May 1968/ May 2008
Haven't got very far on next part of 'Progress is the Enemy' so here is something completely different.
From http://www.principiadialectica.co.uk/blog/ Thanks to Noisy Sphinx for this.
Below we reprint a leaflet first distributed at the May 1968 anniversary bash at the Conway Hall last weekend…
For a beautiful month of May
If you go inside you will see a corpse, and mummies embalming this corpse. We were kindly invited to this mass but we have refused to take part. However we are here – outside , as their bad conscience.
In 2008, the position of all these people is false, and as far back as 1968 it was the same. Today, as yesterday, they are wrong about everything: they fantasise
about a glorious past which never existed, they take on present society with the theoretical weapons of the past. Already in May 1968, their goal was to realise 1917, to redo 1936. And their recollection of May 68 precisely is this levelling: even today they dream of Soviets, Red Square, occupied factories and Cultural Revolution in popular China. Indeed, the past does not go by.
To help the past go by is to speak about the modernity of yesterday and of the fact that ‘this modernity’ has turned to dust. In May 68, the most advanced group was the Situationist International. The S.I. combated all the corpses of the Left in the name of an other idea of revolution. May 68, in its most surprising aspect, and in practice, was closest to what the S.I. had done in theory.
However, May 68 - as the S.I. - belongs at the same time to the past and the present. The strength of the revolution of May, as of the Situationists, was to attack capitalist society as a society of work and to call into question State Communism, parties and trade unions with the help of a new definition of the proletariat. In May 68, one can say that those who defined themselves as revolutionaries were all those who had no power over their life, and who knew it. This goes beyond the traditional definition that this very one literally explodes: with such a vision, one is far away from the good Leninist, anarchist, councilist worker to whom the organisation will dish out the gospel. This is certainly beyond the old definition, but not beyond proletarian messianism. That is where the limit lies.
Whoever wants to get rid of capitalism must go further. One must rid the world and its ideals of all illusions, including the ideals of the Left, including those of the most radical Left – including thus those of the S.I. and May 68.
Revolutionary theory today knows that there is no revolutionary subject. The only subject is capital as an automaton subject, as value, which valorises itself. And this subject - the economy that has become autonomous, what Guy Debord justly used to call “the autonomous movement of the non-living” - transforms each of us into the human resources of its infinite self-reproduction.
In 1968 as in 2008, the critique of work must be put centre stage: not as a consequence of the critique of everyday life, but as the heart of the new theory and the new practice. And it must be done in a completely disenchanted, post-
messianic manner. Straight away it must position itself beyond all myths: not only beyond the convention of the sub-critique, beyond the contingencies of realist reformism, beyond the self-satisfaction of the “happy unemployed” who believe themselves to be radical because they benefit from social security. But also, and above all, it must be beyond the S.I., which had based its cause on the revolutionary Subject of history.
It is easy to be done with the corpses that May 68 has already ridiculed and who today act as guarantors of the “spirit of May” (from the good democrat Left to the ex-Maoists, and right up to the anarchists). It is more difficult to be done with the May 68 which lives still, although fossilised: the one that says never work ever. It is even more difficult, in fact, because this old critique still shines. But let’s repeat it, it shines with the light of dead stars. Never work ever: to really be done with work, one must be rid of the idea of the proletariat as revolutionary subject of history. The class struggle is an integral part of the capitalist dynamic: it is not a matter of a struggle between the dominant class and the revolutionary class, but between different interests (although differently powerful) within capitalism.
The question is not to remain faithful to 68, but to be equal to the spirit of May. The only method is to be resolutely outside the system.
Beyond conventions, beyond the contingencies, beyond attachments!
Distributed outside The Conway Hall, London, 10th May 2008
to coincide with the so-called May 68 Jamboree