Just a quick note to let y’all know that Worlds in Motion, our article for Turbulence, has finally been approved. All i’s dotted and t’s crossed and it’s here. That’s me with the Engels beard by the way…
The whole Turbulence experience has been a bit, well, turbulent. We wrote the bulk of the article at the back end of last year so it seems a bit stale now, altho it will improve with age, like a fine whine. But one of the tensions that’s become apparent right at the end has been the one between identity and affinity. I’ve just had a look round the back and seen that Keir’s brewing up a blog post on this very subject (“Two sugars, mate! You got any biscuits?”), so I don’t want to steal his thunder. But on the day that this happens, it does raise a lot of questions about the whole identity/affinity thing. Strange things can happen very quickly, and sometimes we find ourselves without the tools to deal with new situations. Which can itself be brilliant.
One of the oddest moments at the recent global meeting in Venice was the session on the Middle East. When Musthapha Barghouti finished speaking, the hall erupted into a massive standing ovation. We were sat at the front and it was weird to turn round and see 700 people on their feet applauding & cheering a government minister. It’s the same with Sinn Fein: one minute we all seem to be moving in the same circles, the next their preferred channels of communication are with Labour ministers. Some of this relates to sovereignty and governance. But part is also to do with how identity politics exploded in the mid-1980s. At its worst, there was an unofficial scorecard operating, a hierarchy of oppressions. Where did this come from? From below, from that drive towards autonomy and self-determination. But also from above, as parties struggled to construct a new constituency: the Labour Party with the GLC, the left with Marxism Today. Of course the miners’ strike fucked a lot of this up, as old-fashioned class war returned to the streets. And it also helped draw a line, behind which another constituency could develop: ‘You want identity politics? What about class, the biggest identity of all?’ But it’s daft to see one as good, and one as bad. Some of the most productive moments come when identity rubs up against affinity. And that was what was interesting about the Barghouti ovation. Right, I can see you’re getting bored, so we can return to this when Keir’s done his post. Class dismissed.

In the news today is the discovery of a tape recording of the 1970 Kent State Massacre. It reveals that the National Guard troopers who shot four students dead were ordered to open fire. This is important because it shows a degree of deliberation in the massacre. The story kept to at the time was of spontaneous shooting triggered by panicking soldiers. The event had a huge effect, triggering a national student strike in the US involving university and high school students. The slogan of the protests was: They can’t kill us all.

I’m not reporting this naively believing that revealing the violence of the state, the iron fist in the velvet glove, is enough to save us but it does make me wonder about the mechanism that triggers this sort of phase shift into new levels of violence and how they relate to wider shifts in regimes of power. This relates to a debate we’ve been having in the Turbulence collective on the idea that this century has seen a strategic deployment of generalised war as a means of overcoming the failings of neo-liberalism.

Of course the Kent State shootings make you think of the turn of the century shootings of demonstrators, first in Gothenburg and then in Genoa. I remember thinking about Kent State on first hearing about the Gothenburg shootings. I was reading a newspaper report flying back from a Football tournament in Germany. I turned to a friend (little Matt) and said “Christ they’ve moved to bullets so quickly.” I wasn’t so much shocked at the level of violence but how early in the cycle of struggles the police had escalate to that level and were soon to tip over to a murderous one.

Apart from the speed of the escalation the other shocking thing over the next few months was that this new hyper-violent attitude towards protests appeared to be imposed right across Europe and North America at the same time. It was like a globalised race to the bottom in power relations, with Third World policing exported to the west. This wasn’t just the use of guns but the early and undiscriminating use of violence against protests seen most comprehensively at Genoa. Over the next few years it begged the question of the relation that this militarization had with the Neo-conservatives’ open strategy of imposing war – not as a continuation of politics by other means but as a means of managing society.

That last phrase is a bastardisation of Foucault in “Society must be Defended” and perhaps the problem might make a little more sense if we conceptualise it with the dispositifs of power he examines. The exemplary violence against the protests and then the imposition of war both show a movement towards sovereign forms of power. Of course Guantanamo bay fits with this and taken together might explain the popularity over the last few years of the concepts of sovereignty, and exception as the foundational outside of sovereignty, that Agamben has reintroduced.

