CCXLII

“While CORE activists based their caucus on the lessons of failed attempts to reform the CTU and the objective conditions faced by Chicago educators in the early twenty-first century, they were also drawing from a long lineage of labor radicals who had transformed their unions into militant, democratic organizations—not just through leadership challenges to replace conservative leaders with progressives but through the building of rank-and-file worker power independent of the union bureaucracy.

Adherents to this strategy see the stratum of labor leadership, the ‘bureaucracy’ highly prevalent in American unions, as having its own set of interests separate from those of the union members, leading leadership to often act on behalf of their own interests rather than those of the workers so as to reproduce their power and prestige—and, often, their wealth. Thus it is often necessary for labor radicals to fight both the boss, attempting to extract more and more profit from them, and the union bureaucracy, who will attempt to clamp down on any kind of worker activity that could loosen its grip on power and threaten its privileged position as the ‘working-class aristocracy.’

Such organizing has often been carried out by socialists throughout American labor history, from the pitched union battles during the Great Depression up to the twenty-first century. In 1934, facing conservative union leadership at the international and local levels, radical Teamsters in Minneapolis organized workers independently of official leadership to—in the words of socialist leader and rank-and-file organizer Farrell Dobbs—’aim the workers’ fire straight at the employers and catch the union bureaucrats in the middle.’ (Some CTU staffers and activists held a study group on Teamster Rebellion, Dobbs’s book, in the lead-up to the 2012 strike.) Eventually the strategy led to not only a string of organizing victories headed by rank-and-file workers but also the Minneapolis general strike of 1934—an event that never would have come to pass if the dissidents had simply attempted to gain leadership rather than transform their local from the bottom up.”

(Micah Uetricht. Strike For America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity. London: Verso 2014, pg. 34 [ebook])

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Aside

CCXLI

Not only is this classic Marxism-Leninism, this is a perfect illustration of socialism-from-above and it’s unilateral way of viewing oppression (i.e. the unilateral model of oppression):

“The organizational forms that communists assume do so based upon the historical necessity of what the class enemy dictates.” (Gunther Davis [on Facebook])

[See also: (CCXIX)]

CCXL

“In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.” (Christopher Glazek)

CCXXXIX

“Not-all” man is like “Mr. Me Too.”

Whenever someone says that “we’re oppressed because of x, y and z,” Mr. Me Too will shout,

“Yeah me too!”

This position is false in many ways, particularly in its “performative” dimension. Nevertheless, it represents a conceptual advance over the unilateral model of oppression (i.e. oppressor does all the oppression [and therefore has all the agency], while the oppressed can be acted on or resistant). This is because it introduces the perspective of totality (admittedly in a lame way).

[“I know, I know, yep, yeah you too

Okay we get it, yep, yeah you too
I know, I know, yep, yeah you too
Okay everybody meet Mr. Me Too

I know what you thinkin’ why I call you Me Too
Cause everything I say, I got you sayin’ Me Too”

CCXXXVII

The “not-all” man (comic series) is interesting in that, while it brings up important issues, seems to miss something that is indicated in their name: the logic of the “non-all.”


 

“A second misreading consists in rendering obtuse the sting of the formulas of sexuation by way of introducing a semantic distinction between the two meanings of the quantifier “all”: according to this misreading, in the case of the universal function, “all” (or “not-all”) refers to a singular subject (x), and signals whether “all of it” is caught in the phallic function; whereas the particular exception “there is one…” refers to the set of subjects and signals, whether within this set “there is one” who is (or is not) entirely exempted from the phallic function. The feminine side of the formulas of sexuation thus allegedly bears witness to a cut that splits each woman from within: no woman is entirely exempted from the phallic function, and for that very reason, no woman is entirely submitted to it, i.e., there is something in each woman that resists the phallic function. In a symmetric way, on the masculine side, the asserted universality refers to a singular subject (each male subject is entirely submitted to the phallic function) and the exemption to the set of male subjects (‘there is one’ who is entirely exempted from the phallic function). In short, since one man is entirely exempted from the phallic function, all others are wholly submitted to it, and since no woman is entirely exempted from the phallic function, none of them is also wholly submitted to it. In the one case, the splitting is externalized: it stands for the line of separation that, within the set of “all men”, distinguishes those who are caught in the phallic function from the ‘one’ who is exempted from it; in the other case, it is internalized: every singular woman is split from within, part of her is submitted to the phallic function and part of her exempted from it.

However, if we are to assume fully the true paradox of Lacan’s formulas of sexuation, one has to read them far more literally: woman undermines the universality of the phallic function by the very fact that there is no exception in her, nothing that resists it. […]

Suffice to recall a political leader-what is the ultimate support of his charisma? The domain of politics is by definition incalculable, unpredictable; a person stirs up passionate reactions without knowing why; the logic of transference cannot be mastered, so one usually refers to the magic touch, to an unfathomable je ne sais quoi which cannot be reduced to any of the leader’s actual features-it seems as if the charismatic leader dominates this (x), as if he pulls the strings where the Other of the symbolic order is incapacitated. The situation is here homologous to the common notion of God as a person criticized by Spinoza: in their endeavour to understand the world around them by way of formulating the network of causal connections between events and objects, people sooner or later arrive at the point at which their understanding fails, encounter a limit, and God (conceived as an old bearded wiseman, etc.) merely gives body to this limit-we project into the personalized notion of God the hidden, unfathomable cause of all that cannot be understood and explained via a clear causal connection.

