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#3 Emancipation of-from Labor

Dmitry Vilensky /// 9 Points for Initiating a Discussion on the Historical Subject

1. History continues. This is a worrisome fact that we can no longer ignore. In the current situation, it is useful to re-examine the old Marxist axiom of the proletariat’s assumption of its role as an historical subject. What does the proletariat mean today? Which changes has this class gone through? And who can, at present, pretend toward the role of a historical subject?

1. History continues. This is a worrisome fact that we can no longer ignore. In the current situation, it is useful to re-examine the old Marxist axiom of the proletariat’s assumption of its role as an historical subject. What does the proletariat mean today? Which changes has this class gone through? And who can, at present, pretend toward the role of a historical subject?

2. Marx was always eager to relate revolutionary changes in industry to the impending political revolution. To him, it was clear that the steam-engine and other technical innovations of the 18th century contributed more to the revolution of social life than the most prominent political event. In more recent times, it is obvious that the character of labour itself has changed radically, becoming less and less material. More and more people are involved in productive processes whose essence differs fundamentally from classical industrialist production.

3. Workers in the field of intellectual labour – intellectuals and artists – were among the first to develop and master new forms of globalized, networked production. Their “immaterial” labour is loaded with the highest productive potential. Consequently, these forms are also charged with a high potential for resistance or uprising.

4. Any power or authority strives to control this sphere of human activity. The society of control functions on a bio-political level, exploiting not only working hours but also “free time”, which is reduced to the work of consumption. The neo-liberal fundamentalists would like to see all spheres of life as parts of a unified, corporate industry. This control extends to the field of culture. Culture is enclosed within the boundaries of a corporate spectacle, made harmless, alienated from its consumers as well as its producers. In this way, culture is deprived of the possibility for imagining a society whose democratic structures are built through the creative participation of every individual.

5. To quote Slavoj Zizek’s lucid commentary: “…The fundamental corrosion of all important social connection released the djin from its bottle: it leads to the movement of hidden centripetal forces, which the capitalist system can already no longer completely control. Thanks to its global triumph, the capitalist system has become more labile than ever. Marx’s old formula is still in effect: capitalism is in the process of digging its own grave”.

6. Only creativity can liberate the individual from exploitation and alienation. The opposite of labour is not lethargy, but creative activity, which resists the disciplinary mechanisms of product fetishism. All of what is best in culture is never produced under compulsion or order, nor is it dictated by the tides of intellectual fashion. Real creativity is a celebration, a feast. A priori, it opposes the acceptance of norms that regulate the everyday cycle of production and consumption.

7. Art is that which disrupts the established order, giving rise to a creative chaos, from which utopian forms for a new society can emerge. Culture renews its development when it sets the goal of transforming society’s whole. This goal is revolutionary in essence.

8. As in the era of worker’s autonomy, today’s intellectual and artistic vanguard must reclaim the factories of the cultural industry. If culture recodes any form of negative-critical thought into a spectacle, we must answer by recoding cultural-industrial labour itself, reendowing it with the radical-democratic creative impulses that inalienably lie at its core.

9. However, it is impossible to realize this goal while the production line of images, texts, project is still rolling. Today, we need to pause, to refrain, to stop the conveyor. It is only through this intermission that we will be free to understand in how far our activity is dictated by external circumstances. And in this moment, it will possible to continue to make history. Its historical subjects will be those who feel this inner necessity to reassess the situation at its current stage of development. These singular individuals form a multitude, which has a very real chance of making its own revolution.

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