[iDC] Re: Activism

Francis Hunger francis at repertoire-mag.net
Tue Dec 20 18:31:05 EST 2005

Trebor Scholz schrieb:

>Hi Francis,
>I'm not sure if you are still on the iDC list.
>We are currently staging a discussion on art, politics, and emerging
>Your perspective would be interesting.
>Post a new message to <idc at bbs.thing.net> if you'd like to contribute.
>Trebor Scholz
Dear Trebor, dear list participants

In fact I already followed the debate but wasn’t sure if I should step 
in. So let me add my perspective. In case it is monologist, please 
excuse in advance: it may be rooted in a basically different perception 
of what is going on. My perspective is European and German or to be more 
precise: 13 years of so-called socialist GDR and 16 years of a united 
capitalist Germany.

On of the major black holes of current leftist discussion in my opinion 
is the crash of the so called communist system, with its totalitarian 
regimes. I call it a black hole because the current leftist discussion 
is based on the theoretical approaches of lets say Foucault, Hardt/Negri 
and other post-modern writers. (If it is not completely based on theory- 
and intellectual-hostility). Of course it is worth and important to read 
the afore mentioned authors and many others. What is missing is a 
critical re-lecture of Karl Marx and his description of the dynamics of 
work, value and commodity in the Kapital after the collapse of the so 
called communism, a political and economic system that ruled (at least 
in the Soviet Union) for about 70 years.

By stating this, I’m not dreaming of a grand unified theory. Rather I’m 
interested in a reflection on Marx’ writings and what was made out of it 
in the frame of so called Communism. If one asks for new utopias and for 
action and for positive visions, my mind gets filled with the Gulag, the 
Hitler-Stalin-Pact, and de-individualisation which marked the complete 
perversion of an idea that tried to develop a human society without 
exploitation of the individual.

As I understand it, one of the basic misinterpretations of the Kapital 
and Grundzuege is the idea, that work and therefore workers/proletarians 
are antagonistic to the capitalist system. This general 
misunderstanding, that lead to the glorification of work and workers as 
an avant-garde class in the so called communism, denies the fact that 
workers with their work (and the value, which is based upon it) are an 
integral part of the capitalist economy in. To speak of class today is 
the attempt to claim a unity between isolated individuals and an attempt 
to re-establish the idea of a class that is possibly antagonistic to the 
capitalist system.

The revolutionary romantics of the last decade preferably choose 
Gay/Lesbian, Zapatistas or even Open Source Community as the target 
group for their idea of a potential revolutionary class. Instead the 
Open Source community I would see as a project that completely fits into 
neo-liberal processes –networking, lean production, low cost efficiency 
and mostly white, male programmers from the „first world“ who constitute 
a community that accumulates knowledge and social capital. (More on this 
[unfortunately only in German] here: 

This searching for possible revolutionary target groups has in my 
opinion a lot to do with the fact, that a basic criticism of the 
perverted communistic idea has not happened within a major part of the 
leftist movement in the last decade. The unreflected adoption of the 
simplified Marx interpretation from a perspective of work which was 
impersonated in the traditional marxism gets also visible in this 
picture (maybe you know it) taken in Davos: 

I’m not saying, that all protest of the last years is per se 
anti-Semitic (this would be nonsense), I’m just saying that the 
shortening personification of capital bears anti-Semite tendencies. The 
the identifying of „the capitalist“ as exploiter, blood sucker and so on 
in distinction to the “upright worker” leads more or less directly to 
anti-Semitic stereotypes. I am so to say the capitalist – on the lowest 
level – who just at the moment has not enough capital available to 
exploit others.

A question that I would like to ask my grandmother (who was a communist) 
is, why so many proletarians in the 1930s easily defected from the 
communists to the national socialists (as they called themselves). 
Unfortunately she died in 1989, short before the wall broke down and I 
could not ask here because I was to young to even develop this question.

Regarding art lets have a look to the Nazi propaganda movie „the eternal 
Jew“. See: http://www.holocaust-history.org/der-ewige-jude/stills.shtml 
and the film still titled „At the beginning of the twentieth century, 
the Jews sit at the junction of the world financial markets. They are an 
international power.“ Now lets have a look at it to: 
and count the Jews in it. I think, that Bureau d’Etudes has done a great 
deal of artistic work and I’m sure they are no anti-Semites and they 
don’t intend any of their maps to be anti-Semite. The problem occurs 
from the personification of the fluctuating capital which in my opinion 
is major element of the simplification Marx’ analysis.

There are more examples for what I would call the black hole of 
reflecting 70 years of so called communism and the mis-interpretation of 
Marx from the perspective of work. Instead work itself has to be 
criticised. (Cf.: Postone: Time, Labor and Social Domination: A 
Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory, New York and Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1993.)

You already suspect what I would say regarding activism, tactical media 
and so on... Any kind of positive „vision“ in my opinion bears the 
danger of simplification as insinuated above. I rather see a chance in 
the constant development of a critique of the current economic disaster 
called capitalism that surrounds us. Instead of continuing the stream of 
activist action, lets sit back and think and try to learn from history.

And please don’t presume I would think that I would “be on the good or 
right side”. There is nothing like that and I’m very inconsequent with 
being inactive.

best regards from Dortmund to New York


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