Burnt Bookmobile

08/29/2009, 6:33 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized


“AAAARG is a conversation platform – at different times it performs as a school, or a reading group, or a journal.

AAAARG was created with the intention of developing critical discourse outside of an institutional framework. But rather than thinking of it like a new building, imagine scaffolding that attaches onto existing buildings and creates new architectures between them.”

One might use this as an example of how the academic institutional discourse infiltrates life “outside” of itself, by contaminating the “non-institutional” with its structures, as well as what was stated as the reverse.  Why do we read these texts? Why are they important? Lately our friends have been flirting with and jumping into the accumulation of the discourse of critical theory, which doesn’t appear as a worthwhile endeavor in of itself.  Some of us have become excited by the idea of applying the profaning highway robber and theoretical hooligan as a model to this; to steal, salvage and use these concepts in whatever ways (especially inappropriate) that are useful to us, not whatever simply reproduces the discourse.

As they say: “When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”

It is at least a good source of critical theory that we don’t have to pay for…  There are a lot of interesting and important texts compiled and accessible for use here.


IEF wil’n out in the Midwest on big words
08/27/2009, 6:00 PM
Filed under: Milwaukee area, war-machine

From the IEF blog:

“Yes, there’s rumors. Not all of them have been proven true.
What we do know is that an IEF posse is gonna be getting retarded on theory and sizurp on Milwaukee, WI and making everything just a bit more terrible—even with the lack of some people. I mean we’re not naming names, but a certain Max, will not be stealing millions in WI and that’s a fucking shame. Just saying.

On the other hand, what’s better than the late ’90s hardcore scene and early ’00s anti-globalization activists traveling through your town and eating all the garbage at your so-called collective house?
IEF insurrectuals making it fucking rain

“Social Justice or Social War?”
Friday | September 11 | 7pm
UWM Union | room 280

*PDF of 11×17 poster here

The Institute for Experimental Freedom was an inside job.”


Another summary:

If the thought of a hyped visit by the IEF isn’t enough for you, I’ll attempt a bit of a summary of the upcoming speaking event. If you’ve been paying attention to the blog or recent texts being formated or written by the IEF recently you could vaguely guess at what they might be talking about. What ideas might we find at the center of all this controversy, at the center of this insurrectionary magnetic poetry game, wowing some with its unabashed inaccessibility and theoretical monstrosity? The IEF is the Frankenstein bringing alive ideas from the world of the dead. We can expect some elaboration and discussions on the intersections of biopolitical theory (Agamben, Foucault, etc), insurrectionary communism, anarchy, and an element of hooliganism.

08/26/2009, 4:57 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

From the start of the essay:

“The everyday practical activity of tribesmen reproduces, or perpetuates, a tribe. This reproduction is not merely physical, but social as well. Through their daily activities the tribesmen do not merely reproduce a group of human beings; they reproduce a tribe, namely a particular social form within which this group of human beings performs specific activities in a specific manner. The specific activities of the tribesmen are not the outcome of “natural” characteristics of the men who perform them, the way the production of honey is an outcome of the “nature” of a bee. The daily life enacted and perpetuated by the tribesman is a specific social response to particular material and historical conditions.

The everyday activity of slaves reproduces slavery. Through their daily activities, slaves do not merely reproduce themselves and their masters physically; they also reproduce the instruments with which the master represses them, and their own habits of submission to the master’s authority. To men who live in a slave society, the master-slave relation seems like a natural and eternal relation. However, men are not born masters or slaves. Slavery is a specific social form, and men submit to it only in very particular material and historical conditions.

The practical everyday activity of wage-workers reproduces wage labor and capital. Through their daily activities, “modern” men, like tribesmen and slaves, reproduce the inhabitants, the social relations and the ideas of their society; they reproduce the social form of daily life. Like the tribe and the slave system, the capitalist system is neither the natural nor the final form of human society; like the earlier social forms, capitalism is a specific response to material and historical conditions.

Unlike earlier forms of social activity, everyday life in capitalist society systematically transforms the material conditions to which capitalism originally responded. Some of the material limits to human activity come gradually under human control. At a high level of industrialization, practical activity creates its own material conditions as well as its social form. Thus the subject of analysis is not only how practical activity in capitalist society reproduces capitalist society, but also how this activity itself eliminates the material conditions to which capitalism is a response.

Daily Life in Capitalist Society

The social form of people’s regular activities under capitalism is a response to a certain material and historical situation. The material and historical conditions explain the origin of the capitalist form, but do not explain why this form continues after the initial situation disappears. A concept of “cultural lag” is not an explanation of the continuity of a social form after the disappearance of the initial conditions to which it responded. This concept is merely a name for the continuity of the social form. When the concept of “cultural lag” parades as a name for a “social force” which determines human activity, it is an obfuscation which presents the outcome of people’s activities as an external force beyond their control. This is not only true of a concept like “cultural lag.” Many of the terms used by Marx to describe people’s activities have been raised to the status of external and even “natural” forces which determine people’s activity; thus concepts like “class struggle,” “production relations” and particularly “The Dialectic,” play the same role in the theories of some “Marxists” that “Original Sin,” “Fate” and “The Hand of Destiny” played in the theories of medieval mystifiers.

In the performance of their daily activities, the members of capitalist society simultaneously carry out two processes: they reproduce the form of their activities, and they eliminate the material conditions to which this form of activity initially responded. But they do not know they carry out these processes; their own activities are not transparent to them. They are under the illusion that their activities are responses to natural conditions beyond their control and do not see that they are themselves authors of those conditions. The task of capitalist ideology is to maintain the veil which keeps people from seeing that their own activities reproduce the form of their daily life; the task of critical theory is to unveil the activities of daily life, to render them transparent, to make the reproduction of the social form of capitalist activity visible within people’s daily activities.

Under capitalism, daily life consists of related activities which reproduce and expand the capitalist form of social activity. The sale of labor-time for a price (a wage), the embodiment of labortime in commodities (saleable goods, both tangible and intangible), the consumption of tangible and intangible commodities (such as consumer goods and spectacles)-these activities which characterize daily life under capitalism are not manifestations of “human nature,” nor are they imposed on men by forces beyond their control.

If it is held that man is “by nature” an uninventive tribesman and an inventive businessman, a submissive slave and a proud craftsman an independent hunter and a dependent wage-worker, then either man’s “nature” is an empty concept, or man’s “nature” depends on material and historical conditions, and is in fact a response to those conditions.”

-Fredy Perlman

Rest of the text

Zine version

Understandings of capital, anarchism, communism, and introductions to communicating these ideas outside of their familiar categories are extremely difficult to come by. This would be one of the few texts that introduces basic concepts regarding the social relation of capitalism in an easy to understand and concise manner.

Suspected Shoplifter Drowns in Milwaukee River
08/22/2009, 11:18 AM
Filed under: Milwaukee area

According to TMJ4:

“MILWAUKEE – A suspected shoplifter drowned in the Milwaukee River north of downtown Monday night.

A security guard, a store employee and an off-duty police detective chased him from the Blockbuster store on East Ogden Avenue.

The 34-year-old Milwaukee man ran west until he got to the river at the Pleasant Street Bridge. Police said he jumped from the bridge to evade apprehension, but did not resurface.

Witness Mary Fernandez said, “The guy gave chase and they were fighting more or less and that’s when the guy jumped into the river.”

The fire department’s dive rescue team pulled the man out of the river, but he died at the scene.

Police said the man was also wanted for a felony parole violation. He was identified as Jermaine Herron of Milwaukee.”


Theses on the Imaginary Party (part 2: thesis 11-20)
08/21/2009, 3:32 PM
Filed under: war-machine

“11) Each of the failures of this society must thus be comprehended positively, as the work of the Imaginary Party, as the work of negativity, that is to say the human: in such a war, all who deny one party, subjectively, do but objectively rally to the other. The radicalism of the times imposes its conditions. As long as there is the Spectacle, the notion of the Imaginary Party is that which renders visible the new configuration of hostilities. The Imaginary Party claims the totality of those who in thoughts, words or acts conspire to the destruction of the present order. The disaster is its work.

