"Hold high the banner of the Communist International!" Anyone who grew up in the Soviet Union remembers this call, repeated ad naseum. Does this call mean anything at all today?
Today's situation is usually sketched out in poetic descriptions of the opposition "multitudes vs. Empire" or even in gleeful Lacanian Leninism from Slovenia. While such intellectual radicalizations may briefly inflame narrow circles of international activists, such local flash-fires are quickly snuffed out, as neo-conservatism and fundamentalism make their explosive appearance. In this sense, the legacy of the Marxist International - though still appealing and even sexy - seems compromised. Historically, it was a response to the global expansion of capitalism and its seizure of new market territories. Its answer: solidarity between the disenfranchised, be they workers, peasants, or intellectuals, regardless of ethnic, religious, or national location. As such, the International dislocates traditional conceptions of community and resistance. Both now/here and no/where, its utopia is clearly messianic but at the same time - as a philosophy of practical solidarity - it demands tangible results. One of these results is the current process of globalization, which actually rests upon universal movements like the International. This movement is in danger of being forgotten.
How important is it to appeal to the Communist roots of globalization today?
“The time is out of joint”: time is disarticulated, dislocated, dislodged, time is run down, on the run and run down, deranged, both out of order, and mad
“The time is out of joint.” Theatrical speech, Hamlet's speech, Hamlet's speech before the theater o f the world, of history, and of politics. The age is off its hinges. Everything, beginning with time, seems out of kilter, unjust, dis-adjusted. The world is going very badly, it wears as it grows, as the Painter also says at the beginning of Timon of Athens (which is Marx's play, is it not). For, this time, it is a painter's speech, as if he were speaking of a spectacle or before a tableau: “How goes the world? It wears, sir, as it grows”.
The pathos of international solidarity was a key component for many a modernist movement, including Dadaism, Futurism, Fluxus, the Situationist International etc. Despite their aesthetic and practical divergences, they all accentuate the fact that we live on a common planet, where the political boundaries of nation-states do not play any role in defining the processes of the personality's creative development. Regardless of this internationalist tradition, the system of contemporary art is far from fulfilling the proclaimed ideals of internationalism and solidarity. Many artists and art-professionals have been corrupted by "big events", international success and trans-national competition. This dictatorial market neutralizes any and all progressive tendencies.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
From the Communist Manifesto, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/index.htm
In contemporary culture, it is often said that the processes of globalization have taken on an unbelievable tempo, penetrating all sides of life. However, we often forget that they follow a century of imperialism and resistance that left no contexts "innocent", "authentic", or untouched. Still, today's relationship to time is defined by a fundamental conflict: Yes, it really is possible to organize big international events in the course of half a year. But it is impossible to realize the most modest little project that attempts authentic integration in a local situation. In turn, the difference between these speeds of life raises the question of making a responsible choice as to the sphere of action.
At the Third Congress, in 1921, we adopted a resolution on the organizational structure of the Communist Parties and on the methods and content of their activities. The resolution is an excellent one, but it is almost entirely Russian, that is to say, everything in it is based on Russian conditions. This is its good point, but it is also its failing. It is its failing because I am sure that no foreigner can read it. I have read it again before saying this. In the first place, it is too long, containing fifty or more points. Foreigners are not usually able to read such things. Secondly, even if they read it, they will not understand it because it is too Russian. Not because it is written in Russianit has been excellently translated into all languagesbut because it is thoroughly imbued with the Russian spirit. And thirdly, if by way of exception some foreigner does understand it, he cannot carry it out.
Vladimir Lenin. Five Years Of The Russian Revolution And The Prospects Of The World Revolution. Report To The Fourth Congress Of The Communist International, November 13, 1922 . http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/nov/04b.htm
Contemporary philosophers and theorists prefer to speak of communities rather than the International, of alternative groupings, pulsing and networking in affectation, eroticized in symbolic exchange. Whether you're a Punk, a Raver, a Hip-Hopper or even a member of ATAC, radicalization is coded into your way of life. Because you can only be consequently authentic if you drop out from society's general production in favour of relating to your community. For this reason, such communities are very site-specific. On the other hand, they are only possible thanks to the global language of pop-culture. Today, the experience of such groups appears as an important model for artists in search of the connections between local marginality and global significance.
Philosophy takes the relative deterritorialization of capital to the absolute; it makes it pass over the plane of immanence as movement of the infinite and suppresses it as internal limit, turns it back against itself so as to summon forth a new earth, a new people. But in this way it arrives at the nonpropositional form of the concept in which communication, exchange, consensus, and opinion vanish entirely. It is therefore closer to what Adorno called "negative dialectic" and to what the Frankfurt School called "utopian." Actually, utopia is what links philosophy with its own epoch. In each case, it is with utopia that philosophy becomes political and takes the criticism of its own time to its highest point. Utopia does not split off from infinite movement: etymologica1ly it stands for absolute deterritorialization but always at the critical point at which it is connected with the present relative milieu, and especially with the forces stifled by this milieu, Erewhon, the word used by Samuel Butler, refers not only to no-where but also to now-here. What matters is not the supposed distinction between utopia and scientific socialism but the different types of utopia, one of them being revolution. In utopia (as in philosophy) there is always the risk of a restoration, and sometimes a proud affirmation, of transcendence, so that we need to distinguish between authoritarian utopias, or utopias of transcendence, and immanent, revolutionary, libertarian utopias.
