Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anti-capitalism, death, decomposition, may day, oakland, oakland commune, Occupy oakland, occupy wall street
May 1, decomposition and the coming antagonisms
For those of us in Oakland, “Occupy Wall Street” was always a strange fit. While much of the country sat eerily quiet in the years before the Hot Fall of 2011, a unique rebelliousness that regularly erupted in militant antagonisms with the police was already taking root in the streets of the Bay. From numerous anti-police riots triggered by the execution of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009, to the wave of anti-austerity student occupations in late 2009 and early 2010, to the native protest encampment at Glen Cove in 2011, to the the sequence of Anonymous BART disruptions in the month before Occupy Wall Street kicked off, our greater metropolitan area re-emerged in recent years as a primary hub of struggle in this country. The intersection at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland was, more often than not, “ground zero” for these conflicts.
If we had chosen to follow the specific trajectory prescribed by Adbusters and the Zucotti-based organizers of Occupy Wall Street, we would have staked out our local Occupy camp somewhere in the heart of the capitol of West Coast capital, as a beachhead in the enemy territory of San Francisco’s financial district. Some did this early on, following in the footsteps of the growing list of other encampments scattered across the country like a colorful but confused archipelago of anti-financial indignation. According to this logic, it would make no sense for the epicenter of the movement to emerge in a medium sized, proletarian city on the other side of the bay.
We intentionally chose a different path based on a longer trajectory and rooted in a set of shared experiences that emerged directly from recent struggles. Vague populist slogans about the 99%, savvy use of social networking, shady figures running around in Guy Fawkes masks, none of this played any kind of significant role in bringing us to the forefront of the Occupy movement. In the rebel town of Oakland, we built a camp that was not so much the emergence of a new social movement, but the unprecedented convergence of preexisting local movements and antagonistic tendencies all looking for a fight with capital and the state while learning to take care of each other and our city in the most radical ways possible.
This is what we began to call The Oakland Commune; that dense network of new found affinity and rebelliousness that sliced through seemingly impenetrable social barriers like never before. Our “war machine and our care machine” as one comrade put it. No cops, no politicians, plenty of “autonomous actions”; the Commune materialized for one month in liberated Oscar Grant Plaza at the corner of 14th & Broadway. Here we fed each other, lived together and began to learn how to actually care for one another while launching unmediated assaults on our enemies: local government, the downtown business elite and transnational capital. These attacks culminated with the General Strike of November 2 and subsequent West Coast Port Blockade.
In their repeated attacks on Occupy Oakland, the local decolonize tendency is in some ways correct. Occupy Wall Street and the movement of the 99% become very problematic when applied to a city such as Oakland and reek of white liberal politics imposed from afar on a diverse population already living under brutal police occupation. What our decolonizing comrades fail to grasp (intentionally or not) is that the rebellion which unfolded in front of City Hall in Oscar Grant Plaza does not trace its roots back to September 17, 2011 when thousands of 99%ers marched through Wall Street and set up camp in Lower Manhattan. The Oakland Commune was born much earlier on January 7, 2009 when those youngsters climbed on top of an OPD cruiser and started kicking in the windshield to the cheers of the crowd. Thus the name of the Commune’s temporarily reclaimed space where anti-capitalist processes of decolonization were unleashed: Oscar Grant Plaza.
Why then did it take nearly three years for the Commune to finally come out into the open and begin to unveil its true potential? Maybe it needed time to grow quietly, celebrating the small victories and nursing itself back to health after bitter defeats such as the depressing end of the student movement on March 4, 2010. Or maybe it needed to see its own reflection in Tahrir, Plaza del Sol and Syntagma before having the confidence to brazenly declare war on the entire capitalist order. One thing is for sure. Regardless of Occupy Wall Street’s shortcomings and the reformist tendencies that latched on to the movement of the 99%, the fact that some kind of open revolt was rapidly spreading like a virus across the rest of the country is what gave us the political space in Oakland to realize our rebel dreams. This point cannot be overemphasized. We are strongest when we are not alone. We will be isolated and crushed if Oakland is contained as some militant outlier while the rest of the country sits quiet and our comrades in other cities are content consuming riot porn emerging from our streets while cheering us on and occasionally coming to visit, hoping to get their small piece of the action.
