Why do we write so badly?
Criticism never ceases regarding our general style of writing as proved by the Revolt Against Plenty and Dialectical Butterflies websites. Ranging from the dyslexic to too many big words, to obvious-to-anybody-but-ourselves, sink school grammatical errors, it also brought into the fray extremely poor editing, repetition, lousy syntax together with a content ranging from the maudlin to the plain nasty crowned finally with half developed arguments indicative of a poorly developed intelligence always failing to deliver any promise that originally may have been there. In short a colossal abortion deserving of oblivion.
Perhaps it's worth saying something about these unfortunate lapses? Editing! Well quite and nobody knows more than ourselves how woeful this can appear. Many are the times we've done battle with the beast only to end up devoured by the creature, always, always wishing there was someone out there to do the honours, or rather, dishonours we were obviously incapable of; in short, someone who was sufficiently sensitive to the arguments whilst wielding a deft blade. Left to the lonely selves, bit by bit texts were gone through often over and over ever hoping to carry out the necessary ruthless pruning that knowing, enlightened sensibilities, find so essential. And time after time sorrowfully the task was abandoned after many exasperating attempts. The crux of the problem remained with the nuancing: How to put across arguments without culling those ins and outs that may acknowledge complexities, even perhaps beginning to note unforeseen riches just millimeters away yet still hidden even from our eyes.
Inevitably 'classical' late 1960s pamphleteering, 'coherent' revolutionary phrasing decked out in plain formatted theses style was ineluctably, though also reluctantly, slowly abandoned. What was to be done as we well knew our friends simply didn't like this development one little bit? We were left with the conundrum of being off-shoots of broadly (very broadly) situationist theorizing becoming something else entirely. Not crisp and terse, shortish and polemical in presentation as was once the case but increasingly meandering like some river in a flood plain or, if not that, in wilder moments, more akin to the dense, hot swamps of the Mississippi delta.
Ineluctably too, this transgressing, this 'turning in over', this drift, this collage of disparities in motion, was ending up somewhere else than intended reminding you of something else entirely if historical precedents were to be called forth. Instead of manifesto form, enquiring, radical notebooks were coming more to mind and something the complexities of the age were forcing on us; something working as it were behind our backs. History beckoned in the form of Coleridge's Biographica Literaria together with the huge parentheses deployed by De Quincey, or even the letters of Vincent Van Gogh with perhaps touches of the 'illiterate ravings' of John Clare in his Helston lunatic asylum. Except there was something else entirely stalking every line of these 'new' notebooks: the necessity of a total revolution – first posited in the late1960s – though we now knew we had to encompass a far wider totality than ever envisaged way back then and one we had no choice but to open ourselves up too. A Pandora's Box indeed.
In the 1950s and 1960s it was the updating of Marx's Capital (Volume 1) that went a long way to formulating the theory of the society of the spectacle (well, together with the outcome of the rebellion of modern art). Today it is Capital 111 (also originally written in unfinished, scribbled notebook style before Engels put it together making it presentable,) its 'diaphanous' difficulties fitfully researching the phenomenon of fictive capital and credit. Where all this is leading is still very much an open question. 'Diaphanous' was a word once chosen deliberately to describe Shelley's 'writings', especially his 'poetry' as he yearned to describe shapes hardly revealing themselves which he once described as "thoughts wildernesses"; shapes often moving beyond the power of writing to describe and courting incomprehensibility even to himself; shapes where economics and social emancipation collided with then unknown ecological referentials; shapes which negated the role of poet and many other roles besides. Are we at similar crossroads?
Increasingly throughout the 20th century something strange happened to capitalism as the system began to push at the limits of its own laws paradoxically attempting to break their very existence though finally falling apart if pushed too far. Marx here and there hinted at such possibilities though he had no notion how such forms would materialize and he never would have suspected how a Bolshevised state capitalism could come about. Bukharin once commented that instead of revolutionary emancipation we could end up with an absolutely enslaved society of human ants (EO Wilson take note!) moving around like cogs in a machine where the law of value was suspended and money would have no meaning. In short, a society ruled by a ruthless world government prefigured by state capitalism, state monopoly capitalism plus especially a Bolshevised state capitalism. More though was to come. Loren Goldner a few years ago said of the recent free market globalization that it was the strangest form of capitalism that has ever existed. (This is not an exact quote). Recognising this we took this a step further, noting in 2005 that its disintegration – now in near full flow – and like all previous forms simply pushed too far, will be even stranger... and which we'll have to deal with as a practical, imaginative renewed revolutionary rationality is brought to bear on the problem.
The world was a smaller place in the late 1960s. There was the traditional power of a huge industrial working class only metres distant. Science had yet to embrace quantum physics in any viable way. Astronomy and theories of creation – big bangs and the like/"we are all stardust" – were in their infancy. Installation art had not by any means taken the world becoming inseparable from the broad outlines of contemporary political economy. Ecology was also in its infancy and everything on that level seemed so obvious and simple well before green con and green wash had gummed up the works. Sure, back then we had the problems of nuclear power but nothing like the proposed techno fixes of today promising an eternity of even greater consumption with no environmental price to be paid! Moreover, in the 60s there was still the possibility of viable personal relationships whereas now only vanquished ruins remain, leaving you endlessly carrying on with empty shells colonized by a society of light entertainment pointing to ever-extending ludicrous dead ends. (Just try penning some lucid prose on this state of affairs!) Today we have no choice but to deal with all of this and by dialectical dovetailing attempt to bring all together, negating the pretensions and, in the fashionable terms employed today, "thinking outside the box" which our present society, despite its wishes, is absolutely unable to do. Yes, we get somewhere yet inevitably at times hashes are made in putting things together attempting to revive cutting edge revolutionary theorizing. At times the words clearly fail....
