Aftermaths and the Ashes of flyers: Between Communization and Accelerationism
As I write this a few weeks after visiting Oaxaca and watching students march through the main corridors of the Spanish Colonial streets of Ciudad de Oaxaca counting to 43 in chanted Spanish. On the walls of the Cathedral near the Zócalo once can see stencils for the Popular Front and “Viva Zapata” in bright green. The 43 are for 43 dead students killed under orders of major of a city in nearby state of Michoacán with the local government who worked with both the highly militarized police and the narcotics cartels. In the following months, several mass graves were found. Other nacro gangs, aid workers in the local church, and all sorts of unidentified locals and probably refugees from similarly violent cartel actions in central America. There is a lot of chanting.
This is a locus of political struggle, but the economic struggle here is clear too. Yet, as I visit the villages around Ciudad de Oaxaca, I mean people who are subsistence artisans. According to locals, aside from one microloan charity, no credit is available for small amounts at interests lower than 75%. Many of the men and women from one of the villages, Teotitlán del Valle, make handmade rugs. It is the entire skill set of the village and most of the people specialize in it. The rugs sell from 700 to 4000 Mexican pesos, roughly between 50 and 300 USD, and each of the weavers can be said to be doing well if a family of five or six sell four rugs a month. In another village, I meet people who are small agricultural workers—who in earlier and perhaps more honest times are people we would call peasants. A woman makes tlayudas, thick, crispy tortillas made with lime and corn as Zapotec and Mixtec women have done for generations. The oldest women we met speaks very little Spanish. They spent 5 to 8 hours making around 150 fresh tlayudas and make less than 50 pesos for their labor, not counting the costs of production.
These students in Oaxaca are not talking about these people, but they are thinking of them. Mixed in the graffiti, one sees indigenous languages and appeals not only to Zapatistas in Chiapas as well as Zapata’s faction in the Mexican revolution. The tlayuda maker, however, does not think about this much. She thinks about feeding her daughter. She worries about the fact most of the men had gone to the states and had only begun to come back. She worries about her family’s cargo, the community duty that indigenous under take in their autonomous relationship to the Mexican federal government based on census government. While this seems ideal and progressive, it is also a way for the federal government to under-invest in rural communities of Southern Mexico.
These experiences are not uncommon for my life here in Mexico, and yet Mexico is a country with a fairly high GDP. (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/mexico/gdp ) This growth is not going to the large majority of Mexicans. Three years prior, I took a flight from Seoul to Washington, DC, and then to NYC. I arrived in the dead of winter, and in NYC, stayed at the apartment of a communist in Brooklyn who wrote primarily on arts and the historical development of communism. We met a few German tourists interested in Adorno, and I spent time drinking with members of the anarchist group Crimethinc, and several Trotskyists. As a Southern with a state school education, I felt class envy with a few of those around me, but the class-character was mixed as there were also high school dropouts at the table and a young woman who come to New York after studying French but was trying to make it as a writer. My life was much less precarious than hers—while I have saved up for the trip by my work in Korea for a year and half, I could afford transcontinental flight to see my closest friend. All of us were a million years from the even communities I had seen in Appalachia where there were houses in the mountain without electricity in the 1980s. Now, many of those communities don’t exist as they are second homes in the mountains.
In 2014 in Mexico, I am watching the boiling over of a long simmering political struggle, but one that is not likely, as of yet, to be successful. In 2011, in New York City, I was visiting the lecture circuit around Occupy. It reminded me of a visit I had made to Seattle in 1999. My first real trip to the West coast of the US, and one that I used all the savings I had to go on. I wanted to see the anti-WTO protests, and my memory of them at 18 is unclear. It seemed remarkably off focus. Occupy had already broken its occupation by the time I had gotten to New York, but it still had a lecture schedule. Koreans were asking me about Occupy. Occupy Seoul and Yeouido, a park in the financial district of the city, had a few marches, been endorsed by an ailing Kim Jong Il, and morphed into an rather nationalistic and isolationist anti-free trade protest. The focus, while legitimate, had moved from inside Seoul to a foreign power. Something more exciting to hate, but also something no one could do much of anything about. This was the context of someone in NYC telling me to read Gilles Dauve and another friend asking me to read Nick Land’s pre-dark Enlightenment work.
One of the most fascinating things about that visit in reflection is that I had now watched three major social movements die in my life time. In 1999 to 2003, in my home state of Georgia, was the Sea Island protests. Despite anger of the rightward turn of the country in after 9-11 and despite a growing anti-war movement, Sea Island’s protests were muted and remarkably controlled compared to Seattle’s “battle” (which was more just arrests and minor property damage). The 30th G-8 summit was not even mildly inconvenienced. Several of the friends who had encouraged me to go Seattle and even planned to go Sea Island decided at the last minute to go to see a Suicide Girls burlesque show in Atlanta.
