Filed under: reviews, war-machine | Tags: civil war, communism, empire, french, introduction to civil war, journal, on war, other means, sass, sassy, thought, tiqqun, war
From the IEF blog:
“Introduction to Civil War is an alternative origin myth. Introduction to Civil War is the vademecum when you show up to fight club, or any strange twelve-stepesque community of friends. Introduction to Civil War is the book to keep out of the hands of children who are ready to subtract themselves and all of their classmates and teachers from production. Introduction to Civil War is a molecule of a war machine.
The text was originally published in Tiqqun 2, a short-lived French journal of radical thought. Emerging out of the fervent struggles of the European anti-capitalist movement, Tiqqun located itself within a nexus of radical feminist thought, Foucault’s studies on biopolitics, Italian Autonomia, situationist-inspired theory, and Benjaminian approaches to history. The editors intentionally practiced a desubectivizing operation of anonymity, and the texts themselves, a feminist/Deleuzian operation of multiplicity. Where there are many links between the journal’s thought and the editors’ participation in the struggles of the late ’90s and early ’00s, it would be difficult to claim Tiqqun as specifically “anarcho-autonomous,” “ultra-left,” or whatever else Sarkozy and Glenn Beck claim to be the ideological bogeyman behind the French editors, who are now being accused of this or that terrorist enterprise (see: Nov. 9 ‘09 Tarnac Arrests). Tiqqun was a journal that examined the exceptional situation of everyday concentration camps, and theorized from that point, highly influenced by Giorgio Agamben. Today, Tiqqun’s contributions are becoming available to English speaking worlds, and their final concept “civil war” emerges as visible and viable.
Civil war: the continuation of communism by other means. History will decide whether or not civil war replaces Foucault’s concept of contesting the meaning of the social (social war), but one thing is clear from Tiqqun’s contributions: if the social has dissolved, and governance is now only techniques of managing its collapse, then civil war becomes the necessary condition of this existence. And if this is the case, then the last bit of poetry found at the end of Introduction to Civil War, “How is it to be Done?,” may be accurate in exclaiming the only way for us, within this condition of global civil war, to touch on our humanity again will be in a collective negation, namely, an unlimited human strike.
Civil war presupposes the state. Even by advocates of the state’s own admission, the state serves as a preventative measure. Tiqqun locates the elementary human unity not in the body, which quickly becomes subject, but in form-of-life (16). Since all thought is strategic (20) they begin here because the state is the consequence of a certain metaphysics that governs each form-of-life at play in the self—an attenuation of difference through subjectivity. Tiqqun proposes that another metaphysics, a negative one, can be made present, within which forms-of-life might be left to play. This free play of forms-of-life, this “principle of their coexistence” (32), is nothing other than the condition of civil war that the modern state was developed in order to suppress.
This logic reveals a hidden fact regarding the formation of the modern state. If forms-of-life take place through bodies, animating bodies with taste and inclinations to lose themselves and to pass into another’s spheres, then the development of the state, the borders and executions it visited upon worlds, were also visited upon selves. When the state is the suppression of the self, civil war is not only inevitable but already omnipresent. From the absolutist state to the welfare state to the liberal state, the state serves as merely a parenthesis in civil war, first as an attempt to exclude bare life from a territory, then from a population, then from the singular body. From classical politics to biopolitics, the state sets out on a steady course of encountering its own impossibility. This steady course is civil war.
With and against Marx’s dictum that the history of human societies is a history of class struggle; Tiqqun reads the history of forms-of-life as the history of civil war. The story of the state, namely “status,” is the story of an attempt made to freeze this free play of forms-of-life. Again and again, it fails, and out of each successive failure develops a new form of governance and new techniques to suppress civil war. The present conditions of “Empire” are nothing more than an outgrowth of these failures. The modern state is nothing more than a complex set of governing and neutralizing apparatuses that continue the political suppression of civil war by other Clausewitzian means.
But what does sovereign power do that classical politics doesn’t? Drawing on Hobbes and Schmitt, Tiqqun argues that the modern state is a theater of operations in which the intensity of ethical difference is neutralized and every image of difference is pulled to the center for a endless photo-op. Classical politics, through a holistic and despotic state, arranged an order of moral codes via absolute force in order to come to some higher meaning. Classical politics put religion and the sphere of ethics into the theater of the political by including kings as the living heirs to God and individuals as the loyal disciples of God’s moral order. In contrast to the rituals of redemption offered through the bloody play of forces contesting territory under the reign of classical politics, sovereign power can point its population to nothing. The modern state is quite literally the management of life, devoid of transcendental authority. The modern state governs, but learns not to govern too much. Moreover, the modern state applies the classical maxim cuius regio, eius religio, and contends and defeats all opposing religions in order to continue as the hand of god on an earth without God.
The paradox of law, which is the founding thesis of the norm, is as follows: law is in force only in its imposition; law appears only in the act of law. If law is fungible or malleable, this is because it has no justification other than its logic. “It is my pleasure” says the modern sovereign. The norm develops from this essential lacuna of law, but things are as they are not simply because they are, but because of material practices, because of how they are. Norm as nomos emerges from specific means deployed through apparatuses of control.
Enter the reign of the economy. There could never be an economic subject without a political subject. Tiqqun reads Foucault’s study of biopolitics not as a story of power outmaneuvered by the deployment counter-subjectivities, but instead as processes of subjectivization by a vast number of apparatuses. Such massive, overdetermined subjectivization mitigates vital and substantive opposition. Capitalism could not have spread across the globe without first the physical neutralization of hostile populations and practices—which is to say, the condition of war had to be neutralized, in order for “peace” to become the normal condition.
