Solidarity Whited: The reactionary white-working class.

“At the very same time that America refused to give the Negro any land, through an act of Congress, our government was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest, which meant that it was willing to undergird its White peasants from Europe with an economic floor. But not only did they give the land, they built land grant colleges with government money to teach them how to farm. Not only that, they provided county agents to further their expertise in farming. Not only that, they provided low interest rates in order that they could mechanize their farms. Not only that, today many of these people are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies not to farm and they are the very people telling the Black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. This is what we are faced with and this is a reality. Now, when we come to Washington in this campaign, we’re coming to get our check.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The white working class is a primarily though not exclusively reactionary social formation. Based in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, the ‘white working class’ loosely has an ego, a consciousness of itself as white, even if its whiteness is defined only through the negation of those deemed not white. In other words, it has a semi-conscious sense of collective identity.

Throughout the course of Western capitalist accumulation, particularly beginning in the 18th Century, ‘whiteness’ developed. Like a small planet it attracted certain satellites into its gravitation pull. The expansion of whiteness became more necessary for the adequate dissolution of solidarity amongst oppressed people. Small scraps from the dinning table of industrialists, agricultural barons and political leaders created a petit bourgeois consciousness amongst the white working class, and other impoverished whites. The idea that ‘at least we aren’t that‘ led white peoples to have a clambering consciousness, and inspired the mythos of the self-made-self and hyper-individualism. Whiteness spread, like Moloch, it began to eat up all the European groups it could. In the Americas this was important for stabilising the US/European imperialist and slave projects. German, Irish, Italian, Polish, and so on all became – progressively – ‘white.’ As Europe was developing itself as itself, fashioning a looping, narrativistic and quasi-nativist European image, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada were keen to do the same. English language hegemony often accompanies whiteness as a social formation. The white working class has been interpolated, through the educational systems that excluded the function of teaching other languages, to view themselves as “native” to wherever they live, whilst all others are immigrant-outsiders. Entire areas became colonised and Native Peoples, African slaves and others without the white permit were moved to the periphery: economically, socially, spiritually and psychically. A (white) mass of the world’s population began to inject itself with the crack it had been given – whiteness meant, even for the poorest whites, ‘not being them.’ A crack in the social: a division that set up practices that last and are living with us to this very day. As Britain established itself as the global hegemon of the 19th Century, a further increase in white social formations took place. The massive genocide of the North American Native Peoples was well underway, the invasion and war against the Native People of Australia and New Zealand had begun, and the whole process meant deporting poor whites to these areas where they would be able to ‘make it’ or ‘reform themselves.’ These new worlds provided Europe’s white masses with an opportunity to break from the past, to create themselves anew, to develop a culture and create a small amount of wealth. Certainly people from Europe – sent by the British Empire and elsewhere – didn’t always ‘have it easy,’ but they were embarking on a social experiment at the expense of the ‘non-white’ Other. A very deadly experiment. As white flight from Europe happened these colonists and deportees expanded out into nexuses of what was becoming a shared identity. The wagons began to circle. Local barons in the colonies knew they had to keep white formations stable, to prevent any ‘mingling’ with Native Peoples or African slaves. They did this by dropping small amounts of privileges in the form of land, money and other chattels to poor and working class white people.