For a whole generation of young people in this country, these past six months have been the first taste of what it means to struggle as part of a multiplying and complex social movement that continually expands the realm of possibilities and pushes participants through radicalization processes that normally take years. The closest recent equivalent is probably the first (and most vibrant) wave of North American anti-globalization mobilizations from late 1999 through the first half of 2001. This movement also brought a wide range of tendencies together under a reformist banner of “Fair Trade” & “Global Justice” while simultaneously pointing towards a systemic critique of global capitalism and a militant street politics of disruption.
The similarities end there and this break with the past is what Occupy got right. Looking back over those heady days at the turn of the millennia (or the waves of summit hopping that followed), the moments of actually living in struggle and experiencing rupture in front of one’s eyes were few and far between. They usually unfolded during a mass mobilization in the middle of one “National Security Event” or another in some city on the other side of the country (or world!). The affinities developed during that time were invaluable, but cannot compare to the seeds of resistance that were sown simultaneously in hundreds of urban areas this past Fall.
It makes no sense to overly fetishize the tactic of occupations, no more than it does to limiting resistance exclusively to blockades or clandestine attacks. Yet the widespread emergence of public occupations qualitatively changed what it means to resist. For contemporary American social movements, it is something new to liberate space that is normally policed to keep the city functioning smoothly as a wealth generating machine and transform it into a node of struggle and rebellion. To do this day after day, rooted in the the city where you live and strengthening connections with neighbors and comrades, is a first taste of what it truly means to have a life worth living. For those few months in the fall, American cities took on new geographies of the movement’s making and rebels began to sketch out maps of coming insurrections and revolts.
This was the climate that the Oakland Commune blossomed within. In those places and moments where Occupy Wall Street embodied these characteristics as opposed to the reformist tendencies of the 99%’s nonviolent campaign to fix capitalism, the movement itself was a beautiful thing. Little communes came to life in cities and towns near and far. Those days have now passed but the consequences of millions having felt that solidarity, power and freedom will have long lasting and extreme consequences.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the movement is now decomposing and that we are now, more or less, alone, passing that empty park or plaza on the way to work (or looking for work) which seemed only yesterday so loud and colorful and full of possibilities.
All of the large social movements in this country following the anti-globalization period have heated up quickly, bringing in millions before being crushed or co-opted equally as quickly. The anti-war movement brought millions out in mass marches in the months before bombs began falling over Baghdad but was quickly co-opted into an “Anybody but Bush” campaign just in time for the 2004 election cycle. The immigrant rights movement exploded during the spring of 2006, successfully stopping the repressive and racist HR4437 legislation by organizing the largest protest in US history (and arguably the closest thing we have ever seen to a nation-wide general strike) on May 1 of that year . The movement was quickly scared off the streets by a brutal wave of ICE raids and deportations that continue to this day. Closer to home, the anti-austerity movement that swept through California campuses in late 2009 escalated rapidly during the fall through combative building occupations across the state. But by March 4, 2010, the movement had been successfully split apart by repressing the militant tendencies and trapping the more moderate ones in an impotent campaign to lobby elected officials in Sacramento. Such is the rapid cycle of mobilization and decomposition for social movements in late capitalist America.
So what then killed Occupy? The 99%ers and reactionary liberals will quickly point to those of us in Oakland and our counterparts in other cites who wave the black flag as having alienated the masses with our “Black Bloc Tactics” and extremist views on the police and the economy. Many militants will just as quickly blame the sinister forces of co-optation, whether they be the trade union bureaucrats, the 99% Spring nonviolence training seminars or the array of pacifying social justice non-profits. Both of these positions fundamentally miss the underlying dynamic that has been the determining factor in the outcome thus far: all of the camps were evicted by the cops. Every single one.
