Crisis What Crisis? Political Technologies @ a Crossroads

Jason Adams & Mohammad Salemy,Kodwo Eshun, Liza Featherstone, Paul Feigelfeld, Stefan Heidenreich, Doug Henwood, Katerina Kolozova, Catherine Liu, Davor Löffler, Antonia Majaca, Jaleh Mansoor, Metahaven, Nina Power, Judith Rodenbeck, Anjalika Sagar, Steven Shaviro, Jonathan Thomas, and Anton Vidokle, amongst others

About dmf

alienist @ large, mostly on foot
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8 Responses to Crisis What Crisis? Political Technologies @ a Crossroads

  1. Reblogged this on 21st Century Theater and commented:
    Maybe the title should be, “The Left is dead. Long live The Left!”

    After listening, my feeling is similar to the feeling I have after most left discussions. I want to have hope we can get it together, but I see no real change in tactics, I see no real change in organization, and hear variations on themes I’ve heard for decades. I have zero time for the post and trans-human stuff. I find most of it juvenile fantasy, which is why it is easily taken up by right leaning silicon valley billionaires.

    The Left loves to talk about “what is to be done.” The question of how to unify is equally important. If we can’t do that, we will truly be dead. We lost the class war waged by the right, but they fight on with the resolution of hungry vampires. As we know, that is capitalism. Its logic is ceaseless accumulation and the commodification of all things. I’ll assume this is obvious to anyone who happens to come across this. Instead of writing a lot of paragraphs people won’t read, I’ll try a list people won’t read:

    1. We need an umbrella organization that all groups and individuals can join and participate in. Something like an I.W.W. and WSF – and maybe eventually a party – all in one, but better, of course. This would almost instantaneously give us money and power in numbers. We need both.
    2. How? One way would be for influential lefties and leaders and heads of orgs to get together (you know, organize) and simply declare they are starting this thing, and want people to be involved.
    3. That organization would attempt to organize groups and individuals into a coordinated, efficient, powerful left with a plan.
    4. The plan would be an actual step-by-step plan to fight the destructive policies of the right and to actually take power. It could change as we go of course, but we need an actual plan and actual coordination. Why do we believe that simply “being active” is enough to win anything lasting? We have to be at least as organised as capital if we want to ever consider winning. That means worldwide organization.
    5. The idea would be to focus on what people could agree to do that would move us forward in a positive direction. That sounds simple. What I mean is, start small and focus on productive things people agree on instead of getting mired in arguments and endless discussions. Ideally we would be learning, teaching, and doing all at the same time. The idea is to act and learn as we go. Easier said than done. Probably the first thing people would have to decide would be what decision making processes would work. Fine. A lot of left leaders have been down that road. Let them figure it out. If they as people we look up to can’t get past that, we need other people to look up to and to get our ideas from. I could go on, but that’s the general idea. I haven’t heard anyone on the left propose it – it being, left leaders (and I use that term loosely) should organize themselves into an umbrella organization, and that organization should organize the rest of us. Barring some development like that, or other better ideas, I don’t have much hope.

    I know this begs many questions, but I thought I would put it out there anyway. For example, there’s the old, “real movements have to organically develop from the grass roots, they can’t be imposed from above.” Well, if left leaders could organize themselves into an organization that was capable of organizing others, I’d say that would be pretty grass roots. What’s left of the left needs radical ideas to make radical change.

    Good luck to us all. We’re going to need it.