Through Tiqqun’s matrix of civil war, we learn that the development of capitalism, primitive accumulation, and war are not mere periods of tragedy that human society had to endure as the necessary, teleological process of the modern state. Instead, they are the originary operations, the operations that are repeated in order to maintain the status of the so-called peace of citizen-subjects. The Hobbesian operation of exclusion/inclusion is looped on an endless repeat. With the advancements of liberal techniques of government, the operations no longer take the form of a visible exposition of disciplinary force aimed at beating a hostis out of a population, (viz., an external military affair). Rather, these neutralizing operations take form in self-managed policing (viz., an internal police). Foucault explains the process of how the “delinquent” was made into an enemy of society; Tiqqun clarifies that the criminal practices had to be excluded and named “anti-social” in order for there to ever be a formal workers’ movement that could be associated with a public social (albeit, illegal) justice.
Introduction to Civil War exposes the modern uneasiness with “violence.” Violence must be excluded not because it threatens to turn the earth into a pit of corpses (capital has no qualms with such a process), but because it threatens to break the imaginary boundaries of subjects, and release forms-of-life to their free play. Hobbes remains the originary political theorist, in that we can already see the beginnings of self-managed subjects through the threat of exclusion. What must be excluded from a living being in order to include it in the caring arms of the state (and thus give it political-subjectivity) is precisely what attaches it to worlds and what gives it the capacity to encounter others. The exclusion of bare life produces docile bodies. The forced retreat into the self typifying the modern subject must be understood not merely as the process which the western individual was founded, but specifically as the process that generated economic “man” whose stupid (literally: stupefied) concept of freedom ends where all else begins.
Thus, what Tiqqun calls “the black magic of the economy” is deployed at all levels to integrate all human life into “society” first as living beings (zoe) then to continue functioning as legal subjects (bios). But this process can never generate today’s citizen-subject as a perfect artifice of legal behavior. On the contrary, by forcing the political-economy, the process makes society—the massive circulation of legal practices of freedom—indistinguishable from the state. Through the proliferation of the police, the dark memory of the state’s violent origin exposes each terrified citizen to the paradox of its existence.
The liberal state and the welfare state, or liberal democratic and social democratic institutions, are not distinct modes of government but rather two poles of the modern state. Tiqqun argues that the management of a certain social definition of happiness was all it took for the liberal state to control its population (118). With police and with publicity, the liberal state could cynically keep order, but the police and publicity developed in a way that served and exceeded the institution of the nation-state. With the collapse of liberal and social hypothesis, the police and publicity were able to shed their institutional justification and become exposed as mere apparatuses of sovereign power. Through this collapse, this folding up of the liberal state, police and publicity gain a new important role; they are exalted as the super-institutional poles of Empire. Techniques of policing transform into Biopower and techniques of publicity transform into Spectacle. The state itself does not disappear just yet, but it is demoted, and Spectacle and Biopower begin the reign of Empire (118).
It is in the planned-environment of Empire that Tiqqun calls on us to take a partisan position: to intensify the play of forms-of-life beyond their attenuation; to loosen the nooses of subjectivity that Empire places around our necks (176). Civil war is where forms-of-life can freely play. An armed joy of bank expropriations, strikes, bombings, occupations, pirate radio stations, riots, and experimental forms-of-life (such as those in 1977 Italy) rises to a new metaphysical plane in the history of the citizen-subject. Civil war can never be routed. Each hyphen between a citizen-subject contains an intense flow of inclinations. What Tiqqun makes abundantly clear is that these intense inclinations are themselves the many protagonists of history. Civil war, not the state; the form-of-life not the subject, takes us, gives us meaning, and exposes us to a new plane of experience. The Imaginary Party—Tiqqun says “we,” (174)—can be understood as the party for civil war. It is a fragmented plane of consistency where each practice that prefers not to conjure away forms-of-life calls home. Unlike other discourses that rely on a single revolutionary-subjectivity, Tiqqun’s Imaginary Party is nothing but a multiplicity, but unlike Negriist dreams of global civil society, the Imaginary Party does not shy away from the global civil war.
Tiqqun’s concept of communism by other means performs of a particularly interesting operation from this point. Moving beyond the false consciousness of the Left, Tiqqun concludes “There is no visible outside anymore […] Madness, crime or the hungry proletariat no longer inhabit a defined or recognized space, they no longer form a world unto themselves, their own ghetto with or without walls” (131). If there is no longer any pure outside but rather exteriority present at every inch of the biopolitical tissue, then the Imaginary Party is not a political party that contends for power, nor a class that wishes to overthrow another class, nor a multitude that sees its desire reflected back at it through its representations of power. The Imaginary Party is the party of the political only insofar that through its presence it exposes each citizen-subject to the intensity of what it means to act politically.
Despite Tiqqun’s insistence on the need to reclaim violence (34), we learn this need is not in order to simply pose a greater technology of violence against their state’s violence, but rather for each body to become at home with its capacity for force. So-called “terrorism” today exposes citizens of Empire to the conditions they have placed on forms-of-life. What Tiqqun advances in terms of civil war, is in actuality a perverse war-machine. The Imaginary Party is full of precisely the content you might imagine. In a queer gesture, Tiqqun explains that “Empire is not the enemy with which we have to contend, and other tendencies within the Imaginary Party are not, for us, so many hostis to be eliminated, the opposite is, in fact, the case” (182). This means that the capacity for force, that inaugurates an element of the Imaginary Party, is specifically a force directed inward. Through the release of forms-of-life to their free play, Empire’s meaninglessness and its lack of substance are totally revealed. The warlike penchants of forms-of-life form a war-machine only insofar that these penchants conjugate “friends” and “enemies” whose ethical distinctions are far more intense then any banal promise of security that Empire can articulate.
