This project has the bold yet rather simple aim of formulating a material basis of free association toward a consolidation of revolutionary capacity. While not a specific end, it is a definite one toward which the project will exhibit a certain, perhaps novel, organizational theory by design; that is, the implication of its formulation by decidedly objective means will suggest an alternative to, and a sidestepping of various archaic organizational tendencies as are based in abstract criteria such as fairness or the fickle flux of their constituent idiosyncrasies (to include the dynamics of affinity groupings). Our primary reason being that such criteria provide a fundamentally unfalsifiable basis for efficacious organization (implemented as a sort of organizational vitalism as opposed to any more critical necessity). Rather will we here suggest a testable alternative that is self-sufficient toward its definite scope of purpose–as an instrument, rather than an institution.
To this end might we pursue a sort of organizational militancy wherein practical necessity overdetermines the effective aggregate of principled positions held of the consensual body of that organization; which is to say that as an instrument of practical necessity toward practical ends, the principled impetus or ideals behind it operate within its given framework as implements of consolidation (perhaps as opposed to detriments)–its theoretical guideposts, perhaps. For instance, any manifest weakness of the organization would be intrinsically recognizable as a vector of attack, rather than abstractly as a failure of imagination, initiative, fortune, leadership, and so on (definitively, as mere failures of organization in the abstract or on the basis of some organizational vitality), nor otherwise would blame for such weakness be hoisted upon the individual members of the organization; rather would any such failure rightly fall upon the entire body of the consenting whole, ergo the organization itself and always already a structural failure to be resolved structurally and, hence, objectively. In this way, we can perhaps assert a clarification of organizational militancy, itself, as explicitly (even definitively) structural, as opposed to modal or incidental to the organization (a mere statement of purpose or affectation or even chance effect of outcome), which is to say that we assert a sort of militancy by design.
There are at present a very few routes for achieving such an organization. Implied here would be the need for trustless infrastructure, lest the organization be subjected to innumerable and only abstractly conceivable points of failure (or articles of faith, for that matter) and thus rendered less an instrument than an institution. Few, if any innovations of the general intellect have achieved a trustless criterion of infrastructure quite like the blockchain as utilized within the broadly novel paradigm of cryptocurrency. An immutable and distributed ledger of transaction of such decidedly material consequence (as afforded by an incentivized mechanism of consensus) offers unparalleled infrastructural transparency and auditability, narrowing the operation of trust to a singular matter of literacy of an arguably more exoteric, and indisputably more objective nature than that of the legal or merely financial sort–specifically that of code.
Unique among the various contenders within the blockchain paradigm and its breakthrough application within that of cryptocurrency is the so-called world computer known as the Ethereum network, referred to as such owing to its unique capacity for executing code on its respective blockchain, rather than merely processing transactions. Afforded in this unique capacity is the possibility of what is colloquially referred to as smart contracts, which is to say, contracts which autonomously execute their stipulations in adherence to objectively defined conditions. Tangential to this would be the so-called DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization, in which an aggregate of smart contracts effect the structure of an organization.
While the implications of a DAO are self-evident as regards the abilities of a vested minority to organize around a shared interest or stake in a highly frictionless manner (skirting many various legal niceties or abstractions), less pronounced are the radical implications of such decentralized autonomy: The barriers to erecting a truly radical and revolutionary organization are typically some combination of legal, financial, as well as a host of petty social contingencies, and while viable profit-seeking entities necessarily surmount such barriers by virtue of their viability, the very inverse would seem the case for any radical antithesis. It is practically the extent to which an organization is revolutionary that it is necessarily imperiled on all fronts, yet while the emergence of DAOs has broadened the scope of what is viably profitable beyond many such contingencies, seldom if ever yet has any ostensibly revolutionary organization seen fit to so brazenly or even merely audaciously skirt state sanction but from out of whole cloth. (organizations of dubious or precarious legal standing typically persist only insofar as they pose no threat of consequence or any coherence of structure)
Granted, the function of DAOs by and large is to do the bidding of stakeholders to whatever extent a stake is held, often objectively favoring the bidding of majority stakeholders with little to no input from smaller stakeholders, and while this bears out little differently from the realities of legal incorporation, the social, and sometimes financial risk of DAOs is more plainly evident in the lack of any attendant compensatory legal contingencies. Suffice to say that what is taken as merely financial risk to be mitigated under some assurance of legal and financial scrutiny is often experienced outside of such auspices as a vector of attack to be contended with and even outright prevented by objective means. And while effective governance is an essential means of bolstering attack resistance, the first line of defense is always a matter of legitimacy, or the ability to reliably secure consensus among those who would become subject to it.