A lot has been written on the formation of whiteness. I do not intend this to be a survey of that work; however, the introduction above roughly sketches out what happened in the colonial peripheries of the British Empire after the late 18th Century. Of course, this was preceded by the brutal genocide of Native Peoples in the Americas and Africa at the hands of other European imperialists – French, Portuguese, Dutch, etc. All of this is relevant to my next point. During the post-WW2 ‘re-development’ and after the 1929 ‘New Deal’ massive amounts of small, incremental privileges were handed out to white working class people. The Left didn’t – and in many cases still doesn’t – seem to concern itself with this analysis. Why? Because the analysis of the 20th Century white working class leads to the uncomfortable truth that white working class people constitute the bulwark of reactionary politics. Examples abound: trade unions who refused to ‘allow’ the hiring of people of colour, Marxist groups like the UK’s Socialist Workers Party denouncing any mention of racism and its formations as ‘identity politics,’ a racist Trotsky-city council in Liverpool posturing against Thatcher whilst turning a blind eye toward its members racism, liberal administrators red-lining districts for white working class people where the public services were slightly better, white working class people moving out of major US cities into suburban life, etc. What is interesting is that despite a massive reversal in Industrial Era white formations – the dismantling of trade unions, the foreclosure crisis, fragmentation and disillusion of whiteness in the forms of social solidarity and anti-racism struggles, the end to certain types of de facto and de jure apartheid and segregation – is that whiteness still pervades the psychic register of those deemed white. The white working classes – whether they are working or not at the moment – have been imbued over generations to feel - on a material, spiritual and psychological level – that it is their right to have a job and consume goods. In fact, they – as a group – act as if the spiralling changes in dynamic post-modern capitalism are attributable to progressive social and political movements which have their major geneses in the 1960s and 70s. So a displacement of anger occurs. The white working class person is of the opinion that Black people are the oppressors; they feel as if white language is being censored; they view the Native Peoples as drunks, incapable of working, etc. In Europe, whiteness is tightening around certain bands; the not so new ‘non-white’ group to hate is the Roma people. These – incorrectly called Gypsies (for they were thought to be from Egypt when they are in fact from India) – Roma people are the new favourite nail to be hit, and hit hard by the white working classes in a post-2008 crash situation. Of course, the Roma people are no novices to being oppressed by their fellow European neighbours, but the financial collapse has allowed the far-Right to seize mainstream discourse amongst white working class people. Why is this so easy? White working class people are enemies of an international revolution. They are this because they have been formed as such. Providing our capitalist overlords with a buffer, the white working classes direct their anger- their sociopolitical thrust against immigrants, against Muslims, against Blacks, (in certain places) against Jews, and against social institutions that protect immigrants or any concept of homo sapiens beyond race.

The UK’s Socialist Party supports leaving the European Union – just as the British National Party and the UK Independence Party do – a policy that would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of EU migrants in an even more precarious position. In the US, Obama’s presidential success is touted amongst large sections of the white working classes as ‘evidence’ that Black people (along with Jews) have taken over the country. In Australia and New Zealand the demonisation of the Native People continues – as John Pilger shows in his documentary ‘Utopia.’ In Canada, huge oil and gas companies are threatening – and committing ecocide – in areas where Native Peoples live. These are simply recent developments. And the response from most of the white proletariat  is a) I don’t give a fuck, b) tough luck, c) good, what do those lazy bastards do anyways? Here in the UK, emerging from the usual, more blunt miasma of white proletarian racism is the UK Independence Party, with its leader Nigel Farage who wishes to fancy himself as the new Enoch Powell. And UKIP is now the third largest party in Britain. (Update: As of the 2014 election it is the largest party in the UK). Its support: mainly white working class. On the UK’s trade unions, Unequal Comrades: Trade Unions, Equal Opportunity and Racism is a study that demonstrates the wide-spread white working class racism here in the UK. Its author, John Wrench, notes,

This leads us to the poor record of the trade union movement in this [race] sphere: to put it bluntly, black workers in this country have served the unions far better than the unions have served black workers. According to the features that are normally associated with trade unions: comradeship, solidarity and a desire to bring about improvements in the conditions of working people, this should not have been so. In reality, history shows the record of the trade union movement to be characterised at worst by appalling racism and often by an indefensible neglect of the issues of race and equal opportunity. Between the two world wars, there was an effective colour bar in British industry, supported openly by individual unions. Apparently the greater ‘tolerance’ which operated towards black workers during both wars was clearly understood by white workers and their unions to be temporary. For example, in the spring of 1919 about 120 black workers who had been employed for years in Liverpool sugar refineries and oil cake mills were sacked because white workers refused to work with them, and from 1918 onwards the seamen’s unions formally and openly opposed the employment of black seamen when white crews were available (Fryer 1984, p.299 & 298). Although such incidents are written off by trade unionists today as ‘history’, the uncomfortable fact remains that some of the most notorious cases of union hypocrisy and racism have occurred since the Second World War. Some of the most dramatic instances – those which have entered the labour movements’ chamber of horrors – (such as Coneygre Foundry, Mansfield Hosiery, Imperial Typewriters) are discussed below. In as much as such disputes surface only intermittently they too are dismissed within a couple of years as the ‘bad old days’, an attitude which ignores the enduring injustices experienced by black union members.

