Ritual 2.0

Dear readers,

Welcome (or welcome back) to Ritual magazine. Back after a somewhat lengthy hibernation, with a new editorial board, we have instituted some significant changes that we hope will result in more frequent content.

One of these changes involves letting go of the notion of Ritual as a journal in the classical sense of this term. While remaining attentive to the needs and demands of social network-led publishing we would like to try and publish material in a more relaxed, modern, and interesting way that does not succumb or tailor itself in any way to an opportunist “click bait” approach. We are not ashamed to say that we are trying to reach as many people as possible.

Furthermore, with the most recent expansion of the editorial board there will be some changes not only in our approach but also in the kind of texts we want to publish. Moving forward, Ritual will place clear emphasis on what we, the editorial board, consider the three central areas of focus: 1) a thorough going critique of capitalism and the way it intersects with nationalism, sexism, racism, etc.; 2) an interest in analyzing antagonistic social struggles that point to these divisions in society and bring the nature of that society to the surface, while also showing the limits that these struggles run up against; and 3) a desire for high standards and rigor in argument and analysis.

We will also concentrate in large part on working-class issues. To clarify, we understand class in the broad sense (not a merely an economic thing or quality but something that marks all of social life) as a process that reproduces multi-dimensional social relations on a daily basis and as the dynamic that defines human existence (unfortunately, to be sure) and thus why we are interested in it. Some fundamental guiding questions here include: What is the working class today? What are its immediate interests? How does class composition affect the ways in which struggles develop around the world? Addressing questions like these entails a necessary and tandem focus, in addition to issues of class, on analyses of other facets of people’s lives in which they experience oppression, such as gender, sexuality, and race. However, we will approach all these struggles from, an equally necessary, materialist perspective that emphasizes emancipation through the notion of “human community.”[1]

In many respects, we stand in opposition to the majority of today’s left – especially their attempts to push “street social-democratic” parties into parliaments (have people learned nothing from the SYRIZA episode?). However, our critique will focus on the “official” left instead of what one might call the “marginal” left. The difference is that the “official” left—which consists of social-democrat, traditional labor, and left parties as well as trade union bureaucracies, in other words, the left wing of capital—is enmeshed in the reproduction of capitalist social relations, and their efforts have a net negative effect on the lives of working-class people. On the other hand, the “marginal” left is already isolated in much smaller milieus. Of course, we will not refuse to publish texts that deal with the history and politics of this “marginal” left, but nor do we intend to emphasize or focus on these questions and issues.

Furthermore, one of our aims is also to offer an alternative to the dominance of Anglo-American perspectives on the priorities and concerns of the left around the world.  This is not to say that we are interested in promoting “anti-Americanism” or any sort of nationalist worldview. Rather, we want to provide a venue for more peripheral voices from the global left as opposed to the hegemonic silencing of these perspectives through the dominance of the conversation by Anglo-American leftists with their often presumptuous (and dubious) expertise.

It may be evident from the texts we have previously published that Ritual is broadly affiliated with the “ultra-left.” Even though this term has most often been used, throughout history, as a slur wielded by other leftists to condemn those whose politics (whether communist, anarchist, etc.) they do not consider “rational” or “realistic” enough, we have no problem accepting and even identifying with this term to connect and engage with the legacy of various anti-statist, workerist, and anti-nationalist, or internationalist trends within the communist and workers’ movement historically.  However, this does not mean that individual members of the editorial board always agree with one another on every issue or with everything that our contributors will write and say. Therefore, we maintain a commitment to open discussion by soliciting and encouraging submissions that provide critical and questioning analysis of the topics we have expressed a broad interest in here.  We are also open to content that lays outside these areas of interest too.

It is common and convenient for some people on the far left to declare the left is “dead” or “useless.”  We are not interested or impressed with this grandstanding and attention-seeking. Likewise, as Marxists, we are less interested in deconstructive or other academic investigations of language than in materialist analysis and explorations. In the spirit of a long list of people from Karl Marx to the old Yugoslav Marxist-Humanist journal Praxis, we fully endorse Marx’s exhortation to the “ruthless criticism of all that exists.” However, critique should not exist simply for its own sake. We believe that every critique must relate to the construction of spaces and means for building new forms of political thought and real-world connections. We hope the critical perspectives we publish in Ritual will open new topics, problems, and efforts to develop and explore what is possible in these times. All the same, Ritual will not issue any blueprints or “to-do” lists for political organizing and activity. As a publication, we see our task to be that of providing a forum for the critical exchange and elaboration of ideas and issues relevant to contemporary class struggle.

We intend to ask what politics has become in the twenty-first century. Contemporary society is composed of atomized and alienated individuals who are plugged into the bottomless echo chambers provided by social networks. Politics has never been so abstract, so disconnected from reality, and yet it has also never concerned a greater number of people. We have reduced politics to the emptiness of Facebook posts, pointless forms of worldview leftism, activism for the sake of activism, and participation in nothingness. We are pacified. Even if it’s not the one Francis Fukuyama declared, we have indeed accepted some sort of “end of history”.

Once again, we want to break away from the marginality, isolation, and alienation bound up in this kind of existence and serve instead as a platform for writing by and of concern to Marxists, working class militants, and others in developing interesting debates which will hopefully assist us in discussing and shaping our future. If we do not break with the narcissistic mentality of disparate and competing leftist social scenes, communist politics will continue to remain irrelevant forever. Golden cages, glass bells, dusty monasteries and ivory towers are still prisons…

Ritual Editorial Board

[1] “This is the pressure which communism brings to bear. It is a pressure exerted by the great majority of human beings seeking to create the human community which will allow and enable them to remove all obstacles barring their way. This affirmation of life is what Marx had in mind when he said, ‘if we assume man to be man, and his relation to the world to be a human one, then love can be exchanged only for love, trust for trust…’” Jacques Camatte, “Against Domestication,” trans. David Loneragan, in This World We Must Leave and Other Essays (New York: Autonomedia, 1995), 125.

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