Today has seen a flurry of half-baked articles from the left regarding Diane Abbott’s tweet yesterday: “White people love playing ‘divide and rule’ We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism”. The left, for whatever reason, think that it is important to produce lots of material in defence of the tweet, and against a few spurious arguments that Abbott was being racist. Well ok, of course she wasn’t being racist, but this little episode illuminates with some clarity one of the major problems of left-wing discourse in the UK today: everything is about conclusions.
That might sound like a strange critique, the critique of conclusions, but it is an important one for those of us who attempt to offer negative and critical accounts of the society in which we live, and furthermore, it has consequences for notions of intervention (political or otherwise), and the nature of critique itself. For much of the left, it seems, politics is a bizarre tombola, in which slogans scrawled on scraps of paper are pulled out of a hat, and the political subject chooses whether or not they agree/like/approve/disapprove/hate/cry. But when this is the case, there can be no possibility of a critique of the hat (or society) whence these slogans came. As soon asa serious critique of society as such is demanded, it is quickly discovered that all of the conclusions drawn from it, whether yours or someone else’s are flawed and awful. And the worst thing that you can do is to draw attention away from this critique of society by playing the game, and finding the bits you like.
Actually no, that’s not the worst thing, far worse is if you take all the bits you like, regardless of how and why they are produced, and draw lines between them and call it a coherent politics. This can only further obscure any thoroughgoing critique of society. And the fact that one person’s conclusions based on one thing can sound like another person’s based on totally different grounds is to do nothing but to point to the humdrum homogeneity of all political discourse today. It is to say nothing but to point to the fact that the left has failed to escape the suffocating immersion of everything critical in the swamp of ideology. But don’t forget, you can still skim our conclusions-cum-scum from the surface. Beware of this apeiron, comrades.
So this is really a question about what we’re doing in left-wing politics. If we believe we have the answers, and that society as we know it can produce them out of the mouths of morons like Diane Abbott, then we should probably continue as we are. Transformational politics, critiques of society’s total forms, the necessity of accounts of racism that go above and beyond abstract moralism, the necessity of a critical account of history beyond a passing reference to colonialism need something different: a belief that conclusions, if we are to see any, are not likely to be discursive, they aren’t going to look like slogans, or tweets, or any other shit, but will be practical and theoretical engagements with actuality of society and history. The conclusion, in its current state, is capitalism’s greatest form of delusion, it is both the last word and the principle, it is the discursive logic of stasis, or rather the discursive logic of the obliteration of the consciousness of dynamism, of the possibility of actually changing society.
So if you want to waste your time defending the conclusions of politicians, please go back to reading your copy of the Guardian, with all the other dolts and liberals.