Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The commune is the elementary unit of resistance reality. An insurrectionary upswing perhaps means no more than a multiplication of communes, their connections to each other, and their articulation. In the course of events, either the communes will melt into entities of a larger scale, or they will break up into fractions. Between a band of brothers and sisters tied together “in life and in death,” and the meeting of a multiplicity of groups, committees, gangs, to organize supplies and self-defense in a neighborhood, or even in a whole region in revolt, there is only a difference of scale; they are all communes.
All the communes can only tend towards self-sufficiency in food and feel that money within them is a derisory thing, out of place there. The power of money is that it forms connections between those who have no connections, connects strangers as strangers and thus, by making all things equivalent through it, gets everything into circulation. But the price of money’s capacity to tie everything together is the superficiality of those ties, where lies are the rule. Distrust is the foundation of the credit relationship. Because of this the reign of money must always be the reign of control. The practical abolition of money will only be accomplished by the expansion of the communes. Each commune in its expansion, however, must take care not grow beyond a certain size, after which it would lose contact with itself and almost unavoidably give rise to a dominant class within it. And the communes will prefer to split up, to spread themselves better that way, and simultaneously to prevent such an unfortunate problem.
The uprising of Algerian youth that set all Kabylia aflame in spring 2001 managed to retake almost the whole territory, attacking the armed police, the courthouses, and all the representations of the State, and generalizing the riot until they caused the unilateral retreat of the forces of order, until they physically prevented the elections from being held. The movement’s strength was in the diffuse complementarity of multiple constituents – who were only very partially represented in the endless and hopelessly masculine assemblies of the village committees and other popular committees. The face of the “communes” of the still trembling Algerian insurrection was those “blazing,” helmeted youths, throwing bottles of gasoline at the riot cops from a Tizi Ouzou rooftop; it was the mocking smile of an old resistance fighter draped in his burnoose; it was the energy of the women of a mountain village still growing food and raising animals in the traditional way, in spite of and against everything, without which the blockades of the region’s economy would never have been so repetitive or so systematic.

Fan the flames of every crisis

“It must be added, furthermore, that we wouldn’t be able to treat the whole French population. We would thus have to make choices.” That’s how a virology expert, writing in Le Monde on the 7th of September 2005, sums up what would happen in the case of a bird-flu epidemic. “Terrorist threats,” “natural disasters,” “virus alerts,” “social movements,” and “urban violence” are for society’s managers so many moments of instability where they reinforce their power by selecting what works for them and destroying what embarrasses them. So, logically, those moments are also an occasion for all other forces to gather or to reinforce themselves, by taking up the opposition. The interruption of commodity flows, the suspension of normalcy – it’s enough just to see the resurgence of social life that takes place in a building that’s suddenly had its electricity cut off to imagine what could become of life in a city deprived of everything – and of police control liberate a potential for self-organization that would be unthinkable in other circumstances. This escapes no one. The revolutionary workers’ movement understood it well, as it made bourgeois capitalism’s crises into the high points of their increase of power. The Islamic groups are never as powerful as they are when they have wisely stepped in to compensate for the weakness of the State, for example in the setup of aid after the Boumerdes earthquake in Algeria, or in their everyday assistance rendered to the population of southern Lebanon, destroyed by the Israeli army.
As we mentioned above, the devastation of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina gave a whole fringe of the North American anarchist movement the opportunity to take on a previously unknown substance by rallying all those who were resisting the forced relocations then and there. Setting up street cafes presupposes that prior arrangements will have been made for supplies; emergency medical aid requires a prior acquisition of the necessary knowledge and materials, as does the installation of pirate radio stations. What is joyful about them, what goes beyond individual resourcefulness, what is tangibly real and resists the everyday banality of order and work about them, guarantees the political fecundity of such experiences.
In a country like France where the radioactive clouds stop at the border and there’s no fear of building a cancer-center on the old AZF factory site, a Seveso class area, we’ll have to bank on social crises, and not so much on “natural” crises. Social movements are here what interrupts the ongoing normal disaster. Certainly in these last years the various strikes have primarily been occasions for power and corporate administrations to test their capacity to maintain ever more broadly applied “minimum service” until work stoppages are reduced to a purely symbolic aspect – hardly any more damaging than snowfall or a suicide on the highway. But by overturning the established militant practices with their the systematic occupation of establishments and stubborn blockading, the highschoolers’ struggles of 2005 and the anti-CPE struggle recalled the capacity for diffuse offensives and nuisances caused by large movements. With all the gangs that emerged in their wake, they gave a glimpse of the kind of movement conditions that can become the birthplace of new communes.