Introduction to Civil War ends exactly where you might expect: at the question of “how?” Like Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, Introduction to Civil War, is not (despite the Library of Congress) an essay of critical theory, but rather a text at home with Clausewitz and Blanqui. Although their insistence on Heidegger’s “the they” and all this Schmittian talk of “friends and enemies” situates Tiqqun in a framework of armed struggle, the anonymous editors break free in their concluding piece. What Tiqqun theorizes and what Tiqqun strategizes operations within are two different disciplines. Perhaps this is one of the most difficult positions for Tiqqun to articulate: What it might mean to live communism, and what it might mean to spread anarchy? History (or perhaps the messiah if we go by Benjamin), will have the final say, but what is irreducible in Introduction to Civil War is the feeling of meaninglessness that is the alibi of daily reproduction and the fact that whatever new struggles are emerging do not fit into the normative nor formal leftist conception of revolution or revolutionary subjectivity. Perhaps forms-of-life will animate bodies and advance what the religious wars in Europe only dreamed of. Perhaps everything will be in common, especially our fragile bodies. Or perhaps Tiqqun has misread something of our times and the coming community will have no allegiance to flesh and sinew, nor even thought. Either way, whether it is through the phantom of terror itself gaining substance (Baudrillard) or the inauguration and multiplication of collectivities whose ethical tissue is robust and whose thought is strategic, Tiqqun concludes that the time of the now is decisive. Empire or civil war?”
Filed under: reviews, update | Tags: anarchy, critical reviews, culture, journal, print, the anvil
Both the Burnt Bookmobile and the CCC should be getting a lot of copies of this soon.
“The Anvil Review is a paper comprised of review essays about popular cultural, literature, and radical material. It is comprised of a print edition distributed through a DIY network throughout North America. It is also a website where discussion about Anvil essays happens.
Issue One includes reviews essays on : John Prine, Crass, The Sons of Anarchy, The Coming Insurrection, World War Z, Up in the Air, The Theory of Bloom and much more. The website has been radically transformed and new essays on the site include The Game that Instructs, How to Survive in Graduate School, and Destroy What You Love.
1. For the price of shipping“
Filed under: reviews | Tags: anti-civ, camatte, capital, civilization, communism, despotism, domestication, green anarchy, italy, liberation, politics, the italian communist left
Although a bit old, this is an interesting introduction and summary for people who maybe want a background and working through of the ideas of Camatte (before they read Against Domestication for the anarchist reading group in Milwaukee). This text is also just one part of a series of articles written for Green Anarchy magazine in the early 2000s.
From the Green Anarchy archives (posted to anarchist library):
“During the final decade of the 20th century and into the early years of the 21st, the nature of radical politics fundamentally changed. The hegemonic currents, Marxist-Leninism and social democracy, suffered from the sea-change of neo-liberalism, and had difficulty grappling with the new currents of opposition embodied in such things as the Zapatista Uprising, radical ecology and the anti-summit movements. On a deeper level many of the fundamentals of traditional Leftism had been unsettled intellectually by post-modernism and by the changes of social organization that accompanied the growth of post-Fordist capitalism, not to mention the fall of the USSR and the regimes of Eastern Europe. This crisis of the Left was quickly interpreted as the universal victory of Liberal Democracy. However it is now clear that social antagonism, often of a revolutionary anti-capitalist nature, has not departed; rather it is re-asserting itself in ways that seem unintelligible to traditional political analysis.
One of these new currents is green anarchy/anarcho-primitivism (GA/AP). Consciously anti-ideological, it is rather a broad church of numerous tendencies and trajectories united by an anarchic politics that details a critique that goes beyond opposition to the state and market to a larger critique of civilization and its totality. Its roots are also broad, coming out of elements of radical ecological politics (especially around groups like Earth First! UK and the Animal Liberation Front), various counter-cultures and the ultra-left. It is the purpose of this essay to investigate one of the ultra-left authors that GA/AP has been deeply influenced by, yet who remains largely ignored by wider audiences: Jacques Camatte.
Camatte is a difficult figure for English speaking readers. His political origins are deeply immersed in the ultra-left, yet his political trajectory goes beyond them. The ultra-left is largely ignored in English speaking countries except as a foil to Lenin’s polemics or as a European curiosity. Camatte comes out of the Italian Communist Left (though he is French) and like them shares a deep engagement with Marx at the level of high theory that can be bewildering to the uninitiated. Whilst he was an essayist for nearly 40 years (mostly published in the journal Invariance) there exists only one English-language collection of his essays: This World We Must Leave & Other Essays, published by the eclectic label Autonomedia (home of many of the more serious works of contemporary radicalism.)
Camatte, however, has had some strong influences amongst (GA/AP). Later issues of Do or Die, the pre-eminent theoretical journal of GA/AP in the UK, with a wide readership in the broader ecology movement, cite him on a number of occasions. David Watson, prominent theoretician of Fifth Estate, the publication that in many ways was the first to articulate a thorough GA/AP praxis in the USA, shows an engagement with Camatte. Camatte’s writings on organization profoundly influenced the development of the publication Green Anarchist. More broadly though, Camatte charts the same political territory as GA/AP in a sophisticated way. He carries many of the same strengths and weaknesses of the broader current(s) and is thus useful for constructing a (post)-modern anarchic practice.
