How Many Orwells Per Minute?

The Domination of Pro-Revolutionary Politics by the Middle Classes.

“We are all low, we are all weak, we are all belonging to capital… this wretchedness is the true origin of our thoughts against our conditions.”

In October of 2011 a letter authored by Ta Paidia Tis Galarias (TPTG), a communist group associated with anti-authoritarianism in Greece, was published on Libcom dot org, Anarchist News dot org, Infoshop dot org, Indymedia, and Revleft dot org. The letter features extensive research on the profession of a member of Aufheben, a communist group in the United Kingdom, and the complicity of their profession in police intelligence. Specifically, public order policing. And so essentially, long story short, there has been something of a connection made transparent between a communist group in Britain and police intelligence. Not a connection of collaboration, mind you, but a connection as a consequence of the class composition of the group.

But this is simply a basis for what I am about to say, rather than the object of this entire article of writing. My concern here really is the class composition of the pro-revolutionary milieu. An academic, who is a communist, has now had his professional role discussed extensively by other communists and this discussion very quickly became a scandalous shitstorm.[1] Why? More importantly, why is it that there is a proliferation of people whose role in the social order does not generate a proletarian experience, and that does not have a place in class struggle, in a political scene that is very much concerned with the proletariat and that does claim to have a place in class struggle? But this is a difficult topic because it requires knowledge of other people in the milieu. Knowledge that I largely do not possess. I am not going to make the claim that most pro-revolutionaries are middle class, since I don’t actually know. And so, I would like what I have to say here to be taken as an invitation to contemplation and opening up the subject for more active discussion among all those concerned by these matters, rather than as a strong case meant to be absorbed by the militants and solidified into a tendency for others to surf on. I’m brainstorming here. Much of it is rehashed from what I have learned by listening to older communists who have been familiar with this for a long time. What I am going to say is that class composition among radicals does actually matter. Yes, class hierarchy does make an impression on individuals that has a fundamental power over their intellect and lives. Yes, professionals in education firms are middle class. Yes, the middle class does appear to have a dominant place among local scenes of pro-revolutionaries.

In the case of this one man, his work on emergency situations and people’s psychology in those circumstances did contribute to other academics’ efforts to modify and aid the intelligence abilities of police agencies. He did actively consult with police on the work of his colleagues.[2]This is, in a nutshell, a role in the social order which is obviously structured towards providing a defense of the state apparatus. Whether or not the man directly and consensually contributed to police intelligence isn’t at issue. (For me, I mean.) What’s at issue is that he, like everyone else, is complicit in the social order. (Everyone else.) But he is complicit in a specific way. (Context, context, context.)The working class is complicit, very generally, in that it generates the accumulation of dead labor and in doing so establishes, materially, the interpellation and domination of the living by the dictatorship of a capitalist environment. (The pre-given structure of our existence. The real, material objects that provide the groundwork for our second nature—of a life dominated by capital.) But the working class’s relation to the world is one of radical alienation, of the real domination of their lives by productive forces; lives entirely subjected to whatever the economy feels to be in the cards, with no way to release the pressure, and no way to have a decisive capability to rearrange the way that pressure is applied and organized. Or perhaps only through ways that are often conceded only after enough of us are dead or near so. Watch the Left applaud the color of the earth after our awful fights for the smallest reliefs that only become another struggle a generation later. (That was an outburst on my part. I do that sometimes when writing. But I was just generally referring to the awful way progressivists point to reforms that have been conceded through struggle and hardship and say, “We are winning. Slowly but surely.” Class struggle is a really horrible thing at the heart of it, and people shouldn’t have to fight so hard and desperately for the smallest reliefs from immediate pressures only for those reforms to become a burden or even another struggle for future generations. That’s often my feeling about those sort of things. But that’s the way it goes. “A to B leftists” just peeve me, is all.)