Slowly it appeared in front of us like an immense project; a coming together something perhaps akin to Hegel's dream of a book that never ends (perhaps like a web or intelligent blog that never ends). Rambling becomes something of an end itself precisely because there seems to be no beginning merely a continuation. James Joyce called his writings 'stream of consciousness' though in reality they were hardly that, more the subconscious spilling over in flowing, unrepressed words - often with double meanings - profound with implication if you go with this flow and don't question too much. In reality, 'stream of consciousness' is more appropriate to the webs discussed here where vastly different arenas of knowledge are subject to dialectical critique and adaptation. A drift maybe with reason uppermost, one maybe like the Beats, like say in a cornball way Kerouac's roaming and ravings gave rise to – yet without his literary pretensions especially his ridiculous novelistic hubris which tended to vulgarise many of Kerouac's insights (e.g. one among many – his remarkable comments on the jazz saxophonist Lester Young).
Moreover, what we put down involves practical application essentially bound up with the perspectives of total social/personal/environmental revolution clearly and persistently pointing out that if this path is not taken everywhere our chances of pulling through this equivalent of a Permian extinction , largely engendered by an unbridled capitalism, is remote indeed. Our chances of survival are inescapably dwindling by the day and we have precious little time left. We have been accused of unnecessary despair yet despair – and urgency – is the very essence of our times and these attempts posted here, are maybe the broad outlines of a new totality which just may now have a chance of breaking on through to the other side.
Maybe too, this roaming style might prefigure a certain way of future insurrectionary discussion, prelude and reflection to moments of practical actions; actions that animate outside of the formalities of workers' assemblies which all too often in their classic mode initiated in the revolutionary years between 1917-26 had great limitations in an age when the world has not only to be completely 'reimagined' (in the words of contemporary ecologists who unfortunately still wish to keep things within a revolution of the mind) but totally practically transformed from top to bottom out there in the streets and fields: Free form writing drifting into free form language and free form, all encompassing action. In the recent North Killingholme wildcat construction workers strikes the Bearfacts Internet 2 site ('bears' is a colloquial Scottish term for building workers) gave plenty of space to spontaneous building workers' comments rich in the gloriously misspelt).
As for the mixture of 'maudlin' and 'nasty', well that is there but does it really amount to much especially when coming from individuals who long ago threw in their lot with the most outrageous reaction in history and who, finally, can no longer stand the consequences of the choices they made themselves? Comments indeed from those who've fallen between two stools but who still refuse to acknowledge the immensity of their collaboration.
We guess the 'maudlin' refers to the often unrepressed grief we've expressed for those remarkable individuals who never made it and whose deaths we inevitably lament and think about daily. (Maybe we should make apologies for this because it is crude, quite unforgiveable and something not done in polite, repressed circles). These guys and gals were among the most authentic people it was possible to meet but growing reaction took a dreadful toll often smashing them to pieces. It has been said that the failed world revolution of 1917-26 resulted in the destruction of some of the most aware insurgents of their time through jailings, torture and the firing squad etc. Reaction in the last decades of the 20th century In Europe and the United States (though not Latin America and elsewhere) was to be of a rather different order involving a largely state induced personal disintegration deploying hidden persuaders and grand silences expressed in ultra excessive alcoholism, drug addiction and madness often crowned with the DIY choice of suicide mimicking the choices on display by a rampant free market. The hurt was intense as these largely anonymous, often self-educated individuals, often surviving at the sharp end gave off a life-enhancing presence, infectious to say the least. They weren't a nit-picking lot, ever ready to point score picking on inadequacies and failures regarding correct English, where colons, semi colons should be placed and what woozy syntax should be edited out!
Then the other side of this: Mr. Nasty! Too true. On the other hand why shouldn't you have got pissed-off with former companeros who, in terms of yore, accepted 'the king's shilling' the 'bangles, baubles and beads', offered by a formerly very persuasive society with smoke and mirrors as its very essence, when by en large you'd refused such useless temptation. For certain you would have like more simple economic security, some position even whereby you wouldn't have been treated with such daily contempt. Yes, an academic post would have been welcome indeed and would, no doubt have gotten round the broke heart syndrome seeing most personal relationships (when it comes to such activities as theory and writing) are mediated through position in hierarchies (crude, sad but true) expressive of the corruption of love in an alienated society. But it could not be: To have talked and written like we do is absolute anathema to academia. A great forbidden. Hence we are not published though ripped-off blind by professional journalists everywhere who never acknowledge these sources knowing we are not into copywrite. To them we are no people, easy pickings for pathetic media movers and shakers who, in any case, only take up your arguments to make nonsense of them... no doubt sneering at the inadequate English in passing. Such is the nature of the beast we wish to subvert and eventually destroy.
A long time ago we decided there was little point in looking over shoulders or pulling punches. It was growing late in the day and we had no economic prospects in the offing; no hope of any inclusion in any hierarchy cultural, political, scientific or whatever, so why not tell it like it was, or is, as honestly as you perceived and to hell with what anybody thought of it, friends or foe alike. Warts and all! Long live bad writing!