this motivation, it is still strange and estranging, when meanwhile even the no longer narrow-minded left no longer disparages “women’s issues” as a minor conflict and proclaims openness for (feminist, ecological, immigrant, homosexual, etc.) “minority” movements, yet is in fact empirically unwilling to work through the (historical, anthropological-historical) fundamental conflict of genders. To this extent, alternative/leftist contexts still present themselves as blind and deaf to gender and are thus well fraternised with themselves and with all the fortresses of globalised male economy – in thinking as well as in action. This observation does not apply to the quantitative presence of women, which is indeed a given in some leftist organisations, but rather to the fact that women in western culture cannot be a recognised subject, unless it is at the price of masculinisation. Since antiquity, in the connection between the military and the political body the military corps is constitutive “in terms of engendering political spaces and a body politic as a corps of citizens with a correspondingly incorporated ‘soul’”.13 Women are bodily and representationally organically excluded from these spaces of representation, because they do not correspond to the homogeneity of male uniformness. A further reason that woman is an alien body in political spaces is the extrapolation of the female into an “abstractly or religiously transcendental space …as counterpart to the male monopoly of the effective collaborative exercise of power [and this] not least of all for reasons of a projected establishment of unity…”14 This legacy is a perennial (unknown and unconscious) burden. The imagination of the female body deformation that has been in place for thousands of years is the counterpart of male formations. Exploitable mother/matter and the “notion of the amorphousness of female corporeality … is inextricably linked with the historical impossibility of [political] female corporate bodies as figures of formed collective bodies (emphasis B. K.), which all evoke the phantasm of the mob suspected of hubris or the amazon, thus again indicating disfigurement”.15 These phantasm orgies are still empirically painfully evidenced and virulent today in mixed alternative scenes, as soon as women loudly name men’s concrete transgressions; then it can happen that an entire meeting hall reacts completely hysterically. In light of this historical and contemporary injuring of feet, hearts and heads, offers of integration from leftist organisations to a political feminism hardly appear edifyingly attractive.16 As long as taking their ideas of perceiving and shaping the world into their own hands and their own minds is denied to women, it is deceptive to presume that commonalities are taken for granted.

     

    5. Denying and repressing differences thus only confirms the status quo. Yet in light of the barbaric reality in us and all around us, we are simply facing the question of shared insights and outlooks. These are not to be had, however, without antagonistic conflicts in and around a “radical democratisation” (also of the economy).17 Those who do not accept a world as it presents itself today could be advised to self-critically and communicatively (not producingly and representingly) think and speak and radically politically to act. The content and forms involved would first – and starting with oneself as a left organisation – have to be negotiated. Self-reflection, conveying a social-critical consciousness and developing shared paths – this is all urgently necessary: And what is needed for this is the freedom of empty tables that are worth sitting down at – because it would be a start. The core of a “radical democracy” envisioned by current political theories is the assertion of the hegemonically contested “empty middle” that must not be occupied, if it is not to become totalitarian. In other words, no more old boys’ club tables that have always had the knowledge and the power; but a miraculous multiplication of women’s tables for clarifying differences to form and as yet unrepresentable sociability. This may indeed be sometimes particularly universal – in the knowledge that it is so and in the consciousness that, in order to achieve something, there is nothing else we can do in order finally to do something other than supporting white male western economies or exhausting ourselves in pure negation. Instead of the perpetual “counter-part”, an “other-part” would first have to be explored. Otherwise, “with-one-another” remains an endless affair and an impossible task.

    This version is based on the article “Denktropfen auf den Stein der politischen Waisen. Die wir sind?”; published in: Otto Bauer und der Austromarxismus. ‘Integraler Sozialismus’ und die heutige Linke, Walter Baier, Lisbeth N. Trallori, Derek Weber (Eds.), Berlin 2008.

     

    Translated from German by Aileen Derieg

     

    Notes

    1. Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Dreizehn Versuche marxistisches Denken zu erneuern [Thirteen Attempts to Renew Marxist Thought], Hamburg 2005, p. 32.
    2. Emilio Modena, “Demütigung und Gegengewalt”, Widerspruch 46/2004, p. 130.
    3. Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, quoted from: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm
    4. Ibid.
    5. Cf. Oxford English Dictionary
    6. Peter Sloterdijk, Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals, Frankfurt/Main 2005, p. 305 f.
    7. Ibid., p. 413.
    8. In allusion to the Marxist theoretician Alfred Sohn-Rethel and his writing, which is unfortunately hardly discussed now, including Warenfom und Denkform. Aufsätze, Frankfurt/Vienna 1971.
    9. Cf. Slavoj Z?iz?ek, Ein Plädoyer für die Intoleranz, Vienna 2001 [A Plea for Intolerance]
    10. Cf. Gerburg Treusch-Dieter, “Die Abschaffung der Arbeit. Von den Zumutungen der ‘Modernen Dienstleistung’”, Widerspruch, op. cit., p. 5-17.
    11. G.W.F. Hegel, quoted from: Röttgers, Kurt, “Freiheiten und Macht”, Freiheit oder Gerechtigkeit. Perspektiven Politischer Philosophie, Peter Fischer (Ed.), Leipzig 1995, p. 98.
    12. The feminist network of the European Left Party represents this kind of fleeting organisational form – fleeing from internal power issues and external power claims.
    13. Alice Pechriggl, Chiasmen. Antike Philosophie von Platon zu Sappho – von Sappho zu uns, Bielefeld 2006, p. 175.
    14. Ibid., p. 178.
    15. Ibid., p. 179.
    16. Who as a subject wants to integrate whom as an object? Just imagine this the other way around!
    17. Paradigmatic readings about/with partly leftist theoreticians such as Claude Lefort, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Derrida on questions of radical democracy: Reinhard Heil/Andreas Hetzel (Ed.), Die unendliche Aufgabe. Kritik und Perspektiven der Demokratietheorie

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