12) Up until a certain point, the Imaginary Party corresponds to a specter, to an invisible presence, to the fantastical return of the Other in a society where all otherness was suppressed, to a separate accounting for all that was generalized. But this bad dream, this idea of suicide that passes by the head of the Spectacle, can not delay -in respect to the character, itself imaginary, of the present social production- engendering its reality as consciousness becoming practice, as immediately practical consciousness. The Imaginary Party is the other name of the shameful sickness of shaken power: paranoia, which Canetti too vaguely defined as “the malady of strength”. The despairing and planetary deployment of always more massive and sophisticated techniques to control public space materializes in a piquant fashion the madhouse insanity of wounded domination which still pursues the old dream of the Titans for a universal state; when it is no more than a dwarf among others, and upset with that. In this terminal phase, it speaks only of the fight against terrorism, delinquency, extremism and criminality, because it is constitutionally forbidden to explicitly mention the existence of the Imaginary Party. Besides, this represents for it, in combat, a certain handicap, because it can not designate its fanatics to hate “the veritable enemy that inspires an infinite courage” (Kafka).

13) However it is necessary to know that this paranoia does not lack for reasons, in respect to the direction of historical development. It is a fact that at the point where we have arrived in the process of socialization of society, each individual act of destruction constitutes an act of terrorism, that is to say it objectively aims at the entire society. Thus, at the extreme of suicide that manifests itself in a gesture where death and liberty blend, which delimits, suspends, and annuls the sovereignty of Biopower -and which acquires by that the meaning of a direct derogation of domination- sees itself thus delight a strong force of consummation, of production and reproduction of its world. Similarly, when the law rests on nothing more than its promulgation, that is to say on force and caprice, when this enters a phase of autonomous proliferation, and atop it all, when no ethos is no longer contained in it, then all crime must be comprehended as a total contestation of a solidly ruined social order. All murders are no longer the murder of a particular person- if such a thing as a “particular person” is still possible- but pure murder, without object or subject, without culprit or victim. It is immediately an attempt against the law, which does not exist, but wishes to reign everywhere. From now on, the tiniest infractions have changed their meaning. All crimes are become political crimes, and it is precisely this that domination must at all costs make occult, to veil from all that an epoch has passed, and that political violence, this living corpse, comes to demand the reckoning of all the forms that one does not know it in. It is in this manner, of which the Spectacle could have an intuition, that as the Imaginary Party manifests itself it is escorted by a certain trait of blind terrorism. Certainly, one can interpret this as the moment of the interiorization by all developed commodity societies of the negation that they hold in an cathartic but illusory exteriority of “really existing socialism”, but it is there however its most superficial aspect. It is also permitted for each to diminish the insoluble character by certifying the general rule that “a political unity can not exist under the form of res publica, of the public, which finds itself put into question each time that it creates a space of non-publicity which is an effective disavowal of this publicity”. It is certainly not rare, thus, that certain take the Party as “disappearing in the shadow, but transforming the shadow into a strategic space from whence come the attacks which destroy the place where until now imperium manifested itself, which dismantle the vast background of official public life, that a technocratic intelligence would not know to organize” (Carl Schmitt, Theory of the Partisan). It is a constant temptation, in effect, to conceive the positive existence of the Imaginary Party under the familiar species of the guerrilla, of civil war, of partisan warfare, of a conflict without a precise front or a declaration of hostilities, without armistice or peace treaty. And by these many aspects, it is verily a question of a war that has nothing behind its acts, its violence, its crimes, and which appear to have no other program, on this point, than to become conscious violence, that is to say conscious of its metaphysical and political character.

14) Because the Spectacle cannot, in virtue of the congenital aberration of its vision of the world no less than from strategic considerations, say anything, see anything, nor understand anything of the Imaginary Party, of which the substance is purely metaphysical, the particular form under which the latter makes irruption into visibility is the form of catastrophe. The catastrophe is that which reveals, but cannot be revealed. By that, one must understand that the catastrophe does not exist save for the Spectacle, of which it is the sudden and unalterable ruin of all its patient labor to make pass as a world that which is only its own Weltanschauung; that besides signals by this that it is incapable, like all that is finished, of understanding destruction. In each “catastrophe” it is the mode of commodity unveiling that finds itself unveiled and discontinued. Its character is in evidence as it flies into pieces. The totality of categories, of which it enforces the use, fear an exploding reality. Interest, equivalence, calculus, utility, work, and value are put to flight by the non-assignability of negation. Therefore the Imaginary Party is known in the Spectacle as the party of chaos, crisis, and disaster.

15) In the exact proportion as the catastrophe is truth to the state of fulguration, those of the Imaginary Party work to hasten the advent of this by any means. The axes of communication are for them privileged targets. They know how infrastructures that “are worth billions” can be destroyed in an audacious coup. They know the tactical weakness, the points of least resistance and the moments of vulnerability of the opposing organization. They are besides freer to choose what will be the theatre of their operations and act at the point where the smallest forces can cause the greatest losses. The most troubling, as one interrogates them, is certainly that they know all of this, without however knowing that they know it. Thus, an anonymous worker at a bottling plant pours cyanide “just like that” in a handful of cans, a young man assassinates a tourist in the name of the “purity of the mountain” and signs his crime “Le MESSI”, another “without apparent reason” blew out the brains of his petit-bourgeois father on his birthday, a third opens fire on the wise herd of his school comrades, a last “gratuitously” threw bricks at cars launched on the lively allure of the highway, when he did not burn them in their parking lots. In the Spectacle, the Imaginary Party does not appear as the work of humans, but of strange acts, in the sense understood by the Sabbatean tradition. These acts themselves are not however connected with one another, but systematically held in the enigma of the exception; one would not have the idea to see in these manifestations a unique and similar human negativity, because one does not know what negativity is; at bottom, one does not know any longer what humanity is, nor even if it exists. All this stands out in the register of the absurd, and at this price: there is nothing much that does not stand out. Above all, the Spectacle does not want to see there that so many attacks are directed against it and its ignominy. Ergo, from the spectacular point of view, the point of view of a certain alienation of the state of public explanation, the Imaginary Party is resumed into a confused ensemble of gratuitous and isolated criminal acts of which the authors possess no sense, similar to the periodic irruption in visibility of the always more mysterious forms of terrorism; all things which finish all the same, in the end, by producing the disagreeable impression that one is shielded from nothing in the Spectacle, that an obscure menace weighs on the empty order of commodity society. Indisputably, the state of exception becomes generalized. No one can any longer pretend, in one camp as in the other, to security. This is good. We know at present that the denouement is close. “Lucid saintliness recognizes in itself the necessity of destruction, the necessity of a tragic issue” (Bataille, The Guilty).

