Filed under: war-machine | Tags: austerity, capitalism, cocktail, crisis, fortnum & mason's, london, march 26th, occupied london
From Occupied London:
Far from a report on the day’s demonstration – of which plenty circulate around the web – this is a semi-fictional account perhaps to be read as a piece building on Hackney Algeria, Occupied London #3. More to come, hopefully.
The eternal sunshine of London’s March 26th, 2011 (Or: places move – the people merely move along with them.)
Her aircraft slowly descending into London’s sea of cloudy mist, she was expecting to find everything else in its place too – the buzzing streets, the hushed dwellers… But no. From early on, it was clear that things were going to be very different this time round. Stepping into the tube train she was hit with the first revelation: gone were the silent tube carriages with mute book-readers, this was by now a time when passengers would actually look at one another and could even, in extremis, engage in casual conversation.
At the train platform she saw no designated busking spots and she ran into panhandlers jumping in and out of tube trains instead. Out on the streets, and she was sure it wasn’t just her, people were walking in some slower pace. She overtook one passer-by. Then another one, and another. What on earth was going on? It was as if Londoners weren’t Londoners anymore, as if the ground they inhabited had somewhat moved under their feet to a more slow-paced, relaxed location – and for the fear of losing that ground Londoners had moved along with it. Londoners were not in London any more, and neither was London itself.
(and then came Saturday.)
It had been dubbed the largest demonstration in years, a show not to be missed – and of course she could not resist the temptation. It is early morning. Outside Holborn station, the usual manic procession of commuters was nowhere to be seen. An eerie feeling in its place. The people were still there, even more so – they were there in the thousands. But they were in no rush to go anywhere; just happy, for once, to be there. For all the anger venting for the cuts the procession had this peculiarly joyful feeling, the feeling of discovering the city from scratch, of rereading previously familiar sites, buildings, crossings along with so many others doing exactly the same. And the police? She could see in their faces that they were too few, too lost. In this new place they were out-of-place.
For thousands and thousands of people around her it felt as if the official demonstration route never existed. She quickly found herself in Oxford Street. The usual crowd hurling shopping orders at the counters of a myriad stores was, still there but so was another crowd, mingling and co-existing with it. A crowd not often seen around here, now swirling from a storefront to another. Smashed shop fronts standing next to shops still welcoming bemused consumers – the peculiarities of crisis capitalism.
It is late evening at Piccadilly. She has been walking up and down central London all day. The short strip of land between Fortnum&Mason’s (the luxury department store occupied by UK Uncut) and Piccadilly square plays host to near-choreographic clashes between police and the bodies of protesters that resist being contained into any kettle. A few hours into the stand-off, some people a few meters from her pull a badly wrapped molotov cocktail out of a bag, light and throw it in the direction of the police, the gigantic Coca-Cola sign still flashing in the background. It strikes her, right then: these people do not carry the experience of London in taking this action. There hasn’t been a molotov cocktail thrown in London in years.
But is this London? As the light dims, the city starts moving. London is now in Turin, where the tourists enthusiastically signing Bella Ciao are from. London is in Athens, in an alleyway setting up barricades to stop the Delta motorcycle police from crossing through. London is in a city after another, it becomes a series of images flashing before her eyes, a cinematic reality where she expects someone to scream, “CUT”. But no. There are no cuts here. She looks around: the molotov incident has passed unnoticed in the sea of Piccadilly frenzy.
Welcome, she thinks to herself, to the London of the real.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anarchy, bank burning, flesh machine, Greece, ideology, occupied london
This is an interesting piece of harsh criticism motivated by frustration from the responses to the three workers who died in the bank fire last week in Greece.
from Occupied London:
“Why is this age worse than earlier ages?
In a stupor of grief and dread
have we not fingered the foulest wounds
and left them unhealed by our hands?