At the time, a few activists I met in anti-war protests, organized around antiwar.com received me at Sea Island. A few of the more liberal members had been signers of the Euston Manifesto, which they encouraged me to sign. I did. For a while I abandoned “the left.” The left, however, was focused largely on the anti-war and opposing Bush. I remember conspiracy videos in circulation nearly constantly. Many friends who defended what I know believe to be oil-rent social democracy of Venezuela also would talk for hours about how 9-11 was an inside job. We discussed and poorly practiced polyamory. We lived in a giant house. We drank too much whiskey. I moved from writing ‘zine articles about politics and reading commentaries on US foreign policy by Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Aviva Chomsky to reading economic reports, the Volokh conspiracy blog, books on Spanish magical realism and constructivist pedagogy. I wrote on marginal religious movements instead of marginal political ones.
My life was de-politicizing. From an embrace of “left” liberalism to an embrace of anti-war paleo-conservatism to just not caring. My friends prattled on about Kerry then Obama. I just shrugged. I realized that I had misunderstood the locus of the political struggle, but I couldn’t put my hand on where.
Then 2008 happened and I was a public school teacher.
The conflations of time here are deliberate. There is no reason to write in two genres like this without making a point. My life and the context of that life was normal, middle class. The kind of life that a first generation college-educated white-skinned dude would have in many ways. There are instances about my identity that are atypical, but the development and the relationship to this kind of left-wing politicization is actually fairly standard. The zooming in and out of such a narrative is important: my subjective experience was not of my choosing and yet I also saw the attempts at several social movements in a decade and a half despite myself.
By that trip to New York in the aftermath of Occupy, I wanted answers. I had read Marx, Delueze, Hegel, Foucault, Adorno, and the rest in college. I had read critical theories of law and education stemming from that. I had been talking to colleagues in my graduate program about these theories solely in terms of fiction. It was back of my cognitive apparatus, but not part of my material conditions. Even in libertarian-esque period of my life, I still quoted Adorno and sometimes read Mao.
I went through many theories trying to contextualize the failure of the left. I remembered the Cold War but was not of it like my parents. The failures of liberal polity to successfully undo even the most problematic elements of the post-9-11 state seemed to me to be reflective of prior “left-wing failures.” I wanted to understand my own failures. In a way, this was still part of a foolish attempt at self-discovery through the discovery of the failure of the “left.”
Duave in one sense and Nick Land’s early work served as an intervention. I went back through all the communist works I have read and read them in a historical context, and then I tried to put my experience of 1989, 1999, 2004, 2008, and 2011 into a context beyond a string of years or a self-gratifying narrative, part of which you have just read in brief. In the context of my work in education, I was now privy to seeing things that only resonated with me prior as abstractions, reifications, mere statistics.
In a sense, I want to personalize my point in other to depersonalize it in the instance of the telling. When one struggles to contextualize the failures of the left, new theories of identity both as individual and in relationship to the entire social sphere emerges. In this kind of unveiling of pox marks in the ideological structure of liberal capitalism, the tendency to move towards more and more abstractions not only makes sense, but is probably a natural progression of thought. Why does anyone wonder why theories such as accelerationism and communization would come of such a historical context? Those two theories, along with a few other ones such as third-worldism and stand-point theories, emerge to explain not only the failures of what was prior, but also the failures of the instance of those ideological creation. That Lyotard and Deleuze were developing accelerationist in a specific context while Camatte was beginning to develop ideas leading toward communization makes before sense. In the confusion of Mai ’68 resolution without a shot a fired, such theories are natural developments from particular historical conditions mixed with a push to understand things beyond a mere fidelity to certain events. In the ashes of the fliers of Occupy, is it any wonder that both tendencies are being rediscovered, reinvented, and have increasingly cache among activists and formerly partisan Marxists within Occupy and the European anti- austerity movements?
Every idea has consequences because of its origins in social history as much as its own answers to those historical problems. If that tortilla maker going to get answers to feeding her daughter from #accelerate or from Endnotes? Probably not. Yet as a note in a totality of social relations, she is very much one of the implied subjects and her class identity as well as her identification or lack thereof makes that part of the social subject both communization and accelerationism are trying to address. As we address these ideas, we should keep that fact in mind.
(to be finished in the book if it is ever finished)