16) The effective configuration of hostilities that the notion of the Imaginary Party makes readable is marked essentially by asymmetry. We have no business, presently, with the dispute of two camps that compete for the conquest of the same trophy around which, all things told, they find themselves. Here, the protagonists move on such perfectly strange planes, one from the other, that they do not meet except at very rare points of intersection, and everything accounted for, by the whim of a certain chance. But this strangeness is itself asymmetrical: because, for the Imaginary Party, the Spectacle is without mystery whereas for the Spectacle the Imaginary Party must remain forever a mystery. From this follows a strategic consequence of the first importance: while we can without problem designate our enemy, which is besides by essence designatable, our enemy cannot designate us. There is no uniformity in the Imaginary Party, because uniformity is precisely the central attribute of the Spectacle. Thus it is from now on that all uniformity must feel itself menaced and, with it, all that it represents as currency. In other terms, the Imaginary Party knows nothing but its enemies, not its members, because its enemies are precisely all those who one could know. Those of the Imaginary Party, in re-appropriating their Bloom-being, have re-appropriated the anonymity with which they were constrained. In so doing, they turn against the Spectacle the situation it forced on them and use it as a condition of invincibility. In a certain manner, they will make this society pay for the imprescriptable crime of having stolen from them their name—that is to say the knowledge of their sovereign singularity and by that of all properly human life—to have excluded them from all visibility, all community, all participation, to have thrown them into the indistinction of the crowd, into the nothingness of ordinary life, into the mass in which homo sacer is suspended, and to have walled off from their existence the access of meaning. It is from this condition, in which the Spectacle would like to maintain them, that they depart. It is perfectly insufficient, and at the same time significant of a certain intellectual impotence, to remark that, in this terrorism, innocents receive the chastisement “of being nothing, of being without destiny, to have been dispossessed of their name by a system, itself anonymous, of which they become thus the most pure incarnation. In that they are finished social products of an henceforth globalized abstract sociality.” (Baudrillard). For, each one of these murders without motive and without designated victim, each one of these anonymous sabotages constitutes an act of Tiqqun, that executes the sentence that this world has already pronounced against itself. It returns to nothingness that which Spirit has already quitted, to death those who do not live but rather survive, to the ruin of that which has for so long been no more than ruins. And if one must accept for these acts the absurd qualifier of “gratuitous” it is because they do but lead to manifest that which is already true, but still occult, to realizing that which is already real, but not known as such. They add nothing over the course of the disaster, they record and notify.

17) That its enemy has neither face, nor name, nor anything that could be tied to an identity; that this always presents itself, in spite of its colossal designs, under the detritus of a perfect Bloom, voila that which is fit to unleash the paranoia of power. Johann Georg Elser, of which the bomb attempt November 8, 1939 in Munich did not spare Hitler save for a small favor of fate, furnishes the model of that which, in the years to come, will plunge commodity domination into an ever more sensible fright. Elser is the model Bloom, if ever such an expression did not express a crippling contradiction. In him all evokes neutrality and nothingness. His absence from the world was complete, his solitude absolute. His banality was itself banal. The poverty of spirit, the lack of personality and insignificance were his only attributes, but they never became conspicuous. When he recounts his life as a handyman, it is in the manner of an impersonality without bottom. Nothing kindled passion in him. Politics and ideology left him equally indifferent. He neither knew what Communism was, nor what National-Socialism was, and he was however a worker in Germany in the 1930’s. And when the “judges” interrogated him on his motives for an act into which he put a year and minute care to prepare, he came only to mention the augmentation of deductions upon the salary of workers. He even declared he did not have the intention to eliminate National-Socialism, but solely a few men that he judged evil. It is such a being that missed saving the planet from a world war and unparalleled suffering. His project rested on nothing but his solitary resolution, which his existence had denied, to ravage that of which he was the inexpressible enemy, that which represented the hegemony of Evil. He took his right only from himself, that is to say from the shattering absolute of his decision. The “Party of Order” will have to face, and already faces, the multiplication of such elementary acts of terrorism that it can not understand nor foresee, because they authorize themselves from nothing but the unshakeable sovereignty of metaphysics, of the crazy possibility of disaster that each human existence carries in itself in infinitesimal doses. Nothing, not even glory, can shelter from such eruptions, which aim at the social in response to the terrorism of the social. Their target is as vast as the world. Thus, all that employs itself in residing in the Spectacle must forevermore live in terror of a menace of destruction, which no one knows whence it emanates, nor what it concerns, and of which one can just barely guess that it wants itself to be an example. In similar actions of brilliance, the lack of discernable goal is necessarily a part of the goal itself, because it is by this that they manifest an exteriority, a strangeness, an irreducibility to the mode of commodity unveiling, because it is in this way that they corrode it. It is a matter of spreading the unease that makes humans metaphysicians and the doubt that cracks, level after level, the dominant interpretation of the world. Thus it is in vain that the Spectacle credits us an immediate goal, if it isn’t maybe the hope to provoke a more or less durable breakdown in the whole of the machine. Nothing is more similar to abolishing the totality of the world of administered alienation than one of those miraculous suspensions where all the humanity that the Spectacle habitually eclipses brusquely returns, where the empire of separation is defeated, where the mouths rediscover words which they must, and where humans are reborn in regard to their fellow humans and to the indistinguishable need that they have of one another. Domination sometimes takes many decades to completely recover from a single one of these moments of intense truth. But one gravely mistakes the strategy of the Imaginary Party to reduce it to the pursuit of catastrophe. One does not misunderstand any less in crediting to us the infantilism of wanting to pulverize, in one blow, who knows which general quarter where power finds itself concentrated. One does not assault a mode of unveiling like a fortress, even if the one can usefully lead to the other. Hence, the Imaginary Party does not aim for a general insurrection against the Spectacle, nor even for its direct and instantaneous destruction. Rather it arranges an ensemble of conditions such that domination succumbs as quickly and as largely as possible to the progressive paralysis to which its paranoia condemns it. Although it does not abandon at any moment its designs to achieve this itself, its tactic is not to attack from the front, but in the same action to hide itself, to orient and to hasten the issuance of the malady. “It is this that is fearful for the holders of power that it does not recognize: not letting itself be seized, being the dissolution of social facts as well as the restive obstinacy to reinvent in itself a sovereignty that the law can not circumscribe” (Blanchot, The Shameful Community). Impotent faced with the omnipresence of this danger, domination, which feels itself more and more alone, betrayed and fragile, has no other choice but to extend control and suspicion to the totality of a territory of which, however, free circulation resides the vital principle. It can encircle its “gated communities” with as many guardians as it would like, the ground will continue no less to slip out from under its feet. It is in the essence of the Imaginary Party to everywhere carve up commodity society, even at its foundation of credit. Its dissolving practice knows no other limit than the collapse of what it undermines.

18) It is not so much the content of the crimes of the Imaginary Party that tend to ruin the imperium of bloody peace as their form. Because their form is that of an hostility with no specific object, of a fundamental hatred that wells up, without respect for any obstacle, from a most unreachable interiority, from unaltered depths where humans maintain a veritable contact with themselves. That is why there emanates from them a force that all the chatter of the Spectacle cannot manage to hold back. Japanese children, whom one might justly consider the most intense avant-garde of the Imaginary Party, have forged certain words to designate these absolute fits of rage, where something in them that is not them, indeed, something much greater than them, takes hold. The best-known formula is mukatsuku; at the origin it meant “to have nausea,” that is, to be possessed by the most physical of metaphysical sensations. In this special rage there is something sacred.