I’m interested in the idea that there is a link between exception and excess. Negri criticises Agamben by saying his lack of social movement experience leads him to start with the structures of power over, constituted power. This makes him unable to make the leap downwards to connect it with the animating constituent power. I agree but think that Negri (who started life as a constitutional theorist) also starts with Empire and not with Multitude.

I’d argue that the state of exception could be produced out of a moment of excess. That the fear and uncertainty caused by moments of excess can provoke recourse to sovereignty from above and political sadness from below. The latter is a term that Collectivo Situationes use to describe the drawing back and closing of off potential experienced after the high point of struggle in Argentina. It refers to the temptation to allow the re-establishment of sovereign power because of an inability to cope productively with uncertainty. Then again, of course, neo-liberalism contains it’s own precarity and so carries its own potential to resort to sovereignty. Perhaps the narrative runs like this:

The first ‘heroic phase’ of the movement of movements is an attempt to escape the dispositifs of neo-liberal governmentality. The moment of excess within the movement runs into a sovereign response which is then reinforced by the excessive counter-sovereign violence on 9/11, which provides the neo-conservatives with the big opening they take advantage of to escape neo-liberalism’s gathering problems. This raises the idea that exception is produced by the challenge of either a constitutive moment of excess or sovereign violent excess. Perhaps it doesn’t matter which one of these it is from the sovereign’s point of view.

Of course all concrete assemblages are mixed. There are many different strategies being followed at any one time. They may just exist with a small circle of cranks until their time arrives, just look at the history of neo-liberal ideas. It’s important to resist a conspiracy view of power, where great men sit in a room and decide the time is now right for 10% more sovereignty in the mix. From the angle outlined above the mechanisms of power still seem obscured and slightly mystified, we can’t make the leap up, but the important thing is to retain the point of view of the movements. The problematic from this perspective becomes: how can we defend our moments of excess from sovereign violence without ourselves finding recourse in the sadness of sovereignty?

A lot of us running around talking about politics don’t even know what politics is. Did you ever see something and pull it and you take it as far as you can and it almost outstretches itself and it goes into something else? If you take it so far that it is two things? As a matter of fact, some things if you stretch it so far, it’ll be another thing. Did you ever cook something so long that it turns into something else? Ain’t that right? That’s what we’re talking about with politics.

From a 1969 speech by Black Panther Fred Hampton, lifted from here. It seemed right to move it to a post in its own right, not just because it’s ineffably cool, but also because it’s right about so many things.

Keir’s great blog about be(ar)s, rupture and the ‘Thou shalt not kill’ song has really got me thinking… about what’s radical, what’s revolutionary and what is not, about rupture and even about ‘directional demands’. And about context or perspective. And about all that non-linear stuff about small actions potentially have very large effects.

I’ve been reading Massimo De Angelis’s new book, The Beginning of History. Massimo talks about value practices:

those actions and processes, as well as correspondent webs of relations, that are both predicated on a given value system and in turn (re)produce it. These are, in other words, social practices and correspondent relations that articulate individual bodies and the wholes of social bodies in particular ways. This articulation is produced by individual singularities discursively selecting what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ within a value system and actually acting upon this selection. This action in turn goes through feedback mechanisms across the social body in such a way as to articulate social practices and constitute anew these ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ or, given the nature of feedback mechanisms, to set a limit to these ‘goods’ and ‘bads’. To talk about value practices is therefore to talk about how social form, organsiational reach, mode of doing, modes of co-producing and relating, forms of articulation of powers, are constituted through social processes.

I’m thinking that actions which appear to be within a capitalist logic, the value practices of the market, may in fact take us outside it, if only marginally. This tiny crevice, this little fissure or rupture, may then give us a foothold to step further outside, it may be a crack large enough to ease a crowbar into, it may spread and join with other such fissures, as John Holloway writes in his ‘Breaking Time’ piece.

So ‘Thou shalt not kill’ may be just another song for sale on the market, but the references to Crass and Minor Threat perhaps take us fleetingly outside market relations. And this is perhaps the potential of the ‘fair trade’: money, commodities, etc. are all produced/circulated, but participants are stepping outside the market logic which values only lowest cost of production as a ‘good’. But I think that how one views (or values) these, depends on one’s perspective. Compare the social centre in Venice which offers a three-course meal (doubt very much if it’s vegetarian), let alone vegan, for 10 euros (or a kebab, if you’re in a hurry) with the Common Place in Leeds, where such a menu would be considered a ‘bad’.