However, Camatte is no anarchist himself. Like the ultra-left his vision is communist and maintains a deep engagement with Marx. He is (like Marx maybe?) not, though, a “Marxist”. Camatte writes, “We (the journal Invariance) integrate Marx’s work (since he especially is concerned) but we do not pose a Marxist theory nor our own theory”. This is not merely semantics but rather evidence of Camatte’s attempts to build praxis through the refusal of ideology a tendency he shares with many radicals that emerged out of the near-revolution of May 68. However, his reliance on Marx would make him unacceptable for many anarchists for whom Marx is anathema. Camatte’s vision of communism has, of course, nothing to do with the statist regimes of the USSR et al. Indeed, Camatte affirms a vision of communism that is not only anti-statist but one that connects with deeper associations of gemeinwesen. To quote:
“Communism puts an end to castes, classes and the division of labor (onto which was grafted the movement of value, which in turn animates and exalts this division). Communism is first of all union. It is not domination of nature but reconciliation, and thus regeneration of nature: human beings no longer treat nature simply as an object for their development, as a useful thing, but as a subject (not in the philosophic sense) not separate from them if only because nature is in them. The naturalization of man and the humanization of nature (Marx) are realized: the dialectic of subject and object ends.”
This vision of communism is obviously libertarian, and one could argue goes beyond many anarchist visions such as anarcho-syndicalism, which only poses the self-management of the division of labor as an alternative, and glorifies production and work.
This essay will grapple with two of Camatte’s key theoretical themes: the despotism of capital and the domestication of humanity. Both arguably chart the course of social relations under the conditions of the real subsumption of society by capital and are key themes (even if they are not expressed in the same language) of much of the GA/AP critique.
Camatte asserts that we have entered a particular period of capitalism, which he calls the “Despotism of Capital”. This is a situation in which capital has created and forms a “material community” and a “human community”: in other words it is the condition of real subsumption: a situation where human activity takes place in the interior of capital. Previously we could typify capitalism as a “nomadic war machine” (Deuleze & Guattari). That is, an expansive apparatus or an ensemble(s) of apparatuses, that attempts to de/reterritorialise, reform and capture people, space and activity. This war machine had a combative frontier and thus there is something beyond it: an exterior. Different discourses place radical potential in this exterior, seeing in it both a boundary and a negating force to capital. This exterior was conceptualized as a number of social forces: the industrial proletariat (Marxism); the third world peasantry (Maoism); or students and marginal groups (the New Left), for example.
Camatte theorizes a different situation, one in which no substantial boundaries none that can not be overcome to capital exist. Indeed, it is not the case that capital dominates society, as some kind of lording power, but rather that it itself constitutes the entire community. This situation of the Despotism of Capital is typified by a number of conditions. One is that is has undergone a process of “autonomization.” This is a situation in which the various elements of capital production, exchange, rent, the state etc., increasingly fuse together and escape any previous human constrictions on their development. The second process is one of anthropomorphosis. Here capital transforms itself into nothing more than human behavior and human behavior into nothing more than capital. This happens through capital’s tendency to ultimately head towards a state of representation and thus able to mediate all human interactions, and comprise all of humanity’s relationships within its terrain.
Almost intuitively it is possible to see the merit in Camatte’s assertions. Human life seems to have taken on an increasingly massified form as it is constructed from cradle to grave within the dominant institutions of capital. Lived experience takes place on the terrain of school, hospital, work place, Internet, shopping center, movie theatre etc, i.e. within all the realms of the many hierarchies of capital, so much so that life becomes defined within the terms of these hierarchies. The institutions themselves become increasingly fused and unified into a whole. Moments of production and consumption, of work and leisure, of public and private seem to move to a more or less undifferentiated experience. Especially if we consider the advent and application of various digital and cybernetic technologies, we see a tendency toward the blending and standardization of daily life. (Note: Interestingly, part of this process is the invention of consumer difference. Niche markets are marshaled out of the memory of uniqueness or the cultural singularity of a previous time, what Camatte calls “Echoes of the Past”, that both feeds a desire for otherness yet negates its possibility). Subjectivity, whether it be as a student, mother, worker (all three at the same time?) or whatever, seems to be nothing more than a deeply personalized fetishization of the imagery of capital. For Camatte, capital reintroduces subjectivity. For it is through the production of individual identities that are understandable only through the framework of capital, that the entirety of human activity can be subsumed within exploitative relationships.
Continuing on the theme of fetishism and representation, it is now commonplace to talk of the total mediation of life through the representations of capital. Surely this is Baudrillard’s simulacrum or Debord’s spectacle! All of them allude to the situation of total commodity fetishism, where the fetishism has totally outstripped the realness of any use-value the commodity once possessed. It seems these observations are so obvious to be almost banal. It is worth stressing, though, what this means for the formation of social relationships. The situation of (almost) total domination of representation/fetishism is one where there is a disappearing ability to have an unmediated relationship with anything. All relationships tend towards their conception, formation and end within the realm of capital. To quote:
“As a result of this process of anthro-pomorphosis, capital becomes in turn a spectacle. It assimilates to itself and incorporates in itself all qualities of men, all their activities, without ever being one of them, otherwise it would deny itself by substantialization, inhibition of its life process.”