19) It is however manifest that the Spectacle can no longer content itself, before the massacres, crimes and catastrophes that besiege it, before this inexplicable mass that accumulates, with noting the extension of a gap in its vision of the world. Besides, it expresses without evasion: “one would like that this violence be the fruit of misery, of great poverty. It would be more easy to admit to” (Evenement du Jeudi, September 10 1998). As one can observe with a disarming regularity, its first movement is to advance an explanation at all costs, as it must ruin all that upon which it could repose in theory. Thus, when the pathetic Clinton is summoned to give reasons for and to draw the consequences of the Beautiful Gesture of Kipland Kinkel, exemplary Bloom by all accounts, he found nothing responsible save “the influence of the new culture of films and violent videogames”. In so doing, he made note of the transparence, of the insubstantiality, and of the radical liquidation of the subject by commodity domination and publicly recognized that the tragic robinsonnade upon which this pretends to found itself, the juridical irreducibility of the individual, is no longer tenable. He ingenuously saps even the principal of commodity society, without which law, private property, the sale of labor power, and until now what has been called “culture”, read all the more like literary fantasy. It would still prefer to sacrifice the whole edifice of its pseudo-justification rather than to penetrate the reasons and nature of its enemy. Because otherwise one must grant to Marx that “the coincidence of the transformation of surroundings and of human activity or of the transformation of man by himself can only be seized and rationally comprehended as revolutionary praxis”. Then, for a second time, we return to this confession that it tries at present to efface; it is the painful moment where it exhausts itself in ridiculous epilogues upon the inexistent psychology of the Bloom that has turned to action. In spite of these interminable considerations, it does not arrive at defending itself from the sentiment in the trial, which is, at bottom, that it itself is judged, and that society takes the place of the accused. It is too evident that the origin of its gesture is nothing subjective, that it is simply a part, in its saintliness, of the objectivity of domination. On this point, it comes all the same to confess, from its very lips, that verily it is a social war that it has business with, without clarifying, however, which social war, that is to say who the protagonists are: “the authors of these mad acts, these new barbarians, are not all head cases. They are most often very ordinary people” (Evenement du Jeudi, 10 September 1998). From now one it is this last rhetoric of an absolute hostility, where it presides over the naming of the enemy who is declared a barbarian and rejected as outside of humanity, which tends to impose itself in a universal fashion. To wit, it is now possible to hear, in the midst of a beautiful period of social peace, such and such a potentate of public transport proclaiming “we are going to reconquer territory”. And in fact, we see the spread everywhere, under forms most often painted over, the certitude of the existence of an un-nameable interior enemy, which pursues a continuous action of sabotage; but this time, unhappily, there are no more kulaks to “liquidate as a class”. One would be wrong, thus, to not subscribe to the paranoiac point of view, which supposes behind the inarticulate multiplicity of protests in the world a singular will armed with black designs: because in a world of paranoiacs, it is the paranoiacs who are right.

20) That the Spectacle fears harboring in its breast an imaginary party, even if in fact the inverse produces itself—in effect, it’s rather the Imaginary Party which holds in its aura the Spectacle– this suspicion betrays that while it has qualified these acts of destruction as “gratuitous”, it has not said everything. It is glaring that the ensemble of misdeeds that one attributes to “lunatics”, “barbarians”, “irresponsibles” all contribute in adjacent ways to a unique unformulated project: the liquidation of commodity domination. In the last instance, it is always a question of objectively rendering its life impossible, from propagating unease, doubt and mistrust; to make, in the modest measure of the means of each one, as much harm as possible. Nothing can explain the systematic lack of remorse in criminals, if not the mute sentiment of participating in a grandiose work of devastation. From all evidence, these people, in themselves insignificant, are the agents of a severe, historical and transcendent reason that advertises the destruction of the world–that is to say, the accomplishing of its nothingness. The sole refinement of those conscious fractions of the Imaginary Party is the fact that they do not work towards the end of the world, but the end of a world. This difference could, when the moment comes, leave a sufficient place to the most reasoned hatred. But this is without consequence for the Imaginary Party itself, which must remain the next figure of Spirit.”


Sorry if this way of posting the parts is problematic.

Wisconsin deemed a training ground for graffiti taggers
08/19/2009, 5:20 PM
Filed under: Milwaukee area

According to Local Fox News:

“WITI-TV, MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office is still looking for the person who tagged the Marquette Interchange recently. It was a bold move, but the Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood services says Wisconsin is a training ground for taggers.

The Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services sends crews out to clean up graffiti everyday. No matter how many rolls of the roller or sprays of the paint, the city is fighting a losing battle.

Sharon Blando the Department of Neighborhood Services says, “In Wisconsin, the threshold level for a felony for doing graffiti is $2,500 in neighboring states as Illinois it’s $300.”

To meet requirements for a felony charge in Wisconsin, the tagger would have to do over eight times the amount of damage compared to a state like Illinois. The city says that actually makes our state a magnet for taggers wanting to hone their skills. Wisconsin Senator Jeff Plale says, “Like on spring break, you’ll see more taggers coming in from outlying states coming in to do their tags during that time. Maybe if the penalty threshold was the same, our taggers would go visit them instead.”

Senator Plale is trying to change that. He introduced a bill that would lower the felony threshold from $25,000 to a $1,000, and would increase the fine to possibly $10,000. The bill has failed twice already, but Plale hopes this scene on the M-change does just what the tagger intended gets attention.”

Video on this page

China: Villagers Attack Factory After Their Children Are Poisoned
08/19/2009, 5:06 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Hundreds of villagers broke into a smelting plant in north China blamed for the lead poisoning of more than 600 children, smashing trucks in protest, state media says.

About 100 policemen were deployed after the villagers in Shaanxi province’s Changqing township destroyed fencing around a special plant railway to gain access to the facility, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

At least 10 trucks were damaged, the report said.

A policeman in Changqing township, who refused to be named, told Agence France-Presse the villagers had dispersed.

“Police are maintaining order at the scene,” he said, refusing to provide further details.

The local government refused to comment.

Tests have shown that at least 615 children out of 731 living in two villages near the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Co plant have excessive lead levels in their blood.

A total of 166 were hospitalised while the rest are to be treated at home.

On Sunday, Xinhua quoted Han Qinyou, head of an environmental protection monitoring station where the smelting plant is located, as saying the air near the plant was found to contain high lead levels.

“Lead content in the air along the main roads near the company is 6.3 times that of the monitoring sites 350 metres away from the roads,” Han was quoted as saying.

The lead levels in the blood of the children tested ranged from 100 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams per litre, compared with normal levels of between zero and 100 milligrams.

A reading of more than 200 milligrams is considered hazardous.

Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can harm the nervous system.”

Theses on the Imaginary Party (part 1: thesis 1-10)
08/17/2009, 8:46 PM
Filed under: war-machine

From the journal TIQQUN #1 (1999):

“The moral and political significance of thought only appears in those rare moments of history where “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”; where “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity”. In these crucial moments, thought ceases to be a marginal affair to political questions. When the whole world lets itself be carried away without thinking by what the many do and believe, those who think find themselves exposed, because their refusal to join with others is patent and becomes thus a sort of action.

-Hannah Arendt, Moral Considerations

1) The Imaginary Party is the particular form that Contradiction assumes in the historic period where Domination imposes itself as dictatorship of visibility and of dictatorship as visibility, in a word as Spectacle. Because there is at first but the negative party of negativity, and because of an inability to liquidate this, the sorcery of the Spectacle consists in rendering invisible the expressions of negation -and this goes as well for the liberty to act as for suffering or pollution- its most remarkable character is precisely to be reputed as nonexistent, or, to be more exact, imaginary. However, it is of this and exclusively of this that one speaks of without stop, because it is that which each day makes a little more visible the failures of the proper functioning of society. But one keeps from pronouncing its name -can one pronounce its name, in any case?- as one fears to invoke the devil. And in this, one does well: in a world so manifestly become an attribute of Spirit, enunciation has a regrettable tendency to become performative. Inversely, the nominal evocation, even here, of the Imaginary Party merits equally well as its act of constitution. Up to the present, that is to say up until its naming, it could not be more than what was the classical proletariat before knowing itself as proletariat: a class of civil society that is not a class of civil society, but which is rather its dissolution. And in effect, it only composes itself to this day of the negative multitude of those who do not have a class, and do not want to have one, of the solitary crowd of those who have re-appropriated their fundamental non-appearance in commodity society under the form of a voluntary non-participation in it. At first, the Imaginary Party presents itself simply as the community of defection, the party of exodus, of fleeing reality and paradoxically as subversion without subject. But this is not its essence just as dawn is not the essence of the day. The richness of its becoming is yet to come and can not appear except in its living rapport with that which produced it, and which now disclaims it. “Only those who have the vocation and the will to make the future can see the concrete truth of the present” (Lukacs, History & Class Consciousness).

