One International Less


Why should one work with one code when there are so many? The challenge is to be able to define more than one difference at once. Only one voice on the whole line, one continuous speech that tries to accomplish, achieve, and enforce. The representative of any colour says: 'The whole world knows that …' but there is always a non-representative singularity that does not accept, because it is not the whole world.

This also affects collectives when they strike back fighting against an existing representative pattern. They don’t necessarily have to follow an organised, strategic logic. Perhaps Rosa Parks, when she refused to abandon her whites-only seat triggered the civil-rights movement only because she was too tired to accept the line of segregation. So we ask the question: what’s left, or rather, what could be left? The time when a particular code and its attendant lines were enough to define Left have long since passed. This has nothing to do with arbitrariness or a new form of complexity. Strictly speaking, there never was such an opportunity. To distinguish itself from the Right, the Left has always been split within itself.

The same goes for the Right but from the position to always define: 'the whole world knows that …' Therefore the term 'left' is still more promising, more complex and fragile. To draw a stable line between them is not possible. The terms left and right do not have their own autonomous surrounding. They clash with each other. There is no displacement without stepping into the terrain of the opponent. This fact opens a wide range of ideological battlefields between and within the field itself. This suggests a far more difficult, nuanced politics, because the sides are not determined in advance. One will never reach a unified leftist political language and one should not even try to strive for this goal.

Maybe it’s possible to learn how to operate between fundamentally different and untranslatable codes.  But it should also be acknowledged that the disquieting standardisation of the world is in itself a hybrid. So to be hybrid as such is not enough to formulate an appropriate critique. Today’s politics is a devastated experiment; it fragments and empties entire ideologies, beliefs, religions, institutions, identities and communities to put this empty form on the agenda again. The world is not a global village in which every one knows everything about everyone. The world is totally opaque and transparent at same time. The relationship between global and local is itself an articulated one, with each existing in and constituting the other. From a leftist perspective there is nothing left called 'one’s own' that could provide a base for organising a relationship to the outside world from which you could profit or prepare for expansions.

We are already right in the middle; that's the only condition that we initially share. In the sixties and seventies there was a common, fixed point, a so-called solidarity with 'the other' within this dual confrontation. Today you can achieve this kind of fixation only by going beyond duality, especially the rebuilt one between Orient and Occident. Maybe from here it would be possible to achieve a certain kind of autonomy. This potential is not necessarily a withdrawal. The events of May '68 mark a very specific double-bind of simultaneous and contrary moves: the articulation of Marxist categories and the realization of its limitations. Both needed each other.

The feminist, gay, anti-colonial and anti-racist movements as well as various aesthetic rebellions burst forth from the maelstrom of Marxism emancipating them from this framework. Capitalism, up to now, has integrated and exploited this disengagement. What we have seen in the past twenty years is a tendency towards an intensified fragmentation under the pressure of exploitation accompanied by a comeback of Marxist discourses which try to repeat the old contradiction between Haupt- and Nebenwiderspruch. At same time there are attempts such as Jacques Derrida’s 'Spectres of Marx' to renew the view on Marxian categories like the Internationale, keeping them in touch with différance, non-representative singularities and micro-politics.

From this perspective it’s imported to free the concept of the International from the more representative ideas of organisation, party and identity.  But what could be the meaning of an international exchange under contemporary conditions? For us it’s mainly the work of collecting voices and material, combining or assembling them into a heterogeneous discourse within the perspective of an open question. Therefore the slogan Assembly International should have a question mark. But then a certain sound of affirmation would get lost. For us, Assembly includes: arrangement, construct, lining-up, group, montage, connections, meeting, and a coming together.  Together with International it produces a nice dissonance with Amnesty International and National Assembly – and we like that!

Nicolas Siepen