In a recent post I referenced a text by Wu Ming from 2001. I think the text is beautiful and as I mentioned I think the sense of standing in a long line of historical continuity is important. The line is on the one hand that of the long history of communism understood as “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things,” in Marx’s words. Marx emphasized that “[t]he conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence,” and I think historical memory is one such condition. Someone from Wu Ming linked to my post, with an excerpt from their introduction to a short book of material by Thomas Muntzer. (Muntzer figures largely in the novel Q, which I can’t recommend enough. I also recommend the novel 54 highly. Check it out.)

I look forward to getting to read the whole piece on Muntzer. In the excerpt, Wu Ming criticize their own role in the lead up to the Genoa G8 protests in 2001, describing that role as “help[ing] to pull the movement into the ambush (…) the bloodbath.”

I’m not going to argue about the role of that text in its context with regard to the Genoa protests and so on. I’d like to read the whole piece and hear more about all of that. I hope this isn’t trivializing of me, the piece at the Wu Ming blog reminded me of this old song –

In 1649
To St George’s Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’ s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed
Reclaiming what was theirs

We come in peace, they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the land in common
And to make the waste land grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it can be
A common treasury for all.

The sin of property
We do disdain
No one has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls
Rise up at their command.

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feeds the rich
While poor men starve

We work, we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to masters
Or pay rent to the lords
We are free men
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory

Stand up now
From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed –
Only the vision lingers on

You poor take courage
You rich take care
The earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace
The order came to cut them down

I think it’s important to remember the costs of this sort of thing. (The big ones, and smaller ones too though I don’t want to trivialize the big ones by talking about smaller frustrations.) That’s part of why I don’t sympathize with calls to make politics joyful, as I’ve said – politics sucks a lot, and will, until we win and don’t need it anymore. I think there’s no real way around that, though of course we can and should try to minimize the suckiness and make politics as livable as possible.

The Wu Ming piece also goes into some detail about what they see as some the roles of mythmaking. The piece is definitely worth reading. Go read it.

The stuff on myth there suggests that myth and narrative can be part of “the premises now in existence” for communism. Arguably, historical memory is a variant of this.

The stuff on myth also helped me crystallize elements of my complaints about Negri (here’s the most recent monotonous iteration). One of the things that I object to is to Negri and others’ periodization. In a thing I wrote a long while back I wrote that

I find it interesting to note not only Hardt and Negri’s use of Schmitt, but the similarity in how Schmitt and Hardt and Negri read Marx. Schmitt writes, “the antithesis formulated by Karl Marx: bourgeoisie and proletariat (…) concentrates all antagonisms (…) into one single and final battle (…) by integrating the many bourgeois parties on earth into a single order, on the one hand, and likewise the proletariat on the other. By so doing a might friend-enemy grouping is forged.”

Hardt and Negri write, “a theory of class not only reflects the existing lines of class struggle, it also proposes potential future lines. The task of a theory of class in this respect is to identify the existing conditions for potential struggle and express them as a political proposition. Class is really a constituent deployment, a project. This is clearly how one should read Marx’s claim about the tendency toward a binary model of class structures in capitalist society. (…) This claim is really part of a political proposal for the unification of the struggles of labor in the proletariat as a class. This political project is what most fundamentally divides Marx’s binary class conception from the liberal models of class pluralism.”

Hardt and Negri continue, noting that today “the old distinction between economic and political struggles becomes merely an obstacle to understanding class relations.” In light of the above quote one must read ‘understanding’ as essentially synonymous with ‘shaping’. They continue, “Class is a biopolitical concept that is at once economic and political. When we say biopolitical, furthermore, this also means that our understanding of labor cannot be limited to waged labor but must refer to human productive capacities in all their generality.”

Given their references to and similarity to Schmitt, I speculated that perhaps Hardt and Negri’s periodization in terms of post fordism and real subsumption might be part of a Schmittian move. I wrote: “I suspect that the historical break that Hardt and Negri posit may be part of a Schmittian attempt to construct a political community through positing ours as a historically and politically ripe moment.”

Put another way, after reading the Wu Ming piece, the periodization and the ripeness of the present time in Negri’s work is mythical. Likewise with my objections to elements of things said by the Edu-Factory folk. This writing has a strong mythopoetic aspect. I don’t object to that per se, but do object to some of the details of the particular myth propagated, and to some uses of mythical aspects of this writing by people who don’t seem entirely clear that these are mythical.