So, from where I’m standing it looks like Keir’s lying on the left side of the bed — along with David Essex, Bryan Ferry, et al. — but, no doubt, from where he’s lying, it all looks very different.

Back in 1974 Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood and Bernie Rhodes collaborated on their famous T-shirt: “You’re going to wake up one morning and know what side of the bed you’ve been lying on!” It carried a list of hates on the left side and loves on the right. It’s a ranting manifesto dispatching the likes of David Essex/Bryan Ferry/Salvador Dali/Sir Keith Joseph and his sensational speeches and embracing the likes of Valerie Solanis/Jamaican Rude Boys/Coffee bars that sell whisky under the counter/Kutie Jones and his SEX PISTOLS/

1974 was a moment that cried out for rupture and polarisation. The possibilities of the movements of 1960’s had already began to close up, solidifying into a new orthodoxy just as stifling as the dreary post-war world that 1960’s veterans thought they were leaving behind. Social movements aren’t distinct entities but selections from a continuous dynamic. They are like waves in a continually changing substance. Human subjectivities, that were fluid in times of great motion can suddenly solidify into clag unable to struggle free of itself. It’s at times like this that new ruptures can take hold, a moment of hard stratification to break free of the clag and light out into new territory.

One of the mechanisms used in these moments is a dip into the past to pull out some new antecedents but is all this still possible within the ever re-devoured remains of pop culture? In fact we need to rework that for it to even begin to make sense. Seeing as pop will eat itself as a means of things staying the same, as a means of homestatic reproduction, can it eat itself unhealthy? Are there any antecedents that when eaten will make pop feel a little queasy? That might break pop out of its self-referential reproduction and reconnect with wider social movement.

Fucked if I know, but perhaps we can detect signs in the latest incarnation of the “side of the bed” T-shirt – Thou shalt always kill The song by Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip currently getting airplay and column inches and scraping into the top 40.

Here’s the lyrics, print your own shirt:

Thou shalt not steal if there is direct victim.
Thou shalt not worship pop idols or follow lost prophets.
Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Johnny Hartman, Desmond Decker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barret in vain.
Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a peadophile… Some people are just nice.?
Thou shalt not read NME.
Thall shalt not stop liking a band just because they’ve become popular.
Thou shalt not question Stephen Fry.
Thou shalt not judge a book by it’s cover.
Thou shalt not judge Lethal Weapon by Danny Glover.
Thall shalt not buy Coca-Cola products.
Thou shalt not buy Nestle products.
Thou shalt not go into the woods with your boyfriend’s best friend, take drugs and cheat on him.
Thou shalt not fall in love so easily.
Thou shalt not use poetry, art or music to get into girls’ pants. Use it to get into their heads.
Thou shalt not watch Hollyoakes.
Thou shalt not attend an open mic and leave as soon as you’re done just because you’ve finished your shitty little poem or song you self-righteous prick.
Thou shalt not return to the same club or bar week in, week out just ’cause you once saw a girl there that you fancied but you’re never gonna fucking talk to.
Thou shalt not put musicians and recording artists on ridiculous pedestals no matter how great they are or were.
The Beatles – Were just a band.

Led Zepplin – Just a band.
The Beach Boys – Just a band.
The Sex Pistols – Just a band.
The Clash – Just a band.
Crass – Just a band.?

Minor Threat – Just a band.
The Cure – Just a band.
The Smiths – Just a band.?

Nirvana – Just a band.
The Pixies – Just a band.?

Oasis – Just a band.
Radiohead – Just a band.?

Bloc Party – Just a band.
The Arctic Monkeys – Just a band.
The next big thing – JUST A BAND.