(Anna Akhmatova “Why is this age worse?”, 1919)
On May the 5th the explosion of ideology that has plagued radical circles for some time now reached its tragic apex: 3 dead bank workers. With few honourable exceptions, in the next days knee-jerk reactions to the deaths consisted of blaming the police, the bosses, or even more abstractly Capital and the State for the carnage. Among these accusatory rituals, the lack of self-criticism is deafening. If the great silence were merely the result of some sort of existential numbness, it would be purely proof of the radicals’ inability to cope with the inevitable. Yet this silence is structural. It is an organisational component of the degeneration of the radical movement into a cult with its own oaths of secrecy, its own rules of speaking the truth, and of course its own precious totems and taboos.
After almost 16 months since December 2008 there has been an astonishing lack of critical analysis on the social uprising and the conditions of possibility and impossibility that it has opened. On this arid soil a morbid plant has cast its roots: a string of actions that can only be interpreted as ritual invocations for the return of the event, a mode of fidelity to December that both fails to recognise its historically situated uniqueness and attempts to substitute its spontaneous social dynamism with the programmatic dynasticism of some revolutionary vanguard. Such actions, focused as they are on the implementation of some absolute truth, are not only pillaging the event of December of its radical potential, but are projecting into the future the image of an evental trace which is intelligible only in terms of an impotent present, a present that contains no positivity other than an imagined negation of negation, that Hegelian double-bind that entraps the social into a dialectical circle of the return of the same: authoritarianism. Thus all that made the bourgeois criticism against the December Uprising (in terms of “nihilistic narcissism”, “a vicious sterile circle”, etc.) look like a Persian exercise of beating the sea with chains, today acquires a disturbing validity that can only make us conclude that the worst enemy of the revolution are the revolutionaries themselves.
Some people during the last general strike march, seeing 200,000 protestors roaring in rage and some even trying to storm the steps to Parliament, could only think of a means to perform their own petty identity as the vanguard of militancy. For that is what this cult has at its core: rituals of performativity, rituals of sustaining and reproducing the equilibrium of “toughness”, of “strength”, of “militancy”, of “fist-readiness”, or what may the symbolic order of rebel-masculinity consist of. Violence, so abstractly demonised by the bourgeoisie, is only a functional component of this process – not the objectified problem but the effect of an acutely problematic relation. A relation of competition for the most “advanced”, the most “dynamic” action, the most aggressive and seemingly uncompromising “attack”, the most one-dimensional being-in-the-world. What connects all these performances of “revolutionary singularity” is not their violence per se, but the vainglorious competitive culture of militaristic machoness. The establishment of a gendered hierarchy of “will” to the exclusion of the open mass-struggles that are developing throughout the country: a new Stalinism.
Voluntaristic activism, that bastard of the worst Blanquist traditions of the Left, is thus posing self-content as a spectacular substitute to the long and painful processes of self-organisation and proletarian recomposition. With the abyss of egoistic ambition as its only promise, it threatens to devour any sense of principled struggle, any sensibility of egalitarian responsibility towards social emancipation, and any value of mutual help. This militantism is growing into the symptomal kernel of an ailing society. And like all symptoms it functions only so that this society and its ailment endure.
The 5th of May signalled the final end of innocence. In its nearly four years of publication Flesh Machine has tried to introduce into the radical movement a critical perspective in the hope to sweep away the stale air of revolutionary ritualism and help equip people who genuinely care for the creation of a social and desiring rupture with tools of analysing the real in non-dogmatic ways. This was an effort based on the tradition of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Judith Butler, the great heretics of western philosophy and aesthetics. Trying to engage these in the actual social struggles of its time was the prime goal of the magazine and its auxiliary publications, a process not without its problems or contradictions, yet sincerely committed to social and desiring emancipation. If Flesh Machine was in its own terms a desiring machine, it has turned out to be a locomotive deprived of its tracks. An effort of deterritorialisation (in terms of theory, ethics and aesthetics) that can no longer relate to the ground it originally invested as a plane of immanence. Rather than degenerating into a frustrated and resentful process of intellectual exploration within an increasingly alienated environment, Flesh Machine and its human component have decided to withdraw their labour, and interrupt permanently any contribution to the radical milieu.