2) The Imaginary Party is the party that tends to become real, incessantly. The spectacle has no other ministry than to hinder, relentlessly, its manifestation as such, that is to say its becoming conscious, that is to say its becoming real; because then it would have to admit the existence of this negativity of which it is, in so much as the positive party of positivity, the perpetual de-negation. It is thus in the essence of the Spectacle to cast the opposing camp as a negligible residue, to make of it a total nothing, and which comes to the same thing, to declare it criminal and inhuman in its entirety, under the pain of having to know itself for a criminal and a monster. At bottom, it’s why there are in this society but two parties: the party of those who pretend that there is but one party, and the party of those who know that there are in truth two. Already from this observation, one will know to recognize our party.

3) It is wrong that we reduce war to the brutal shock of the battle, save for reasons that explain themselves without difficulty. Certainly, it would be truly harmful to public order that this be apprehended for what it is really: the supreme eventuality of which the preparation for, and the adjournment of, inwardly work in a continual movement all human groupings, and of which peace is not in the end but a moment. It follows identically for the social war of which the combats can remain at their paroxysm perfectly silent and, so to speak, colorless. One only divines them from a sudden rejuvenation of the dominant aberration. Dispositions taken, one must recognize that battles are exaggeratedly rare, compared to casualties.

4) It is in applying in this type of case the fundamental axiom according to which what is unseen does not exist -esse est percipi- that the Spectacle maintains the exorbitant and planetary illusion of a fragile civil peace, of which the perfection demands that we leave it to spread in all domains its gigantic campaign of the pacification of societies and of the neutralization of their contradictions. But its foreseeable failure is logically inscribed in the simple fact that this campaign of pacification is still a war- certainly the most terrible and destructive that ever was, because it is lead in the name of peace. It is besides one of the most constant traits of the Spectacle that it does not speak of war but in a language where the word “war” does not appear more than a question of “humanitarian operations”, “international sanctions”, “maintaining order”, “safeguarding the rights of man”, of the fight against “terrorism”, “sects”, “extremism”, or “pedophilia”, and above all this, the “process of peace”. The adversary no longer carries the name of enemy, but in revenge they are placed outside the law and outside of humanity for having broken and disturbed the peace; and each war lead to the end of conserving or spreading the positions of economic or strategic force will have to call on a propaganda which transforms it into a crusade or the last war of humanity. The lie upon which the Spectacle reposes demands that is be thus. This non-sense reveals, besides a systematic coherence and a shocking internal logic, that up to now this apparently apolitical and at the same time anti-political system does not help existing configurations of hostilities nor does it provoke new regroupings among friends and enemies, because it does not know how to escape from the logic of the political. Those who do not understand war do not understand their own times.

5) Since its birth, Commodity Society has never renounced its absolute hatred of the political, and it is in this that resides its greatest vexation as the project of eradicating it is itself still political. It greatly wants to speak of law, economy, culture, philosophy, the environment, and even of politics, but never of the political. Invariably, this negation takes the form of a naturalization, of which the impossibility finds itself denounced in an equally invariable fashion by periodic crises. Classical economy and the century of liberalism that corresponds to it (1815-1914) constituted a first attempt, and a first failure, of this naturalization. The doctrine of utility, the system of needs, the myth of a “natural” auto-regulation of the market, the ideology of the rights of man, and parliamentary democracy are to be numbered as means that were put in place in this time to that end. But it is indisputably in the historic period opened in 1914 that the naturalization of commodity dominance reveals its most radical form: Biopower. In Biopower, the social totality which little by little autonomized itself came to take charge of life itself. On one side, it oversaw the politicization of biology: health, beauty, sexuality, and the available energy of each individual each year reveals more clearly the managerial responsibility of society. On another side, it is a biologization of politics that operates: ecology, the economy, the general repartition of “well-being” and “care”, growth, longevity and aging of the population impose themselves as the principal chapters by which one measures the exercise of power. This, of course, is only the appearance of the process, not the process itself. In reality, that which it concerns is to rely upon the false evidence of the body and biological life, the total control of behaviors, of representations and rapports between humans, that is to say, at bottom, to force everyone to consent to the Spectacle out of a supposed instinct of conservation. Because it founds its absolute sovereignty on the zoological unity of the human species and upon the immanent continuum of the production and reproduction of “life”, Biopower is this essentially murderous tyranny that exercises itself upon everyone in the name of all and of “nature”. All hostility to this society, whether it is that of the criminal, the deviant, or the political enemy, must be liquidated because it goes against the interest of the species, and more particularly the species of the criminal, the deviant, and the political enemy. And it is thusly that each new diktat that restrains a little more already derisory liberties pretends to protect everyone against themselves, in opposing the extravagance of its sovereignty to the ultima ratio of naked life. “Pardon them, they know not what they do” says Biopower as it takes out its syringe. Certainly, naked life -the point of view where human life ceases to be distinct from animal life- has always been the point of view of commodity nihilism considering humans. But it is at present all manifestations of transcendence, of which the political is a shattering form, all intentions of liberty, all expressions of metaphysical essence and of the negativity of humans are treated as a malady that must, for the common happiness, be suppressed. However, the penchant for revolution -an endemic pathology for which a campaign of permanent vaccination has not yet come to pass- certainly explains itself by the unhappy coincidence of an at-risk heredity, excessive hormonal levels and the insufficiency of a certain neuro-mediator. There could not be politics inside of Biopower, but only against Biopower. Because Biopower is the achieved negation of the political, veritable politics must commence by freeing itself from Biopower, that is to say to reveal it as such.

6) In Biopower, it is therefore the physical dimension that escapes from humans, erects itself facing them and oppresses them; and it is precisely in this that Biopower is a moment of the Spectacle, just as the physical is a moment of the metaphysical. It is thus an iron necessity which, from even the smallest detail apparently the most simple, the most immediate -the body- condemns the present contestation to place itself on the metaphysical plane or to be nothing. Therefore neither could it be included, nor similarly perceived in the interior of the Spectacle nor of Biopower, like the rest of all that which throws into relief the Imaginary Party. For the hour, its principal attribute is its factual invisibility in the heart of a mode of commodified unveiling that is assuredly metaphysical, but factually metaphysical singularly in that it is the negation of metaphysics, and first of itself as metaphysical. But, the Spectacle abhors a vacuum, it cannot bring itself to disclaim the massive evidence of these hostilities of a new type which agitate, ever more violently, the social body; it is necessary in other words that it mask this. Thus it comes back to multiple occult forces to invent pseudo-conflicts always more empty, always more fabricated and themselves always more violent, in so much as anti-political. It’s upon this heavy equilibrium of terror that rests the apparent calm of all the societies of late capitalism.

7) In this sense, the Imaginary Party is the political party, or more exactly the party of the political, because it is the sole one which can designate in this society the metaphysical labor of an absolute hostility, that is to say the inner existence of a veritable rupture. By that, it takes the path of an absolute politics. The Imaginary Party is the form which politics assumes in the hour of the collapse of Nation-states, of which we know from henceforth to be mortal. It dramatically calls to mind to any State that is not senile, or sufficiently exuberant, the total assertion that the political space is not, in its reality, distinct from physical, social, cultural, etc. space; that in other terms and according to an old formulation, everything is political, or at least is so for power. At this point, politics appears rather as the All of the spaces which liberalism believed it could, predicate by predicate, fragment. The era of Biopower is the moment where domination comes to apply itself to the body, until the individual physiology takes a political character, in spite of the ridiculous alibi of biological naturality. Politics is thus more than ever the total, existential, metaphysical element in which is packed all of human liberty.

