Been quiet over here. Been doing a lot of work and travel and stuff, and family stuff’s been intense. As usual more to do than I can, like carrying water in cupped hands, I can never manage to keep it all together. Posting now while I have a few minutes because this has been rattling in the back of my head and I want to keep what little I’ve got.

We’re doing this group blog called Recomposition. I like it. A lot of it is reprints of stuff that one or the other of the editors has published elsewhere, like in The Industrial Worker. It concentrates that content all into one place, though. I like that because all together it’s more content than I thought we were doing. We’ve also started to have some friends occasionally send us stuff to put up, which is cool too. It’s cool when your friends who you respect like something you’re working on. Anyway, it’s called Recomposition. I like the name. It’s kinda vague. Not sure if that’s a plus or a minus. Both, probly.

Among the things it can mean, one is tied to class composition analysis [something I used to blog on somewhat regularly and don’t anymore, I can lay out that stuff if anyone cares, or I’ll make this a bracketed bit and perhaps will come back to replace this with content defining my terms class composition and political recomposition of the working class as I’m going to just assume those terms in some of what follows]. I think the blog has a role to play in the recomposition of the working class but… There’s this Lenin quote I heard: “politics begin where millions of men and women are; where there are not thousands, but millions.” The political recomposition of the working class will involve an avalanche of millions. Our role in that is the role that a cluster of a dozen snowflakes plays a role in an avalanche.

At a smaller scale the term refers in some circles to rebuilding the left and/or to forming a new organization or more than one. It means something analogous to left refoundation or regroupment. That’s much smaller and sooner than the political recomposition of the working class (at least, its composition as a revolutionary collective subject). That’s still larger than the scale I think Recomposition is operating at, though we do care about that. That’s not people moving in the millions, not yet anyway, but it’s people moving in the thousands.

At a much smaller scale there’s recomposing as in rewriting. This can be literally rewriting, revising a piece to make it better, and more metaphorical rewriting in the sense of taking a second or third run at an idea that one’s been struggling to articulate in previous pieces of writing. Another sense of the word is a sort of recomposing by changing the context – placing an already Another is recomposing as in braiding with words – tying together existing pieces of writing into more of a whole. That’s important, I think individual experiences matter a lot, that stuff is clearly going on in Recomposition but those are too small – If the stuff I started with was people in the thousands and millions, this is people in the single digits – we’re doing or at least trying to do more than that.

Between the more macro registers of the recomposition of the working class as political scubject and the very micro (really, individual) registers of individual writers, what I like the Recomposition is that we’re trying to play a role in recomposing forms of knowledge and ideas about how to do mass work, as well as networks of people engaged in that work, as people with an anticapitalist perspective. To keep playing with Lenin’s formula, I think we’re talking in the low double digits up to, at most, the low hundreds. Certainly for now, though this could get bigger. The quantitative part has to do both with the level of scale at which my favorite pieces on the blog are written as the scope of the conversations we’re having and would like to have. I also think that within the milieu(s? I don’t know the plural for that word) in which we move, we play a relatively unique role. Uniqueness isn’t an end in itself but I think there’s a use for the stuff we’re putting out and trying to do, and I don’t see many other places trying to serve that use.


Edit: Another line of thought. First, some images, as metaphors. Picture thinking, except I’m too tired to think. More like brush stroke protothought (how’s that for a jumbled image).

1. Languages in the Iberian peninsula
Iberian languages

Spoken languages vary across Spain east to west and north and south, and in some respects its artificial to draw the boundaries at the political borders of Spain – there’s variation within France and within Portugal and there are speech communities along (and across) the Spanish-Portuguese and Spanish-French borders.

2. Constellations

In the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time the protagonist says at one point “Between the roof of the shed and the big plant that hangs over the fence from the house next door I could see the constellation Orion. People say that Orion is called Orion because Orion was a hunter and the constellation looks like a hunter with a club and a bow and arrow (…) But this is really silly because it is just stars, and you could join up the dots in any way you wanted, and you could make it look like a lady with an umbrella who is waving, or the coffeemaker which Mrs. Shears has, which is from Italy, with a handle and steam coming out, or like a dinosaur.

And there aren’t any lines in space, so you could join bits of Orion to bits of Lepus or Taurus or Gemini and say that they were a constellation called the Bunch of Grapes or Jesus or the Bicycle (except that they didn’t have bicycles in Roman and Greek times, which was when they called Orion Orion). And anyway, Orion is not a hunter or a coffeemaker or a dinosaur. It is just Betelgeuse and Bellatrix and Alnilam and Rigel and 17 other stars I don’t know the names of. And they are nuclear explosions billions of miles away. And that is the truth.”

3. Families, games, and braided fibers.
Wittgenstein writes that we extend the range of things we place under particular terms “as in spinning a thread we twist fibre on fibre. And the strength of the thread does not reside in the fact that some one fibre runs through its whole length, but in the overlapping of many fibres. But if someone wished to say: “There is something common to all these constructions-namely the disjunction of all their common properties” –I should reply: Now you are only playing with words. One might as well say: “Something runs through the whole thread- namely the continuous overlapping of those fibres”.

