“What’s love got to do with it?” is a question one may ask when thinking about revolutionary practice. When engaging with radical critique, I often go hard to treat most things post-homosapien as abstractions (or originating from abstractions) which play a role in our alienation or oppression. It is part of the ruthless critique of all things which I have always enjoyed when it came from a member of the Frankfurt School, the Situationist International or other polemicists. It honestly does feel good to negate the life I have obliviously led up until the point when I decided to dedicate my life to revolutionary struggle. This has led me through many paths. At first I would ask many questions trying to demystify my beliefs which still connected me to capitalism, white supremacy, the state and so on and to understand my repressed desires and abilities which have been manipulated by those same constructs. Then I romanticized my new beliefs letting them take over every aspect of my life, and it gave me purpose. Sadness and depression made sense. Conflicts with people close to me took on a more political purpose, and often I only spoke about rebellion or revolution to the point where close friends of mine didn’t want to be my friend or relate to me. I guess I still have a bit of that in me, because without it I fear I may collapse. I balance it more with the lessons from revolutionaries from the past and present: like being patient, understanding, tactful, disciplined, organized, consistent, and clear. I feel like I can only continue developing into a person I want to be rather than ever embody an ideal person as a static entity. Being a revolutionary is not something one could ever be it is something one is in the process of becoming.
Recently on a trip to Mexico, I met a person who showed me a bit of a side of revolution which is totally toxic to life. Knowing him showed me more of the complexity of organizing and the error of pushing blindly towards an abstract revolutionary ideal. A line I really like by Guy Debord in Society of the Spectacle, because it lends itself to interpretation and encompasses a swag of revolution which is iconic, is a wonderful reminder of how to approach radical thought. “… Not a negation of style but a style of negation.” How fly is that!? It might not be much, but it says a lot to me. I’ve been a person totally beyond hyped to hate on everything which exists. I took pride in critiquing the very things I loved and were very important to me at one point. I don’t regret anything. And I think my ability to do what the quote implies by negating style or as I interpret it constantly and indiscriminately critiquing every part of the world as is has actually helped me transform many social relations I once had no hope of seeing transform. But having a style of negation or actually embodying the activity of negation by being conscious of the real conditions present is so much more satisfying. Meeting that person in Mexico helped me see this revolution is not for soldiers, although we are fighters. We are not trying to be people without a life hypnotized by a thing which has yet to clearly define itself. We are the thing and living must be the aim of revolution.
Which finally brings me to why I started writing. I wanted to talk about love and how important it is. Even more important than bullets I would say, the most powerful practice for a revolutionary is loving. And yes it is an abstraction. And yes I am still conscious of the negative form of love our society perpetuates. But it is still something we need and is intrinsic in communal social relations. I’m reading All About Love by Bell Hooks. And I feel like this is the perspective I needed to take loving beyond a thing and further to a true practice. I have the habit of reading too many things at once so I haven’t finished it yet. But I just wanted to put out some preliminary thoughts about the things I’ve been thinking about so far and the moments which drive me to be the person I want to be. I’ve been thinking about writing different things about love. Starting with love being about commitment. It isn’t just about one thing of course. An experience I had last year with someone almost made me say love is about fun! A part of it is, but I think that moment was more about sex. I separate the two for reasons rooted in historical consciousness from reading Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici. I’ve also been reading Foucault’s History of Sexuality which has also been illuminating for similar reasons. Mostly because sexuality is another thing I’ve been doing wrong by accident. But love is such an essential part of life and relationships. It isn’t just commitment, and it isn’t just about fun or sex. It is nessecary to really think about love in revolutionary organizing. Not just critique, or fighting, pero amor. It is the thing which has always been a part of me and will be there all the time even when I completely deny it. But I can’t truthfully deny it at all. We ought to embrace it as part of our reality and make it a part of our style of negating the conditions which have tried to destroy us.
Education is a social practice. When used by the free community, it is the cornerstone of a society where each individual has the tools to be responsible for themselves and the community as a whole can form the ideas and values for its reproduction. When education is in the hands of the state it is a tool for imposing hegemonic rule.