All of those liberated spaces where rebellious relationships, ideas and actions could proliferate were bulldozed like so many shanty towns across the world that stand in the way of airports, highways and Olympic arenas. The sad reality is that we are not getting those camps back. Not after power saw the contagious militancy spreading from Oakland and other points of conflict on the Occupy map and realized what a threat all those tents and card board signs and discussions late into the night could potentially become.
No matter how different Occupy Oakland was from the rest of Occupy Wall Street, its life and death were intimately connected with the health of the broader movement. Once the camps were evicted, the other major defining feature of Occupy, the general assemblies, were left without an anchor and have since floated into irrelevance as hollow decision making bodies that represent no one and are more concerned with their own reproduction than anything else. There have been a wide range of attempts here in Oakland at illuminating a path forward into the next phase of the movement. These include foreclosure defense, the port blockades, linking up with rank and file labor to fight bosses in a variety of sectors, clandestine squatting and even neighborhood BBQs. All of these are interesting directions and have potential. Yet without being connected to the vortex of a communal occupation, they become isolated activist campaigns. None of them can replace the essential role of weaving together a rebel social fabric of affinity and camaraderie that only the camps have been able to play thus far.
May 1 confirmed the end of the national Occupy Wall Street movement because it was the best opportunity the movement had to reestablish the occupations, and yet it couldn’t. Nowhere was this more clear than in Oakland as the sun set after a day of marches, pickets and clashes. Rumors had been circulating for weeks that tents would start going up and the camp would reemerge in the evening of that long day. The hundreds of riot police backed by armored personnel carriers and SWAT teams carrying assault rifles made no secret of their intention to sweep the plaza clear after all the “good protesters” scurried home, making any reoccupation physically impossible. It was the same on January 28 when plans for a large public building occupation were shattered in a shower of flash bang grenades and 400 arrests, just as it was on March 17 in Zucotti Park when dreams of a new Wall Street camp were clubbed and pepper sprayed to death by the NYPD. Any hopes of a spring offensive leading to a new round of space reclamations and liberated zones has come and gone. And with that, Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland are now dead.
If one had already come to terms with Occupy’s passing, May 1 could actually be viewed as an impressive success. No other 24 hour period in recent memory has unleashed such a diverse array of militancy in cities across the country. From the all day street fighting in Oakland, to the shield bloc in LA, to the courageous attempt at a Wildcat March in New York, to the surprise attack on the Mission police station in San Francisco, to the anti-capitalist march in New Orleans, to the spectacular trashing of Seattle banks and corporate chains by black flag wielding comrades, the large crowds which took to the streets on May 1 were no longer afraid of militant confrontations with police and seemed relatively comfortable with property destruction. This is an important turning point which suggests that the tone and tactics of the next sequence will be quite different from those of last fall.
Yet the consistent rhythm and resonance of resistance that the camps made possible has not returned. We are once again wading through a depressing sea of everyday normality waiting for the next spectacular day of action to come and go in much the same way as comrades did a decade ago in the anti-globalization movement or the anti-war movement. In the Bay Area, the call to strike was picked up by nurses and ferry workers who picketed their respective workplaces on May 1 along with the longshoremen who walked off the job for the day. This display of solidarity is impressive considering the overall lack of momentum in the movement right now. Still, it was not enough of an interruption in capital’s daily flows to escalate out of a day of action and into a general strike like we saw on November 2.
And thus we continue on through this quieter period of uncertainty. We still occasionally catch glimpses of the Commune in those special moments when friends and comrades successfully break the rules and start self organizing to take care of one another while simultaneously launching attacks against those who profit from mass immiseration. We saw this off and on during the actions of May 1, or in the two occupations of the building at 888 Turk Street in San Francisco or most recently on the occupied farmland that was temporarily liberated from the University of California before being evicted by UCPD riot police a few days ago. But with the inertia of the Fall camps nearly depleted, the fierce but delicate life of our Commune relies more and more on the vibrancy of the rebel social relationships which have always been its foundation.
