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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.


250 inmates hurt, 55 hospitalized after California prison riot
08/09/2009, 4:09 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Flames leap from a housing unit at a prison in Chino, California, on Saturday night.

From CNN:

“More than 250 inmates were injured in a riot that erupted overnight at the California Institution for Men in Chino, a spokesman said Sunday.

Flames leap from a housing unit at a prison in Chino, California, on Saturday night.

A similar riot broke out in December of 2006, Hargrove said.

Fifty-five inmates were taken to area hospitals with serious injuries, said Lt. Mark Hargrove, prison spokesman.

None of the facility’s employees was hurt in the melee, which broke out at about 8:20 p.m. Saturday at the Reception Center West facility, Hargrove said. The situation was under control by 7 a.m. Sunday, he said.

The scene of the violence was the medium-security housing facility with seven units, each of which houses about 200 inmates, he said.

Some 80 officers responded to the riot, during which a housing unit was heavily damaged by fire, he said.

Guards used pepper spray, “less lethal force, and lethal force options” to regain control, Hargrove said in a written statement.

The institution was placed on lockdown pending an investigation of the cause of the fighting, and visiting privileges were suspended.

Aref Fakhoury, acting warden for the California Institution for Men, said police departments from the cities of Chino, Chino Hills and Ontario, and the Chino Valley Independent Fire District aided in quelling the violence.

The inmates’ injuries ranged from stab wounds and slashes to head trauma, Hargrove said. Some were considered life-threatening.

Hargrove said inmates used “weapons of opportunity” such as broken glass during the riot.

Images taken from the scene showed flames coming from the building as a helicopter hovered overhead.”


Nanterre, Here, Now
08/09/2009, 1:38 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

“The events at Nanterre University during the general strike of May 68′ in Paris is somewhat well documented. The continuation of the struggle in and around this specific university for a few years following May, is less remembered, if at all.

Jean-Francois Lyotard is hardly remembered as a subversive; little more than a few books of literary analysis and more philosophically centered documents are even read today, usually within the confines of the university, and steadily less so after his death a few years ago. There is another side, one that was engaged with far left communist groupings (Socialisme ou Barbarie, Pouvoir Ouvrier) throughout the early 1950’s until the mid 1960’s, and heavily engaged with some of the Enrages of the Nanterre student milieu in the late 60’s to early 70’s. After the 1970’s, the more explicitly extremist ‘political’ pieces by Lyotard tend to be little found, beyond solemn remembrances of former comrades in these communist groupuscules, vague calls for artistic terrorism and general revolt, and a potential theoretical critique which was, and is, easily recuperated by the academy and even certain questionable political groupings.

I have decided to format this little known piece owing to the more recent and interesting renewal of struggle within and against the university (thus far in NYC, potentially elsewhere). This is a zine meant to historically ground our understanding of university occupations, as well as theoretically ground a critique of how systems of bureaucratic domination function, how they can be subverted in the immediate (“Here, Now”), as well as offer a trenchant analysis of reformists in the university, as well the university structure itself, and its relation to other social nodes of capitalism.

A selection from the text:

“The struggle at Nanterre is not “political”: it in no way aims to seize power in its present form, even political power. It is even less interested in introducing new interlocutors to the conference table. Its reach extends beyond the regime and the surface on which it pretends to act and invites us to join in discussion. The struggle directly attacks the system. In the sphere of the university, attacking the system cannot mean demanding supplementary credits or a “democratization” of teaching or an increase in the number of scholarships. The university belongs to the system insofar as the system is capitalist and bureaucratic.”

Yadira Lopez


Shoplifting on the rise in Milwaukee according to local news
08/07/2009, 5:22 PM
Filed under: Milwaukee area

From the Journal Sentinel:

“Melissa Friedrich has her workers at Gap in Bayshore Town Center keeping a closer eye on customers these days so that merchandise doesn’t sneak out the door without being paid for.

Next door at Banana Republic, workers make sure to keep fitting rooms locked, especially after being stung by the dirty boxers bandit – a man who tries on underwear, folds his old skivvies back into the packaging and walks out wearing the new ones.

Shoplifting has been around as long as there have been merchants. But local police are receiving more calls from local retailers who say they’ve been ripped off.

In the year ending in April, calls for service to police regarding retail theft increased by at least 19% over the previous 12 months at three of the Milwaukee area’s four biggest malls, a Public Investigator analysis of police calls shows.

Bayshore Town Center in Glendale has seen the largest increase in calls – 41% over the previous year, records show.

Brookfield Square had a 28% rise in calls, while Mayfair had nearly a 20% increase in calls to police for retail theft.

The Greendale Police Department, which responds to Southridge Mall, said it could not provide similar data. But the mall has experienced a small increase in overall thefts, not just retail thefts, for the period, records show.

Retail experts say shoplifting is up throughout the country in part because of the ailing economy.

“Your numbers don’t surprise me,” said Joseph LaRocca, senior asset protection adviser for the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group.

Last year, retailers reported a 5% to 15% increase in shoplifting, LaRocca said.

Nationally, shoplifting cost retailers $11.8 billion in profits in 2007, according to a survey conducted by the University of Florida.