I digress. The structure of their experience of this complicity, the nature of it, is one of uncolored working activity in subjugation to machine components—whether figuratively machine-like social protocols or the actual machinery of the factory in tandem with those protocols—and productivity. The proletariat is a hideous, mute body “electric-prodded into existence”. There is no mechanism in the structure of the proletariat’s subjectivity to ensure either an actual capacity to define or defend the state apparatus or to have their intellect touched by an ideology that gives their role the appearance of Justice and Reason. In other words, for a clerk or a Postmen, or whatever, the belief of their role being of undeniable social value is neither integral to their role nor ensured by the structure of their role. There is no, “I am doing good, sensible work. I will stand up for my good works. I’ll even bite the bullet if I have to. What will civilization do without me?” I mean, maybe in extraordinary circumstances when the state really pulls out the stops to stoke the spirit of the Nation would wage-laborers feel an obligation towards something like an institutional bias for being a productive person, but otherwise it will just be superfluous ideology generated through the random variables of domination. The machinery doesn’t care if you believe you’re a just or intelligent figure in civilized society. You just need to clock in and fill out your hours. You’re a unit of mechanical power. A person made in the image of a machine. The closest you’ll come to being socially valued is when you’re a human interest story or a face on propaganda.

Not so for the middle class. First, these people are working with guarantees that ensure loyalty to their social role. (If not their bosses, whether political or work bosses.) They have fixed pay, and other related methods of compensation to ensure it’s about more than the hours. They have something more important to work for.[3] They are charged with laboring over the human anvil, rather than the anvil of the machine. And so they are subject to the ideological characteristics of their role even when outside of work. The ideology is already there, though, it just needs bodies to animate it. For instance, education is an unquestionably protagonistic institution in Western societies. (Which is to say, all functioning capitalist societies; and that accounts for pretty much all seven billion of us.) Nevermind that every corpse in the Somme was an educated corpse, education frees you from the misery of superstitious beliefs and the dogma of a low mind. And who could deny doctors a place of leadership? They are some truly righteous men with invaluable skills. Lawyers? Teachers? Engineers? Police? Surely these people are necessary for a civilized life? They are natural leader material.

Influence and Partiality.

Let’s touch on the topic of this Aufheben guy again, and the nature of some responses to the scandal by other communist groups. I’m going to rely on what another has to say here, for the moment, as this will require the experience of someone who goes back to when this scandal became apparent if anything more than polemics is to be learned: (Like, back to when I was in elementary school.)

… Even so, it supplies further proof of the partiality of the Libcom group, the way it allows the hounding of individuals it doesn’t like, the way it defends individuals it does like. And the argument of Aufheben that we should not focus on gossip but concentrate instead on ‘unprecedented’ class struggle is completely unacceptable.

The whole mess revolves around: a. their speaking as if they were part of the class struggle, which they can have no direct knowledge of. Instead they should restrict themselves to ‘objective’ critiques of general political economy, i.e. bourgeois reflections upon it; b. that the leaders of the most radical groups within the working class movement as it used to be called, are almost entirely middle class and the sons and daughters of the middle class (not only this, but they are also fatally compromised in this role by the nature of the jobs that they undertake).

We discussed many of the implications of social management roles with pro-revolutionary consciousness on libcom.[4] The point in the prison guard/teachers thing was not that teachers and academics were not proletarianised (as all managers and professionals are thus processed) but that there is in all such roles a structural element directed towards policing/‘guarding’ of the continued running of the institutions of the state apparatus. That is to say, these people in their intellect are structured in such a way so as to perform in such a way. When this structuring is brought into pro-revolutionary consciousness, a certain procedural way of doing things, a certain instituted logic, comes into play. The fact that these people dominate the milieu, the fact that they and not us are taken as ‘serious’, is precisely a result of the gradated interpellations within class composition. In other words, it is not an accident that such people dominate, and that they do not reflect critically upon this domination.

Our advice to them, was not that they should give up their jobs, but that they should give up their role of domination within the milieu. We fully accepted that there could be nice teachers, police advisors, prison guards and so on, but that was not the point. It was about what such roles did to the way they conducted the rest of their lives that is problematic.

We sincerely asked them to dissolve their organisations which we, rightly said, unconsciously perpetuated institutional forms of domination in the informal relations of those seeking social change. We were met with a cloud of ridicule that was constituted entirely from out of the perspective that uses institutional bias as its base, and which used the accumulated sensitivity to that bias within the milieu as a means of perpetuating their rackets and their personal standing within those rackets.

