Filed under: war-machine | Tags: black bloc, capitalism, civil war, crime, identity, insurrection, non-identity, opacity, science, tactics, the streets, violence
Inquiry figure 1: The Black Bloc
Thesis: The black bloc is limited by obsolete aesthetic forms and reduced strategic imagination.
Hypothesis 1: The black bloc will spread antagonism more effectively if it can overcome these limits
Hypothesis 2: The black bloc should:
- Abandon identity
- Abandon predicates
- Develop collective intelligence
- Develop tactics
The black bloc is a method to prepare and hasten the clash. It is an anonymous way of being together, outmaneuvering police, and making attacks that radically alter the way we think about ourselves, power and our environments. Contrary to the critiques by those who fail to understand our contemporary situation, the black bloc is a long-term project engaged in a monastic work to develop undocile contagious practices.
The black bloc is a tension between insurgent identity and event. On the one hand, because the black bloc is a dynamic set of practices, it produces an unstable subject position: the black blocer. On the other hand, because the black bloc is also an event, rather than a fixed identity, it radically interrupts our functional roles as workers, citizens, students, etc. In this way the black bloc is always negotiating a tension between naming—and thus stabilizing—its subject position and becoming indistinguishable from the riot as a few antagonistic yet predictable gestures. While the latter claims an ethics of openness, it also limits how the black bloc can continue to stay unstable and tactically unpredictable.
At the heart of our self-analysis and critique is the question of the black bloc’s meaning. What does is it connote, describe, and do? For us the black bloc means: strategic antagonism.
The black bloc has the potential to connote “we who rebel intelligently.” However, it more often connotes “anarchism” because it is employed instrumentally to essentially advertise for that particular political identity. In most cases the narrative might go like this: there is a struggle, it has a dominant reformist discourse, anarchists feel marginalized and call for a black bloc in order to bring more radical ideas to the surface. In this way, the anarchists vote as bloc—the same way as other political groups—in order to be better represented in the struggle. However, the tactics deployed and the images produced create a heroic specter, whose glorious figure of revolutionary purity doesn’t correspond to the need for anonymity as a practical necessity of contemporary revolt. The use of the black bloc as such locates the figure of the anarchist, the criminal, and the militant all in one place. The black bloc’s objectives: contagiously reversing the operation of power on our bodies, taking back force, and elaborating practices of offensive opacity–are accomplished by diffusing these practices throughout the space and time of a struggle, not by consolidating them in single revolutionary subject. In this way, the very aesthetic that our anonymity rests upon currently works against us. The employment of all black everything separates us and functions to produce us as anarchist subjects with predictable motions and roles we fulfill. Even if a black bloc is composed solely of self-described anarchists, it must resist the ideological temptation to claim it as a terrain exclusive to anarchists. The black bloc should spread anarchy as a practice—not an idea or identity.
The challenge of resonance and contagion is exacerbated by the black bloc’s ahistorical ethical and aesthetic positions. The anarchist figure appears as a body detached from history, clinging instead to antiquated forms. Whereas each struggle to which we are bearing witness appears to itself as something new, the anarchist black bloc remains trapped by the image of Seattle ’99. This is not a problem of the techniques we use to destroy property—we’ve seen a lot of beneficial advancements in that—nor is this a problem in the techniques employed to confront the police. Here we have seen useful developments as well. The use of barricades, rocks and bottles, burning cars; the use of laser pointers to disorient the police; the use of Information Technologies to gather and disperse with greater speed and agility all amplify our tactical senses. The challenge we must overcome is the same challenge at the core of every struggle. How do we lose our predicates? How do we dissolve ourselves into a common?