Sabotage all representation.
Generalize arguments.
Abolish the general assemblies.

All social movements’ first obstacle, well before the police proper, are the union forces, and all of that whole micro-bureaucracy whose office is to circumscribe struggles. The communes, rank-and-file groups, and gangs spontaneously defy them. That’s why the para-bureaucrats have for the past 20 years been inventing front groups that look more innocent because they lack a label, but nonetheless remain the ideal terrain for their maneuvers. If any stray collective decides to have a go at autonomy, they’ll immediately and endlessly drain it of all content by resolutely ruling out any good issues or questions. They are ferocious; they get heated up, not in the passion of debating, but by their vocational conjuring of debate. And when their stubborn defense of apathy finally wins the collective over, they’ll explain their defeat by a lack of political consciousness. It must be said that in France, thanks to the crazed activity of the different trotskyist cliques, there’s no shortage of the art of political manipulation among the militant youth. They could never draw this lesson from the firestorm of November 2005: all front groups are superfluous when there is real organization; organizations always get in the way whenever people start to self-organize.
Another reflex is to make a general assembly and vote whenever there is the slightest movement. The simple issue of a vote, of which decision will win, is enough to change the assembly into a nightmare, to make a theater out of it, where all the various little pretenders to power confront each other. And therein we suffer from the bad example of bourgeois parliaments. The assemblies are not made for decision making but for arguing, for free-speech to be exercised aimlessly.
The need to assemble is as constant a need among humans as the need to make decisions is rare. Gathering together goes hand in hand with the joy of feeling common power. To decide is only vital in emergency situations, where the exercise of democracy is compromised anyway. For the rest of the time, “the democratic character of the decision making process” is only a problem for the procedure fanatics. There’s no reason to critique the assemblies or desert them, but to liberate our speech, gestures, and play in them. It’s enough just to see that each person doesn’t come to the assembly with just one point of view or some one motion, but with desires, attachments, capacities, strengths, sadness, and a certain availability. If the General Assembly fantasy can be gotten rid of and replaced by a kind of assembly of presences, if the always renascent temptation of hegemony can be evaded, if making decisions is no longer fixed as the final goal, then there might be some chance that a kind of mass solidification could take place, one of those collective crystallization phenomena where a decision suddenly takes people, as a whole or only in part.
It’s the same for deciding on actions. To start from the principle that “the action in question should determine the trajectory of an assembly” is to make both debate coming to a boil and efficient action impossible. An assembly made up of numerous people that are foreign to one another is damned to give rise to action specialists, that is, to give the action up to their control. On the one hand, delegates are by definition hindered in their actions; on the other nothing’s stopping them from deceiving everybody.
There’s no reason to propose an ideal form of action. The essential thing is that action take on a certain form, that it create it and not be made to undergo it. This presupposes that one particular political and geographical position – like in the sections of the Paris Commune in the French Revolution – be shared by all, as well presupposing that a certain knowledge will be going around. As for deciding on actions, the principle might be conceived as follows: let each person do reconnaissance, put information together, and the decision will come by itself, and will take us, rather than us taking it. The circulation of knowledge annuls hierarchy; it equalizes everything from the top down. Horizontal communication, proliferated everywhere, is the best form of coordinating different communes and of putting an end to hegemony.

Block the economy, but measure our
blockading power by our level of self-organization

