Who speaks of victory? To survive is everything
Rainer Maria Rilke
The socialist in his real form, that of a government official, may have disappeared over the horizon like a shot, but as a potential figure he can look forward to an unbelievable future. He was spoon-fed on programming (version 1.0 of the socialism program was out by 1830). Lacking suitable hardware, he was forced for 150 years to install his program in society. The social question this raised caused a reaction which led to an extension of the original design and a formidable number of new applications. With each setback the socialist produced a new plan, refusing to be daunted by illegal copiers like Spartacists, revisionists, Leninists and Christian socialists.
When Hitler and Stalin coupled socialism with the incompatible software of nationalism and totalitarianism, the development of leftist programming stalled for quite a while. Of the many applications, only data storage and file management, for which historic socialism showed a true obsession, survived. Think of the spreadsheets with the production figures of the five-year plans, the intelligence services' miles of files, the Leaders' collected speeches, the endless series of forms and applications which had to be filled out at the drop of a hat. This was a social format that got entangled in papers, a Leviathan that was too big to be computerized. All the memory in the world wouldn't have held the data overload that was heaped in the archives.
Yet the urge to program reared its head again in the 80s in the person of Gorbachev. He discovered that contemporary social programs require hardware other than society. The plan is now merely pr material which presents a corporate image. When the investors had Gorby’s chain investigated, the bankability of the Soviet Group was finished. But with the disappearance of communism, the socialist finally got another chance to vent his programming lust in the media which do it the most justice: computer games, media banks and virtual realities.
In the West, the School of Life took learning from the past off the syllabus along time ago. Historical writing is complete, on all levels, nano to cosmic. All phenomena and objects have been fitted into a chronology which runs from the first attosecond after the Big Bang, the cigar, the bathroom and bedroom, anorexia, teddy bears, the sublime, medieval cuisine and going to the beach to the image of the vagina, death and the subtle nose of the night owl. All of history is reprocessed into information and made into news. In contemporary historical writing, miscellany is next to world politics and the stock market quotations; determining factors (infrastructural or superstructural) as historical materialism knew them can no longer be distinguished. Information is ultimately just information; Western historical consciousness has been lost through the too great availability of the past. Information never penetrates deeper than the working memory of the democratic citizen. Everything can be forgotten, because storage is always left to others (expert systems). Until we are forced to admit disconcertedly that virtually all episodes of certain tv series have been erased.
The socialist has a good relationship with his own hard disk. Like the ex-Marxists, he learned the hard way, with mnemonics of steel. To him, history isn't just one of many possible areas to click into, but the domain where the driving principles at the root of recent data can be found. The socialist's relationship with the past has always been a technical connection. From birth, he was not so much a revolutionary or a heretic, but a media engineer. Books, pamphlets, newspapers, proposals, manifestos, interventions, polemic and criticism; socialism was a literary movement that believed in the word's power of persuasion in manoeuvring the revolting horde in the right direction. For the socialist, the words did not underlie the event, but they could direct it so that it could discriminate between the chance circumstances of riots and the iron dynamics behind them. For him an event is not a fait divers, but an omen. Since the socialist never erases files and always has memory space for more information, his future is not a blank page, and unlike the modern Westerner, he need not start over and over again at 0. The Westerner is already tired before starting from all the patient digging and searching that needs to be done.
For the socialist, events are imbedded in a universe of old and new writing. Whether a text discussed prerequisites or end results, it always resulted in yet more text. The goal was to fabricate one massive interactive hypertext out of socialism. Everyone read each other thoroughly and wrote reviews hundreds of pages long. Paper was not just a mass of dead letters, but a stimulus to written reactions. Rereadings of detestable authors were always possible, after which debate was energetically thrown wide open, resulting in a new supply of bulk text. Independent of technological innovations and new media like photography, film and radio, the socialist continually developed new connections, but always exclusively inside his own media system. This practice makes him an ideal candidate for the management and expansion of cyberspace, which also shirks parallel media and constructs rhizomes. The 1980s showed that retraining the scribes as programmers is a relatively small step. The absence of illustrations in soctext is no obstacle to the socialist's entering the new world of images. He was already operating in a larger context than the single picture all along, because 3-d society was his medium.
As a storage specialist, the socialist has three options for the preservation of socialism. First, the complete text edition will be available on cd-rom. But the market is decidedly not waiting for this, especially now that the sugar daddies have left Moscow. The acidiferous text tradition is yellowing and crumbling in the hands of desperate archivists. Only a Band-Aid Save the Archives concert could yet provide the necessary resources. Now that further writing on the socialist project is slowly being taken over by historians, who judge 'objectively' with the outsider's academic eye, the socialist is becoming destructive against his nature and destroying his archive while he still can. As the ex-socialists own up to their past mistakes, others act in an attempt to prevent socialism degenerating into information. The soctext is approaching dark times of nostalgia and memoirs, while the basic texts have lost their medial potency. On the socialism diskette the tab has been moved from write data to read only. Storage of the entire socialist discourse is not only impracticable but objectionable.
The second option consists of scanning existing socialism. With the trend of providing insight into every pernicious side of the twentieth century in a museum context, the crimes, lies, and total failures of the Eastern Bloc will get all the (disk) space they need. At the same time there will arise a worldwide fascination with the strangeness of the fact that for decades, hundreds of millions of people acted as though another system besides democracy & market economy was possible. The aesthetics of socialism consisted of its managing, between definite beginning and end points, to develop a complete system of its own products, artistic styles, fashion and design with stunning simplicity. Theme parks and sensory spaces will be installed to make this historical phenomenon understandable: a tour past collapsing housing developments, consumer queues, barking police officers, informers, military parades, moral dissidents. Ascetic, modernist nondesign will be shown to pass through the cycle of avant-garde, hype and timeless styles, allowing socialism to fit into the 50s-60s-punk-80s series. This recycling will not address the great possibilities anticipated by the socialist.
The third option is that of storing and managing socialism as a potential. Finally the medium is at hand with which socialism can be instituted without troublesome side effects like politics, management, environment and militarism. Socialism as a model is motivated by the realization of total free time. The Soviet states got quite a distance with this. The workers' paradise knew many opportunities for getting away: you went to work to have breakfast in the people's kitchen, and then after the coffee to find some friends to have a beer with and catch a movie. Existence was of a relaxed idleness in which the dialectic of production and consumption had been transcended. The socialist work ethic can be understood as an early form of vr. In the data environment too, there is nothing to do, and the aura of goods is missing. Pressure to perform can be easily got round (by acting like you're working). Socialism as a vr environment is an atopia where one may act or watch without consequence. For the socialist, vr is not an archive or museum, but a parking lot for an ideal society in a period when the New World Order is imposing the same pressure to work on the whole world population. The socialist understands that you musn't fight this monopoly, but wait it out. He does not wait on pauperization and the subsequent class consciousness; he just keeps tinkering with his virtual model, as he used to keep writing on his text galaxy. Until the moment when vr implodes in reality. Then the socialist will be ready.
translation Laura Martz