New Criticals

This, as history has shown, was an optimistic analysis. It is true that capital’s numerous contradictions have not in fact produced credible international workers movements, and the many (here unexplored) contradictions internal to the working class itself augur against the success of the incremental, second option. Despite great and growing crises, a sober analysis of workers’ movement will give the lie to blindly optimistic prognostications.

In light of the contradiction between the optimistic construction of what may have been expected and our actual historical development, a variety of theoretical positions have been articulated and taken up. On one extreme, there’s been a return to passive-optimism articulated in current “Communisation” theory. On the other, no less extreme, there’s been a (rarely explicitly articulated) nihilistic passive-pessimism: it is too late, the moment of choice expressed in Socialism ou Barbarie is behind us, and the best bet is the enjoyment of what is possible while there are still enjoyments to be had. In direct opposition to both versions of passivity there have been active constructions as well. The first, what is sometimes called “Insurrectionary” adopts an active nihilism and through disobedient acts of disruption and destruction. The strategy is to maintain a purity in opposition to deeply problematic structures of domination. While spectacular and subjectively thrilling, the strategy seemingly has no coherent vision for a future. Finally, there actively constructive visions. These proceed via a tremendous diversity of organizational and prefigurative politics that accept the burden of incremental develop while, at their best, using an analysis of the contradictions of capital to inform their practice. The practitioners proceed locally but with unblinkered awareness of knock-on effects: one eye on victory and the other on broadening solidarity.

This, I’d like to say, is the alternative.