So to go back to the question: why does the revolution matter? Because of what was right about it, and what went wrong. It matters because it shows the necessity not only of hope but of appropriate pessimism, and the interrelation of the two. Without hope, that millennial drive, there’s no drive to overturn an ugly world. Without pessimism, a frank evaluation of the scale of difficulties, necessities can all too easily be recast as virtues.
The revolution also matters because it was, quite properly, millennial. Its opponents regularly charge socialism with being a religion. The claim, of course, is hypocritical: anti-communism is just as often infused with the cultish fervour of the exorcist. And more importantly, it’s no weakness that alongside and informing their analysis, the partisans of 1917 were driven by a utopian urge, the hunger for a new and better world, to become people capable of inhabiting it.
I’m not sure quite how I discovered the post-nihilist bloggings of Arran James; I think he must have written something about the Neo-Reos or the Accelerationists that someone linked me to a while back. There’s something important in this closing passage from a longer think-piece on the rise of Prometheanism, which James hopes may represent an end to the “depressive” or melancholic politics of the moment:
Have the politics of resistance and the politics of withdrawal really been a kind of stalling gesture? We have demanded infinite demands and finite demands and we have demanded unity and demanded an end to calls for unity. We have demanded ceaselessly. But while we demand we address some Other: I can’t do it, you do it. And this isn’t just a critique of electoral politics but extends to those who would drop-out or disappear, as well as those who “would prefer not to” or who wish not to get their morals dirty. All of these positions amount to the same thing: the absence of a political desire. Perhaps this is how our political cartography should begin to be carved up: those with the desire for revolution; those with the demand for revolution; those whose remain within the imaginary; those who place themselves at the infrastructural. This infrastructure may be the material infrastructure of things, but it could also be considered the psychic infrastructure of illusions. Promethean desire is first and foremost the thirst for new illusions, and a turning away from the ‘withdrawals, secessions and mere interruptions’ (Tosacano) that we’ve grown used to.
I felt like I was having a finger pointed at me. In a good way.
Worth reading alongside this here video of novelist and all-round left-intellectual dreamboat China Mieville talking at this year’s Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference on the limits and necessities of utopia in the context of ecological and social justice:
China Mieville, on being asked whether TC&TC is an “interstitial” work:
I consider it a crime novel, above all. The question of whether or not it’s fantasy doesn’t have a stable answer; it’s to do with how it’s read, what people get out of it, and so on. Certainly I was very aware of genre, and of the fantastic, and there’s a certain kind of (I hope good-natured) teasing of readers about the whether-or-not-ness of a fantastic “explanation” for the setting. And other issues, I think, about the drive to world-creation, and the hankering for a certain kind of hermetic totality that you see in fantasy, and so on. Not I hope that that stuff is heavy-handed, but it’s there in my mind. I don’t mind whether other people think the book’s “splipstream,” or “interstitial,” or whatever. I think of it as within the fantastic tradition, but for me that’s always been a very broad church. Whether it’s “fantasy” in the narrower sense, I don’t much mind. Certainly I’m not abjuring the termâ€”it would be ungrateful and ridiculous for me to distance myself from a set of reading and writing traditions, and a set of aesthetics and thematics that have furnished my mind since forever.
And on whether he has sympathies with allegorical readings:
Personally I make a big distinction between allegorical and metaphoric readings (though I’m not too bothered about terminology, once we’ve established what we’re talking about). To me, the point of allegorical readings is the search for what Fredric Jameson calls a “master code” to “solve” the story, to work out what it’s “about,” or, worse, what it’s “really about.” And that approach I have very little sympathy with. In this I’m a follower of Tolkien, who stressed his “cordial dislike” of allegory. I dislike it because I think it renders fiction pretty pointless, if a story really is written to “mean” something elseâ€”and I’m not suggesting there’s no place for polemical or satirical or whatever fiction, just that if it’s totally reducible in a very straight way, then why not just say that thing? Fiction is always more interesting to the extent that there’s an evasive surplus and/or a specificity. So it’s not saying there are no meanings, but that there are more than “just” those meanings. The problem with allegorical decoding as a method isn’t that it reads too much into a story, but that it reads too little into it. Allegories are always more interesting when they overspill their own levees. Metaphor, for me, is much more determinedly like that. Metaphor is always fractally fecund, and there’s always more and less to it. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that in no way do I say some of those readings aren’t valid (though I must say I have very little sympathy for the “East” versus “West” one, which is explicitly denied in the text more than once), but that I hope people don’t think the book is “solved” by that. I don’t think any book can be so solved.
This time next week, I’ll no doubt be sound-checking in preparation for this:
Yup, Aeroplane Attack‘s first appearance at The Wedgewood Rooms, a former place of employment for three members of the band and the premier live music venue in Velcro City. And it’s a free gig on a Friday night – so if you’ve got no plans, head on down! Promises to be a night of goud loud tuneage, and I’m really looking forward to it… especially as I’ve borrowed a new echo box and am itching to deploy it over a large PA.
So, likely no FPB next week, much like last week (although my excuse last week was a train journey up to Manchester). It’s all go in my universe, as I do keep mentioning… so I’d best get on with it, eh?
Album of the week
Actually from last week, but easily good enough to carry over… it is, of course, The Eternal by Sonic Youth. If you’re a Sonic Youth fan already, you’ll be wanting to pick this up. If you’re not yet a fan, it’s accessible enough to be a good contemporary introduction to an utterly original band who’ve been gigging and recording almost as long as I’ve been alive. Go listen to ’em.
Yeah, look at me compressing a number of sections into one. Such is the manner of my life at the moment, and – during the scant seconds I get to sit and consider it – I’m quite enjoying it that way, thank you very much!
No review writing has been committed for a while, but I’ve been getting a decent amount of reading packed into the schedule; currently about a third of the way through China Mieville’s The City & The City, which is a good story whose premise is handled with subtlety, though I’m finding the narrative voice a bit odd at times – often enough, in fact, that I may shift to reading the published version rather than the ARC in case what I’m seeing is a pre-copyedit state.
Still plenty on my freelance plate, though the light is visible at the end of a few tunnels (even as another seems to stretch itself out further). Futurismic is rolling along nicely; we got linked to at MetaFilter the other day, and while it didn’t bring an avalanche of traffic I’m really chuffed to see us there, because I’ve been following the MeFi feed for almost as long as I’ve had an internet presence – and hence appearing there is a little like getting to have a drink in the Cheers bar would be for television fans of a certain age.
What else has been happening? Well, adventures Northward, band practices and meetings (and plain old hang-outs), live shows (like the mighty Clutch), hunting down cardboard boxes so as to ship seventy-odd kilos (SRSLY) of unwanted books to a buyer… from the sublime to the mundane, it’s all go, basically.
So there’s just time to trumpet happily about the arrival of Charlie Stross‘s new short fiction collection, Wireless, which arrived in the mail this week (and will be shouldering its way up the TBR array in the days to come).
Now, I’ve got stuff to be doing, so I’ll bid you all a good weekend. Take care!