The Despotism of Capital has not emerged out of nowhere. Camatte cites two major reasons for its trajectory: the massive growth in productive forces and the effect of various pre-capitalist presuppositions of capital. Classical Marxism believed that whilst capitalism would bring into being immense productive forces, it would at one point reach “decadence” and become a hindrance to their development. It would be up to socialism and then communism to continue the development of productive forces. Camatte thoroughly rejects this, arguing that the development of productive forces has been crucial in establishing the despotism of capital and the removal of barriers and resistance to its power. It is this that has allowed capital to constitute itself as a community. As Camatte writes “ What he (Marx) presented as the project of communism was realized by capital”. Camatte rejects this, seeing that since capital and the productive forces have grown together smoothly, the social relationships and the productive forces are united in a singular “totality”. Since capital enforces its despotism by means of “objects and things that are invested with new modes of being,” the expansion of productive forces is the expansion of the prison in which the human finds himself or herself individually and collectively. If we take into account the division of labor and hierarchy that are inherent in industrial (and now cybernetic/digital) production, expansion of the productive forces across the social terrain to the extent that they constitute in entirety the social terrain, means vast expansion of atomization, massification and submission.
The expansion of productive forces has led to the dominance of ideologies that further deepen the despotism of capital. One of these is science. Camatte rejects the standard conception of science being a positive revolutionary force, decrying it as the “goddess and servant of capital”. For Camatte, science is nothing more than a “study of mechanism of adaptation that will assimilate human beings and nature into the structure of capital”. This is obviously quite a break from traditional Marxism, and more broadly, standard leftist thought which sides with the entire project of modernity (of which science is a part) against pre-existing religious/mystic consciousness. Whilst Camatte (unlike many who critique science) has no time for the revival of new-age mysticism, he maintains a particular vitriol for orthodox Marxism’s celebration of science and technology.
For Camatte, Marxism is a “repressive consciousness”. Rather than being a key to revolutionary praxis it “seems to be the authentic consciousness of the capitalist mode of production.” This is because Marxism has always posited the development of productive forces as the sine qua non of liberation, yet it has been the development of productive forces that has rendered powerless the rebellion of the classical proletariat. Marxism has thus functioned as an intellectual justification for the development of techno-scientific rationality and the massive expansion of industrialization. Indeed, the history of labor movements and national liberation struggles is one in which the struggle against the political control of the bourgeoisie has worked often to actually create and extend the despotism of capital.
Camatte not only sees the power of capital extend across the social body but back and forth in time as well. He emphasizes the continuing importance of the “presuppositions of capital”: the vast inheritance of the trajectory of class society that allows capital to develop. For Camatte “[c]apital is therefore the endpoint of the phenomena of democratization, individualization, and massification, all of which had begun to emerge well before capital had become a determinant element in the society”. To go further:
“These presuppositions are: production and autonomization of the individual, together with a related movement production of private property; production of the state and its autonomization; production of exchange value, which can assume highly developed forms. These elements of presuppositions, which appeared at the time of the Greek polis, are bound up with a representation that justifies the rupture with nature and with the community, the domination of men over animals and plants, and the domination of men over women.”
Whilst Camatte here dates many of these developments with the arrival of the Greek polis (and hence, in a sense, of the `West’), his investigation makes him look even further back. Camatte questions Neolithic developments of animal husbandry and the rise of agriculture. He sees in them the rise of the original conception of property and patriarchy and the original rifts in the pre-existing geimenwessen. Classically, critiques of technology start with the Industrial Revolution. Here Camatte is beginning to develop the critique of capitalism, and thus the emergence of communism as a revolt against civilization.
It must be made clear, however, that Camatte does not see the Despotism of Capital as the triumph of either bourgeois society or of the capitalist ruling class. Indeed, he argues that capital, through its constant need to revolutionize itself, both destroys bourgeois society and all classes including the ruling class, reducing us all to a general universalized proletarianized mass. Camatte argues that both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat emerged with capitalism, but their struggle with each other, carried out on the presuppositions of capital and the unquestioning of productive forces, led to their abolition and the domination of society by capital. It was since proletarian struggle was successfully “mystified” by the categories of capital, when proletarian identity was built around the celebration of its role of “productive laborer”, that proletarian struggles advanced the domination of society by capital.
We can see this in the struggles and demands of the classic labor movements. As opposed to the very earliest movements of the proletarianized (such as the Luddites), which rejected the idea of wage-labor, the classical labor movement celebrated it. Classical labor movements fought for the right to workfor the protection of their role within capitalism. This may have seemed justifiable considering the brutality of laisse-faire capitalism. The effect though of mass movements of both left and right (the popular front, fascism, liberal/social democracy, etc) was to add to the creation of the conditions of real subsumption.
The effect of the creation of the community of capital (by, in part, proletarian struggle) was simultaneously the generalization of the proletarian condition and the destruction of the revolutionary specificity of the proletariat. Of course, the universalization of wage-labor/proletarianisation has not meant an equalization of wealth or power under the despotism of capital. Indeed, the current global order has created a proletarianized multitude that is riddled by division. Capital maintains its rule through the imposition of opposed roles (the cop vs. the student, for example) up and down its pyramidal structure.
How true are these claims? If we look back over the history of the labor movement, the proletariat has tended to move further and further towards the interior of capital, and all labor moves towards a condition of proletarianisation. More and more of life takes the appearance of work, and work takes the appearance of life. We have the situation where the condition of wage-labor swells, but labor as a specific antagonistic class disappears. This does not mean the end of struggle it is now conceived on a different basis. Indeed, the simultaneous absorption and generalization of the proletariat leads to the transformation of all into potential antagonists: “because it (communist revolution) won’t be the activity of one class only but of humanity rising up against capital”.