Thou shalt give equal worth to tragedies that occur in non-English speaking countries as to those that occur in English speaking countries.
Thou shalt remember that guns, bitches and bling were never part of the four elements and never will be.?
Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

Thou shalt not pimp my ride.
Thou shalt not scream if you wanna go faster.
Thou shalt not move to the sound of the wickedness.
Thou shalt not make some noise for Detroit.
When I say “Hey” thou shalt not say “Ho”.
When I say “Hip” thou shalt not say “Hop”.
When I say “he say, she say, we say, make some noise” – kill me.
Thou shalt not quote me happy.
Thou shalt not shake it like a polaroid picture.
Thou shalt not wish your girlfriend was a freak like me.
Thou shalt spell the word “Pheonix” P-H-E-O-N-I-X not P-H-O-E-N-I-X, regardless of what the Oxford English Dictionary tells you.
Thou shalt not express your shock at the fact that Sharon got off with Bradley at the club last night by saying “Is it”.
Thou shalt think for yourselves.
Thou shalt always kill.

Of course some of these are not objectively, revolutionary more in the nature of directional demands but it was the mention of Crass as ‘just a band’ that peeked my interest. Clips of the song’s video on youtube have kids asking “who are Crass?” “who are Minor Threat?” on the coments.

I suppose the Crass brand is ripe for re-discovery as an authentic outside to commodification (pay no more than £3.50) but it’s only when you check out the facial hair on the video that you discover what’s really radical about Scroobius Pip.

If there is hope it lies with the beards.

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Sorry about this, but we’re trying to tidy this blog up so it’s a bit more useful to the random passer-by (we get loads of those). In the past we’ve used this space as a way of composing our collective thoughts. And when it works, it works really well. But for the last couple of months we’ve been working on an article which we’ve just submitted to Turbulence (as soon as it’s finalised we’ll post it here) and this blog has become a little too introspective. So we’re now setting up a private room, round the back, where we can tinker with ideas without imposing on you lot too much.
And then hopefully this space can become a little more productive, a little more interactive, and maybe a tad less painful.

M is for Amir Oooh! v1 E

Here’s a thought that occurred to me after Sunday’s meeting (Keir will be posting notes from that later). It’s not very well articulated but it might prompt something more coherent…

At the meeting a few people talked about ‘an extended we’ as one of the signs that we’re winning. What does that mean? I think it’s to do with feeling connected – not emotionally, figuratively or psychologically, but really connected – to other people, so that when things were kicking off in Seattle, say, we felt as one with those who were there. Or rather we were as one with them – this isn’t a subjective thing.

All this seems airy-fairy (or just plain bollocks) because it’s hard to avoid talking about it in subjective, individualist or idealist terms, even though we’re trying to get away from all those dualisms. Maybe another way into this is to think again about social movements as processes not things. It’s counter-intuitive because it means thinking about ourselves not as ourselves (individuals bound up in revolutionary politics) but as a collection of processes. The moments when we’re winning are those when we can see social relations moving. At those times our movement isn’t a movement of us (activists vs others) but a moving of social relations, an unfreezing of all that is fixed.

Maybe there’s a link here to Marx’s idea of the proletariat being the class that abolishes itself as a class (as opposed to those who worship & defend the most fixed and static notions of what class is, as a thing). We felt we were winning because we weren’t ‘we’ any more (sorry, this makes a bit more sense if you read it out loud); maybe we’d even abolished any idea of a ‘we’, because there was no outside, no ‘they’ (this relates to a comment made the other night which questioned the whole idea of winning because the way we’d framed it suggested someone else would be losing). This moving of social relations is like the breaking of an ice-floe: it has no edges or boundaries (“this group are in our movement, this group aren’t” etc), or else the boundaries are always in motion; the moving ripples through everywhere – absolutely everywhere.

Of course when this happens, the ‘equilibrium’ of everyday life is shattered. Capital likes to present itself as fixed, immutable or natural (it depends on an endless production of novelty, but it is the same old same old). So maybe that’s one of the things about winning: it’s when we (an extended ‘we’) reveal the social relations of capital as partial, temporary.

I’m half-way through a new book by one of the founders of Class War. It’s pretty un-fucking-putdownable (see, it’s already having an impact on the way I write), mainly cos it captures that whole sense of potential that existed in the mid to late 1980s. Some of this might be pure nostalgia, but it was a pretty mad time. And one of the things that was mad about it was the seamless way struggles flitted back and forth without any of the sniping or prejudice that set in later. There didn’t seem to be any outright contradiction between any of these struggles – anarcho-punk squatters, anarcha-feminist peace campers, animal rights activists, striking miners, wannabe rioters etc. Sure there was loads of tension, some of it pretty aggressive and intense, but all of it was productive. Resonance produced movement: we seemed to be going somewhere (probably related to the fact that we were often literally going somewhere: demos, marches, Stonehenge, Henley…).