At the time of our initial engagements with that milieu more than a decade ago, we were (it may seem strange to say) very ‘militantly’ constituted. Although we advocated ‘doing nothing’, this radical anti-politics was actually directed at them doing nothing, it was advice given with good will, in the hope that they would not continue to reproduce this sneering superiority which has become Aufheban’s (and its equivalents such as TC) stock in trade.
Our sincerity, of course, appeared ridiculous next to the bad faith ‘sophistication’ which is the milieu’s lingua franca. These people behave as if they are experts in class struggle, they act as if they can speak for the proletariat, but their only qualification for doing so, is that they are literally qualified to do so. The tragedy is that they use this qualification as a means to filter out, or otherwise actively suppress, those proliferating thoughts which have not emerged from the same tradition. It was by means of this network filtering mechanism that we and our ideas were moved from the centre of the milieu to its margins. Later we found out that we actually preferred this marginal life, but that is another story.

By contrast, the point for us, was to operate on a principle of ‘do no harm’…we were happy to admit our limitations and that we were not hooked into truth or the real movement, etc., that is we were happy to do so, if everyone else also accepted their own frailty and [that they] did not actually know what they were talking about.
But I am pleased at least that this is now public knowledge, not for the individual concerned, who I feel sorry for, but because the class composition of these groups and milieus is now more exposed… and the networks by which ‘influence’ is maintained within the milieu is also becoming more transparent.
————
So there it is. As I said, this isn’t some kind of theory trip I’m going on. (Although it is an important thing to think about and establish as theoretical content.) This is stuff that needs to be talked about, because damn if I’ve ever come across a real discussion about this problem until just recently. I mean, maybe it happens but I’ve never encountered it. So this is a big deal for me.

When TPTG’s open letter was published on Libcom dot org the group who moderate, finance, and run the site immediately pounced on it as a smear job. The next letter they blocked altogether, with the explanation being that they were waiting on another response from Aufheben. (Note again that this scandal did not drop out of the sky. The knowledge of Aufheben’s middle class membership and the consequences of this had been known for a decade or more among their immediate milieu, and the scandal had been playing out for quite some time. The Libcom group had been working on the problem for six weeks prior to its exposure on the Libcom website.[5]) Granted, they did have explicit rules about publishing materials that named people within the milieu and gave their personal information, but making the excuse of defending impartiality is a bit flimsy when you’ve already made decisions informed entirely by partiality. Afterwards, while the Libcom forum was upset by the scandal, the Libcom group basically made these arguments in defense of Aufheben and their man: 1., that the person wasn’t actually aiding police agencies but was merely being made out to be guilty through nonconsensual association in authorship, as it would appear to be common among academics to do so; 2., that the guy’s “knowledge production” has no real value for police agencies as police agencies never pay obscure academics any attention, despite evidence that the man had actually consulted with the review boards of local police to put in recommendations for his colleagues.
Here’s an interesting comment from someone on Libcom (not formally associated with the Libcom group):

“As an academic, I would refuse to do what J has done. I would just be uncomfortable doing it. But you seem to want to single out academics rather than treating them as non-academics. There are plenty of people forced to do jobs that would be obejctionable to the movement; e.g. working in munitions factories, heck even people working in the software industry could help develop tools to surveil or de-skill workers. Where indeed do we draw the line? I [am] not inclined to condemn people for the jobs they have (apart from the obvious stuff like cops, but even then in certain countries (like Egypt) I wouldn’t condemn all cops), after all it’s not like it’s free to choose how to survive.”

Ultimately, the most important point here is that pro-revolutionaries—whether bourgeois or proletarian—need to make a point of speaking from what they know, and about what they’re living. Our experience should be a fundamental factor of our social critique. We should be honest about our different orders of wretchedness. In the Libcom discussion of the scandal, the person I’ve quoted above did make a point of addressing their experiences as an academic, but they went about it in a strange way where morality and politics of blame were used in an effort to eliminate any distinction between being an academic and being a proletarian. For them it is easy to level the gradations of the class hierarchy into a spectrum of moral extremes. “Seems like folks view of academia is the one that existed maybe 30 years ago. Being an academic now means being precarious, being stressed and working way way too much for too little money.” These communist academics will make a furious defense of their role through emphasizing just how precarious their work is, and they will use their working conditions to make an inclusion of themselves in the proletariat.[6] Academics and their associates in education firms are often burdened with stressful work, and many of them, like teaching assistants and such, are paid wages and can be near the poverty line. Yes, this is very much true. But academics and Co. are paid to publish and explicate materials that are meant to have an effect on national ideas and the techniques of the state. Eventually, the social role of their work will meet its purpose. In their belief, academics are no longer people who have voluntarily chosen to become experts of the dominant culture and experimentators in the methods and sciences of the social order, but are mere workers in the factory conditions of knowledge-production and this official knowledge appears to be just a neutral product that could never be detrimental to class struggle or people in general. Knowledge production isn’t releasing colorless, odorless byproducts into the air that go unnoticed by the peoples populating the Earth, though. It is not an industrial product or a service job. It is intended to fulfill a real function in capitalist domination at a level of social elevation beyond cleaning toilets, doing mundane accounting and computing, or sowing together jeans for hourly wages. Even the police on the ground don’t have the same decisive effect on national police strategy as academic workers like the Aufheben member does. The man’s work as an ethnographer and his studies on crowd psychology have already been referred to by police in the locality of Manchester, England. One must assume other police agencies have noticed this research.[7] His work is also featured as a source on the Wikipedia page for Crowd Manipulation.[8]; And this isn’t even to mention that his academic colleagues are actively engaging with police agencies to reform their methods. (See the sources on the Aufheben scandal for more information.) Already this man, who is supposed by his colleagues and fellows to be just a reluctant, small fry academic who has no real influence in the world and couldn’t possibly contribute intellectual fruits to the state, has had his works realized in influential places as a direct result of their purpose. (Rather than an unexpected turn towards a strange attraction to communist academics by those in power—an accidental outcome of our information rich world.)