8 ) We witness in these gloomy days the final phase of the decomposition of commodity society, which we agree has lasted only too long. It is at the planetary level that we see diverge in always greater proportions the map of the commodity and the territory of the human. The spectacle puts in place a worldwide chaos, but this “chaos” only manifests itself in the from now on proven ineptitude of the economic vision of the world that has never understood human reality. It has become evident that value no longer measures anything: accounting turns to emptiness. Work itself has no other object than to satisfy the universal need of servitude, and Money has finished by leaving itself to be earned by the nothingness it propagates. At the same time, the totality of old bourgeois institutions, which rest on the abstract principles of equivalence and representation, have entered into a crisis which they seem too fatigued to recover from: Justice no longer manages to judge, Teaching no longer teaches, Medicine no longer heals, Parliament no longer legislates, Police no longer force respect for the law, nor does the Family even raise children. Certainly, the exterior forms of the ancient edifice remain, but all life has quit it definitively. It floats in an intemporality always more absurd and always more perceptible. To deceive the world about the mounting disaster, the Spectacle still arrives from one time to another to sport the symbols of parade, but no one comprehends them anymore. Their magic fascinates none but the magicians. Thus, the National Assembly has become a historic monument, which excites nothing more than the stupid curiosity of tourists. The Old World offers to our view a desolate countryside of new ruins and dead carcasses that wait for a demolition that does not come and could yet wait for eternity, if no one had the idea to undertake it. Never has there been the project of so many celebrations, and never, too, did their enthusiasm appear more false, more faint, and more forced. Even the crudest rejoicing no longer takes place without a certain air of sadness. Contrary to appearances, the perishing of the ensemble is not so much organ after organ; it decomposes and corrodes, not, for the rest, in some observable positive phenomenon, but rather in the general indifference that has been unchained; indifference that procures the clear sentiment that no one judges themselves to be concerned by this, nor in any fashion have they decided to remedy it. And as “before the sentiment of collapse of all things, to do nothing but to await patiently and blindly the crashing of the old edifice so full of fissures and attacked in its roots and to leave it destroyed by its crumbling scaffolding is contrary to wisdom as much as to dignity” (Hegel), we see, in certain signs that do not permit the discernment of the mode of spectacular unveiling, preparation for the inevitable exile outside “the old edifice so full of fissures”. Already, masses of silent and solitary humans appear, who choose to live in the interstices of the commodity world and who refuse to participate with what they once had a rapport with. It is not solely that the charms of the commodity leave them stubbornly unenthused, it is moreover that they carry an inexplicable suspicion for all that is linked to the universe that it fashioned and that now is collapsing. At the same time, the ever more patent malfunctionings of the capitalist state, become incapable of any integration with the society upon which it imposes itself, guarantees in its midst the necessary temporary subsistence of spaces of indetermination, zones of autonomy always more vast and always more numerous, where there is sketched an ethos for a whole infra-spectacular world that seems at dusk, but that in truth is at dawn. Some forms of life appear in which the promise goes well beyond the general decomposition. In all respects, this resembles a massive experience of illegality and clandestinity. There are moments where one already lives as if this world no longer existed. During these times, and as a confirmation of this bad omen, we see the despairing tensing and contractions of a world that knows it is to die. One speaks of the reform of the republic when the time of republics has passed. One speaks still of the color of flags, when it is the era of flags themselves that has passed. Such is the grandiose and mortal spectacle that unveils itself to those who dare to consider their time from the point of view of its negation, that is to say from the point of view of the Imaginary Party.

9) The historic period in which we enter must be a time of extreme violence and grand disorders. The permanent and generalized state of exception is the sole fashion in which commodity society can maintain itself as it has accomplished the undermining of the specific conditions possible for installing itself durably in nihilism. Certainly, domination still has force -physical force as well as symbolic force- but it does not have more than that. At the same time as the discourse of its critique, this society has also lost the discourse of its justification. It finds itself before an abyss, which it discovers is its heart. And it is this truth, noticeable everywhere, that it travesties without stop in embracing in all dialogue “the language of flattery” where “the content of the discourse that the spirit has with itself and upon itself is the perversion of all concepts and of all realities, is the universal trumpery of itself and of others, and the impudence of enunciating this trumpery is for this the highest truth” and where “the simple consciousness of the true and the good. . .can say nothing to this spirit which does not know them and does not say them”. In these conditions, “if the simple consciousness at last claims the dissolution of this whole world of perversion, it can not all at once demand of the individual to reject this world, because Diogenes himself in his barrel was conditioned by it; besides this demand posed to the singular individual is precisely that which passes for wrong, because wrong consists in worrying about oneself in so much as singular. . .the demand of this dissolution can only address itself to this same spirit of culture”. One recognizes there the true description of the language that henceforth domination speaks in its most advanced forms, when it has incorporated into its discourse the critique of consumer society, of spectacle and their misery. “Culture Canal+” and “Inrockuptibles” give, in France, passing but significant examples. It’s more generally the scintillating and sophisticated language of the modern cynic, who has definitively identified all usage of liberty as the abstract liberty to accept everything, but in his own manner. In his gregarious solitude, the shrill consciousness of his world prides itself on its perfect powerlessness to change it. It finds itself similarly mobilized in a maniacal fashion against the consciousness of self and against all quest for substantiality. A world such as this “knows all become estranged from it, knows being-for-itself separated from being-in-itself, or that what is aimed at and the goal separate from truth” (Hegel), in other terms that, all in dominating effectively, attaches itself to the luxury of knowing overtly its domination as vain, absurd and illegitimate, calls against it as the only response to what it states the violence of those who, having been mutilated by it of all rights, draw their rights from hostility. One can no longer reign innocently.

10) At this stage domination, which feels its life inexorably escaping, becomes mad and pretends to a tyranny of which it no longer has the means. Biopower and the Spectacle correspond, as complementary moments, to this ultimate radicalization of the commodity aberration that seems its triumph and preludes its loss. In the one and the other case, it is a question of eradicating from reality all that, in it, exceeds its representation. At the end, an unchained caprice attaches itself to this ruined edifice, which tries to tyrannize and weaken without delay all that dares to give itself an independent existence outside of it. We are there. The Society of the Spectacle has become untreatable on this point: it is necessary to participate in the collective crime of its existence, no one must be able to claim to reside outside it. It can no longer tolerate the existence of the colossal party of abstention that is the Imaginary Party. It is necessary to work, that is to say to hold oneself in all readiness at its disposition, to be mobilizable. To reach its ends, it uses in equal measure the most vulgar means, like the menace of hunger, and the most insidious, like the young woman. The faded old tune of “citizenship” which spreads everywhere with regard to everything, and to nothing, expresses the dictatorship of this abstract duty of participation in a social totality that is in all ways autonomized. It is in this manner, even with the fact of this dictatorship, that the negative party of negativity comes little by little to unify and acquire a positive content. Because the elements of the multitude of the indifferent who mutually ignore one another and who do not think to be of any party, find themselves equally exposed to this unique and centralized dictatorship, the dictatorship of the Spectacle, of which the salariat, the commodity, nihilism and the imperative of visibility are not but partial aspects. It is therefore domination itself that imposes on them, on those who would have been content volunteers of a floating existence, to recognize themselves for what they are: rebels. “The contemporary enemy does not cease to imitate the army of Pharaoh: they hunt down the runaways, the deserters, but never arrive at preceding them or confronting them” (Paolo Virno, Miracle, virtuosity and deja-vu). In the course of this exodus, some unprecedented solidarities constitute themselves, friends and brothers reassemble behind the new lines of the front that they designate, and the formal opposition between the Spectacle and the Imaginary Party becomes concrete. There develops thus, among those who take note of their essential marginality, a strong sentiment of belonging to non-belonging, a sort of community of Exile. The simple sensation of estrangement in this world metamorphosizes in accord with the circumstances into intimacy with estrangement. Flight was nothing more than a fact become a strategy. Now “flight, says the thirty sixth stratagem, is the supreme politics”. But hence, the Imaginary Party is already more than solely imaginary; it commences to know itself as such and marches with slowness towards its realization, which is its ruin. The metaphysical hostility to this society has from now on ceased to be lived on a purely negative mode, like the casual indifference to all that could come upon it, a refusal to play, or the forced failure of domination by rejection of domination. It takes a positive character and by this is so perfectly worrying that power is not wrong, in its paranoia, to see terrorists everywhere. It’s a frigid, cold hatred, like of an inflammation, that for the hour does not express itself overtly or theoretically, but rather by a practical paralysis of all social devices, by a mute and obstinate ill-wishing, and by the sabotage of all innovation, all movement and all intelligence. There are crises nowhere, there is only the omnipresence of the Imaginary Party, of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere, because it operates on the same territory as the Spectacle.”