OK, one of the simplistic counter-arguments to this is that we were young, and everything seemed possible – it’s that feeling you get as you lie in the grass on a summer’s day and stare up into the sky. A slightly more sophisticated response points to the importance of dole culture. Both points are pretty valid. And there’s also a sense that getting older is, as much as anything, a process of accretion – things stick to you (jobs, homes, families…). We slow down.

But I’m trying to fit this in with the stuff we’ve been thinking about recently, especially the relation between the intensive and the extensive. It seems to make sense. Part of the madness about Class War then was that it was immeasurable. Literally. Groups were springing up all over the place calling themselves ‘Xxxx Class War’. And this whirlwind was making the intensive field visible. A bit like throwing flour onto a kitchen surface so you can see where the mice are going. The process is nothing new. It’s exactly the same as punk, or the Paris Commune or blah blah blah. I like to think that the ‘Behold Your Future Executioners’ banner had some small print somewhere which read ‘Behold the Unruhe’. Compare that to the bureaucratic machine of the Class War Federation with its delegate meetings and conference proposals…

Of course it’s easy to drift into thinking that intensive=good and extensive=bad, or that it should be a one-way relationship. Cold water in the face brings you back to this awful place… But this awful place is where we are. The intensive might be the realm of change but that change happens in the real, which involves the extensive. So Bone’s book has made me think again about ‘stuntism’, as way of trying to direct the movement from extensive to intensive, i.e. trying to use the normal mechanisms of capture (especially the media) to re-open the field of possibilities. Which was a pretty fucking cute tactic – just so long as you don’t call it a dialectic, OK?

And if you really want to get down-and-dirty philosophical, this caught my eye:

‘Thesis of Ontological Excess’: Being is more than one and prior to one. The preindividual is in excess of its actual individual expressions. Being is ‘problematic’ (or differential) and individuals are only ever temporary resolutions of these tensions; tensions that continue to subsist even after actualization. This thesis of excess is thus counter to any ontology based on lack.

I don’t claim to understand the finer points of it, does it fit in with relation between extensive and intensive?

I’ll stop here cos I’m rambling (something else to do with age).

Notes from 20 November 2006

Some questions and problems.

First, measure. How do we *know* when we’re winning? We can set targets, but what sort of targets? How can we measure achievements within social movements? How *do* we measure achievements within social movements? Because we do always measure. We say: “Oh, that was a good meeting.” Or: “That thing we did wasn’t very effective [whatever ‘effective’ means], let’s try something else next time.” At Gleneagles, we celebrated the fact that we tied up the police for ages and prevented the Canadian delegation from reaching the summit at all on its opening day. This was an index of our success. This was measure.

But how useful is this type of measure? Measure must always take place in the *extensive* realm, the realm of the *actual*, the realm of what *exists* (De Landa). The extensive realm isn’t unimportant and it isn’t ‘bad’, but it isn’t the whole story; there’s more! How do we ‘measure’ the pleasure of eating apples, for example? In the extensive realm, all we can do is the count the number of apples. But living a life is not simply about calories and nutrition. It’s about freedom and potential. Our freedom and potential to produce, regardless of whether we do, in fact, produce. It may not be apples we actually desire. In terms of exploring out potential, transforming our subjectivities, developing our collectivity… well, these processes are immeasurable.

Here, when we are thinking about subjectivities and desire and potential, we have moved into the realms of the *intensive* and the *virtual*. It’s processes in the intensive realm – the movement of our desires and subjectivities — which constitute or produce the extensive. And the virtual realm is the field of potential, the field of what is possible or what might be possible.