The task ahead of us in Oakland and beyond is to search out and nurture new means of finding each other. We are quickly reaching the point where the dead weight of Occupy threatens to drag down the Commune into the dust bin of history. We need to breathe new life into our network of rebellious relationships that does not rely on the Occupy Oakland general assembly or the array of movement protagonists who have emerged to represent the struggle. This is by no means an argument against assemblies or for a retreat back into the small countercultural ghettos that keep us isolated and irrelevant. On the contrary, we need more public assemblies that take different forms and experiment with themes, styles of decision making (or lack there of) and levels of affinity. We need new ways to reclaim space and regularize a contagious rebel spirit rooted in our specific urban contexts while breaking a losing cycle of attempted occupations followed by state repression that the movement has now fallen into. Most of all, we need desperately to stay connected with comrades old and new and not let these relationships completely decompose. This will determine the health of the Commune and ultimately its ability to effectively wage war on our enemies in the struggles to come.
Some Oakland Antagonists
 The decolonize tendency emerged in Oakland and elsewhere as a people of color and indigenous led initiative within the Occupy movement to confront the deep colonialist roots of contemporary oppression and exploitation. Decolonize Oakland publicly split with Occupy on December 5, 2011 after failing to pass a proposal in the Occupy Oakland general assembly to change the name of the local movement to Decolonize Oakland. For more information on this split see the ‘Escalating Identity’ pamphlet: http://escalatingidentity.wordpress.com/
 The demonstrations on May 1, 2006, called El Gran Paro Estadounidense or The Great American Boycott, were the climax of a nationwide series of mobilizations that had begun two months earlier with large marches in Chicago and Los Angeles as well as spontaneous high school walkouts in California and beyond. Millions took to the streets across the country that May 1, with an estimated two million marching in Los Angeles alone. Entire business districts in immigrant neighborhoods or where immigrants made up the majority of workers shut down for the day in what some called “A Day Without an Immigrant”.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: barricades, chile, death, democracy, molotov cocktail, police, repression, riot, santiago, youth
UTEM says: Neither dialogue nor referendums! Only barricades and molotovs!
“During the pathetic call to strike of the CUT which lasted two whole days, one could observe many actions of a social variety. In the first place, the objective of the strike, as explained by the Pinochetista Andres Chadwick (who was one of the violent agitators against the foreign priests who came to investigate human rights cases), was to “paralyze the country” (a strike that would paralyze? Attention, CQC, check this guy out); with him appeared a new media-police form wherein outcast workers and students violently attacked proletarians who tried to break with the social order which protects the violence of the State/Capital (alleged brothers in struggle violently attacking others because they oppose violence?). During the marches that happened downtown, one could clearly see that there were people ready to perform the function of the pólice, for which they should face the consequence of being attacked like the pólice.
The discourse of this entire mobilization was always the same, constitutional reforms to fortify the State/Capital and its capitalist education, labor laws that “protect” the proletariat while selling its labor power (not ending the sale of its labor power) and polite requests addressed to president Sebastian Pinera, that he please reign in this whole “social crisis” that is occurring (not even requiring that he be beheaded in the Plaza de Armas), rather than dealing with his ministers who are heirs to a military government, and one that is accountable to al Mossad in Israel every time they attack the proletariat.
But all is not lost, in fact we should be happy about the degree of violence in which the social joints in this country are going on. It’s gratifying and thought-provoking that you can still function, even when you wake up in the morning and see the armed functionaries of capitalism being attacked at 6am, and fire and destruction in different parts of the country. It is thus that a group of encapuchados went out at 10pm from UTEM at Macul and Grecia to demonstrate that violence is the only way to destabilize the State/Capital and break with the imperative social order that protects its continuous violence against the proletariat. As soon as they began to burn a barricade in front of UTEM, a PDI contingent appeared in a flash, armed with pellet-rifles, with the intention of attacking anyone and everyone, be they the comrades of UTEM who defended themselves with molotov cocktails or people who were simply passing by, including those who were in the surrounding area. After a short confrontation with the PDI, the assassination-respression organ left the scene, which led to a direct confrontation with the military pólice who began to utilize the same method of shooting directly at the bodies of everyone nearby. At the end of this clash, the comrades entered the University once again, making it clear that the conditions for negotiation put forward by the political parties do not represent the proletariat with a class consciousness, and that the solution goes far beyond that, to the abolition of every kind of domination, of class society, and for this there is only the path of political violence which leading toward communism and anarchy.”