He writes about “phenomena [that] have no one thing in common which makes us use the same word for all,-but that they are related to one another in many different ways. And it is because of this relationship, or these relationships, that we call them all” by the same word. He gives the example of games, including “mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on.” He asks, “What is common to them all? — Don’t say: “There must be something common, or they would not be called ‘games’ “-but look and see whether there is anything common to all. — For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don’t think, but look! — Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear.

When we pass next to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost.– Are they all ‘amusing’? Compare chess with noughts and crosses. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of patience. In ball games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis. Think now of games like ring-a-ring-a-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared! sometimes similarities of detail.

And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way; can see how similarities crop up and disappear.

And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and cries-crossing: sometimes overall similarities.”

Wittgenstein adds that he “can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than “family resemblances”; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and cries-cross in the same way.-And I shall say: ‘games’ form a family.” (See paragraphs 65-80 of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations here; see also the Brown Book and the use of family likeness as metaphor there.)

Despite the difficulty in giving an exact definition of ‘game’, people generally use that word without much difficulty. Formalization of definition isn’t always necessary, and in some cases the formal definition can draw lines around and be smaller than the lived complexity. Wittgenstein writes “What does it mean to know what a game is? What does it mean, to know it and not be able to say it? Is this knowledge somehow equivalent to an unformulated definition? So that if it were formulated I should be able to recognize it as the expression of my knowledge? Isn’t my knowledge, my concept of a game, completely expressed in the explanations that I could give? That is, in my describing examples of various kinds of game; shewing how all sorts of other games can be constructed on the analogy of these; saying that I should scarcely include this or this among games; and so on.” (Paragraph 75.) That is, in some cases, formulating a definition is not simply to lay out what was already present as-is and to make it explicit. In some cases, there’s a certain something that is implicit and not formally defined and not subject to clear expression in definition. The gap between pensinsula and borders, official languages and spoken languages, constellations and stars.

Shifting gears:
In this document, “FdCA positions and theoretical documents,” the Federation of Anarchist Communists lays out a structure or metastructure for their organization’s ideas as written down, their “theoretical documents.”
“Our Theoretical Documents are divided into Theory, Basic Strategy, Political Strategy, and General Tactics. The documents of Theory represent the unique, united and characteristic identity of the Federation. (…) No division is allowed on Theory. Our Basic Strategy is made up of various documents setting out the long-term strategic role” of various forces including the FdCA. “No division is allowed on these documents, though they can be modified or updated by means of a process of internal debate. Basic Strategy is consistent with Theory. Our Political Strategy is made up of a series of documents that set out in the short-term the social, political and economic context (…) and the strategic role” of various forces. “These documents do not require unity, but homogeneity. They are the subject of constant internal debate and the positions contained in them are continuously updated. (…) Our General Tactics are represented by a series of documents which set out in the short term the social, political and economic context (…) and the immediate role” of various forces. “Homogeneity, not unity, is required on General Tactics. There is constant internal debate on Tactics and continuous updating of our positions. General Tactics are consistent with Political Strategy and represent its practical application.”
The important points here for my purposes are “No division is allowed on theory” or on basic strategy and “homogeneity” is required on political strategy and general tactics. To be clear, I’m not arguing against any of this. I find this approach appealing and I think that in certain circumstances this is a very good way to operate. I just think that these institutional practices are not universally applicable.
In this document –
they elaborate further on how to proceed with regard to potential disagreements on these issues. (Fuller notes below.)
The important points for my purposes:
1. There is discussion on whether or not to open up a debate on basics about some particular issues and if there’s a decision not to do so, then that issue can’t be brought up again for three years. Limits to debate, sometimes, not everything always being constantly subject to debate and revision.
2. “Art.26 – Congress shall express only one Basic Strategy. Eventual minorities shall either accept the Basic Strategy, both within and outside the organization, or leave the organization.” And Art.39 – Differences on Political Strategy may be verbally expressed outside the organization as a minority position, but may not be articulated in practice.” Some issues are splitting issues, other issues are allowed but subordinated.

Now, the Iberian Peninsula and the constellation. It strikes me that implicit in these FdCA docs is that there’s a difference between the official organizational line drawn and the lived reality of the organization as a messy thing (as a peninsula or a constellation). Official line is clearer, cleaner, smaller than the lived plurality of views and positions in process within the collection of people in the organization. Just like there’s a difference between official borders in the Iberian Peninsula and the official languages vs the languages actually spoken, and like the lines drawn between points in a constellation and the points themselves. And the official positions can be changed, via processes outlined in the document I linked to; changing them redraws the official line and to some extent is bound up with changes in the underlying messier set of people and relationships which I’ve compared to a peninsula or constellation. Presumably, though, the redrawn official line still fits to the underlying social reality of the organization to some extent. Similarly the official lines of borders and constellations can be redrawn and still fit in some fashion onto the underlying reality (and redrawing political lines can and often does have effects on the social realities mapped onto and cut across by political lines, unlike the indifference of stars to how we draw them into constellations).