The other side to this claim is that the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, ceases to exist. Capital dismantles bourgeois society with its clear restrictions and norms, because it appears in the way of capital’s total subsumption of daily life. The cultural conflicts of the last 20-something years, the debates on public morality and censorship, etc, have not been between a liberating social force and class society, but rather between capital’s desire for increasing social commodification, and the social structures from whence it emerged. Fixed rigid structures (schools, etc) that were essential to the emergence of capital become interferences in movements and flows that must be (and are) overcome. The neo-liberal offensive has been just this, the transformation of traditional refuges of bourgeois society into the circuitry of capital.
Is this the same as the disappearance of the ruling class? It seems obvious that there exist strata that populate the commanding heights of the global order. But do they truly rule? Are these sections any less dominated and alienated by capital? Whilst ideologically, certain individuals do take on the appearance of feudal Sun Kings depending on the fluctuations of various social discourses their personal existences are not crucial to the continuation of the social order, in the same way a king’s or Pharaoh’s is. Those who are at the top of the ziggurat of capitalism exist totally within social structures and discourses, and are coded by them. Whilst they are in the control tower of society, it is the concretized and embodied mechanism that provides the only possible courses of action. To quote David Watson, “only the circuitry acts”.
Camatte, writing in the 70’s, foresaw the revolution as a looming possibility and the end of capital close at hand. Obviously that was not the case. The neo-liberal offensive that arose as a counter-revolution to the social ferment that Camatte wrote about was an active process that involved planning and coordination. The top stratas of society were increasingly galvanized into acting in a dynamic fashion. Neo-liberalism made the various corporate executives, ideologies, politicians, party leaders, communist party commissars, etc, act like a ruling class even though objectively there may not have actually been one.
The existence of hostile classes is a useful tool to explain various social phenomena. A conscious and coordinated ruling class, enriched with its own autonomy and with the ability to dole out privilege, helps explain why an exploitative society would survive: oppressed peoples would be deliberately held down through repressive mechanisms. The model of the class society is thus that of the conqueror: the rule through force of the core over the periphery. Yet, if we now exist in the community of capital where all human behavior is part of a social wide machinery, a social factory, (Negri, Tronti, et al.) where we are slaves not to people but to the social relationships and discourses that we make up, how does the system survive? If we are our (and each other’s) own manifestation of oppression, why do we not just stop it? How can you explain the continuation of oppression/exploitation once clear, separate classes stop existing?
Camatte explains this phenomena as “domestication”. Indeed, the domestication of humanity and the rise of the despotism of capital are impossible without each other: their existences allow the other to function.”
Filed under: reviews | Tags: anarchy, anonymous, commune, communization, France, human strike, invisible committee, occupied london, Tarnac, tiqqun, whatever
This isn’t exactly new. It maybe came out about six months ago. However the concepts that this piece works through and plays with are still very useful. Its main merit is summarizing the collective project of all the recent TIQQUN and Invisible Committee texts, which could be both introductory and a kind of cliff notes for people who have been already engaged with these ideas.
From Occupied London #4:
Silently, and without much notice until recently, a series of collective, anonymous French texts appeared between 1999 and 2007 that effectively slashed open a gap into the seamless fabric of banal political critique. Packed within the two issues of the journal Tiqqun—subtitled, at one point, Conscious Organ of the Imaginary Party—is a minefield of ideas barely tapped and hardly translated, including: Theory of Bloom, Theses on the Imaginary Party, Man-Machine: Directions for Use, First Materials for a Theory of the Young Girl, Introduction to Civil War, The Cybernetic Hypothesis, Theses on the Terrible Community, This is Not a Program, and How is it to be Done? Subsequently, an anonymous Call surfaced which responded to Tiqqun’s provocations, laying out more clearly just how it is to be done. Finally, in 2007 the Insurrection to Come emerged, that searing text by the “Invisible Committee” which the French government has recently described as a “manual for insurrection.” Using it as their only evidence, the Minister of Interior has accused the alleged writers of “conspiracy to terrorism” in relation to the recent rail sabotages.
Perhaps, at the risk of becoming accomplices in a thoughtcrime, it is time to seriously look at this family of texts. For as we will see, although the government is wrong to accuse them of terrorism, they are right to be afraid of the ideas housed within. For if they are to be thought through, then what they are describing is nothing less than the dissolution of the modern world as such. But this goal is nothing to fear for all those who desire worlds other than this one, worlds in which our ability to collectively exist outstrips any governmental, capitalist, or societal attempt to capture our desires. What follows is a skeleton that emerges from a reading of four of those texts—Introduction to Civil War, How is it to be done?, Call, and Insurrection to Come—which can hopefully guide one through the shifting fields of meaning that are produced therein.
In a series of theses and notes, the Introduction to Civil War lays out the biopolitical horizon in which our modern lives are situated. This horizon is conceived of as a global “civil war” amongst forms-of-life. How is it to be done? poetically marks the ethical necessity of becoming-anonymous, of dis-identifiying with all received and all possible forms of political classification. To realize this en masse, we must pass through the unchartered waters of the Human Strike, that form of action in which inoperativity becomes synonymous with possibility. In seven propositions and scholia, the Call critiques existing forms of activism as not only irrelevant, but reactionary as well. Once this is accomplished, the desertion of activism can begin, in which living communism and spreading anarchy constitute the dual sides of the same structure of revolt. The Insurrection to Come, after outlining the seven circles of hell in which contemporary French politics resides, opens up onto a strategy of resistance centered on the irreversible multiplication of articulated communes. The commune names both the work of self-sufficiency shared amongst comrades as well as the incessant blockages, liberations, and points of confrontation that populate and crack the metropolis itself. What is the reason for all of this? Survival and its correlate, joy.