Imagine the event of an insurrection as either a complex experimental symphony or a drawn out improvisational drama, with a touch of comedic elements and heroism. In either situation, all the participants will first begin with almost no plan or shared sense outside of their environment or their knowledge of their instruments—most times no one will have any intent on playing together. Something happens, someone begins to play, and when the rhythm touches others they join in. Or in the latter case someone speaks, asks a question, and others respond and build on the narrative. In each case the primary operation must be endowed with a force of seduction. This is not to say erotic or pleasurable even, but decisive in how it approaches its environment. The operation must pose a question that is irresistible to answer. An experimental composer once said “the hidden secret that makes this thing function is that the audience wants to be a part of the […] plot” This originary operation, the gesture that repeats itself even as it grows in complexity, must solicit the response “Yes, and.” This is how we can measure the success of the black bloc. In the experimental symphony, this is how each musician adds their own layers of emotion and aesthetics to the structure, even by altering the initial rhythm. In the improvisation drama, this is how the narrative grows essentially from nothing, then departs and returns to different plot elements. “Yes, and” must be the answer to rhythmic question “We need this, do you?” How this question is posed defines the particular meaning of the black bloc.
As the crisis deepens, revolt spreads. 1+1. simple math. However, instability is a familiar sensation for an economy based on the assumption of scarcity and constant expansion. Capital is well calibrated to crisis, and the arguments that “it will get better, when it gets worse” don’t fare well historically. As the economy is thrown into crisis, control and repression also deepen. In order to integrate antagonisms into a manageable framework, the fields of social sciences, anthropology, and psychology are enlisted to research the finest details of life. Meanwhile others specializing in police science dutifully work to calculate and predict the movements of antagonism in general. Once these antagonisms can be reduced to qualities and data, governments can begin to regulate, distribute and circulate these antagonisms in a way that produces value or guards against any further disruptions. One thinks of both the subtle integration and circulation of identities, the brute force of imprisonment, elimination through police bullets, and reduction through war. This governmental technique, sometimes called “risk reduction”, in practice functions as preemptive counter-insurgency. Here we see that counter-terrorism—as a set of policing measures and juridical transformations—was a maneuver that foreshadowed this epoch of crisis, developing its science over the course of several decades to be perfected just in time to stop the next revolutionary surge. We can’t count on the simple math.
As the environment of struggle shifts, so should our strategy. The contemporary sites of struggle are no longer demarcated spaces of confrontation—summits of the elite where our discourse congeals around a critique of financial capital and around a moral rejection of state violence. Revolt is now found in a delimited environment, more closely aligned with nightmarish war theory, where everything and everywhere is a potential terrain of conflict. There is an increasing need to develop common techniques that are easily appropriated. No one would have predicted that by 2010 a specter of university occupations would hang over the US, much less that a movement of occupations would erupt across the globe by 2011. But given the circumstances we believe this will spread, mutate and deepen. For our own safety locally and to contribute to the historical struggles emerging at a global level, black blocs must be able to pose the question: “We need anonymity, do you?” And as the lulzy hacker group Anonymous proves, the response “Yes, and” may not take the form we expect.
At the moment when struggles were cohering as a convergence of the antagonistic remnants of culture—the cycle of struggles that included environmentalism, third-wave feminism, anti-death penalty, anti-war, and anti-globalization—all black everything attacking the symbols of financial capital was clearly contemporary. The black represented a conscious sense of the way these ethical practices were excluded from capital, and financial capital was the example of shameless entrepreneurship par excellence. However, today our anti-social media darlings no longer conjure a meaning exterior to capital—mostly because these forms (culture) could be, and were, integrated into the general circulation of commodities. The black bloc and corresponding meaning that was linked to a set of subcultural identities is empty. There may remain a caricature in some newspaper making reference to one of our more loud participants–the anarchist punk–but as we all know, there is no longer a world for such a creature. Some may feel a sense of depressing nostalgia for how capitalism has drained our subcultures of what was living, but the emptiness of the black bloc—its abyss of potential chaos—is precisely what makes it more relevant than ever. The black bloc drained of identity has the potential to become open in ways impossible when it was only the practice of a limited set of subcultures. Strategic antagonism in a world increasingly composed solely of hostility now has the potential to shed its veneer and experiment.
* * *
What follows is a set of experiments to be immediately put into practice. The results should be examined, and analyses should be shared through our internal circuits of communication.
