With the emergence of movements of women and of the colonized, the contradictions within the revolutionary process seem to break apart and give rise to very different “revolutionary” processes that were practically irreconcilable at the end of the 1960s and that appear even more so today.
The forms of domination and exploitation of women and the colonized are specific and difficult to grasp from the standpoint of the workers’ movement, since they add racial and sexual domination to economic exploitation. Overcoming them requires forms of organization and aims of political action very different form those of Leninism.
“The woman is oppressed within the sexual model,” Lonzi affirms. What is lacking in socialist theory? she asks. Lenin promised freedom, but didn’t accept the process of liberation, which for feminists started with gender. The Marxists succeeded at making a revolution, but the dictatorship of the proletariat proved incapable of “dissolving the social roles.” Socialization of the means of production did not weaken the institution of the family, but reinforced it […] by excluding the woman as an active party in the elaboration of socialist themes.”
One can’t undo the subjugations of the colonized and of women simply by attacking “production” and the exploitation of labor. The singularities of that fabrication of “subjectivity” (“the woman”) demand a political intervention and a form of organization that doesn’t just aim at the seizure of power. In the colonial situation, the political work is double, because one cannot “set subjectivity aside.” The black revolutionary must wage a dual struggle, “objectively and subjectively.” Because “the black soul is a construction of the White,” it must be liberated from itself, so that, for Aimé Césaire, “the struggle of the colonial peoples against colonialism, the struggle of peoples of color against racism is much more complex, or rather, of a completely different nature than the struggle of the French worker against French capitalism.”
The manifesto of Rivolta Femminile states that “domestic unpaid labor [is] the service that enables capitalism, private or state, to reproduce itself, while refusing to think of the liberation of women via access to productive labor (Lenin). On the contrary, valorizing “unproductive moments” is an integral part of the life proposed by women. “Productivist competition” is the “power plan” shared by the “societies controlled by private or state capitalism.” In the colonies, the oppositions city/country, workers/lumpen, structure/superstructure cannot function. In that world which European Marxism regards as “premodern” (and therefore ignores), we again encounter a whole series of figures and problems that we are now familiar with. The exploitation of man “assumes different guises” (unemployed, seasonal, lumpen, proletarian, worker, etc) which capital “unifies,” not like yesterday, through wage-earning and industry, but, like today, through finance. “Framing the problem of the evolution of underdeveloped countries” by an appeal to productivism, to developmentalism as in the Soviet Union (“Let us gird our loins and set to work”), “appears to us neither right nor reasonable” (Fanon). What the worker and “labor” have become more resembles the condition of the colonized and women (precarious, unpaid, servile labor) than that of the worker described by Tronti.
Autonomy of the Organization
Perhaps it’s in the feminist movement that one finds the most radical critique of the centralization and verticality of power relations in the “party” and the aims of radical organization. The transformation of “social roles,” which the revolution postpones to an after-the-revolution, is the immediate object of political practices. In order to become an autonomous political subject, the women invent a radical democracy. Within the self-consciousness groups, they test out new horizontal, non-hierarchical relations that would create a collective awareness specific to women. The concept and practice of “representation” and delegation are absent, since the problem is not the seizure, nor the management of power.
Dismantling the roles and the relegation to femininity means not being taken in by the promises of emancipation through work and through the struggle for power , which are considered as values of the patriarchal culture (and of the workers’ movement). The feminist movement doesn’t demand any participation in power, but, quite the opposite, a placing into discussion of the concept of power and seizure of power, because the only thing truly necessary for managing it “is a particular form of alienation.”
The feminist movement arrives in this way at separating the practices of the formation and affirmation of the autonomous subject from the question of revolution, by producing two very different and (according to Lonzi) incompatible concepts of politicization.
The Party among the Colonized
The colonized, while practicing a dual struggle, objective (against capitalism) and subjective (against subjugation), introduce other problematizations into the revolutionary workers’ tradition codified by the Bolsheviks.
The party “is a notion imported from the metropole. This instrument of modern struggles is imposed as is” on the protean reality of the colonies. “The party machine appears resistant to any innovation,” in the face of a reality that has nothing in common with that described in Workers and Capital , because the working class doesn’t exist or constitutes a minority.
Not only do the colonized refuse to submit to the hegemony of the working class and the workers’ movement, but they call for separate and autonomous modes of organization. The colonial question cannot be treated as part of more important whole, represented by the interests of the Communist Party, Césaire will say.
“The forces fighting colonization can only wither in organizations that are not their own, constructed for them, by them, and designed for ends that only they can determine.” Neither the theory nor the consciousness can be brought in from the outside. At the same time as they build their own organizations, the colonized have to work out their own strategies. The critique of representation and delegation also animates them. The peoples don’t need a leader, they “aren’t herds and they don’t need to be led. If the leader is leading me, I want him to know that at the same time I am leading him” (Fanon).