There are two moments which these texts all are crafted around, two simultaneous and overlapping possibilities of action which are articulated within a widening zone of indistinction called the commune. These two moments, although empirically indistinguishable, are logically discrete; they signify the two sides of communisation. That is, on the one hand, a subjective decomposition occurs through becoming a whatever singularity in the human strike; and on the other hand, a collective reconstitution occurs through forming and experiencing a consistency of intense strategies of sharing, blockading, and liberating territory. Like a möbius strip, the inside flips outside in the “center” of this politics-without-name. For instance, describing the politics of the whatever singularity, it is written,
Becoming whatever is more revolutionary than any whatever-being.
Liberating spaces sets us free a hundred times more than any
More than putting any power into action, I enjoy the circulation of
my potentialities. The politics of the whatever singularity lies in the
Within the contemporary order of empire, where life itself is the object and ground of political power, the ability to evade capture is the same ability to confront power, for power itself is grafted onto an architecture of control which only needs to recognize something in order to neutralize it. “From now on, to be perceived means to be defeated.” Becoming anonymous while remaining singular is the modern task of resistance today, a task as offensive as it is defensive. This is, therefore, what grounds the imperative of the human strike:
Empire means that in all things the political moment dominates
the economic one.
A general strike is helpless against this.
What must be opposed to Empire is a human strike.
Which never attacks relations of production without attacking at the
the affective knots which sustain them.
Which undermines the shameful libidinal economy of Empire,
Which restores the ethical element – the how – repressed in every
contact between neutralised bodies.
What the human strikes creates is the possibility for shared worlds to communicate free of coercion on the basis of their needs. These shared worlds constitute the commune. “The commune is the basic unit in a life of resistance. The insurrectionary surge is probably nothing more than a multiplication of communes, their articulation and inter-connection.”
On one side of the commune then is the vector of self-dissolution, a process by which worn identities such as ‘activist’, ‘squatter’, ‘environmentalist’ etc., become utterly void of meaning. Against the triumph of “existential liberalism” and its emphasis on individual choice, distinct properties, social contracts, and the management of things, we must instead form worlds created out of our own shared needs and desires. If we live in a world where politics is nothing but the consumption of an identity-of-resistance, then in order to outmanoeuvre politics, we must vomit up our identities wholesale. Becoming opaque to the managers of empire, we subtract ourselves from their forms of accounting as well. Hence,
of my own desubjectivisation. I become
a whatever singularity. My presence starts overflowing the whole
apparatus of qualities that are usually associated with me.
Evading the “imperial police of qualities,” this dis-identification opens up a space in which a real singular existence can emerge.
Everything that isolates me as a subject, as a body provided with a
public configuration of attributes, I feel melting.
The bodies fray at their limit. At their limit, become indistinct.
This existence, while formally anonymous, is materially present. This is named the form-of-life. “The elementary human unity is not the body—the individual—but the form-of-life.” Expressing not the what of life but the how, this affective form traverses individual bodies, either joining with those which are compatible (friendship) or repelling from those which are irreconcilable (enmity). The free play between forms-of-life is named civil war. “‘Civil war’ then, because forms-of-life are indifferent to the separations of men from women, political existence from bare life, civilian from military; because to be neutral is to take sides in the free play of forms-of-life; because this play between forms-of-life has no beginning or end that can be declared, its sole end being the physical end of the world that no one would be able to declare.” World civil war is nothing but this situation generalized across the planet. In this situation, the enemy is not something which we stand opposed to, but rather a milieu which we stand hostile within.
If our forms-of-life are the parties to a world civil war, then how do they communicate without becoming identities, without mimicking the state-form? It is here that the force of the imaginary party and the invisible committee comes through. For in the collective drowning of one’s own assignable qualities, zones of opacity emerge which, being empty of all predicates, effectively constitute the common. Rendering oneself inoperative alongside others—that is, engaging in the human strike—reveals the possibility of communication across bodies with no names.
I need to become anonymous. In order to be present.
The more anonymous I am, the more present I am.
I need zones of indistinction
to reach the Common.
To no longer recognize myself in my name. To no longer hear in my
name anything but the voice that calls it.
To give substance to the how of beings, not what they are but how they
are what they are. Their life-form.
I need zones of opacity where the attributes,
even criminal, even brilliant,
no longer separate bodies.
In other words, “the collective creation of a strategy is the only alternative to falling back on an identity.” In this zone of indistinction born of the human strike, comes the possibility that such a strategy may take hold. By unraveling the process of biopolitical desubjectivization on one side of the commune, we find ourselves exposed to the possibility for an insurgent resubjectivization on the other. Hence, we move around, in a torsion of being, from the logic of the human strike to the strategy of communisation.
“Our strategy is therefore the following,” says the Call, “to immediately establish a series of foci of desertion, of secession poles, of rallying points. For the runaways. For those who leave. A set of places to take shelter from the control of a civilisation that is headed for the abyss.” These foci of desertion are not given but neither are they created; they are rather established within and through what is already present. They are topological mutations of the forms we are presented with, such that experience knows no name for our modes of relation with them, except through the link between sharing and needs. “Communism starts from the experience of sharing. And first, from the sharing of our needs.” Here “needs” refers to “the relationship through which a certain sensible being gives meaning to such or such element of his world” In this view, communism is another word for the “sharing of the sensible,” the practice of coordinating worlds of meaning across the abyss of bare life.
Reconstituting worlds of shared experience “can only take the form of a collection of acts of communisation, of making common such-and-such space, such-and-such machine, such-and-such knowledge. That is to say, the elaboration of the mode of sharing that attaches to them. Sharing here is not simply a gratuitous act between individuals, but a mode of survival across bodies and spaces in a consistent series of linked events. Communising a space, knowledge or object is not changing its relations of production, but rather abolishing those relations, rendering them structurally meaningless, indeterminable. “Communising a place means: setting its use free, and on the basis of this liberation experimenting with refined, intensified, and complicated relations.”