States and capitalists use education for colonization. The history of the United States in Puerto Rico spells out the educational dynamic of conquest. When the United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898, one of the first things they did was take over the schools. Students were forced to speak English and pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America or else incur strong punishment. Military invasions are bound to fail without cultural invasion. Puerto Rican people were forced to adopt the culture of the invaders and adapt to their rule. The education imposed was not for empowerment and self reliance. It was only to destroy the culture which existed, a culture strong in its Spanish and Taino roots which had already established its own independent government in 1898 the same year as the US invasion. The invaders took children away from parents to indoctrinate them with American Ideology and train them as commodities to be exploited. The only skill they cultivated was obedience.
Through many battles and uprisings the Puerto Rican people resisted the abusive education of invasion. In 1930 (source) Pedro Albizu Campos was elected president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. Using the education he strived for and was guided through by his parents and the legacy of other intellectuals before him (Betances; Schomburg), he was able to educate many people on the island about the true history of US imperialism. He was nicknamed “El Maestro” for the many lessons he gave in the town square in Ponce. His efforts led to the Matchetero Strike of 1934 which was very successful and gave workers on the island more power. His continued efforts led to a great degree of repression from US forces. Education in the hands of the people is a powerful weapon and makes rebellion against colonizers’ rule inevitable. No one armed with the knowledge of their oppression and methods of liberation can remain in chains. The US knew this and murdered many Puerto Ricans in the Ponce Massacre (1937), the Rio Piedras Massacre (1937) and in other skirmishes with liberation fighters. They also limited the peoples’ ability to reproduce with the sterilization of Puerto Rican women starting in the 1930’s. And the United States made it illegal to show Puerto Rican pride with the Gag Law of 1948. Puerto Ricans continued to educate themselves and organize against the US invasion which has taken away their means of self-determination.
Today the invasion of Puerto Rico is in its late stages. Many Puerto Ricans are leaving the island and those who stay are suffering more and more from the higher taxes and school closings as a result of the debt scam. Investors who “have bought up island debt at a discount have been looking for a big payday that would give priority to redeeming their investment over the island’s well-being.” Obama’s PROMESA bill only sped up the austerity measures. “In early 2017, the PROMESA board proposed to cut costs by closing 300 schools, imposing 20-day teacher furloughs and shortening the school year by 40 days.” It is obvious Puerto Rican self-determination and freedom is contrary to the wishes of the United States to continue sucking all life from the island to advance its colonial hold over the people and the land.
Public schools are closing and skilled individuals are leaving the island in search of work. Puerto Rico is in a weakened state. Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was recently released from prison for his political work in the 1970’s, also talks about the problem in various speeches about Puerto Rico. He talks about how Puerto Rico is the promised land for the diaspora. A promised land the PROMESA bill aims to take away from Puerto Ricans.
People on the island are still fighting to save social services. Students from the University of Puerto Rico were on strike for 3 months and have been increasing radical measures to fight the cuts. Instead of trying to go through the government to change the laws and budgets keeping a dying system of social services alive, now is the time for the people to create the social relations and hence services themselves. The same way Albizu Campos left Puerto Rico to study in elite universities and then returned to use the tools of his education for their proper use, liberation and decolonization, is the same way all those who have left Puerto Rico ought to return to the island to aid those who stayed to build a free community. This free community would have its own educational projects with the aim of critical consciousness and self-determination for each individual as well as the community at large. It would rebuild the capacity for medical services, construction, agriculture, the arts and so on. In every community around the world it is important to create our own free structures for communal relations and individual expression. We must regain the power to take care of ourselves, and dispose of the government which aims to cripple us and destroy us when it is finished consuming us. Using the works of critical pedagogy by Paolo Freire and others we will create a practice of radical education to combat the ideological education of the neoliberal neocolonizers of the United States and other outside forces who aim to manage people while they remain slaves. And we will use our skills and knowledge to create sustainable communities together with all free communities internationally.
Our generation is giving birth to a new era. Call it the collapse of imperialism or anything you see. A whole new phase of thinking promises to provide us with a new life. Artists must stop looking at only themselves as artists. All humans create. We call paintings, sculptures, music, architecture, dance, theater, literature and so on art. Humans have developed those techniques and they are creative. The limitation of all human’s involvement in those arts comes from their development in non-creation or value production. Working for a wage is non-creation, because what is produced through wage-labor is profit. The actual quality of the work is secondary.