This text, although in public forums, is an example of how our communication works. We can say there is something, but there is no need to speak of its content. Thus, a cypher is put into public spheres. The cypher codes that a black bloc is called. The call speaks to those who hear it. It happens. If it happens well, if would appear that there was never a black bloc at all, only the event. However, the real of the event is not pure spontaneity, but the ease with which antagonistic techniques are able to spread and mutate.
* * *
Experiment 1. Street clothes is the new black. Plain colors on the first layer, prints, stripes or plaids for the second layer. Jeans for bottoms.
In some occasions, when the entire struggle is already located as criminal or revolutionary, all black makes sense—that is, it generates a certain meaning, a certain attention to our surroundings. “Black” for us should connote speed and intensity of attack, not ideology. Anonymity can be gained collectively through means other than the color of our clothing. Hats and scarves alone work quite well to make a surveillance camera less effective. An outer layer can be disposed. Shoes can be changed. A large crowd on its own also helps. If a few people in black are throwing rocks, they are easily isolated; if what appears to be “anyone” is throwing rocks, they are concealed by the contagion of the practice. A slow riot, drawn out street fights, the spread of undocile practices. These can be achieved when it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the law abiding citizen from the annotated figures of protest and revolt.
Experiment 2. Slogans and signs are a thin barrier between us and the police—use them accordingly.
Banners, yes; black flags, sometimes.
Black bloc has meant a different way of engaging in struggle. It has meant the advancement of tactical anti-police and property damage sciences. When shedding our facade, we need not lose the tactical intelligence of banners and flags. Banners call attention. Contemporary struggles do not cohere over “ideas,” and we first came to this realization through the black bloc. Like the myth of “free speech” under the reign of democracy, banners provide a thin barrier between us and police. Use them accordingly.
Here the movement of occupations has been very clever and instructive. The first wave of student occupations against austerity measures saw the use of shields painted as books—a tactic appropriated across an ocean and a few continents. In New York instead of the demand “Never work!” or slogans that cohere over ideas such as “against capitalism” banners, we see the intelligent use of an ambiguous narrative “I will never get a job in this economy.” While our creativity remains captive until we are emancipated from the regime of value, our use of slogans and text should be charged with the same meaning as our defensive technologies.
Flags on the other hand have a history which links them to identity, to nations, to a People. Being that there is no longer any People outside the global citizen-producing project of Empire, even those flags waved by the citizens of anarchism and communism are but an empty threat. Just as the Red and the Black flew next to the Serbian flag during the strike to oust Milošević, just as the Black Flag flew next to the Mexican Flag during the Immigrant general strike of ’06, these symbols no longer carry meaning.
Flags also have a different history, a technical history in both combat, and festival. Flags can be used to signal just about anything—a charge, a way of moving together, a certain time in which its good to disperse; they need not be black. And of course, flags are sticks with piece a of cloth attached. Here we would do best to not care if the image is a masked youth waving a black flag in front of a cloud of teargas or a surly old man swinging the stars and stripes at some cops, bellowing about taxation.
Experiment 3. Spread the disease.
Conspiracy means strategize together. The sense of a different way of being together, of getting organized, is one of the paramount achievements of the black bloc. We need to find ways to spread this sense across new fields of struggle. With confidence in our experience, we need to humbly experiment with applying our tactical knowledge to different conflicts, with people otherthan just seasoned riot-tourists.
The first wave of occupations in the US, from the Newschool in NYC to the University of California, saw quite a bit of this experimentation. A line of power grew from a house discussion, a classroom, a bar, a rooftop, and multiplied.
In the western territories, one saw the insulation of cliques formed through these struggles grow with experiment, not without the accompanying pangs and mistakes. The intensity leading up to the March 4th UC-wide student strike proved to be a misplaced nostalgia for summit demonstrations of yore. However, events which followed the fizzled climax generated a certain intelligence about how to engage with Marx’s maxim “Men make history but not in conditions of their choosing.”