This move will be inevitably interpreted by professional revolutionaries as a final proof of the bourgeois nature of the project, of the weakness of intellectuals, of the treachery of academics at the “height of the struggle” and so on and so forth. We leave them at their antiquated Marxist meta-narrative to enjoy the surplus-enjoyment of their position as being eternally right on the condition that they always fail. Let them remember however that the breaking point of every revolutionary process is when subjects who have no objective class interest in the revolution but who are committed to social emancipation because of an ethical mode of inhabiting the world decide that the revolutionary process in place can only lead to a new form of tyranny. Some people will remember the murder of Kitsos Maltezos, more the Soviet invasion of Hungary, the Chinese invasion of Vietnam etc. – these were events that revealed how the revolutionaries, being so preoccupied with changing the world, had forgotten to change themselves and were thus bound to reproduce the same old world in ever more suffocating and brutal versions of authoritarianism. This does not mean that all revolutionary processes are doomed to failure – for they only do so when people forget that what lies outside the state of things is always-already part of a structural relation of that state of things. Only when people forget to walk through the Oedipal wound that constitutes them in their negation of the symbolic Other.
In its desertion Flesh Machine does not forget the readers who have supported this heretical project and pointed out at its various mistakes and weaknesses. With them lies the force of rupturing thought and critique. With them lies the force of responsibility.
FIN (En Fin)
Flesh Machine, 10 May 2010
Filed under: reviews | Tags: anarchy, anonymous, commune, communization, France, human strike, invisible committee, occupied london, Tarnac, tiqqun, whatever
This isn’t exactly new. It maybe came out about six months ago. However the concepts that this piece works through and plays with are still very useful. Its main merit is summarizing the collective project of all the recent TIQQUN and Invisible Committee texts, which could be both introductory and a kind of cliff notes for people who have been already engaged with these ideas.
From Occupied London #4:
Silently, and without much notice until recently, a series of collective, anonymous French texts appeared between 1999 and 2007 that effectively slashed open a gap into the seamless fabric of banal political critique. Packed within the two issues of the journal Tiqqun—subtitled, at one point, Conscious Organ of the Imaginary Party—is a minefield of ideas barely tapped and hardly translated, including: Theory of Bloom, Theses on the Imaginary Party, Man-Machine: Directions for Use, First Materials for a Theory of the Young Girl, Introduction to Civil War, The Cybernetic Hypothesis, Theses on the Terrible Community, This is Not a Program, and How is it to be Done? Subsequently, an anonymous Call surfaced which responded to Tiqqun’s provocations, laying out more clearly just how it is to be done. Finally, in 2007 the Insurrection to Come emerged, that searing text by the “Invisible Committee” which the French government has recently described as a “manual for insurrection.” Using it as their only evidence, the Minister of Interior has accused the alleged writers of “conspiracy to terrorism” in relation to the recent rail sabotages.
Perhaps, at the risk of becoming accomplices in a thoughtcrime, it is time to seriously look at this family of texts. For as we will see, although the government is wrong to accuse them of terrorism, they are right to be afraid of the ideas housed within. For if they are to be thought through, then what they are describing is nothing less than the dissolution of the modern world as such. But this goal is nothing to fear for all those who desire worlds other than this one, worlds in which our ability to collectively exist outstrips any governmental, capitalist, or societal attempt to capture our desires. What follows is a skeleton that emerges from a reading of four of those texts—Introduction to Civil War, How is it to be done?, Call, and Insurrection to Come—which can hopefully guide one through the shifting fields of meaning that are produced therein.
In a series of theses and notes, the Introduction to Civil War lays out the biopolitical horizon in which our modern lives are situated. This horizon is conceived of as a global “civil war” amongst forms-of-life. How is it to be done? poetically marks the ethical necessity of becoming-anonymous, of dis-identifiying with all received and all possible forms of political classification. To realize this en masse, we must pass through the unchartered waters of the Human Strike, that form of action in which inoperativity becomes synonymous with possibility. In seven propositions and scholia, the Call critiques existing forms of activism as not only irrelevant, but reactionary as well. Once this is accomplished, the desertion of activism can begin, in which living communism and spreading anarchy constitute the dual sides of the same structure of revolt. The Insurrection to Come, after outlining the seven circles of hell in which contemporary French politics resides, opens up onto a strategy of resistance centered on the irreversible multiplication of articulated communes. The commune names both the work of self-sufficiency shared amongst comrades as well as the incessant blockages, liberations, and points of confrontation that populate and crack the metropolis itself. What is the reason for all of this? Survival and its correlate, joy.