While it would seem a tautology to say that one does not freely join an organization that one does not believe in–as legitimately congruous to their own aims–this ignores innumerable factors which may and very often do lead to exactly such a concession. Firstly does one seldom appreciate a complete understanding of any organization toward which one might feel inclined, and secondly does one often harbor designs upon whatever such organization, however erroneously projecting upon it their own various hopes and dreams and, invariably, their misapprehensions. As regards such designs, this is neither inordinately narcissistic nor cynical nor mere naivete, but a simple adaptive calculus in recognition of the limited number and capacity for organizations of any particular stripe or interest, as well as a recognition of the actual malleability of such organizations under which one and all vie for recognition–such organizations often proving as accommodating or conciliatory to one member’s fickle caprice as that of another and always ever subject to some approximately mean aggregate of just that.
Conceivably, were nigh-infinite variations or alternatives to a given political organization possible, a member’s consent to join or participate or even offer material support to a particular organization would carry substantially more weight than one could presently attribute to such membership or support. We approximate such a possibility when we narrow an organization’s structural formation to a matter of code which, by its very nature, may be endlessly iterated in sequence or tangentially (forked), and we actualize consent to the extent that, were any such iteration more compelling than another, it would command consent in near as great a measure of difference. This stands as doubly the case when such consent is effected in the installation and operation of a node of that organization (both literally and figuratively) as an expenditure of time and resources and, thus, represents a concerted effort and acceptance of a certain margin of risk, or at least a more intelligible one–certainly one more palpable than some flight of fancy which materializes in the form of card-carrying.
It is really only insofar as an organization replicates (by which is meant, reproduces identically and in its structural entirety) by the concerted efforts of its scrutinizing body of constituents that it proves a vehicle of free association, rather than an association by manner of impulse, affinity, happenstance, or whatever other contingent manner of mere compulsion.
As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon the present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from this struggle, are removed, nothing more remains to be held in subjection — nothing necessitating a special coercive force, a state. The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies down of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not ’abolished’. It withers away.
- Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring
Friedrich Engels once described a rather compelling vision of a society’s process of becoming effectively stateless, and while this vision clearly instantiates this process on the basis of a revolutionary state which deposes itself by design of its revolutionary impetus (seizing the means of production for the whole of society by a class which seeks for its own abolition as such, as described by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto), he could perhaps hardly have envisioned the means by which the superfluousness of all manner of organizational apparatus, to no exclusion of the state, might prove already apparent in the technical appropriation of the means of circulation (formerly the legal domain of central banks and, to a lesser extent, national treasuries, as well also as various legally sanctioned private institutions) by the spontaneous innovation of its instruments. Indeed could it be said that much pretense as to the governing of people is common to all organizations but ultimately illusory except insofar as such government exacts its organizational capacity coercively. Yet wheresoever the consensual will of the governed exercises a certain disregard for such coercive organizational capacity–a disregard for law or for explicit sanction–is that capacity fundamentally eroded.
If the rule of myth is broken occasionally in the present age, the coming age is not so unimaginably remote that an attack on law is altogether futile. But if the existence of violence outside the law, as pure immediate violence, is assured, this furnishes proof that revolutionary violence, the highest manifestation of pure violence by man, is possible, and shows by what means.
What Walter Benjamin here suggests is that wheresoever law is undermined do we see some indication of the final means of its deposition. Yet it is perhaps essential here to critically examine just where and how the state’s mythical or legal rule might be broken, rather than bolstered. For this we might turn to Slavoj Žižek’s particular reading of Benjamin’s sense and use of the term, divine violence:
… the law can only sustain its authority if subjects hear in it an echo of the obscene unconditional self-assertion. And the people’s “divine violence” is correlative to this excess of power: it is its counterpart—it targets this excess and undermines it.
