“There is no self-knowledge except historical self-knowledge. No one knows what they are if they don’t know what their contemporaries are.” — Friedrich Schlegel
Anyone who thinks “the Zoomers will save us” is an idiot. There’s nothing inherently revolutionary about youth; popular generational discourse is a marketing scheme. And yet it is true that every youth generation has a unique frame of reference, as the economic conditions, political movements, cultural dynamics, and technological advancements that define their collective experiences and perspectives will inevitably differ from those of prior generations. It is also true that the youth generations of the past that corresponded to particularly unstable moments in history, moments of crisis, served as catalysts for radical politics.
The course of the twentieth century, for instance, was shaped by the generation born in Europe between 1885 and 1905, the young people who either fought in or came of age during the First World War. Half of all Bolshevik activists were in their teens and twenties, and only 10% were older than 40. The Bolsheviks even adopted the following slogan: “Down with the capitalist tyranny of parents!” This youth generation also dominated the Communist movements that materialized during the 1910s and 1920s in Germany, Italy, and Hungary. Young people whose circumstances encourage them to reject the legitimacy of their existing institutions can also be led in other directions, however. Student organizations were a significant base of political and ideological support for the Nazi movement, and the majority of the Italian fascist leadership was drawn from the same youth generation that energized Italian communism.
What about “Generation Z”? The location in history that we occupy is defined by the collapse of the legitimacy of the liberal capitalist order. We were born into the world of 9/11 and the War on Terror, raised in a massive economic crisis, educated by Hillary’s pathetic loss to Trump, and now, as we enter adulthood, we’re forced to struggle through a pandemic that our ruling class refuses to control and a second economic crisis that’s even more catastrophic than the last one. The cumulative effect of these disasters is a discrediting of the current order, a rejection of the way things are going, a widespread desire for something radically different.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that these attitudes will coalesce into anything “revolutionary”. Radical change can be taken to mean replacing an old, homophobic white man with a young, “progressive” Black woman as our next Vice President, regardless of the content of our new leader’s vision or track record, much less the actual impact that even the best progressive politician could have on the injustice and suffering they’d be presiding over. Radical change could also mean fully unleashing the forces of social oppression (racism, misogyny, transphobia, antisemitism, etc.) from the fetters that were reluctantly imposed on them as a response to the militant organizing work of groups targeted by oppression. And even if the kids really are communists, that doesn’t necessarily imply that we’ll be able to accomplish anything.
If we want to effect real transformation, we’ll have to develop our self-understanding. What is the nature of the situation we have been born into? What sort of society do we want to live in? What would it take to clear the way for that new social order? What role could we play in the destruction of the status quo and the construction of a different order? These are questions that require rigorous collective thought, and that is the function Negation Magazine is intended to serve — facilitating the efforts of young people to better understand our world so we can end it and create a better one.
This isn’t intended to be an opportunity for some social clique or political sect to hear itself speak. The point of this magazine is to contribute something useful. As such, Negation will publish any writing that aligns with our purpose: the development of young people in service of societal transformation. We don’t care about having the right “connections” or belonging to the correct “tendencies”; if you send us something good, we’ll pay you for it and put it out there for people to read and discuss. In fact, we’d prefer if people who already have established connections with radical publications don’t submit to us.
We don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so we’ll make an effort to avoid publishing any tedious navel-gazing or bland statements of facts. Escapes into solipsism and book-report-level summaries are equally boring because they’re equally useless. Reflections on personal experiences are valuable only insofar as they are converted into practical wisdom — we’re interested in introspection to the extent that it can serve mass liberation. Theoretical or historical writing shouldn’t be approached as a transmission of information or a list of observations but as a guide to future practice, the production of new thoughts on the basis of pre-existing knowledge. Analysis shouldn’t be explanation for the sake of explanation but the creation of something that is valuable in its own right. As we see it, analysis is valuable when it identifies fracture points, deviations, and surpluses in an attempt to determine what can emerge from them (and what can’t). Negation Magazine will have value if it can give us a chance to uncover forgotten and obscured truths, to critique common assumptions, and to pierce through myths and lies in order to expose reality. The only meaningful way to “raise consciousness” is to alert people to the forces that inhibit consciousness, and then to lead them beyond reflection in the direction of action.
The reality we aim to shed light on is the reality of capitalism, and the project we aim to contribute to is the project of class struggle. The name “Negation” shouldn’t suggest arbitrary or vague negation, but the negation of capitalism specifically, the negation of every form of exploitation and oppression as they really exist, as well as every obstacle on the path to that final negation. There’s a time and a place for abstraction and for aesthetics, but ultimately our objective is absolutely concrete and prosaic: the production, collection, and distribution of writing in an effort to augment, in whatever way possible, the struggle to abolish the capitalist mode of production and all of the other structures and logics that subjugate us. Youth rebellion as an empty expression of angst and resentment is trite; youth rebellion for the sake of genuine liberation, and thus for the sake of communism, is worthwhile.