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Plaza – Riot – Commune

Posted to Anarchist News:

We are the generation of the abandoned, the betrayed. Tossed up on the shores of the present by 150 years of failed insurrection, by the shipwreck of the workers’ movement, the failure of a hundred political projects. But it is not only our once-upon-a-time friends who have departed. Today, even our enemies flee from us, even capital abandons us: no more its minimum promises, the right to be exploited, the right to sell one’s labor power. Abandoned, we greet the world with utter abandon. There is no longer any possible adequacy of means and ends, no way of subordinating our actions to the rational or the practical. The present age of austerity means that even the most meager of demands require the social democrats to pick up bricks. Betrayed by democracy, betrayed by the technocrats of socialism, betrayed by the dumb idealism of anarchy, betrayed by the stolid fatalism of the communist ultraleft. We are not the 99%. We are not a fucking percentage at all. We do not count. If we have any power at all, it is because we are the enemies of all majority, enemies of “the people.” As the old song goes, we are nothing and must become everything.

Though it is a key characteristic of capitalism that each generation of its victims has, in its way, considered its persistence beyond a few decades unlikely if not preposterous, the difference between us and them is that in our case it just happens to be true. Now, not even capital’s footservants can paint a convincing portrait of a future based upon markets and wages – all the sci-fi dystopias of flying cars and robot servants seem truly ridiculous. No, the future only presents as ruin, apocalypse, burning metal in the desert. It is easier to imagine the end of life on earth than our own old age.

This is why anxieties over the implicit statism of anti-austerity struggles are baseless. With the exception of a few benighted activists and media ideologues, everyone understands quite well that the Keynesian card was played long ago, blown on wars and bailouts, the victim of its own monstrous success. There will be no rebirth of the welfare state, no “reindustrialization” of society. This much is obvious: if there is an expansion of the state, it will be a proto-fascist austerity state. Nor is there any longer a “Left” in any meaningful sense, as a force that desires to manage the existing world on different terms, in the name of the workers or the people. Those radicals who, tired of the weakness of the loyal opposition, imagine themselves called upon to “destroy the left” find that their very existence is predicated upon this old, vanished enemy. There is no Left left: only the great dispirited mass of the center, some wild and misdirected antagonism at the fringes.

The hopelessness of deflecting the state from its current course; the realization that even a slight reform of the system would require collective violence of a near revolutionary intensity; the attendant awareness that we would be idiots to go that distance and yet stop short of revolution –all of this gives many anti-austerity struggles a strange desperation and intensity. Our hope is to be found in this very hopelessness, in the fact that, in the current cycle of struggles, means have entirely dissociated from ends. Tactics no longer match with their stated objectives. In France, in response to a proposed change in the retirement age, high school students barricade their schools; roving blockades confuse the police; rioting fills city center after city center. In Britain and Italy, university struggles recruit tens of thousands of youth who have no hope of attending the university, nor any interest in doing so for that matter. There is no longer any possibility of a political calculus that matches ideas with tactics, thinking with doing. Do we suppose that French children are really concerned about what will happen to them once they are ready to retire? Does any young person expect the current social order to last that long? No, they are here to hasten things forward, hasten things toward collapse. Because it is easier to imagine the end of the world than retirement. Because anything is better than this.


For the neo-Leninist philosophes who build their cults in the shells of the dying universities, such an impossibility of lining up means with ends is nothing but a barrier or block. Where is the revolutionary program in the Egyptian revolution, they ask, where is the program in the streets of Britain or Greece? Who will discipline these bodies for their final assault on the palaces and citadels? For such thinkers, only an idea can guarantee the efficacy of these bodies. Only an idea – the idea of communism, as some say – can make of these bodies a proper linkage between means and ends. But communism is not an idea nor an idealism – it means freeing bodies from their subordination to abstractions. Thankfully, we are skittish, faithless and flighty people. We have trouble listening. For us, communism will be material or it will be nothing. It will be a set of immediate practices, immediate satisfactions, or nothing. If we find discipline and organization, it will come from what we do, not what we think.

By “idea” the philosophes mean something like “the Party.” They intend to make themselves and their ideas mean, as structure and social form. They intend to cement the old pact between the intelligentsia and the workers’ movement. But there is no intelligentsia anymore and there certainly is no workers’ movement to speak of. The entire structure of duty and obligation – Christian in origin – upon which the classical programmatic parties were built no longer exists, because capital no longer needs morality for helpmeet. There is acting for ourselves; there is acting with others; but there is no sustained acting for another, out of obligation.


Our indiscipline means that among political ideas only the one idea which is, by its very nature, determined to remain an idea, an ideal, can gain any purchase here: democracy. From Tunisia to Egypt, from Spain to Greece, from Madison to Wall Street, again and again, the “movement of the squares” buckles under the dead weight of this shibboleth. Democracy, the name for the enchantment of the people by its own image, by its potential for endless deferral. Democracy, a decision-making process become political ontology, such that the form itself, the form of the decision, becomes its own content. We democratically decide to be democratic! The people chooses itself!

