In the initial formulation of the notion of Revolutionary Situation (in his article Mayovka of the Revolutionary Proletariat) Lenin describes two conditions for a Revolutionary Situation, which were later summarized as “the bottoms don’t want and the tops cannot live in the old way”. Later, Lenin adds one more condition: the readiness of masses for revolutionary action. In his text “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder he even claims that for the victory of Revolution it is necessary that the majority of workers are ready to meet death in their struggle. The greatest of Lenin’s achievements was to proclaim, at some point, that the revolutionary situation is now and not somewhere in the future.
Let’s forget for a moment about the tops and the bottoms, and concentrate on these verbs: “don’t want”, “cannot”, “are ready” (to act, to meet death). Here, we deal with unwillingness, impossibility, and mobilization. Living in the old way is not desirable any more, and it is not possible, so that one is ready for everything. That’s what I call despair.
The border between hope and despair is very subtle. There can be a moment where they are almost indiscernible, but right after this moment – when THIS is not only undesirable, but impossible, and absolutely unbearable, – in brief, when hope slips away, or rather leaps into despair – there is a point of no return. Only those who are desperate are ready to die in this struggle – not because they hope for a better future, but because they cannot stay in the present. Desperation simply means that things cannot stay like this. And here is the difference – until there is no hope, true revolutionary action is postponed.
There are three types of hope:
- That things will get better (and therefore we should either patiently wait and do nothing, or even support the status quo – to prevent changes which can bring about a bad outcome);
- That things will get better if we struggle (that is, we can make the world better, improve it);
- That things will get worse (they are not so bad now, the future will produce more trouble, a revolutionary situation will follow, we must prepare ourselves for it, etc.);
The first kind of hope is conservative and reactionary, the second progressively reformist (and functions effectively, making а perfect balance between capitalism and social-democratic struggles), and the third one – messianic. Thus, operaists or accelerationists are convinced that capitalism inevitably leads to a catastrophe, that things will finally get so bad that it will provoke a revolutionary situation, giving us a chance: capitalism will destroy itself, and we must either wait for this moment of self-destruction, or else hurry it along. The moment of the greatest catastrophe and the greatest danger is in the future (which means that while our present might look not so nice, it is still, somehow, tolerablе – in comparison to, say, an ecological catastrophe which will happen in the very near future, as was shown in the recent film Interstellar by Christopher Nolan, and other Hollywood movies).
Catastrophic communism rejects all three kinds of hope. No, this situation will not miraculously get better, and we cannot improve it and make it more tolerable, since capitalism is fundamentally wrong (little improvements in the condition of the working class in Sweden are balanced by hyper-exploitation in India, etc.), and it cannot really get worse because it is already the worst, there is no salvation. This is the situation of despair, or a revolutionary situation, when one cannot, does not want, and is ready for everything. Forget about the future, you are fighting not because you hope to improve your condition, but because this condition cannot be tolerated. You act out of impossibility. A desperate person can move mountains – it’s not hope which gives her this force, but anger, solitude, hunger, extreme unhappiness, pain, the unbearableness of her desire or need.
One does not have hope, one is doomed, but this is so fundamentally and absolutely wrong and unjust, that one simply cannot stay in this hopeless and desperate situation, he is urged to act here and now, this cannot be postponed.
As soon as we consider ourselves as living beings, we always have reason to postpone acting – once one is alive, there is hope (at the very least a miracle can happen). In the contemporary vitalist biopolitical regime life is recognized as a sacred value, and Lenin’s idea of readiness for death for the revolutionary cause sounds almost criminal. Nothing, no political ideas and ideals can be as sacred as individual human life, they say: there are always alternative ways of life and forms of life which are to be praised.
But what if we are not alive? The zombie is the one who is dead, who therefore does not have any hope, but still has a desire, and consciousness, or bodily feeling, or even a kind of instinct or inertia related to the fact that the extreme injustice of his situation cannot be tolerated – this is the ultimate despair. As already dead, he just cannot live, and that is what, paradoxically, makes him undead, or a living dead. His decomposing body is not individual any more, it does not belong to any person. А zombie does not have an individual life, nothing to take care of, and yet he does not consent to rest, he still desires, and his impersonal body acts.
When we think about the zombie apocalypse, we tend to identify with the survivors (forgetting, for example, that in capitalism one survives at the expense of the other – isn’t this fact already absolutely unbearable?), but what if we are not among those happy survivors? What if we are already on the other side? Forget hope: revolution starts in hell.