The Shape of Noise to Come

Prologue: HISTORY
The history of the oppressed in the US is a history of failures to avert the catastrophe of racial order: first as bloody tragedy, then as passive farce. The precondition of US industrial capitalism was slave labor, and the precondition of the trade labor movement was a racial ordering of difference. Any gain made through social struggles thus far has also been a gain made for capital and for the affirmation of the racial ordering of power. Each struggle, locked in a dialectic with the social, empties itself of the power to interrupt the catastrophe because the very concept of the social is paramount in founding the catastrophe of racial order. As an attempt to prevent civil war, racialization, like policing, owes much of its logic to Hobbes. In Hobbes and other enlightenment philosophers, an imaginary boundary separates the civil state and the state of nature: Law. This boundary marks the territory of the social. The racial program positioned “non-white” forms of life outside the care of law. This is how the lives of Africa could be met with despotic rationality. However, like all juridical operations of exclusion, racial order reaches its threshold at its origin. All forms of life reside in “the state of nature,” and the ones that seek to reduce this might just be a particular form of life. Thus Hobbes’ social program was always an imperial enterprise at subjectivation, and the boundaries of the social were flexible and based solely on something exterior to a subject or form of life. The enchantment of race in the US is not mere false consciousness, in which a planter class invents an an ideology which purports to materially benefit a portion of workers (white) while oppressing another portion (black). Rather the racial spell reduces every form of life, attenuates every ethical difference, and comes as part of a process of producing subjects that are governable and without sense. Racial order extracts every form of life from its world—and with it, memory. We forget both the good life and the horror of the past, which yearns for redemption.

Any struggle worth citing always assaults the meaning of the social, always reveals its taste for anarchy, and thus far, has always been brutally defeated. Like the workers who’ve forgotten both the Paris Commune and Chicago 1886, we continue to forget that our history is a history of civil war. And all of it—everything that conspires against us—to this day, prevails. We forget the sad self-defeat of New York 1863, the loss of the American Commune in which race, capital, and the state might have been abolished. And when slave insurrection and Reconstruction are invoked some hundred years later, the self-same failure is repeated. Progress—the narrative of Man’s accomplishments—marches over the past, loosely concealing the need to interrupt the catastrophe—the need for communism.