Requiem for Left Accelerationism
A brief moment of euphoric illusion in between the depression. For all the remarks, art, conferences, uses, exhibitions, classes, seminars and music dedicated to accelerationism, the underlying philosophy of a new revived left never actually materialized. Instead, what it received was critiques. Denunciations of imperialism, “white” hegemonic efforts and ignorance plagued its interlocutors. Not unwarranted, these claims grew to the classic standard critique of the left-melancholics and theorists of world long past. The critiques never really understood the point of the position, nor did they chose to give up their critical reflexes for what might be hastily called the “accelerationist drive”. Instead, genealogies, traces of what the position might entail, where it came from, tried to get to grips with it. Even the proponents often had to go back to check up on their theorists of preference, so as to appease an academy that looked relentlessly backwards, rather than forwards. Of course, the academic establishment would only reject it, or appropriate it with some caveats, so as to represent themselves as in the know without compromising themselves, without committing. Politics becomes a fashionable crusade. Art, or the institutions pretending to pass for its name, followed suit. Para-academia appropriated it too, but only naively, showing no engagement with what originally gave rise to the term.
A term that Mark Fisher, back in 2008 would describe as “left-landianism”. The position originated within that blogging network, that circuit of people interested with ideas beyond the confines of the left-liberal academy. Alex Williams described the position, Benjamin Noys coined the term, Reza Negarestani critiqued it, Owen Hatherley dialogued with it and Mark Fisher helped bring it to life. Within the 2008 blog network of ideas, the prospect of a “left-landianism” or “left-accelerationism” might have seen as something that was aim to be dissipated, ignored and only entertained by bloggers in the fringes of an establishment that always remain self-satisfied and assured that all possible political positions laid in the past. However, it was Mark Fisher (k-punk) that raised the idea. By enabling the dialogue with others, he remained sympathetic to accelerationist positions despite being ruthlessly critical of it when needed. These were the days of dialogue within micro-cultures. Mark Fisher gave them voice to be more than just a discussion board in the fringes. For a second there, left-accelerationism seemed to be bound to break into the mainstream. Hashtags, books, histories, every element was in place for it to succeed. And yet, it did not.
As with any philosophical or political stance, left-accelerationism provided a backbone to a movement. This movement never came. The “radicality”, a term so overused in contemporary theory so as to be a useless corpse, it unlocked was lost in the followers and fanatics. Left-accelerationism tried and failed to grasp too much, with an anxiety visible in its manifestos and ameliorated in its longform pieces. In the latter, the commitments and ramification showed. While paying lip-service to local and global movements, synthetic freedoms and critiquing movements for their myopia, the left-accelerationists’ Gramsciam localism, its proponents largely British and bounded by the politics of their nation, showed. Left-accelerationism excited and frustrated at the same time. Its moment never came. Signifiers were switched due to associations to a nihilism with Landian undertones that no-one actually espoused in that camp: postcapitalism, acid communism, hegemony, but not left-accelerationism. It implied too much and did too little.
It did left-accelerationism no favours that its proponents were largely on the fringes: theorists, philosophers, artists. Left-accelerationism’s praxis was non-existent. Its speculations, however positive, never materialized. Its designs remained stuck fetichizing a cognitive mapping of a past that never saw the light of day, merely the darkness of the night. Ideas of fully automated luxury communism were floated around, and were even warned against by left-accelerationism’s opponents. But its futures, merely local, academic and largely seen as something to flirt with, but never espouse, were defenestrated by a lack of actual practitioners with some chance of constructing a hegemony. The space reserved for its non-existent engineers, designers, traders, bankers or subjects was eventually filled by activism, that which moves without thought, or with little to none regard of it. With mere sloganeering, left-accelerationism’s popular modernism was crushed by its lack of praxis.
To declare death is to confirm the lack of pulse. Wherever the world is moving towards, it’s moving too quickly for left-accelerationism to even grasp; its hyperstitional practices made obsolete by an updating that, while not made explicit in those blogs of 2004, was executed by opponents. This reduction towards nothing, something that has been known but never talked -merely left aside-, had largely been felt but not acknowledged. With another lost future in the trash, the vocal and material mouthpiece, libidinal interlocutor and fosterer of left-accelerationism, Mark Fisher left the world in the beginning of 2017. Left-accelerationism’s story begins with him, back in those blog days, those conferences and talks, where fiery exchanges gave energy to a small segment of the zombie left. Now, where nothing remains, it is worth screaming into the void. Left-accelerationism died with Mark Fisher.
By John Irvill,
& Heather D. Koehler.
Contact: irvill.john (at) yandex.com