In the present era – the era of the austerity state and the unemployment economy – radical democracy finds its ideal locus in the metropolitan plaza or square. The plaza is the material embodiment of its ideals – a blank place for a blank form. Through the plaza, radical democracy harkens back to its origin myth, the agora, the assembly-places of ancient Greece which also served as marketplaces (such that the phrase “I shop” and “I speak in public” were nearly identical). These plazas are not, however, the buzzing markets filled with economic and social transaction, but clean-swept spaces, vast pours of concrete and nothingness, perhaps with a few fountains here or there. These are spaces set aside by the separation of the “political” from the economy, the market. Nowhere is this more clear than in the most recent episode of the “movement of squares” – Occupy Wall Street – which attempted, meekly and rather insincerely, to occupy the real agora, the real space of exchange, but ended up pushed into a small, decorative park on the outskirts of Wall Street, penned by police. This is what building the new world in the shell of the old means today – an assembly ringed by cops.

If there is hope in these manifestations, it lies in the forms of mutual aid that exist there, the experimentation people undertake in providing for their own needs. Already, we see how the occupations are forced against their self-imposed limits, brought into conflict with the police, despite the avowed pacificism of the participants. The plaza occupations – with all their contradictions – are one face of the present dissociation of means from ends. Or rather, they present a situation in which means are not so much expelled as sublimated, present as the object of a vague symbolization, such that the gatherings come to pre-enact or symbolize or prefigure some future moment of insurrection. At their worst, they are vast machines of deferral. At their best, they force their participants toward actually seizing what they believe they are entitled to merely want.

How far we are from Egypt, the putative start of the sequence. There, the initial assembly was an act of symbolic violence, decidedly so, which everyone knew would open onto an encounter with the state and its force. And yet, even there, the separation from the economy – from the ways in which our needs are satisfied – remained inscribed into the revolution from the start. In other words, the Egyptian insurrection was not deflected to the sphere of the political but started there to begin with. And all of the other episodes in the so-called “movement of squares” repeat this primary dislocation, whether they remain hamstrung by pacifism and democratism, as in Spain, or press their demands in material form, as in Greece.

This brings the plaza occupations into relation not only with the entire development of orthodox Marxism, from Lenin through Mao, which places the conquest of state power front and center, but also its apparent opposite in this historical moment: the riots of Athens and London and Oakland, which, bearing the names of Oscar Grant, Alexis Grigoropoulos, or Mark Duggan, treat the police and state power as both cause and effect, provocation and object of rage. Though the looting which always accompanies such eruptions points the way to a more thorough expropriation, these riots, even though they seem the most immediate of antagonistic actions, are also bound by a kind of symbolization, the symbolization of the negative, which says what it wants through a long litany, in letters of fire and broken glass, of what it does not want: not this, not that. We’ve seen their limits already, in Greece –even burning all of the banks and police stations was not enough. Even then, they came into a clearing, a plaza, swept clean by their own relentless negations, where negation itself was a limit. What then? What will we do then? How do we continue?

Between the plaza and the riot, between the most saccharine affirmation and the blackest negation – this is where we find ourselves. Two paths open for us: each one, in its way, a deflection from the burning heart of matter. On the one hand, the endless process of deliberation that must finally, in its narrowing down to a common denominator, arrive at the only single demand possible: a demand for what already is, a demand for the status quo. On the other hand, the desire that has no object, that finds nothing in the world which answers its cry of annihilation.

One fire dies out because it extinguishes its own fuel source. The other because it can find no fuel, no oxygen. In both cases, what is missing is a concrete movement toward the satisfaction of needs outside of wage and market, money and compulsion. The assembly becomes real, loses its merely theatrical character, once its discourse turns to the satisfaction of needs, once it moves to taking over homes and buildings, expropriating goods and equipment. In the same way, the riot finds that truly destroying the commodity and the state means creating a ground entirely inhospitable to such things, entirely inhospitable to work and domination. We do this by facilitating a situation in which there is, quite simply, enough of what we need, in which there is no call for “rationing” or “measure,” no requirement to commensurate what one person takes and what another contributes. This is the only way that an insurrection can survive, and ward off the reimposition of market, capital and state (or some other economic mode based upon class society and domination). The moment we prove ourselves incapable of meeting the needs of everyone – the young and the old, the healthy and infirm, the committed and the uncommitted– we create a situation where it is only a matter of time before people will accept the return of the old dominations. The task is quite simple, and it is monstrously difficult: in a moment of crisis and breakdown, we must institute ways of meeting our needs and desires that depend neither on wages nor money, neither compulsory labor nor administrative labor, and we must do this while defending ourselves against all who stand in our way.

Research & Destroy, 2011

Human Strike After Human Strike

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

“liberated space”.

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

same time

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,

the experience

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

human strike

after human strike, to reach

the insurrection,

where there is nothing but,

where we are all,



-Johann Kaspar


Perversity, Bio-politics, Commune

Event description from the presenter:

“What’s better than sitting on fetlife uploading photo’s of your freshly blackened ass.
Miss filth and glitter holding the cane that bruises your pretty cheeks.

Come out to UWMilwaukee room 344 this October 30th at 7pm for a night of mischief, BDSM, queers, theory, and orgies. Miss. F&G will talk on renewed considerations for BDSM and Queerness as a form of bio-political resistance, and the use of orgies and play parties to build stronger friendships.

Don’t forget you safe word”

(A safe word is a word other than no that used in BDSM to tell someone to stop. Notice the whipped Jesus on the flier.  He must have forgotten his. And Fetlife is a social networking website for people who are into fetish and BDSM.)


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