Mario Tronti: “In art as in politics there is nothing other than struggle”

László Moholy-Nagy | Photogram, 1941

For Mario Tronti (from Blackout)

Can you really be outside? This is the question I asked Mario the last time we talked (Francesco Matarrese | Greenberg and Tronti: Being Really Outside?). Today, the eighth of January, his important, extraordinary answer arrived. Now it is here, naturally, in the written struggle, in this paper.

In art as in politics there is nothing other than struggle

Can you really be outside? This is the question. I answer: yes. I am. I feel I am. For sensibility, even before for reason. This world, as it is, as it is historically organized and dominated, does not belong to me, it is not part of me, and therefore it is extraneous to me. I do not stop here. The fact is: I find, before me, a form of being in the world, which is also not metaphysical but historically determined, which demands and obtains a hostile relationship. This way of being, or this world of being, fights me, and I fight it. I am not subjected to the forms of struggle, I choose them: naturally as far as possible. And all my intellectual and practical efforts consist in increasing and possessing the sphere of possibilities. There is a change in the contingencies. And all depends on the power relationships. The “inside and against,” the labor that, from inside capital, had enough power to block the mechanism of its reproduction, describing a high level of struggle, and proposing the concrete utopia of putting the systemic organism into subjective crisis. All this is a past. It no longer affects the present. Is a utopian reading of the past possible? Benjamin showed that it is not only possible but necessary. I shall follow in this direction. With an addition. The past, which I feel has a name: the Twentieth Century—I always write my century in capitals, to mark its majesty—it is not the Edenic age that invokes nostalgia, but rather the epoch of maximum danger for the centuries-old order of dominion and exploitation. And I know, along with Hölderlin, that where danger is greatest, there is salvation. It is only from the disorder of the world of life that new skies and new earths, or rather new forms of life, can be born. The avant-gardes of the Twentieth Century are not neo-Romanticism, they are neue Revolution.

If it is true that between yesterday and today, between past and present, in the middle there is the stumbling block of the defeat of the working class, there is, common to both art and politics, the non-acceptance of this defeat and the search for another modality of refusal, which may be valid, in different, autonomous ways. That is how I put it. In the present, deep, structural crisis of the foundations of modern politics, what role, what active function, can the existential experiencing of contemporary art play?

Acceptance of defeat by antagonism and refusal of the order of the world that follows must be built together whole and go back down, to start again from there, for each of us, in the depths of our souls, says Meister Eckhart. Another constructivism for another dissolution. And yet we must know, with cultivated lucidity, that that stumbling block of capital’s victory in the field of labor is there, and if we cannot jump it, we need to act so as to go round it. Here, the task is divided between politics and art, outside the walls of obstruction that have been raised in the new present peace of one hundred years. It is up to the artist to recognize, creatively, the recesses of the world within which the alienation of people’s lives hides; it is up to politicians to measure, realistically, the available powers and to rouse the essential energy, for the good fight, for a struggle that is credible and fascinating. Non-work and non-art, forms of refusal, and yet new vital worlds, where one can recognize himself, belong and become organized. What should be done with these intellectual rearguards of postmodernism? They sing of what has never been seen, but they repeat what has already been said. They align themselves with the opinion of the democratic majorities. They ride the advancing wave of newness, until they are swallowed up. It is not so much the market that worries me, but the adhesion and the bowing down to the taste of the acculturated subordinate masses that are armed, or rather disarmed, with political correctness, it is an homage to the society of the spectacle, the assumption of the civility of entertainment, the precipitous escape from reality to fall into the arms of the virtual, the abandoning of the spiritual in art without reaching a corporality of inspiration.

Abstraction was a choice of the thinking and acting subject, a form of refusal of what is seen; the emptiness, the insignificance, the indifference, are, on the contrary, the imposition of the object that counts, which may only be a commodity; in reality it is always Marx’s table that, once produced, is automated, or rather it starts dancing on its own legs, full of strange ideas. And everyone is there, admiring the technological performance, which in the end wins over the gravitational force of the all too human history. I am set firm inside a tradition of subversion of the present state of things, from the point of view of what was the workers’ movement. Lenin said: truth is revolutionary. Today we can well say: the past is revolutionary. Because the past is the truth. While the fake is the present: an overproduction of artifice, which has ended up, not by chance, by throwing the very production of goods into crisis. It is nice to see the masters of the world who do not know how to get out of the Weberian steel cage, which they built to control labor. Let us remember: in art as in politics, there is nothing other than struggle. It is true, we need war to become useless. But not so that an improbable perpetual Kantian peace takes its place, but rather so that a legal and legitimate form that is civilized and civilizing with a permanent conflict between the different and opposing Welt-und-Lebensanschauungen be established.

To the pensée unique a dual thought must be re-opposed. Just as a divided society must again be opposed to social harmony. This, after all, is the principle of reality, which various modalities of ideological masking conceal today. And the various masks have a unique way of concealment, that of returning this reality, demonized, to an extinct past, whence the logical mechanism of the “post,” the posthistorical, the post-political, the post-ideological. The truth of non-work becomes the falseness of post-labor society. The truth of non-art becomes the falseness of the creativity of post-art. There is no way of breaking this perverse mechanism other than by restoring the presence of alternative points of view: which fight each other but do not recognize each other. And which raise the struggle to the height of a never-definitive confrontation/clash, that is, which never implies the elimination of the other. There does not exist a truth for all; there is a truth for a part and the truth for another part. Is it therefore possible to have an absolute partiality, or a partial absolute? We need to make this possible, guaranteeing, with laws, that the conflict does not become a war. And thinking, and practicing one’s own truth, one’s absolute, in terms that are not totalitarian or hard-line fundamentalist. The space for the active presence of the artist in the life of the world in this context widens and deepens. It is not as necessary to take sides, as it was necessary in times of war; it is necessary to be inside the conflict, with only the resources of one’s own specific, irreplaceable, internal existence.

So, here, certain of the cons, the dialectics of inside/outside must be reassessed. Dialectics for the movement of opposites, which change places in the practical and theoretical predominance in the phases. Pollock, who moved around the picture, dived into it, then came out of it, he dominated it and was conditioned by it, is the right metaphor. What is the outside? It is not the above. It is the beyond. The über, “the passage of the zero point,” which crosses nothingness and made Jünger and Heidegger debate: whether it dealt with trans lineam or de linea. It is both these things for our problem. To fight the world as it is, the historical existence of capital, you must be inside, to know it you must be outside, to express it, in its distinction, you must be inside and outside. Transcending what you want to oppose, for this you need the good force, and its organization, both when you are with others and when you are alone. It is truly a leap, intended in a Kierkegaardian sense, but not once and for all, every day, every hour of the day, in doing, in thinking, in creating, that is in the way of living.

January 8, 2012


This entry was posted in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.