There are two moments which these texts all are crafted around, two simultaneous and overlapping possibilities of action which are articulated within a widening zone of indistinction called the commune. These two moments, although empirically indistinguishable, are logically discrete; they signify the two sides of communisation. That is, on the one hand, a subjective decomposition occurs through becoming a whatever singularity in the human strike; and on the other hand, a collective reconstitution occurs through forming and experiencing a consistency of intense strategies of sharing, blockading, and liberating territory. Like a möbius strip, the inside flips outside in the “center” of this politics-without-name. For instance, describing the politics of the whatever singularity, it is written,
Becoming whatever is more revolutionary than any whatever-being.
Liberating spaces sets us free a hundred times more than any
More than putting any power into action, I enjoy the circulation of
my potentialities. The politics of the whatever singularity lies in the
Within the contemporary order of empire, where life itself is the object and ground of political power, the ability to evade capture is the same ability to confront power, for power itself is grafted onto an architecture of control which only needs to recognize something in order to neutralize it. “From now on, to be perceived means to be defeated.” Becoming anonymous while remaining singular is the modern task of resistance today, a task as offensive as it is defensive. This is, therefore, what grounds the imperative of the human strike:
Empire means that in all things the political moment dominates
the economic one.
A general strike is helpless against this.
What must be opposed to Empire is a human strike.
Which never attacks relations of production without attacking at the
the affective knots which sustain them.
Which undermines the shameful libidinal economy of Empire,
Which restores the ethical element – the how – repressed in every
contact between neutralised bodies.
What the human strikes creates is the possibility for shared worlds to communicate free of coercion on the basis of their needs. These shared worlds constitute the commune. “The commune is the basic unit in a life of resistance. The insurrectionary surge is probably nothing more than a multiplication of communes, their articulation and inter-connection.”
On one side of the commune then is the vector of self-dissolution, a process by which worn identities such as ‘activist’, ‘squatter’, ‘environmentalist’ etc., become utterly void of meaning. Against the triumph of “existential liberalism” and its emphasis on individual choice, distinct properties, social contracts, and the management of things, we must instead form worlds created out of our own shared needs and desires. If we live in a world where politics is nothing but the consumption of an identity-of-resistance, then in order to outmanoeuvre politics, we must vomit up our identities wholesale. Becoming opaque to the managers of empire, we subtract ourselves from their forms of accounting as well. Hence,
of my own desubjectivisation. I become
a whatever singularity. My presence starts overflowing the whole
apparatus of qualities that are usually associated with me.
Evading the “imperial police of qualities,” this dis-identification opens up a space in which a real singular existence can emerge.
Everything that isolates me as a subject, as a body provided with a
public configuration of attributes, I feel melting.
The bodies fray at their limit. At their limit, become indistinct.
This existence, while formally anonymous, is materially present. This is named the form-of-life. “The elementary human unity is not the body—the individual—but the form-of-life.” Expressing not the what of life but the how, this affective form traverses individual bodies, either joining with those which are compatible (friendship) or repelling from those which are irreconcilable (enmity). The free play between forms-of-life is named civil war. “‘Civil war’ then, because forms-of-life are indifferent to the separations of men from women, political existence from bare life, civilian from military; because to be neutral is to take sides in the free play of forms-of-life; because this play between forms-of-life has no beginning or end that can be declared, its sole end being the physical end of the world that no one would be able to declare.” World civil war is nothing but this situation generalized across the planet. In this situation, the enemy is not something which we stand opposed to, but rather a milieu which we stand hostile within.