From Contra Info:
“In the night of August 26th, in Jaime Eyzaguirre neighbourhood of Manuel Gutiérrez Reinoso who was shot dead by police, his relatives and friends held a candle ceremony in the memory of the deceased and marched in the streets of Macul community. Protest gatherings and marches took place in various Chilean cities, as well as in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In Alameda Avenue in downtown Santiago, after 19.00 the cops used violence, water cannons and tear gas to break up the protest march of more than 200 demonstrators. Five protesters were detained, and people in solidarity responded by setting up barricades and clashing with the repressive forces.
The total number of detainees across Chile during the demonstrations of the 48hour general strike (August 24th-25th) is 1,394 people. More than 300 were charged with minor or major violent disorder, assault on police officers and looting, in the majority of cases. Most of the persecuted people were released on restrictive bail conditions; namely they are obliged to appear periodically before the authorities, they are banned from exiting the country and banned from participating in manifestations. Furthermore, more than 20 protesters (the precise number is yet unconfirmed) were charged with firearms possession, and some have been held in custody.
During the protests on Thursday, August 25th, in Santiago, three Colombian youngsters who threw objects against Carabiniers were followed and snatched by undercover agents of the Dipolcar political police. One of them was released. The other two youngsters — one 15-year-old and one 20-year-old — were charged with public violent disorder, and the prosecutor demanded their expulsion from the country. The 15-year-old boy is a political refugee and will not be deported, but the 20-year-old Colombian is threatened with expulsion due to the fact that he joined the protests. In the meantime, the authorities of Santiago Province have filed a lawsuit against the arrested immigrants. (It must be noted that on August 19th in Bogotá, Colombia, a 16-year-old graffitist, Diego Felipe Becerra, has been shot dead in cold blood by national police; protest marches followed Diego’s death.)
It is clear that this repressive action serves as an exemplary measure against all immigrants who live in Chile, so that they know what can happen to them if they protest. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants are being exploited, live in over-crowed homes, and suffer constant discriminations because of their origin and a long list of humiliations for the sole reason of coming from another country. These people could explode at any time against oppression; that’s why the Power suppresses brutally any immigrant that has the ‘nerve’ to protest. In the past, the State of Chile has deported immigrants on the grounds of their participation in gatherings and demos, their solidarity with the Mapuche people or their close relations with left and anarchist radical groups.
Also, on August 25th, a 12-year-old kid was hit in the face by a tear gas grenade during the manifestations in Concepción. The boy’s cheek was deformed after one of the Chilean police murderers fired tear gas against him, near the city’s university.
This is not something new: After the rally for public education on May12th, Carabiniers brutally invaded the University of Concepción. The student Paulina Rubilar was severely injured in one eye by a tear gas grenade.
The murderous practice of firing tear gas straight at demonstrators, along with the extensive use of rubber bullets and plastic pellets has caused injuries to hundreds of people in recent months. Plastic pellets, in addition to causing permanent injuries, can also be fatal —as had happened on March 27th, 1984, during the students protests of the era, when the 24-year-old student Caupolicán Inostroza Lamas was killed by plastic pellets fired by servants of Pinochet’s dictatorship that struck him in the throat.
Nevertheless it seems that bourgeois democracy transcends dictatorship. It is worth mentioning that manifestations against Chile’s billionaire president Sebastián Piñera take place in most (but not all) of the places where he shows up. His government tries to cover up the case of Manuel Gutiérrez Reinoso’s murder. At the same time, police spokesmen deny that a cop, a man of their kind, shot the boy while the corporate media reproduce blatant scenarios in order to weaken the case of state murder.
