Wednesday 29 May 2013

Danny Hayward

Would it be useful to organise ourselves? In what way? e.g. form a faction; produce agitprop material; create a website; produce collective statements for website, perhaps weekly.

1.  The question demands that we think about what organization means for radical politics under present conditions. It also demands that with think about what other organizations we relate ourselves to. 

2.  Presently there is no existing revolutionary structure in the UK within which artists could form themselves as a faction. There is no mass organization whose aims and objectives could guide the political activity of cultural producers or that could provide for them a politically sympathetic audience.

3. Wherever a mass organization structured around workers' material interests reaches a certain size, it is compelled to become a cultural, as well as a strictly “economic”, institution. As an intelligent historian wrote of the early period of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, “The greater the masses of workers that joined the party, the less the party could afford to be content with their merely political and scientific enlightenment, that is, with a vulgarization of the theory of surplus value and the theory of evolution.”

4. Since the adoption by the SPD leadership of a militaristic stance within the German Reichstag, the arrogation by the German state of the various social services discharged by the revolutionary party, and the failure of the Spartakus insurrection, no revolutionary party in Europe has attempted at a wide scale to provide for the “exterior” or material needs of its membership. As revolutionary mass organizations became institutions organized principally around ideas, the requirement to codify, to integrate, and to dogmatize their programmes grew more and more pressing. As their jurisdiction was restricted to the interior lives of their members, revolutionary parties come to resemble state churches.

5.  In the twentieth century avant-gardism has understood itself as the scourge of the vulgarized and barely credible dogmas of the mainstream of radical politics. By scourging dogma, avant-gardism mimics the ideological activity of a mass revolutionary organization still undivested of its original principle of unity in the material co-ordination of human needs.

6.  At the same time, avant-gardism misprizes the forces active in determining the relationship between the “interior” (intellectual) and “exterior” (material) needs. Wherever avant-gardism misprizes these forces and takes up arms against dogma, it conceals the conditions in which dogma is capable of being overcome. The division between “interior” and “exterior” needs is conflated with the divisions between mind and life, speaker and audience; on the fault line between speaker and audience, there opens an abyss into which can be thrown unending quantities of “non-dogmatic”, “critical”, “autonomous”, or even “linguistically innovative” or “post avant” writing. At the bottom of the abyss you can see the White House.

7. There is a basic continuity between the increasing importance in revolutionary theory of the “essential” doctrines of Marxism, on the one hand, and the real transformation of class relations to the detriment of the propertyless, on the other. As the global proletariat is deprived of the means to order - or even meaningfully to regulate - its own conditions of life, its theoretical representatives become increasingly concerned to sophisticate the categories in which its “essence” is expressed. With each new exaction placed upon the proletariat by capital, the exact definition of the proletarian “essence” undergoes a new upturn in significance.           

8. By attempting to turn outwards too quickly, revolutionary poetry - or any other species of avant-gardism - overlooks the basis of revolutionary inwardness (its stewardship of a dogma) in the external development of class relations. In these conditions, the replacement of the dialectic between material needs and intellectual life with the flatly straightforward opposition between ideas and audience, in which ideas are only distinguishable on the basis of whether they are doctrinal or apostate, jaundiced or deranged - this replacement does not permit a supersession of existing limitations but only pushes them outwards into an empty auditorium. The first practical suggestion I would make is that we talk more concertedly about finding the resources to formalize among ourselves a newly intensive process of association, a much more regular process of small group affiliation, of collective critical research into new developments in shared languages whose potential to be bent out of shape or ground into fragments is perhaps the only general basis for our intimacy. Our friendships have to be staked on this; our larger organizational commitments may yet be renewed by it.

9. Unlike the categories of political economy, poetry will never be essential to a correct definition of capitalist society. In this sense, it will never need to exist - but it is exactly in this sense that it has something to contribute, because it is only by an internalized conflict between dogma and that which dogma defines as inessential, only in the contusion of dogma, rather than in its concealment, that a revolutionary politics - truly a politics, rather than a geometry, or another species of theoretical fatalism - might begin to revive itself.   

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