Thus might we read into Engels’ own simplified notion of a state’s role as the “government of persons” as necessarily its “obscene unconditional self-assertion” (little different from Engels’ own sense of its being a “special coercive force”) and perhaps imagine already this shift toward the administration of things as counterpart, as undermining it even where it does not directly challenge it–asymetrically,1 as it were. Already might we glean the means of realizing such a counterpart within any organization toward that realization insofar as such proves actually counter to that which it aims to undermine, rather than channeling or reproducing its “echo.”
And is not such a countering already implied in the task of this project as the formulation of a material basis of free association, particularly insofar as it aims at the consolidation of revolutionary capacity? Would not such an organization by its very design as such serve a damper to this echo of the present order, by which is meant the means of its reproduction? No mere stop-gap, but already exemplary of how to disrupt the present mode of production by the capture and redistribution of its means already toward its very dissolution, and to no exclusion of its coercive means as both a cause or resultant of the present mode of production?
This last matter of the means of coercion deserves some exposition: If we consider, as Marx does in the introduction to the Grundrisse, that the distribution of the means of production stands as a determinant, historical precondition of production or the mode thereof, it would seem then that the forceful redistribution of such by coercive means (those means’ own distribution similarly born of a particular productive mode, and undistinctively as a result of “social accident”), or by such means the enforcement or maintenance of a given distribution (the state in defense of property, for instance), the structural configuration of any means as might produce a particular outcome bear little distinction from one another. (coercion as a means of production, and thus its own means as indistinct)
We should perhaps go further here in our elaboration of coercive means, as this should strike us as distinctly an apparition of the state, or that form by which the state appears as such, as itself. The state as a coercive force then is rightly identified by Engels as “special,” which is to say, distinct from coercion as an ordinary feature of society as such, as historically determined rather than transhistorically emergent of communal or social life. Implicit here is that the redistribution of the means of coercion to no special body but instead its appropriation by the society as a whole suggests the wholesale dissolution of such coercion as a special category and, thus, the dissolution of the state. This dissolution, however, stands as but a subset of that of class by the redistribution of the means of production–effectively, society’s appropriation of its own means–rendering production and its means similarly as ordinary features of society (ushering them as though finally from out of the crucible of ever-sharpening class struggle). Either manner of dissolution of these various special or alienated categories entail a definitively political project of dissolution, by which is meant, revolutionary.
Therefore, any revolutionary organization would presuppose such dissolution within its own works and workings, its entirety in practice intervening upon the pernicious onset of alienation from political life–alienation of political instruments from the polis–instigating a sort of radical complicity in the course and correlation of society–perhaps as objectively and assertively complicit in its administration as an apportioned distribution of its various means, which is to say, administering certain of the very means of its reproduction. This should be understood as nothing other than a reestablishment of human agency over humanity’s inhuman faculties as opposed to the effective inverse presently operative. An organization as a revolutionary faculty must be treated as inhuman, as an instrument of humanity (or as the definitive expression of common inhumanity2), rather than an institution merely serviced by those subject to it3 or else such subjects in service to those presiding over it.
Implicit here is some recognition of a revolutionary organization as inextricable from the society purportedly advanced by it, society itself being something of an organization, however abstractly realized. Suffice to say, better or more definitely organized societies within the whole of society often vie for some semblance of hegemonic dominance over that whole, and seldom on its behalf–certainly not genuinely so. Were such a thing possible, were it within grasp by whatever means on behalf of society as a whole, it would rightly command the most sober impulses of any serious revolutionary inclination.
Yet what is the preeminent mode of organization around political and ostensibly revolutionary ends other than as a dues-collecting entity, as intrinsically bound to and dependent upon the wage relation, typically collecting some portion of its members’ wages and very rarely some tiny portion of those wages unpaid4 (bourgeois adventurism,5 perhaps) and, whatever the case, obviously balancing immensely more toward the former. This is perhaps an essential mode for any entity aiming specifically to win a higher wage for its members, effecting an investment of sorts on their behalf, but an organization with more radical aims must prove itself in a commensurably radical manner, lest it stand as but a commodity of sorts and vehicle of personal sustenance for its members, ultimately to the benefit of their current or prospective employers; remaining ripe for exploitation if they are to remain active and dues-paying members of such an organization; their very labor power ultimately subsisting upon their indulgence of the desire to reclaim that power.