If we are to have a real, emancipatory and Communist social evolution – it will not be, it should not be, led by the white proletariat.

1968 Graffiti Calling for Enoch Powell, Fascist, Racist to be PM in UK

1968 Graffiti Calling for Enoch Powell an outspoken fascist and racist to be PM of UK


But Today

In moments of brief solitude

I am immersed, immersed

immersed in reflection

Wherever I go, Time can Stop

leaving even the happiest moment disconnected, stringy, cut off from the air

unable to be bared

Lifeless – a corpse

Moment

With caring friends

Waving silly appendages

And Contorting muscle-bone-flesh in silly Monuments to something akin to the Word Hope.

"E[]LIF, Reclamation"

“E[]LIF, Reclamation”

Pain-ting Acrylic on Canvass 24″ by 30″

£100 + s.h.


imminent Immanent critiques of capitalism

Let me propose something: oblivion awaits, in fact, it seems to coil itself around the very marrow of our being, undulating that sweet ‘up and down’ of the heart-pulse. This oblivion consists of shards of nothingness that give rise to being-as-itself. Micro-puddling eddies of ooze create finites in the sea of infinite nothingness. Being comes ex nihilo. Whilst nothingness seems to ‘await,’ seems to ‘surround’ us, seems, in a word, always ‘exterior,’ it is actually the very foundation of being-as-itself. Out of nothingness – something! Planets, seas, trains, planes, poles, telephones, gates, hedges and hedgehogs and all isolated specificities, specialised and spacialised by taxonomies and demonstrative of consciousness, which is perhaps the epicentre of finitude.

Given that ‘we’ are eddies of finitude, what can be said of our experience, our experience as beings? For when one is confronted with spacial and temporal finitude, a looking back to the irretrievable past and a looking forward through the aperture of the future, a gazing over the hill and through the woods, a traveling to grandmother’s house, one collapses on oneself, back into the whirlpool of self. Even the most ‘transcendent’ experience has a prosaic ending, oblivion awaits. Tending to the prosaic is essential, yet it is especially here, the realm of immanence, of communication, of calculation and speculative reality where our current ‘way’ of organising social and economic matrices lacks reflective totalising consideration. Resting on History, conformity becomes the truly lazy road.

Even Leftist Parisian intellectuals are endorsing capitalism’s historical and structural ‘necessity’ – which is perhaps the surest sign of the End Times. Capitalism is an expression of a finitude which wishes to become, and is attempting to become, infinite. A nebulous circuit-board straddling the entire planet, now spreading out to the edges of the Solar System via the Voyager Space probes, capitalism intends to universe-size itself, to make itself holy, to defy the infinite nothingness by both becoming infinite and also standing for nothing. It is the completest erosion of meaning since the beginning of finitude itself. Operant behaviour modifications triangulate themselves with money’s language of profit and loss, determining the trajectory of the subject is enhanced by pure cognitive efficiency-toward the Market. 

Not content with efficiency as a place of contest and ability, capitalism wants individuals to subject their subjectivity to the efficiency-toward the Market regime. Haemorrhaging outward like a worm crushed partially by shoe, we are told that ‘this’ is the way to conformity, acceptability, respectability and safety. A career of instruments is placed before the subject, ‘it’ is demarcated down an alien path, a concrete tube totally indifferent to flesh is presented as the apotheosis of efficiency, an annihilation of possibilities outside of itself, this pathway leads to the temporal confinement of an Eternal Present, an eery naturalisation of infinity. Capitalism attempts to place infinity directly in relation to its most finite parts, it evacuates all meanings from its networks, breaking down every bit of Symbolic residue to the barest of bare bones, functional efficiency-toward the Market.

