tory revolutionaries

13Apr10

“It’s a lie, it doesn’t work like that,” he said. “You only really change things if you bring people with you and if they play their part.”

“It’s time to say to Labour: it’s not about you, the government. It’s about we, the people. And it’s time to say to those who think it’s all about unchecked individualism: no, it’s not about me, the individual. It’s about we, the people.”

These appeals, addressed as if from ‘the people’ (directly aping the American constitution) are coming from Conservative Party leader David Cameron just a week or so after his attempt to claim his party speaks to and for the great ignored. When BBC R4’s Today Programme reported this bit of rhetoric they pointed out, via speak-your-brains styled vox-pops, whom this category was intended for by giving us a slice of who felt included within it. Unsurprisingly for such a nebulous category the affluent felt included (“no one speaks for the wealthy in this country anymore”) and by the reactionary elements of the working class (“no one is dealing with the immigration problem”)…indeed, as the R4 broadcast pointed out, Cameron seemed to have been employing the same strategy that US President Richard Nixon did when he spoke of the silent majorities. Appeal to no one in particular and you appeal to everyone. Politics as the urging the They to recognise itself in you. Bland messiahs for anonymous, mass figures.

Yet this is nothing new at all. It is just a widening of the net from the forgotten middle class to attempt to capture everyone possible. After all, the Tories agree with the Nu-Labour ideology that ‘we are all middle class now’. If the notion of the petite-bourgeois survives into post-fordist capitalism it does so as this vapid political category without content.

Baudrillard has told us that the strategy of invoking the silent majority is a kind of black magic that conjures that configuration up from nowhere through the power of simulation; there is no they-self other than the one Heidegger wrote about, however real the experience he may have been pointing to was. There is no natural object found but it is still somehow cooked up; a kind of inverted interpellation. The silent majority is constructed rather than discovered. On speaking for and to ‘we the people’ who are ‘silent’ the people are rendered silent. At least this is the aim.

It is as if, in other words, what we call people was actually not a unitary subject but rather a dialectical oscillation between two opposite poles: on the one hand, the _People_ as a whole and as an integral body politic and, on the other hand, the _people_ as a subset and as fragmentary multiplicity of needy and excluded bodies; on the one hand, an inclusive concept that pretends to be without remainder while, on the other hand, an exclusive concept known to afford no hope; at one pole, the total state of the sovereign and integrated citizens and, at the other pole, the banishment – either court of miracles or camp – of the wretched, the oppressed, and the vanquished.

-Giorgio Agemben, What is a People?

This new and vital Toryism is the same old thing dressed up. This doesn’t shock anyone.  The message remains: the people may come with us, the people may act and partake of power as long as they do so at a respectful distance, as long as they keep quiet about the whole affair, as long as they remain the empty ciphers we designate them in their nameless naming. It is not about the government but about the totalitarian image of the complete count. The Conservatives openly acknowledge that the count is always that of the uncounted, of that and those who do not count and yet, simultaneously, perform a perfect disavowal that retains this admission in a perverse form: you are and must remain uncounted, we will count you but maintain you outside the count. Everyone is supernumerary to the operation of power. This is not about individualism because there is only the black hole ‘silent majority’, only the emptiness of ‘the ignored’.

At the same time as all of this, it also speaks to a fact that all these various people with their various group-interests and desires must be contained within the suspension between political actant and politically absent. Perhaps the post-political masses threaten the official order of politics by casting the cloud of defection, of exodus, of a missa: a dismissal. The game of electoral politics depends upon our agreement to give over our capacity to make a difference to others who promise to do so on our behalf. Regardless of the troubling question of how to rebuild, how to reassemble the machinery, the true threat of the silent majority is that it will dismiss those who speak on its behalf and begin to find its own language, and beyond this its own means of communication with things, worlds and other organisms. The true horror of the great ignored is that they will simply cease to petition others to act for them.

Under such conditions we would not arrive at something better, in all likelihood it would be something worse. At any rate it seems unlikely that this will occur, it simply seems to be the fear lurking in the back of every David Cameron’s animatronic eyes. This fear might point out a slim, slight psychological disinvestment from the circuitry of capital and power; a crack which can be levered. Communist organisation might be able to take advantage of this, to seek out the clefts and push them towards being open spaces primed for occupation; psychic zones that may be responsive to communisation.

Anyway, I have work early in the moro and already said I’d be in bed an hour ago. I’ll regret all this trying to think in the morning when I miss the bus.


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