At the end of June 2006, throughout the whole State of Oaxaca, occupations of city halls multiplied, and insurgents occupied public buildings. In certain communities they expelled the mayors and requisitioned the official vehicles. A month later, the entries to certain hotels and tourist complexes were blocked. The minister of Tourism talked about it like it was a catastrophe “comparable to hurricane Wilma.” A few years earlier, blockading had become one of the primary forms of action for the Argentine revolt movement; the different local groups aided each other to blockade one major road after another, and threatening to paralyze the whole country by remaining there in their joint action if their demands weren’t met. Such a threat was for many years a powerful tool in the hands of railway workers, electric and gas workers, and truck drivers. The anti-CPE movement didn’t hesitate to blockade train stations, ring roads, factories, highways, supermarkets, and even airports. No more than 300 persons were necessary in Rennes to immobilize the beltway for hours and cause a forty kilometer traffic jam.
Blockade everything – from here on out that will be the first reflex of everything that stands against the present order. In a delocalized economy, where companies function on the basis of continual flows, where value derives from connections to a whole network, where highways are rings in the de-materialized production chain that goes from one subcontractor to the next, and then on to the assembly factory, blockading production also means blocking circulation.
But this blockading can’t go so far as to prevent the insurgents from getting their supplies and communicating with each other; it cannot go so far as to hinder the effective self-organization of the different communes. How would we feed ourselves when everything is paralyzed? Pillaging the shops, as was done in Argentina, has its limit; as immense as the temples of consumption are, there aren’t infinite food-stores. Acquiring, in the meantime, an aptitude for procuring elementary subsistence thus implies appropriating the means of their production. And on this matter, to wait any longer appears rather useless. To let two percent of the population go on taking care of producing food for everyone else is a historical inanity as much as a strategic one.

Liberate the territory from police occupation.
Avoid direct confrontation as much as possible

“This whole business brings to light that we aren’t dealing with a few youths demanding a bit too much social change, but with individuals who have declared war on the Republic,” noted a lucid cop on the subject of the recent surprise attacks. The offensive aiming to liberate the territory from its occupation by the police has already begun, and it’s got the inexhaustible reserves of united resentment towards those forces going for it. The “social movements” themselves have been won over by rioting, no less than the Rennes partiers that back in 2005 used to fight the riot cops every Thursday night, or the partiers from Barcelona that recently devastated a main commercial artery of the city during one of their botellones . The anti-CPE movement saw the return of regular use of molotov cocktails. But certain suburbs are the molotov champions. Notably when it comes to a technique that is now already rather old: the ambush. Like the one that happened in Epinay on October 13, 2006: some BAC teams rolled out around 11 pm, answering a call about a trailer that had been broken into, and upon their arrival one of the teams was “blocked in by two vehicles that pulled up across the road and by around thirty individuals carrying iron bars and handguns, that threw rocks at the police cars and used tear gas against the police.” On a smaller scale, one might consider those police stations that have been attacked after closing hours: windows smashed, cars set on fire.
One of the results of the latest movements is that a real demonstration is from now on a “wildcat” one, one without any permits from the police. Having the choice of terrain, we’ll need to do as the Black Bloc did in Genoa in 2001: by-pass the red zones, avoid direct confrontations, and, deciding on a trajectory, run the cops around instead of being run around by the trades-union and pacifist police. A thousand some people there managed to push back whole trucks full of carabinieri and eventually set their vehicles on fire. The important thing is not so much to be the most well-armed as it is to have the initiative. Courage alone is nothing, but confidence in one’s own courage is everything. And having the initiative contributes to that.
Direct confrontations can be conceived of, however, as fixation points, to stall the enemy and attack elsewhere, even very close by. That direct confrontations can’t be kept from happening doesn’t mean that it can’t be used as a diversion. Beyond just taking actions, their coordination must be taken on. By harassing the police, it can be brought about that although they may be everywhere, they become effective nowhere.
Every act of harassment recalls a truth that was spoken in 1842: “The life of a police agent is tiresome; his position in society is as humiliating and scorned as crime itself... shame and infamy close in upon him from all sides, society chases him from its midst, isolates him as a pariah, spits scorn at him as his payment, without remorse, without regret, and without pity... the policeman’s ID card, carried in his wallet, is but the proof of his disgrace and shame.” The 21st of November, 2006, the striking firemen of Paris attacked the riot cops with hammer blows and wounded fifteen of them. This was a reminder that to want to exercise “the profession of serving and protecting” will never be a valid excuse for joining the police force.

Be armed. But do everything possible to make the use of weapons superfluous. Against the army, victory is political.