Finitude pulls hard back into itself. It cannot be avoided, for capitalism arises from a finitude that itself arose out of infinite nothingness. Seeking to return its reality to the impossible nothing from which it came, capitalism transcends all previous religions, mysticisms and philosophies by recruiting and uniting the entire planet into its mission. Recruiting and uniting every ‘object,’ turning these ‘objects’ into objectified instruments based on quasi-rational functionality, recruiting and uniting all of History itself, demanding that its own birth be seen as the Alpha and Omega – end of story, end of history – capitalism speaks with two dimensions, two mouths, one screaming like a child to be recognised as the aforementioned, the other issuing forth a siren song with promises of peace and stability.

Breaking down this ‘running around’ is the beginning of cracking concrete: truly, capitalism can tolerate speculation about its demise and its own crumbling facades, but it cannot withstand both in the same place. In places where capitalism is simply falling apart at a rate that it cannot consume and rebuild itself fast enough, there is a little threat to it: former industrial areas in the United States exemplify a crumbling network degrading into detritus, a crumbling that is arguably an essential part of the flow of wealth-production (industry) to more efficient-toward the Market peripheries. True, there is some resistance, but not on the level of threat. 

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Parisian intellectuals love to assume that the revolutionary zenith, that climatic Hegelian reconciling and Marxist apotheosis is reached on the shores of the Left Bank, but anyone can tell you, the resolve of France is moving in the direction of the far-right, no amount of proximity to speculation can prevent capitalism from cooping the intellectuals into gilded bird-cages, allowing them to parrot each other, live pleasantly removed lives from the majority of people whilst commercialising their musings to an ever-shrinking petit bourgeois intelligentsia. Some of those who actively participated in the street fights of May 68′ are rich from their now lifetime of working for communism; recall: capitalism recruits and unites everyone (and everything), regardless of Party affiliation or ideology, for its glorious spectacle. What is a better example of this than the cerebrally chic Verso publishing? The strong “V” is an anti-capitalist, even communist signifier encoded in the most primary of capitalist concerns: profit.

 

Latin America typifies the more difficult, third term: a continent with a long history of speculation regarding the demise of capitalism, anti-colonial thought and Leftist praxis combined with a fairly industrialised economy full of crumbling facades. Venezuela, giving birth in the 21st Century to a resistance against capitalism at the level of a presidential executive, is an example of people – at a national level – gripping the outward, nihilating expansive edge of capitalism and attempting, however finitely, however imperfectly, to break down the running around. To come to grips with capitalism, this is the beginning of breaking down the running around. First it must be placed firmly in the many ‘hands’ of the people, before it is collectively broken. Instead of the quasi-celestial manic, unreflective running around inherent in keeping monetary systems flowing, running and growing, anti-capitalist praxis is a kind of cooling off, a settling in, a bringing back to Earth, a grasping of the means of production, a turning off the factory, a problem of nothingness: or rather, the problem with  capitalism’s determination to be infinite is found in its correlate, nothingness. This is why the General Strike is the most violent form of protest, simply doing nothing results in the most profound.