Creation is a complete process. It starts in our environment and the imagination, goes through steps, and has various results. Because working for a wage is only one part of the whole process of value creation, it is not totally creative. It is alienated creativity. The full creative process at work is the process of value production or profit. The labor we do is disconnected from its product, so it denies the creative process. We are reunited with the product of our labor in consumption. Waged-workers consume commodities they can afford. Unwaged-workers receive what waged-workers give them or they are imprisoned by state institutions. Consumption is separated from its source and is thus alienated too. Together production and consumption form the total disunity of our creative activities. Capitalists consume the worker. The unity of their activity is the creation of our disunity or alienation. To unite our lives we must take back our creative and consuming power and produce for ourselves not the capitalists. We must all be artists whose creation would be a unified life for each producer. Our art will need to cross a new boundary to complete the collapse of commodification.
Realms of legitimization are the moments and spaces of exchange in which creative works receive approval. Legitimization is a concept that exists because of the adversarial nature between artistic expression and commodity production. Artistic expression and more generally creation is meant to be free and serve a useful purpose which is the choice of the producer. The value of a creation is relative to its use. It is different with commodities which can only be used when the producer isn’t using it. Commodities require an exchange to be valuable. So in order for an alienated-creation (a commodity) to be legitimate it has to be sold. The only way something can be sold is if someone else wants it. So the producer has to not want it and someone else has to want it in order for a commodity to be valuable. What kinds of products are produced in this relationship? Chill, I want to cry at this moment. The product produced in this relationship is our concrete oppression.
Because of the concentration of wealth in the hands of capitalists and state institutions, they monopolize the power of legitimization. Legitimization will be obsolete when all people express themselves freely. A creation that pleases others will meet the expression of joy and comradery in return rather than a cash sum. Unfavorable creations will meet the expression of people taking it down (negation). Expressions are not meant to fit an ideal, but instead flow in the spirit of dialog which is different from legitimization, a one sided process controlled by the economy. In dialog, the producer and the product are reunited and freed from the commodity form. Creations no longer express the power of capitalists and institutions who monopolize the power of legitimization and hence the means of expression. Expression finds a new mediator apart from the realms of legitimization and is legitimized by the act itself.
Exchange is an expression of the commodity form. In school, ideas are often legitimized in forms that can be easily commodified. The lesson plan allows the school to effectively commodify the work and ideas of the instructor to be consumed by the student. The homework assignment represents another exchange between the student, an unwaged worker in the case of some and a sponsored employee in the case of some others, and the instructor who represents the institution indirectly because of the discretion they can take. In some cases instructors are willing to bend the rules and give a higher or lower grade or in other cases are more representative of the institution’s standards. Going back to those who are sponsored by the institution. Those who have scholarships and go on to conduct paid research have their ideas legitimized in papers, books, and lectures, which are all forms of commodified knowledge. Students who do not work in academia can still be legitimized by the same forms or they can choose other forms of documented knowledge.
The realms of legitimization also create a void where the product (ideas) are separated from the producers (students but more generally the proletariat) and consumed by the institution to continue the factory style production of the university business. The institutions neglect the social practice of education or dialog and turn education into a long term bid (like a jail sentence) to mediocrity aka wage slavery. The expression of ideas in a fluid state among members of a community is a creative expression at the heart of transforming social relations. The thoughts and ideas of people are often not valued when they are not in the form of expert opinions because of the domination of the economic sector over all life. Expert opinion in this case means legitimized by the institution. The expertise of individuals should come from an experience that can be applied to the logic and values of the oppressed. Expertise builds on educational practice but does not give it ultimate power. Our (identifying with the oppressed) experts cannot come purely from the realm of exchange but from experience. The poverty of thought which may exist in communities comes from a poverty of life and should be listened to as the witness to an oppressed experience. I do not mean to reference poverty defined by the social disorder which defines poverty in terms of commodity accumulation. I mean poverty in its useful sense, which is a poverty detrimental to freedom and expression. Every expression must be looked at with careful scrutiny against the imposition of any predetermined ideal be it based on anarchism or anything. The true threat to our freedom is idealism and the wicked worlds it spins. Rather, a careful process of communication is necessary to name the world for the purpose of transforming it and for the power of legitimization to be in the hands of each individual not in the exclusive hands of the economy.