Politics is not a Banana: What are you doing after the orgy or the insurrection or whatever?
08/15/2009, 12:40 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Politics is Not a Banana is at the printer. After some practical gestures to expose a plane of consistency for theory and practice, a few old questions posed from a different angle, a bit too much smoking inside, and an excessive use of typography, Politics is Not a Banana: “What are you doing…” has reached its threshold. Some 168 pages of content, color covers, off-set printing and 2-color-pantone insides as a perfect bound 4.25x7in assemblage will make up the machine of PNB. Around a thousand copies will be printed for the first run. Seriously, we don’t even know a thousand people, much less a thousand people who will want to read this fucking thing.

“Politics is Not a Banana: What are you doing…” is not “Politics is Not a Banana 2.” While it is certain that the Politics is Not a Banana that has been floating around since spring of ’08 was the first of many issues we have, it was not “Politics is Not a Banana 1.” This project is not intended for progress or development. If by chance we get worse over time, it is because we will have given in to the seduction of becoming a better commodity or a more terrible practice of print—which are temptations that are felt at every corner. If the former is the case, it would behoove you to not merely denounce us. If the latter is the case, may god have mercy on the anarchist milieu.

“Blablabla form blablabla content”

We believe that we can get what we want. Its difficult perhaps; we have to become sensitive to each other in order to really be expositional, rather than merely performative[1]. However, with a meaningful practice of doing relationships how we want to, we may accidentally stumble upon something a bit better than just a different form of terrible. It is this logic that motivates the experiment with the commodity known as Politics is Not a Banana.

The Institute for Experimental Freedom would like to congratulate itself. We engage in projects with a certain lightness and prefer the form of the experiment, which serves to prove—to give experience—to a what we believe to be sensible. If the 7×7 issue of Politics is Not a Banana proved anything, it was that the practice of DIY print (zines) could be reappropriated. Solidarities between service workers felt as inclinations were made material, and whatever force of seduction was afforded to Politics is Not Banana translated into crews across the US figuring out their own shit and printing a few copies. The theft and use of the hookup network between various metropolitan service workers made the initial 300 copies of Politics is Not a Banana possible. The use of the information super highway and the PDF form accounts for the other immaterial conditions which gave Politics is Not a Banana its strangely vast distribution. The practice of so called DIY print is not dead, it is merely refined.


Despite the fact that Politics is Not a Banana “What are you doing…” was professionally printed, it should not to be understood as form in favor of content. Rather, it is an elaboration of the methods employed to produce the glossy pages and the design decisions of the first issue that tormented Anarchy Magazine. Should we pay from our own pockets to produce beautiful things that will be captured as commodities? Never. Although, sometimes we do. This time, however, like the last, is a testament to what is possible through a profaned use of class antagonisms, friends, sadomasochism, a few hoops to jump through, and, of course, material solidarities. Although currently we shamefully practice doing the commodity ethically or whatever, perhaps soon we’ll give the purists a real reason to hate us.

Don’t mistake cohesion and rhythm for a coherent political program. Although some readers will applaud a more easy to follow amalgamation of texts, Politics is Not a Banana “What are you doing…” is not the result of ideological unity between contributors. After carefully reading the proofs, the editors of Politics is Not a Banana turned to each other and shared the tiniest single tear for the undoubtedly stupid readings of our so-called work of art. Yes, we could have more effectively splayed aphorisms and nonsensical maxims across the page; we could have interrupted the reader with more confusing pornography, with more experimental fictions, but then again we, so charitably, decided to cut a lot of our own writing. Perhaps we can all learn a valuable lesson: there is more to the practice of radical discourse than propaganda and discipline. Make no mistake, we could give a fuck, and we certainly do give fucks, but our perversity cannot be contained in any one literary singularity. We take whatever seriously.

So how will we distribute this? How will we share our shame and power? How will we write our ignoble desire on new generations?

We have no illusions about the class composition of our friends and comrades—we work stupid jobs and survive on coffee and theft, but we’re pretty good at it. Likewise, we have no fucking idea what to do with a thousand copies of anything. When anarchists give us their newspaper advertisements for this or that protest, we are usually able to get rid of like twenty and then the rest usually sit around. Sometimes print is lucky enough to be used for kindling. Most times, it’s near a toilet. “Politics is Not a Banana: What are you doing…” is useless as toilet paper. It is best as a sexual technology or fashion accessory.

It is from this knowledge that we pose the question to our comrades, to our vile territories of revolt-in-practice. We will be selling Politics is Not a Banana at a retail price (around $10-12) and a wholesale price (around $5-6). We ask that comrades buy fifty or so at wholesale and then sell it to make a reasonable amount of profit to benefit their projects; we ask that distributors get in touch too, but we’re not super worried if Glenn Beck doesn’t cry about us on Fox news. We ask also that comrades in university and comrades who work with social spaces would be so kind to get in touch with us, to prepare this year’s IEF tour (SRSLY IEF T0URz 0MG!!!!1).”

Nothing is too beautiful for the unwanted children of capital,

-IEF friends

from the dirty, and across the puddle ’09

Essentialism & Identity Politics
08/11/2009, 4:02 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

While some are calling for the eclipse of identity others are virulently fighting for its reemergence… (or continuation by other means)

This text was written by Lawrence Jarach a number of years ago. It seems appropriate to revisit in light of the recent embarrassingly uncritical and manipulative discussions currently engulfing the anti-authoritarian and (especially) anarchist milieu regarding race, privilege, identity, oppression, etc. If anyone can point us to other texts of similar theme or interest, please share them (critical race theory, whatever, queer theory, post-structuralism, etc).

Preliminary Theses for a Longer Discussion on Essentialism and the Problem of Identity Politics

1. Essentialism is the idea that there exists some detectable and objective core quality of particular groups of people that is inherent, eternal, and unalterable; groupings can be categorized according to these qualities of essence, which are based on such problematic criteria as gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, and class. These external qualities are almost always marked by visual cues, making the categories more obvious and/or easier to notice. These qualities contain social and — more importantly from an antiauthoritarian perspective — hierarchical significance to those marking the cues and those marked by the cues: sexism, in the case of gender; racism in the case of skin tone; the unwanted attention of authorities in the case of any and all different looking/acting people. Racism, sexism, classism, and most other forms of historical oppression are ideologies and policies maintained and justified by essentialism.

For a person or group of people on the receiving end of racism and sexism (etc.), essentialism can appear to be a powerful defensive perspective and counter-narrative. Rather than promoting categories of denigration and subordination, the counter-essentialist discourse of Identity Politics attempts to invert the historical categories of oppression into categories of celebration. This is often initiated by appropriating insults and turning them into acceptable, even honorable, labels. What had once been intended to harm the Other thereby becomes a way to show pride in the Group Self. Keeping with the inversion process, the counter-essentialist often merely turns the categories of Otherness upside-down, making visually identifiable members of the Oppressor group into enemies. A sense of belonging either to a group that has oppressed or been oppressed is immaterial — essentialism is not the exclusive domain of oppressors.

2. For a person or group of people on the receiving end of racism and sexism (etc.), essentialism can appear to be a powerful defensive perspective and counter-narrative. Rather than promoting categories of denigration and subordination, the counter-essentialist discourse of Identity Politics attempts to invert the historical categories of oppression into categories of celebration. This is often initiated by appropriating insults and turning them into acceptable, even honorable, labels. What had once been intended to harm the Other thereby becomes a way to show pride in the Group Self. Keeping with the inversion process, the counter-essentialist often merely turns the categories of Otherness upside-down, making visually identifiable members of the Oppressor group into enemies. A sense of belonging either to a group that has oppressed or been oppressed is immaterial — essentialism is not the exclusive domain of oppressors.