If our forms-of-life are the parties to a world civil war, then how do they communicate without becoming identities, without mimicking the state-form? It is here that the force of the imaginary party and the invisible committee comes through. For in the collective drowning of one’s own assignable qualities, zones of opacity emerge which, being empty of all predicates, effectively constitute the common. Rendering oneself inoperative alongside others—that is, engaging in the human strike—reveals the possibility of communication across bodies with no names.
I need to become anonymous. In order to be present.
The more anonymous I am, the more present I am.
I need zones of indistinction
to reach the Common.
To no longer recognize myself in my name. To no longer hear in my
name anything but the voice that calls it.
To give substance to the how of beings, not what they are but how they
are what they are. Their life-form.
I need zones of opacity where the attributes,
even criminal, even brilliant,
no longer separate bodies.
In other words, “the collective creation of a strategy is the only alternative to falling back on an identity.” In this zone of indistinction born of the human strike, comes the possibility that such a strategy may take hold. By unraveling the process of biopolitical desubjectivization on one side of the commune, we find ourselves exposed to the possibility for an insurgent resubjectivization on the other. Hence, we move around, in a torsion of being, from the logic of the human strike to the strategy of communisation.
“Our strategy is therefore the following,” says the Call, “to immediately establish a series of foci of desertion, of secession poles, of rallying points. For the runaways. For those who leave. A set of places to take shelter from the control of a civilisation that is headed for the abyss.” These foci of desertion are not given but neither are they created; they are rather established within and through what is already present. They are topological mutations of the forms we are presented with, such that experience knows no name for our modes of relation with them, except through the link between sharing and needs. “Communism starts from the experience of sharing. And first, from the sharing of our needs.” Here “needs” refers to “the relationship through which a certain sensible being gives meaning to such or such element of his world” In this view, communism is another word for the “sharing of the sensible,” the practice of coordinating worlds of meaning across the abyss of bare life.
Reconstituting worlds of shared experience “can only take the form of a collection of acts of communisation, of making common such-and-such space, such-and-such machine, such-and-such knowledge. That is to say, the elaboration of the mode of sharing that attaches to them. Sharing here is not simply a gratuitous act between individuals, but a mode of survival across bodies and spaces in a consistent series of linked events. Communising a space, knowledge or object is not changing its relations of production, but rather abolishing those relations, rendering them structurally meaningless, indeterminable. “Communising a place means: setting its use free, and on the basis of this liberation experimenting with refined, intensified, and complicated relations.”
But communising without anarchizing is hopeless, for one must constitute a threat in order for communism to be more than an isolated affair. Following the logic of anarchy implies here the task of causing inscrutable confusion and damage to the enemy while simultaneously expanding one’s power of self-organization with one’s friends. Three notes on how to do this culled from the Insurrection to Come: one, fan the flames of every crisis. Why? Because “the interruption of the flow of commodities, the suspension of normality and of police control releases a potential for self-organization unthinkable under normal circumstances.” Two, liberate territory from police occupation; avoid direct confrontation as much as possible. Expose the police for what they are: shameless parasites of the fear of people. Don’t fetishize police confrontation, rather confront the fetishization of the police. Finally, blockade everything. In a world where “power is the very organization itself of the metropolis,” where life is suspended such that capital may be free, any and every interruption has the possibility of reopening the possibility of life again. “But a blockage can only go as far as the capacity of the insurgents to feed themselves and to communicate, as far as the effective self-organization of the different communes.” In other words, blockades must contribute to both the extensive mutilation of the metropolitan form as well as the intensive circulation of self-perpetuating knowledge and affects. Perhaps, if one maintains an attention of discipline, if one wagers on a thin ridge their entire existence, then what becomes possible is that as yet unachieved goal for every insurrection: to become irreversible.
This is where we are left today. With comrades in jail, how are we to take this in, make it ours, consume it without deforming it? If the invisible has become identified, if the opaque has been made transparent, then there is no other solution but to disguise ourselves once more, opening
after human strike, to reach
where there is nothing but,
where we are all,