Affinity Politics

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Description

Summary from Roger Farr:

"In a remarkably prophetic tract published in 1910, titled “Destroying the State by Creating Socialism”, Landauer declares that radicals should “under no circumstances have anything to do with politics”, which he defines as “the rule of the privileged with the help of fictions” (a formulation which precedes Gramsci’s use of “hegemony” by several decades). In place of such “politics”, Landauer calls for a “direct affinity of real interests”, an anti-political defection from any dependence on, or expectations of, the state or the party, a decisively anarchist sentiment one could trace back further to Kropotkin’s 1887 essay “Act for Yourselves”. Although it presents itself as a “thing”, for Landauer the state was more effectively resisted when it was understood as “a relationship between human beings, a way by which people relate to one another”. Anarchists can destroy this thing-that-is-not-a-thing, Landauer argues, by “entering into new relationships, by behaving differently, [because] we are the state—and are it as long as we are not otherwise, as long as we have not created the institutions that constitute a genuine community and society of human beings.” (http://info.interactivist.net/article.pl?sid=06/04/08/1430259)


Discussion

Summary of Richard Day's arguments in the book Gramsci is Dead:

"Day believes that Landauer’s call for “direct affinity of real interests” is being answered a century later. Arguing that the tactics of the “newest social movements” (i.e. post-1980s) are “not oriented to allowing a particular group of people [read “class”] to remake a nation state or a world in its own image”, Day concludes that such movements are attempts to “determine the conditions of [our] own existence, while allowing and encouraging others to do the same” (13). While this might sound like wishy-washy relativism, it is important to note that by “others”, Day means other projects that are rooted in autonomy, de-colonization, and “affinity-based practices” (13). His examples of such projects include “asambelistas in Argentina, LPM activists in South Africa, Zapatista villagers in Chiapas, Mohawk warriors within/against North America, squatters in London” (203).

In the end, Day wants his readers to affirm the “groundless solidarity” which links these various struggles for autonomy and self-determination to one another, across or beyond any central axis of identity (19). In this respect, his conclusion resembles the one made by the autonomist Marxists, where social groups struggle to overcome their decomposition by normalized categories and divisions (class, gender, race) through a shared opposition to capitalist accumulation, except that here, the concept of “infinite responsibility”, a rather heady ethico-political form of contract borrowed from Derrida and Levinas, facilitates the articulation of linkages across “decentralized networks of alternatives” (210)." (http://info.interactivist.net/article.pl?sid=06/04/08/1430259)


More Information

  1. Gramsci is Dead