The fetishization of appearances replaces the real experience. Take online dating in one case: the experience of meeting someone and learning things about them is replaced by a simulated experience. The computer program gets to know us. It collects our pictures and other information, and mediates who we talk to and how we appear to them. The experience of meeting someone has always been dependent on the conditions of society. Never before has a society been so based on imagined realities found in the images of the processes of production. Our dependence on the simulation spontaneously created comes from the very productive forces which hold us captive. As long as we consider our lives separate from our work, we will be alienated from connection of the two. Because our work continues to be something alienated, our lives will be alienated which includes all our activities outside of work.
In your life, you must have gone through or witnessed a profound change in a relationship. Perhaps you did not know someone, and through the process of sharing moments with one another you grew an affinity towards them which is a bonding kind of love. Maybe that relationship becomes stronger and transforms into something more permanent. Or maybe in a different direction: you learn your wishes to live a free life come into conflict with the other person and you either adapt to theirs, agree on a mutual position, or break the bond altogether. This conflict occurs on a personal level when we battle between our repression and our desire. Our relationships on individual levels in society can be seen, for example, when we go to the grocery store or a restaurant, and carelessly eat food prepared or grown by people who we never communicate with or think about. Some might even have poor relationships with those who reproduce their living. It seems like going about life relating to other people in this completely disconnected way could be considered an alienated and therefore unhealthy relationship.
Alienated relationships seem to come from the adaptation to an agreement but not a mutual one. It is the adaptation to an overarching system that is not mutual but strictly imposed. Here we can move past the individual and the personal. Just like a relationship with a person can transform so can our relationship with capitalism and the state. An oppressive overarching system doesn’t have to be a reality. We can go from reluctant compliance to defiance and a strong effort to fix our social relationships. It can be changed to something consciously controlled instead of unconsciously controlling us. It can be an overarching system whose very order is harmony with disorder. A society of diverse self-sustaining communities connected on a global level would make it easier to maintain ourselves in the face of a decaying ecology and very large population. A central government apparatus is inefficient handling the problems of world wide catastrophe on the largest scale. Or even lesser matters like proper transportation or work conditions. We have seen bureaucracy collapse plenty of times and fall upon foundational communal structures to bring it back. It isn’t government and non-government agencies which save people from catastrophe, it is the people. We are the only ones keeping ourselves alive. Every community working on a local level and communicating internationally is the most efficient way to fix the problems. Each part doing their part.
Think about a life where instead of having to fit one ideal we can conceive of the possibility of no ideals. Instead, people would be free to mediate their own experience instead of it being mediated by a simulation backed by bureaucracy. The simulation of life <!–referenced by Guy Debord in Society of the Spectacle–>, is in the midst of crumbling before us. The possibilities we once took as impossible now make up the tragedies we shudder at. All the worst we could imagine has continued to happen. Despite the proliferation of images which spell progress, we see more people in prisons and detainment centers, more people fleeing from war, more regions engaged in combat against imperialism, more environmental catastrophe, more native displacement and so on.
The reality is not represented in the simulation. The simulation cannot find any base in reality and hence is crumbing before us. Reality is still the source of life not its negation, the simulation. Its cancerous hold on our social esteem gives it some legitimacy in the realm of exchange. But that is a realm steadily in decline with the steady decline of the conditions of actual life. Never before have the excesses of capitalism posed such a threat to life and now we find ourselves in an explosive moment of realization. The chance for a revolutionary moment is here. It is up to us to make it a revolution that is permanent. We must show the limits of the world (the possible impossibilities)<!–reference to book The Impossible Community–>, releasing our repression. And also show what it unbelievably is (impossible possibilities). But how do we show that limit and furthermore break it when so much of our resistance is coopted or destroyed and what survives is all dependent on taste? The taste of the patrons puts art and artists at the mercy of the market. Artists and other creators fight for survival and their art becomes a means to surplus.
