All or Not at All
Christopher Gray & Charles Radcliffe
Heatwave #2 (October 1966)
We are living through the break-up of an entire civilization. Contemporary society has only one foundation it's own inertia: the last vestiges of religion and ideology cannot conceal the extent of our mass alienation. Nothing means anything any more. There seems to be no escape from the isolation and senselessness of our lives. For all of us the abyss seems likely to open at any moment. We are all alone in a world that has become one huge madhouse. Nowhere is there an adequate explanation of what it is we go through every day. The traditional revolutionary movement, to which desperate people might once have turned, has long since been integrated into the status quo and is no longer distinct from the rest of the bureaucratic machine. At best it is simply the vanguard of bureaucratic efficiency-reform. Nowhere does there exist a theoretical and analytic basis from which the increasingly unbearable contradictions of our daily life can be examined, attacked and destroyed. A basis exposing our modern poverty and revealing our possible wealth. In isolation and anguish, innumerable people are becoming aware of the poverty of their own lives of the total disparity between their real subjective desires and the lives they are forced to lead; of the total disparity between the richness of life now possible and the mass-produced mini-life imposed on everyone by the Welfare State.
Over the last decade, a new revolt has begun to break out in all the highly-industrialized countries of the world, a revolt associated particularly closely with both the wildcat strikes and with the attitudes of contemporary rebel youth. This revolt is now out in the open, agitators and saboteurs are on the streets. The whole of official society (cops and psychiatrists, artists and sociologists, anarchists and architects) has tried to suppress, distort and re-integrate the phenomena of this, their crisis. It is still at an early stage. (Last month a 20 year-old set fire to a railway goods depot in Sheffield, causing close to a million pounds worth of damage; when interrogated, he said that he had 'wanted to see a little blaze.') But it is breaking out everywhere: the acts still lack a real perspective and a coherent form of action. They are, in fact, half symptoms of crisis, half acts of rebellion. It is in this new context that we intend to act as a catalyst; to take part in the transformation of this new revolt into a new revolutionary movement. The first thing to be criticized is the crock of shit passed off as criticism. Opposition has degenerated into a series of disparate and fragmentary protests against nuclear war, against colonialism and racial discrimination, against urban chaos etc. lacking any grip on the whole of modern society and presenting no serious challenge to the dominant set-up. What should be criticized is, on the contrary, our normal everyday experience of life. It is this that is so boring, disgusting and senseless. Why worry about the risk of humanity immolating itself in a nuclear holocaust when everyone everywhere sacrifices their real nature, their real desires, their real will to live every minute of every day? All that we can see anywhere is a grotesque travesty of human life, half nightmare and half burlesque: a degraded labor we never chose in order to produce an empty, passive, isolated leisure we never wanted. Life has been reduced to living death. We reject the whole system of work and leisure, of production and consumption, to which life has been reduced by bureaucratic capitalists.
Put in different terms: it is the concept of total revolution which has been lost. It has degenerated into a theory of the rectification of economic and political structures, whereas all the most radical periods of the past revolutionary movement were animated by the desire to transform the whole nature of human experience, to create a world in which the desires of each individual could be realized without restriction. The only real problem is how to live life to the full. Burn, baby, burn! New revolutionary theory must attack production and consumption as a whole, showing that exactly the same alienation exists in both, and showing that their transcendence can only lead to the creation of a new kind of human activity. The basic demand is for a society based on the almost-total leisure that mechanization and automation have now made possible; that is to say, on a new culture corresponding to human desires and not simply dissimulating and sublimating their frustration. It is precisely the early stages of this revolt which can be seen in the revolt of contemporary youth, in their refusal either to work or consume as ordered, in their permanent strike and in their experiments, however confused they may be, to create an alternative use of life. What would a revolutionary society be like? An endless, passion, an endless adventure, an endless banquet. In this issue we have tried to show some of the phenomena of this international revolt and we have tried to relate them to the last radical period of the revolutionary movement (the period 1910-1930) whose importance the new revolutionary movement must rediscover and criticize. As the crisis of contemporary society develops, as it becomes more and more acute and less and less easy to dissimulate, revolt can only grow. Things have already reached the point where if anyone wants to live at all they can only revolt. The problem now is to make such acts radical and coherent, to relate the fragments seen by more and more individuals to the alienation of social life as a whole, to place them within a perspective which can only serve to expand consciousness and to introduce to each and every rebel the outlines of revolt in which his act can be mirrored along with all other acts of revolt. Finally to create the revolutionary praxis by which this society and this civilization can be destroyed, once and for all.