If everything being generated in education institutions—or any institution—is ultimately not capitalistic in its social properties, then what is it? To what social context does it adhere to? Surely, the signals of the revolutionary extremes that would facilitate a decomposition of domination cannot inhabit institutions established by the ruling class and grow outwards from their conduits? (E.g., academics.)

Many professional apprenticeships demand unpaid labor in order to accumulate the experience of being an important person with a higher consciousness than other workers. What proletarian works for free except in the most brutally oppressive circumstances? Or rather, what proletarian can positively self-identify with their activity when not being renumerated for the sale of their labor-power? The middle class does have the capacity to voluntarily work for no addition to their living reserve or paid less than a living wage because social managers and the careerist ideologues of the dominant culture are constituted of a social material with different qualities and impressions than the working class. What proletarian offers consultation for the decision-making of police agencies? The level of mystification by those who would deny the importance of social roles in our ideas—both in real impressions on us as individuals and our consideration of them in our critique of domination—is silly. And it is the mystification that is more of a point of contention here than what these people are. It’s their weird attraction to including themselves in categories of experience and roles they are not a part of, and the domination of our political scene this generates that is the most problematic. This is a problem of representation, fundamentally. What other relation could it produce other than a complex of representative politics?
You cannot make “class struggle theory” if you’re not a proletarian in the class struggle. You can’t “organize” class struggle in that circumstance. This is anarchist basics, right?

“Considering,

That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves; that the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for … the abolition of all class rule…”

Nineteenth Centuryisms aside, anarchists have a responsibility to account for what’s true about their lives. If we don’t have truth about the impressions made in us by the social order, about our place in the scheme of things, then what the hell do we have? What are we even talking about, really?

Now that this is out in the open some let’s keep it that way and keep ourselves intelligent and civil about it. A small group of middle class pro-revolutionaries have lost prestige among their fellows. Real social gains can be made here and people can grow from this.

One last contribution from our old man:

“The main points are that people in such positions do harm when they pretend they are workers, and that they are presenting class struggle theory (when at best, they are only capable of commenting on the literature of class struggle from an academic perspective). Mostly, however, they actually conduct value form critique which is what they do best, it is what they have time for, it is what suits their situation. It is fine for them to say that the revolution can only be conducted by the working class, but they must make it clear that they are not part of this class, and that they do not speak for it. Their knowledge is categorically external to its object. These people have no role to play except to abandon the role that they are currently employed in.

These people do harm because they create an identity between their work and themselves. These people do harm because they become spokespeople. They do harm because they promote themselves, or are promoted automatically. They do harm because they manipulate networks of selection, in which more and more people like themselves are promoted as being significant. They do harm because they are deluding themselves about their class situation. They do harm because they have no analysis of how their ideas feed into the state apparatus. They do harm because they have access to a lot more resources than others. They do harm because they reproduce informally the Leninist party/masses dichotomy. They do harm because they argue in favour of an identity between themselves and other workers when they should be analysing what separates them. They do harm because they privilege consciousness as their natural environment without indicating the limitations and specialisms this involves. They engage others as ‘equals’ in arguments and thereby hide the structural inequality of such engagements created by the many years of study they have undergone.

