Information Department announces the first meeting of the Los Angeles Shadow Beaver group. Shadow Beaver is an Information Department initiative that aims to reproduce the workings of the Sixteen Beaver group according to local conditions in areas other than lower Manhattan, where it is based. Information Department asks: why should such important work be confined to such a limited context?
The first meeting of the Los Angeles Shadow Beaver group will reprise the meeting of Sixteen Beaver from April 24th, 2014, a dinner and discussion on the notion of “living communism.” Although the group will not be joined by “friends from New York Year Zero,” the text by New York Year Zero in the original Sixteen Beaver announcement will be discussed.
Text for original meeting by New York Year Zero:
Communism is often offered as an inverse or opposite of capitalism, something which might perhaps appear following capitalism’s defeat or collapse, but which for now remains obscure, unimaginable, impossible. As such, many so-called “communists” spend their time being rather obsessed with capitalism, its economies, finance, laws of value, etc. Their sole practice remains some kind of mastery / endless diagnoses of the history, mechanisms, and minutiae of capital. Never before have so many self-described “materialists” spent so much time in libraries reading dusty old books, or sitting home alone with their laptops. Never before have materialists been so separated from the world, from their bodies, from life itself.
Alain Badiou, in his Rebirth of History (2011), writes, “during an international conference on the idea of communism, Antonio Negri publicly took me as an example of those who claim to be communists without even being Marxists. In short, I replied that that was better than claiming to be Marxist without even being communist.”
We think it’s in this potential breach between the Marxist and the communist—-between “anti-capitalism” and communism—-which marks the shift in orientation from analysis to life itself. From a politics which ignores or takes for granted the basic questions and decisions of what it means to live today (or whose answer is only misery and degradation, exploitation and oppression); to a set of positions emerging and inseparable from the form they take as life-in-common. Another way this could be narrated is as an almost theological schism: either meaning and truth can only be found in the final judgement/afterlife; or it can be accessed immediately in the here-and-now.
For us the commune is not simply a place, a house, a farm, but a set of relationships, bonds, commitments. Here the dictionary definition of “solidarity” is far more profound, nuanced, and inspiring than the platitude it has become for many on the Left: solidarity is a “community of feelings, purposes; of responsibilities and interests.” When we say “living together”, we mean a set of rhythms and actualizations, built, shared, and inhabited collectively.
Following the Occupy movement, and especially after Hurricane Sandy, our attentions were focused less on assemblies and meetings, and more towards communal dinners and potlucks. These seemed the most fundamental and functional forms of self-organization with which we could engage, meeting the needs and desires of a new temporality and rhythm of life in post-Occupy, post-Sandy New York. These meals took place at the Brecht Forum in the West Village, the Base in Bushwick, and in our homes all across the city.
It became clear in 2012 that what we were up against was far more complex—and insidious—than just bankers, cops, and democrats, but rather a whole apparatus of governance which would require a different approach to overcome. So our emphasis shifted from activism and agitation to life and survival: from tactics to strategy. Often this practice dissolved into our everyday lives, becoming illegible, invisible as “politics” (and certainly as art). This for us was a victory, an accomplishment: our lives were not simply theater or work.
In proposing something so simple, so basic, as gathering just to eat together, to get to know each other better, to not have to perform the roles of the militant, intellectual, whatever, we saw just how confusing, anomalous, peculiar, and unfamiliar all this was. This is the reality of New York City in 2014. The only solution is communism.
This is a call, an invitation, an offering, a proposal. On something we’ve been trying, continuing with rather stubbornly, against what many forces around us nudges us toward. We hope this discussion on “living communism” can be a space to share experiences and ideas, to brainstorm, to encourage and inspire each other. If it simply becomes another place, another event, to critique, deconstruct, problematize, to contemplate and ponder, it will be yet another missed opportunity.
The question—the reality—of the commune directly implicates we ourselves, our friends and comrades. And only in our collectively coming up against the limitations and prohibitions to living communism today—whether economic, environmental, political, social—will we truly realize the inevitability of insurrection, and the necessity for revolution.
- "On the one hand, we want to live communism; on the other, to spread anarchy" - Call, 2004: http://umfnyc.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/proposition-vi.pdf
- "Find Each Other" - The Invisible Committee, 2007: http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/comite-invisible-the-coming-insurrection#toc9
- "Kittens/Communism" - New York Year Zero & Donal Foreman, 2014: http://year0.org/2014/01/22/kittenscommunism/
- "We Are All Very Anxious" - Institute for Precarious Consciousness, 2014: http://www.weareplanc.org/we-are-all-very-anxious/
- "Graduate Student Workers of the World, Collectivize Your Stipends!" - Duke Collective, 2014: http://studentunionofmichigan.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/graduate-student-workers-of-the-world-collectivize-your-stipends/