A major problem for us (the second problem or question) is that it’s hard to see these intensive processes which constitute the extensive realm. In other words, we can observe the ‘actual’ world quite easily, but not the underlying movements. We can easily see poverty. We can look at statistics on life expectancy. We can even trace these back to ownership of the ‘means of production’ or the ‘division of labour’. But it’s more difficult to work out what’s going on underneath. This is certainly the case in ‘normal’ situations, when the world is in ‘equilibrium’. However…

… the intensive realm is far more apparent in far-from-equilibrium situations. At summit protests, for example, we can see more easily what social movements are made of. We can see commodities for what they are: dead. We get a sense that this is *real*, this is *life*. ‘Reality’ itself is punctured. Can also be punctured or ruptured by various other means. Not only ‘political’ or ‘cultural’ moments of excess, but also drugs or meditation perhaps. Sometimes, in these situations, things, the ‘way the world is’ – e.g., class inequality – just become blindingly obvious. *But*. Does this mean that ‘reality’, the extensive, is simply a shell? A shell which hides (and protects us from?) the intensive which lies beneath?

Third problem or question. The relation between the extensive and the intensive. Causality is not all one way, from intensive to extensive. Outcomes in the extensive realm do impact on the intensive realm and the field of possibilities. Victory of the Democrats in the US Congressional elections changes things for us. It alters the field in which we operate. E.g. there is no longer any point in organising around a “don’t invade Iran” position. Similarly, now the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank are all in crisis, struggles against these institutions seem to make less sense.

And this brings us back to the question of winning. For the crisis of the WTO and its cousins is our victory. (Remember Seattle in 1999 was a mobilisation against the WTO.) But it’s a victory in the extensive realm. And is this really what we mean by winning? Is it ‘our’ sort of winning? In 1999, these institutions appeared hegemonic, unquestionable, impossible to challenge. (‘There Is No Alternative.’) But we did challenge them. The very act of questioning the unquestionable, of practically imagining another world, is a victory in the intensive realm.

And we have to remember that the WTO is itself only a husk. It is less a ‘thing’, then a rigidified set of social relations. Its crisis means a certain web of social relationships are more fragile. But maybe those social relationships ‘moved on’, to organise the Olympics, for example. Which reminds us that capital also has an intensive realm – which it shares with us; they’re not separate; we are not separate from capital. More generally, the state is one of capital’s extensive faces. States attempt to harness or service capital’s movement. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of social movements versus the state (or state actors, such as the police). But the state just a moment of class struggle (Bonefeld and Holloway). And when capitalist organisations/states are in crisis, it is also more possible to observe capital’s intensive realm. (Really all we are doing here is observing the ‘same’ far-from-equilibrium situation from two perspectives: our own and that of capital.)

Fourth problem/question: strategy. Can you place yourself to even a small degree in the future to think strategically. That is, can we immanently strategise? One example is the climate camp. Can we think about its possibilities, its potential, even if we don’t quite know what those possibilities or potential are? Or can we only think about strategy in the extensive realm?

In moments of excess — when everything is open, when we ask “how do we want to live?” — we just *be*: this is also when we *can* think strategically but don’t have to. This is where strategy becomes just *be*. Ineffability. Vocalising freezes and drags us back into realm of politics. Teleology. Strategy closes off. Victory in the intensive realm opens up possibilities. Burrowing… want more and more, wider and wider, without any sense of direction… different subjectivities experiment in different areas.

Fifth problem (restating the second). If the intensive is the realm of change, with the extensive the realm of stasis, how do we access it? Because when the intensive becomes visible, so does the virtual. And when we glimpse the intensive, we also ‘see’ (sense) connections to other processes/events. Resonance! But resonance is independent of consciousness. So struggles don’t have to be ‘aware’ of one another in order to resonate.

So how can we create right materials — tools or techniques — to facilitate intensity? We have to strategise because we can’t do everything. It’s about what seems possible. And that’s why strategy is different in intensive moments. But intensive states are quite fragile. At Gleneagles, there was resonance and consensus decision-making helped maintain consistency. Political animosity vanished (Zolberg: ‘Moments of Madness’). The bombing of July 7 shattered this state. How can we make intensive moments less fragile? Use refrains. Could argue that consensus decision-making is part of the extensive realm? But using it as a refrain means we can change it, use it, drop it. A tool. It doesn’t need to be formalised. Don’t need to use this tool for meeting with just four people, say. Unless it’s extensive, doesn’t exist for some people.

Final question/problem. How do we stay on the productive edge, which lies on boundary between the void and the extensive realm?