In other words, they do harm because they disguise what they are… not because of what they are.
But all of this pales beside the most important point, which is indicated in this particular case. These people do harm because they function as the synapses in the brain of the state. They are the conduits of official thought. They carry its values even as they attack it. It is through them that the state thinks. It is via them that the state’s ideas are distributed and considered at a higher level. The academic ‘revolutionaries’ such as those participating in Aufheben only think of the subjective thoughts they are generating in favour of revolution… they do not consider how these thoughts are officially constructed. They do not see what their official function is. They do harm because, during a social breakdown, in moments of social stress, it is through these people who are also conduits that the state will attempt to restore order and ‘negotiate’ with the forces of destruction. This has literally happened in this case, because the academic has attempted to think mediated crowd control methods. But we see it perpetually in Libcom where sensible arguments are being made in favour of the education system, prisons, psychiatric institutions, factories and so on. Because of their education, because they are employed as social managers, these people are habituated into thinking sensible, reasonable solutions at those very junctures where institutions should be attacked and madness of destruction should be taking hold. They do harm because they can only think recomposition not decomposition. Where they should be thinking ‘overthrow’ they are actually thinking ‘reordering’. Their good thoughts of reform have come much too soon. Their thoughts have not passed through the social body but have only circulated amongst people like themselves within the institutions that they are employed.
In the end, they do harm because instead of thinking extremely, they think sensibly but have no capacity to reflect that that very form of reasonableness, is a mode of power, the mode of power by which the same order is homeostatically restored in moments of crisis. We can all think these sensible thoughts but it is not our role to do so. It is not for us to say, ‘of course communist society will need a police force (but a humane one)’, even if we are conditioned to suspect it. The form of everyone’s thoughts is socially conditioned and reproduces the same relations from which it is generated but the thought of social managers is also mediated and confirmed by social institutions.

The necessary social institutions of communism are not there to be claimed by todays social managers, even in imagination as their imagination, above that of all others, is irrigated by today’s cybernetic systems of control.”

Footnotes:

[1] Libcom forum discussion: Why this article has been removed?

[2] Source: http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=169128419816316&id=179023995454028

[3] During the Wisconsin protests of this year, I was shocked to hear that in the dispute between the teachers’ union and the local government the teachers’ union had already conceded to the pay cuts the state demanded but the teacher’s continued on anyway in alliance with their union to fight the crackdown on their bargaining rights. Naturally this would be the case as they, as teachers, had more to fight for than wages or working conditions. They had to protect their integrity as educators. Nothing wrong with that, I believe, but it’s just an example of the differences in class between proletarians and professionals or social managers.

[4] Libcom forum discussion: “Being a teacher is like being a prison guard”

[5]Source: http://libcom.org/forums/feedback-content/why-article-has-been-removed-07102011?page=7#comment-449443

[6] Libcom forum discussion: Pro-revolutionaries in academia.

[7] http://www.gmpa.gov.uk/d/scrutiny-of-major-events-policing-report.pdf

[8] Endnotes 17 and 22: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Crowd_manipulation

Materials related to the Aufheben scandal:

Aufheben’s Crowd Controlling Cop Consultant: The Strange Case of Dr. Who? And Mr. Bowdler

Cop Consultant Reading List

TPTG’s first letter: Open Letter to the British internationalist/anti-authoritarian/activist/protest/street scenes (and to all those concerned with the progress of our enemies)

Aufheben’s response: Response toe TPTG

TPTG’s second letter: Second Open Letter from TPTG

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“Genocidal Aspirations”

Anarchist International: Genocidal Aspirations

In the course of another thread, I thought the juxtaposition of these two statements was stupefying:

…the genocidal aspirations of primitivism … Although I wouldn’t necessarily say Left Communism has that dark of a history.

It strikes me as a very unsettling intersection of ignorance. Unsettling because in the course of the history of “left communism” genocidal aspirations have actually figured into its trajectory, whereas anarchist primitivists—or, more generally, anarchists with a critique of civilization—have never been responsible for decisions that led to genocide in any way.

Left communism, at its pinnacle, was a wing of the Bolshevik establishment. Left communist organizations like Workers’ Opposition had no qualms with the policies of “social extermination”[1] (Lenin’s words) that were implemented throughout the reign of the Red Terror. There was, in fact, no particularly avid defense of the human beings subjected to punishment, torture, imprisonment, and mass murder by the prominent left communist sect(s). Members of the Worker’s Opposition responded positively to the extermination of the Kronstadt revolutionaries, and participated in it.