The summer of ’11 saw an interventionary strategy, composed of “anti-cut” events revolving around a discourse of anti-austerity by a group called Bay of Rage. While the actions—mostly smaller street parties-cum-confrontations with the police—never generated the results that the initial Bay of Rage participants wanted, they did consolidate a shared sense between them, and recreate their environment as a laboratory of subversion. Moreover, the shared space to practice developed a certain endurance, sense memory, and refining of muscular and mental energy, that, when something happened, was tuned to the rhythm of struggle. Here the normal situation of someone murdered by police quickly took on new meaning as Bay of Rage went from a few hyped actions of die-hards to becoming host to riotous demonstrations of a few hundred. The shift against the Bart police also added to this chorus. The anti-policing sense gave birth to new rhythms and these resonated with others beyond those closest to the Bay of Rage. Anonymous, street youth, and an array of many other worlds joined this choir. The situation continued to build on itself, as more people responded with “yes, and.” We might see the impressive developments with Occupy Oakland in this light.
A small song booklet theorized how this taste for strategic thought might spread outside of our milieu. “When a couple of angry bus drivers, or grocery store workers encounter some of us in this or that place, and we say: ‘there are fifty of us, we have these means, and we want to fight.’ The rest is silence.”
Through practice we develop the means, consistent numerical capacity, and qualitative knowledge and techniques. When our practice effectively re-inscribes the meaning of an environment’s signs, architecture and geography, our presence is undeniable. In such a situation, the ease with which practices can cross-germinate and mutate also establishes the necessary condition of communication—translation, and audibility.
Nearing the end of March 2012 a wild fare strike subtly assaults the subway fare apparatus in New York. A proper action, smoothing the line between our well known clandestine figures and that of an everyman mass worker. The attack targets some 20 stations during the morning’s busiest hours and is claimed by the Rank and File Initiative, a collection of #occupiers and Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Amalgamated Transit Union. Of course the union’s leadership denies involvement in any such thing. In the an anonymous interview posted on the Village Voice website, the Rank and File Initiative says there were around 3-4 people in each station all disguising their identities, and that union members were paramount to the logistical elements. While the action doesn’t immediately give birth to mourning shop owners, it does function to create rupture in the normal flow of metropolis precisely because those who didn’t pay were all complicit. Here we see the practical mutation and intelligent application of complicity, resonance, and opacity.
The anonymity we need isn’t limited to the streets. Zones of opacity must be established. We need intimate meetings where we can discuss, make plans, and sort out the real material solidarities and resources to achieve our objectives, without the threat of the police. We need to elaborate a system of deciding what levels of trust are required, and how to practically implement this. Perhaps we need a different culture than that of security. Perhaps we need a multiplicity of possible forms of trust. We may not need to know each other for a million years to engage in a collective criminal attack against capital—such as the Port of Oakland blockade—but we need to spread a fluency in this illicit dialect.
The practice of conspiracy, of strategic thought, of breathing together, must be a commons of skills and new forms that we all draw from. Here it is important to reflect on the NYC fare strike interview that followed the release of the communique because it highlights how they did it. Instead of just privileging propaganda to explain our actions through the matrix of social critique, we should explain how to participate—as if it were a game with simple rules. This, above all else, must be developed in the coming years.
Experiment 4. Determine our own terrain of struggle; become unpredictable.