3. The discourse of counter-essentialism includes the ideologies of innocence and victimization, which can quickly transform an identity based on the history of shared oppression into a posture of superiority. Counter-essentialism supposedly proves that the victim is eternally innocent, so victims’ actions and reactions are forever beyond reproach; all good Christians know that suffering is ennobling. Oppression is never the result of anything the victim has actually done to the Oppressor, so whatever strategies of resistance the victim chooses are legitimate. Self-defense is its own justification.

4. The adherents of Identity Politics rarely — if ever — question the criteria leading to victimization. They can’t conceive of the possibility that the elevation of any particular culturally constructed marker into a significant value — laden category could lead to oppression. Unlike Oppressor essentialists, counter-essentialists ignore the complexities of relations of power (which are conditional and contingent); but like Oppressor essentialists, they revel in the smug self-assurance that their Identity is static, independent, and eternal. Essentialists create and maintain their own privileges through the institutionalization of power; counter-essentialists through the institutionalization of innocence.

5. Franz Fanon, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, and many other Third World national liberationists even less reputable to anarchists (like Castro, Tito, and Mao) inspired generations of self-described revolutionaries in the Imperial Metropole to fight against discrimination, racism, colonialism, and oppression. That all these Third World nationalists thought, wrote, and acted within a statist — and usually Marxist-Leninist, which is to say Stalinist — framework is also clear. Despite this, as successful anti-imperialists, they retain a certain appeal and credibility among anarchists. After all, what anarchist would be in favor of imperialism?

6. The philosophy and vision of self-determination requires an appeal to world political opinion; it is as if so-called revolutionary nationalists wanted to say: “We are mature enough to run our own governments, make treaties, engage in trade with the established states of the world, and control troublesome dissidents.” On a certain level, these soon-to-be national leaders accepted and promoted the justification for colonialism — namely that the natives were too child-like or uneducated to determine the proper exploitation of the natural resources of their lands. They wanted to show — either through the force of morality (as in the totally mythologized case of Gandhi) or the force of arms (as in the totally romanticized case of Che and others) — that they were worthy of being reckoned and negotiated with, and eventually recognized as equal partners in the realm of statecraft. National borders invented and imposed by colonial powers would be respected, trade agreements would generally (or eventually) be concluded with the former colonial power, laws drawn up by the former colonial masters against internal dissidence would continue to be used, etc. The native bourgeoisie took over all the institutions of government, deflecting — through appeals to explicitly cross-class ethno-national unity and solidarity — the more basic struggle between exploiter and exploited.

7. The gender- and ethnic-based liberation movements in Europe and the United States of the late-1960s/early-1970s took their ideological cues and justifications from these successful anti-colonialist struggles. The rhetoric of Third World national liberation was used constantly, to the point where many African-Americans, some women and other self-identified oppressed groups began to describe themselves as “internal colonies.” Minorities of all kinds had already been identified as subordinate Others by the elites of hierarchical societies; the facile identification of the colonial exploiter and his institutions as the oppressive Other is at the heart of the trouble with Identity Politics. The assigning of blame, responsibility, and guilt to everyone identified as belonging to the category of oppressive Other curtails the possibility of transcending hierarchy and domination; this process merely inverts the values placed on particular classes or groups of people, regardless of their personal complicity in historical or contemporary oppression.

8. For most women liberationists, the category of Woman — reduced to a hermetic category based only on gender — became the only category of importance. The denigration and oppression of women was clear everywhere: discrimination, rape and other forms of violence, harassment, the expectation and enforcement of motherhood and heterosexuality, and the myriad ways of keeping women dependent and subservient. Women liberationists declared Patriarchy to be the Enemy, some taking the next logical step and making Men — reduced to a hermetic category based only on gender — the Enemy.

For most black nationalists, the category of Black — reduced to a hermetic category based on genetics and race — became the only category of importance. The denigration and oppression of blacks was clear everywhere: discrimination in the form of Jim Crow, lynching and other forms of violence, harassment (especially by law enforcement), the expectation and enforcement of servility, and the myriad ways of keeping black people dependent and subservient. Black nationalists declared White Racism to be the Enemy, some taking the next logical step and making White People — reduced to a hermetic category based on genetics and race — the Enemy.

9. Race and gender, similar to other culturally specific ideological constructs, are both real and unreal. Unreal in the biological sense; conceptions of these distinctions do not correspond to objective — that is, non-culturally based — categories. Real in the sociological sense; there are clear ways of discerning racism, sexism, and other forms of domination and exploitation regardless of any particular cultural context. They are therefore deserving of critical attention. Those who champion the discourse of gender studies have done an excellent job in analyzing and shattering the contingent nature of how gender is understood, showing that particular combinations of chromosomes and genitalia are only a part (and arguably not even the most important part) of what makes gender meaningful. Critical race theory is also an encouraging and interesting recent anti-essentialist development.

10. Colonialists and their apologists consistently promote mythico-ideological categories of domination. People opposed to hierarchical institutions already understand and expect that. The main conceptual contradiction of anti-imperialists (those who supposedly oppose colonial practices) is their own acceptance of Euro-American prejudices and stereotypes — only with the values inverted. The categories of denigrated Other (black, savage, woman) created and maintained for the exclusive benefit of Eurosupremacists and sexists are not called into question; their objectivity is self-evident, based on the common sense of the culture originally created by the racists and sexists. Everyone can tell whether someone is male or female — it’s biological. Everyone can tell whether someone is black or white — it’s scientific. Even before (but especially during) the formative years of European colonialism, Science and Biology were seen as methodologies for discerning Objective Reality. Anti-imperialists, as good Marxist-Leninists, find nothing troubling about Science; it’s what separates their particular ideology from all other forms of socialism. However, Science is an ideologically driven pursuit. Thinking of Science as some neutral examination and discernment of facts for the sake of technological progress, increasing human liberation, and knowledge about the universe should be treated as any other form of wishful thinking. Knowledge is not separate from the uses to which it has been and is currently being put.

11. Group self-definition would seem to fit in with the anarchist principles of self-organization and voluntary association. Counter-essentialist identity can even be understood as an attempt to recapture kinship-based community, destroyed by the imposition of industrial capitalism (which is based on division of labor and the resulting atomization and alienation of individuals from each other). It remains problematic, however, because it is an identity forged within the ideology of victimization; it rests on the same arbitrary and constructed categories that were previously formulated to justify oppression. Creating a supposedly liberatory counter-narrative that remains based on visual markers can never possibly question the validity of an oppressive ideology. The other problem is the promotion of an ideologically constructed identity. Such an identity demands group loyalty and solidarity over and above the actual lived experiences of the individuals involved.

The person who is attracted to the promised sense of belonging offered by any institution (whether an oppressed group, a hierarchical organization, or any formation promoting Unity) must agree to the prior distinctions and categories created by others. Once the counter-essentialist agrees to the boundaries of inclusion/exclusion (which is step one on the road to separatism), s/he can’t identify or be identified any other way; whatever criteria already exist in the counter-essentialist narrative are the only ones that matter. This Identity Fundamentalism requires that any person interested in radical transformation relinquish the ability to define her/himself. S/he must dissolve any self-awareness into pre-existing categories of significance. Biology — no matter its ideological and cultural constraints — is Destiny; subjectivity can only be sacrificed and/or suppressed. One of the first authoritarian lies is that someone else knows better.

Essentialists, merely by casting a cursory glance at their chosen Other, already know all they need to know about that person. Separatists, nationalists, anti-imperialists — essentialists all — call that Liberation.



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