What is the relation between realms of legitimization and the fetishization of appearances? What is the relevance to a political artistic release? Realms of legitimization thrive through separation or alienation while the fetish of appearances is ideological. Although, the realms of legitimization are also ideological because they separate reality into parts to control potential outcomes of human behavior. The fetishization of appearences also relies on separation or alienation because it is the consumption of images and ideas separate from their realities. The two work together. Legitimization is inherent in the fetishization of appearances.
**A few words here after talking about realms of legitimization and the fetishization of appearances to list some main ideas.
1) Capitalism’s expansion of the economic aspect of society. <!– Bookchin Post Sarcity Anarchism-→
2) Unity and separation ←-Society of the Spectacle-→
3) Production for the producer. This will play a crucial role in revolutionary practice.
I want to be a part of a political art movement that plays with the forms available freely and socially. A movement of hyper copying. Down with the planned exhibition. Enough of the gallery form. Goodbye to state approval. Our art will be in the streets; in fiber optic cables; on shopfronts. It will be ephemeral like the performance works of artists who escape the realm of legitimization in art galleries and the violence of the state by performing in public spaces←-reference Corpus Delecti by Coco Fusco–>.. Or graffiti artists who leave their mark in the dark. And memes which are a very effective method of social and political critique. Memes take the imagery of the excess of the economic sector and infuse it with new meaning. This method proliferates the spectacle in an accelerated way to accelerate its decay.
The method relies on the simulation’s unreality. If the simulation’s unreality is emphasized, the experience of disbelief will also be widespread. Its footing in reality will be lost and it will dissolve. But the exposition of the unreality of the simulation must be coupled with the reality of the expression of our lives. The decay of the simulation will come from our freedom to play and participate. Make art for the experience. Make art to play with your friends… to show your enemy how we play and that their standards won’t curb your happiness. Make art for thinking, and make art for laughing. Make art for crying. Experience all your passions and emotions. Copy what you like and make it fly with the spirit of revolution. Copy what disgusts you and give it fangs to show everyone its sinistera. Expropriate pleasure. Take back life for the purpose of living. Unite the producers and the products.
Politics are dead. It has grown mold and is infected with worms from prolonged death after bureaucratic alienation. With all the means of subversion and social revolution available to us politics are obsolete and what is left is pleasure or free play. A life for pleasure is the opposite of a lie in the imagination of our exploiters. When living for pleasure, one would not be able to ignore the exploitation of daily life. In the simulation, enjoyment becomes a duty of consumption rather than an art of a life where we live without selling our labor. Capitalism alienates our consumption from our production. Instead of enjoying our work and working for the fun of it, capitalism alienates us from our work and makes it something we dislike. It is separated from what we imagine we do for our own selfish needs as we enter into the relationship as consumers. As consumers we have no choice but to consume the alienated products of our production. The real freedom lies in deciding what is done in production.
Alienated consumption is not pleasure. Pleasure must exist in struggle not in slavery. A life without struggle is a struggle without life. It is the struggle that we live in our capitalist society. True enjoyment is policed and put in cages. Laws prohibit all types of free play: graffiti, truancy, smoking, drinking, not paying for enjoyment or survival. Life should be for the producer not the products of the masters.
The alienation from revolutionary life is an epidemic. We organize to create a world according to the logic and values of the oppressed. To use a method that creates a separation from the everyday activities of life is to separate first ourselves (our life and our work) and just as disastrous our work and the communities meant to be impacted by the work. A solution has to be: to free our organizing from the economic sector and make the totality of everyday life the terrain for transformation. Revolutionary life has been bureaucratized, because of the limits on our imagination for organization from our miseducation, cooptation, and repression. Organization is easily crushed when it does not break from those limits imposed by interpolation from the state. Oppressive conditions exist in all of life not just in economics. The alienation, also, from realizing your group as the authentic community to transform social relationships exists when we pose the revolution as yet to happen. Adding the insistence on fighting to get to a revolution, so we can behave as though we have won. The revolution is already happening and will never stop. The conditions for revolution have been forming for many years and if they should ever stop we will be living in a state of oppression once again. The universe itself is chaotic and developing, why fight it?
