I’ve been thinking about my refusal to vote and why I made that decision. It has to do with my growing realization that the entire deck of cards is stacked against ordinary mortals and I simply refuse to have anything more to do with that stack of cards. I voted for Jill Stein as a way of stating that I do not believe in the system any longer.
I’m very disappointed that so few people shared my thoughts. Today, I came across a book that I ought to read but that I probably won’t: Crack Capitalism, by John Holloway. I’ve been a contrarian all of my life and what John proposes in his book rings true to me – I’ve never believed that violence achieves anything – the violent revolutions of the 20th century achieved nothing. Perhaps I’m returning to the view of Karl Hess, who wrote, I think, “revolution, like charity, starts at home.” I’ve never been able to find the source of those words, so perhaps I’m putting words into Karl’s mouth, so to speak. But I do think that his journey through life reflected the truth of those words. John Holloway apparently thinks the same. I’m posting here a small portion of his book, to remind me to read it one day. Perhaps when I retire. It’s a free download from Libcom and it can be purchased from Amazon (speaking of refusing to cooperate with capitalism!).
How I wish I could write a book with a happy ending. That I could offer all the answers. That the good would triumph over evil. That we could close the dialectic, end with a synthesis, arrive Home. That we could say with certainty that history is on our side. That, sure as eggs is eggs, communism will take the place of capitalism. That the darkest hour is just before dawn. That our cracks, for sure and certain, are the harbingers of a new society.
But no, it is not like that. There is no certainty. The dialectic is open, negative, full of danger. The hour is dark, but it may be followed by a darker one, and dawn may never come. And we, the fools who live in the cracks, may be just that: fools.
And yet, fools that we are, we think we can see something new emerging. We are standing in the dark shade of a threshold and trying to see and understand that which is opening in front of us. We do not understand it very well, but we can hear, especially in the previous theses, fragments of new melodies of struggle emerging, see glimpses of a new direction in the flow of revolt. When we look over the threshold and examine these fragments, we look through a lens that is the centre of the argument presented here. In the centre of this book, there is
what I like to think of as an eriugenic somersault, but which a good friend likens more prosaically to turning a sock inside out. The somersault (let us put the sock to one side) consists in seeing that all the forms of social relations are form-processes, that all categories are swollen ecstatically with their own negation, or simply, that each obedience contains a disobedience which it cannot contain. We put at the centre a doing that opens, a doing that breaks through abstract labour and its abstract time. The theoretical somersault is not an academic invention but simply part of a shift in the flow of anti-capitalist struggle: the emergence and growth of the fight against labour as the essence of the fight against capital. In this almost-final thesis of the book, we single out some of the emerging elements of the new poetry of struggle, as suggestions, as provocations.
Stop making capitalism: This is the pivot of our somersault, its centre of levity. The doing that we pitch against labour is the struggle to open each moment, to assert our own determination against all pre-determination, against all objective laws of development. We are presented with a pre-existing capitalism that dictates that we must act in certain ways, and to this we reply ‘no, there is no pre-existing capitalism, there is only the capitalism that we make today, or do not make’. And we choose not to make it. Our struggle is to open every moment and fill it with an activity that does not contribute to the reproduction of capital. Stop making capitalism and do something else, something sensible, something beautiful and enjoyable. Stop creating the system that is destroying us. We only live once: why use our time to destroy our own existence? Surely we can do something better with our lives.
Revolution is not about destroying capitalism, but about refusing to create it. To pose revolution as the destruction of capitalism is to reproduce the abstraction of time that is so central to the reproduction of capitalism: it is self-defeating. To think of destroying capitalism is to erect a great monster in front of us, so terrifying that we either give up in despair or else conclude that the only way in which we can slay the monster is by constructing a great party with heroic leaders who sacrifice themselves (and everyone around them) for the sake of the revolution. We defeat ourselves again, this time by constructing a great fable of heroism and leadership and sacrifice and discipline and authority and patience, a fable peopled by saints – Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa, Mao, Che, Marcos, whoever you like – we reproduce that which we want to destroy. To pose revolution as the destruction of capitalism is to distance it from ourselves, to put it off into the future. The question of revolution is not in the future. It is here and now: how do we stop producing the system by which we are destroying humanity?
Rephrasing the question of revolution as stop making capitalism does not give us the answers. There are very real pressures (repression, starvation) that push us to reproduce capitalism each day. What the rephrasing does is to redirect our attention. It makes us focus first on ourselves as the creators and potential non-creators of capitalism. Secondly, it brings our attention to bear on the ecstatic tension between doing and labour which is both a matter of everyday experience and the space within which our capacity to create another world remains entrapped. This is a sort of glass bubble of bewitchment. If we could look from outside we would see ourselves performing (happily or unhappily) actions that are destroying humanity. We look at ourselves in our own daily routines and our eyes open wide with child-like amazement: we want to knock on the glass and scream ‘stop doing it, stop destroying humanity, stop making capitalism! ‘ But we are not outside, we are inside and participating in the destruction of humanity, aware-and-not-aware of what we are doing. How do we light up our eyes with amazement, how do we touch that half-awareness, that tension, that ecstatic distance, how do we bring it clearly into focus, how do we magnify it, how do we open it up, how do we strengthen and expand and multiply all those rebellions in which one pole of the ecstatic relation (doing) repudiates with all its force the other pole (labour)? That is the question of revolution.