The first operation of the critique of ideology is therefore to recognize in the fascinating presence of God the filler of the gaps in the structure of our knowledge, i.e., the element in the guise of which the lack in our positive knowledge acquires positive presence. And our point is that it is somewhat homologous with the feminine “not-all”: this not-all does not mean that woman is not entirely submitted to the Phallus; it rather signals that she sees through the fascinating presence of the Phallus, that she is able to discern in it the filler of the inconsistency of the Other. […]

One can see now, how the logic of the formulas of sexuation ultimately coincides with that of public power and its inherent transgression: In both cases, the crucial feature is that the subject is effectively ‘in’ (caught in the phallic function, in the web of power) only and precisely insofar as he does not fully identify with it but maintains a kind of distance towards it (posits an exception to the universal phallic function; indulges in the inherent transgression of the public Law), and, on the other side, the system (of public Law, of phallic economy) is effectively undermined by the very unreserved identification with it.  Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption tackles with all stringency this problem apropos of the paradoxes of prison life. The commonplace about prison life is that I am effectively integrated into it, ruined by it, when my accommodation to it is so overwhelming that I can no longer stand or even imagine freedom, life outside prison; so that my release brings about a total psychic breakdown, or at least gives rise to a longing for the lost safety of prison life. The actual dialectic of prison life, however, is somewhat more refined. Prison effectively destroys me, attains a total hold over me, precisely when I do not fully consent to the fact that I am in prison but maintain a kind of inner distance towards it, stick to the illusion that real life is elsewhere, and all the time indulge in daydreaming about life outside, about nice things that are waiting for me after my release or escape. I thereby get caught in the vicious cycle of fantasy, so that when eventually I am released, the grotesque discord between fantasy and reality breaks me down. The only true solution is therefore fully to accept the rules of prison life and then, within the universe governed by these rules, to work on a way to beat them. In short, inner distance and daydreaming about life elsewhere effectively enchains me to prison, whereas full acceptance of the fact that I am really there, bound by the prison rules, opens up a space for true hope.” – Slavoj Zizek

CCXXXVI

‘Meritocracy’ is one of the ruling ideas of Capitalism, and thus Socialism-From-Above.  But the ruling ideas are not necessarily the ideas of them that rule.  And a true ‘Meritocracy’ is rather theological, really – for only a God could sort the worthy from the unworthy.

Instead, we have to go by the results alone.  If you have money, or popularity, or prestige – there is no way to tell if you’ve “earned” it, but this is what is assumed: the product sold because people wanted it, the leader was chosen because they were the best for the job, the expert was called in because they knew best.

In the end, ‘Merit’ becomes just a retroactive justification, a rationalization.  (or reification, perhaps?)

CCXXXV

Socialism-From-Above is not individual enough, because it has no place for individuals within its project.  At best it has room for a handful – the Marxist-Leninist cadres, the Ultra-Leftist activists, or the Social-Democratic represtatives.  So what are the rest of us?

To truly take into account the individual is really to take into account the individuals.  And for this reason too, Socialism-From-Above is not collective enough.

 

CCXXXIV

Including oneself in the totality that one is criticizing may seem like implicating yourself in something that you oppose, or are oppressed by, etc.  This is true, to an extent, but it is also the only way of having agency over it, of being able to change it.

An example: a video game provides comfort from a new, understandable totality – a new set of rules, and a new “Big Other” to please.  But video games also possess the unique ability to make a player feel guilty for things they did in the comfortable, consistent virtual-world.  Why?  Because the player is an active participant, and has a responsibility for their actions in the game, whether they accept it or not.

Thus the totality can be criticized only from the standpoint of someone complicit in it; someone who nevertheless feels that there is something wrong somewhere.

CCXXXIII

Contrary to what the intersectionalists believe, “intersections” should not be located primarily on the level on the individual, but in society.

 

[Society = (capitalist) mode of production]

CCXXXII

“There is no necessary contradiction between capitalism and democracy (as we know it). On the contrary, capitalism is the only system of class relations that can tolerate political democracy. [..] This means that capitalism can be democratic in a way that no other class society has ever been.” – Ellen Meiksins Wood

Also: “(1): Democracy in capitalism is real and not simply and illusion; (2) subordinate classes have political rights of a kind that they’ve never enjoyed before; (3) those rights do indeed mean something within the sphere in which they operate; and (4) disparities of wealth, though they clearly have political consequences, have less effect on political rights than in any other system.

And yet, all this unprecedented political power leaves the relations of class domination and social inequality essentially intact.”