17 November marks almost thirty tears since the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia, which brought an end to State Socialism & the Soviet occupation which began in 1968.
Yet we know that there is no such thing as a “velvet” revolution.
Coming in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution was almost a footnote to the general emancipation of the former Soviet sphere: an emancipation that was neither inevitable nor inexorable, nor in any respect irreversible, as the situation in Belarus continues to attest, as does that of the increasing number of “enclaves” across socalled Eastern Europe, & elsewhere, subject to direct or indirect Kremlin influence.
We know that the revolution of November 1989 didn’t occur on the streets, but in the committee rooms of the nomenklatura, who seized the opportunity to renovate the always inadequate foundations of authoritarian normalization into a sustainable architecture of soft power.
Just as the “failed” revolutions of 1968 discovered their doppelganger in what Harvey Wheeler contemporaneously named the “Universal Revolution” of cybernetics, so too 1989 found its doppelganger in the “velvet” revolution of the neo-liberal End-of-History.
By this sleight-of-hand – announcing the abolition of ideological struggle – all forms of dissent were instantly aggregated to the work of exporting this utopian triumph to every corner of the globe.
The neo-liberal pretense to post-ideology, & the supposed self-evidence of its “emancipative” project, systematically disorientated the Cold War polarities of market & state capitalism, & their nominally Marxist critique, into a general-relativistic “postmodernism” – what Fukuyama called capitalism’s masterstroke.
The advent after 1989 of the socalled New World Order, & its global consolidation of power within the cybernetic Corporate-State Apparatus, thereby affected the “return” of a totalitarianism far more pervasive, if for this very reason more difficult to verify, than those it proffered emancipation from.
“Velvet revolution” as socioeconomic malware.
Today the legacies of this universal revolution in soft power present themselves most forcefully in the cyberneticisation of the political as such. Computing algorithms have assumed not only the function of normalization & control, but also that of dissent & subversion – refining those processes that recuperated the “failure” of 1968 for the general movement of commodification.
From the industrialization of surveillance & security systems, to the monetization of dissent, this instrumentalising of what Debord called the “integrated spectacle” nevertheless produces, in the course of their concealment, radical ambivalences which not only expose this totalizing movement for what it is but represent the opportunity for its subversion: the possibility of the one is symbiotic with that of the other.
If the Urban Guerrilla Concept of the past has become the Generative Adversarial Network of the future, this is because the Universal Revolution of social cyberneticisation also produces the means of its critique. The algorithmics of control systems has its counterpart in the algorithmics of subversion: the movement of recuperation is never as unidirectional as the architects of the End-of-History would have us believe.
Indeed, nothing is more seductive than the apparent dichotomy of subversion & control.
Just as in 1968, it appears that today we are in the midst of a “secret” revolution, in which existing (local) algorithms of social “control” are matched – not against acts of street-level insurgency – but against undisclosed networks of (global) “subversion.” A decade ago it was Anonymous, Lulzsec, WikiLeaks, Stuxnet; today FancyBear, Cambridge Analytica, AIQ, etc., etc., etc. – attack formations in an algorithmic proxy warfare whose competing interests may only nominally be accounted for by “state actors” like Russia & China, or corporate (anti-Soros) cabals linking Facebook & the City of London, or media ideologues like Murdoch & their ilk: Bannon, Farrage, Arron Banks, Trump & so on.
Under such circumstances, the question that insistently poses itself is: What is the critical praxis necessary in these times?
PRAGUE, 17 NOVEMBER 2018