Here is where we enter terrain that is simultaneously anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist, for what is next or after the General Strike? When the terror of nothing sends shudders throughout the system, shuttering windows and closing roads, what is next? A demand for more? Here is the precise moment that movements, whether or not they accomplish the General, or more limited, Strike fall back into the infinite series of demands made by capitalism. We must demand nothing; more precisely, there is no one to demand anything from: for if we truly recognise the absurdity of the system, we can then expropriate the “capitalist” class without returning to the capitalist way of life. Bob Black sums up the Left, Right and centre problem as a problem of productivity, workerism:

“Liberals say we should end employment discrimination. I say we should end employment. Conservatives support right-to-work laws. Following Karl Marx’s wayward son-in-law Paul Lafargue I support the right to be lazy. Leftists favor full employment. Like the surrealists — except that I’m not kidding — I favor full *un*employment. Trotskyists agitate for permanent revolution. I agitate for permanent revelry. But if all the ideologues (as they do) advocate work — and not only because they plan to make other people do theirs — they are strangely reluctant to say so. They will carry on endlessly about wages, hours, working conditions, exploitation, productivity, profitability. They’ll gladly talk about anything but work itself.”

Whilst I cannot support the type of crude “primitivism” of Black, I can support his critique of the incredibly and infinitely increasing demand for “productivity” – expressed in such divergent thinkers as Karl Marx and Adam Smith. Ultimately, the revolution is a turning back of the nebulous circuit-board of capitalism to nothing, another idea, another absence, another negation, thought-experiment: or rather, the negation needs here to be expressed as violent pushing of nothingness into the onslaught of capitalism, a General Strike, yes, and then a demand that nothing will be the same again, no “return” to normality, but rather a returning to finitude, Life.


Beyond the Promised Land: Fukuyama and Muñoz

“We must vacate the here and now for a then and there…”

- José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia

“It was the slave’s continuing desire for recognition that was the motor which propelled history forward, not the idle complacency and unchanging self-identity of the master” 

― Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man

Capitalist societies daily shower in advertising, techno-babble and banality affecting the psyche into a state of satiated sedation. At the end of The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama takes on Nietzsche’s pessimistic view that equality of personhood under the law, bourgeois consumerism and liberalism would spell the death of greatness and nobility. Very seriously concerned with Nietzsche’s critique of the burgeoning liberal democratic state with Christian universalism underpinning it, Fukuyama in a chapter titled “Men Without Chests” begins a critique to remind his readers that under capitalism the opportunity to express competitive spirit and egoism will still exist, especially in sports, politics and finance. What does it mean to be confronted and comforted in the early 21st Century? 

Vladimir Putin, Not a Man without a Chest!

Vladimir Putin, Not a Man without a Chest!

Plato’s theory of thymos, or spiritedness, might offer a clue. Thymos is a need to be recognised. Going beyond what might be considered the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and medical care, thymos is that which makes one “wish for” a place in the world. Not just a place in the world, but a place to be seen, noticed and praised. Societies produce various scenes to be seen: perhaps this explains our fascination with Facebook, Twitter and, the aptly named now anachronistic, MySpace. The problem of “unbridled megalothymia,” excessive and irrational focus on the ruthless crushing of mediocrity, is challenged by Fukuyama. He notes, “This [20th] century has taught us the horrendous consequences of the effort to resurrect unbridled megalothymia, for in it we have, in a sense, already experienced the ‘immense wars’ foretold by Nietzsche. Those pro-war crowds in August 1914 got the sacrifice and danger that they wanted, and more more besides … It [resurrected, unbridled megalothymia] led not to satisfaction for recognition, but to anonymous and objectless death.” Furthermore, “contemporary war undermined popular faith in the meaning of concepts like courage and heroism, and fostered a deep sense of alienation and anomie among those who experienced it.”

Andy Warhol's "Mao"

Andy Warhol’s “Mao”

Many are now in a strange place: in the contemporary West large sections of the population are at the margins of consumerism, meaning that they are no longer capable of fulfilling themselves as proper consumers according to the dominant discourse that encourages a universal idealisation of the upper-waged middle classes. Fukuyama addresses the problems of spiritedness, but he does not have an exacting analysis of the cultural and psychic material of the mental environment. The mental environment is largely inundated with advertising, in fact, many people living in capitalism see more of the commercial propaganda machine than religious iconography or even their families. Experience in such a place produces results of repetitive compulsion. The constant flow of the Facebook “timeline” on the screen of a “smart phone” produces an endless abyss of drive to be where one is not. The individual is never complete under capitalism, it – as an object purely – is always fragmented, fractured and driven in a multiplicity of directions. Pathos such as attention deficit disorder, hoarding and obsessive compulsive disorder combine with the age-old horror of the body: witnessing the leap from analog to digital is painful, but the revolution is Tweeted.