Our enemies deeply examine the geography, duration, and intensity of struggles, and develop their techniques of policing from this. Recognizing that we cannot count on pure numerical superiority and spontaneity means we must elaborate a practice of unpredictable movements and gestures. A central contribution of the black bloc to the summit riots was its refusal to have its movements bared by conventional limits—police, fences, architecture, and protest marshals. A certain fluidity gave it decisive agency. We need to reorient ourselves to this intelligence. Our environments can change based on how we act within them. We don’t have to stay together as a unit, linking arms and marching as a bloc. This is true for a demonstration and the entire space and time of a struggle. We can move through a smooth field. The same techniques employed for communicating where to gather to march and where to regather can be used within the entire terrain of a social struggle and a gathering point doesn’t have to lead in a linear path to an objective. A flashmob could converge within a march at a precise moment, and a precise location (for example: behind the Teachers against Budget Cuts banner) and then disperse and reemerge once we reach this building, this line of cops, or some other sign which we endow with meaning through our self-organization. This could be extended based on our capacity and levels of organization. Using a higher level of technology to achieve a circuit of communication is not the only way to accomplish this, but today’s struggles from the Banlieue riots to the Flashmobs across the US to the Arab Spring prove that contemporary revolt has a penchant for collective intelligence. Spreading and refining these techniques may not be as troublesome as some might think. There may be ways that don’t require everyone involved having a trashphone, or smartphone with a secure text app; its up to us to experiment.
Experiment 5: Or if we really want to experiment with being unpredictable:
Imagine a game spread through the same message and image boards that generate the phantom, Anonymous, except it elaborates the “doing it for the lulz” project in real time. Simple rules: you have to be invited to play, and if invited, you have to play.
Through the spread of #occupy, one can’t help but notice those “live feeds.” With UStream, one can watch and hear the events unfold, and even communicate through IRC in real time with others watching and the person who’s broadcasting the live stream. Imagine some players on the ground, in a demonstration or something else, as avatars, while their friends literally direct their movement. The on=ground player might always decide to do different than what she is told, but it might also be more fun to be whatever, and lose one’s self. Such a game would generate complicities capable of producing a far more terrible practice of offensive opacity by bringing the logic of spectacle to its hyperreal threshold. While certain questions of how to establish the necessary trusting environment, or completely anonymous environment, for such a game are yet to be answered, the technological and social conditions are quite ripe. We see now the spread of YouTube videos highlighting both social struggles and absurd criminal acts of youth for pornographic consumption. Such a game might catch on with far more seduction and malleability than our old game of dignified militant struggle.
For almost a decade, for three rounds of struggles, an assemblage of anti-control sciences has been tinkering with techniques, environments, and dispositions of struggle. While its clear that the black bloc is not the single methodology of contemporary struggle, we privilege it as a site of development because of its easy entry-points, relative flexibility and by the way our conditions continue to summon it. Some have theorized a mythical Plan B in order to supersede the limits of the black bloc at demonstrations. Occasionally, this has been practiced as the black bloc’s ferocity and intelligence, deployed outside of the large demonstration arena. Plan B has also been “attacking your enemy where he is not” within demonstrations, and as smaller gatherings that make dramatic public attacks—using speed and anonymity to escape capture, rather than the cover of a large crowd. While these experiments are conjured by the same spirit, we believe the current situation–a growth of strange and impressive struggles–is not the time to focus on how to intensify struggle, but how to alter our environments in ways that expand the territory of struggle. To us, the musical question is more one of duration and frequency than intensity. Intensity will follow, providing that initial question is posed in a way to solicit “Yes, and.”
We will more than likely be forced to continue this work for another decade. This monastic work of building a long term project of street confrontation and undocile practices is not in order to prepare for an event in the future. It is monastic precisely because the time in which this project takes place is a time contingent on but external to the time of the work-day. Our victory will come not by messenger, nor by the final orgasm of history. Rather, revolution will be the complex unfolding of billions of relations of domination, accented and accelerated by insurrection. From the time we entered this project to the present, the general geography of everyday struggle has condensed and multiplied, continuously paving the urban and suburban human environment in revolt against this society. There is increasingly less time between capitalist normality and moments of rupture. We expect our victory will be the slow, painful saturation of this world in such ruptures. The task set before us is how we will develop the necessary endurance, means, and vitality to be able to make these ruptures inhabitable.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: black block, civil war, fire, oakland, oakland commune, OWS, police, riot, riot police, tear gas
How could this be anything other than the elaboration of civil war?