The second condition, the vigorous fulfillment of which is insisted upon by the Workers’ Opposition, is the expulsion from the Party of all non-proletarian elements…

Alexandra Kollontai, The Worker’s Opposition in Russia

This is to be expected since the Workers’ Opposition was essentially a trade unionist wing of the Bolshevik party. Their central goal being the reform of the Bolshevik’s (Leninist) management of exploitation, and therefore they were fully committed to the repression of social revolution. They had no real intention of sabotaging the total war of the Bolsheviks.

Apologies for the brevity of this historical exposition, but this is just to serve as a provocation to get an interesting discussion going. Does anyone else find these two statements interesting in respect to their parallax? References to analysis and scrutiny of this subject is definitely welcome so that any ignorance can be resolved. Which is to say, this topic isn’t entirely incidental. I have very much been hoping to have this discussion with anarchists for awhile now. So, again, I emphasize the importance of sources and reference points for study. Workers’ Opposition weren’t the only manifestation of a left-wing among (Russian) Marxists obviously. Left communism expanded beyond the Russian left.

What can account for this parallax view? I acknowledge the large generational gap between left communism today and the left communism of, say, 1923. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that social extermination is an irrevocable element of the recorded history of the left-wing of Marxist politics. The same cannot be said of anarchist-primitivism.

[1] …Those other Lenins cannot be ignored or forgotten, but neither can the Lenin who emerges from the pages of Werth’s text, the Lenin who candidly admitted that the “People’s Commissariat for Justice” would be more aptly labeled the “Peoples Commissariat for Social Extermination“ (Werth, p.62, my emphasis); the Lenin who sanctioned the taking of hostages and the bombing of peasant villages in order to break strikes and compel deliveries of food (from starving peasants) to the state and its functionaries.

—Internationalist Perspective, The Bolsheviks, the Civil War, and Red Fascism

The point of this topic is, as I said, the strange parallax displayed by some anarchists in relation to two political milieus: one of which is accused of having genocidal aspirations without any real basis for the accusation, the other one historically being claimed by organizations and individuals that were complicit in what was an actual instance of social extermination but hardly garnering any suspicion of “genocidal aspirations” at all. What does this mean? What are the conclusions to be drawn from this about the overall character of the pro-revolutionary milieu?

This is very interesting to me.

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Why Aufheben Dumped Critique In Its Dash For Reality

Realistic in form, Socialist in content.

By Belote.
There was never a pressing reason to become an avid observer of Aufheben so I hope the reader will forgive me for not noticing when and why that journal shifted its emphasis from the production of theoretical communist texts to its current preference for news analysis. I conjecture that the shift is a result of the internal split which resulted in the publication of the journal, ‘Endnotes’.

Whatever the provenance of this shift, I think that two articles in Aufheben 17 illustrate both a primary and a secondary problem in the adoption of a socialist realist or ‘committed’ documentary-style aesthetic in Aufheben’s new journalistic direction. There is I understand, a great pressure upon the politically engaged to adopt the established preferences, codes, shorthand sketches, postures, personae, expertise, prejudices, filters, distances, tics, cliches, proximities/distances, assumptions, exigencies, expropriations, intolerances, secret sympathies, old rivalries, phobias, desires and discursive conventions which together construct the Left’s fetish object of the Middle East Question. In order to speak on this matter Aufheben have decided to adopt this construct and thus break from the anti-political heart of communist analysis. In making distinctions between its own politics and the politics of the left within the register of journalism Aufheben fail to identify the politics which joins them together.

The main problem with the journalistic aesthetic from the communist viewpoint is that it explicitly moves into the territory established by the Left and the Trotskyists… this implies an acquiescence to the Left’s political ‘object’, and thus an acceptance of common ground with both their method and their objectives. The Left is understood as seeking to establish a popular politics extracted from current events and sees itself eventually trumping those events through its politics. The left’s conjectured strategic shift is always from protest against conditions to their eventual mastering. It proceeds by developing a line on a political controversy in the hope that it can draw others into its attempt to generalize the argument into a wider politics. This is not to say that Aufheben’s conclusions are not divergent from much of the Left in content.