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, "What is Philosophy?", New York : Columbia University Press 1994, p. 100
The Soviet experience is a unique example of how internationalism was perverted and discredited, as Stalin's projected realization of "socialism in one country" reduced internationalism to the idea of party-loyalty. Among other things, this doctrine also formed the conception of art "national in form, socialist in content". This lies in stark contrast to contemporary art in the age of globalization, which has developed the converse ideological recipe for the artwork, executed in a unified style but referring to the parameters of the local situation.
It has to do with translation. Duchamp's emigration, Joyce's exile, threw them into pondering difference and translation on several fronts. I also became increasingly interested in translation as a model through which to examine globalization. Even a thinker like Antonio Negri today places tremendous emphasis on the scene of transference, transmission, and translation. It was always of interest to look at Duchamp from this particular perspective. I was enthralled by my teacher Richard Hamilton's mysterious translation of Duchamp's notes into English. Hamilton could neither read nor speak French and called himself a "monolingual translator." Duchamp hailed the translation as a sublime event, a "crystalline transubstantiation" and a "monster of veracity." This notion of monstrousness comes back in [Michael Hardt and] Negri's book Empire. In a globalized economy one finds forms of translation that are so true as copies that it unnerves the original. In the face of such a copy the authentic dissolves. The globalized economy is a monster in a Duchampian sense, a monster of ultrarapid translations.
Conceived and realized by the workgroup "Chto delat?"
This publication was realized with the generous financial support of the Stifterverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft
Editors: David Riff and Dmitri Vilensky
Artwork and Layout: Dmitri Vilenksky and Tsaplya
Comics: Nikolai Oleinikov
The publication is illustrated by the artworks of Vladimir Tatlin | Alexander Rodchenko | Ilya Chashnik | Konstantin Vyalov | Karl Ioganson
Translations: David Riff/Russian-English | Alexander Skidan/English - Russian
Many thanks to:Tim Deussen, Karl Eimermacher
Chto Delat (What is to be done?) was founded in early 2003 in Petersburg by a workgroup of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers from Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhny Novgorod with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism.
The group was founded in May 2003 in Petersburg in an action called “The Refoundation of Petersburg." Shortly afterwards, the original, as yet nameless core group began publishing an international newspaper called Chto Delat. The name of the group derives from a novel by the Russian 19th author Nikolai Chernyshevsky, and immediately brings reminiscences of the first socialist worker’s self-organizations in Russia, which Lenin actualized in his “What is to be done?” (1902). Chto delat sees itself as a self-organizing platform for cultural workers intent on politicizing their “knowledge production” through reflections and redefinitions of an engaged autonomy for cultural practice today.
The platform Chto delat is coordinated by a workgroup including following members:
Tsaplya Olga Egorova (artist, Petersburg), Artiom Magun (philosopher, Petersburg), Nikolai Oleinikov (artist, Moscow), Natalia Pershina/Glucklya (artist, Petersburg), Alexei Penzin (philosopher, Moscow), David Riff (art critic, Moscow), Alexander Skidan (poet, critic, Petersburg), Oxana Timofeeva (philosopher, Moscow), and Dmitry Vilensky (artist, Petersburg). In 2012 the choreographer Nina Gasteva has joined a collective after few years of intense collaboration. Since then many Russian and international artist and researchers has participated in different projects realised under the collective name Chto Delat (see descriptions of each projects on this web site)
Chto Delat collective in Kronstadt in 2005
Standing: from the right: Oleynikov, Gluklya, Timofeeva, Shuvalov, Tsaplya, Riff, Penzin
Sitting: Magun and Vilensky)
Our Principles: Self-Organization, Collectivism, Solidarity
The Chto Delat platform unites artists, philosophers, social researchers, activists, and all those whose aim is the collaborative realization of critical and independent research, publication, artistic, educational and activist projects. All of the platforms initiatives are based on the principles of selforganization and collectivism. These principles are realized through the political coordination of working groupsthe contemporary analogue of soviets.
The projects undertaken by any of these groups represent the entire platform and are closely coordinated with one another. At the same time, the existence of the platform creates a common context for interpreting the projects of its individual participants. We are likewise guided by the principle of solidarity. We organize and support mutual assistance networks with all grassroots groups who share the principles of internationalism, feminism, and equality.