The rise in police calls doesn’t necessarily mean that malls are any less safe for shoppers. Crimes against people didn’t rise significantly at any of the malls, the analysis shows.

Local police and mall officials say the higher numbers could also be due to improvements in the way mall employees spot and report crimes.

“Nobody wants it to happen, but it could be interpreted as people being vigilant,” said Steve Smith, general manager of Mayfair.

At Bayshore Town Center, Glendale police are holding twice-a-year retail theft seminars to teach store workers how to identify a shoplifter.

Officials at Bayshore also say calls to police have increased because more customers are visiting the mall since it opened in the fall of 2006. More overall traffic means more theft, the mall managers and police said.

But workers interviewed at stores throughout Bayshore Town Center said they are simply experiencing more customers helping themselves to a five-fingered discount.

Employees at Gap and GapKids frequently find security tags that were once sewn on clothing, removed and stuffed in the pockets of other clothes still in the store.

Most salespeople at Bayshore said they couldn’t be quoted by the Journal Sentinel because their store is owned by a corporate entity that would not allow them to talk publicly about the store.

But almost all workers praised the Glendale Police Department.

“It’s amazing how quickly they respond,” said Friedrich, the Gap manager.

At least one Glendale officer is always on duty at the mall, said Capt. Mark Ferguson.

“We think that our presence is more than adequate,” Ferguson said.

Mall officials said one challenge in combating retail theft is that not all retailers report crimes or prosecute to the same degree.

“If the store doesn’t prosecute, then there is nothing to charge anybody with,” said Smith, of Mayfair.

Stores that don’t prosecute thieves can get a reputation as an easy target.

LaRocca, with the National Retail Federation, said retailers throughout the country are reporting what they believe to be an increase in organized crime rings.

The targeted items are popular things many people want to buy – designer labels, the newest video game, makeup, he said.

In the end, retail theft adds up to a “hidden crime tax” for consumers, LaRocca said.

Ultimately, retailers pass along the cost of theft to the consumer, which amounts to about a penny-and-a-half for each dollar spent in a store, LaRocca said.

That’s what concerns Ed and Dorothy Kelley, who shopped at Bayshore Mall last week.

“It means higher prices,” Ed Kelley said.”

Beyond moralistic arguments against shoplifting it appears the best they can come up with is that a “hidden crime tax” will increase prices by pennies, which may seem nearly insignificant compared to the rising price of some products due to the current economic crisis.  This is invisible increase of pennies is then supposed to illicit a feeling of injustice on the part of the consumer, who is encouraged to continue to not shoplift and to feel the need to stop others.

Against Amnesia
08/07/2009, 3:24 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

A selection from the anarchist library:

“There are moments when life seems entirely impossible. All the crazy dreams of rebellion disappear. The desire to revolt against the society of the civilized is lost to futility, the open but empty hand. All of the late-night laughter filled conversations, the meanderings and wanderings of those intoxicated with thoughts of adventure, begin to seem naive and empty. One comes to the conclusion that one is accomplishing nothing: destruction and creation seem equally without attraction. One abandons one’s own imagination and returns to the old trap of fear. The existential idiot occupies one’s head.

Here is the point where the misery of this society completes itself. This society strengthens itself by continually forcing the individual to disappear: the individual disappears when the individual gives in to the misery of this society. One begins to accept the limitations imposed by this society as one’s own. To experience comes to mean to repeat oneself. One begins to feel one has nothing to offer in defiance, nothing to give: every gesture becomes a blank stare. Passion is pacified. Desire is rationalized away. The forbidden remain forbidden.

This supreme moment of misery marks nothing less than the triumph of amnesia. Such complete abandonment of life’s adventure is the surrender of one who has forgotten all previous rebellion and all previous desire to revolt. Memory has ceased to be a pleasure: the misery of the moment stretches backwards forever. Amnesia is essential to civilizing human beings: when one forgets the possibilities (the richness of past, present, and future) one is domesticated, one disappears.

Amnesia is the colonization of memory. One is forced to forget everything rebellious about one’s life. The colonized mind is less likely to imagine a total revolt against this society if all traces of earlier revolts are suppressed. Everything from simple negative gestures to the hand in the cookie jar to late night crimes make memory precious to the individual; as soon as these breaches are forgotten the present becomes less and less pregnant: the stem of the flower is cut before the flower blooms. One is in despair over the absence of past freedom simply because the residue of past freedoms have been purged from one’s memory.

When asked how one knows that freedom is possible the rebel responds with examples of past freedoms. The rebel remembers the events, movements, and moments of one’s past that mark breaks with the dominant order. One knows that freedom is possible because everybody has experienced freedom: the taste of paradise is in all our mouths. To forget this is fatal. Amnesia can be combated by constantly digging back into our memories, by constantly becoming more and more aware of our mistakes and victories. No, we must not dwell in the past, we must be cruel with our pasts (and those who would keep us there), and yet we must be greedy with our pasts (and wary of those who would paint those pasts with the blackness of misery and impossibilities). Rebels must return to their own past with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a knife in the other.”

(d)anger 1993