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Re: <nettime> The alt-right and the death of counterculture
Brian Holmes on Sat, 8 Jul 2017 19:33:22 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> The alt-right and the death of counterculture


On 07/08/2017 07:39 AM, lincoln dahlberg wrote:
what should critique consist of today? what of today's party politics (Corbyn, Podemos, etc?), and what of today's social-political movements? Are you suggesting a left populism (of, e.g., Laclau et al,) in stating "The crucial thing now is not to claim any theoretical high ground, but to try to understand and pragmatically embody what unites those who resist..."?

I think populism today is being done very well by the people, by many grounded resistance movements. The heart of the left has always lain in solidarity with disenfranchised people's struggles, as well as respect for their autonomy, and on that I am in no way cynical: it's the fundamental thing that you learn by participating. However, the claim of theorists to find and formulate the secret principles that unify and guide those struggles (as the Autonomia thinkers often did), or the claim of would-be populists to find the rhetorical cues that can marshall them together into one inevitable overwhelming force, both seem dubious to me. I reckon what unites many many people on our side of the right/left divide is a repugnance at the idea that superior force carries rights of its own, that the outcomes of competition justify inequality, and that the consequences of industrial exploitation can just be ignored and forgotten while others clearly suffer them. Rather than making that awareness into a populism, I think people who are part of the formally educated, technocratic middle-management classes should act out of their own class position. That means finding ways to address the abusive power of the corporate state and its many institutions, in which we continue to participate even while we work in solidarity and seek our own necessary disalienation. From that angle, of course I support Corbyn's efforts as much as those of Spanish municipalismo,although these approaches have clear differences. What's needed to change society is really a combination of transformative local organizing and national electoral politics, which looked as though it was going to happen in Spain and then didn't, or not yet.

Ian, I get the impression you are putting a lot of effort into radical action over these recent years and I respect and admire that, but where I tend to disagree with you is that in my view, the arc of social movement experience shows that anarchist/autonomist exodus strategies have reached a dead end. Unfortunately, demos like those in Hamburg are just a detail for the state, they don't spill over to the general population and their main effect is to feed the militarization of the police. The lesson of the Occupy "no demands" approach was that yes, in that way you can swell a relatively autonomous movement and give it a big presence on the streets, but its very autonomy ends up as a kind of centripetal vortex, a trap in short, or at least a temporary impasse. There again I am not cynical: I think people learned that lesson and moved towards deeper and more consistent engagements in the wake of Occupy, which was a hugely positive movement despite the temporary impasse. In the US it was followed by the climate justice movement, Black Live Matter, No DAPL and the Bernie campaign among others - which are all cross-class, cross-race movements aiming at concrete institutional changes, while generating resistant community and psychic disalienation along the way. However I don't think those movements can be theorized with the post-68 anarcho-autonomist toolkit, or represented with displays of subversion that depend on the cultural/economic apparatus that is supposedly being subverted.

The big theoretical/practical problem is how to rework the legitimacy, and therefore the real effects, of state power. It's obvious there will be no sudden mass exodus from the corporate state (that's exactly what did not happen in the wake of 2008), but unless a way is found to reorient capitalist development, it will result in racialized class warfare and ultimately in civilizational suicide. In fact those things are happening, along with mass exinction of other species, as people are increasingly and painfully aware. The late twentieth-century "new left" taught alienated segments of the overdeveloped societies to seek solidarity with those on the edges of the industrial system, whether in other neighborhoods of the city or other countries of the world. But there is a difference between solidarity and facile identification, where you celebrate a demonstrative radicality and check out of the whole problem of changing a complex and highly entrenched technopolitical system, which is the question that Joseph Rabie just raised in his post. From my position (I mean, both my idiosyncratic subjectivity and my race-class position) the issue is using my little sliver of intellectual agency as a writer and media-maker along with the collaborations that agency can generate in order to help effect changes in the energy production technologies, which lie at the intersection of extraction and militarization, on the one hand, and alienated production and hyperconsumption, on the other. It takes on-the-ground resistance, it takes beltway politics, it takes new economic ideas, it takes spirituality and a carbon tax and a lot of other things, so I guess the relevant analytics is not anarchy but political ecology.

You know, in Spain at the end of the plaza occupations people went deliberately back to the neighborhoods, and they came up with new local practices and new kinds of political parties. The US is land-mined with reactionary forces rooted in settler colonialism and a half-century of full-on imperialism, and vaguely similar efforts to those in Spain have produced a gigantic depraved backlash that is really staggering. I grew up with the Seventies counterculture and went through its fresh transformations in the 90s and 2000s. The situation now demands, not a disavowal, but nonetheless a break and the invention of something new. That's what I take from this article we're all commenting on, and even more, from the times we live in.

best, Brian
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