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anarchy, anti-police, bart, charles hill, civil war, fuck the police, kenneth harding, muni, police, riot, san francisco, sfpd, war
On Tuesday July 19th, hundreds of people took to the streets of San Francisco in order to demonstrate their rage against the recent murders of Charles Hill and Kenneth Harding in the city by BART police and SFPD respectively. We marched behind a banner reading “they can’t shoot us all; fuck the police” as an expression of our intention that police murder will be met with resistance and retaliation every time they rear their ugly heads in our city.
IT DEFINITELY WENT DOWN
The march began at Dolores Park where nearly 200 of us departed and began moving towards the Castro. The route followed MUNI rail lines, obstructing the functioning of the rail system as it proceeded. Upon reaching the Castro MUNI station, all hell broke loose. While approaching the intersection (home to the underground MUNI station as well as the crossing of several MUNI rail lines) a significant portion of the march had donned masks and hoods.
What had now become a mob moved effortlessly past the bewildered cops and descended into the station. Down below on the mezzanine level, trash was set alight and thrown down onto the tracks below, followed by advertisements and signs. The ticket machines, the fare checkpoints and the agent booth were all smashed with hammers and flags – totally ruined. Smokebombs and fireworks were thrown throughout the station, adding to the chaos as the group resurfaced. The march then moved back through the Castro, hurling bricks over the heads of riot police and through the windows of Bank of America before heading into the Mission.
Those at the front of the march, made the spontaneous decision to continue onwards to the Mission police station on Valencia street. As the march approached, the pigs moved into formation to protect their sty. This didn’t stop us from throwing flares, a paint bomb, and a hammer at the façade of the building and at its defenders. The crowd, now swelled to almost 300, stayed in front of the police station for a while, screaming in the faces of the scum that patrols our streets and kills and imprisons the people we love. After making it abundantly clear that we wanted them the fuck out of our neighborhood, we continued through the Mission . At this point, the march dwindled slightly but continued down Mission St. Things escalated again when CBS news began harassing the crowd. People grabbed the big ass camera and smashed it on the ground. Police moved to make an arrest, but were repelled by the stick-wielding crowd.
After leaving the Mission, the crowd took Market St. and began moving through downtown toward Civic Center Station (the site of Charles Hill’s murder) and then onto Powell Station. At this point the number swelled again to more than they had been at any point, as countless onlookers joined the anti-cop demonstration. The crowd was big enough to block both sides of Market (a rare occurrence). The police began issuing dispersal orders from their sound truck tailing the march. Not giving a fuck, however, hundreds of us drowned out their orders screaming “SHUT THE FUCK UP” over and over. As the march turned up Powell (where we had intended to disperse) riot cops were able to surround and kettle about 30 people. As they filled in to enforce their kettle, hundreds of people pushed against them, hurling projectiles and screaming at them to let them go (and die). Skirmishes broke out as a handful of friends were unarrested and several more attempts were made to free those trapped inside police lines.
When it became clear that it would be impossible to free the 30 or so friends caught by the police, the strategy shifted to outright fighting. As the police began moving the vans containing the arrested, our crews and others did everything we could to stop them. The vans were chased and blockades attempted. The police and their vehicles were pelted with rocks, bottles, D-batteries and whatever else could be thrown against them. All-out brawls broke out leading to police injuries and a handful of arrests. Several police motorcycles were knocked over and stomped on. The night ended with a tense standoff against police. At this point, hundreds of people from the surrounding area had flooded the scene, screaming at the police or just looking on in awe. More shit got thrown at them and eventually people left, as we had word that several of the arrested were already being released.
It is the humble opinion of these participants that this last round of events was marked by some of the most wild physical fights with police at a demo in a long time. By the end of the night, all but one of the arrested had been released with misdemeanors (for disobeying orders and/or battery). One person remains in jail, being charged with Felony Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Felony Vandalism. (Updates soon)
RESISTANCE IS SPREADING:
Yesterday’s attacks come in the context of a growing campaign of diffuse attacks against the MUNI system in retaliation for the murder of Kenneth Harding. On Saturday, within moments of his murder, people on scene began attacking the police with bottles and trying to disrupt the T-train. In the subsequent days various crews of people in and around Bayview have spontaneously and diffusely taken up a campaign against the MUNI system: blocking tracks, breaking the windows on trains and busses, attacking agents, fighting with the police. Most of this resistance, of course, has gone unreported by the scum media. At a press-conference held in Bayview on Monday, many family-members of police victims and other angry people gathered to denounce the most recent murders, share stories about how much they fucking hate the pigs, and articulate a strategy of resistance.