But communising without anarchizing is hopeless, for one must constitute a threat in order for communism to be more than an isolated affair. Following the logic of anarchy implies here the task of causing inscrutable confusion and damage to the enemy while simultaneously expanding one’s power of self-organization with one’s friends. Three notes on how to do this culled from the Insurrection to Come: one, fan the flames of every crisis. Why? Because “the interruption of the flow of commodities, the suspension of normality and of police control releases a potential for self-organization unthinkable under normal circumstances.” Two, liberate territory from police occupation; avoid direct confrontation as much as possible. Expose the police for what they are: shameless parasites of the fear of people. Don’t fetishize police confrontation, rather confront the fetishization of the police. Finally, blockade everything. In a world where “power is the very organization itself of the metropolis,” where life is suspended such that capital may be free, any and every interruption has the possibility of reopening the possibility of life again. “But a blockage can only go as far as the capacity of the insurgents to feed themselves and to communicate, as far as the effective self-organization of the different communes.” In other words, blockades must contribute to both the extensive mutilation of the metropolitan form as well as the intensive circulation of self-perpetuating knowledge and affects. Perhaps, if one maintains an attention of discipline, if one wagers on a thin ridge their entire existence, then what becomes possible is that as yet unachieved goal for every insurrection: to become irreversible.
This is where we are left today. With comrades in jail, how are we to take this in, make it ours, consume it without deforming it? If the invisible has become identified, if the opaque has been made transparent, then there is no other solution but to disguise ourselves once more, opening
after human strike, to reach
where there is nothing but,
where we are all,
Filed under: reviews
From the book:
“It’s useless to wait—for a breakthrough, for the revolution, the nuclear apocalypse or a social movement. To go on waiting is madness. The catastrophe is not coming, it is here. We are already situated within the collapse of a civilization. It is within this reality that we must choose sides.”
We will be getting copies of this as a book very soon, but for those interested in reading the text you can find a zine version to print here.
“The Coming Insurrection is an eloquent call to arms arising from the recent waves of social contestation in France and Europe. Written by the anonymous Invisible Committee in the vein of Guy Debord—and with comparable elegance—it has been proclaimed a manual for terrorism by the French government (who recently arrested its alleged authors). One of its members more adequately described the group as “the name given to a collective voice bent on denouncing contemporary cynicism and reality.” The Coming Insurrection is a strategic prescription for an emergent war-machine to “spread anarchy and live communism
Written in the wake of the riots that erupted throughout the Paris suburbs in the fall of 2005 and presaging more recent riots and general strikes in France and Greece, The Coming Insurrection articulates a rejection of the official Left and its reformist agenda, aligning itself instead with the younger, wilder forms of resistance that have emerged in Europe around recent struggles against immigration control and the “war on terror.”
Hot-wired to the movement of ’77 in Italy, its preferred historical reference point, The Coming Insurrection formulates an ethics that takes as its starting point theft, sabotage, the refusal to work, and the elaboration of collective, self-organized forms-of-life. It is a philosophical statement that addresses the growing number of those—in France, in the United States, and elsewhere—who refuse the idea that theory, politics, and life are separate realms.”
There should be a proper review coming soon after some discussion and rereading of the text. If you’ve already read this text, you’re more than welcome to discuss it here.
Filed under: reviews
We recently received copies of this book in the mail from Ardent Press.
From the description on Little Black Cart:
“In this small and rich text, one of the authors of Nihilist Communism introduces an anti-political perspective in the form of letters, essays, and dialogs.
I think where the book is most successful is in its refusal of a defined revolutionary politics – it articulates a specific rejection of received political forms that tend to lapse into disputes of ownership of those forms by very small groups of individuals who are themselves defined by unexamined allegiances. I think the book expresses the potential for other modes of organising and other definitions of success beyond that of “sell the party, build the paper.” In this sense, it does not offer a set of arguments concerning what is or what must be the revolutionary structure so much as suggest a framework for assessing the claims of such structures.”
From a review in Mute Magazine:
“Over the past few years several publications have surfaced from what can loosely be called the non-Bolshevik revolutionary milieus. Ordinarily publications from such milieus can hardly be noted for their personal openness, play with form and stalwart exasperation with the seeming shrinkage of their circles. Such books as Call, Zones Of Proletarian Development (ZPD) and this one by Frére Dupont are noteworthy in that they seek, non-prescriptively, to provide grounds for optimism and fresh angles of approach for those milieus that will not rush to embrace them. A provocative theme in their approaches is the way that each reflects upon the modes of organisation of those milieus. Each has experimented with ‘phantom organisations’ – imaginary groupings of one or several that offer some means of conceptual secession, some means of supported self-exile from those hermetic orthodoxies for whom counter-cultural activists are, as ‘culturalists’, not to be taken seriously. From Call’s elaboration of a party of secession through to Mastaneh Shah-Shuja’s investigation of ‘reflexive joint activity’ in a ZPD, could it be that these books appeal to those distanced from the vestigially workerist revolutionary milieus, or to those convinced that capital’s efficacy is, to some degree, related to its instauration as a social relation? Are such approaches, with their accent upon relational congruence rather than ideological purity, more attractive and less threatening for those put off by the over erudite, the emotionally inarticulate and the suicidal militancy that non-revolutionary ‘others’ complain of? Frére Dupont frankly asks the question: ‘why is it that others feel no interest for us?’ (p.39).”