the holy fools

The Politics of May ‘68

Far from deterring an audience educated in structuralism, the hermetic language and tortured syntax used within A Thousand Plateaus are seen as proofs of its analytical brilliance. However, this idiosyncratic Deleuzoguattarian discourse is causing as much confusion as elucidation among their followers. For instance, the Rhizome.Com web site blandly announces that: ‘rhizome is...a figurative term...to describe non-hierarchical networks of all kinds.’ [5] At no point does this web site explain either the political meaning of this peculiar concept or how its principles might be applied within the Net. On the contrary, rhizome is simply a hip European phrase borrowed to celebrate the disorganised nature of the New York cyber-arts scene.

Yet, Deleuze and Guattari were not simply avant-garde art critics. The two philosophers were ‘soixante-huitards’: supporters of the May ‘68 revolution.[6] Deleuze and Guattari championed the most radical expression of Sixties politics: anarcho-communism. As its name suggests, anarcho-communism stood for the destruction of both state power and market capitalism. Society would be reorganised as a direct democracy and as a gift economy. The appeal of anarcho-communism did not derive only from its abstract theory, but also from its concrete practice. During the Sixties, anarcho-communists led the search for radical solutions to the historically novel problems facing young people. With the arrival of consumer society, the traditional Left policy of unrestricted modernisation appeared to have reached its limits. Once almost everyone had annual rises in income and mass unemployment had disappeared, the problems of everyday life took on increasing importance, such as restraints on sexual and cultural freedom.

Above all, many people now wanted a say in the decisions which effected them. They were no longer willing to accept leadership from above without some form of dialogue. Responding to these historically specific circumstances, young militants rediscovered and updated anarcho-communism not just as a theory, but also as a practice. Unlike their parents’ parliamentary parties and trade unions, the New Left could articulate their contemporaries’ demands for more participation. Instead of others deciding their lives for them, young people wanted to do things for themselves.

‘[Anarcho-]communism is not a new mode of production; it is the affirmation of a new community.’ [7]

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