The second level problem of issue-led/journalistic approach is the increasing incoherence of the analysis which is produced under the pressure to distill the socialist-realist sine qua non, relevance. The form, the function and the requirement of analysis of facts produce an inherited distortion in the theoretical arguments which are intended to frame them. The specific problem in their article on Iraq is that Aufheben draw their weak conclusions from the representations of others. In the case of their discussion on Iraq they must end up basing their political conclusions on the journalist Patrick Cockburn’s friends (a highly dubious inference). It is entirely feasible to draw radically other conclusions to those of Aufheben from the same material (which, perversely, they seem to on to do in their on the British Muslim Community). In that article, they conclude with the passive journalist banality, This all remains to be seen. Ah yes, that old we shall see what we shall see.

But what exactly is the relation between their two conclusions (This all remains to be seen, and the slogan, neither the occupation nor political Islam) and the bulk of the text? How does the text produce the conclusion? It is not at all clear. Their huge investment in an aesthetic apparatus for supporting facts has left precious little resources for communist critique. Aufheben could have easily arrived at the same results without such elaborately detailed histories, which not only do not particular support their conclusions but only relate to them at all by act of authorial flourish. Why then this adoption of journalistic aesthetics? Is it because such are the conventions within the institutions of the Left? Is it because these are the aesthetics of being taken seriously? Is it because, first we must parade our secondhand knowledge and only then may we say what were going to say all along?

Political analysis is never anything more than participation within the established political milieu, in fact it is the means for such participation. The expression of committed opinions concerning political representations, making arguments with a field of other arguments, intervening, these are the means for participating in, and thereby affirming, the political apparatus. It is not possible to form a revolutionary consciousness by means of connecting up political images of the specific with a general theory. The attempt to build a revolutionary politics within the established territory of political discourse only ever results in a representation of revolutionary consciousness, that is a representation which is mediated through, and neutralized by, the political apparatus. The illusions which motivates the Left is that it may dictate terms to capital concerning how it is recuperated… it imagines it can climb above and look down on history and refashion social relations in its image. But there is no ultimate position, no vantage point above it all, from where the melee makes sense; there is only involvement and non-involvement. Aufheben have chosen involvement and are thus dictated to by what they have become involved in.

Below are two paragraphs taken from Aufheben as it considers two aspects of Political Islam and which taken together (or separately) generate a confusion at the theoretical level which is brought on through an over-reliance on the recursive techniques that are found in the news analysis of other people’s news analysis; the confusion illustrates the Lefts eternal problem of political involvement (my emphasis in both paragraphs):

“But as we have seen, the emergence of the British Muslim community depended not only on state-sponsored multiculturalist policies but also on the rise of political Islam. As the wars passes into history will political Islam still be able to hold together the diverse Asian communities? And perhaps more importantly will the ideology of political Islam still be able to maintain its hold over the more militant sections of the young Asian working class? This all remains to be seen.
An account and analysis of the rise of communalism, multiculturalism, and the creation of the British “Muslim Community” under New Labour.
“Yet as Cockburn’s Iraqi friends have told him, the sectarian divisions in Iraq have been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, what seems to be remarkable is that despite the attempts of the militias like the Mahdi Army to impose by force of arms sectarian divisions in Iraq many Iraqis reject sectarianism. With widespread revulsion at the gangsterism of militias there is perhaps a glimmer of hope in Iraq.

There is in Iraq, as in neighboring Iran, a long communist tradition. This tradition may be currently small and marginalized yet it still exists and is organized. Instead of cheer leading the likes of Muqtada al-Sadr and promoting political Islam, it is to these communist currents that we must look and back their slogan “neither the occupation nor political Islam”.
Aufheben’s analysis and history of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army in Iraq.

There are two contradictory implications within Aufheben’s conclusions, above which suggest two different analyses of the role of political consciousness with regard to the capitalist social relation. In the UK, if I grasp the implication correctly, Aufheben believe that the hold of political forms over proletarian activity is strong. That is to say, political consciousness dictates to class position and thereby prevents the coming into existence of class consciousness. By contrast, in the second quote, it is implied that class position within Iraq is the source of skepticism concerning politics, which therefore has a weak hold over proletarian consciousness. Aufheben present two arguments: on the one side, in the UK, politics is the strong force which has the capacity to inhibit class self-activity; on the other side, in Iraq, awareness of the reality of class position undermines the effectiveness of claims for liberationist/sectional interest based politics. But which, in their theory, is objectively decisive in its determination of the other, class or political ideology? There’s only one way to find out…

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