Kluge on the Group-in-Fusion

[On the DVD of the Kluge film you get a pdf of a recent book by him called The Commodity Character of Love. I quite liked this fragment from it. My apologies for the sometimes clunky translation, but Kluge’s style here, borrowing from Bloch perhaps, is also quite staccato].

“The group-in-fusion (fusionierende Gruppe) is the basic element of all revolutions. Humans join together. Without yet realising it, they form a new condition in relation to their past lives, in which the qualities of each unintentionally unite under the influence of an unrest which has seized the city. Each is given new energy, a new sense of their capability. From the countryside come further supplies of humans, incorporating themselves. The “new revolutionary human” (at first an unstable element) consists not of persons, of people as they were, but develops between them, from out of the gaps which separate humans in everyday life.

In Kiev a pickpocket joined a fusing group, moving towards the main railway station it aimed to occupy. Tsarist guards tried to obstruct them. Opportunism had tempted the pickpocket, but he soon forgot his business. He became a scout, reconnoitering a route for the demonstration along back streets to the square in front of the station. For several hours the boy stole nothing at all. In the evening he went hungry. He had acquired nothing that day but enthusiasm.

A lawyer, whose time was always precious (lawyers being ‘service-providers’), had also become caught up in the group. He moved with the seditious rabble through the city, strengthened, without wanting to be (and subjectively disapproving of their lawlessness), becoming party to its attack on the police by simply running along with the crowd. Late into the evening he moved with them through the city.

Rosa Luxemburg, who at the news of the outbreak of revolution in Berlin came – too late – to witness it, tried to reconstruct the experience of those first few days. She collected news reports. They confirmed that at the moment of revolution the circulation of ideas and impulsive actions spread more rapidly than telegraphy or transportation ever could have. It seemed to her, so she wrote in her articles in the Leipziger Volkszeitung, as if a single organism, a revolutionary total worker (Gesamtarbeiter) acted. Some days later this would be only a memory. The “giant” of whom Luxemburg had written seemed quickly to disintegrate.

Unlike a human child, Luxemburg wrote, born as a tiny bundle and growing up to adulthood, revolutions are born with giant bodies, as a new society, and it requires time to revert into the individual people of whom it consists. To her the crucial question – and it was one which kept her busy for the rest of her life – was how to keep alive, nourish and let rest the giant child of revolution during its first few weeks. She believed she had witnessed the first few days of this special organism. No one knew by what means such a fusion could have been saved over time, in the everyday world of production or in the privacy of the family. In the wrong life no revolution prospered. Without revolution no correct life (richtiges Leben).”

(Alexander Kluge, Warencharakter von Liebe: Theorie und Revolution Geschichten für Marx-Interessierte III [Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2008], pp.18-19)