The corpse of politics has been sucked dry and everyday life cannot be ignored. Everyday life is the arena for political activity. Fuck organizing and take your affinity groups to the streets to find pleasure creating the community to end alienation.
We must fight boredom at all costs. Nothing we do can be boring. I find it too easy to lose spirits in the activities of organizing. Alienation sets into our lives and makes political activity into a side project. Fully immerse yourself in the life adventure of realizing a world without repressive apparatuses. Make our suffering into the motivation to found a way of life that aims to alleviate suffering. Make joy, fun, and experimentation with the forms which exist the new life to transition to new games and forms of play. Bring play to those who suffer more from our boredom and complacency. Give up the chains of institutionalized entertainment and create the theater of the streets. Turn conversation into the fuel of the fires to crumble the old world. Embrace revolutionary drama and the joy of everyday life. Make love with art and make life an art form itself. Just do it for fun and not for perfection. Perfection is in the act itself, not a standard for exploitation.
The time for organizing is done. It is time for disorganizing. Society has already been organized to its own demise, and to strengthen it objectively/ subjectively is to run faster towards your demise. Organizing runs stale with the ghosts of old traditions. The left has collapsed into the basement of history, only revived when we take a crawl into its depths. It is possible to jump ahead of the game turned against us. Lets point the finger fully at the evidence of resistance in our own lives. One day of our lives can provide enough evidence to arm a revolutionary moment. To arm each individual with the tools to their fulfillment will transform our society, which fetishizes organization, into a flux which embraces the power of disorganization or our own spontaneous capacities. An individual who trusts themselves to be responsible can create trust and responsibility in the world until all individuals form the foundation for a collective of cooperation. Not a utopia by any means, because calling any subjective reality ideal is totalitarian. To transform everyday life is to see that life without exploitation is an aim worth getting to NOW!
Most of these scans are about anti-racist organizing on CUNY campuses in the 1970’s as well as organizing against tuition hikes and the end of free tuition at CUNY. These materials were scanned by a proletarian student at the Interference Archive in Brooklyn, NY.
How can we apply our radical history to current student struggles? How have the issues of students in the 1970’s changed form or stayed the same?
The subject of play has come up before when studying the methods of “Theatre of the Oppressed.” In “Theatre of the Oppressed”, play is a way to know yourself through exercises practiced alone, with a partner and progressively with a group. It is instrumental in the transformation of participants from spectators to actors. In our relationship with the state, our role in society is reduced to spectatorship. We often participate passively in matters decided in advance by capitalist production. In order to break out of passive participation in a process quickly leading to our extinction, we must develop the capabilities to actively participate in the social, economic and political structuring of our lives. “Theater of the Oppressed” creates a living forum of experiences to be transformed in a playful setting. But how can that playful, creative activity, so essential to the liberation of the spectator, be applied to our everyday lives?
Alejandro De Acosta has helped me start answering that question. Acosta writes philosophically about the games which exist in our universe and in our society. He writes about the differences between discreet games or unspoken games in which we all participate but do not create the rules; and games that are communicated– the rules of which are freely developed by all participants. Acosta also writes about seriousness and how it leads to superstition, impeding free play and hence progress. The essay ends with a kind of invitation to play. Acosta writes, “This is my move, my position: nature or cosmos is the outside, unbounded in every sense. Which is perhaps how, playfully, we might have come to admit that nature also – and eminently – plays games. But if that kind of language is too abstract, turn to your lover and say, “this is a game.” Turn to your parents or children and say, “this is a game.” Turn to your friends and enemies and say, “this is a game.” Say silently to your self and any imaginary entities you discover in solitude, “this is a game.” See what happens next.” After reading this I find myself playing truthfully in situations where before I might have been more passive. I can see more clearly the rules which I once followed subconsciously, and can visualize actions to change those rules which oppress me. But my ability to play is still limited. I have to build my capabilities alone, with a partner and progressively with a group.
What are your experiences with games, playing. or seriousness? How do you think we can be free from spectatorship and become free actors? What are your impressions of Acosta’s essay or this reflection?