Here we identify but one of the ways any organization of revolutionary ambition remains captive to the greater organization of what society it inhabits, and while surely this is to some degree an inevitability, one might be given to imagine some way in which an organization even of this sort might stretch its members’ dues or even efforts more effectively toward some stated goal; dare we say even toward the social reproduction of some portion of its membership? each to whatever degree increasingly forming its very cadre? One might be given to imagine such an organization investing some portion of its treasury either directly or indirectly toward this end, and while this might seem a contradiction on its face–to invest in whatever extent facilitating the reproduction of capital toward the curtailing of such reproduction,6 for instance–is it any worse a contradiction than to garner wages under pretense of immense constraint (or restraint, for that matter) and little more than frivolous expenditure, or else merely contenting its wage-earning members in a manner little different from that of a tithe?
Alternatively might we imagine an organization putting its very capacity as such toward some manner of gainful service. And what if such service were not only of some conceivable benefit to society as a whole but also bore the potential for the advancement of that society and even gained for the organization some collectively owned stake in that advancement, perhaps even boundlessly so? What if such service were reciprocally of direct benefit to the organization? even a guarantor of permanence in presence and operation? What if as a side-effect of this capacity, such an organization were able to win for itself some stake in, say, a global economic network free of any central authority, rather than in some manner of bond or index fund or other sorts of institutional financial devices?
Yet, such an organization need not necessarily command any vast or somehow significant share of any one aspect of society’s own organization but should instead stand poised to shoulder such just as fluidly as to operate solely in the margins. Indeed, it should be as an effect of the latter that the former might prove possible. Here we might be given to consider the differences and order of importance between strategy and tactics, wherein tactics must be concrete and sufficient toward their own ends, a strategy must prioritize and build off of tactical contingencies and outcomes. Ultimately, a strategy’s worth can be measured by the soundness of the tactics it deploys, or the extent to which it may be reduced to some essential core of such tactics. Thus might we imagine that any consolidation of revolutionary capacity must be firstly a matter of iterative design or craftiness more than a matter of vision or moral certitude or any other such presuppositions that might bind or petrify revolutionary stratagems–revolution as something that must be planned toward, rather than planned for.
Let us imagine for a moment the direct autonomy of society over its own means. How might we who imagine such a state construe our own role in what we have previously regarded as its “administration of things”? Certainly might we imagine divisions of labor by which the most interested and able see to their particular capacities, not altogether unlike society of today; likewise might we imagine divisions within the administration of society’s means in which, again, the most interested and able generally see to the prosecution of those capacities they take upon themselves. How are such interests and abilities sorted out in lieu of such a partitioning as would be handed down by some pretext of prior accumulation simply “working itself out” as in the “present anarchy” of social production? Would free association as we have heretofore understood it merely occur at the level of production–between producers (productive operatives of whatever sort) on the one hand, owing their lots as such to social accident, and administrators on the other, come up by like means–or would it extend preeminently into the highest echelons of some commonality of administrative duty wherein we might secure against incursions by the most egregious effects of prior accumulation–against cynical expropriation?
To find oneself barred from any role in administration, as much as to be thrust into duties of administration overwhelmingly among those of differing prerogative (a flattening homogenization), could hardly be regarded as a condition of free association; rather might we imagine the free formation of administrative blocs who, among each respectively, determine in solidarity of a consenting body the prerogative of the whole via mechanisms of deliberation and delegation. Such administrative blocs may, at one time or another, stand as opposed or allied to other blocs based upon overlaps in priorities, membership, or so forth, but as the workings of society prove ever more nuanced, it is perhaps more likely that blocs would agglomerate based upon recognition of need and the leveraging of ability and make common cause wherever those capacities intersect, oppositions being sorted out largely within those blocs, rather than between.
Any such bloc need not succeed the achievement of such a state of free association; indeed could such just as well prove the very vehicle of its succession over the preceding order–the very instrument of that order’s deposition. Thus might we finally envision a course of continuity between efforts toward, as well as in the midst of revolution, a feat presently elusive among existing modes of organization which generally find themselves at stark odds between what we might regard as militant and as [prefigurative]7. Just as the communist notion of the new man anticipated, quite reasonably, the formation of new ways of “being in the world” resulting from the struggle for and establishment of socialism, so too might we envisage new ways of interacting within a society emerging in like fashion–in the course and wake of that society’s iteration–emerging of the revolutionary organization as simultaneously a bloc and germ of the world it seeks.
