Monday, October 21, 2019

Joshua Clover on the commune

Joshua Clover on the commune: “When I say commune, I really don’t mean what the common associations of that. I don’t mean the Paris Commune of 1871, although that seems amazing. Nor do I mean other historical communes – there’s the really interesting commune in Mexico, in Morelos in 1910-11, the Shanghai Commune, and many other examples – I don’t really mean that. And nor do I mean this thing I associate with my parent’s generation, of sort of ‘back to the land’ movements of the 70s, where a bunch of people who could moved to a cheap place in upstate New York an start growing their own zucchini. I don’t mean either of those things.

I mean a specific kind of struggle which is neither a riot or a strike. So if I can lay out the scheme briefly. Riots are struggles in circulation, and they’re for people who are market-dependent but not necessarily wage-dependent – so that’s by definition the sphere of circulation and they’re struggling in that area. Strikes are for people, are struggles in the sphere of production, so they are wage dependent and can struggle there. This seems to describe all of capitalism right, production and circulation? But there’s this whole third sphere we forget all the time, which is the sphere of reproduction – where you and I and everyone else who is not a capitalist has to figure out how to stay alive each day, and keep their family alive. So sexual reproduction is the obvious example, but also buying food and finding shelter and caring for each other and all that.

Struggles that launch themselves from that sphere are what I’m calling the commune. The limit of the strike is that it’s inclined to ask for more and better labour, wages, work conditions, and so ends up affirming the wage relation – certainly in this day and age when it doesn’t have a revolutionary horizon to speak of. And the limit of the riot is that it ends up affirming the market – even if it gets down to looting, which is the clearest, truest and best part of the riot still it’s affirming this idea that there’s stores, they have commodities and we’re not going to pay this time – but still affirms that existence.

So the question for me is: what kind of struggle doesn’t affirm either the wage or the market? That kind of struggle I name the commune. So the commune is a kind of struggle that is not demanding a wage and is not demanding better access to consumer goods. It’s not fighting for either of those things, but it’s fighting to figure out how to reproduce itself socially without reference to those things.

But – there’s a huge but – that’s not going to be allowed to happen peacefully… I want to be able to think about that category which is the category of struggling from the space of social reproduction, entirely aware that it’s going to mean direct conflict with capital and the state. That is the horizon of revolutionary politics for me. The particulars of what it looks like? I don’t know: Road Warrior? Game of Thrones? Walking Dead? All these shows are trying to figure it out, right? This is the question. In this apocalyptic scene, where the organising forces of our world, state and capital, can no longer provide a good life for people, what does the attempt to survive look like? We need to have a better imagination than the Walking Dead, which is a Nietzschean version of that question. And we need to have a better answer, and that’s why we’re here, right? It’s not because we know the answer but because we’re committed to getting to that answer.”

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