The problem before us comrades is winning. I’m not telling you to go back to your constituencies and prepare for power rather the Free Association has undertaken to write an article for the new journal Turbulence which takes the slogan “We Are Winning” — famously sprayed on a wall in Seattle during the 1999 WTO protests — and ask, “What, actually, would it mean to win?”

In fact more than just the article, several of us are involved in the editorial team and so are each editing a couple of other articles on the same theme.

Anyway this means we need to start using this blog to help us think through the topic. So here’s some thoughts and links. Firstly there’s an article by our good friend Olivier de Marcellus which interestingly suggests that the cycle of anti-summit protests of the turn of the century and beyond has actually won. Stating that: ”it’s a strange but frequent phenomenon – when movements finally win them, they often go unnoticed.” Which leads me to think that perhaps all movements ever get from “winning” is movement. Or perhaps what we get is movement from one problematic to another. Perhaps, at best, ”winning” results in us having new expanded fields of problematics through escaping previous, artificial, limits.

So I suppose what I’m putting forward here is the idea that social movements form around problems. Not in a simple functionalist fashion, as though there is a pre-existent problem that then produces a social movement that, in turn, forces the state or capital to respond which solves the problem. Rather social movements produce their own problematic at the same time as they are formed by them. I think this works in a couple of different ways.

Firstly there has to be a moment of rupture that creates a new problem, one that didn’t fit into the ‘sense’ of contemporary society. Social movements create their own sense, they create their own worlds, they world. That process of worlding is accompanied by an affect which is experienced as close to victory. The “we are winning” of Seattle was a victory full of potential, where the possibilities seem unlimited. “Another world is possible”. This is winning in the intensive register.

But the winning of the demands that accompanied the formation of the movement happens at a different time. Demands are met in the realm of extensity and representation, which is enemy territory. It only really charts counter attacks from the movement’s enemies. A counter attack that sets up new constraints and therefore new problematics. This is winning in the extensive register or the realm of representation.

This introduces the need to distinguish the difference between demands and problematics and to clarify the role demands play. Laclau in his book “Populist Reason” sees demands as the foundation of politics but he also sees populism fulfilling that role. Both of these, of course inscribe the state at the centre of politics. The thing is Negri and the basic income advocates also seem to put demands at the centre of politics or as the basis of movements. I think the do see a different role for demands to Laclau but I’m still not sure what that is.

The point, for me, is that problematics move faster than demands because they are based on how a movement acts. So by the time we have victory on the level of demands the movement problematics have moved on. At that time there isn’t an affect of emergence within the movement but a cramped affect struggling for a new moment of emergence or excess.

Another thing to think about here is that the movements problematics change as the movement moves. So the experience and subjectivities created within the movement provoke a movement of problematics. I haven’t put that very well but think about how second wave feminism emerges out of the experience within the new left. This creates expanded problematics that are a remove away from dialectical struggle where the movement and the state dance around each other.

I think you could argue that there is an autonomous tendency to all social movements, or perhaps a tendency towards exodus, which tries to break with the dialectical relationship within which they are initially actualised. We might think here of how social movements are constantly moving to avoid capture by the state and they way we need to continually insert new moments of rupture to escape the twin apparatuses of capture the state deploys. The first way the state captures is through incorporation into the states logic of sense. Here we can think of how the police tried to incorporate the land squatted climate camp into its own logic of legality by offering to be helpful and just wanting to walk around the camp once. However when you are nice and legal you are within their sense not ours and so we can’t possibly refuse constant patrols. A new rupture was forced by the tension between the two logics. Accompanying this machine of incorporation is one of repression. Both strategies force us to move in response to them and these responding moves can sometimes be productive for us and sometimes not. However our moves need to tend towards exodus away from this dual embrace that the state forces on to us. Sometimes this means that social movements need fresh ruptures and new starts

To finish lets go back to the idea of extended problematics. This might even translate to winning on the level of scale needed to think through such unfashionable words as revolution or even liberation. After all we’re not religious we’re anti-capitalists. Even if we could imagine a post-capitalist society we would still need to constantly ward off capital as an apparatus of capture as well as deal with a whole series of new and old problems unrelated to capitalism or at least not articulated through capital. In fact one of the good things about the question “What does it mean to win is that it operates on several levels of scale.

Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.