Running to the forest, the ashram or the monastery might seem like a sensible solution, but one question remains: for how long can such a solution last? Considering the levels of socialisation to- and for- the systemic commodification of psyche, soma and sex most have been subject to, new age proposals for “detox” are both privileged and imply the ability to launch oneself outside the social gravitational field. Plato’s problem of thymos must be utilised in this battle for a transition. A resistance movement based on the need for individuality, not the collective hegemony of sedative-only para-consumerist, capitalist satiation, is already underway, but it has many features, and a new communalism, based on the evacuation of selves from the matrices of powerful corporatism, will have to remain open to what the late philosopher José Esteban Muñoz called moments of dis-identification, remaining within the matrices, the nexuses and grains of capitalism, racism and imperialism, even as it determines these three end and a new history.

Regarding Muñoz, Bully Bloggers wrote, “José’s work, his craft, his social worlds, his teaching all reached out for the ‘forward-dawning futurity’ that, he felt, harbored other ways of being, other forms of life, other worlds. These other worlds, alternative forms of life, could be glimpsed only through the cultural landscapes that queer people create out of love, desperation, hilarity, performance, perversity, friendship, sex, feelings, failings, pain and communion… And because he taught us all how to feel ‘queerness’s pull,’ we are all here now, sitting on the shore, alone, bereft from his loss, squinting towards the horizon and hoping to see the shape of the queer world to come that he insistently pointed us towards.” 

Coming forth to a place whereby desire is sought, recognition a matter of survival and thriving, and where commercial success is primarily the route to such survival, both Fukuyama and Muñoz posit themselves within the futurity of the un-folding of events for people as they live them. Yet Muñoz breaks with the liberal, capitalist democratic programme as being the end of the matter, always leaving the necessity and, more importantly, the possibility for a queer-futurity, a place beyond the programme of Hegel, Fukuyama or others who have fixed for themselves a theoretical-hypothetical promised land.


José Esteban Muñoz – 1967-2013

Originally posted on Bully Bloggers:

José Esteban Muñoz, 1966-2013

Image

This week, we lost a fierce friend, a comrade, a wry and trenchant critic, a brave and bold queer voice and a true utopian in a world of pessimists. As we try to reckon with his absence and learn to live with the loss of such a magnificent thinker, such an enormous spirit, we can find all kinds of solace in the work that José left behind. “Queerness is not yet here,” he cautioned us at the beginning of Cruising Utopia, and he continued: “The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there.”

These words are strangely comforting now that José is truly no longer in the here and now but dwells instead in a then, a there, a new world that we…

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Coming out as ‘Crazy’: A Mental Illness Series, The Introduction.

Originally posted on coral thinks too much:

I am going to begin a series of posts about my experiences with ‘mental illness’.

I thought I would clarify some things first.

1)   What do you mean by ‘mental illness’?

Last summer, a truck that should have taken my life ended the existential/spiritual crisis that had prolonged my misery for years. It was a lengthy, complicated process of coming to a new awareness about the deepest origins of my problems, and thereby, modern human discontent in general, which I will describe at length in a future post. (huh?) Anyway, I no longer subscribe to the medical model of mental illness.

The medical model basically advocates the following: the many varied forms of human mental and emotional distress/psychological abnormality are primarily biological and genetic in origin, although external environmental factors have an important effect. Human wellbeing depends on the right amount of neurotransmitters (serotonin/dopamine/etc.), which are those little chemicals in…

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Excellent Erotica

I analyse (mainly gay male) porn a great deal: for personal interests, Semiotics, the sexual economy, etc: And I think I have stumbled upon some of the best porn I have seen in years. Check it out:

http://www.redtube.com/521312

 


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