In a joint statement, the residents of Jaime Eyzaguirre neighbourhood — where the murdered teenager lived — confirm that the police alone are responsible for this murder, like all the testimonies indicate, including that of Manuel’s 22-year-old brother who was with him at the time of murder. The district falls under the jurisdiction of the 43rd Police Department of Peñalolén. In the same statement the residents report that another neighbour was injured in the shoulder by the cops’ shootings. According to the regime’s Press, a youngster confirmed the existence of the injured neighbour. He added that when the patrol car appeared on Amanda Labarca Street, protesters began to hurdle stones on it, and then the cops opened gunfire. However, Manuel was killed nearly 70 metres from the point where the clashes evolved.”
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anarchy, biopolitics, bloggin, communism, death, historical materialism, IEF, redemption, the end of history, the proletariat, walter benjamin
From the IEF blog:
“Theres a man goin’ round taking names and he decides who to free and who to blame. Everybody won’t be treated all the same.”
The fold of our history is either death or redemption. The history of the vanquished and the history of preemptive alienating and policing apparatuses yearn to conclude. We all have a door and a rotting carpet; a family and a dynasty of fuck ups; advanced social dissolution from worlds and senses to answer for. They say men make history, but not in conditions of their choosing. If it is our sensuous activity within a world, a praxis, which generates a world, then by what means do we confront the millions of potentialities which are taken from history? Those souls who are irrevocably lost, or worse yet, rendered bare life through processes of subjectivation, are prepared to be judged, not by history, but by the police. Each death is a tragedy because in “each” there is a shame of separation. The private life only becomes public in death. But this public death is itself a technique of exposure, which links the family and society to the church, to the school, to the prison. The tragedy which the living are constantly exposed to is not merely their own telos but capitalism’s continuous merciless holiday. In this society, no one dies. Everyone is murdered.
What is pathetic in death is not the loss of a container of memories and affects or the fleeting away of another productive member of the family, of society, but the loss of the capacity to speak. Death acts like a nightmare on the living. Conjuring images of “once upon a time,” the living attempt to answer for the horror of a brisk wind which extinguishes light in one subtle swoop. But the sad conclusive cough of a body judged guilty of living in capitalism is repeated and shared. Each voice is rendered mute. Each potentiality perfectly aware of what strangles it daily. The tears of the living for the dead, while representing a real sadness, never conjoin to form the flood which will redeem the past. Instead, the mouth opens, limbs shake with anxiety; our small, light-colored hairs stand up searching for a warmth which is not in this world. And in the end, what could be communicated—the single gesture of communicability itself—is once again lost, irretrievable, amidst blinking lights and the flow of commodities which live so much longer than any of us.
What is redemption in such circumstances? Is it forgiving our trespasses, and forgiving those who trespass against us? By what means do we admit a presence which annuls memories, scars, blood?
My family is connected through Facebook. The eulogy for my grandmother stumbled on her truth. She took on a predictable position of women married to husbands in the twentieth century. She mothered many children and formed the foundation to a family whose care was held by a second-generation Italian pater. She, and all the other shes of the family, suffered only the absence of en-courage-ment. It is not surprising: they all left. My grandmother quietly lived as if she had been redeemed, doing the books to my grandfathers photography business, never once elaborating her own passions for paint on canvas. The eulogy concluded, as my grandmother often would, that if anyone felt despondent, the eulogist would happily go shopping with them. The analogy to government orders following the events of September eleventh to go shopping is not lost on me. There were some really good sales at Macy’s
On the other side of the family, between drinks, and with far too many teenage mothers, I learned cousin Ian had been sentenced in ‘Oh-four. My absence from Facebook excluded me from hearing this bullshit earlier. Was it three-strikes you’re out? Did he have guns too? How long is a life-sentence? The silence of social death touches even the Midwestern Irish working class. My other cousin, who used hockey like how the black body uses football or basketball, or how southern whites use the military, received a terrible back injury and was sentenced to a fancy new oxycodone addiction. Again, if only I had Facebook… One of my sisters still clings to the myth that we’re different because we didn’t grow up in these fucked up conditions, but she conveniently forgot about all the suicides and boredom; the drive-by’s and the addictions, even the empty refrigerators, which painfully illustrate our miserable upbringing. We all ran too, and we ran for a reason.