  2. Thanks. Interesting. Though I have to say there were plenty of ironies and contradictions in that talk, and (surprise surprise) things I didn’t agree with. I could go point by point, but it may be simpler to say (and how apropos for an ontological talk) I was left with a big question mark, or many big question marks. I know he was using a management system as an example and not proposing that management system, but it reminded me of a friend (an engineer in fact) who went to work as an organizer for the UFW. He was overworked for low pay (oh irony), did well, and eventually started hanging out with Cesar. He came to find out Cesar was using corporate management manuals and techniques. I don’t remember the details but I remember my friend being shocked and I think he was using the story to explain why he was overworked and why the organizers were unhappy. One could say, of course, that was a bad idea. One could also say, the idea of fighting fire with fire might have been a good idea, but the implementation was wrong. I like the idea of fighting fire with fire in some sense, especially in ways that might seem contradictory on their face. For example, forming corporations instead of non-profits, so people could actually be paid to organize and fight capitalists. The corps would be employee owned and democratic (yes I used the “d” word) as possible, but not to the point of paralysis. Well, as with the professor’s management example, it’s just and example to give the general idea, but yeah, Paralysis. That is about where we are and have been since the the last long round of class war that started around 1980, despite all of the square taking and occupying. I’m not dismissing any of that, but I am saying we aren’t on the road to being able to mount a defense against capitalists, let alone fight them. I guess I see us as in need of something like my original idea, but we are in need of the spark – or really, mechanism – that initiates or enables something like that to happen in the first place. One could argue that taking squares and occupying and even Podemos are all things that happened after a spark – or maybe a tipping point – but my thought is that a lot of that organization was ad hoc and while the people behind occupy worked on questions of how to make decisions collectively, the mechanism failed. While Podemos tried a slightly different way, they failed (ok, they haven’t failed yet, but I’m not optimistic because they’re already caught up in a system that’s built to limit their power). Maybe all of this is fine and natural and we are somehow collectively on the right ontological track, but somehow the only light I see is an oncoming train.
    Even beyond that, we need a culture. Of course that comes naturally, but it comes from continual contact over time, it comes out of some kind of organization, and it’s strengthened by artists.
    Even seemingly more unattainable and abstract, we may need something one might call spiritual. Even scarier, we may need a charismatic leader or leaders to pull it all off. This is getting into an area that is very uncomfortable and nowhere near where we find ourselves at the moment, so I’ll let that particular supposition lie where it is.
    Well, I tried to ramble a bit and throw in some ideas and analysis along the way. If I were king, I would issue the edict,”all left leaders must organize themselves into one political group, worldwide” and maybe the less sexy addendum, “And they must decide on a flexible efficient extensible decision making process.”

    • dmf says:

      we lack a means (or many means) of getting people to cooperate at anything like the scale (and for the durations) of the kinds of opposition (let alone instituting alternatives) that would make for systematic differences, Andy is trying to work out what it would be like to accept the limits of our powers of engineering (be they social or material), can we entertain such reality checks on the actual limits of our grasps?

    • dmf says:

      not easy (at least for me) to come to terms with our impotence when things are so brutal.
      I can handle it when thinking about say trying to keep a river on a course that we desire but when it comes to politics/alltoohuman-affairs it’s much harder to bear even tho I know it’s easier to engineer against the river than to manage populations.

      • Yes. It’s not easy, but we need to acknowledge it. “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” (I don’t know if it’s just me, but Beckett seems to be jumping up everywhere these days. Always appropriate, of course.)

        Just read the Pickering. That seems to be very old wine in an old bottle. Though don’t get me wrong, I like the wine. I even like the design of the bottle. The mention of cybernetics was a hint at something, but what…that hasn’t been hinted at or stabbed at in other ways. How could we say what he is proposing in a “vulgar” way that would describe a “cybernetic politics?” A non-dualistic, science-influenced, managed method of resistance that flows naturally in the current of reality? I don’t know. It seems like it would have been natural for him to bring in Foucault. Or maybe a better way to say it is that his discussion seems to lead to Foucault – or let’s just say power relations generally, for how can the state transforming nature and causing death be presented without discussing power..? Well, if I was still reading philosophy or interested in pursuing academics, I guess I would re-read and come up with an actual response, but to be honest, I’m probably not smart enough and I became disillusioned with philosophy even before I became disillusioned with the left. What can I say? I guess I started this – on an academic/intellectual/philosophic site no less – so I shouldn’t be depressed by yelling out politics and philosophy echoing back.
        Oh well, no harm no foul. Maybe I should do like Beckett and move toward silence. I’m more than halfway there already.

      • dmf says:

        no worries, I’ve curated plenty of Beckett like vibes over at

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