Bring Fire to the Castle: crisis, militant social democracy, insurrection, and existing means of settling disputes

“Es siempre la descomposición del viejo régimen, del Viejo sistema de Estado, acentuado por el impulso de las masas escalavas hacia la libertad, lo que hace surgir y desarrolla esos elementos[1]”. Peter Arshinov, Historia del Movimiento Maknovista

In an era of the indignants, or in an era of riots as Blaumachen calls it[2], what is the meaning of the upsurges that appear to be swelling up from the ground? Worldwide, the unfolding of a crisis is daily ripening, spreading, and moving in ways that have been hard to anticipate. In the United States, we could ask what was the meaning of Madison and the Occupy movements?

We are in the midst of a crisis of capitalism, though one in which it is nearly impossible to predict whether it is the final crisis or merely another cycle of recomposition of existing forces and class arrangements. In such a crisis there is a renewed spirit of combativity amongst the exploited and oppressed. This is not to say that crisis inherently creates consciously organized class formations, quite the opposite. Crisis to a certain extent renders naked the failures of the system to provide any legitimate organization of our ways of living. Yet, as we have seen in the recent rise of the indignants in the Occupy movement, or dispossessed workers in Madison, the system is judged against the existing social relations and organization. Dispossession creates formations aimed against the new recomposition of classes, but in terms often deriving from the previous formations and hierarchies.   Continue reading

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Cultivating a Radical Subjectivity: Against death stars

How is liberation possible? Or alternatively how can it be brought about? It was likely the Russian Revolution or perhaps the failures of the Paris Commune that stimulated the left’s appetite for strategizing on these issues. Faced with possibilities laid in front of revolutionaries, and without a clear path ahead, the appeal of a coherent move, revolutionary judo, is enticing.

A series of versions of the same argument exist in the left today. I call this the Death Star Argument based on Bring the Ruckus’ use of the term to refer to a central point in capitalism that can be attacked and the whole system will fall. This approach is wrong, not simply because of the target or strategy, but wrong in a more fundamental way. That is, it thinks about revolution in a way that distorts our tasks and the possibility of a truly transformative rupture.

The Death Star Argument identifies a key structural point within capitalism, which the whole structure rests upon. If attacked, the theory is that the system will be so weakened, it will be unable to defend itself, and will crumble under its own weight. The classical version of this is the industrial working class. If key sectors of production (usually energy, manufacturing, transportation) can be brought under the control of revolutionary workers, the idea is that capitalism will be so dismembered by the loss of key engines that workers power will emerge. Another version is race in the United States as the basis for all capitalism. Without the compromise between privileged workers and the ruling class, workers would rise up and destroy the system all together. The idea then is to attack white privilege, and thereby undermine the relation that allows class exploitation to exist. The last example I’ll use is the idea that capitalism is built upon unwaged labor by women to reproduce wage labor. Some argue for a death star analysis in that if wages were demanded, capitalism would fall because of the weight of having to pay for formerly unwaged labor in the home. Continue reading