In order to secure the criteria by which an organization, its community, and, ultimately, a new mode of society might emerge, it is crucial to first design what would effectively be a consensus on how such an organization would operate before it operates, or an organization’s protocol as its organizational basis–its preeminent means of consolidation and its primary bid at legitimacy as such.8 We should here draw upon the metaphor of a community “boot sector”9 as a persistent structure at the core or inception of that community’s structure–that structure, itself, being definitively an organization. Granted, such a core must needs derive from a spontaneous communal formation we would rightly glean as akin to those extant political organizations we might otherwise dismiss (as overly subject to a great many abstract contingencies), yet the smaller such a core’s minimum capacity for persistence toward its goal, the more fluent its basis of organization, however spontaneous.
It is thus the contention of this project that such a boot sector (referred to here under the designation bootSector) need-be formed under some basis of understanding or agreement upon the concept of freeAssociation as elaborated here or under some iteration hereafter as its foremost bloc and perhaps an elaboration of blocs of such kind as preeminently productive blocs yet indistinguishable as such from their administrative roles. bootSector would thus be the community by which an organizational protocol emerges, as well the impetus toward that protocol and its ensuant network’s development–as the producers of that organization in concept and structure as well serving as the foremost bloc to achieve maturation as such within its scope of definition.
Such a bloc would constitute a sort of a vanguard in the particular sense of establishing and striving to instill its principles by all measures of its activity through and within the protocol, but it is the protocol itself as demonstrated by this bloc’s activity therein which should serve to represent those principles in action, rather than merely the principled conduct of that bloc for instance, nor even necessarily the popular adoption of the protocol, which need only sustain and persist securely in its function to prove its efficacy (to attain legitimacy by its own criteria). It is precisely to the extent that such a protocol may simply be wielded toward its task as formulated in its origination as that of freeAssociation that it might finally serve a thoroughfare of society’s self-reproduction as a matter of course–as a veritable incarnation of popular will which precedes any inkling of such, even foreclosing upon any and all need for such will’s direct enactment. It could very well be said that all that is required of a revolutionary vanguard and its project is to provide a certain carrying capacity to match the aggregate of popular will only wheresoever and to whatever extent such will might manifest, to stimulate such will only insofar as required in the accomplishment of its task, and ultimately, to truly free this will as that which is only effected in association among its particular wills. Indeed the facilitation of such association is perhaps the sole task of any revolutionary project.
As clarified by Ross Wolfe through the writings of Marx and Engels in The Holy Family: “The proletariat…is compelled as proletariat to abolish itself and thereby its opposite, private property, which determines its existence, and which makes it proletariat. It is the negative side of the antithesis, its restlessness within its very self, dissolved and self-dissolving private property. Nevertheless, the propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. But the former class feels at ease and strengthened in this self-estrangement, it recognizes estrangement as its own power, the semblance of a human existence. Whereas the latter feels annihilated in estrangement, recognizes it as its own powerlessness, the reality of an inhuman existence. The proletariat is conscious of its spiritual and physical poverty, conscious of its dehumanization, and therefore self-abolishing (MECW 4, pgs. 35-36)” ↩
We should bear in mind here Marx’s elaboration of the use of humans by machines and, hence, by capital insofar as those machines represent capital in its constant or dead form (as opposed to its living form in the apportioned labor power of the workman), in which the laborer is rendered a mere appendage and shaped thusly over the course of a life subject to such diminution. One might extrapolate here some sense in which this process of valorization is that by which capital becomes undead. ↩
This matter is perhaps deserving of follow-up: As in, perhaps there is some need of formulating a degree to which we might characterize the balance between an organization’s facilitating, in turn, the reproduction and deposition of capital. ↩
This is a form or level of consensus to which we have heretofore alluded that we could perhaps clarify as two-feet consensus or as deriving from the “Law of Two Feet” as perhaps a lower order of the concept of legitimacy with which we present such consensus throughout this piece as fundamentally entangled. ↩