For Fanon, unlike for Lonzi, the “seizure of power” is never in question (“Starting in 1954, the problem which the colonial peoples ponder has been the following: what must be done to create another Dien Bien Phu? […] the problem had to do with the marshalling of their forces, with their organization, their date of entry into action.” The subject and the forms of the revolution were problematized, however. Significantly, The Wretched of the Earth submits different answers to the question of the who and how of revolution. Fanon affirms first of all that the revolution can only be global and “will be made with the help of the European masses,” even if these have “often rallied, over colonial issues, to the positions of our common masters.” Further down, in the conclusions, it’s the “third world” which, considering the “sometimes stupendous arguments defended by Europe,” but also “its crimes,” has the task of “recommencing a history of man.” Here, there is an opposition between “third world” and “Europe” that doesn’t seem to take into account what Fanon earlier named “our common masters.” The enemy becomes Europe as such; capitalism disappears beneath the racial division. These ambiguities will see an unfortunate reiteration in postcolonial thought, because revolution will be completely vacated.
Critique of the Dialectic
How do we break out of the dialectic and historicism? This is the question that Lonzi and Fanon attempt to answer. While making use of the rich European conceptual arsenal, they deliver a vehement attack on the Hegelian dialectic (and its Marxist translation). The dialectic cannot undo the roles and functions to which women and black people are subjected and by which they are excluded from history and the public sphere. The dialectic’s promise of emancipation cannot be kept.
It only concerns conflicts that take place within the “majoritarian model” (man, white, adult, etc.), so that it is “white and male.” Blacks and women are “blocked” at “stages” from which they can’t advance in order to attain the freedom of self-consciousness. Forever condemned to their condition of dominated beings, they form the hidden face of globalized capital which Hegel translates into the concepts of the “European spirit.”
From the point of view of the Marxist dialectic, the struggle depends on the development of the productive forces, following a linearity that Fanon contests. The revolutionary process is a leap, a non-dialectical rupture of the order of history that will open onto the invention and discovery of something that history did not already contain. The unpredictable, as a means of leaving history, is a thematic that one will re-encounter, enriched and broadened, in Lonzi, who clearly spells out, in two ways, the conditions of rupture with the Leninist war machine and the subject that wielded it. First, she declares that the subject is not given, that, quite the opposite, it is “unforeseen,” and, second that the temporality of the feminist movement is not the future, but the present. The unforeseen subject implies an “unpredictable act,” a rupture creating the possibilities of the subject’s own liberation.
Lonzi aims directly at the Marxist revolution, which posits a discontinuity in terms of “power,” but a continuity as to the “subject” of the revolution. Revolution (as the subject) is already happening (“the real movement that destroys the present state of things”; it only has to realize itself by taking power, which will enable it to unfold, finally, in forms more rational and more productive than those of capital. In this framework, the temporality of revolution is the future (promise), while the “present” is the temporality of the feminist rupture, the here and now (“The goal doesn’t exist, the present does.”) which starts the process of destruction of the stereotypes of femininity and subjectification. The 1960s rediscovered the new relation between “present” and revolution that Benjamin made his priority, but having lost the acute awareness he had of the destructive force of capital. While Benjamin is the first, in the Marxist tradition, to theorize revolution as a rupture in the historical continuum from the standpoint of the “present,” in the 1960s, there was a blossoming of different theories of the event which tried to conceptualize the “present” that was opened up by the struggles.
This affirmation of history’s discontinuity, this critique of its causality and its determinisms, converges with Lonzi’s unforeseen and Fanon’s unpredictability : the revolutionary subject derives from, but doesn’t depend on, history; if it comes from the economic, political, and social situation, it is not deducible from that situation. It cannot be anticipated by the imagination, by a project, or a program, nor properly grasped by knowledge, science, or theory. What one can know are the conditions it will emerge from, but it isn’t possible to anticipate its modes of deployment. Revolution is strictly something “unforeseen,” something that one can prepare, organize, promote, but whose subjectification is not contained in the conditions. It is “impossible” in the order of history’s causalities, unimaginable on the basis of the economic, social, and political determinisms.
The event comes out of history, breaks with its continuity and, turning aside from its constraints, it creates new possibles, unimaginable and impossible before the rupture, but their actualization is accomplished by falling back into history, by clashing with its “reality.” History and the situation from which it bursts forth, but also history and the situation it will fall back into, cannot be defined generically. History and the situation from which the movements of ’68 came, and which the event would fall back into are characterized by the “global civil war” and the “world revolution.”
MAURIZIO LAZZARATO | CAPITAL HATES EVERYONE: FASCISM OR REVOLUTION
TRANSLATED BY ROBERT HURLEY