The fold of this history is uncertain. On the one hand, everything about today, and even yesterday, just points toward the production of death. Enduring high school, when anarchy was merely a secret which Propagandhi attempted to whisper to me through power chords; or when struggle was just some band that that dude from the Locust was in, Columbine seemed perfectly reasonable. We sketched pictures of it all the time. We searched our history books, attempting to discover any time when the underdog wreaked its vengeance. We had no voice then, no words to call our own, and no world which affected us. We had only the conditions of all of that dissolving. In that time, many of us were quite literally unwanted children; and judging by the fields we set on fire, the plots to blow up schools, the churches we vandalized, and unfortunately, the animals which we tortured, we were capable of some fucked up shit. The youth of today are even worse.
On the other hand, maybe we can once more be affected by “Death to death!” Which is not to say, “peace.” But more specifically, our time, capitalist time, is a time of living-dead. Techniques of government expose life’s limits to itself and generate bare life. No one knows sovereignty better than the life which is judged not worth living by the police or the life which is let to live by its manager. And because of Biopower and the Spectacle, it’s increasingly difficult to separate any of these figures. Redemption in this world is not repaying a debt, atoning for guilt which we owe society. Capitalism is guilt. We owe them nothing. Redemption is giving them just that.
Walter Benjamin writes: “For we have been expected upon this earth. For it has been given us to know, just like every generation before us, a weak messianic power, on which the past has a claim. This claim is not to be settled lightly.” The day after my grandmother died, I set off for New York to do a panel about the messianic analogy within the proletariat. The day before my grandmother’s funeral, I spoke of becoming sensitive to the imperceptible civil war which has taken place as class struggle and now takes place as social war. In the conditions of social war, this civil war can be felt as a war between normality and its cracks. The proletariat within this civil war is a force who is contingent on history but whose possibility lies outside of it. The proletariat cancels and fulfills history through its own self-negation. At one time, in the conditions of industrialization, classical politics, and a strategically positioned portion of the oppressed, the proletariat took form in the messianic-gesture, what Benjamin called the “divine violence” of the general strike. The proletariat, who was contingent on “a class of civil society but not of civil society,” was expressed as the industrial working class using their own labor-power—what produced value—to negate value and class society itself: redemption.
Benjamin continues, “nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history. Only a redeemed humankind receives the fullness of its past. Which is to say, only for a redeemed humankind has its past become citable in all moments. Each moment it has lived becomes a citation a l’ordre du jour [order of the day]—and that day is Judgement Day.”
“The hairs on your arm will stand up. At the terror in each sip and in each sup. For you partake of that last offered cup, Or disappear into the potter’s ground. When the man comes around.
Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers. One hundred million angels singin’. Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum. Voices callin’, voices cryin’. Some are born an’ some are dyin’. It’s Alpha’s and Omega’s Kingdom come…
Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still. Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still. Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.”
The insurrection which comes is not generated from the desire for a better world: there is none. It is not even the accomplishment of democracy. It is the nightmare of the past holding the future hostage, and publicly killing and feasting on it on youtube, over and over again. In our conditions, that of an absolute social war, insurrection and its total extension is the rhythm we must collectively write and impose on capitalist society. Through these experiments and repeated gestures we develop a new sentimental intelligence and different sensuous praxis which no longer accepts our shameful conditions. We impose different collectivities beyond family, nation, and society exactly at the point of their negation. We find we are not alone, exactly at the point we lose our selves. We share exactly at the point when we begin to seize. When each funeral loses what was attempting to kept it a private affair—when newspapers are terrified to write a single obituary because the will of the dead keeps leaving ruin in its wake—then we will begin to know what redemption entail.
-Liam Sionnach | IEF | Jan ’10