Saturday, 8 April 2017

Why does nihilist communism object to activism?

The modern American attribution of 'nihilism' has almost nothing to do with the Russian nihilist milieu of the 19th Century. American nihilism is a malaise diagnosed in others from symptoms identified as indicative of chronic habituation to environmental stimuli. Russian nihilism is a 'conscious' form of being characterised by its repudiation of all given forms of attachment. American nihilism is reducible to the individual's embrace of conditioned immediacy at the expense of all else, whilst Russian nihilism supposes the rejection of the very concept of conditioning.

This distinction takes us so far and no further. In practice, American nihilism is defined and interpreted by media commentators and does not exist on its own terms. And the Russian nihilists, like good Proto-kleinians, in their attempts to effect a detachment from the bad objects of religion, family, state and class only succeeded in re-attaching themselves to the ideal object of 'material forces'.

Even so, the problematic of attachment is the entry point into the question of activism. Activism is a form of attachment to, or dependence on, the array of environmental cues that will trigger negative or hostile responses to 'bad' objects. If the object does not clearly communicate its bad character, then the activist is not sufficiently stimulated, then the array of negative affects are not triggered, then the metabolic process remains inactive, and so the system's energy is not satisfyingly discharged.

Recognition of the dependence of activism upon what it opposes, and the resultant closed dynamic of protest politics, is itself a basic condition of all communist awareness. Whilst protest politics is reliant for its mobilisation on the collateral energy of 'bad' objects, nihilist communism is impelled to disclose the complicity of 'good' objects in the reproduction of the whole. Therefore, staged denunciations of 'bad' objects may only appear at the expense of the repudiation of the whole.

The environment in which activism is operative is disclosed as constructed of representations. Activism (that is activism's reproduction as a component of existing relations) is not a direct response to an immediately present object but appears within a repertoire of of pre-programmed reactions to images of 'bad' objects. Activism responds to representations because the mode of indirect domination refuses to appear as itself, and passes unchallenged.

Protest is not organised against the conditions of domination but against the products and images of domination. Protesters are bound into the production of a life-world of surface level interlocking co-dependencies and cannot gain sufficient distance to strike at the mechanism that is sustaining them.

The protesters are so overwhelmed by the flood of bad objects that it is inconceivable to them to attack 'good objects'. They reject out of hand the idea of 'negation of the negation', and the possibility of an opposition to the opposition. To them, the war must always be fought now and gains defended in the present before any question of revolutionary transformation may be considered. The activist is horrified by reversal, of 'going backwards'. Even though activists are enmeshed in the symptomatic politics of representations, ciphers, images, they cleave to the discursive panoply of realism: practicality, achievable goals and incremental gains.

Just as others denounce them as extremists and dreamers, utopians and fanatics so they deploy the same terminology (now a convention of repressive consiousness) against those who refuse to be mobilised in their reformist campaigns. For reason of the Faustian bargain that must be agreed upon even before the question of realisation is reached, a bargain that is struck right at the beginning with the 'form' of what may be or may not be done, nihilist communism refuses even the possibility of victory and thus re-formulates the dead term: impossibilism. 

Perhaps, those who are caught up in the moment of their own righteousness think it is condescending to make predictions about the probable consumption of activists by their own 'movement'. And yet, it is also well known that most participants in activism at any given moment will cease to participate not much later on. The activists own reasoning for this is 'burn out' but the milieu's constancy of numbers over time suggests that a maturational process is a decisive factor. The young dominate the milieu and then later come to repudiate themselves and their politics as they were.


Self-disgust is an essential regulatory element of the protest milieu. Attachment to stimulation by 'bad' objects becomes destructive the moment the 'bad' object is replaced by its representations - the moment the bell rings but the meat powder is absent. Activism is cultivated self-stimulation to transports of outrage by representations of offensive objects, it is a condition that can only be maintained by adhering to perverse representations of in-group self-interest. Defending the rights to its ownership of its representations is the entirety of the activist project.

The activist is obliged by membership of the in-group to perpetually lie to themselves: complex rationalisations are generated to explain why atrocities perpetrated by X must bring everyone out onto the street but those committed by Y are to be dismissed as 'whatabouttery' or 'liberalism'. At some point, the lying and adherence to capering irrationality takes its toll on the best individuals and they disengage from all involvements. Just as activism conspires to effect a misdirection from the totality through its conditioned response to pre-determined 'bad' objects, so the totality of the activist figure (including its moments of weakness, turning away, giving up and self-disgust) must be considered in relation to its 'militant' highs.

The indirect form of domination results from the apparent separation between representations and the material production of the world. Domination now appears as a set of relations between representations but revealed power is wholly dependent on the hidden form of material production which, as a mechanism spinning gold from straw, quality from quantity, cannot appear directly or immediately to politicised consciousness. Just as the brain does not appear within the 'mind' emerging from it, so the apparatus of world production may not appear within the domain of representations.

Activism is constrained to respond to fetishes of power and not to power itself. It is objectively situated by forces which it may only represent as 'oppression', 'inequality', 'racism', 'imperialism', 'patriarchy', 'capitalism' which it dutifully re-circulates within the market of controversies. But domination is always otherwise than as it appears; the condition of the fetish is that power is not located in it but mis-represented, or part-represented, by it: 'patriarchy', 'privelege' and 'white supremacy' are attempts to describe certain distribution features as outcome patterns but operationally  the system of production equally supports potential representations of both sexism and anti-sexism, both racism and anti-racism, both imperialism and national liberation.
   
Subjectively, activism is a form of attachment that is sustained by the given form of belief. The activist fervently believes both in the reality of this injustice and the compensatory measures he or she takes against it. But belief itself, as a mode of attachment, is a relatively immature form of relation to the world... as Borges might have said: belief is a form of incomprehension, perhaps the worst. The credulous will later become incredulous and the believers, unbelievers. The path from illusion to disillusion is costly and triggers in the ex-believer feelings of self-repudiation... the activist's path out of activism involves the rejection of all that activism stands for, even its indisputable truths: something is wrong here; life should be otherwise. 

It is enough to conclude by reiterating nihilist communism's attempt to explore forms of attachment that become available after by-passing the rise and fall life-cycle of the activist. Above all, nihilist communism is a form of pessimistic continuation undertaken subsequent to the rejection of all terms in play - it begins from a decisive rejection of optimistic belief systems. It returns to the gambit of the Russian nihilists, what would it mean to sever attachments to the objects that only appear to believers? 

What would it mean to continue the project of communism even after belief in it has been abandoned as an immature form of attachment? What would it mean to not believe but still continue? If, from the outset, we did not adopt the activist mindset might we then continue with the truths 'something is wrong here; life should be otherwise' as a life-long endeavour,  and thus avoid the concomitant errors of activist self-deception? Is there an adult form of refusing the world?

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