Finally – Unity. There’s a time and a place for sketching out unity. But that is not every time and every place. Furthermore, that unity is always tied to a diversity. In the Recomposition group, for example, we have a sort of Iberian peninsular range of intellectual influences. Among them: Marx and the autonomist marxist tradition, council communists, anarcho-syndicalism, the platformist tradition and Latin American ‘especifismo’, and people identify with different terms as well (anarchist and marxist). I’m primarily just in the first of that list. Others are more of a range or just in one or two other terms. Likewise we have different core experiences and activities, and different attachments to and orientations to types of activity. The total ensemble – the set of stars, the peninsula, the family as a whole – is bigger than any particular overlap between any one or more people, let alone the limited area of overlap for all of us. The FdCA is likely similar in some respects. Their institutional solution is one of what can be discussed when and under what circumstances, and minorities and majorities, and under what circumstances someone has to go. Articulating the area of shared overlap has a place, but at the same time there’s disagreement on what that overlap is and what its relevance is: that is, the overlap is limited and there’s likely to be also limited overlap in the interpretations people have of what is important within and shared among the group. To use the family resemblance metaphor again in another way, family members can differ about what they see as resemblances defining the family likeness.

Or, the Iberian metaphor again… peninsular writers and speakers in any given language (or dialect, the distinction is an interesting and sometimes controversial one) innovate within that language, expanding the space of speech practice in that language. That’s different from the aggregating move of defining the language or the set of languages.


More fragments:
1. Achieving unity is often divisive, and division is often unifying for particular fractions that define themselves against whatever it is they are a fraction of or a division from. This is in part because unity and disunity are perspectival: for any similarity these is some level of magnification at which differences appear and for any difference there is some level of magnification at which similarities appear.
2. Rather than “what and who are we?” and “what defines our belonging?” I prefer “what have we done? what do we do? what could we do? what should we do and why?” Not being but doing, not object but process in motion.
3. A clear statement of our over all views… to accomplish what effects, internally and externally? And can those external effects be accomplished by other means? Instead of a borders or a map or an official language, why not more space and more writing? Why agree?

* excerpts
IV – Congressional Debate
Art.10 – There are two types of strategy: Basic Strategy and Political Strategy.
Art.11 – The FdCA’s anarchist communist militants are united on Basic Strategy: they reject any possibility of two different Basic Strategies existing within the organization. They recognize, though, that in cases where members should develop alternative, complementary positions of Basic Strategy, these must be discussed within the organization on condition that any dissent remain internal. This discussion is activated through the “Debate on Basic Strategy”.
Art.12 – FdCA members tend towards unity on Political Strategy. Political Strategy is periodically discussed and it is permitted for any minority viewpoints that may exist to be made known verbally outside the organization. This discussion is held through the “Debate on Political Strategy”.
V – Debate on Basic Strategy
Art.15 – Proposals to amend the organization’s Basic Strategy must be forwarded to the National Secretariat, which is then obliged to distribute it to all members of the organization within 30 days.
Art.16 – A debate on the question is then initiated by members through the Internal Bulletin, and views expressed on whether or not an official “Debate on Basic Strategy” should begin.
Art.17 – The Council of Delegates shall prepare two motions summarizing the various motions which may have emerged, one in favour of and one against the opening of a “Debate on Basic Strategy”. A vote on the two motions shall form part of the agenda of the successive Ordinary Congress.
Art.18 – Ordinary Congress will decide, by majority vote, if a “Debate on Basic Strategy” is to be opened.
Art.19 – Should Ordinary Congress decide not to open a “Debate on Basic Strategy”, the amendment in question may not be presented again for 3 years.
Art.20 – Within 30 days of the opening of a “Debate on Basic Strategy”, members shall meet more or less at provincial level in order to express their initial evaluation of the points in question by means of one or more amendments which will then be sent to the National Secretariat for publication in the Internal Bulletin.
Art.21 – During the next 120 days, it is the task of every member to coordinate with those who have expressed similar positions to his or her own in order that the minimum number of positions possible be reached at the end of the debate.
Art. 22 – Once the preparatory debate has ended, members shall meet more or less at provincial level and send the text of the amendments presented at the coordinating meeting to the National Secretariat.
Art.23 – The Council of Delegates shall then call a “Congress for the Debate on Basic Strategy”.
Art.24 – The National Secretariat shall publish and distribute the various amendments emerging from the debate.
Art.25 – All members are by right entitled to attend the “Congress for the Debate on Basic Strategy”. Observers are not permitted.
Art.26 – Congress shall express only one Basic Strategy. Eventual minorities shall either accept the Basic Strategy, both within and outside the organization, or leave the organization.
Art.27 – Differences on Basic Strategy must be kept within the organization during the debate.
VI – Debate on Political Strategy
Art.28 – By reason of its nature, Political Strategy needs to be discussed at regular intervals, such intervals being not more than 4 years.

Art.38 – Congress shall decide on a majority position and, on request, shall indicate to the minorities the changes of wording required to be made to their positions in cases where the majority considers these to be damaging.
Art.39 – Differences on Political Strategy may be verbally expressed outside the organization as a minority position, but may not be articulated in practice.”