There’s no such thing as a peaceful insurrection. Weapons are necessary: it’s a question of doing everything possible to make their use superfluous. An insurrection is more just about taking up arms and maintaining an “armed presence,” than it is about entering an armed struggle. Weapons are a constant in revolutionary situations, though their use is infrequent or indecisive, in moments of great reversals: August 10th 1792, March 18th, 1871, October 1917. When power is in the gutter, it’s enough just to trample it underfoot.
From the distance that separates us from them, weapons have taken on a kind of double character of fascination and disgust, that only training in their use can overcome. Authentic pacifism can’t mean refusing weapons, but only refusing to use them. Pacifism without being able to fire bullets is just theorizing on powerlessness. Such a priori pacifism is a kind of preventive disarmament, a pure police operation. In truth the pacifist question is only serious for those who have the ability to fire bullets. And in this case pacifism would be on the contrary a indication of real power, since only from an extremely strong position is one liberated from the need to use the gun.
From a strategic point of view, indirect, asymmetrical action seems the most effective, the most adapted to the era: an occupation army can’t be attacked frontally. For all that, the perspective of going urban guerrilla Iraqi-style, which would get bogged down without the possibility of going on the offense, would be more to be feared than desired. The militarization of civil war is the defeat of insurrection. Though the Reds had their triumph in 1921, the Russian Revolution was already lost.
Two kinds of state reactions must be envisioned. The one of plain hostility, the other more underhanded, democratic. The first being wordless destruction, the second a subtle but implacable hostility: hoping to enlist us. We can be defeated both by dictatorship itself and by being reduced to opposing only dictatorship. Defeat consists as much in losing the war as in losing the choice of which war to wage. Both are possible, though, as was proven in Spain in 1936: the revolutionaries there were doubly defeated, both by fascism and by the republic.
When things get serious, the army will take over the terrain. The way it will commence taking action is less obvious. It would require that the State be resolutely committed to causing a bloodbath, one that at present is no more than a threat, almost like the threat of using the nuclear bomb was a half-century ago. Though it has been wounded for a long while, the beast of the State is still dangerous. It still remains that to go against the army a massive crowd is necessary, invading its ranks and fraternizing with the soldiers. Another March 18th 1871 is necessary. When the army hits the street, that’s an insurrectionary situation. When the army’s gone into action, it’s pushing the issue. Everyone will find himself or herself forced to take a side, and choose between anarchy and the fear of anarchy. An insurrection only triumphs as a political force. Politically it’s not impossible to defeat an army.

Depose authorities locally

For an insurrection, the question is how to go beyond the point of no return. Irreversibility is attained when the authorities’ need for authority has been defeated, when property’s taste for accumulation has been defeated, when the desire of all hegemony for hegemony has been defeated. That’s why the insurrectional process contains within itself either the very form of its victory, or that of its defeat. Destruction has never been enough to bring things beyond the point of no return. It’s all in how it’s done. There are ways of destroying things that unavoidably provoke the return of what has been annihilated. He who kicks the corpse of a social order is guaranteed to awaken its professional avengers. Also, wherever the economy is blockaded, wherever the police are neutralized, it’s important to have the least possible pathos about the overthrow of the authorities. They must be deposed with scrupulous casualness and derision.

In these times, the response to the decentralization of power is the end of revolutionary centralities. There are still many Winter Palaces left, but ones that are designed more for being assaulted by tourists than by insurgents. In our lifetime, we might take Paris, Rome, or Buenos Aires, but still not win the decisive battle. Taking over Rungis would certainly have a greater effect than taking over the Elysee . Power is no longer concentrated in any given place in the world; Power has become this world itself, its flows and its avenues, its men and its conventions, its codes and technologies. Power is the organization of the metropolis itself. It is the impeccable totality of the world of the commodity everywhere. So whoever defeats it locally sends a global shockwave through the networks. The Clichy-sous-Bois assailants delighted more than one American household, and the Oaxaca insurgents found willing accomplices in the very heart of Paris. As for France, the loss of the centrality of Power signifies the end for Paris as a revolutionary center. Every new movement since the strikes of 1995 has confirmed this. It’s no longer in Paris that the most daring and consistent actions have been carried out. In sum, it is simply as a target for raids, as a pure terrain of pillage and devastation, that Paris still stands out. Brief and brutal incursions from without attacking the metropolitan flows at their point of maximum density. Streaks of rage criss-crossing the desert of this artificial abundance, and then vanishing. A day will come when this dreadful concretion of Power which is the capital city will be grandly ruined, but it will be at the end of a process which is far more advanced everywhere else besides there.


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