The message at the conference and in people’s actions is clear: “We want pigs off the MUNI system and we want the system to be free, or there will not be a system at all.” People vowed to continue their attacks and blockades against the trains and buses operated by MUNI until they are fare-free and cop-free. As austerity takes its toll on poor people in the Bay Area, it is becoming increasingly clear that the only solution is attack, and that these attacks are the clearest way to demonstrate our solidarity.
It is in following the lead of those struggling for freedom in Bayview that we decided to trash the MUNI station in the Castro. This is only one contribution in what is mounting up to be a wave of chaos against a system that values a 2$ fare over our lives.
SYSTEMIC DISRUPTION AND SABOTAGE:
Last week, over 100 of us disrupted the BART system by blockading trains and vandalizing stations. This activity resulted in 3 hours of solid obstruction and delays through the BART system caused by several station closures. This was called for in response to the killing of Charles Hill on the Civic Center platform by BART police. Once again, we disrupted the transit system in an act of vengeance against the slaughter at the hands of the armed enforcers of fares. Last night, in addition to putting the Castro MUNI station out of commission, we blocked tracks, buses, and trains. Police went on to close at least three BART stations for fear of the destruction at the Castro station being brought on other stations throughout the system. Through our actions and the response of the police, we brought the transit system in the heart of the financial capitol of the West Coast to a grinding halt for the second time in as many weeks.
It should be noted that obstructing these systems and destroying their apparatuses takes very little effort. System disruption is a valuable tool, and should be considered for use as a response every time the pigs murder someone in our towns. The economic damage and the disruption to networks of control caused by these actions is deeper and wider than a brick through a window (however lovely the act may be).
WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PIG LIES:
Fearing full on rebellion, SFPD and their servants in the media have gone into full spin mode. Each day they make new justifications for their killings. They say Charles Hill had a knife. They say Kenneth Harding shot at them. They talk about Harding’s previous convictions and allude to his connection to the murder of a pregnant woman in Washington State. In each of these cases, it is important for the enemies of the police to not be tricked by these diversions.
The issue has never been the character of Kenneth Harding or what type of weapons the victims of police violence may or may not have been carrying. The issue is that the armed enforcers of Capital and the State have enforced a death sentence on the poor in this city; made themselves the judge, jury and executioner of anyone who cannot afford a fare, is homeless, or breaks their meaningless laws in order to survive. We don’t care if Kenneth Harding had a gun. In fact, we wish he had shot the men who went on to shoot him ten times in the back and throat. Any justification for his murder misses the point that the situation should never have happened in the first place. We shouldn’t have to pay for their trains and the cops shouldn’t exist to enforce fares (or anything at all). To blame Kenneth Harding or Charles Hill or any victim of police violence for the atrocities enacted upon them by the police is to side with the State, always. Kenneth Harding is dead for one reason: because officers shot him ten times in the back and throat and watched as he bled to death on the street.
It is also worth noting that the mythology of black male violence against women is consistently used by the police and other armed white people as a pretense for racist murder, whether at the hands of a lynch mob or by the bullets of a cop’s gun. To counter this narrative, and the entirely false idea that police exist to protect women, a feminist contingent within the march prepared a statement and distributed it, denouncing the police.
