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The Transformation of Poverty and the Transformation of the Revolutionary Project. . .

BY NOW IT HAS BECOME PAINFULLY evident to everyone -- apart from a gag radical left -- that it is not one or another isolated aspect of contemporary civilisation that is horrifying, but our own lives as a whole, as they are lived on an everyday level. The utter debacle of the left today lies in its failure to notice, let alone understand, the transformation of poverty which is the basic characteristic of life in the highly industrialised countries. Poverty is still conceived in terms of the 19th century proletariat -- its brutal struggle to survive in the teeth of exposure, starvation and disease -- rather than in terms of the inability to live, the lethargy, the boredom, the isolation, the anguish and the sense of complete meaninglessness which are eating like a cancer through its 20th century counterpart. The left blithely accepts all the mystifications of spectacular consumption. They cannot see that consumption is no more than the corollary of modern production -- functioning as both its economic stabilisation and its ideological justification -- and that the one sector is just as alienated as the other. They cannot see that all the pseudo variety of leisure masks a single experience: the reduction of everyone to the role of passive and isolated spectators, forced to surrender their own individual desires and to accept a purely fictitious and mass-produced surrogate. Within this perspective, the left has become no more than the avant-garde of the permanent reformism to which neo-capitalism is condemned. Revolution, on the contrary, demands a total change, and today this can only mean to supersede the present system of work and leisure en bloc.

THE REVOLUTIONARY PROJECT, AS DREAMED among the dark satanic mills of consumer society, can only be the creation of a new lease of life as a whole and the subordination of the productive forces to this end. Life must become the game desire plays with itself. But the rediscovery and the realisation of human desires is impossible without a critique of the phantastic form in which these desires have always found the illusory realisation which allowed their real repression to continue. Today this means that 'art' -- phantasy erected into a systematic culture -- has become Public Enemy Number One. It also means that the traditional philistinism of the left is no longer just an incidental embarrassment. It has become deadly. From now on, the possibility of a new revolutionary critique of society depends on the possibility of a sex revolutionary critique of culture and vice versa. There is no question of subordinating art to politics or politics to art. The question is of superseding both of them insofar as they are separated forms.

NO PROJECT, HOWEVER PHANTASTIC, can any longer be dismissed as 'Utopian.' The power of industrial productivity has grown immeasurably faster than any of the 19th century revolutionaries foresaw. The speed at which automation is being developed and applied heralds the possibility of the complete abolition of forced labor -- the absolute pre-condition of real human emancipation -- and, at the same time, the creation of a new, purely ludic type of free activity, whose achievement demands a critique of the alienation of 'free' creativity in the work of art. Art must be short-circuited. The whole accumulated power of the productive forces must be put directly at the service of man's imagination and will to live. At the service of the countless dreams, desires and half-formed projects which are our common obsession and our essence, and which we all mutely surrender in exchange for one or another worthless substitute. Our wildest fantasies are the richest elements of our reality. They must be given real, not abstract powers. Dynamite, feudal castles, jungles, liquor, helicopters, laboratories . . . everything and more must pass into their service. "The world has long haboured the dream of something. Today if it merely becomes conscious of it, it can possess it really." (Marx)


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