When the police kill in our cities, we need to respond immediately and to continue and escalate that resistance. This has been the case so far in the response to the recent murders in San Francisco. People throughout the city – victims, family members, angry kids, anarchists, communists, hooligans – didn’t wait for the Left or any Non-Profit groups to begin. We acted without hesitation and constraint, in doing so setting the narrative of the struggle against the police. It is important that we not fall into the traps set out by the State. The struggle cannot be limited to one neighborhood or one “Legitimate” series of concerns or any one part of the population. We need to fight against SFPD throughout the city, against BART Police throughout the Bay, and against policing on a global scale. This weeks events have already demonstrated that angry people are willing to act against the police and the system they enforce in their neighborhoods, and to join the struggles of others and act in solidarity through attack. The struggle that began with the Oscar Grant rebellion is just beginning to emerge from hibernation. People here are just beginning – collectively and diffusely – to resist police terror in our streets. This is just a taste.
In sadness and in rage.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
JULY 20, 2011
Filed under: Milwaukee area, war-machine | Tags: beating up people, civil war, fighting, living, looting, milwaukee, police, power, race, riverwest, war, white people
From the Ignorant Research Institute (MKE):
We enter into a war that we were already a part of.
The problem is not whether or not the taking, sharing, and thereby profaning property or the attack on the physical bodies of white people (in fact corresponding closely with value of the commodity of whiteness) is a poor revolutionary strategy. The problem is how to align ourselves with attacks on the social order while making our allegiances explicit enough to not be confused with being on the side of whiteness – that is, being on the side of domination. We do not claim to patronize the position of those who acted by claiming to understand them, but it would not be hard to understand the desperate nihilism of such risk and the seeming anti-social nature of the attack. It is difficult not to see how the experience of the other (the one outside of whiteness) responds to the white mass that erases their existence with a healthy share of hostility. Hence the need to differentiate oneself from the “good, well behaved, and civilized” black citizens, from white people (which needs little explanation), from any includable and pacified category within society.
We now understand the disaffection, desertion, and destruction of whiteness to be of the utmost strategic necessity. But this situation is and isn’t about race, like all questions of identity. Our power, against the power of the social order which imposes identity upon us, is a power of identity’s overflowing, of its self-abolition. It is a betrayal of what we are, of white people no longer doing only what white people do, of women no longer doing only what women do, of even humans no longer doing only what humans do, as we constitute ourselves against every mode and apparatus of containment. It becomes an issue of opening up space for an exodus, for others to join the already excluded and deepen the rifts which already permeate the social terrain of the city.
Among the many things made clear by the events of July 3rd, we have before us an example illuminated: civil war in Milwaukee already exists.
And if civil war exists, then the question is how to take part. We ask you to take very seriously this task. We ourselves are just barely starting.
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: Milwaukee area, update | Tags: agamben, anarchy, barbarians, bleu marin, carl schmitt, CCC, civil war, clastres, communism, critical animal studies, critical theory, Deleuze and Guattari, derrida, discussion, negativity, nihilism, theory, tiqqun, violence, war
Weaving two seemingly divergent themes together through various conceptions of sovereignty, October will focus on the relationship and subsequent separation between humans and animals through the lens of domestication and civilization, while November will focus on questions of conflict – both as the fabric that maintains the present and the force that may tear it asunder.
1pm on Saturdays at the CCC (732 E Clarke St.)
October: Critical Animal Studies
2nd ‘The Snake’ by D.H. Lawrence (plain text)
9th ‘The Animal That Therefore I Am’ by Jacques Derrida (book)
16th ‘The Open’ by Giorgio Agamben (book)
23rd ‘On Behalf of the Barbarians’ by Bleu Marin (zine)
November: War, Violence and Enmity
6th ‘Theory of the Partisan’ by Carl Schmitt (zine)
13th ‘Introduction to Civil War’ by Tiqqun (book) zine version
20th ‘Nomadology: The War-Machine’ By D & G (zine)
27th ‘Archeology of Violence’ by Pierre Clastres (book)
This series is perhaps considerably less introductory than previous anarchist oriented and theory discussion series that we’ve attempted, though anyone who is interested is certainly welcome to participate. Most of the texts will be available for free to pick up beforehand from the CCC or can be found online to download (and linked to from this post and if made into zines will be added to the zine archive).
Many of the texts can be found here